Question: Should opposition and mocking of our deeply-held beliefs weaken our faith?
Answer: It seems as though no matter where we go in life, whether in person or online, there will be an open window from the great and spacious building nearby with someone ready to point a finger and laugh at the things we value. We have probably all experienced this mockery at different times, and it can be very painful. We know we should react in a Christlike manner, but it’s not always easy. Nobody likes to be laughed at or have deeply-held beliefs belittled.
Have you ever noticed how mockers always tend to focus on the word can’t? As in, “Why can’t you drink that?” “Why can’t you go shopping with me on Sunday?”or “Why can’t you go four-wheeling on Sunday?” This focus on the word ‘can’t’ may cause us to feel powerless. It may feel as though we’re weak and spineless. It may feel as though we’re helpless victims of an impersonal God who has locked us up so that we don’t have any fun.
Mocking the faithful is a favorite activity at the great and spacious building. President Thomas S. Monson has said: “Increasingly, some celebrities and others … in the public eye have a tendency to ridicule religion in general and, at times, the Church in particular. If our testimonies are not firmly enough rooted, such criticisms can cause us to doubt our own beliefs or to waver in our resolves.”
Satan knows that one of the best ways to get people to leave the gospel path is by tricking them into believing that it’s too hard, boring, or old-fashioned to stay on the path. He doesn’t care which of the other paths we take—any path will do—so long as it’s not the gospel path. (“What’s So Great about the Great and Spacious Building?” by Dennis C. Gaunt)
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Matthew 27:27-49, 54
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. (The soldiers brought Jesus in front of all the soldiers to mock him.)
28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet JST: purple) robe (Symbolic of royalty, mocking him for his claim to be king of the Jews).
29 And when they had plaited (made, woven) a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed (a stick, in mockery of a king’s scepter) in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.
32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cairina, (a city in northern Africa) Simon by name: him they compelled (forced) to bear his cross. (Jesus was too weak to carry his cross because of his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, the whipping, etc.)
33 And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,
34 They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall (designed to drug the victim of crucifixion to lessen the pain somewhat): and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.
35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments (divided his clothing up among themselves), casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture (clothing) did they cast lots.
36 And sitting down they watched him there;
37 And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
38 Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.
39 And they that passed by reviled him (made fun of him), wagging (shaking) their heads,
40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,
42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.
44 The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth (said similar things to him).
45 Now from the sixth hour (noon) there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour (3 p.m.).
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Note: This was a most difficult time for the Savior. We understand that at this point all available help from the Father withdrew in order that the Savior might experience all things, including the withdrawal of the Spirit, which sinners experience.
47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias (Elijah).
48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.
49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias (Elijah) will come to save him.
50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice (JST: saying, Father, it is finished, thy will is done), yielded up the ghost (left his body, died).
54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
This mocking could not change the truth: Jesus was the Son of God.
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Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander, Of the First Quorum of the Seventy:
One of the most well-known crowds in the Book of Mormon is the one that occupies the great and spacious building in Lehi’s vision of the tree of life. The building was filled with people, old and young, male and female, who were mocking and pointing their fingers toward those who were partaking of the fruit of the tree. Unfortunately, some who had tasted of the fruit listened to the crowd and “fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” There were others, however, who partook of the fruit and paid no heed to the crowd. These were the ones who enjoyed the full blessings of the tree of life.
In reality these stories are not about crowds but individuals among those crowds. They are really about you and me. All of us are among the crowds of this world. Almost all of us are like the woman who, despite the crowd, comes to the Savior. We all have faith that just a touch will bring healing to our aching souls and relief to our innermost needs. New members of the Church in many lands are often like Alma. They hear the words of life when no one else in their family or circle of friends does. Yet they still have the courage to accept the gospel and chart a course through the crowds. I think each one of us understands what it means to partake of the fulfilling fruit of the tree of life within sight and sound of those who mock and what it means to exert every courageous effort to pay them no heed.
Struggling through the crowds of the world can be lonely and hard. Their pull and tug on the individual who wishes to step away to something better can be very strong and very difficult to overcome.
Who better than the Savior can reach, support, and ultimately rescue the one among the crowd? He understands what it is to persevere among a disrespectful crowd and still remain true. The worldly crowds do not recognize Him, saying that “he hath no form nor comeliness” and that “there is no beauty that we should desire him.” King Benjamin says that the world “shall consider him a man.” Isaiah further describes Christ’s place among the crowds of the world with these words:
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief … ; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”
Nephi writes that “the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught.”
Yet ultimately this Firstborn Son of God, who is so often misjudged and misunderstood, will emerge from being one among the crowd as the Anointed One, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. This emergence is humbly predicted in the Savior’s own statement to certain chief priests and elders that “the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner.”
My dear brothers and sisters, I pray that each one of us can pass safely through the crowds of this world. In all of life’s circumstances let us quietly and resolutely press forward to the Savior, having faith that He cares about us and has the power to heal and save us. Let us heed His words of life and partake fully, continually, and courageously of the fruit that comes therefrom. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
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Sources: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 95; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 1, Volume 2, by David J. Ridges, 97-99; Excerpt from General Conference, April 2008, “One among the Crowd” by Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander, Of the First Quorum of the Seventy.