This is the third in a series of articles that will offer counsel and encouragement to people everywhere as we face the pandemic currently sweeping the earth.
WHEN MIGHTY PRAYER WAS ALL IN VAIN – OR WAS IT?
By Apostle Hugh Caldwell
Another day goes by, and once again, you find yourself sitting in your home, restricted from social activity because of the virus and government orders. You feel unproductive. Perhaps even discouraged.
You are not alone. There are times when we look around, seeing the great need for the gospel in our world, and we sense that we are not accomplishing much. After a while, we begin to wonder, what do we have to show for ourselves? At best, we are treading water, it seems. But not making much progress.
Having experienced this enforced state of inactivity, we might begin to understand to some slight degree the feeling of anguish and utter helplessness that overcame young Mormon as he stood by and watched his own people choose a path that led to their destruction.
In his case, there had been no inactivity on his part. He had labored with all his might, warning, exhorting, and even taking temporary command of their armies.
By his own admission, he had “loved them, according to the love of God which was in me, with all my heart, And my soul had been poured out in prayer unto my God all the day long, nevertheless, it was without faith, because of the hardness of their hearts” (Mormon 1:77-78).
Despite Mormon’s powerful pleadings and solid leadership, the Nephites rejected him. Driven by hatred, they satiated their bloodthirsty appetites by raising their swords and slaughtering one another.
Imagine Mormon’s sorrow. His intercessions on behalf of his people were “without faith” because they had hardened their hearts. Even if he were to approach God with sincerity, because he knew God to be his Rock and his refuge, there was no confidence that heaven would grant his request. Pray as he might, it was all in vain.
With no more spiritual arrows in his quiver, Mormon was shunted to the sidelines. Under the Lord’s direction, he “did stand as an idle witness to manifest unto world what I saw and heard” (Mormon 1:81).
And yet, in that admission of failure, not all was lost. To be sure, he had been relegated to the role of bystander, unable to intervene. But something else incredibly significant was evolving here—a work of God that was unnoticeable to the human eye but was about to break forth in a powerful way.
God used Mormon’s Spiritual Setbacks for Good
Even as Mormon was constrained to withhold his assistance from the people he loved, the Spirit of God was moving mightily in his soul. All those hours of prayer, all that time spent petitioning God with all the energy of his soul, had produced within himself a stirring that could not be quenched. The voice of warning that reverberated within every cell of his being was far from being silenced—it was being redirected. Unable to convince his own people, he turned his attention to future generations, to the Gentiles and Jews of the latter days.
He began looking to us.
No longer an idle witness, he was now stepping into a new role as a prophet. He began to write upon the plates entrusted to him, striving to “manifest unto the world the things which he had seen and heard.” God was giving him a new audience. A much bigger audience.
With this new vision, Mormon began to look straight at us and say with all seriousness: “Take a look at your lives. You need to repent.”
To the House of Israel he said, “Know ye that ye must come unto repentance, or ye cannot be saved” (Mormon 3:25).
To the Gentiles, he cried, “O ye Gentiles, how can ye stand before the power of God, except ye shall repent and turn from your evil ways? Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God” (Mormon 2:51-52)?
God took Mormon’s pent-up passions and turned them loose. The same anguish that he had felt for his Nephite brethren was being expressed once again as he peered into the future and saw the wickedness of our day. Out of these powerful stirrings came forth three major prophetic proclamations:
- 1 All men will be brought to stand before God and judged according to their works. Prepare!
- 2 The gospel of Jesus Christ will be preached in the last days to a remnant of Israel living in this land, which is Joseph’s land. That means the Book of Mormon will go forth! Mormon had been keeping the records of Nephi, and writing his own declarations, for that very purpose.
- 3 The Jews will come to know that Jesus Christ is God—the very God that they slew! (Mormon1:86-88).
With these declarations fixed in his mind, Mormon summarized them once again when he wrote his preface to the Book of Mormon. The purpose of this sacred record, he wrote, was to “shew unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever.” He was repeating the promise of the gospel being taught in the last days.
Furthermore, this same gospel will go forth unto “the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”
And finally, there is a warning to condemn not the things of God, “that ye may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ.” (All quotations from Mormon’s preface to the Book of Mormon).
Regardless of our circumstances, we too, can bear our testimonies
Because of Mormon’s steadfastness under duress, God entrusted him with the responsibility of abridging the plates of Nephi and adding his own prophecies also. Far from being a spiritual failure, he faithfully followed God’s instructions, and became a prominent spokesman for our day.
His example proves to us that a true follower of Christ can always contribute something valuable to God’s kingdom, regardless of how they may be judged or treated by their fellow men. There is an old saying, “You can’t keep a good man down.” Mormon is a perfect example of this.
During that time when he was tirelessly exhorting his brethren, he was building up strength within his own soul. Every time he met rejection; he grew in grace with God. As long as he continued to look to God for counsel and consolation, he matured in spirit. As a result, by the time he had been relieved of his command over the Nephite armies, he had been transformed by the Holy Spirit into an even more competent leader. His prophetic voice had become clearer; his influence had grown to where it was destined to impact future generations.
Like Mormon, anyone making a sincere attempt to serve God will reap their share of bittersweet experiences. At times, we may feel that our labors for Zion have produced a poor yield. Most of us know of others who, faced with discouragement, have simply walked away from their ministry.
But as we read of Mormon’s struggles, we realize that outward appearances can be deceiving. What seems like failure may actually be a stepping stone along the path toward spiritual maturity. We simply cannot see the full extent of what God’s hand is accomplishing in a person’s life. Those who may seem to be successful in our eyes may be heading for destruction, whereas someone regarded as lowly and unimportant may be exactly where God wants him to be, as he prepares him for a greater work.
Jesus himself was terribly misjudged by his own people. As they observed his sufferings, they wrongfully esteemed him as being “smitten of God” (Isaiah 53:4). Little did they know what was really transpiring in the spiritual realm. Light was about to overcome darkness.
And so it is with each one of us, who patiently endures trials and stays close to God. If a worldwide pandemic keeps us confined to our homes for a season, then let that imposition work its perfect work in us. It is said that the apostle Paul preached some of his most powerful sermons while being kept under house arrest in Rome. Restricted by government authorities, he waxed strong in spirit, sharing testimonies out of the abundance of his own life’s experiences.
We can do the same. Nothing will be able to set us backward, as long as we keep our eyes on the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).
The spirit of Jesus Christ given to each of us by the laying on of hands is more powerful than we can imagine. It gives us life, hope and freedom. If we yield to God’s persuasion, he will continue the process of making us new creatures. Our prayers will not have been in vain. He will prepare for us new assignments. We will grow stronger. We will do the works that glorify his name. Praise be to God!