Heed the Counsel of the Lord

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Question: Is it important for us to heed the counsel of the Lord through His servants?

Answer: When sailing to Rome to be tried by Caesar, Paul prophesied that “hurt and much damage” would come to the ship and its passengers. Paul’s shipmates did not heed his warning. There can be possible consequences when we do not heed the counsel of Church leaders.

Acts 27:9-11, 21-26

9 Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast (referred to the public fast required by the Law of Moses, which was held in autumn) was now already past, Paul admonished (warned) them,

10 And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive (I am inspired to tell you) that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage (that if we continue this journey now, it will result in disaster), not only of the lading (cargo) and ship, but also of (for) our lives.

11 Nevertheless the centurion (the Roman commander) believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.

21 But after long abstinence (after having nothing to eat for a long time) Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me (you should have listened to me), and not have loosed from Crete (and not have left Crete), and to have gained this harm and loss (and then you would not have suffered this damage and loss of your cargo).

22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship (none of you will lose your lives; all we will lose is the ship).

23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,

24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee (none who are sailing with you will die).

25 Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. (I know that what God had the angel tell me will happen).

26 Howbeit (however) we must be cast (we will be shipwrecked) upon a certain island.

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By Elder D. Todd Christofferson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

The prophet Ezekiel was born about two decades before Lehi and his family left Jerusalem. In 597 BC, at age 25, Ezekiel was one of the many carried captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, and as best we can tell, he spent the rest of his life there. He was of the Aaronic priestly lineage, and when he was 30, he became a prophet.

In commissioning Ezekiel, Jehovah used the metaphor of a watchman.

“If when [the watchman] seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people;

“Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.”

On the other hand, “if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, … his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.”

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Then speaking directly to Ezekiel, Jehovah declared, “So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them [for] me.” The warning was to turn away from sin.

“When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

“Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. …

Interestingly, this warning also applies to the righteous. “When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his [righteous deeds] shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.”

Pleading with His children, God tells Ezekiel, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”

Far from being anxious to condemn, our Heavenly Father and our Savior seek our happiness and plead with us to repent, knowing full well that “wickedness never was [and never will be] happiness.” So Ezekiel and every prophet before and since, speaking the word of God out of a full heart, have warned all who will to turn away from Satan, the enemy of their souls, and “choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men.” ...

Surely love would compel parents to warn their closest “neighbors”—their own children. This means teaching and testifying of gospel truths. It means teaching children the doctrine of Christ: faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Lord reminds parents, “I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.”

A crucial element of the parental duty to warn is to paint not only the demoralizing consequences of sin but also the joy of walking in obedience to the commandments...

Because of His incomparable love and concern for others and their happiness, Jesus was not hesitant to warn. At the outset of His ministry, “Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Because He knows that not just any path leads to heaven, He commanded:

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”...

Sometimes those who raise a warning voice are dismissed as judgmental. Paradoxically, however, those who claim truth is relative and moral standards are a matter of personal preference are often the same ones who most harshly criticize people who don’t accept the current norm of “correct thinking.” One writer referred to this as the “shame culture”:

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“In a guilt culture you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a shame culture you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you, by whether it honors or excludes you. … [In the shame culture,] moral life is not built on the continuum of right and wrong; it’s built on the continuum of inclusion and exclusion. …

“… Everybody is perpetually insecure in a moral system based on inclusion and exclusion. There are no permanent standards, just the shifting judgment of the crowd. It is a culture of oversensitivity, overreaction and frequent moral panics, during which everybody feels compelled to go along. …

“The guilt culture could be harsh, but at least you could hate the sin and still love the sinner. The modern shame culture allegedly values inclusion and tolerance, but it can be strangely unmerciful to those who disagree and to those who don’t fit in.”

Contrasted to this is “the rock of our Redeemer,” a stable and permanent foundation of justice and virtue. How much better it is to have the unchanging law of God by which we may act to choose our destiny rather than being hostage to the unpredictable rules and wrath of the social media mob. How much better it is to know the truth than to be “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” How much better to repent and rise to the gospel standard than to pretend there is no right or wrong and languish in sin and regret.

The Lord has declared, “The voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days.” As watchmen and disciples, we cannot be neutral about this “more excellent way.”...

Ultimately, we are all accountable to God for our choices and the lives we live. The Savior declared, “My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.”

Recognizing this, the Lord’s supremacy, I plead in the words of Alma:

“And now, my brethren [and sisters], I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would … cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance;

“But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit … ;

Simon Dewey

Simon Dewey

“Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest.”

May we each be able to say to the Lord with David: “I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy loving kindness and thy truth from the great congregation. Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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Sources: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 119; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 2, Volume 3, by David J. Ridges, 77; Excerpts from General Conference, April 2017, “The Voice of Warning,” by Elder D. Todd Christofferson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.