Be Zealous to Save Souls

[ 10 ] Comments

by Jan

What is the difference between over-zealousness, zealousness, and apathy? The scriptures clearly show us that it is zealousness that God seeks in us to save the souls of His beloved children.

Zeniff was the Nephite that insisted on going back to the City of Nephi to reclaim that land from the Lamanites. The method he used, as described in Mosiah 7:21, was “over-zealous.” We all understand that Zeniff meant well. He really was a good guy who wanted to make something happen. But, alas, that was his downfall. His over-zealous nature was bringing about his own will, and not the will of our Father in Heaven.

Sadly, the people he led back to the Land of Nephi all fell into inactivity. King Noah, perhaps reacting to his father’s over-zeal, became apathetic of all things spiritual. Both over-zealousness and apathy played a part in a lost society.

What does over-zealousness mean? The dictionary says : rabid, adamant, excessively insistent. Conflation of froth (from “frothing at the mouth” and virulent). Those are not very positive traits.

On the opposite end, are we apathetic to responsibilities that seem to fall in our lap? Maybe we brush it off because it’s wrinkling our own desires and pursuits. Maybe it’s more important that we follow the crowd? Someone once said that the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy. Like over-zealousness, this is an attitude of placing ourselves first and not caring to please the Lord.

Years ago, when I was young and insecure, I was given a visiting teaching route in my new ward. My companion was seldom available, so I often went by myself. I had developed a nice rapport with my sisters and typically left a message and a word of prayer with each visit. Once, in that year my companion and I were together, she actually joined me for that month’s visit. I let her prepare and give the message, but she had forgotten so no message was given. When I suggested we close with prayer, she laughed out loud and stated that was a ridiculous thing to do. The sad thing wasn’t her lack of regard for visiting teaching, but my reaction to her. Remember, I was young and foolish at the time. For a long time after, I stopped saying prayers with those I visit taught and my messages gradually became vague and casual. I appeared over-zealous to this companion, which resulted in my becoming apathetic thereafter.

It took me several years to mature and realize I was stupid to be apathetic in the gospel. The Lord wanted me to be zealous, without shame or apology. I realized I needed to act when I felt the Lord wanted me to do something, and I needed to do it and worry about offending Him and no one else.

Satan often likes to catch us when we think we’re doing the best thing. He will either influence us to ignore it and be apathetic, or he will get us so emotional that we become rigid, insistent, or over-zealous. And sometimes in our caution to avoid over-zealousness, we become apathetic. Satan is very clever and will use us until we wake up and smell the emptiness in our souls.

The scriptures teach us to be “zealous for keeping the commandments of God” as the people of Ammon did when they buried their weapons and threw Anti-Christs out of their city (Alma 21:23, 30:20). Bruce R. McConkie said, “Lukewarm saints are damned; unless they repent and become zealous the Lord promised to spue them out of his mouth (Rev. 3:14–19). Only the valiant gain celestial salvation” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:504).

God wants a zealous people: a people who humbly and diligently follow Him. Walking that strait and narrow line holds us in check as we seek after God’s will, heed His voice, and diligently serve Him. Too little or too much will take us off the path. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Aim high, but do not aim so high that you totally miss the target” (CR, Oct 2003).

Here is a short list of my favorite quotables that keep my zeal in check (not over-zealous or apathetic):

  • “…I could not be shaken” (Jacob 7:5).
  • “Now Ammon being wise, yet harmless…” (Alma 18:22).
  • “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God…” (Alma 26:12).
  • “And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord” (Ether 6:9).
  • In a world where Satan reigns, how do you remember to be zealous and truly useful to the Lord?
  • How do you reinvigorate your testimony?
  • What feelings have prompted you to step out of your comfort zone and humbly save a soul?
  • What keeps you in check against over-zealousness and apathy?

Missionary image: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (google+ feed) 

About Jan

I’m a wife, mother, grandma, former Church Museum docent, and incurable volunteer. I also research all things Relief Society at ldswomenofgod.

