Second Coming: Grievous Wolves among You

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. If we are discerning, we can see the same breed of wolf lurking among us today that Paul saw in the early church, that is, wolves in sheep’s clothing, tearing apart the flock. He once warned the early saints of Ephesus:

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous [vicious, savage, fierce] wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:28–30; emphasis added.)

The Little Girl and the Wolf, book illustration, 1845. (Wikimedia Commons.)

He also spoke of certain characters arising to speak perverse—distorted, twisted—things, seeking to draw away followers after them. The times and technology have changed, but people have not.

The goal of this post is to help free someone, anyone, from the jaws of such wolves in the last days, from those who would lead us away from Jesus Christ.

How can we discern between a true follower of the living Christ and someone who has hidden, dark motives? How can we know when someone is telling us the truth or is not telling the truth? We can know them by their fruits, as Jesus warned.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:15–20.)

I have struggled to discern this dichotomy since my teens. After trial and error, I’ve come up with a chart of “fruits.” Here it is. The characteristics on the left are positive while the ones on the right are the opposite, negative characteristic. An honest, reliable person will show more traits from the left column and a dishonest, unreliable person will hover over the right. None of us will fit perfectly in either column, but it can help us pick up on trustworthy trends.

Are they . . . ?Or are they . . . ?
BelievingUnbelieving, cynical
BuilderWrecker
CalmAgitated
CaringDismissive
CivilProfane
ComplimentaryCritical
ConfidentAggressive, arrogant
Cool-headedBullying
CuriousApathetic
DignifyingHumiliating, degrading
DiligentIdle
ForgivingUnforgiving
EncouragingDiscouraging
GratefulResentful
HonoringShaming, discrediting
HumbleProud, superior
KindCruel
ListeningBelligerent
MeekSelf-congratulating, pompous
ModestImmodest, showing off
No regard for personal gainCovetous, greedy, taking personal gain
OpenDefensive
PatientImpatient or exasperated
Personally responsibleEntitled
Positive biasNegative bias
PraisingMocking
ProactiveCompetitive
RepentantUnrepentant, self-justifying
RespectfulAbusive, insulting, threatening
ReverentIrreverent
Self-restrainedViolent
SensitiveTactless, insensitive
TolerantIntolerant
TrustingSuspicious
UnpretentiousOstentatious
UpliftingBelittling
Well-manneredRude

It’s tricky business. People just don’t fit easily in one column or the other. A wolf may not demonstrate all the characteristics on the right, but he or she will show many of them. We all tend to show up on both sides. I’m talking about spotting trends and tendencies, not putting people in boxes.

This isn’t virtue signaling. I’m not pretending to fit 100 percent in the left column. I am just saying I’ve come to know the difference.

I have met and discerned some wolves over the years. They didn’t know they were wolves, but they were. Some have led people away from the Church, unwittingly or knowingly. Some are in prison.

Earlier, I’ve called anti-Mormon literature, so called, scornograpghy. I believe it is just as damaging as pornography. Does pornography contain elements of beauty? Perhaps it does. But it’s sinister purpose is to pervert human relationships, to conquer, addict, and enslave men and women to be preoccupied with a distorted view of sex. Does scornography contain elements of truth? Perhaps it does. But it’s sinister purpose is to pervert and twist the truth to make something to appear other than it is, to seduce, conquer, and enslave your emotions so that hatred, spite, fear, and unbelief fester where love once flourished.

So stop fooling yourselves! Evil companions will corrupt good morals and character. (1 Corinthians 15:33, TPT.)

Please don’t mistake my intent. Good people make mistakes, sometimes big ones. Good people commit crimes. Every human being is a disappointment, to themselves and others. It’s the nature of mortality. I make it a personal rule to not drink in other people’s vices, to allow the bad behavior of any person, living or dead, to diminish my connection with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I also choose to not judge anyone. Judging another is an arrogant gambit. Assuming that we know enough to judge another is a shallow, conceited act.

Think about it . . .

  • Adam and Eve did something they were forbidden to do, but mankind is on the planet because of it.
  • Noah built an ark and saved a generation, but later he got drunk and lost his clothes in the process.
  • Moses led Israel through the Red Sea, but later gave himself a little too much credit.
  • David slew Goliath but was later slew himself with lust. But he repented and stayed faithful for the remainder of his life.
  • Judas, one of the twelve apostles, turned out to be a thief and betrayed his Master for 30 pieces of silver. He hung himself the next day.
  • Peter denied knowing Christ, but went on to boldly testify of Him and die a martyr’s death.
  • Paul hauled early Christians to prison, some to their deaths, but his New Testament letters have converted millions to Christ.

Blah blah blah. So what? Just because someone does something bad, or something I can’t understand, doesn’t erase the immeasurable good they have done or may do. Our mistakes, our sins, don’t define us. The healing power of Jesus Christ defines us.

Since I was a small child, I have never let other people form my views and opinions for me. Not my parents. Not my friends. Not my closest intimates. I was a subversive kid.

But I do not trust scorners or their writings or their videos, no matter how clever and sophisticated or convincing they are. I have learned, through research and experience, that I cannot trust what they say. I’m not going to buy what they are selling or drink their poison. I sincerely try to listen intently to the voice of the Lord and try my best to trust, understand, and follow that voice.

I am a sinner, but first and foremost, I am a believer. I always have been a believer, in God and in His word. I hope I never stop believing—or trying to move myself into the left column. I have a good ways to go. But at least I know this: “From such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5).

