One of my favorite stories concerns a woman named Sarah Edwards, wife of the famous Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards. He was best known perhaps for his sermon that every early American schoolchild had read: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He told his audience:
The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present. . . .
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you.
And, for the unregenerate, he continued:
When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you . . . ; there shall be no moderation or mercy.15
I cannot help but wonder how such excesses struck the hearts and minds of tender people everywhere and of Edwards’ own devout and loving wife in particular. It so happened that on one occasion when Edwards was out of town, another local preacher came to visit Sarah and her children. He offered to have a prayer with the family, and she agreed. Afterward, she recorded in her journal that while the Reverend Peter Reynolds was offering his prayer, she found herself feeling “an earnest desire that, in calling on God, he should say, Father.” She asked herself, “Can I now at this time, with the confidence of a child, and without the least misgiving of heart, call God my Father?”
In consequence of this reflection, she recorded, “I felt a strong desire to be alone with God,” and withdrew to her chamber. In the moments that followed, she continued:
The presence of God was so near, and so real, that I seemed scarcely conscious of any thing else. God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, seemed as distinct persons, both manifesting their inconceivable loveliness, and mildness, and gentleness, and their great and immutable love to me. . . .
The peace and happiness, which I hereupon felt, was altogether inexpressible.
That God has a body of flesh and bones is not the revolutionary teaching. God’s physical form is not the point. That God has a heart that beats in sympathy with ours is the truth that catalyzes millions—that He feels real sorrow, rejoices with real gladness, and weeps real tears. This, as Enoch learned, is an awful, terrible, yet infinitely comforting truth.
That no obedience but a perfect one will satisfy God, I hold with all my heart and strength; but that there is none else that He cares for, is one of the lies of the enemy. What father is not pleased with the first tottering attempt of his little one to walk? What father would be satisfied with anything but the manly step of the full-grown son?
If we aim at self-fulfillment, we shall never be fulfilled. If we aim at education, we shall never become educated. If we aim at salvation, we shall never be saved. These things are indirect, supreme results of doing something else; and the something else is service, it is righteousness, it is trying to do the right thing, the thing that needs to be done at each moment.
Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, in the months and years ahead, events are likely to require each member to decide whether or not he will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions. (See 1 Kgs. 18:21.)
President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had “never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional or political life” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ!
We are now entering a time of incredible ironies. Let us cite but one of these ironies which is yet in its subtle stages: We will see a maximum, if indirect, effort made to establish irreligion as the state religion. It is actually a new form of paganism which uses the carefully preserved and cultivated freedoms of western civilization to shrink freedom, even as it rejects the value essence of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage.
Your discipleship may see the time when such religious convictions are discounted. M. J. Sobran also said, “A religious conviction is now a second-class conviction, expected to step deferentially to the back of the secular bus, and not to get uppity about it” (Human Life Review, Summer 1978, pp. 58–59).
This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions. Resistance to abortion will be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened.
Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel.
There will also be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, but others will step forward, having been rallied to rightness by what we do. We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds which was, till then, unconscious of itself.
Jesus said that when the fig trees put forth their leaves, “summer is nigh” (Matt. 24:32). Thus warned that summer is upon us, let us not then complain of the heat!
I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The dye has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made; I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow down, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tinted visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, positions, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk with patience, am lifted up in prayer, and labor with power. My face is set, my goal is heaven. My road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, divided or delayed, will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table with the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, and paid up for the cause of Christ. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me and when He returns for His own He will have no problem recognizing me”.
I must study politics and war that my sons (and daughters) may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons (and daughters) ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and percelain.
Patience is, therefore, clearly not fatalistic, shoulder-shrugging resignation. It is the acceptance of a divine rhythm to life; it is obedience prolonged. Patience stoutly resists pulling up the daisies to see how the roots are doing.