“He who is brave is free” ― Seneca
“The Lord loves each of us too much to merely let us go on being what we now are, for he knows what we have the possibility to become!” ( Neal A. Maxwell. “In Him All Things Hold Together,” BYU 1990–91 Devotional and Fireside Speeches [Provo: BYU, 1991], 107)
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." (Nelson Mandela)
Nephi lived in perilous times similar to our own. He was a man of deep emotion. “Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years; and when Nephi saw it, his heart was swollen with sorrow within his breast; and he did exclaim in the agony of his soul…” (Helaman 7:6) “...I have got upon my tower that I might pour out my soul unto my God, because of the exceeding sorrow of my heart, which is because of your iniquities!” (Helaman 7:14) Agony, Sorrow. Anguish. Did he also experience fear?
“...Nephi had bowed himself upon the tower which was in his garden ...and the people came together in multitudes that they might know the cause of so great mourning for the wickedness of the people. And now, when Nephi arose he beheld the multitudes of people who had gathered together.” (was he startled to see all these people?) And it came to pass that he opened his mouth and said unto them: “Behold, why have ye gathered yourselves together? That I may tell you of your iniquities?” (Nephi speaks out boldly as a prophet of God despite anything he may have been feeling. And, notice, he did so immediately--no pause, no hesitation) He continued: “O repent ye, repent ye! Why will ye die? Turn ye, turn ye unto the Lord your God. Why has he forsaken you? And behold, instead of gathering you, except ye will repent, behold, he shall scatter you forth that ye shall become meat for dogs and wild beasts.” Helaman 7:10-13, 17, 19)
The next segment of the story depicts what I would describe as ‘ordinary’ people. “And now it came to pass that when Nephi had said these words, behold, there were men who were judges...And it came to pass that thus they did stir up the people to anger against Nephi, and raised contentions among them; for there were some who did cry out: Let this man alone, for he is a good man, and those things which he saith will surely come to pass except we repent…” (Helaman 8:1, 7)
Imagine yourself in this situation. Leaders stir your fellow citizens to anger. Enraged passion and roaring voices surround you. You are afraid. Will you stand in truth against this cacophony or will you allow yourself to be silenced? I ask myself this same question every day. How do I become a warrior for Christ, not necessarily fearless, but victorious over fear?
“Wars. Rumors of wars. Injustice. Hate. Poverty. Turmoil in our families. Shifting morals in society. An ever-present sense of darkness.
There’s a lot to be afraid of in this world that seems to get darker and more complicated each day. And while we shouldn’t minimize the problems and complexities of our day, we also shouldn’t let them paralyze us with fear...” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/inspiration/why-it-will-all-work-out?lang=eng)
We require divine intervention in order to overcome fear, and we gain that power as we act in faith. Ammon3, the great missionary, chose to live a lionhearted life. He definitely knew where his strength originated. “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things...” (Alma 26:12) He’s talking about grace.
“Without God, all of our efforts turn to ashes and our sunrise into the darkest of nights.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we can (and must) choose to accept the enabling power and gift of God’s grace. “A powerful expression of that love is what the scriptures often call the grace of God—the divine assistance and endowment of strength by which we grow from the flawed and limited beings we are now into exalted beings of “truth and light, until [we are] glorified in truth and [know] all things.” (Elder Uchtdorf, ‘The Gift of Grace’, Oct. 2015) How is this possible?
I endeavor to live in a space beyond doubt and in the light of faith knowing that “...[His] grace is sufficient for [me]: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…” (1 Cor 12:9) and that ”...with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) and that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) and that “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” (Mark 9:23) I’ve not arrived there yet (although I take up residency there for short periods of time).
“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Helaman 5:12) Is the foundation of my life really built ‘upon the rock of [my] Redeemer’?
“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Ne 25:26) But do we really?
These are the concepts that undergird courage for regular people like you and like me. Christ's grace flows into our lives and supplies the power to persist. Christ is our foundation. Christ is at the center of our lived lives.
How? Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught: “...We could begin by stripping everything out of our lives and then putting it back together in priority order with the Savior at the center. We would first put in place the things that make it possible always to remember Him—frequent prayer, studying and pondering the scriptures, thoughtful study of apostolic teachings, weekly preparation to partake of the sacrament worthily, Sunday worship, recording and remembering what the Spirit and experience teach us about discipleship. There may be other things that will come to your mind particularly suited to you at this point in your life. Once adequate time and means for these matters, for centering our lives in Christ, have been put in place, we can begin to add other responsibilities and things of value insofar as time and resources will permit, such as education, family responsibilities, and personal avocations. In this way the essential will not be crowded out of our lives by the merely good, and things of lesser value will take a lower priority or fall away altogether.” (Ensign, Oct. 2016)
I want to be just like Bilbo--“'Go back?' he thought. 'No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!' So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit or There and Back Again)