…An unseen power will aid me and you in the glorious cause of truth … Courage, for the Lord is on our side …
These words have been going around and around in my mind last night and this morning as I’ve yearned in prayer toward the Lord. Not in fearful “oh please oh please” prayers but in searching. Twice in a week I’ve been invited to stand and sing them in a conference – not to listen to others sing the intertwined harmonies of the hymn – but to sing them myself.
It’s all good. I have a lot on my mind.
More times than I can count we’ve stood at the waters of the Red Sea with the waves lapping at our feet and the sound of chariot wheels behind us. In fact, it has been such a consistently repeated experience that I’ve often had cause to wonder about my leadership of my family. This morning as I took not only one Red Sea issue but two to the Lord, both of the imminent destruction type, still recovering from the life and death issue from which we were saved last month, I kept remembering an experience of the prophet Joseph Smith that is glued into my scriptures at Section 111.
When Joseph first came to Nauvoo, then called Commerce, a Mr. White, living there, proffered to sell him his farm for twenty-five hundred dollars, five hundred dollars of the amount to be paid down, and the balance one year from that time. Joseph and the brethren were talking about this offer when some of them said: “We can’t buy it, for we lack the money.”
Joseph took out his purse, and emptying out its contents, offered a half dollar to one of the brethren, which he declined accepting, but Joseph urged him to take it, and then gave each of the other brethren a similar amount, which left him without any. Addressing the brethren he then said: “Now you all have money, and I have none; but the time will come when I will have money and you will have none!” He then said to Bishop Knight, “You go back and buy the farm!”
The bargain was closed and the obligations drawn up, but how the money was going to be raised neither Brother Knight nor the other brethren could see.
The next morning Joseph and several of the brethren went down to Mr. White’s to sign the agreement and make the first payment on the land. A table was brought out with the papers upon it, and Joseph signed them, moved back from the table and sat with his head down, as if in thought for a moment. Just then a man drove up in a carriage and asked if Mr. Smith was there. Joseph hearing it, got up and went to the door. The man said, “Good morning, Mr. Smith; I am on a speculation today. I want to buy some land, and thought I would come and see you.”
Joseph then pointed around where his land lay, but the man said: “I can’t go with you today to see the land. Do you want any money this morning?” Joseph replied that he would like some, and when the stranger asked how much, he told him, “Five hundred dollars.” The man walked into the house with Joseph, emptied a small sack of gold on the table, and counted out that amount. He then handed to Joseph another hundred dollars, saying: “Mr. Smith, I make you a present of this!”
After this transpired, Joseph laughed at the brethren and said: “You trusted in money; but I trusted in God. Now I have money and you have none.” (Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 71-72)
It’s interesting to me how the Lord prepares people to do his work. He gives them the sketchiest resources, asking unbelievable things. And his education! The Lord’s University is much less formal than one would expect a well-prepared individual in our own age to receive.
Joseph in Egypt was best prepared to run a country, save a nation, preserve his father’s posterity and the blessings of the covenant priesthood, and become a mighty prophet by being sold into slavery, falsely accused, and imprisoned for an indefinite period of time.
Moses was best prepared to take a nation into the wilderness by being a fleeing criminal, an outcast in a strange land, and a leader of a race of the enslaved and powerless facing former friends and family as a shepherd among kings.
Even Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, was born into poverty, a child refugee, and from the most backward of provinces among his own people, a laborer from a simple family. It would seem that the resources God is interested in are quite different from the ones that even those of us who have been raised to look deeper … still expect.
I think often of people who were slow of speech, young, the wrong race, the wrong personality – people who were consciously called by a God who has other patterns of qualification. I marvel that as many decades as I’ve spent studying scripture – with people like Samuel and David and his handsome brothers – I still expect that the chosen will somehow … look chosen.
Some months ago I asked the Lord point-blank what it was he wanted me to learn from a lingering test, and he answered me point-blank: “Courage. I want you to learn courage.” I can say that I’ve seen courage from many sides now, and I’m beginning to understand courage. It all boils down to a quiet confidence to do what we’re asked in the face of obvious impossibility. In order for our soul to triumph over impossibility, we have to experience some impossibility.
Let us all press on in the work of the Lord,
That when life is o’er we may gain a reward;
In the fight for right let us wield a sword,
The mighty sword of truth.
Fear not, though the enemy deride,
Courage, for the Lord is on our side;
We will heed not what the wicked may say,
But the Lord alone we will obey.
We will not retreat, though our numbers may be few,
When compared with the opposite host in view;
But an unseen power will aid me and you
In the glorious cause of truth.
If we do what’s right we have no need to fear,
For the Lord, our helper will ever be near;
In the days of trial His saints He will cheer,
And prosper the cause of truth.
I have no idea whether I’ll sit in the corner prayerfully in the moment it’s needed and that resource will walk through the door asking for me by name or not, but I suppose I’m made of the same cloth as the slow of speech, the fleeing criminals, the poor widows, and the country bumpkins. I hope somewhere underneath that rough exterior, the Lord finds courage.