Sunday, June 15, 2008

Constructive Thoughts: Who's Side?

Picture yourself in a large room, like a typical chapel, with three columns of pews, numerous rows. As I said, a typical chapel to be found in a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint ward building.

Picture yourself in this room, sitting about three rows from the front, center aisle, in the very center of the pew. This seat represents the “middle of the road,” spiritually-speaking. The area to your right represents all the good things that can be done in life. The area on your left represents the wrong things that can be done in life. The further to the right and left we go in the room, the better--or worse--those choices become.

Without turning your head, from where you are sitting, it would be difficult to see someone sitting on your immediate right and your immediate left. That difficulty becomes greater--approaching and possibly attaining impossibility as you reach the far ends of the side aisles--still on the third row--on either side of you.

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presented a similar object lesson at a speech given at Brigham Young University some years ago. He gave the listeners the following explanation:

“In the middle, it is difficult to discern what is right and what is wrong. This middle area is where Satan works with righteous people, the twilight zone where you cannot clearly discern between what is good and what is bad. It is easy to become confused here. Live well within the wonderful area of good the Lord has defined, and you won’t have any problems with temptation. If you are not sure whether something is appropriate to look at, to listen to, to think about, or to do, then avoid it. You could be headed for one of Satan’s traps.” (Richard G. Scott, “Do What is Right,” Ensign, June 1997 at 51, 53-54.)

In other words, when we stand in the middle of the road, we can sometimes discern the immediate right and wrong. As the choices extend further out, however, it is sometimes difficult to discern the chain of choices before us. We may instinctively know what the ultimate result of our choices would be, but it is difficult sometimes to actually see them. Those on either side of us, however, can often see exactly what lays before us and may be able to see--better than we can, anyway--where our choices are leading us.

Those on either side of us can also influence our actions and affect the outcome of our decisions. They can affect for good or for ill.

There is a war going on, a very ancient war. The battlefields have grown and expanded. Wilford Woodruff, fourth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught: “Opposition to God and His Christ, opposition to light and truth has existed since the beginning to the present day. This is the warfare that commenced in heaven, that has existed through all time, and that will continue until the winding up scene, until He reigns whose right it is to reign, when He shall come in clouds of glory to reward every man according to the deeds done in the body.” (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff at 220.)

How is this battle fought? President Gordon B. Hinckley stated that the adversaries “have used every stratagem in that conflict. They’ve indulged in lying and deceit. They’ve employed money and wealth. They’ve tricked the minds of men. They’ve murdered and destroyed and engaged in every kind of evil practice to thwart the work of Christ.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “An Unending Conflict, A Victory Assured,” Ensign, June 2007 at 4.)

Can an individual remain neutral in this fight? No. In this eternal fight, every person is involved and affected. There can be no neutral ground. There is no spiritual Switzerland.

There are several reasons for this, which include: when a crucial task must be performed, neutrality by an able-bodied person is an aid and advantage to the enemy; neutrality renders comfort and assistance to the enemy; neutrality helps the enemy because they need not fight against the neutral; and neutrality also creates a lack of help that could have been given our side had the individual chosen a side. As Joshua instructed the Israelites, “choose you this day whom ye will serve . . . as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15) and as Moses said to the multitude when he returned from the mount with the Commandments, “Who is on the LORD's side? let him come unto me.” (Exodus 32:26)

How do we get out of the middle of the road, then? One relatively-simple way is to read the Word of God. President Benson was a great proponent of the Book of Mormon, and the power that book holds. He said,

“It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path.” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Jan. 1992, 2.)

To paraphrase a political leader of our day, paraphrasing his secular words and applying them to the spiritual: the Lord works in plainness, in truth, and in goodness, we face an enemy that uses deception and cunning to destroy souls and then rejoice about it, they gloat. They bring only misery and spiritual death to the world, threatening every nation and civilization itself, striking from the shadows. We must be determined to fight this evil, and fight until we are rid of it.

Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Now is the time to show.
We ask it fearlessly:
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
We wage no common war,
Cope with no common foe.
The enemy’s awake;
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?

We serve the living God,
And want his foes to know
That, if but few, we’re great;
Who's on the Lord's side? Who?
We’re going on to win;
No fear must blanch the brow.
The Lord of Hosts is ours;
Who's on the Lord's side? Who?

. . . .

The pow’rs of earth and hell
In rage direct the blow
That’s aimed to crush the work;
Who's on the Lord's side? Who?
Truth, life, and liberty,
Freedom from death and woe,
Are stakes we’re fighting for;
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?

(Hymns, "Who’s on the Lord’s Side?," no. 260
Text: Hannah Last Cornaby, 1822––1905
Music: Henry H. Russell, 1818––1900, alt.)

One last point to remember: where Satan coerces and tricks, the Lord freely, openly invites all to come unto Him.


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