10 Responses to Be Zealous to Save Souls

  1. Ray DeGraw says:

    There is a fine line between zealousness and fanaticism. I think charity is the delineator of the two – and, unfortunately, people do many things “out of love” that aren’t at all charitable.

    • NotMolly says:

      So, is it perhaps a balanced, inspired point of self-examination, trying to identify if we’re acting out of actual charity, or out of self-aggrandizement, revenge, or any of the petty emotions the Natural Man (or Woman) is prone to in a fallen world?

      We’ve worked with our kids regarding “Critical Thinking” for years, to the point that they can pretty easily identify messages and possible motives. Learning to do that with ourselves, and actually being able to put names to our own motivations, would seem to be a good way to start finding that balance between active, eager, zealous gospel living, and zealotry.

      • Ray DeGraw says:

        I think so, NotMolly. For example:

        I look at the Golden Rule, and I can’t help but wonder how (the collective) we would feel if our non-Mormon acquaintances acted toward us the way we sometimes act towards them – or if we learned that they talk about us the way we sometimes talk about them. I look at how some people interact with their “wayward” children and wonder how they would react if their parents weren’t members and interacted that same way with them (their own “wayward children”).

  2. Ben Arkell says:

    This reminds me of Elder Ballard’s invitation to the members of the church to not be religious zealots this Conference. This was in his talk about the honey bee.

  3. Bonnie says:

    This is a tough tension to navigate, made even more difficult by experiences that sensitize us to one or the other of the extremes. I know such wonderful people who are terrified to be zealots because they’ve seen what religious fanaticism looks like up close and personal and want to distance themselves as much as possible from the ravages of that kind of priestcraft. I also know wonderful people who are so terrified of apathy and its slow, insidious, caustic corrosion that they are as distanced as they can be from that kind of lifelessness. I feel for those who search to find something meaningful between those destructive extremes.

  4. Jan says:

    I didn’t realize a conversation was happening here…

    I believe zealousness is a gift from God that we should strive for. We strive by stepping outside ourselves and following the inspirations of the Lord without fear or favor. I don’t believe it can be taught. It is a spiritual oneness with God. We are supposed to be working towards becoming like Christ.

    What if people pull me off track or make fun of me? What if others make my heart hurt, nothing is going right in my life, or I feel helpless, stagnant, or lost? It doesn’t matter. We have to believe that a loving God who wants us to succeed will address our desires. Captain Moroni was ZEALOUS. He appears extreme, determined, and capable of doing anything and everything. Would we like him, if he were in our
    ward? What would we really think of him? It doesn’t matter. He’s doing what he
    knows is right for him, and his concern is only for the Lord.

    In the Book of Mormon, Captain Moroni blasts the heck out of Pahoran. Wow! That letter would cut me to the quick if it were addressed to me. Look how Pahoran responds. He knows Moroni is speaking in the name of God (with righteous indignation) and he is willing to let it go, because he also knows he is trying to hold down the fort for a righteous cause at home (actually running for his life). Later, when they meet, and fight side-by-side, they love one another and realize who the enemy really is—and it’s not each other. (See Alma 60-62)

    We have to stop worrying about “the other guy” and worry about how God views us. Are we willing to take our struggles to the Lord and really have His Spirit with us when we act? If our children need a bold call to repentance are we willing to spiritually cut through Satan’s chains to speak sharply? If people start stepping back, giving space to negative judgment against us do we cower and let the Spirit down? Do we shy away because we don’t want to offend anyone? Living our life by the Spirit is hard, but I think that is what the Lord expects of us.

    I guess it’s impossible to spot a truly zealous person, because we will never have enough information to judge. However, we can know in our own hearts if we are zealous enough for God’s sake.

    • templegoer says:

      Really interesting Jan. I think I am a pretty zealous person by nature, probably a bit of a proclaimer of truth as I know it. But I think back now and realise that this may have been pretty alienating for those around me, and frankly I repent of it. I may have been right, but I don’t think I was very useful in bringing others unto Christ. I tend to prioritise seeking peace now, as I find it’s more likely to invite consideration of my position in the long- term. I notice my son is very good at this, apt to read a situation and act in a creative and useful way.

