Around the summer of 2019, I started to delve deeper into books about the Mayflower Pilgrims and their travails in the New World. 2020 would mark the 400 year anniversary of their arrival here, and me being the sentimentalist that I am, it made sense to learn more.
While their voyage predated the Restoration by more than two centuries, it had been foreseen and foretold by the prophet Nephi about two thousand years prior. The Pilgrims originally came to America for the purpose of religious liberty, freedom they didn’t enjoy under King James in England.
I will spare you an exhaustive recounting of their trials, suffice it to say that 96% of you who are reading this would have shriveled up and died after a week on that ship. We are too soft and too comfortable to truly understand the difficulty of such a journey. (And even then, 50% of them died within 3 months of landing in modern-day Massachusetts.)
You can read the raw historical facts in Nathaniel Philbrick’s book, Mayflower. William Bradford’s original firsthand account is written in a work titled Of Plymouth Plantation. Best of all, you can read about the connection between the Mayflower and the Restoration of the Gospel in Tim Ballard’s The Pilgrim Hypothesis.
The important summary is this: the Pilgrims chose between comfortable subjugation by an oppressive king or religious liberty in an environment that was bound and determined to kill them, and they chose the latter.
Without that, the prophet Joseph Smith isn’t born where he needed to be.
Hyperbole? Read Ballard’s book, particularly the section about John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley.
The Pilgrims drafted a Compact which would form the basis of their laws, a sort of proto-Constitution, 150 years before the Declaration of Independence. Shortly after the Revolution, the Founders framed the Bill of Rights, which would enshrine religious liberty as a God-given right.
After these new freedoms had time to settle on the land, God the Father and Jesus Christ would appear to Joseph Smith, exactly 200 years after the Pilgrims arrived.
The First Vision would kick off decades and decades of incredible suffering among the covenant children of God. In a sense, the Pioneer trek of the 1840s mirrored the Israelite Exodus from Egypt, but it also resembled the Pilgrims’ voyage to a new land where they could enjoy the freedom to practice their religion.
For more details on that era, read Saints volumes 1 and 2, which are available for free on the LDS Gospel Library app. True accounts of tremendous suffering, faith, and blessings abound.
And now, here we are, 200 years after the First Vision, 400 years after the Mayflower, and we again witness unprecedented turbulence the world over. I intended to write this article even before Covid19 broke out, with the following question in mind:
If we were called upon to endure incredible trials and suffering for our faith, like the Pilgrims and the Pioneers, could we do it? Would we?
We now have a clear and present opportunity to answer that question.
Protesters all across the country are tearing down statues and memorials of Christopher Columbus, George Washington, the Pilgrims, and other figures called throughout Western history to prepare the way of the Lord, in accordance with Book of Mormon prophecy.
Just this last week a statue of Brigham Young, one of God’s chosen prophets, who led the Church west across the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, was defaced on BYU property.
And earlier this week, an unethical “journalist” (redundant, I know) from an execrable Salt Lake publication effectively put out a list of LDS monuments arranged in such a way as to make them easy targets for vandalism. This isn’t going away easily.
The persecution continues to ramp up. Much physical preparation and fortification are necessary, but even more important is our spiritual fortification.
Have you been praying? Personally? With your families? Are you studying from the Come, Follow Me manual each and every day? Are you paying attention to how current events are fulfilling ancient prophecies, and what Christ promises to those who keep their covenants throughout these events?
Brothers and sisters, there is still time for us to be “wise virgins” and put ourselves in order. Things are hard at the moment, and I dare say they will get worse before they get better.
Nevertheless, do as Christ told Peter to do: keep your eye on the Savior. Don’t yield to the storm. Don’t yield to fear, to pressure, to bullying, to false yet comforting doctrines. Endure as the Pilgrims did. Endure as the Pioneers did. Defend truth, defend the Gospel, and defend your faith.
In the words of our prophet Russell M. Nelson, “Time is running out.“
- “Preparations for the Restoration and the Second Coming: My Hand Shall Be over Thee” -Elder Robert D. Hales, October 2005
- “Do Not Despair” -President Ezra Taft Benson, October 1974
- “Preparation for the Second Coming” -Elder Dallin H. Oaks, April 2004