We learn in the November 15-21 Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Doctrine and Covenants 2021: “What we now know as section 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants was meant to be the appendix to the Book of Commandments, like an exclamation point at the end of the Lord’s published revelations … While the original plans for the Book of Commandments were not fulfilled, this revelation is a reminder and a witness that the Lord’s work cannot be thwarted.” Although things did not turn out the way the Saints at that time expected, that doesn’t mean that this section doesn’t have relevance to us today.
How many times in our lives do we make plans, righteous plans, just to have them totally derailed by natural disasters, the actions of others, our own actions (or lack of action), or even a pandemic? All we need to do is look around to see lives turned upside down everywhere. Our lives have all been tossed into chaos these past two years by a tiny little virus spreading through the world like wildfire. Children have been forced into online school, church has been redirected into our homes, and jobs have been lost. Families have been divided in so many ways.
It is not hard, as we look around us and even in our own homes. Perhaps we question why things are not turning out the way we had expected. Perhaps we question whether Heavenly Father is really going to keep His promises to bless us when we follow Him. Perhaps we are struggling a little (or a lot) in our faith.
'Trust in the Lord”
It is not by accident that we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are studying the Doctrine and Covenants this year. We have been prepared and instructed in the last few years to create “a home-centered and Church-supported plan to learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship” (Russell M. Nelson, “Opening Remarks,” Ensign, Nov. 2018, 8). We are being prepared personally and as families to find ways to strengthen our faith.
The Saints in 1831 had accepted Joseph Smith as the Prophet, and they were excited to build Zion and come unto Christ. In return they looked forward to the promises and “the blessing of the everlasting God” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:34). Things turned out significantly different than what they expected. They were driven out of home after home. They were tortured and injured.
I am certain that they began to question the Prophet and Heavenly Father. I am certain they struggled in their faith almost daily. We know that many left the restored Church of Jesus Christ for various reasons.
Today, we don’t have to look far to see people we love who are struggling. They also may be wondering where the Lord is with the blessings we have been promised. There is a reason that the 2022 Youth Theme is: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). It is vital that we—today more than ever—trust in God. He is guiding us, and He will fulfill all His promises to us, big and small, for “Zion shall be redeemed in mine own due time” (Doctrine and Covenants 136:18).
Invitations to Flee Worldliness, Build Zion, and Pray Always
Recently I saw a quote that is relevant in these situations: “Remain firm about your goals, but flexible about your methods” (William A. Donohue, Managing Interpersonal Contact , 127). While we may need to change how we will achieve our goals, our goals do not have to change. We will have to make our own adjustments along the way, but that doesn’t mean our end goals are no longer achievable. This idea fits the warning in Come, Follow Me studies of section 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants this week, “Flee worldliness, as symbolized by Babylon; build Zion; prepare for the Second Coming; and spread this message ‘unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people’ (verse 37).” This is what the early Latter-day Saints were taught, and this is what we need to do to gain the rewards promised to all of us.
Do you recall the invitation President Russell M. Nelson extended to the youth, then later to all members of the Church, in 2018 to become a part of the Lord’s Battalion? It seems like just yesterday. To prepare us to change the world, he invited us to do several things, but I wanted to remember just a few here: “First.., disengage from a constant reliance on social media” (Russell M. Nelson and Wendy W. Nelson, “Hope of Israel” [worldwide youth devotional, June 3, 2018], ChurchofJesusChrist.org). This sounds an awful lot like fleeing worldliness.
The next invitation goes perfectly with building Zion: we are to make a weekly sacrifice of time to the Lord for three weeks. Give up something, anything, each week and replace it with gathering Israel. He leaves the details up to us:
“Anytime you do anything that helps anyone—on either side of the veil—take a step toward making covenants with God and receiving their essential baptismal and temple ordinances, you are helping to gather Israel. It is as simple as that” (Nelson, “Hope of Israel”).
Another of President Nelson’s invitations is: “Pray daily that all of God’s children might receive the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You and I are living to see, and will continue to see, Israel gathered with great power. And you can be part of the power behind that gathering!” (Nelson, “Hope of Israel”). Sharing the gospel might not be as big as we imagine. Daily prayer can have great power in the work of the Lord.