Sunday, February 12, 2012

Defending Your Faith

I've been wanting to write this post for a while now - but man oh man has this month been busy! After I decided that this needed to be written I have been hearing about this topic and the scriptures I want to share with you, everywhere. It's funny how that always happens!

About a week ago, I was reading an article on CNN that was about Mormons. I do have to say that the writer of that article had kind intentions and was doing his best to offer a positive perspective on our beliefs and the people. Then curiosity had my interest and I scrolled down to the bottom to see what people had to say. I should have known (as usual) that there would be comments bashing Mormons and comments from Mormons defending their beliefs as is the case with any news article I see in regards to the Mormon Faith or Christianity in general.

As I looked over the comments there was one particular person (an atheist) that really had a beef about Mormonism which I will now refer to by the appropriate name The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or LDS. He lashed out with very cruel comments in which others were quick to argue and defend. When he could no longer argue his doctrinal points he turned to just hateful words. He then went on to say that he used to be LDS and about the age of going on a mission he had decided to become an atheist instead. It was clear to see that he was very bitter and angry and that his goal was to get others to feel the way that he was. Hence the saying "Misery loves company."

Right then, my mind was turned to a scripture I had read in the temple a couple of days before. I remember opening up the New Testament right to this chapter and thought to myself, "Hmmm...this must be what the Lord needs me to read right now - so I will." I never realized that a couple days later I would have this experience that would have me reflect back onto this scripture and inspire me to write this blog post. The Lord works though us in mysterious and wonderful ways.

I was reading in Matthew chapter 12. The Pharisees are following Jesus around looking for something to accuse him of. He heals a man's withered hand and they immediately accuse him of breaking the Sabbath. Jesus proves a wonderful point that serving someone and showing love is very lawful to do on the Sabbath. The Pharisees are angry and stumped, so they leave to go council with each other of how they can destroy Jesus. Jesus leaves and goes on to heal more people including casting out a devil.

The Pharisees return. They see the wonderful miracles Jesus is performing and probably realize that the multitudes are in awe. It is then that they accuse him of working his miracles through the power of the devil. Clearly they are sounding more and more ridiculous and when Jesus responds I can only imagine how much more stumped they were at his response. The people must have realized who was in the right here.

The Savior says:
32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.

34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

All I have to say is "Go Jesus!!"

The very next day, my son put on a Living Scriptures DVD which depicted this exact chapter in Matthew. I thought to myself "What a coincidence." It wasn't until the next day I realized that this was no coincidence. The Lord wanted me to continue to ponder on Jesus' words.

After seeing the crazy conversation going back and forth in regards to the CNN article, Jesus' words became very clear. "for the tree is known by his fruit" not it's fruit - notice the Lord says "his fruit". The hateful basher was displaying his fruit through cruel words and crude language. Those defending the LDS faith were using kind and loving words. If his goal was to lead others away from the LDS faith or Jesus Christ I can't imagine who would be crazy enough to be persuaded by him after seeing both sides of the coin. You just can't argue against "good treasures" and "good fruits". You also can't deny the difference of feeling the Holy Ghost and the feeling of contention or "the adversary".

I then went on to ponder the many times in my life when I have encountered atheists, anti-Christians, "anti-Mormons" and for all that matter you could take it further with anti-Jews and so forth. These people generally express anger, bitterness, hate or just a lack of interest in serving others. I truly wonder how they could persuade anyone to follow their beliefs when the power of love for all mankind, acts of selflessness and words of love are so much more powerful and desirable. It almost seemed as though these people had a bone to pick because of one of two things. 1) They had been offended or hurt by someone in the past who was a "Christian, Latter Day Saint (Mormon) etc. or 2) They had committed some type of sin or desired to live a life and make choices that contradict the teachings of Jesus. To avoid the guilt - they change their beliefs so that their actions are justified. Finding that their choices are not bringing the happiness they had anticipated they strive to bring others down as "Misery loves company".

"By their fruits ye shall know them." Actions speak louder than words. If I saw that there were two movies playing at the theater - one being a movie that had a positive message and would leave me feeling inspired and wanting to be a better person : the other - a movie full of vulgar behavior, crude language and would leave me feeling disturbed, dark or depressed it would be a no-brainer. I would want to see the movie that made me feel good. The same goes for groups of people we associate with and our goals as individuals. Do we want to be around people that lift us up or tear us down? Are we examples to others of "good fruits" or "bad fruits"?

I brought this up with my husband and he said, "That's why I never read the comment sections on news articles". He had a point. It was clear to see that these people (bashers) had an agenda. They were not interested in being persuaded to the other side. There was nothing anyone could say to change their hearts, opinions or minds. Their goal is to spread their anger and destroy people's faith. There is a great danger in conversing with these people. "For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." You will walk away feeling angry, hurt or frustrated or even worse - your faith will be destroyed. When people's intentions are not to uplift, express kindness or love in any way - be cautioned.

