“Fear Not Little Flock”
By: Patriarch Terrence Smith
One of the disadvantages of living in the latter days is that annoying and trying things happen. Those happenings are usually populated with annoying and trying people. Sometimes the annoying person is even me or you. The ongoing and not soon-over COVID pandemic is such a difficult time. If you’ve been paying attention at all it should have taught you something about yourself and your brothers and sisters here on earth at this time.
The Lord has told the latter-day prophets quite a bit about these times. He said He was doing so that we would not be taken by surprise but would be prepared and better able to cope with such things.
D&C 88:89-91 For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand. And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds. And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.
D&C 5:19 For a desolating scourge shall go forth among the inhabitants of the earth, and shall continue to be poured out from time to time, if they repent not, until the earth is empty, and the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming.
Desolate: empty, no people, alone, laid waste, left out, uninhabited, unattractive.
Then Elder Russell M. Nelson and I had a discussion at one time about what the desolating scourge might be (from a medical perspective). We agreed that a world viral pandemic, like the 1918-1920 influenza outbreak, was the most likely scenario. Note that the revelation speaks of them coming from time to time.
With COVID-19, the older you are the more chance you have of getting very sick and dying. The younger you are the more chance you have of being dislocated and derailed from the track of life. More likely to lose a job, more likely to be short of funds, more likely to have a longer time in school, to have important milestones delayed, to miss or delay a career track, to have chances for meeting someone, learning something, doing something missed or delayed at best.
Some of us are getting fat and out of shape: we have fewer options of what we can do, so being good members of the Church, we don’t watch Netflix and chill we watch Netflix and fill. Gyms are closed and you can only run-in-place in your apartment for so long without feeling silly. So there are physical problems that we will have in the last days, but the scriptures tell us that what will fail in the last days is our hearts—our emotions and our reasoning about this world. I’ve been a family doctor for 46 years in Raymond. In that time, I’ve had a chance to see a lot of mental illness.
If there are one thousand of you out there listening today—not an impossible number:
• 150-200 will have a mental illness that impacts your life in a considerable way right now.
• 300-400 of you will have or have had a mental illness by the time you are 40. • 50-60 of you have an anxiety disorder that is disabling.
• 10 of you have or will develop schizophrenia by the time you’re 30. • 10-20 of you have bipolar disorder.
• If you die before you’re 40 it will be most likely due to an accident—the next most likely thing is suicide secondary to a severe mood disorder.
Your risk of developing mental illness is higher if:
o You have a close family member with mental illness
o Estrogen gives a greater incidence in women of mood disorders o Testosterone gives a greater mortality in men from mood disorders
• Temperament (Personality)
o Perfectionistic, anxious, performance oriented—doing things because of extrinsic pressures—acted upon. Driving a dualie pulling a horse trailer rather than cruising in your Fiat. Some personality types take more emotional gas.
o Death of someone close
o Divorce of you or your parents
o Moving/Immigration esp. change of culture
o Loss of a close relationship
o Abuse / Emotional trauma
o Surgery with anesthesia
o Physical Trauma: concussion / fracture
o Viral infections: influenza, Mono, hepatitis, COVID
The good news is that there are good treatments for all of these illnesses, and some can be cured or put into remission and others can be significantly helped. They are not a life-sentence of misery with them. They make up part of the telestial experience, the opposition in all things that Lehi told Jacob about. Lehi also told the same boy in the same chat that we are made that we might have joy. How does that work then?
We live in a culture that tells us that we should be unhappy unless every need is met. How tragic to be alone! How tragic to be unmarried! How tragic to be unfulfilled sexually! How tragic to be married to the wrong person who doesn’t fill all my needs! How tragic to be unattractive! How tragic to be handicapped! How tragic to be depressed or anxious! How tragic that I am poor! How tragic to be burdened down with diapers and small children when I could have had a career! How tragic to be trapped in this career when I want children! How tragic not be able to taste every pleasure and joy on earth every day!
These complaints could all be true in their way.
There is always a part of us that is alone and unsupported. We are all Unfinished Symphonies. All of us have had or have longings that seem impossible to fulfill in this life.
Religion or spirituality explains and helps us deal with these Mind the Gaps in our lives. When Jesus invited people to his radical reformed ideas on religion, he suggested that in embracing His views and acting on what He taught would make our burdens lighter than before—our yoke to pull would be easier.
If we truly come unto Him and His pure and undefiled gospel, I believe this is the case. If our burden is heavy, we would do well to examine who has placed it on us. It is probably not there from Jesus or His gospel. It is usually self-imposed, but occasionally our family, friends, and neighbours add a few bricks for us to carry through life.
What is it about religion that can make our way lighter and easier? What is in it that will heal our wounds and bring us peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come. I believe that the principles for a healthy happy life are embodied in the basic framework of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. This is my personal conviction based on faith and experience.
I think the gospel principles boil down to faith in Jesus Christ, repentance/change (positive change—not just forsaking big sins), forgiveness of others, acceptance of others and self, and love. If we can learn these principles in our dealings with others and with ourselves, we will be healthier and a good deal happier than we might have been otherwise.
Too often religion is used as a means to justify our neuroses, to fixate our prejudices, to prolong our repressions, to feed our obsessions, or to delay our healing. This is not as it should be. If we would drink from the pure springs of prayer and scripture study, we would change many of our preconceived notions about what God or the Church demand of us. Our religion should ever be our ally in mental health, not a handicap. If we think that our religion is making our mental health worse by being in this Church, we don’t really understand our religion.
