RS Lesson 32: Responding to Persecution with Faith and Courage
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Section 1: The enemy of truth opposes the servants of the Lord, especially as they grow closer to the Lord.
Joseph Smith comments that all religious societies have been persecuted at their first commencement. Can you think of other examples of this? Why might this be? How do we view new religious movements in our own day?
The Church is obviously in a somewhat different situation today than in Joseph Smith’s time, in terms of being larger and more established. How might this influence our contemporary response to persecution, as compared to that of the early Saints? What things might be similar, or different?
Joseph Smith asks, “Shall a man be considered bad, when men speak evil of him? No. If a man stands and opposes the world of sin, he may expect to have all wicked and corrupt spirits arrayed against him.” Does this mean that if people are speaking evil of you, if you encounter opposition, it is evidence of your righteousness?
What is the difference between “persecution” and genuine disagreement?
How can we avoid falling into the role of persecutors ourselves (whether of those inside or outside of the Church)?
Section 2: Those who love God will bear persecution with courage and faith.
Joseph Smith emphasizes that we should not “betray heaven” in persecution. What does this mean, exactly?
Does responding to adversity with courage and faith mean not doubting or struggling?
Joseph Smith comments that “we feared not our opponents, knowing that we had both truth and righteousness on our side, that we had both the Father and the Son, because we had the doctrines of Christ, and abided in them.” What is there to fear? Why would having the factors mentioned here make a difference?
How do we hold on to our unique doctrines and truths without taking an adversarial and contentious stance toward everyone else? One of the challenges in situations of conflict is that it’s easy for both sides to get defensive about their own views, and therefore less able to really listen to one another. How can we avoid this?
When is persecution something we should simply let go, and when should we do something about it?
What are unhelpful responses to persecution? What are better ones? (A useful reference here might be Elder Hales’ talk on Christian courage, from the Oct 2008 Conference.) How might the New Testament injunction to love our enemies fit into this?
Section 3: God’s mighty power will sustain those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
Joseph Smith says that God will sustain the persecuted. But this doesn’t mean that the early Saints, and Joseph himself, weren’t subject to a great deal of suffering. What does it mean, then, to be sustained by God’s power?
Why would we rejoice in our afflictions? What does that involve? How is it different from playing a kind of martyr role, or being self-righteous? Can we both rejoice in our afflictions and still hope that they’ll end soon?
Referencing the New Testament, Joseph Smith says, “Let your hearts and the hearts of all the Saints be comforted with you, and let them rejoice exceedingly, for great is our reward in heaven, for so persecuted the wicked the prophets which were before us.” Why would it matter to us to know that earlier prophets were persecuted?
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