Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ending persecution in the church


In Mosiah 27, there was a situation in Zarahemla in which the members of the church felt they were being subjected to great persecution from the unbelievers and they complained to Alma and Alma took it to King Mosiah.

I think it is neat to see how both Mosiah and Alma handled it. After counseling with the priests, King Mosiah made a proclamation that no unbeliever should persecute members of the church, but Alma also sent strict commands throughout the church that there should be no persecutions among church members as well.  They recognized that the problem could be coming from both sides equally. (None may be so blind to the persecutions they inflict as the members of the church, convinced as they are of their rightness.)

I like the things they instructed the church in:

3 And there was a strict command throughout all the churches that there should be no persecutions among them, that there should be an equality among all men;
4 That they should let no pride nor haughtiness disturb their peace; that every man should esteem his neighbor as himself, laboring with their own hands for their support.
5 Yea, and all their priests and teachers should labor with their own hands for their support, in all cases save it were in sickness, or in much want; and doing these things, they did abound in the grace of God. (Mosiah 27:3-5)

So I see at least four ways that the church leaders wanted members to adjust their own attitudes in order to help decrease the contention and persecution:

“there should be an equality among all men” (v3)  -- Church members may have a tendency to look down on non-members, considering them benighted individuals and even to treat them as second-class citizens. It may all be subconscious, but nonmembers can tell when they are at a disadvantage, and it hurts them, just as it would hurt us if we were ignored or dismissed because of being Mormon.  So, we have to remember we’re all God’s children, and we’re all brothers and sisters and treat each other accordingly.

“they should let no pride nor haughtiness disturb their peace” (v4) – This is about what we do when we are the butt of the pride and haughtiness of the other guy.  Yes, it is obnoxious when people are scornful and proud and treat us like we’re the crud stuck to the bottom of their shoe, but if we know we’re children of God, we can be temperate in our responses and refrain from creating an even bigger problem by reviling back.  If we are disturbed by someone else’s pride, then we have given that person power over us. This is about stopping the conflict before it begins and about choosing to not be offended. 

“every man should esteem his neighbor as himself” (v5) – It is one thing to believe in the equality of man, but to esteem others as oneself takes it further along the continuum of charity. Do I trust others like I trust myself? Do I believe in the goodness of others like I do of myself? Do I accept and have patience with the weaknesses of others like I do myself? When I have conflict, do I dialogue on the issues as I would want to be dialogued with?

“all their priests and teachers should labor with their own hands for their support, in all cases save it were in sickness, or in much want” (v5) – Physical labor has a wonderful way of reminding one of their physical limits, which is humbling.  In the Law of Moses, priests would partake in the sacrificial meal when worshippers brought their sacrifices, and when the priests labored with their own hands, they would retain appropriate respect for the work that went into bringing those sacrifices.  When priests and teachers work too, they won’t lay burdens on the people that would be too heavy, knowing they themselves will have to bear them.  This keeps leaders from persecuting members.

I think this is a good thing to think about because I would like to be sure I have a way to stand up for righteousness without persecuting.  What do you think?