Today was stake conference (for those who don’t know, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we hold two types of conferences twice a year; general conference for the whole world, and stake conference for local areas). My stake president gave a couple of great talks that got me thinking.
In 1 Nephi 8, the prophet Lehi relates a dream he had which was prophetic and symbolic. If you’re interested in reading the entire dream you can find it here. Two of the main features of the dream were the iron rod (representing the word of God, especially scripture) and the tree of life (representing Jesus Christ). Lehi observes four main groups of people in the dream, only two of the four groups end up at the tree, and only one of those two remain at the tree. No one found the tree without holding the rod of iron. Which makes sense, the word of God leads us to Him.
But what was the difference between the two groups who made it to the tree? The scripture designates one group as “clinging” to the rod, while the other group “continually [held] fast” to it. This is the difference.
When I was a teenager, I loved taking dates to haunted houses during Halloween time. This was because regardless of the girls personal interest in me, she was going to cling to me in that place. Why? Because she was desperate. Any source of comfort was welcomed when a dude with a chain saw came out of the corn field. Sadly, I also knew, that once the moment of desperation was passed, I would no longer be clingworthy.
It’s easy for me to see the word of God treated in a similar way. If the scriptures are only studied in moments of desperation, and then ignored once the storm is passed, how much will a person actually change? When these clingers got to the tree, they were ashamed because of the mocking world, and they fell away. Those who were consistent with the word of God, when they came to the tree, they fell down. They knew where they were, and they knew Who they were with. They didn’t even notice the mocking world because they were too involved with what the fruit of the tree was doing to them.
So none of these thoughts were unique to me today. The connection I made was to a scripture I recently studied from the Doctrine and Covenants 63:54. Here’s the prophesy it contains concerning these last days:
“And until that hour there will be foolish virgins among the wise; and at that hour cometh an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked; and in that day will I send mine angels to pluck out the wicked and cast them into unquenchable fire.”
This prophesy borrows language from the parable of the ten virgins in the New Testament. It’s interesting to me that a difference is placed between being foolish, and being wicked. There is a space of time given the foolish where they may repent and stop being foolish. But there will come a moment when foolishness becomes wickedness, and a separation occurs.
Many today are losing their faith. Some find historical information about Joseph Smith (often out of context) to be inconsistent with what they were taught about the restored gospel. Others become offended by experiences they have with wonderfully flawed Latter-day Saints. Many cannot reconcile the social trends of modern society with unchanging doctrinal positions. These concerns become so loud that the fruit of the gospel cannot compete, and they are ashamed, and fall away.
I would submit that a person with a consistent relationship with the word of God, recognizes where they are, and Who they are with in the Lord’s church. This doesn’t mean they have all the answers. But it does mean they can hold on in darkness, trusting the light will return.
The foolish treat the word of God with casualness when things are good, and only with deep regard when things are desperate. For a while such a person might find themselves partaking of the fruit of the gospel. But such casualness during the good times will become a valuable missed opportunity. The strength needed to stand against the inevitable challenges to faith can only come through wisely being consistent with the word of God. So, to quote one other prophet:
“O be wise, what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:12)