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.
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