For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
I attended Seminary in the late 1990s. The internet was a new novelty, virtually nobody had a cell phone, and life was generally blissful as a teenage Latter-day Saint living in cozy Cache Valley, Utah. We were taught our whole lives we were a chosen generation and we needed to be prepared to face the trials and persecutions that would surely come upon us as we await the Second Coming of our Lord. We were taught our Heavenly Father had reserved the very best (and also the very worst) of His spirit children for this final phase.
I recall my Seminary teacher one day teaching us about the blessing of being persecuted. It was the year we studied Doctrine & Covenants, so I am sure it had to do with this verse:
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.
“If you walk outside the Seminary building right now, and you get rocks thrown at your head simply for living your faith, you should yell out to your persecutor, ‘hit me harder! And make sure to do some real damage!!'” my teacher laughed. “What easier way is there to the Celestial Kingdom!”
Of course, such a scenario seemed far-fetched and it served as a funny joke at the time. The courage it would take to give your life for the Kingdom of God would require a deeply held conviction and conversion having already taken place. It’s not actually that simple. But what of the persecution? Is it real or imagined?
I’d submit that the persecution is real right now only if you open your mouth to defend the Lord’s church unequivocally. It’s kind of amazing to see the evolution of our world around us in less than a generation since I was a teenager. I do feel like was born in a special generation, when I saw great advancements happen in real-time. I am able to weigh the good with the bad, remember times of less convenience but with more peace. A quarter-century ago, The Family Proclamation was released with little fanfare or excitement. Now, any open advocation of it is grounds to be called out for bigotry. As more people have access to information, our testimonies can be strengthened by learning our family histories and the sacrifices of our forefathers in building up the Lord’s Kingdom on earth. On the other hand, our enemies mischaracterize our heritage and use platforms never before available to someone living in their mother’s basement to lead souls astray.
Is persecution as bad as it will be? Are we near the end? I hardly think so. There are many who are still able to sit on the fence with closed mouths and closed eyes who escape the fiery darts of our adversaries. There are those who claim to be faithful members who are mealy-mouthed in their defense so as to avoid the damning and false accusations of racism, sexism, and homophobia simply for being members of the Church. However, as I’ve seen the trajectory of our culture tilt speedily downward in 20 years, I have no doubt that even the fence-sitters will be made to care, and eventually, a choice will have to be made.
So we make our decision, and we choose to open our mouths. Peter continues in Chapter 3:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
“Be ready always to give an answer to every man.” While addressing our persecutors for much of this writing, they deserve not our attention until they have humbled themselves enough for the Spirit to work within them. I’d like to focus on three ways we can handle the honest inquirer. The methods work in any setting, whether it be in the classroom on Sunday, to our friends or a stranger on the street, to our family interactions at home.
- Ask Questions
- Quote Witnesses of Christ (Scriptures and Prophets)
It is often our mistake that every question deserves an answer based on the premise presented to us. We were taught in school that there is no such thing as a bad question. Yeah, that’s wrong. One reason to ask questions is to reframe the question in a way that corrects the premise. It is a way of discovering whether you’re dealing with an honest broker or not.
Something I’ve noticed when I am teaching missionaries is they’ve completely abandoned learning the Commitment Pattern technique. It’s a shame because it helped missionaries, and often the investigator, find out the real doubt of the person before trying to solve an unknown problem. Oftentimes we are so eager to answer the question that we fail to take time to find out what exactly the question is.
Asking questions is also a way of inviting the Spirit. Asking questions shows genuine listening and interest. Asking questions forces the learner to use their God-given ability to think and problem-solve. Prophets throughout the scriptures have used questions in their teaching. The best example of this is Alma the Younger‘s sermon to the people of Zarahemla. I’ve made it a habit to mark every question in the scriptures with a distinct color.
Quote the Scriptures
How many times have you heard a talk in Church where nary a scripture was quoted? How is that even possible? Can you imagine a General Authority giving a talk in General Conference without citing the scriptures or another conference talk to back up his assertions? Why then, would anyone attempt to leave out the words of the scripture? Christ himself cited the Old Testament over and over again as he taught. I’ve marked in my scriptures every such passage using this Bible Dictionary resource with a different color.
Just as the scriptures and our modern prophets show us the way by quoting scripture, they also teach us by bearing their sacred testimony. Oftentimes in the Book of Mormon, we can find their testimonies begin with, “As the Lord liveth…” I mark these passages in a different color. The central purpose of utilizing the scriptures and bearing testimony is to invite the Spirit and allow it to function in its role to confirm the truth of all things.
It is required of us to be ready to open our mouths and answer the questions of the honest inquirer. The pattern of teaching is found in the scriptures, and we can practice these techniques simply by diving in and knowing the text. We aren’t living in comfortable times anymore and each one of us will face many challenges to our faith, both from honest brokers and treacherous adversaries. It won’t be good enough to sit on the fence and watch; we will be required to declare boldly where we stand or be told by our enemies where to stay captive.
- Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: New Testament 2019, November 25-December 1.
- “Be Thou an Example of the Believers” -Elder Russell M. Nelson, October 2010
- “Witnesses of Christ” -Elder Dallin H. Oaks, October 1990
- “Proclaim My Gospel from Land to Land” -Elder L. Tom Perry, April 1989