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: Nathan Moody
…their hearts were turned from the Lord their God, and they did stone the prophets and did cast them out from among them. (3 Nephi 7:14)
In our day of civility and propriety, we read with horror and amazement the stories in scripture recounting the stoning of prophets by those who opposed them. Shocked at such a barbaric response, we dismiss easily the possibility that such a thing could happen in our day.
But while the physical act of stoning no longer is taking place, it seems that some within our ranks are just as guilty as their predecessors:
Even in the Church many are prone to garnish the sepulchres of yesterday’s prophets and mentally stone the living ones.
Let us not make the error of the ancients. Numerous modern sectarians believe in the Abrahams, the Moseses, and the Pauls, but resist believing in today’s prophets. The ancients also could accept the prophets of an earlier day, but denounced and cursed the ones who were their contemporaries. (Spencer W. Kimball, via Quoty)
What does it mean to mentally stone a prophet? The answer is found when we first understand why the prophets of old were physically stoned. Samuel the Lamanite, responding to the same trend in his own day, explained:
…if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil. (Helaman 13:26)
It is apparent that the intent of stoning a prophet was to silence him. Confronted by a person speaking boldly against their wickedness, these people wanted to find a way to “cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him”. They had been cut to the center, and lashed out against their accuser.
While such a practice was more common (and slightly more acceptable) in ancient middle eastern societies, the underlying motive continues in our day, as President Kimball described. Mentally stoning a prophet also entails silencing him, although it be in a more indirect fashion.
Being confronted by our “accuser” only via television, magazine, or the internet, we can far more easily “cast him out”. A push of a button now throws up an effective defense against the Lord’s anointed.
No, we who are civilized don’t stone prophets… we just ignore them.