Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Lord's Scourge

It's very appealing to our human nature to believe that if we perform a certain set of actions, that the Lord will automatically be pleased with us and will grant us blessings. The set of actions varies from time to time and from religious tradition to religious tradition, but the problem is still the same: merely performing these actions does not bring us to the true repentance and humility that are the Lord's criteria for righteousness. After a while we start to set up a social environment where those who don't perform the actions (or who appear to not be performing the actions) receive social penalties like ostracism or reduced status. The Lord has made it perfectly clear that engaging in this sort of discrimination is unrighteous (Luke 18:9-14, Jacob 2:13-14, Alma 31 and 32).

Fortunately for us, the Lord provides an antidote. The situation of the righteous is always precarious, and this is by the Lord's design. When we who say we wish to be righteous refuse to kneel before the Lord, he has a tendency to start exerting more pressure on the tops of our heads to remind us. When the situation expands beyond a problem with individuals to a pervasive societal trait, He will bring in another group of people to scourge the self-righteous into a realization of what is really important. Often the scourging is done by people whom the self-righteous perceive as filthy barbarians. This is to remind them that even "filthy barbarians" are the Lord's children, and in fact are being more righteous than they.

I can tell you from experience that being a scourge is one of the most difficult assignments the Lord can give you. It pains me to have to fail students, especially those who work hard but for one reason or another can't do well enough to pass. At one point I asked the Lord why I have to do this, and for that particular semester and that particular student I was informed by the Lord that this was to be a sore trial on this student, and by being the instrument of inflicting it, I was actually doing the Lord's work.

Genghis Khan found himself in a similar situation, albeit one with more earth-shattering consequences than an F grade. When proud nations on his borders picked fights with him, he prayed to the Eternal Blue Sky and received the answer that he was to go and fight, and would conquer them. The Lamanites were also called to be a scourge of God to the Nephites. The Nephites lived in constant danger; if they were truly righteous, the Lamanites would join them rather than fight them, but if they became exclusionary and proud the Lamanites would destroy them, with the Lord's blessing.

Let's all take today to think humbly and honestly about ways in which we tend to drag down our religion by tying it to the baser aspects of our human nature, and think about what we can do to combat this tendency, lest the Lord find someone willing to scourge us with His permission.