Friday, June 17, 2016

Do Not Fear

by Kimber Albrechtsen

A talk given in my ward on July 12, 2016 (though I deviated from these exact words in a few places)

My topic is "Do Not Fear." The scripture I was given as a prompt is D&C 68:6:
Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.
To give you some context, this scripture was part of a revelation given to Joseph Smith on behalf of Orson Hyde. Orson Hyde had been called to be a missionary.

We’re told in this scripture and many others, “do not fear.” What shouldn’t we fear? Let’s look at some scriptures.

After Martin Harris pressured Joseph Smith into loaning him the 116 translated pages of the Book of Mormon, and subsequently lost them, the Lord had this to say to Joseph:

For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words—
 8 Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble. (D&C 3:7-8)

Martin Harris was financing the publication of the Book of Mormon. He was older than Joseph, a successful member of the community. Joseph was probably worried about upsetting Harris and potentially losing his financial support. So he pestered the Lord instead of having faith that God’s will was the best way.

Joseph had every reason to try and remain in Harris’ good graces … except that Harris wanted something contrary to the will of God. Joseph’s fear and deference to Martin Harris had consequences: Joseph temporarily lost the ability to translate, and 116 pages of scripture were lost.

In Matthew 10, The Lord says: 
Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. 32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (31-39)
In these scriptures, the Lord follows the admonition “fear not” with promises to those who “confess {Him} before men,” and then describes how those who love anyone more than the Lord are not worthy of Him.

Today, we are often faced with the choice of appeasing God or man. In some circumstances, you have to offend God or man. You should always choose to offend man. Even if “man” is your family, your spouse, your church leaders, your best friend. There are usually negative consequences, but for you at least, they will be confined to this world.

Whether or not you are willing to accept those consequences shows God if you are like Christ, who sacrificed all for the sake of His father, or if you are like Satan, who put His will above the will of the father, and whose desire it is to rule us with terror. Christ sacrificed all and qualified for greater glory. Satan wasn’t willing to sacrifice anything, and lost all his glory.

We’ve already taken the first step. We knew coming to this earth would require great sacrifice, but also provide a great opportunity. Inside each of you is the will to abandon comfort and fear for the sake of ascension to godliness.

Enduring the sacrifices God requires in this life qualifies you to partake of the glory of God.
And all they who suffer persecution for my name, and endure in faith, though they are called to lay down their lives for my sake yet shall they partake of all this glory. 36 Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full. 37 Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul. 38 And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life. (D&C 101:35)  
The rewards God wants to bestow on us are not of this world. The best treasures are of heaven, and so that’s where our hearts should be. Any earthly pain or persecution you endure for the Lord cannot destroy those treasures, and you shouldn’t fear these mortal threats.
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28) 
Have you been persecuted for Christ’s sake? If you have, good for you. You’re doing something right. If you haven’t, you need to start interacting with people who aren’t Mormon.

Also, amongst ourselves, we aren’t doing each other any favors by holding back truth that might offend. If we don’t hear anything at church that pricks our hearts and humbles us to repentance, then why do we stay past the sacrament?

Hopefully I can say something that will prick the heart of at least one of you enough to go home and think about what I said for longer than the next fifteen minutes. If anything I say offends any of you, please know that giving offense isn’t my intent, but that I accept it as a risk of giving the talk God wants me to give. I am trying to fear him more than you.

I won’t waste your time by telling you you’re all doing a great job. It’s not my place to judge you, and my opinion shouldn’t matter to you anyway. But telling you the finish line is 30 yards before it actually is will damn you. The bishopric has given me a portion of time to tell you something of worth, and God has given me a portion of time to acquire and distribute light, and it would be a waste of that time if I didn’t say anything that might lead someone to repentance, including myself.

The Lord said to David Whitmer:
Behold, I say unto you, David, that you have feared man and have not relied on me for strength as you ought. 2 But your mind has been on the things of the earth more than on the things of me, your Maker, and the ministry whereunto you have been called; and you have not given heed unto my Spirit, and to those who were set over you, but have been persuaded by those whom I have not commanded. (D&C 30:1) 
So the Lord is connecting fearing man with not relying on Him for strength, and also a preoccupation with the things of the earth.

When we get our strength, joy, fulfillment, happiness, etc. from man or things, we don’t turn to God. We are also too wary of losing that strength, joy, fulfillment, and happiness to surrender our wills to the Lord. We hold onto our reputations, our wealth, and our pride with such tight, fearful fists that we can’t open our hands to receive the greater prize from God.

When God tells you to skip church to visit someone, do you ignore him because you’re worried about what people will think?

When God prompts you to quit your job and take a pay cut and move to somewhere without an HEB a block away do you ignore him because you’re afraid of being poor or inconvenienced?

When God commands you in the scriptures to forgive, do you ignore him because you’re afraid that someone who has offended you won’t be sufficiently punished?

When God commands you to search the scriptures, do you ignore him because you’re afraid it will be boring or cut into your Netflix time?

When God whispers to you to correct the false doctrine you just heard in Sunday school, do you ignore him because you don’t want to be the weirdo in the ward?

If you are dedicated to doing the Lord’s will, you very well might end up being perceived as offensive and weird, even apostate. You’d be in good company with Abraham, Lehi, Abinadi, Jesus, John the Baptist, and Joseph Smith.

Placing the words and priorities of any man above the words and priorities of God is idolatry. What are the words of the Lord? You’ll find them in the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon and the D&C. You can also receive the words of the Lord at first through the spirit, and eventually from His mouth if you’re willing.

True prophets also preach the words of the Lord: they expound scripture and preach repentance. You are obligated to ask God if the prophets you are listening to are His, and if all the words they speak are from Him.

