What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: Honbless
A previous article I’ve written, "Prophetic Political Silence", continues to receive a steady stream of traffic to this day. I am often contacted by people expressing their gratitude for the ideas I expressed there—people who, like me, often wonder why our church leaders have largely (but not completely) grown silent in the cause of freedom.
While that article dealt more with practical particulars that might dictate why this shift has occurred, a friend of mine pointed me towards another influencing factor that has scriptural precedent. If the implications of the following examples are applicable to our day, then we are indeed facing some dark times ahead.
President Hinckley referred to the Book of Mormon in the following way, setting the stage for our analysis:
The Book of Mormon narrative is a chronicle of nations long since gone. But in its descriptions of the problems of today’s society, it is as current as the morning newspaper and much more definitive, inspired, and inspiring concerning the solutions of those problems.
I know of no other writing which sets forth with such clarity the tragic consequences to societies that follow courses contrary to the commandments of God. Its pages trace the stories of two distinct civilizations that flourished on the Western Hemisphere. Each began as a small nation, its people walking in the fear of the Lord. But with prosperity came growing evils. The people succumbed to the wiles of ambitious and scheming leaders who oppressed them with burdensome taxes, who lulled them with hollow promises, who countenanced and even encouraged loose and lascivious living. These evil schemers led the people into terrible wars that resulted in the death of millions and the final and total extinction of two great civilizations in two different eras.
This summary statement is as powerful as it is frightening, when we use the book as a lens through which we can view the forces behind modern affairs, both foreign and domestic. But perhaps one of the most compelling lessons to be learned from this compilation of scripture comes from Moroni, who pleads with the reader to learn from the lessons of the past. After witnessing the systematic dismantling of his own nation, and after reviewing the same occurrence among the Jaredites, Moroni summarizies:
And [secret combinations] have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi. (Ether 8:21)
His plea—and God’s command—then follows:
Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up. (Ether 8:24)
After proceeding to document the implosion of the Jaredite nation (but before relating the end of their story), we are then presented with a sermon on basic gospel principles: faith, hope, and repentance. What is interesting is the correlation between this instance and the one found in the description of the Nephite society’s destruction. In his own book, Moroni almost repeats himself by inserting another sermon on faith, hope, and repentance. Whereas before it was the prophet Ether, here it is his father, Mormon. Both sermons were included after the people received their last prophetic warnings, and just before a recounting of their final destruction.
In a way, these sermons on core elements of the gospel seem almost like a calm before the storm. Whereas many Saints complain at the repetitive and elementary principles being taught over the pulpit, with this information in hand they might rethink their frustration. Perhaps the prophetic focus on faith, hope, and repentance is our calm before the storm, just as it was in the preserved record of the collapse of the Nephite and Jaredite societies. Taken as such, we would do well to heed the warnings that were previously given.
Suddenly, the bold political statements from decades gone by become not relics of the Communist-era past, but a relevant and prophetic warning voice for the future. Indeed, the very fact that these basic gospel principles are receiving such a heavy focus in recent conferences might be a warning voice in its own way, signifying that we must be spiritually preparing for what’s ahead.