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Archive for November, 2012

Standing Alone

There are those rare moments in secular theatre, cinema, or even television when a profound truth is spoken or presented in such a way that it resonates through your very being.  I’m not just talking about something that moves you, makes you weep, nod vigorously, or even leap to your feet in thunderous applause.  I’m referring to those moments when the playwright has plunged his bucket into the well of truth and drawn forth water so cold, so refreshing, so pure that a single sip can revive the thirsty soul.  Or rather, it can if you are willing to drink.  These are the moments when the Spirit of God speaks through mortal pen, even if the writer is unaware of the heavenly influence.  These are the moments when the Spirit speaks to you and shakes you to the core at a time when you were unprepared, when you sought only diversion, escape.  And because you were unprepared to be taught, the lesson comes with the greater force.  I have sat quite literally at the feet of prophets and heard the word of God, and it has entered into my soul, and I knew it was true.  However, when a profound and divine truth comes through an irreligious source, it can arrive with the unexpectedness of an earthquake or a bolt of lightning.

One such bolt struck me when I was fifteen.  I was attending a performance of Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People”.  The plot revolves around Dr. Thomas Stockmann, who leads a project to develop baths in his small, coastal town in Norway in the late 19th century.  However, just as the baths are bringing tourist revenue and civic pride to the town, Dr. Stockmann discovers that waste from a tannery is making bath patrons sick.  He exposes the pollution to the town and proposes a costly solution to the problem.  He expects to be praised for his discovery, but instead is ostracized and reviled.  He is called a lunatic.  His own brother (the mayor) and the entire town turn against him.  But Dr. Stockmann refuses to back down from the truth.   The moments in this play that struck me so profoundly were two statements from Dr. Stockmann:  “A minority may be right; a majority is always wrong,” and “…the strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone.”  My heart burned within me, and I knew that I had been taught divine truth from a worldly pen: truth does not cease to be truth because the majority believes it to be otherwise, and it takes great strength to stand for the truth against that majority.

(A quick aside:  I am well aware that Ibsen himself did not believe in absolute truth.  Just as J. Michael Straczynski, a confirmed atheist, wrote a profound story about forgiveness and the Atonement of Christ for his TV series “Babylon 5”, Ibsen dipped into the well of truth.  After all, even the wicked high priest Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus would die for the people and save them.  You see, truth can come from unlikely sources.)

One thing that Ibsen missed: we are never alone in standing for the truth if we rely on God.  God will support us and sustain us.  Even if we suffer in the flesh or even if we die, He will never abandon us.  As the hymnist Robert Keen said,

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,

I will not, I cannot desert to his foes.

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Over the past two and a half years, my wife and I have been standing up for the truth against some great opposition.  Despite the fact that we have followed the counsel and direction of the prophet and our bishops and stake presidents, we have been castigated and “called to repentance” by many well-meaning but misinformed people.  We have been chastised and pilloried in social media.  This has ranged from loving counsel to malicious vilification.  There have been accusations and there have been threats of violent retaliation.  Some have assumed that the mistruths and lies being spread about justify their actions.  Whatever your motivations, I wish you well and I bear you no malice.  To those who know the whole truth and have stood by us, you have my sincerest, deepest gratitude.  Just as words cannot express the depth of the sorrow that my wife and I have experienced during this trial, I am inadequate to the task of expressing the depth of my gratitude to our true friends.

Last night at Choir, a friend put his hand on my shoulder and said, “We all say that we want to be more like the Savior, but we really don’t know what that entails, how very difficult that can be in the face of persecution.”  Thank you, Eric, for your profound wisdom.

In an episode of “Babylon 5”, J. Michael Straczynski said, “I always wondered if I would have had the courage to stay in Gethsemane.  Now I know.”

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