“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.” — Gandhi
“And they did fortify themselves against their enemies; and they did dwell in one land, and in one body, and they did fear the words which had been spoken by Lachoneus…” (3 Nephi 3:25)
"And it came to pass that the armies of the Nephites, when they saw the appearance of the army of Giddianhi, had all fallen to the earth, and they did lift their cries to the Lord their God...And it came to pass that when the armies of Giddianhi saw this they began to shout with a loud voice, because of their joy, for they had supposed that the Nephites had fallen with fear...But in this thing they were disappointed, for the Nephites did not fear them; but they did fear their God and did supplicate him for protection..." (3 Nephi 4:8-10)
Are you afraid? I am. These are trying times to be sure.
I love this definition of fear. ‘Fear is a result of envisioning the future without God in it.’ We are promised that”‘fear shall come upon every man; and the Saints shall hardly escape.” (D&C 63:33-34)
John A. Widstoe, living in the dark day of devastating world war, said, “Fear, which ‘shall come upon every man,” is the natural consequence of a sense of weakness, also of sin. Fear is a chief weapon of Satan in making mankind unhappy. He who fears loses strength for the combat of life, for the fight against evil. Therefore, the power of evil ever seeks to engender fear in human hearts. In this day of sorrow, fear walks with humanity. It directs, measurably, the course of every battle. It remains as a gnawing poison in the hearts of victors as of the vanquished.” (Conference Report, April 1942, p. 33)
Another man, Thomas Paine, faced such a time in 1776. "These are the times that try men's souls", he said. "The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: It is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated." (Thomas Paine: American Crisis)
Both of these men sought the path through calamity. John A. Widstoe, an Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, must have been comforted when he read, "Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear, for thus saith the prophet they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire." (1 Nephi 22:17)
Thomas Paine: “I have as little superstition in me as any man living, but my secret opinion has ever been, and still is, that God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly to perish, who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war, by every decent method which wisdom could invent. Neither have I so much of the infidel in me, as to suppose that He has relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils; and as I do not, I cannot see on what grounds the king of Britain can look up to heaven for help against us: a common murderer, a highwayman, or a house-breaker, has as good a pretence as he...I thank God, that I fear not. I see no real cause for fear. I know our situation well, and can see the way out of it.” (Thomas Paine: American Crisis)
The solution to living in perilous times? Live by faith, not fear. Trust God more than Man. “We live in troubled times--very troubled times. We hope, we pray, for better days. But that is not to be. The prophecies tell us that. We will not as a people, as families, or as individuals be exempt from the trials to come...What then shall we do? That question was asked of the Twelve on the day of Pentecost. Peter answered, ‘Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost.’...We need not live in fear of the future. We have every reason to rejoice and little reason to fear. If we follow the promptings of the Spirit, we will be safe, whatever the future holds. We will be shown what to do.” (Mine Errand from the Lord: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Boyd K. Packer, 2008, pp. 399-400)
To BYU graduates in 1994, President Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “My counsel can be said in seven words: Do not take counsel from your fears. ‘...dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.’ He told the graduates, "If you walk to the edge of the light, and a few steps into the darkness, the light will appear before you. If you have studied the plan of redemption, you need not fear. Do not take counsel from your fears." What does this mean?
Elder Bednar explained, “To not take counsel from our fears simply means that we do not permit fear and uncertainty to determine our course in life, to affect negatively our attitudes and behavior...To not take counsel from our fears means that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ overrules our fears and that we press forward with a steadfastness in Him. To not take counsel from our fears means that we trust in God’s guidance, assurance, and timing in our lives…” (Fear Not, I am With Thee, Devotional Given at BYU-Hawaii, Dec 15, 2012)
What does this look like in our lives?
We choose to trust God. We live in an era that glorifies autonomy not God. We’re sometimes afraid to put things in God’s hands. The temptation to take control is overwhelming. “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is not something ethereal, floating loosely in the air. Faith does not fall upon us by chance or stay with us by birthright.... Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we choose to believe...What does choosing faith mean? It means choosing to exercise faith in Jesus Christ, obeying His commandments and trusting in the power of His Atonement to save us. It also means choosing repentance over pride and stubbornness. (Neil L. Andersen, “Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice,” Liahona or Ensign, November 2015, 65.)
We seek His Word. President Harold B. Lee once said: “We are convinced that our members are hungry for the gospel, undiluted, with its abundant truth and insights. … There are those who have seemed to forget that the most powerful weapons the Lord has given us against all that is evil are His own declarations, the plain simple doctrines of salvation as found in the scriptures.” (In Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 1 Oct. 1970, p. 6.)
We remember Him always. Each week we covenant to always remember Him during the Sacrament. Why is this so vital? Because we forget Him so quickly! This week we read that within four years “the people began to forget those signs and wonders which they had heard…” (3 Nephi 2:1) “...and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men. Yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world! Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels; yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!” (Helaman 12:4-5)
These are just three suggestions for living as a disciple, if not completely free from fear, then at least journeying the covenant path with conviction, dedicated to living in courage with God as Master and Navigator. Finally, a suggestion--when fear overcomes you, cry unto the Lord for deliverance.