Consider what the phrase “walking in darkness at noon-day” implies.
In 1833, the Lord commanded the early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to build a temple in Kirtland, Ohio. Many had recently left behind farms, equipment, jobs and extended family and friends to gather to Kirtland. Most were poverty-stricken. On the heels of their great sacrifice came not only the commandment to build a temple but chastisement from the Lord for dragging their feet in this matter, for “walking in darkness at noon-day” (see Doctrine and Covenants 95:6).
In their circumstances, could anyone blame them for not jumping to the task with great enthusiasm? When comparable directives come to us, do we sometimes wonder if we, perhaps, still live under that vengeful God that many (inappropriately) associate with the Old Testament? Is God harsh, uncaring, unfeeling about the challenges that individuals face in life? Does he tend to “pile on”?
These are not idle questions. They are questions that many good, thoughtful, truth-seeking individuals ask — and circumstances that many experience. Some wonder, “How could this happen to me? How could God, if not bring this trouble, allow this to happen?”
In 1839, Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail, illegally imprisoned, living in abysmal conditions for close to six months. Near the end of his incarceration, Joseph pleaded with God. His concern was little about Joseph, more about his fellow Saints who were also suffering terrible depredations. If not in despair, at least under a troubled and careworn spirit, he petitioned God to relieve the suffering of the Saints.
Joseph did not rail against God, he did not doubt God’s capacity to mitigate the Saints' misery, but he did beg aid. The Lord’s response is instructive, “If the very jaws of' hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son [or daughter], that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. Therefore hold on thy way fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7, 9).
God’s response suggests that under certain circumstances there is value and purpose in suffering. It is a concept that is understandably difficult for finite human minds to grasp. In God’s explanation, we also find the word experience — which we know is critical to eternal progression.
With these thoughts in mind, return to the earlier command to build a temple when doing so seemed to create additional burdens for the Saints. Yet the Lord tells them, “Ye have sinned against me a very grievous sin, in that ye have not considered the great commandment that I have given unto you concerning the building of mine house that I may pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” Your failure to obey means you are “walking in darkness at noon-day” (Doctrine and Covenants 95:3-4, 6).
Numerous times in my life as I sought the Lord in prayer I felt guided to do certain things that to my finite human mind made no sense, that often seemed counter-productive to righteous and worthy goals. At times I ignored those promptings — and suffered. Other times I listened and obeyed because, by then, I recognized who the counsel came from, “Jesus Christ the Son of God (who) created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, (that Jesus Christ who) was with the Father from the beginning” (3 Nephi 9:15).
As humans, we are prone to pride and arrogance. We too frequently suppose we know better than God what is best for mankind, what is best for us. We too frequently are as a blind man “who walketh in darkness at noon-day.” We do according to our will. We stumble and fall, face danger and meet disaster because we reject God’s counsel and thereby fail to enjoy the great blessings that could have been ours.
The Saints in Kirtland could not even begin to fathom, in 1833, the innumerable ways that building a temple to God would bless them, empower them and afford them protection. They dragged their feet. They supposed they knew better than God. Thankfully, when chastisement came they repented and readily took up their task. They completed that edifice, in their poverty, at great cost to themselves, in just under three years.
When the Kirtland Temple was dedicated March 27, 1836, they experienced a Pentecostal outpouring of the spirit and visitations by angelic ministrants that continued over several weeks, (see Doctrine and Covenants 109). Six days later, on April 3, 1836, the Savior appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. He accepted his house, and his visitation was followed by other heavenly beings who restored essential priesthood keys and authority to the earth (see Doctrine and Covenants 110).
Recognizing the necessity of obeying God and doing so made possible light and illumination in the lives of those faithful Saints. They no longer “walked in darkness at noon-day.” What sacrifices they made paled in comparison to the blessings God poured out upon them.
It is easy to discount God’s commandments in today’s world. It is easy to disregard the counsel of prophets and church leaders. It is easy to ignore personal revelation and thereby “walking in darkness at noon-day.” Hopefully each of us will choose the wiser though sometimes difficult course — to obey God — and in doing, often after the trial of our faith, realize the blessings he desires to bestow upon us.
Kristine Frederickson writes on issue-oriented topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World." She teaches part-time at BYU. Her views do not necessarily represent those of BYU.