The World and God’s Kingdom - How Great the Contrast
This week my dear wife Michelle hasn’t slept well. Part of it has been that our 1 year old son Dane has been sick and we’ve been taking turns waking up with him as he coughs and vomits. But it’s also because she has been upset that a cable network has chosen to portray LDS temple rituals as part of a storyline in its popular anti-Mormon series. I would not describe her mood as “angry”, as the national media has portrayed the LDS response, but as hurt that they would cast these sacred pearls at the alter of the false gods of “storyline”, “artistic integrity”, “entertainment” and, most importantly, “ratings”. The producers of and actors in this show have been very open in disdain of Mormonism and Mormons (See executive producer Tom Hank's here and Larry O'Donnel's, an actor playing a Mormon bishop, here). If they had the vengeful goal of making people like my wife cry, then they succeeded. (See the Church's reaction to the program here)
This weekend I had a very different experience than those who chose to watch this program tonight will have. Our stake conference was held and we had the opportunity to listen to one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, Elder Richard Scott, speak to us. I got to the stake center about an hour early to get a seat and read Hugh Nibley’s book Mormonism and Early Christianity while I waited for the conference to start. In this book I was reminded that the first apostles and early Christians always realized that they would be rejected by the world. They knew that the “church could not be Christ’s unless the world hated it.” Latter-day Saints should not be surprised to find out that the world still hates us and is ready to malign us in anyway they can. I have tried to reassure Michelle that at least they aren’t burning down our houses, shooting at us and running us out of the state like they did in Missouri and Illinois. (See also my comparison of early anti-Christian writings and modern anti-Mormon writing here)
I then listened to Elder Scott and other inspired men and women speak to us and bare testimony of Jesus Christ and the restoration of the gospel. Elder Scott specifically bore his personal, apostolic witness of the Living Savior. He said that his was a “perfect knowledge; not a hope or a belief in others' testimonies, but a knowledge of Jesus Christ that came through experiences too sacred to relate in public.” In addition to their testimonies, the speakers gave us practical, yet inspired, advice about living through difficult financial times, studying the scriptures with our families, and living “in the world, but not of the world." Our closing hymn was “Let Us All Press On”, which ends with the chorus: “Fear not, though the enemy deride; Courage, for the Lord is on our side. We’ll not fear the wicked nor give heed to what they say, But the Lord, our Heav’nly Father, him alone we will obey.”
I pity those who will never have the experience of hearing one of the Lord’s anointed speak, and whose only experiences with the Church of Jesus Christ are its negative portrayals in the media. Their lives will be like that of an eagle who decides early to go through life walking. At the end of their lives they may think they have had a good experience, but they will have never known how it feels to fly. As the world becomes more “worldly” the saints should be prepared for more attacks on their beliefs and values in many different forms. We should not be cowed by these affronts, but instead see them as evidence that we are still on the right track.