It is human nature that when we have a problem we do all we can to solve the problem. Often this leads to feeling that we have to “fight” and “beat” the problem. It is something we have to exterminate from our lives. But sometimes in our effort to eliminate a problem, we put so much focus on it that we actually give energy to the problem, which allows it to persist despite all of our efforts.
In the Sermon on the Mount, given both to the Jews and the Nephites, the Savior taught:
Agree with thine adversary quickly… Ye shall not resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also; And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also; And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away. And behold it is written also that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you. – 3 Nephi 12:25, 39-44
As I read this I sense that the Savior wants us to be at peace, to not fear when faced with difficult people or circumstances. There is nothing to fear! We need to trust that we will be OK even though unfair or painful things are happening. All adversity is meant to bring us closer to Christ.
And yet, as I read those verses, there is also a part of me that resists, that says, “Well I can’t just ignore the problem!” or “I can’t just let that person (or group) walk all over me! What is happening here isn’t right and this needs to stop now!” Sometimes it seems that the Saviors advice isn’t very practical in the real world. We want to fight and squash out the problem. Certainly in applying the Savior’s teachings it is important that each of us pray for inspiration on how on how we should act in our specific situations.
In the Book or Mormon there are a couple of accounts that show us what the result is of literally following the Saviors advice. The first one that comes to mind is the Lamanite converts of Ammon and his brothers. The other Lamanites were not happy about it and decided to kill those converts. This group of converts were so committed to the gospel, that they decided they would not put up a fight or do anything to defend themselves. They were going to literally follow the advice of the Savior, even though their lives were at risk. And what was the result? 1,005 of the converts were killed. So does that mean God failed to protect them, or the principle doesn’t apply in really bad situations? No, the rest of the story is that when the aggressive Lamanites saw that their brothers would not even fight,
…they did forebear from slaying them; and there were many whose hearts had swollen in them for those of their brethren who had fallen under the sword, for they repented of the things which they had done. And it came to pass that they threw down their weapons of war, and they would not take them again, for they were stung for the murders which they had committed; and they came down even as their brethren, relying upon the mercies of those whose arms were lifted to slay them. And it came to pass that the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people, therefore we have no reason to doubt but what they were saved. And there was not a wicked man slain among them; but there were more than a thousand brought to the knowledge of the truth; thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people. Alma 24:24-27
So, while some bad things still happened, from God’s perspective a greater good was done. It is desire to exalt all of his children, and because 1,005 willing gave up their lives, more than that number were saved. From God’s perspective those 1,005 didn’t loose their lives, they secured their eternal lives, and helped others do the same.
Another account in the Book of Mormon that illustrates the Savior’s teachings is Alma Sr. when he was in bondage to the Lamanites (Mosiah 23, 24). This is a fascinating account, especially when comparing it to their peers who were also subject to the Lamanites. I wrote of this in another post, A Tale of Two Cities: Deliverance From Bondage. In this post I want to emphasize that Alma’s group followed the teachings of the Savior on the Sermon on the Mount. When the Lamanites first showed up, Alma told his people to not fear, and trust that God would deliver them. When the invading army arrived, Alma and his people said a prayer and went out a “delivered themselves up into their hands; and the Lamanites took possession of the land of Helam.” (Mosiah 23:29). To the natural man this is kind of crazy, how come they didn’t even try to stop the Lamanites? Then they are forced to be slaves to the Lamanites, and their lives are at risk if they are caught praying. Things got really bad, but what do you expect when Alma’s group didn’t resist the Lamanites in anyway? The bad guys were allowed to do whatever they wanted and they didn’t show much restraint. Looks like a recipe for disaster, looks like Alma should have done something besides just giving up without a fight.
At this point it looks like Alma failed as a leader and his teachings backfired big time. But then an unforeseen miracle occurred. One morning the Lamanites all overslept, and Alma and his group were able to walk away without a fight. What a amazing miracle! What a simple solution to an impossible situation. Nothing is too hard for the Lord! I testify that as we trust him, and let go of “fighting” our problems, he has solutions we can’t imagine. Even though our problems may persist for a time, and may even get worse, the Lord can deliver us bondage! Whether it be political bondage, financial bondage, health problem bondage, relationship bondage, or anything else. As we trust Jesus Christ, letting go of any fear tied up in our problems, God can and will deliver us in a way that is for the highest good. I think it is important to let go of fear, I believe in both of these accounts in the Book of Mormon, both of these groups let go of fear. “Therefore they hushed their fears…” (Mosiah 23:28). When we fear we doubt the Lord, we doubt that we are OK and are going to be OK. We think we have to be free of the problem to be OK. When we can trust that problem is perfect for our learning growth and progression, we don’t have to fight to eradicate it from our lives. We can be grateful for it because of the opportunity it provides for us to become more Christlike in some way. To the Latter-Day Saints the Savior said, “Ye endeavored to believe that ye should receive the blessing which was offered unto you; but behold, verily I say unto you there were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason that ye did not receive.” (D&C 67:3). So as we follow the teachings of the Savior in the Sermon on the Mount, we need to do so with faith, not fear. Then we are at peace and know that no matter what happens next, even if the next thing to happen seems like the worst news possible, it will be OK and work out for a greater good. Then we can rejoice and be exceedingly glad, no matter what our circumstances are!
I am reminded of the these verses from the Hymn “How Firm a Foundation” -LDS Hymn 85
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed. For I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by righteous omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow, for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless. And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply. The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes; That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!