Mood: Contemplative*; resolute.
(Warning: Some of you may have heard this before; I’ve been talking about it to sundry friends of late.)
Lately I’ve been feeling that certain anchors of stability in my life have been gradually slipping away from me. Close friends are moving away; my job is slowly fading; my change to the Spanish branch means I’m becoming disconnected from the singles ward. All this transition has made me (rationally or not) begin to feel that certain doors are closing – doors to dreams I’ve treasured for a long time and that I feel are a part of me. I feel like the doors are being closed gently rather than slammed shut, but the closing is inexorable nonetheless. I’ve thus been feeling somewhat sad and anxious, wondering what’s going to happen next and if I really can do what I want to do.
Wrapped in these mists of melancholy, I was recently reading Mormon 8 and Moroni 9. In Moroni 9, Mormon writes of the hopeless circumstances he finds himself in – his army has just lost a battle in which most of his most important men have been killed; the powerful Lamanite army is between his weak army and the people of Sherrizah, who have been taken captive and/or tortured and murdered; the people have utterly rejected everything spiritual he has tried to teach them; he has no idea if he’ll see his son again, and he’s worried that he won’t be able to give Moroni the records he’s made an exhausting effort to compile and which later become the Book of Mormon. Then, in Mormon 8, which is chronologically after the end of the war described in Moroni 9, Moroni finds himself utterly alone:
1 Behold I, Moroni, do finish the record of my father, Mormon. Behold, I have but few things to write, which things I have been commanded by my father.
2 And now it came to pass that after the great and tremendous battle at Cumorah, behold, the Nephites who had escaped into the country southward were hunted by the Lamanites, until they were all destroyed.
3 And my father also was killed by them, and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people. But behold, they are gone, and I fulfil the commandment of my father. And whether they will slay me, I know not.
4 Therefore I will write and hide up the records in the earth; and whither I go it mattereth not.
5 Behold, my father hath made this record, and he hath written the intent thereof. And behold, I would write it also if I had room upon the plates, but I have not; and ore I have none, for I am alone. My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor whither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not.
In addition, Moroni worries in Ether 12 that the people he and his father have risked their lives to bring the records to will not just reject everything he holds sacred, but also laugh at him:
23 And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;
24 And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.
25 Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.
So, really, both Mormon and Moroni have experienced all my worst nightmares. They have no physical, financial, or emotional security; no friends or family are left alive; in Moroni’s case, if anyone finds him they’ll kill him. Moroni ends up living for at least 20 more years, all on his own, and is worried (legitimately, as it turns out) that future readers will ridicule the things that are most sacred to him. It kind of makes my fear of failing utterly and having to move back in with my parents at age 33 and therefore being branded an Ultimate Loser and never getting married pale in comparison.
But what makes Mormon and Moroni truly special is also what sustains them. Both men write of their life-giving and -saving faith in God and Jesus Christ. To his son, Mormon writes in Moroni 8:
25 My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.
26 And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be, and abide with you forever. Amen.
And to us, who won’t even be reading his work until over 1500 years after his death, Moroni expresses his most heartfelt wishes:
38 And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.
39 And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things;
40 And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.
41 And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen.
Along with these powerful and heart-rending scriptures, I felt impressed to read the talk given by Elder Neil L. Andersen in the October 2008 General Conference. In talking about a tragedy that once befell a friend of his and a subsequent blessing that he was giving, Elder Andersen says, “As I laid my hands upon his head, I felt to tell him something that I had not thought about in exactly the same way before. The impression that came to me was: Faith is not only a feeling; it is a decision. He would need to choose faith.”
It’s so easy in times of trial and uncertainty to succumb to feelings of doubt, anxiety, and inadequacy. The anxiety in my mind sometimes increases until I feel paralyzed with uncertainty, unable even to think about what small task to perform next. However, as I’ve thought about the situation that Mormon and Moroni faced, and considered just some of the ways that my life has been blessed so far and is being blessed still, I’ve realized that my circumstances aren’t at all bleak. I’ve even been able to recognize that there’s absolutely no logical way to make the leap from “I’m attending the Spanish branch” to “I’ll never get to live abroad and learn other languages,” thus realizing that doors to lifelong dreams aren’t being inexorably closed. But most importantly, I’ve felt inspired by the thought that faith is a choice. Once I can lay hold upon that thought, I realize that I can either choose to remain paralyzed and anxious, or I can choose to trust in God and the Savior to remove the fears and obstacles that have beset me so that I can move forward.
I choose faith.
*Pronounced “con-TEMP-la-tive.” Emphasis on second syllable.