Be Zealous to Save Souls
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?
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