Your motive is also important. If you are following someone just because of a prestigious office they hold or a title they’ve been given by an institution, if you neglect to check their words against scripture and the spirit, even if they are a true messenger, you are following a telestial pattern and will be damned for your idolatry and failure to look past the servant and enter into the master’s presence.

D&C 76: 98-100 describes this: 
And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world; 99 For these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas. 100 These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch;
101 But received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant. (98-101)
Idolatry is trusting men who tell you all is well in Zion because you're too scared to go to God and ask him to show you your weakness.

It's better to know your weaknesses so you can turn to God and be taught.

A false sense of righteousness is one of the best tools Satan has. And if I had to pick a people that delighted in their own righteousness the most, I'd pick the Mormons.

God doesn’t care how long our skirts are, what percentage home teaching we’ve completed this month, or how many temples we’ve built if none of us have broken hearts and contrite spirits. Outward signs follow righteousness, but they are no substitute for internal conversion.

So now we know what not to fear: men or any earthly trials that will come as we do the Lord’s will.

Now let’s talk about why we should not fear.
Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; (D&C 68:6)
This section was addressed to a few men during the restoration. The declaration that “the Lord is with you” doesn’t automatically apply to us.

How do we know if the Lord is with us?

We just heard about this during the sacrament prayer:
3…. that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. (Moroni 4:3)
Always remember him! Remember him when your kids are driving you nuts and you want to scream. Remember him when a teenager in a sports car cuts you off. Remember him when your spouse says something rude and you have a great comeback. ALWAYS remember him.
If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness. (D&C 95:12)
And if you are faithful, behold, I am with you until I come— (D&C 34:11) 
The Lord is with you if you remember him, keep his commandments, and are faithful
Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my church need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. 56 But it is they who do not fear me, neither keep my commandments but build up churches unto themselves to get gain, yea, and all those that do wickedly and build up the kingdom of the devil—yea, verily, verily, I say unto you, that it is they that I will disturb, and cause to tremble and shake to the center. (D&C 10:55-56)
If you don’t fear God today through obedience and love for His work, you will have a chance to fear him and his wrath in the future. Either way, you’ll fear God. I prefer the fear that involves giving Him and only Him my devotion. I don’t want the fear that involves my dreading the just punishments of God. But there’s hope! Whosoever belongeth to His church need not fear.

But who belongs to his church? Anyone baptized into the LDS church? That’s not what the Lord says just a few verses later:
Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. 68 Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. (D&C 10:67-68)
Have you repented and come unto the Lord? If you don’t know the answer to that, ask Him. If you think you know the answer, ask for a confirmation.

I asked Him if I was a member of His church by this definition, and he said no. It was hard to hear, but I’m glad to know now while I can do something about it, and not after I die and find myself in spirit prison and it’s too late. It’s not too late for any of us in this room. Repent and come unto the Lord.

The Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. The Lord doesn't lie, and he wasn't lying when he said that. We won't be magically twinkled into perfect beings when we're resurrected. If we do nothing to rid ourselves of our idolatry, our greed, our pride, and our spiritual sloth, we will remain in this telestial state forever.

The Lord forgives us of our sins if we forsake them, but it would violate our agency and the laws of heaven for him to grant us a degree of glory that requires obedience to laws we are unwilling to obey, as demonstrated by our behavior in this life. That was Satan's plan. The Lord doesn't force godliness on anyone.

As Alma said to his son Corianton:
O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility. (Alma 42:30)
The opposite of fear is faith. Fear is standing still or even running backwards. Faith is courageously moving ahead in accordance with truth. Faith is more than belief. Faith is action predicated upon belief in something true.

In Mark 4, Christ told his disciples on a boat in a storm, "Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?" (Mark 4:40)

Paul said, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7)

If you do feel fear, discouragement, hopelessness, know that God is the author of courage, joy, hope, and faith. Turn to Him. Repentance isn’t pain or fear—sin is pain and fear. Repentance is accepting God’s light and love, casting out the fear of the wicked.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
Satan uses fear to keep us from progressing. God doesn’t send us fear or distress, He sends us knowledge. Sometimes the knowledge of our sinfulness or our unbelief is distressing—but that’s the reaction of the natural man and not a fruit of God.

Satan used this tactic on Joseph Smith just prior to the first vision. If you are faced with fear on your journey to Christ, know that it is from Satan. The Savior’s way is not easy or carefree, but the complete trust in God that the Lord requires will reveal how trivial the cares and fears of this world are, and how surrendering to the Lord’s will can remove earthly fears.

If you’re exposed to hard truths that challenge your current understandings, don’t fear, no matter the consequences of accepting that new truth. Turn to God in faith and obedience and qualify for greater light and knowledge. It works.

Sometimes we dismiss hard messages from the Lord by questioning their origin. “God would never tell me to do THAT,” we say. “He couldn’t possibly be talking about ME.” However, failure to open our minds and paradigms to new information precludes progression. We are to become as little children before the Lord, willing to learn and acknowledging our own lack of knowledge. Be willing to discard your false beliefs and God will fill you with truth. When you come across a scripture, a talk, a lesson that preaches repentance, ask, “Lord, is it I?” He will answer honest inquiries.

Learn to recognize the voice of the Lord. Mormon tells us how we can know:
But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. 14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil. 15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. 16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. 17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. (Moroni 7:13-17)
Fear not. We have a Savior. We have a way out of this telestial world we have fallen into. The battle has already been won. Don’t debase yourself by giving your loyalty to the losing side, to your carnal appetites, to the whims and philosophies of men with no power to save.
Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am; … and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come. (D&C 93:1 and D&C 68:6)

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