      It seems that with me the Spirit has worked to teach me that quiet consideration is often the best response. It’s been an interesting journey. I may just have been a little self righteous in my zeal to proclaim truth. I still often get carried away by my own zeal.

  5. Ray DeGraw says:

    Jan, I appreciated your post, and I should have made that clear in my
    first comment. I also appreciate your follow-up comment. I think all
    of us here believe in zealousness when it is manifested in a righteous
    manner, but I also have to be able to look at my own actions (and the
    actions of others as examples) and see the difference between righteous
    zealousness and something else.

    For example, I am concerned whenever I hear or read anything like the following:

    “We have to stop worrying about “the other guy” and worry about how God views us.”

    Frankly, I think we have to be concerned about the other guy AND about how God sees us, specifically because if there is one lesson in all of our scriptures I believe it is that “concern for the other” is absolutely central to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I agree completely that concern for how others see us can’t get in the way of doing the right thing, but I also believe that “doing the right thing” without regard for “the other guy” often (and I mean very often) leads to doing the wrong thing in the name of righteousness. I don’t need to use extreme examples of that principle; regular, daily examples are all around us.

    What I have tried to say in my comments in this thread is that being
    righteously zealous is not a simple thing that can be measured by a
    universal checklist. You said that in your last paragraph in the
    comment above, so I think we agree on that point. I need to be
    concerned with my own zealousness and whether my own zealousness is
    acceptable to God – and, for me, that absolutely must include a deep,
    central, strong element of how my actions in the name of God impact “the
    other guy” – since charity is the heart of my own measure of my own
    righteous zealousness.

    One more thing to illustrate my point:

    I love and admire Captain Moroni, but he was wrong – 100% dead wrong – in his chastisement of Pahoran in the letter you mentioned. He didn’t write that letter out of righteous zealousness; he wrote it out of frustration over seeing his soldiers die unnecessarily. (Those are his own words, not my assumption.) He wrote it in anger – and the condemnation in it of Pahoran was unfounded. He was described by Mormon in the abridgment as a “perfect man”, but he erred in that instance when he wrote that letter (which does not contradict Mormon’s assessment of him). The letter was not charitable; it was not accurate; it was not in line with the standard articulated in D&C 121; it was not sensitive to the plight of a friend, supporter and fully righteous man; it was not a righteous judgment; it was not an example of righteous zealousness.

    Again, I admire Captain Moroni deeply, but I admire Pahoran even more deeply
    in that example – since he easily could have reacted very differently. It was Pahoran, not Captain Moroni, in that situation who “saved the day” – and he did it explicitly by remembering, in a time of great stress and distress, to “think of the other guy” and not return threat for threat. He did it by remembering the pure heart behind the mistaken accusations and not holding Moroni’s mistake against him. He did it by loving the man even though the man’s words must have cut him deeply. He did it by not being zealous in the traditional, stereotypical manner
    but by zealous in love and meekness.

    I believe in zealousness, but I also believe it is manifested differently in different situations – and that, for me, at the very core, it absolutely involves “worrying about the other guy” in a very real and important way.

  6. Jan says:

    This is why I don’t enjoy these comment forums. All that I meant was we let “the other guy” influence too much our doing the right or wrong thing, as opposed to letting the Lord be our influence. Good grief, of course we want to feel charity for all people at all times.

    • Ray DeGraw says:

      Thanks for that clarification, Jan. I agree completely with that.

      When all we have is the written word, it can be difficult to understand each other fully. We would have had the same conversation in person, but we would have realized our agreement very quickly – as opposed to the time it takes to reach that point in a forum like this.

      For what it’s worth, I enjoy a comment forum like this because I’m used to it – and because I know eventually those who agree will discover their agreement. Meanwhile, I enjoy the opportunity to clarify and converse with people whom I would not have the opportunity otherwise.

      Again, I appreciate your post and the subsequent comments.

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