Cease from Anger (Part 3)

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/jesus-christ-good-samaritan-1402940?lang=eng

When the Savior came to the Americas near the end of 34 AD, these were among the first words he spoke:

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away. (3 Nephi 11:29–30.)

Compare this with a verse of scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants, one that I lean on constantly:

And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. (Doctrine and Covenants 50:23.)

Let’s think about these verses for a moment. If we are contentious, we are following the father of contention, the devil, and if we are saying something that is not edifying (or building up), it is not of God.

I’m sorry to say that at times I’m contentious and sometimes what I say is not very edifying (like, um, today). For me, both these weaknesses grow out of frustration, which grows out of impatience, which grows out of a lack of faith.

I am working on these natural-man habits. In fact, it’s a daily battle. Progress is ever so slight, but I give myself credit for every victory, small or great.

These quotes about the Twelve inspire me. First one is from Elder Neil L. Anderson:

“I’ll just speak of the Twelve, but in the . . . years I’ve been there, I’ve never seen anyone raise their voice. Never seen them angry. Never seen them sarcastic. Never seen them in an attitude of putting somebody down or even putting an idea down.”

Next from President Gordon B. Hinckley:

I have never observed serious discord or personal enmity among my Brethren. I have, rather, observed a beautiful and remarkable thing—the coming together, under the directing influence of the Holy Spirit and under the power of revelation, of divergent views until there is total harmony and full agreement. . . . I know of no other governing body of any kind of which this might be said.

That’s a pretty high standard to live up to, and I am so grateful that these men do live up to it. I look up to them. I am grateful for their examples. I want to follow them just as they follow Christ.

I can do better. We can do better. We can all “cease from anger.”

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil (Psalms 37:8; emphasis added).

P.S. Here are the other posts in the series: Cease from Anger (Part 1) and Cease from Anger (Part 2).

Cease from Anger (Part 2)

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/woman-taken-in-adultery-948964?lang=eng
Angry men attempting to stone a woman taken in adultery (John 8:1–11.)

Not long ago, some odd tidings came my way at work. I was so upset, I jumped out of my chair and took a brisk walk in no particular direction. Fortunately, a coworker’s sense of humor snapped me out of it and helped me set my feelings aside. Then a few days later, I learned from another coworker that my assumption—an assumption that led to consumption by anger—was completely off. What I thought happened, didn’t really happen.

I find that when I get angry, it’s often tied to missing or incomplete information. (This is a continuation of a recent post on anger, by the way.)

So what happened to me that day at work? In a gap of misunderstanding, I allowed the universal sin—pride—to knock me off balance and that led to anger—a pretty wasteful emotion when it’s based on an entirely incorrect idea.

Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom. (Proverbs 13:10.)

I can’t dodge anger. I can’t get rid of it. It’s going to tag along with me for the rest of mortality. Asking for total relief from anger is like asking for complete release from temptation. Not going to happen in this life. It’s part of a package deal.

Understanding this deal, consider the source of the spirit of contention. It doesn’t come from God.

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. (3 Nephi 11:29; emphasis added.)

We didn’t invite Satan and his recruits to join our party, but God did. Yes, Lucifer is here by permission. He is the unwitting servant of God. By design, it’s up to us to uninvite the devil from our party. It’s are choice. And it takes a bit of work.

We don’t have to lie down and roll over. We can resist Satan and the spirits that follow him. In fact, we have a promise in this regard.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7; emphasis added.)

The problem is, we don’t resist. A taste of anger is a temptation, and I believe God wants us to resist it and to control it. But too often, we enjoy the anger and enjoy expressing it. We would deny it, but that hot shot of adrenaline can be quite enjoyable. We like to be right or a suffering victim, which is kindling for the fire. But we have this command from holy scripture, which I repeat here.

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil (Psalms 37:8; emphasis added).

Let me wrap this up. It takes years of practice, but it’s worth the fight. Anger is one of those emotions that can get out of control pretty quickly. We can’t avoid it. It’s part of us that needs to be confronted and controlled. It’s fueled by pride and deception, often in the form of misinformation. We can resist it, like any other temptation. In fact, we are charged by holy writ to do just that.

 

Cease from Anger (Part 1)

jesus-cleanses-temple-948976-printFor most of us, anger is a normal, often daily emotion. We’ve all experienced it, from our childhood, our youth, and through adulthood. Psychology Today, however, calls it a “corrosive emotion,” one that does not dissipate merely because you express it.

Then is anger okay or not okay? What does the word of God say about it?

Can we agree with the documentary evidence that Jesus, during his mortal ministry, got angry? For example, one Sabbath day, Jesus visited a synagogue where a man in the congregation had a withered hand. There were some there just waiting for Jesus to take action and heal the man. He perceived their motives and is not thrilled. Mark records that “he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (see Mark 3:5). He healed the man in spite of accusers and doubters.

When He cleansed the temple (twice, actually), do you think He was a little eaten up by anger (see for example John 2:13–17)? I mean, he made a “scourge of small cords” and drove the Passover profiteers from His Father’s house. The Psalmist prophesied of this event, saying that “the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (see Psalms 69:9; compare John 2:17). Was Jesus angry at this abuse? Yes, I’m sure He was.

Likewise, there are many examples of Jehovah’s anger in the Old Testament as well (see Numbers 12:9; 2 Samuel 24:1; Isaiah 5:25).

And if it’s okay for Jehovah also known as Jesus to get angry, shouldn’t it be okay for everyone else to get angry? Yes and no.

As with any passion, there must be boundaries and limits. Without limits, anger can lead to destructive results—of self-confidence, of trust, of relationships, and even human life.

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil (Psalms 37:8).

More on this topic soon.