Two years ago, Elder Robert D. Hales made a statement in his October 2013 General Conference address that struck me. Perhaps it was the rare moment of attention when I wasn’t dozing off, wrestling a toddler, or grabbing some salsa out of the fridge, but for whatever reason it came so clear and indelible. I remember thinking, “Wow, did I hear that right?” I still ponder it periodically. Here it is:
"In recent decades the Church has largely been spared the terrible misunderstandings and persecutions experienced by the early Saints. It will not always be so. The world is moving away from the Lord faster and farther than ever before. The adversary has been loosed upon the earth. We watch, hear, read, study, and share the words of prophets to be forewarned and protected. For example, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was given long before we experienced the challenges now facing the family. “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles” was prepared in advance of when we will need it most."
I don’t want to reach beyond the mark. It would be easy to overemphasize or read too much into a single statement. We know that prophets are most often "forth-tellers" rather than “foretellers” (see here), but in a Church that believes in modern prophets just like the prophets of old, we still pine for periodic glimpses into the future. They give us these glimpses, but they are often subtle. Yet like this statement from Elder Hales they often have serious implications:
In recent decades the Church has largely been spared the terrible misunderstandings and persecutions experienced by the early Saints. It will not always be so.
I don’t know exactly what Elder Hales means when he hints at "terrible misunderstandings" and persecutions, but taking a moment to consider some of the things early church members endured, I wonder, could I stay true in the face of such opposition? If nothing else, it’s a sobering opportunity for self reflection.
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was given long before we experienced the challenges now facing the family. “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles” was prepared in advance of when we will need it most.
This part really makes me wonder. Consider the trajectory of the Family Proclamation. Twenty years ago it was a thoughtful reaffirmation of our beliefs about family that at the time, matched the views of most Americans. We shared it as a missionary pamphlet and hung it on our walls in a pretty frame. Today, it stands as a doctrinal manifesto flying in the face of public opinion on multiple fronts. We cling to by our fingertips as if hanging on for dear life, while it challenges and sometimes divides us over some of our deepest desires and beliefs.
Now contrast that with The Living Christ, which was given five years later (January of 2000) and received much like the Family Proclamation, a thoughtful reaffirmation of our belief in Christ which has subsequently been given much less attention than the Family Proclamation. Elder Hales seems to be saying that just as opinions quickly and drastically evolved regarding family, the same will happen regarding Christ, and we may find ourselves clinging to the truths stated in The Living Christ much like we find ourselves clinging to the Family Proclamation.
I don’t want to build a shrine around one quote, but I don’t want to be dismissive either. Perhaps Elder Hales has given us a little glimpse into what the "latter days" will demand of the “saints". What are your impressions? I’d love to hear your thoughts.