This is the fourth in a series of articles that will offer counsel and encouragement to people everywhere as we face the pandemic currently sweeping the earth.
Commended to God!
By Apostle Gary R Whiting
1 Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the great I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made; the same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes: I am the same which spake and the world was made, and all things came by me: I am the same which have taken the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom; and verily I say, even as many as have believed on my name, for I am Christ, and in mine own name, by virtue of the blood which I have spilt, have I pleaded before the Father for them: but, behold, the residue of the wicked have I kept in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day, which shall come at the end of the earth; and even so will I cause the wicked to be kept, that will not hear my voice but harden their hearts, and woe, woe, woe is their doom.
2 But, behold, verily, verily I say unto you, that mine eyes are upon you: I am in your midst and ye can not see me, but the day soon cometh that ye shall see me and know that I am; for the veil of darkness shall soon be rent, and he that is not purified shall not abide the day: wherefore, gird up your loins and be prepared. Behold, the kingdom is yours and the enemy shall not overcome (D&C 38:1- 2).
I found this inspiring story in a book called A Time for Confidence: Trusting God in a post- Christian Society by Stephen J. Nichols.
One day in May 1995 changed the life of Henry Wanyoike forever. He was all of twenty-one years old, and like many of his fellow Kenyans, he dreamed of making his mark as a distance runner and becoming a national hero. He had a 5K time of 13:50. That is less than 10 seconds away from the 2012 Olympic gold medal time. Distance runners don’t peak until their late twenties, thirties, or even forties. At twenty-one, Wanyoike appeared to be headed for a bright future as one of Kenya’s running superstars. Then, that one day, he had a stroke and lost his sight.
Depressed and disillusioned, Wanyoike drifted for the next several years. He was a lost soul. He went to a school for the blind in Machokos, Kenya. An administrator at the school knew of his running past and saw his flailing present, so he suggested that Wanyoike take up running again. Within a few years, Wanyoike had set world records at the Paralympics and at the World Championships in the 5K and 10K.
In 2005, he had phenomenal back-to-back marathon performances. Over 26.2 miles of the streets of London, he set a world record, finishing in 2:31:31. However, he didn’t have much time to celebrate—or recover. Seven days later, he broke his own record at the Hamburg Marathon in Germany.
He has since held political office and has established a foundation for the disabled in Kenya. He has singlehandedly contributed to raising awareness of the disabled in his country and has helped many formerly marginalized people find places where they can contribute. He also continues to train, with the goal of breaking his own records leading him on. In a nation of superstar runners, Wanyoike has taken a prominent place among their ranks.
Runners World magazine featured the life story of Henry Wanyoike, calling him a visionary. When he first started running again after his stroke, he stumbled and fell a lot—even with guides to help him. With his sight gone, he was afraid. But he learned that there is something far better than sight. Michelle Hamilton, referring to something Wanyoike had said, put it this way: “Vision, as [Wanyoike] likes to point out, is more powerful than sight.”
What we need today, more than sight, is vision. Seeing, in our day, easily leads to fear. In fact, this has been the case through most of the ages. One of the things that separated the prophets of Israel from the people of Israel was the difference between sight and vision. The people saw the temporal, and they could not get past what they were seeing. God granted the prophets vision of the eternal, which towered above and overshadowed the temporal.
Where the people of Israel saw problems, Israel’s prophets saw God and His promises. Where the people saw allurements and temptations, the prophets saw God’s call to purity and God’s call to covenant obedience. Where the people mistook the shadows for the eternal and abiding reality, the prophets saw beyond the shadows and saw straight into the truly real.
If we only see what appears before us, we may easily shrink back in fear, or worse, drift away from our first love. We can be enticed away by appearances. The book of Proverbs offers vivid accounts of the destruction that comes in the wake of being fooled by alluring sights. Seeing can lead to our ruin. Instead, we need to cultivate our vision.
The last three paragraphs of this quote are important for us to remember at all times, but perhaps especially so for us today. We have seen world events (COVID-19) move from remote parts of the earth to next door in a matter of a few weeks. It is more than just the threat of infection by the coronavirus which can cause severe illness and sometimes death. The economy of the entire world is affected. It is changing the way governments act and the reason why certain decisions are made. Our collective response to the coronavirus has altered the way we do almost everything.
If we only focus on the things we can see immediately in front of us, current events can quickly overwhelm us. This is true beyond the threat of illness from the current pandemic. Life can easily swamp our ability to cope with daily events. People become paralyzed with fear or else act rashly and make bad choices that cause long term consequences.