We need to be seen, known completely, responded to, confirmed, appreciated, cared for, mimicked, recognized and responded to in order to be someone. We need to have our feelings and thoughts listened to and acknowledged both on earth and in heaven. We need someone to validate all parts of us: body and spirit. In a way this is the basis of all existence. In a way, it is what convinces us that we are real. We must feel that we are taken account of. We must feel and know that we matter to someone; that we do not live alone. This is very basic but very important stuff: “I am a child of God and He has sent me here….” It is important that we have people on earth who will validate us and think that we are significant. Often this can be found within our extended family, the Church community, work, etc. However, it is most important that we feel that One Person who validates us and
feels we are significant is God Himself, and that our souls are created in His image. We need a relationship with Him.
Fixed Eternal Laws:
We need to feel that the universe is not working at random; that there are immutable laws—that there is a covenant path that we can follow. These ultimate laws may not be totally mastered by us at this point in our progression, but they may, at least, be understood, entered into, and followed to the best of our abilities. And we need to feel that these decrees are the basis of a progression that is eternal in its very nature and scope. And further, we need to feel that these decrees are centred in One who embodies, has mastered, and exemplifies them, and this One we call, God. Our religion teaches these principles.
Affirmed and Accepted:
We need to feel accepted for who we are. We need to know and feel that just our being gives us an ultimate worth not based on performance or right action. We cannot earn heaven by keeping God’s commandments—only one Man has done that, and thus has a right to salvation on the basis of perfection: Jesus Christ. Don’t keep applying for that job—it is taken.
But our salvation is not just on the basis of grace alone. It requires our agency here too. It is not just that God must and does accept us, warts and all. We must affirm that we accept Him and his way for us. We can always say, “No” even to God’s best gifts. We have something to offer—ourselves. [Indeed, it is all that we have to offer that is not ultimately His gift to us already.] We need His grace. President Leavitt talked about that last night.
Individual Calling and Purpose
We must feel called to the life that we have been given to live. Like Moses we must feel God saying to each of us:
“And I have a work for thee, my son…” or daughter.
And having been called, we must feel it possible to be chosen to continue it until we are confirmed in it, or, in other words, until that calling is made sure.
Our souls are made to imitate Christ and membership is a function they require to become like Him. We must come to see and feel [mind/body] ourselves as a member of the body of Christ possessing the mind of Christ. We must see His Church and ourselves in it as the continuing incarnation of Christ on the earth. To attend church, to worship within the congregation or family, to be active and love within these groups is to experience Christ’s body and mind first-hand. And what we inevitably touch at some point in our families or in the church, when thus invited into Christ’s body, are his wounds. President Orr spoke about this last night in the context of same sex attraction. We will find in our membership, into which we are called in life, much of pain, suffering, vulnerability, and humiliation as well as peace, joy, happiness and contentment. There should be no surprise in this. This was Christ’s experience, and we are also called to live a law of sacrifice—to be members of families and congregations where we will be hurt, or feel others’ hurts, in similitude of his great sacrifice of his own body for us.
Moses 5:6 -7 Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
As we remember weekly, in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, part of our membership in this living body of Christ, He asks us only to be willing to take His name on us, willing to always remember Him, and willing to keep His commandments. This willingness makes us members of his body and fills us with the One Spirit that animates that body. Membership pulls us out of our individual skin—which hurts, and it merges us with others. It is the matrix without which our individual callings would be meaningless. One demands the other. There is no membership without calling and no calling possible outside of membership. As soon as any individual spiritual growth begins, membership is demanded:
“And the first fruits of repentance is baptism….”
Modern science or humanism leads us to believe that things have gone on and will go on much the same, until we and all that we hold to be important will end “in the vast death of the solar system” as Bertrand Russell so depressingly put it. And the monotonous tedium of modern life lends credence to that notion. Things have always been a lot like they are now. Why should there be any difference? If things themselves never change, how can I possibly change? And yet Jesus talked about an end of the world. He talked about sudden apocalyptic changes to our world and our way of life. He assures us of three things about the end of the world as we know it: first, that it is sure and certain; and secondly, that no one can know for certain when it will come; and, thirdly, that therefore we must watch and always be ready.
This current pandemic situation gives us an excellent opportunity to personally get ready for the events around the second coming. What can we do?
• Deepen our relationship with our Father in Heaven by regular prayer in which we listen as well as talk and by studying the scriptures. Express our gratitude.
• Get some exercise—it stirs up the brain chemistry and primes the machine. If you can’t jump start your head yourself then see someone for some talk therapy or see a family doctor for some help. The Holy Ghost has trouble talking to an anesthetized brain.
• Deepen your relationship with yourself. Use this time to be someone who thinks about who they are and acts accordingly. Make two lists of things that you want to do because you love doing them and they speak to you. One list are things that take about 10-15 minutes. The other list are things that take a few hours. Do one of the short time list every day and one of the long time list every week. Spend some time with yourself—with the media turned off.
• Deepen your relationship with other members of the Church—the body of Christ. Some of it may be virtual right now. Go to what meetings you can. Reach out in some ministry. Do service for someone on a regular basis.
• Follow the Saviour’s admonition: Be of Good Cheer!
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:
I love what Elder Orson F. Whitney once said: “The spirit of the gospel is optimistic; it trusts in God and looks on the bright side of things. The opposite or pessimistic spirit drags men down and away from God, looks on the dark side, murmurs, complains, and is slow to yield obedience.” We should honor the Savior’s declaration to “be of good cheer.” (Indeed, it seems to me we may be more guilty of breaking that commandment than almost any other!) Speak hopefully. Speak encouragingly, including about yourself. Try not to complain and moan incessantly.”
Believe the Saviour’s words and what President Wilde said last night. This is a kind of patriarchal blessing for the Church as a whole, and I think I can validly add it at this time as an appendage to any of your patriarchal blessings.
D&C 6:34-37 Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you. Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.
In the name of Him who gave us this assurance, even Jesus Christ, Amen