Tag Archives: persecution

Are We Strong Enough to Be Martyrs?

Recently I’ve read several articles about the waning of religion in our modern society, especially among young people. This turning away from faith seems to be accompanied by growing animosity toward religion and those who practice it.

The implications are alarming. As older generations die, people of faith will become a smaller and smaller proportion of society. They will eventually be outnumbered by those who are antagonistic toward faith. We see the signs of that even now.

I don’t expect to see faithful Christians—or Jews or Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus—hauled into the nearest football stadium to be met by hungry lions. I don’t expect we will see believers burned at the stake or arrested in the pews on Sunday and hauled to prison.

Abinadi before King Noah, shortly before being martyred for his witness of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. See Mosiah 12-17, Book of Mormon. Painting by Arnold Friberg, from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Nevertheless, I expect people of faith will face increasing persecution.

Believers may well be punished by irreligious, “progressive” thinkers who feel that because of their intellectual superiority they have the right to coerce us into their way of thinking. Ironically, many of them have adopted a holier-than-thou attitude toward those of us who follow what we believe are commandments and teachings of God on moral and gender issues.

Do you believe that we are born a specific gender because our Heavenly Father created us that way before we came to live on this earth? Do you believe that gender is a part of our eternal being? “Homophobic”! Intolerant! Not scientifically supported!

Do you believe that marriage was ordained of God to be between one man and woman, allowing two people to help each other develop in their eternal roles? Bigoted! Non-inclusive! Hateful!

Do you believe that sex is not just a pleasurable physical part of life but also a sacred activity between a man and woman committed to each other in marriage? Prudish! Impossibly idealistic! Old-fashioned! Just unreal!

People for whom gender identity or diversity are parts of their very core do not allow people of faith the same freedom of belief. If you believe gender identity and chastity are governed by the laws of God, you must be corrected. Such ideas must be stamped out.

If conscience will not allow you to celebrate other people’s philosophies on gender and marriage—e.g., you won’t bake a wedding cake or take wedding photographs—you must be shamed, ostracized, and punished by the weight of the law. Freedom of belief is for those who uphold norms acceptable to progressive thinkers, but not for those recalcitrants who believe they are following commandments of God.

There is a glaring, logical fallacy progressives never address: When believers cannot accept that marriage between two people of the same gender is “equality” or that “diversity” means we must discard our own faith, this is not a sign of hate. We do not wish to bring pain or shame or hurt to others. There is no reason we cannot work and live in peace with them—sometimes within our own families. But loving and serving them does not mean we have to change core beliefs.

Many progressives—those who consider themselves intellectually and ideologically superior to others—cannot leave people of faith alone. They seem to feel we must be cured of our ignorance, stripped of our faith-based biases, and, if necessary, be compelled by law to acknowledge that they are right, and our beliefs are wrong.

They like to mock this view, saying they are only standing up for what is obviously and logically right. They say the idea that they try to suppress opposing views is “extreme” or “paranoid.”

Is it?

Think about current trends in our society. If you are a person trying to guide your life by what you believe to be commandments of God, how do you feel your views are accepted in academia? In government? In the entertainment industry? How often do you see people of faith depicted as positive characters in movies and TV shows, and how often as villainous hypocrites?

Each of us who tries to live our life guided by core principles of faith will sometime have our motivations challenged. Will we be strong enough to face the criticism, the ostracism, the social and mental punishment that may come?

Faith to Conquer the Unknown

Exodus 3Fb18_DSC05021B

Visitors test the ice at the edge of the Mississippi River as they commemorate their ancestors’ exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois, in February of 1846.

The weather app on my iPhone says the temperature outside this morning is around freezing, but with the chill factor from the wind off the Mississippi River, it will feel more like 20 degrees.

Better dress warmly. I’ll wear two of everything—extra thermal underwear, two fleece-lined jackets, winter hat with ear flaps under my hood—and my lined winter boots. Under my regular gloves, I wear a pair of fingerless gloves because it’s impossible to operate my digital camera or change the battery without exposing my fingers part of the time. The fingers will be numb before I’m through today. Better stick the hand warmer packets into my jacket pocket.

Today we are commemorating the exodus of Mormon Pioneers from Nauvoo, Illinois, in the brutal cold of early February in 1846. This morning we will walk about a mile in frigid conditions similar to those faced by the Pioneers. Our short trek will take us down

March photo

Marchers make their way down Parley Street to the river.

to the landing where they crossed the river into Iowa. But first we warm up, with hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls, inside a heated building where we hear inspiring words about the faith of the Pioneers and their endurance in the face of trials.

These are the inspiring words and thoughts. I have heard and absorbed them all of my life. I understand that the Pioneers’ situation was enormously difficult, their resolve was exemplary, and their achievements can offer strength and inspiration as we face the daunting struggles of our own lives.

But today I stand on the banks of the Mississippi facing the reality of a raw February wind across the river, and I wonder: How did they do that? How could anyone do that?

At this point they looked across at Iowa, as I do now, with no idea where they might find a place for the next meal, or shelter from the humid, all-pervading cold. I’ve driven through Iowa, I’ve studied the maps, I know what’s over there. But they had none of my certainty. Most of what I have seen of civilization on the other side of this river did not exist in the 1840s.

To point out that there were no highways or motels or fast-food restaurants out there is to trivialize their situation. There was almost nothing certain out there beyond this river. To find shelter, they would have to build it. To eat, they would often be forced to hunt food and cook it over open fires. To travel more than a thousand miles to an unknown, uninhabited place where they hoped to find safety and peace, they would have to make their own roads. The overland trek itself would take more than three months. For some, completing the journey would take years.

I knew all of this before I came to Nauvoo as a missionary. I knew their history. But here I have learned a lot that I didn’t know about the stalwart people they were.

As I stand on the bank of the river this morning, I realize how much I do not know of their resolve and their strength.

A few people in our group of marchers venture out onto the ice at the edge of the Mississippi for a photo. We will soon turn our backs to this cutting wind and trek back up the street to the shelter of that building where we gathered, or to our cars, grateful that we have warm homes and clothing and food waiting to be eaten. In the tenderest parts of our hearts, though, we feel this truth, newly understood: the Pioneers could look forward to none of those things, and yet they went, trusting.

Behind them, if they shrank back from this crossing, were mobs to rob and burn and destroy. But ahead of them, what? Starvation? Death from the cold or disease? They had no way of knowing.

So as I stand here on the bank of the river shrinking from the wind, gazing across and wondering what Iowa territory was like back then, I think once more: How did they do that?

Only the depth of their faith in God could have made it possible.