How is it possible to endure through these times of adversity? How does one rise above the smothering demands of daily life? It requires a vision which exceeds our sight. For Christians, this is a supernatural gift called faith. It is granted to those who are willing to believe what they cannot see and hope for that which is promised, but yet still over the horizon.
The book of Ether describes the journey of the Jaredites in barges or boats to the promised land. Their journey was unfamiliar to them and full of mystery and questions. Moroni gives a significant piece of information to us:
And it came to pass that when they had done all these things, they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God (Ether 3:5).
It is the concept of commending ourselves unto the Lord that is the focus of this article. This is not a new idea, but it is challenging. The meaning of commending here is the idea of submitting ourselves into the care of God. It is the same language that was used by Jesus on the cross:
And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. And having said thus, he gave up the ghost (Luke 23:47 IV/23:46 KJ).
Climbing into the boats, the Jaredites put all they had into the hand of the Lord. Their families, their futures and their hopes. They were “all in.” Obviously, this involved faith and obedience. It also demanded of them repentance and sacrifice. I contend that they were able to do all these things and get into the boats because they had obtained the vision of God’s plan. They believed God when he said he would lead them to the promised land. Thus, their vision exceeded their sight.
When things become hectic and demanding, vision is a critical aspect of a faithful life. There was a time in the very early life of the restoration that such a faith and vision was required of the Saints. It is a time marked by revelations from the Lord. In Section 37, the Lord called the church, only 8 months old, to move to a new location, Kirtland, Ohio. Remember, this was in the winter of 1830-1831, one of the coldest and most brutal winters on record. There were no highways, moving vans or motels along the way.
Desiring more information, Section 38 was given to the church. It was an exciting time for the church. New members were joining, the Book of Mormon was taking hold, Zion was now in their vocabulary. Significant opposition had not arisen. Their sight told them things were doing pretty well and yet they knew little about what was ahead of them. They asked the Lord for vision and in early January 1831, the Lord spoke. His word was comforting, challenging, sobering and invigorating.
Note how the revelation begins. God set the foundation for their new vision in himself. He is the God who pre-existed the creation, he presides over it. He is holy, pure and righteous and at the same time he is intimate (I am in your midst). This is consistently how God begins with his people. When the Lord begins to communicate with his people, he reveals himself to them. Consider the following examples:
The burning bush to Moses (Exodus 3).
The burning mountain and the Lord’s voice delivering the Ten Commandments before the Law of Moses (Exodus 20:20).
This is my beloved Son, hear ye him (Mark 1:9 IV/1:11 KJ).
The visions of Lehi (1 Nephi).
The opening verses of Doctrine & Covenants 38 were for the early church and are for us. Listen, church, to the voice of the everlasting Lord of hosts. I can share my vision with you and lead you where you need to go and where I want to lead you.
The Lord’s self-revelation is awe-inspiring. It is good for us to have the testimony of his majesty and eternal nature. A great object of faith is required if we are to exercise great faith. God did more than just present himself as majestic and powerful, he revealed what he is for his people:
“and verily I say, even as many as have believed on my name, for I am Christ, and in mine own name, by the virtue of the blood which I have spilt, have I plead before the Father for them.” (D&C 38:1c)
He is not only a big and holy God, he is an intercessor and a Savior. This is what was important for the Jaredites to understand. I am convinced they did understand that God would keep his promises, was able to keep his promises and wanted to bless his people in their faith and for their benefit. That was their vision.
So it was that in 1831, the Lord was trying to instill the same vision in a group of Saints and lead them also to the land promised to them (see D&C 38:4). Those Saints tried mightily to live according to the vision of God, but fell short in the 1830s.
We are 189 years removed from the day D&C 38 was given to the church through Joseph Smith. We are on the same journey as those Saints and the Jaredites. We are headed for a promised land. You should read that as, “a land promised or given to you by the voice of the Great I AM, Alpha and Omega.”
Thus saith the Lord, your God, even Jesus Christ, the great I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity and all the seraphic hosts of heaven before the world was made, the same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes. I am the same which spake and the world was made, and all things came by me (D&C 38:1a-b).
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). From this we learn that faith is the assurance which men have of the existence of things which they have not seen, and the principle of action in all intelligent beings (Lectures of Faith 1:9).
Vision lets us look beyond today’s crisis, whatever that is, and ask, “What did the Lord promise?” He has promised a land, a holy city, a gathering place. He has promised a place of refuge and safety.
In his well-known psalm, David wrote that the Lord is with us even though we walk in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). How he leads us in there is God’s business. Our call is to walk wherever he leads us. Neither the coronavirus pandemic nor the next crisis to follow can prevent our God from doing what he said he will do. This may be the way he is doing his work. Onward then, to Zion.
To be continued …