Sharper than a two-edged sword

September 17, 2004

President Hinckley’s message for this month admonishes us all to raise our voices in opposition to evil. He notes that

[l]egal restraints against deviant moral behavior are eroding under legislative enactments and court opinions. This is done in the name of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of choice in so-called personal matters. But the bitter fruit of these so-called freedoms has been enslavement to debauching habits and behavior that leads only to destruction. A prophet, speaking long ago, aptly described the process when he said, “And thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell” (2 Nephi 28:21).

In this message, President Hinckley gives suggestions for opposing evil in our daily lives:

(1) “Reformation of the world begins with reformation of self. It is a fundamental article of our faith that ‘we believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, [and] virtuous’ (Articles of Faith 1:13).

(2) “A better tomorrow begins with the training of a better generation.” The home is to be the origin of our moral and aesthetic education. We should not let society hijack our efforts to reinforce moral values and a love of learning in our children. (I take it that means to regulate TV consumption and to spend quality time with our children, immersing them in knowledge of the world and its cultures, and in the principles of righteousness attendant to the restored Gospel.)

(3) “Let our voices be heard. I hope they will not be shrill voices, but I hope we shall speak with such conviction that those to whom we speak shall know of the strength of our feeling and the sincerity of our effort. Remarkable consequences often flow from a well-written letter and a postage stamp. Remarkable results come of quiet conversation with those who carry heavy responsibilities.”

(4) “Strength to do battle begins with enlisting the strength of God.”

This list is like a breath of fresh air in its simplicity. Particularly numbers 3 and 4, when combined, make an interesting duo.

In discussing point 4, President Hinckley refers to the Apostle Paul’s metaphor from Ephesians 6:13, among other places, of donning the full armour of God. Armour conjures up defensive images–protecting vital areas against attack. But in his point number 3, President Hinckley admonishes us to raise our voices in opposition to evil, in other words, to take the offense rather than to sit passively by. This is in no way contradictory to the armour metaphor, for part of “the whole armour of God” is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. This reassures us in an age of moral ambivalence that it is still right to take the offensive in the cause of truth and righteousness.

When I think of the whole armour of God, I immediately think of the sword of the Spirit and its significance. When I was a zone leader on my mission, I would occasionally take the liberty to have my zone recite D&C 12 rather than D&C 4 in our meetings. It was more aggressive and seemed more fitting for missionaries whose sole purpose was to raise their voices in the world to declare the name of Jesus Christ and to oppose the deepening darkness. One of the most significant differences between the two sections is that Section 12 explicitly brings the sword metaphor into the equation, beginning with the acknowledgement that a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men, but then adding before discussing the field that is white already to harvest the following powerful statement:

Behold, I am God; give heed to my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow; therefore give heed unto my word.

When we consider the sword metaphor as an offensive, rather than defensive, part of the the whole armour of God, combined with President Hinckley’s admonition that we raise our voices in opposition to evil, we should take heart to do so through declaring the word of God, which is sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow. That is a powerful realization and one that we should not take lightly.