I’ve read the Book of Mormon many times. And each time I have been moved intellectually by Lehi’s teachings about “opposition in all things”. His discussion of this topic has provided me with many worthwhile insights. It is an intellectually stimulating topic. It has helped me understand the purpose and value in some of life’s experiences that are difficult to bear, let alone find purpose and value in.
Lately, I have been thinking about another dimension of this topic that may be worthwhile to consider. The idea of opposition is clear in its meaning, but I’ve wondered lately about the “in all things” part. He didn’t say opposition in “some” or a “few” things, but he said, “in all things”. If I apply “all” to the challenges that are currently visiting Mormondom I come away considering some things I haven’t before thought.
Could Lehi’s teachings about opposition in all things explain why the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon, two of Joseph Smith’s greatest contributions as prophet, are nowadays open to penetrating criticism and question? In years past, I had supposed that the Book of Abraham and Book of Mormon would be unassailable by critics.
Did the Lord allow or could He have even arranged for circumstances to come about, so that His purposes could be accomplished by the opposition church members experience in our day? Is there evidence in the scriptures that God would permit or do such things?
I think there is. I’ll list a few examples from scripture that shows the Lord’s handiwork using the principle of opposition:
1. Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden—can’t keep one commandment without breaking another commandment (Genesis 2).
2. Abraham being told to sacrifice his son Isaac—kill his promised son as a trial of faith (Genesis 22).
3. The Atonement of Christ—He meets the demands of justice so He can become the author of mercy (Alma 42). He “descended below all things”, meaning he experienced pain and misery of every kind (D&C 122:8).
4. Lehi’s journey to the promised land—a journey of opposition because of two of his rebellious sons and some of Ismael’s household ( 1 Nephi).
5. Alma (the older) and his followers experience in the city of Helam—the Lord trieth their patience and faith (Mosiah 23-24).
6. Alma (the younger) and Amulek’s missionary work in Ammonihah. Many of those who believed Alma and Amulek were burned to death because of their testimony.
7. Joseph Smith trial of faith in Liberty Jail. Joseph cried out, “O God, where art thou?” (D&C 121:1). The Lord replied, “know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).
Can you think of any other examples of opposition being used to bring about the Lord’s purposes?
Dealing with opposition in the Lord’s way can be the means of increasing faith in those who steadfastly press forward with faith in Christ. Lehi teaches that the Lord can consecrate our affliction to our gain. This gives hope to church members who are feeling the power of opposition pressing in on their testimonies in this day of the internet where LDS-critical information is plentiful. The key is to follow the counsel Elder Dallin H. Oaks gives, and apply it to opposition that exist in our day. Opposition to church leadership (fallible prophets), scripture (DNA), doctrine (polygamy), and history (pick your favorite):
“It is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Its authenticity depends, as it says, on a witness of the Holy Spirit.”
The witness of the Holy Spirit can come in many ways. My experience with the witness of the Holy Spirit is such that I don’t have doubt in the least degree that Joseph Smith is God’s prophet and that those who have followed him are called of God. My concern isn’t with testimony, my concern is to endure to the end as I face the challenges of mortality.
I hope all church members dealing with opposition to their testimony, whatever the source, will diligently seek for a greater witness of the Holy Spirit, so that their testimony is secure and unassailable.
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