Come Follow Me: D&C 135-6
Happy Thanksgiving 2021!
As I write this on Thanksgiving Day, I ponder a few things for which I am grateful.
First, I remember my ancestors. I am descended from Mayflower passengers, including John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley. Some of their descendants (Chipman) would join the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Joseph Smith also descended from Mayflower passengers, including John Howland and his wife Elizabeth Tilley. It is through this special link that the Restoration brings to me a greater appreciation. It did not start with Joseph, but centuries earlier, as God prepared the way for a unique nation with unique freedoms (and challenges to overcome, like slavery).
Of those first Pilgrims, half died that first winter, including Elizabeth's parents. They were martyrs to the cause of religious freedom. Two centuries later, Joseph and Hyrum would be martyrs for religious freedom's cause.
Today, persecution over religion continues. Jews are persecuted in many places, including the United States (by neo nazis and others). In China, the Uighurs are being exterminated. Christians are being killed in many Arab nations. And yes, there still is intolerance for Catholics, Latter-day Saints and others in many nations. For this reason, we have several Apostles recently speaking out regarding religious freedom, including Pres Oaks, Elders Cook and Holland.
Such religious persecution not only slew Joseph and Hyrum (D&C 135), but made refugees of the surviving Saints. Brigham Young gave instruction to them in D&C 136, organizing them into camps or travel groups. They were encouraged to have good cheer, even though their adventure would seem like they were traveling to the moon - as the American wilderness was still threatening and untamed. They would be leaving the United States and entering Mexican territory (soon to be conquered by the USA). Still, religious persecution would follow them into that wilderness. Some would flee south or north of the American border into Mexico or Canada. They would bury their new temple foundation, to hide it from federal troops. Many would go to jail for their religion, while others would be slain for their faith.
This is our legacy. This is today's fight: increasing righteousness and freedom throughout the world. Reaching out to refugees and blessing their lives. Offering the downtrodden a place to live free and have the same opportunities we have had, which includes inviting them to Christ.
We are the Pilgrims, pioneers and potential martyrs for the cause of Christ and His peace in the world today. For this, we must look beyond our own comforts and pleasures and seek to create a Zion of God. This is what the Pilgrims sought. This is what Joseph tried to build. This is what Brigham and the pioneers began to establish in the West.
Now, we must take Zion to all the world. We must reach out to the weak and bring them home to safety in God's kingdom. Whether they accept the fullness of the gospel or not, we can bring them closer to God, and to a wholesome, loving, and inspired brotherhood.