Hold Your Peace
This is the seventh of a 7-part series, A Compound in One.
In March of 1839, after months of incarceration in his prison temple at Liberty, Joseph wrote the following:
For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—
Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—
These should then be attended to with great earnestness.
Let no man count them as small things; for there is much which lieth in futurity, pertaining to the saints, which depends upon these things.
You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves.
Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.
Joseph was speaking to the need to publish a detailed catalog of the persecutions of the saints, to taking statements and affidavits and gathering up libelous publications, and of speaking with clarity and comprehensiveness of the evils perpetrated against the saints and the kingdom. Through this effort, however, he spoke of the tension of keeping the great ship “workways with the wind and the waves,” going forth “cheerfully” to do “all things that lie in our power” and then standing still “with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God.”
We are not spectacularly good at this tension.
While we may speak with clarity and comprehensiveness of the evils directed against the Church OR we may go forth with cheerful energy and faith in the plan of God, we don’t often do both at the same time.
- How well do we engage those who criticize the Church with meekness and cheefulness?
- How well do we call out evil while preserving peace and steadiness in our voice and homes?
I wonder if the secret lies in the response of those journeying to the tree in Lehi’s and Nephi’s vision. We are told that they were aware of the jeers and taunts, the finery and the confidence of those standing in the spacious building. We are told that it caused great embarrassment to some on the path, enough to cause them to want to step out of the limelight and into the anonymous darkness. However those who remained holding fast to the rod seemed to do so because they engaged one vital behavior: perhaps, like Nephi and Sam and Sariah and Lehi, they heeded them not.
Throughout my life I have often been embarrassed by one or another of my circumstances. I could feel scorn, either real or imagined, because my life was out of sync with those around me or my choices represented a deviation from what everyone else might have expected would be the sensible thing to do. It often caused me to react with defensiveness, either to proactively criticize those whom I perceived might judge me or to simply act with an acute awareness that others were watching, sort of like those people who speak in a private conversation that they want everyone else around them to hear, glancing sideways at the crowd. Odd and unnatural, if you’ve ever experienced that, either as a listener or speaker.
As I’ve pondered the verses of the vision, it has occurred to me that the travelers who remained on the path were able to do so peacefully because they were aware of their circumstances but unmoved by anything but the tree.
When we are truly focused on what we are doing and where we are going, we can live in peace, even simultaneous with our awareness of the great and spacious building. We can act with confidence, and not overbearance, without railing accusation, clarifying that the building will fall, and continue moving on our path. Our role is not to warn those in the building, but those who might spend too much time looking at the building. Remembering the boundaries of our power to influence will bring us peace and helps us keep our balance.
While reading the Doctrine and Covenants last year I noticed something that hadn’t been clear to me before. There is a distinction between the sections preceding and following Liberty. Prior to his fiery temple experience, the revelations focused on questions he asked the Lord and their answers given to reveal his will for the kingdom. Afterward, the revelations rolled with a deeper confidence to speak the Lord’s will with his own voice. He taught with an authority after Liberty that is palpable, and he seems to reflect the voice of Moroni, ensuring in his brief record that all that the saints needed was recorded before he was taken from them. The last verses from Liberty, quoted above, point to what I think is the reason for this change in the Prophet.
He had learned to balance privation and power.
I believe the genuine confidence of a fired faith is founded on this ability, and when we find it we will walk with the grace of the prophets,
…that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built.
The struggle is real, even though it is with principalities, not people. We are arrayed against the forces of Satan in a battle for the agency and estates of all the children of God. In the balance hangs our exaltation. That is the tree toward which we press. We are benefited by the watchmen on the tower, blessed with a perch that augments their mortal perception. We will find great peace as we listen carefully to their counsel and eschew the eyelash-batting dismissals of our prophets as short-sighted.
We have the doctrine. There are no questions of culture or scholarship that alter the path before us. The questions we must answer are simple:
- Who’s on the Lord’s side?
- Who’s happy to be there?
In the hearts of our children we are building a true dualism: the theology of the family. The dualism of men and women as priests and priestesses, kings and queens, fathers and mothers: this is the Zion that will make us worthy to retain our Second Estate, holy temples united with a kingdom of priests, embracing the sacraments of marriage, unswayed by the false doctrines of the world.
For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.
Fully embracing the opportunity to reflect the One in perfect integrity, we become Zion. Then, all things will be celestial because they abide by celestial order.
Perfect peace, perfect joy, a compound in One.