Monday, May 20, 2019

President Joseph F. Smith on the dangers of internal enemies

President Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918) was the son of Joseph's brother Hyrum. He was ordained an apostle in 1866 at age 28, and served as a counselor to Brigham Young and the three presidents who followed.  He became the 6th president of the Church in 1901, and served until his death in 1918 at age 80.
"For my part I do not fear the influence of our enemies from without, as I fear that of those from within. An open and avowed enemy, whom we may see and meet in an open field, is far less to be feared than a lurking, deceitful, treacherous enemy hidden within us, such as are many of the weaknesses of our fallen human nature, which are too often allowed to go unchecked, beclouding our minds, leading away our affections from God and his truth, until they sap the very foundations of our faith, and debase us beyond the possibility or hope of redemption either in this world or that to come. These are the enemies that we all have to battle with, they are the greatest that we have to contend with in the world, and the most difficult to conquer. They are the fruits of ignorance, generally arising out of unrebuked sin and evil in our own hearts. The labor that is upon us, is to subdue our passions, conquer our inward foes, and see that our hearts are right in the sight of the Lord, that there is nothing calculated to grieve his Spirit and lead us away from the path of duty.
"Those only who possess the light of the Spirit of God and the faith of the Gospel, which can only be possessed through faithfulness and obedience to the requirements of heaven, can discern and know the voice of the true Shepherd when they hear it. We need not expect to be able to discern the right from the wrong, the truth from error, and light from darkness, unless our eye is single, and we have declared ourselves for God and his work. If we are divided in our thoughts, affections, and interests, like the rest of the world, we need not expect to comprehend the will of the Lord when made known to us, no matter how powerfully or directly it may come."
- Joseph F. Smith, General Conference Oct. 6, 1875; Journal of Discourses 18:90-91
Click here to read the full talk

President Smith's insights are intriguing to me. We have many external enemies, physical and spiritual. But he warned us about the "lurking, deceitful, treacherous enemy hidden within us" when we fail to deal with our weakness or challenges, or resolving the "unrebuked sin" that we may have committed and not resolved. We must strive to "conquer our inward foes" and make our hearts right before God in order to overcome these inward enemies.

As we set our lives in order and fill our lives with the light of God's spirit, we will more readily recognize the Shepherd's voice and feel His assistance, support, and guidance in our lives.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

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