Thursday, June 21, 2007
The Power Of The United Herd
Several Sundays ago as my good friend Brian McInnis was conducting fast and testimony meeting as a counselor in the bishopric, he said something in his testimony that I thought was a very profound truth concerning life. Brian loves to watch the Discovery Channel and especially the programs about nature and wildlife. He told us about a program he had recently watched about a herd of Water Buffaloes in Africa. The herd was on its way to a watering hole and just as they got there several lions leapt out of the heavy brush and attacked a small calf which was the smallest Buffalo in the herd. The Lions had probably been stalking the herd for miles determining which water buffalo was the most vulnerable, and would provide them with the best lunch.
The lions inadvertently dragged the calf down into the water and as they were attempting to kill it several alligators came up out of the water and grabbed onto the calf as well. The poor thing was probably wondering why he had ever bothered to get up that day. Do water buffaloes sleep lying down? I don't know. Anyhow, the calf was having an unusually bad day. As the tug-of-war between the lions and the alligators persisted and became more intense, suddenly the father and mother buffalo -- bull and cow -- charged with all their might and were able to drive off a lion or two. They however, were no match for all the lions and alligators that had attacked their child, but unexpectedly the entire herd gathered together and as a group charged the lions and the alligators and with horns and hooves drove off the enemy and saved the little calf's life.
Mom and Dad could not, by themselves, have saved their child from the lions and alligators; it took the entire united herd to do the job. Families, extended families, the inspired organization of the Church that includes home and visiting teachers, bishops and stake presidents, youth advisers, and seminary and institute teachers and classes, constitute our "united herd" and are absolutely essential to save our vulnerable children from the spiritual lions and alligators stalking them and us.
There are spiritual predators -- as cunning and ferocious as physical lions and alligators -- stalking us today and seeking to devour the most vulnerable among us. Our spiritual predators or enemies today, I believe, are more dangerous to us ultimately, than Al Qaeda, Hamas, and other predatory terrorist groups that seek to blow up and destroy our physical bodies. What are some of these spiritual predators or terrorists? As you think about it you will undoubtedly create your own list, but I think they must include many of the false precepts of men that Nephi saw in vision would corrupt churches and people in our day: "... they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men." [2 Nephi 28:14]
It is not my intent to give you my complete list of the false precepts of men but they would include false religious precepts, false educational precepts, false political precepts, and false moral precepts with which we are bombarded almost daily. Tragically, as Nephi envisioned our day, he saw that most people had gone astray save it be a few who were "the humble followers of Christ," and even many of them were blown up spiritually so to say, because they hearkened to these precepts of men.
And then, of course, some of the spiritual artillery and land mines used by the Adversary includes such things as illegal drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and pornography. All of these things can be addictive and can result in our being eaten alive spiritually. It takes the united effort of family, good friends, and Church to protect and also help deliver those who are already in the jaws of these spiritual alligators and Lions before they are destroyed.
Many years ago while serving as a bishop, a good visiting teacher discovered that a young married woman with two sweet children that lived in our ward was being abused verbally and physically by her husband. He had become involved in, and addicted to, pornography and had been very unfaithful to his wife. He was involved in many wicked practices that had driven away the Spirit from his life and he was a danger to his wife and children because of it. After a brief visit with her, she gave her consent for me to call her father who lived in a distant state. After explaining to him what was happening to his daughter and grandchildren he caught a flight that night and arrived in Orange County the next morning, took his daughter and two grandchildren immediately back to the airport, and flew them home. He acted very well the part of the bull water buffalo charging onto the scene to save his daughter.
About two years ago I received a letter from this now older middle aged woman who wanted to tell me the rest of the story. She had been granted a divorce from her abusive husband, had married a very good man, and now had four or five children who were doing very well in life having served missions and married in the temple. She just wanted to express her appreciation and gratitude for the love and support manifested to her from the members of our ward at a very critical time in her life. What might have happened to her and her children had it not been for loving friends and a father who were willing to do battle in her behalf to release her from the very dangerous circumstances of her life?
Sickness, disabling accidents, and the death of a loved one can also inadvertently become spiritual alligators or lions that can drive us away from our Heavenly Father through depression and a loss of faith. When I was injured almost 19 years ago now, I was overwhelmed at the support given to me, not only by my family, but by so many others as well. For the month following my accident, fellow high priests took turns sitting with me through the night, reading scriptures to me, talking to me, singing hymns, and just being there. I cannot describe what a comfort this was to me at that trying time. Sunday after Sunday while I was in the rehabilitation hospital, 30 or 40 friends would stop by during the day to visit. I enjoyed every minute of their visits and was strengthened and buoyed up by their love and support. This love and concern has endured 19 years now and has enabled Jo Anne and I to press forward knowing that we are surrounded by a loving "herd."
"And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind..." [Moses 7:18]