This reminded me of the account in Luke 22, when Jesus points out that there is often no point in arguing with naysayers. They have their agenda and are not open to feeling the Spirit or having an open mind. When Peter has betrayed Jesus and he is being held by men who mock him, these men ask him if he is the Christ. In verses 67-68 it reads:

67 Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe:

68 And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go.

He was right.

In the world that we now live in, and with all the political heat that is rising, we must be prepared for these experiences. Faiths and religions of all kinds are being attacked and these attackers are not interested in making friendships or having pleasant and open minded conversations with those they attack. Bearing your testimony of what you know to be true is all you can and should do. Let the Spirit work through you. Never try to "prove a point" or argue doctrine. The Spirit is the teacher and the greatest power and influence in doing good and building love. Avoid contention at all cost but always be bold in what you stand for and believe.

I conclude with the scripture that hits this right on the nail. In the times of Jesus and in our own time, there are many who say "Show me a sign and I'll believe." I always say to that - if God came down and told everyone what they needed to believe, what was true and what was false it would defeat the whole purpose of why we are here. We have to desire the truth, seek after it and build faith. For those who do not wish to believe and would rather be shown a sign - here is the best response to that:

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma sums this up best. In order to grasp this I think it's best to read the entire chapter of Alma chapter 30:

1 Behold, now it came to pass that after the people of Ammon were established in the land of Jershon, yea, and also after the Lamanites were driven out of the land, and their dead were buried by the people of the land—

2 Now their dead were not numbered because of the greatness of their numbers; neither were the dead of the Nephites numbered—but it came to pass after they had buried their dead, and also after the days of fasting, and mourning, and prayer, (and it was in the sixteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi) there began to be continual peace throughout all the land.

3 Yea, and the people did observe to keep the commandments of the Lord; and they were strict in observing the ordinances of God, according to the law of Moses; for they were taught to keep the law of Moses until it should be fulfilled.

4 And thus the people did have no disturbance in all the sixteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.

5 And it came to pass that in the commencement of the seventeenth year of the reign of the judges, there was continual peace.

6 But it came to pass in the latter end of the seventeenth year, there came a man into the land of Zarahemla, and he was Anti-Christ, for he began to preach unto the people against the prophecies which had been spoken by the prophets, concerning the coming of Christ.

7 Now there was no law against a man’s belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.

8 For thus saith the scripture: Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve.

9 Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him.

10 But if he murdered he was punished unto death; and if he robbed he was also punished; and if he stole he was also punished; and if he committed adultery he was also punished; yea, for all this wickedness they were punished.

11 For there was a law that men should be judged according to their crimes. Nevertheless, there was no law against a man’s belief; therefore, a man was punished only for the crimes which he had done; therefore all men were on equal grounds.

12 And this Anti-Christ, whose name was Korihor, (and the law could have no hold upon him) began to preach unto the people that there should be no Christ. And after this manner did he preach, saying:

13 O ye that are bound down under a foolish and a vain hope, why do ye yoke yourselves with such foolish things? Why do ye look for a Christ? For no man can know of anything which is to come.

14 Behold, these things which ye call prophecies, which ye say are handed down by holy prophets, behold, they are foolish traditions of your fathers.

15 How do ye know of their surety? Behold, ye cannot know of things which ye do not see; therefore ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ.

16 Ye look forward and say that ye see a remission of your sins. But behold, it is the effect of a frenzied mind; and this derangement of your minds comes because of the traditions of your fathers, which lead you away into a belief of things which are not so.

17 And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was nocrime.

18 And thus he did preach unto them, leading away the hearts of many, causing them to lift up their heads in their wickedness, yea, leading away many women, and also men, to commit whoredoms—telling them that when a man was dead, that was the end thereof.

19 Now this man went over to the land of Jershon also, to preach these things among the people of Ammon, who were once the people of the Lamanites.

20 But behold they were more wise than many of the Nephites; for they took him, and bound him, and carried him before Ammon, who was a high priest over that people.

21 And it came to pass that he caused that he should be carried out of the land. And he came over into the land of Gideon, and began to preach unto them also; and here he did not have much success, for he was taken and bound and carried before the high priest, and also the chief judge over the land.

22 And it came to pass that the high priest said unto him: Why do ye go about perverting the ways of the Lord? Why do ye teach this people that there shall be no Christ, to interrupt their rejoicings? Why do ye speak against all the prophecies of the holy prophets?

23 Now the high priest’s name was Giddonah. And Korihor said unto him: Because I do not teach the foolish traditions of your fathers, and because I do not teach this people to bind themselves down under the foolish ordinances and performances which are laid down by ancient priests, to usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance, that they may not lift up their heads, but be brought down according to thy words.

