This last week I’ve been especially grateful for good friends. I struggle putting in words how I feel.
Many are familiar with the revelations Joseph received in Liberty Jail. However, many are not familiar with the fact that those sections of the Doctrine and Covenants are only portions of a much longer letter. When sections of this letter were later canonized in 1876, Orson Pratt lifted the words of the Lord from the text to isolate the revelation. It’s great scripture, but it’s even better when you read it in its full context.
We’re used to reading, “Oh God, where art thou?” etc., and then immediately reading the Lord’s response: “My son, peace be unto thy soul…” However, reading this letter in its full context paints a slightly different picture. Notice what led to Joseph hearing the Lord’s voice:
“Those who have not been enclosed in the walls of a prison without cause or provocation can have but a little idea how sweet the voice of a friend is. One token of friendship from any source whatever awakens and calls into action every sympathetic feeling. It brings up in an instant everything that is passed; it seizes the present with a vivacity of lightning; it grasps after the future with the fierceness of a tiger; it retrogrades from one thing to another, until finally all enmity, malice, and hatred, and past differences, misunderstandings and mismanagements lie slain victims at the feet of hope—and when the heart is sufficiently contrite, then the voice of inspiration steals along and whispers: ‘My son, peace be unto thy soul. Thine adversity and thy afflictions shall be but a small moment, and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalts thee on high. Thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts, and friendly hands.’”
It was “the voice of a friend” that filled Joseph with light, hope, and humility, putting him in a place contrite enough to hear God’s voice. On another occasion, he said: “Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand and to watch over them in tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what pow’r it has over my mind.”
My good friends are a balm of Gilead to my soul. I’m blessed by my association with them. Their service and love inspire me to in turn be a better friend to others. Love has such a ripple effect.
I’m reminded of the Savior’s mission: “he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18). It was His love for His friends that empowered Him to soften their hearts and free them from their own spiritual chains: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13); “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24); “he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him” (2 Nephi 26:24).
The Savior’s atoning sacrifice is the source of all good things. Because He descended below all things, He is the fulcrum of all creation. All love can be traced back to His atonement – even before it happened. As we are inspired by love to love, we are sown into the order of life. “We love him [and therefore, the least of these], because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Never underestimate the power you have to bring that about for someone else. The most powerful thing we can do in turning others to Christ is binding up their broken hearts with love – thus opening the prison door to their own spiritual Liberty Jails. It was the love of Joseph’s friends that freed his mind and softened his heart sufficient to hear the voice of inspiration.
Ultimately, every person must learn to hear and obey the voice of God for themselves, but our love can soften hearts sufficient to hear Him, and exercise faith.
Thanks be to God for my friends.