Saturday, August 1, 2009

Our Early Pioneers Put Their Lives On The Line Because Of Their Religious Witness / Lloyd

In Church Sunday we were singing a hymn about pioneers (Hymn #35, For the Strength of the Hills) and I wasn't paying too much attention until the second verse:

At the hands of foul oppressors, 
We've borne and suffered long,

Thou hast been our help in weakness, 
And thy pow'r hath made us strong.

Amid ruthless foes outnumbered, 
In weariness we trod.

At that moment I realized that "pioneers" within the Mormon experience were more than trailblazers who led the way to colonizing the Intermountain West. 

After accepting the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith about the reality of God the Father and Jesus Christ and joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our "pioneers" were then hunted down and sometimes killed and often deprived of peace, freedom, and material belongings by angry and ruthless enemies. Our people were driven from the United States and eventually found some safety in the Intermountain West.

Without an appreciation for the reality of Satan, this persecution seems totally unmotivated and irrational. Even persecutors were without insight into their bizarre behavior.

But when people violate the fundamental moral and ethical principles defined within the Ten Commandments they find themselves in Satan's power, and he jerks them through episodes of intense unrest, contention, and anger, even murderous rage--also defeat, hopelessness, and despair.

Violators of the Ten Commandments, especially the law regarding sexual conduct, commonly demonstrate an over-the-top enmity towards religious and ethical people who speak up against morally inappropriate behavior. Consider the outcome for John the Baptist when he criticized Herod's unlawful marriage to Herodias (Mark 6: 16-29).

Our pioneers were all potential martyrs like any ancient and modern prophet who has been called upon by God to witness that disaster follows the evil practices of a society unraveling morally. In this same sense faithful members of the Church today share this fate with the early Mormon pioneers, whose courage, faith, and sacrifices we acknowledge and celebrate each 24th of July.

Pres. Boyd K. Packer states our circumstance clearly:

Sometimes we are asked why we do not recognize this conduct as a diverse and acceptable lifestyle. This we cannot do. We did not make the laws; they were made in heaven “before the foundation of the world” (D&C 132:5; D&C 124:41; see also Alma 22:13). We are servants only.

Just as with the prophets in ancient times, we have been “consecrated priests and teachers of this people, … [responsible to] magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence” (Jacob 1:18–19).

We understand why some feel we reject them. That is not true. We do not reject you, only immoral behavior. We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you (see Heb. 12:6–9; Rom. 3:19; Hel. 15:3;D&C 95:1.

You may even feel that we do not love you. That also is not true. Parents know, and one day you will know, that there are times when parents and we who lead the Church must extend tough love when failing to teach and to warn and to discipline is to destroy.

We did not make the rules; they were revealed as commandments. We did not cause nor can we prevent the consequences if you disobey the moral laws (see D&C 101:78). In spite of criticism or opposition, we must teach and we must warn.

1 comment:

  1. It's intersting - at home we were discussing the hymn, For the Strength of the Hills, last Sunday and researched a little about it.

    Though it first appeared in our LDS Hymnal in 1950, we learned that it was written by Felicia Hemans, who died in 1835 in Europe, so she probably hadn't heard of the church. The original poem was called "Hymn of the Vaudois Mountaineers in times of persecution," and the hills refer to the Vaudois Mountains in Switzerland (see "Our Latter-Day Hymns:The Stories and the Messages" by Karen Lynn Davidson).

    The origins of the Vaudois Mountaineers, also called the Waldenses, is debated; some claim they were conservatives of the early Christian church and were driven into the wilderness because they wouldn't bow to the Roman power taking over the church and introducing doctrines they felt were contrary to the truth.

    Modern scholars say they started in France in the 1100s and were denounced as heretics. During the Reformation they joined with the new protestant faith.

    The bottom line is to see paralells between the persecution they endured and the ones that Mormon pioneers had to endure hundreds of years later, which makes it resonate with us. Modern day pioneers may also have to endure persecution, though in different forms.

    --Uchenna & Jen


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