24 Ye say that this people is a free people. Behold, I say they are in bondage. Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true. Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true.

25 Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent. Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.

26 And ye also say that Christ shall come. But behold, I say that ye do not know that there shall be a Christ. And ye say also that he shall be slain for the sins of the world—

27 And thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges.

28 Yea, they durst not make use of that which is their own lest they should offend their priests, who do yoke them according to their desires, and have brought them to believe, by their traditions and their dreams and their whims and their visions and their pretended mysteries, that they should, if they did not do according to their words, offend some unknown being, who they say is God—a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be.

29 Now when the high priest and the chief judge saw the hardness of his heart, yea, when they saw that he would revile even against God, they would not make any reply to his words; but they caused that he should be bound; and they delivered him up into the hands of the officers, and sent him to the land of Zarahemla, that he might be brought before Alma, and the chief judge who was governor over all the land.

30 And it came to pass that when he was brought before Alma and the chief judge, he did go on in the same manner as he did in the land of Gideon; yea, he went on to blaspheme.

31 And he did rise up in great swelling words before Alma, and did revile against the priests and teachers, accusing them of leading away the people after the silly traditions of their fathers, for the sake of glutting on the labors of the people.

32 Now Alma said unto him: Thou knowest that we do not glut ourselves upon the labors of this people; for behold I have labored even from the commencement of the reign of the judges until now, with mine own hands for my support, notwithstanding my many travels round about the land to declare the word of God unto my people.

33 And notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor; neither has any of my brethren, save it were in the judgment-seat; and then we have received only according to law for our time.

34 And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren?

35 Then why sayest thou that we preach unto this people to get gain, when thou, of thyself, knowest that we receive no gain? And now, believest thou that we deceive this people, that casues such joy in their hearts?

36 And Korihor answered him, Yea.

37 And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?

38 And he answered, Nay.

39 Now Alma said unto him: Will ye deny again that there is a God, and also deny the Christ? For behold, I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come.

40 And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.

41 But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them? Believest thou that these things are true?

42 Behold, I know that thou believest, but thou art possessed with a lying spirit, and ye have put off the Spirit of God that it may have no place in you; but the devil has power over you, and he doth carry you about, working devices that he may destroy the children of God.

43 And now Korihor said unto Alma: If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words.

44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

45 And yet do ye go about, leading away the hearts of this people, testifying unto them there is no God? And yet will ye deny against all these witnesses? And he said: Yea, I will deny, except ye shall show me a sign.

46 And now it came to pass that Alma said unto him: Behold, I am grieved because of the hardness of your heart, yea, that ye will still resist the spirit of the truth, that thy soul may be destroyed.

47 But behold, it is better that thy soul should be lost than that thou shouldst be the means of bringing many souls down to destruction, by thy lying and by thy flattering words; therefore if thou shalt deny again, behold God shall smite thee, that thou shalt become dumb, that thou shalt never open thy mouth any more, that thou shalt not deceive this people any more.

48 Now Korihor said unto him: I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I say also, that ye do not know that there is a God; and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe.

49 Now Alma said unto him: This will I give unto thee for a sign, that thou shalt be struck dumb, according to my words; and I say, that in the name of God, ye shall be struck dumb, that ye shall no more have utterance.

50 Now when Alma had said these words, Korihor was struck dumb, that he could not have utterance, according to the words of Alma.

51 And now when the chief judge saw this, he put forth his hand and wrote unto Korihor, saying: Art thou convinced of the power of God? In whom did ye desire that Alma should show forth his sign? Would ye that he should afflict others, to show unto thee a sign? Behold, he has showed unto you a sign; and now will ye dispute more?

52 And Korihor put forth his hand and wrote, saying: I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me; yea, and I always knew that there was a God.

53 But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.

54 Now when he had said this, he besought that Alma should pray unto God, that the curse might be taken from him.

55 But Alma said unto him: If this curse should be taken from thee thou wouldst again lead away the hearts of this people; therefore, it shall be unto thee even as the Lord will.

56 And it came to pass that the curse was not taken off of Korihor; but he was cast out, and went about from house to house begging for his food.

57 Now the knowledge of what had happened unto Korihor was immediately published throughout all the land; yea, the proclamation was sent forth by the chief judge to all the people in the land, declaring unto those who had believed in the words of Korihor that they must speedily repent, lest the same judgments would come unto them.

58 And it came to pass that they were all convinced of the wickedness of Korihor; therefore they were all converted again unto the Lord; and this put an end to the iniquity after the manner of Korihor. And Korihor did go about from house to house, begging food for his support.

59 And it came to pass that as he went forth among the people, yea, among a people who had separated themselves from the Nephites and called themselves Zoramites, being led by a man whose name was Zoram—and as he went forth amongst them, behold, he was run upon and trodden down, even until he was dead.

60 And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.

I say this in the name of Jesus Christ - amen.

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