Bullying begins early, especially when faith is involved. My friend who shoved my face in the dirt was one of many. In elementary school and junior high, when kids learned I’m Mormon, they would often ask how many moms I had. I remember wondering how much they really knew about the birth process.
I have Muslim friends, Catholic friends, Jewish friends, friends of many faiths, all with experience getting their faces shoved in the dust. Gritty, tough, beautiful faces.
Dirt and faith go together. Opposition, criticism, and antagonism are companions to truth. Whenever the truth is revealed with regard to the purpose and destiny of mankind, there will always be a force to oppose it.
When our son Kevin was three or four years old, an older sibling had a soccer match after a week of rain. At the side of the field was a narrow 25-foot-long puddle. Kev quickly learned that if he ran and threw his body on the ground in just the right way, he could slide the entire length of the water. Before long, the families around us began to watch Kevin instead of the game. One photographer mom missed her son’s only goal of the season as she focused her lens on Kev. “Gotta set priorities. Look at that face!” she said, kept snapping shots, and gave us copies of her images later that week.
Years later, Kevin’s face was again caked with dirt, this time from the dry dust of Tijuana, made a bit muddy by the ample sweat of his brow. He loved working closely with friends from Mexico as they labored to teach the truth. At one point, weeks of opposition and criticism were taking a heavy toll. His close friends were truly discouraged, and it weighed heavily on his heart. Kev decided to rip his bedsheet in two and scribbled on his Title of Liberty, “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children”, and fastened it upon the end of a pole. He called his flock of fellow laborers together to encourage them and, in his strong voice, shouted in Spanish, “Whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and promise with me that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.” After signing the rent cloth, Kevin invited them to sign. They all did. And their courage was restored. People started really talking with these young men once again, sharing feelings down deep and listening to them, as the weeks of opposition and antagonism evaporated, leaving only the local dust on their tired, smiling faces.
Look for the biggest dust cloud billowing above the most dirt, and you’ll find that it’s being kicked at someone standing for the truth. Sometimes, no one stands with them.
“The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing, persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny many defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited very clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”—Joseph Smith
Bullies will always assemble themselves. Why? Because someone is teaching the truth, and the truth will always be opposed. Time to labor harder, time to work smarter, time to smile that feel-it-deep-down smile…
Two men looked up from prison bars,
One saw the mud, the other saw stars.
—Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
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Many of these thoughts are inspired by Lawrence Corbridge. Read, watch or listen to his entire address, “The Prophet Joseph Smith”, Apr 2014 LDS General Conference.
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WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:
- Photo, “Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936 by Dorothea Lange”—www2. artsmia.org/blogs/new-pictures/category/mia-photo-exhibitions/
- Photo, “Dirt and Faith on the Mexican Baja”, from private collection
- Quote, “The Standard of Truth,” Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, Volume 4, Page 540, from the Wentworth Letter, just before the Articles of Faith
- Quote by Dale Carnegie, www. goodreads.com/quotes/420532-two-men-looked-out-from-prison-bars-one-saw-the
- Photo, “Defying Opposition”, from private collection
- Painting, “A Father’s Gift”, by Liz Lemon Swindle. Swindle tells us that this tender painting portrays the love of three fathers. Our heavenly Father entrusted the twins to John and Julia Murdock. When Julia died after childbirth, Brother Murdock entrusted them to Joseph, who brought them to Emma. Emma had just lost her own twin babies within hours of their birth. Joseph and Emma loved and raised the twins as if they were their own. See www. ldsart.com/p-10603-fathers-gift.aspx. Dave adds: To me this painting is about how a loving God follows opposition and trials by restoring smiles.
- Painting, “Hope”, by Liz Lemon Swindle. See www. world-wide-art.com/art/Liz_Lemon_Swindle.html. Peter and John were no strangers to criticism and antagonism, which had cost them dearly. Swindle teaches us about illustrating a tender moment just before their faces learn to smile again:
When Mary came to the tomb, she found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. She ran to the disciples crying, “They have taken away the Lord…and we know not where they have laid him” (John 20:2). Peter and John immediately ran to the tomb.
What did they think as they ran? Were they simply curious to see for themselves? Did they fear, like Mary, that their enemies had stolen the body? Or did they remember His promise, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”?
The decision that faced Peter and John that Sunday morning is the same decision that faces each one of us today. Will we doubt? Will we hope? Or will we know that He lives? I know that He lives.
- Photo, “Smiles After Opposition”, from private collection
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