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.
I’ve always been intrigued by Helaman 12:3:
And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him.
How many times do we read the word “remember” in the Book of Mormon? How many times does a loving father or a bold prophet issue this clarion call? Remember! Remember what God has done, and what He has promised for you.
But we don’t. Our failing memories and short attention span cause us to wander in the proverbial wilderness of life, forgetting God, His promises, and His commandments. And so what does the Lord do? He chastens us “with many afflictions”. He visits us with death, terror, famine, and all kinds of pestilence.
Three chapters later we learn an additional component to this formula:
…the people of Nephi hath he loved, and also hath he chastened them; yea, in the days of their iniquities hath he chastened them because he loveth them. (Hel. 15:3)
God loves us. He wants us to return to His presence. But we can only do that if we are sanctified and made clean. And we can only reach that step by remembering God and His commandments. Every day. Every action. Every thought.
This is shown yet again in D&C 95:1:
Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you—
The interesting thing we learn here is that yes, God chastens us so we remember, and yes, God chastenes us because he loves us, BUT He prepares a way for our deliverance.
An example of this is in Numbers 21, when upon complaining about the difficulty of their journey and the monotonous repetition of Manna for every meal, Israel is punished with “fiery flying serpents” (A related tangent that’s fun to study is Quetzalcoatl) that bite the people, causing many to die.
What happens next? In verse 7 the people confess their sins before Moses and petition him to pray to God that He might take the snakes away. But the LORD has another remedy in mind. He has Moses lift a serpent up on the pole (a symbol to represent Christ) whereby the people might be healed if only they will look.
As 1 Ne. 17:41 says, “after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed”. There’s the deliverance. Yes, the Lord chastens us, but he always throws down a rope by which we might climb out.
When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God.
And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. (Psa. 78:34-35)
May we return now, and enquire early after God, that He might not have need to chasten us further. May we remember.