“And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” -Matthew 17:20-21
Dear Brothers and Sisters, my mind is moved to write to you to address your great faith that you have in the Lord in a time when you will need it, and also to add a word of wisdom to that wellspring that you draw from. At this time, a great plague is moving across the land and the governments of every nation, kindred, tongue and people are in turmoil and confusion. At this time, we must remember what we have learned from the Gospel.
God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and a sound mind, which means confidence in the face of even death (Joshua 1:9, 2 Esdras 2:17, John 14:27, Moroni 8: 18a RAV, 8:16b OPV). Yes, each of us will one day cross the threshold from mortality into immortality, and this is not an occasion to be feared, but anticipated (Psalm 23:4). However, while the day lasts, the labors before us also last, and it is not fitting to desire to cut the labor short, for this is the opportunity to return to God for the many favors he has bestowed upon us. Therefore, we are stewards of all that we have, our wealth, our time, and even our lives, and we are not called to be martyrs unless we are called to be martyrs by His command. Take every precaution therefore to protect your lives, because we will be called to give an account of our stewardship.
In this time of trouble, the opportunities to serve God and our fellow beings are greater than ever. Let us rejoice in those opportunities, and reconnect with our priorities and values. Let us meditate on how we can grow by ceasing to fear life and death, and how we can rejoice under any circumstance by answering whatever call life presents (2 Nephi 3:47 RAV, 4:28b OPV). Great names in history are remembered because they lived in challenging times, and how they lived in those times is what made them great. All of the times worthy of memory have not passed, and we will yet see times in which we can make a mark and leave a legacy of service.
In the midst of these challenging times, when many are fearful, we are tempted to rise above that fear, but let us do so in a spirit of wisdom and faith and not pride. Let us not succumb to the whisperings of Satan to replace faith with foolishness. I call your attention to the young missionary who defied the law to bring the gospel to an isolated indiginous tribe inhabiting the North Sentinel Island of India. He ignored all wisdom and warning, risking their annihilation by bringing disease for which they had no immunity, and the venture cost him his life because he was a frightening figure to them with no way to communicate. He had an idea to serve God, but was not answering His spiritual call, for if God had commanded him, He would have provided a way.
It is not fitting to speak evil of the brother’s intentions, but rather to learn from his methods that we may become more profitable servants. Had God commanded the gospel to go to the tribe, He would have prepared the people to receive and gifted the missionary with the gift of tongues. We must learn to discern if the commandment comes of God, comes of mankind or comes of the devil. Jesus taught us this when He resisted Satan’s temptation to prove His faith that God would save Him by casting Himself from the pinnacle of the temple (Matthew 4:5–7, Luke 4:9–12). Though having the faith to move mountains is good, moving mountains is not always expedient. Faith is not the bravery to risk danger, or ignore the laws of the physical world (Proverbs 27:12, Romans 13:1-2). This is tempting God because in doing so, we place ourselves in danger and demand God provide a miracle to save us. Faith, on the other hand, is the spirit of humble confidence in which we are willing to obey and know that we will be provided for when we obey.
A zealous sister in the faith recently began recruiting brothers and sisters to go out and proselytize during this Corvid-19 pandemic, adamant that we should not fear any disease, poison or persecution from the government for doing the Lord’s work. The powers and authorities of the Land are enforcing an order for all of us to isolate in our homes to prevent the spread of the disease. If we defy this order, not only are we defying the law of the land, but we are defying medical advice and placing ourselves and others in danger. If we do this without a direct commandment of the Lord, then we do so without his blessing and without his protection (1 Peter 2:13-17).
The error comes not only in tempting the Lord, but tempting fellow servants to do likewise. Even if I had faith to move mountains, and could drink poison and pick up serpents and not be harmed, having such faith myself does not impart it to those I tempt to endanger themselves with me (Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, Luke 4:1–13). This is why we must all receive our call to action directly from the Lord or though one appointed to the gift of revelation. And if I tempt myself into dangerous actions merely to obtain the necessary faith, then I lack the faith at the outset and many misguided believers have brought on their own destruction this way. As believers, we should not let another pressure or dare us to prove our faith. There are many things that we can do of our own initiative without a command from God, but those actions that require divine intervention are not among them, for we must remember that He is the Lord and we are the servants.
I understand that we all desire to prove our faith to ourselves, to our fellow believers and to God, but know that nothing needs to be proven. To have faith, merely have faith, and have faith in your faith. God knows everything already, and others know only what they wish to. I know that we all desire to receive blessings for service and obedience. To serve in a way that is valuable to God, we need not look far, because there are humble and simple ways to serve all around us at all times, and we are more especially blessed when they draw no attention. I know that we all desire to witness miracles and behold the power of God at work. When we serve in humility and believe in miracles, but wait on them rather than seek to force them, we will begin to see them in great number.
Therefore, have faith. Do not command the Lord, nor his servants placed to guide you, nor our fellow servants who serve beside us. Rather let us be humble, teachable, faithful and loyal(Proverbs 9:9, 1 Peter 5:5). Let us listen more and speak less. Let us follow God’s commands and have faith that he will move mountains for us if it be expedient, but in many cases it is expedient to let them lie where they are. Let us not run before we walk, and be content with simple service. Let us apply wisdom in all things, both of the best of God-given human wisdom and that which the Spirit imparts.