What do all of the following people have in common?
- Alma and those baptized at the waters of Mormon
- King Lamoni and his wife, father, and people
- Repentant Zoramites
- Joseph Smith and those who believed his message
- John the Baptist and those he baptized
- Christ's followers during His mortal ministry, including:
- Christ's original 12 apostles
- Mary, Martha, Mary Magdalene
Lehi had to accept that the majority of his nation (probably including dear friends and family) had become wicked and apostate, and then he endured being accused of those things himself! Anyone who followed Christ during his mortal ministry would have been acting in direct opposition to the teachings of their religious leaders, those who had inherited Moses' position of authority (Matthew 23:2). Alma forsook a cushy job as a priest of King Noah and risked his life to spread the Lord's message of repentance (imagine an apostle going rogue and starting a new church--that's how bold Alma was). King Lamoni was willing to accept truth from an enemy and forsake the false religious traditions of his fathers (note: tradition should never be the basis for religious decisions). Rahab recognized the power of the Lord and aided the Israelites in taking Jericho and subsequently slaughtering her countrymen(!).
|I think Alma is the priest to the left of King Noah--the one who is super pale, perhaps because he's realizing his whole life is about to change.|
If you aren't willing to endure the same social and familial rejection and ostracism for the sake of knowing and obeying God, what makes you think you warrant the same eternal reward as those who have displayed such loyalty? Joseph Smith taught:
"It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him" (Lectures on Faith, sixth lecture, v.8).The followers of truth are usually small in numbers, and always outside the norm. You must exhibit the same bravery and willingness to walk a lonely path lit only by faith, without legions of examples before you. In fact, if you are among a crowd, you should reject any comfort that there is "strength in numbers" and should instead question your direction, as Christ taught:
Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat;
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (3 Nephi 14:13-14).
Sometimes the Lord's message comes from Him directly, as in the cases of Joseph Smith, Moses, and Lehi. Other times, the message comes through His prophets, as in the cases of Alma, the early Latter-day Saints, and the followers of John the Baptist. It should be noted that in the latter type of cases, the role of a prophet is to lead others to their own divine connection, and not to replace it.
If you are quick to dismiss those offering truth and calling you to repentance because they aren't within your religious hierarchy, what makes you think you would have hearkened to Abinadi? Listened to Joseph Smith? Followed Christ? None of these prophets bore any accepted authority, position, or office. Institutional or priestly rank should never be the basis upon which you determine whose message to heed. The only standard that should matter is truth, as confirmed by the Holy Ghost. You must be willing to entertain the validity of any message, regardless of the messenger; this takes humility, an appetite for truth, and courage.
If you aren't willing to consider the fallibility of your mortal leaders, owing to their prestigious religious authority or standing, then what makes you think you would have been among those Jews who did that very thing when they rejected the false prejudices of their religious leaders and followed Christ? Are you rejecting the Savior right now, in any way, because of stakes set up by your religious leaders? Joseph Smith taught against limiting God in this way:
"I say to all those who are disposed to set up stakes for the Almighty, you will come short of the glory of God. It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty." (DHC 5:529)If you aren't willing to hold your own religious authorities to exacting standards of truth and godliness, what makes you think you would have been different from the saints who stood by as the church founded by Christ drifted into apostasy? Or do you have the courage and humility of the repentant Zoramites who rejected the false teachings of their leaders despite societal and religious rejection? Do you instead follow your leaders without hesitation, even if some of their doctrines, policies, and decisions should give you pause? Do you listen to authority, or truth?
While religious leaders should be allowed their humanity and certainly should not be lauded as perfect, where is the line that, if crossed, would make you reevaluate your loyalties? Is that line determined by your culture? Your political values? The Spirit? The scriptures? Or, most tellingly, is there no line at all?
Do you consider yourself as valiant as Abraham, who destroyed his father's idols, even as you idolize the "faith of your fathers"?
Do you think you are so different from the Pharisees despite your own subscription to rules upon rules governing appearance, religious traditions, food, and programs, with little attention paid to your heart?
Are you certain you would have followed Christ 2,000 years ago, yet today you are comfortable in your warmongering, your "I'm not racist" racism, and your rampant consumerism?
Samuel the Lamanite (another prophet outside the religious hierarchy, later specifically vouched for by Christ) preached against this presumption:
"And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.
26 Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.
27 But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.
28 Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.
29 O ye wicked and ye perverse generation; ye hardened and ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light?" (Helaman 13:If you listen to (and pay) leaders who tell you how incredible, chosen, and holy you are, you will be led to a damning contentment in your dark and filthy state. Listen to prophets who urge you to take a scouring pad to your pride and climb from the dark pit you are so comfortable inside. Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you don't really need to get up out of the mud.
God wants us to be loyal and submissive, to Him. That submission will involve rebellion against the things of this world: false prophets, false traditions, earthly appetites, cultural values, philosophies of men, and sometimes even your friends and family. The Lord taught:
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. (Matthew 10:34-39)
While it may seem antithetical to be both obedient and rebellious, I believe the Lord prizes both, when they are exercised with discernment. Obedience to God oftentimes requires rebellion against earthly forces, whether familial, political, cultural, or religious. The opposite of this obedient rebellion is the fearful cowering before unworthy authorities, the idolatrous loyalty to blind leaders, and the sloth of "go-with-the-flow" spirituality. You have to be open-minded, brave, and full of the faith needed to sacrifice everything for God.