At a time when it seems the Church is enjoying a season of the greatest prosperity and good will in the history of this dispensation, there are disquieting and relentless signs that Satan, as in the days of Job, is "going to and fro in the earth and walking up and down in it." (Job 1:7.)
For one thing, society's pervasive influences toward ungodliness are not without their impact even among our own people, as the shepherds in Israel will attest. These impacts bring harm, sometimes devastation, to individual lives and weaken to some degree the collective solidarity of the Church as a whole.
Beyond that, the work of enlarging the tent of Zion and establishing her stakes throughout the world (see Isaiah 54:2) is often resisted. Whether motivated by sincere misunderstanding of intent or sheer hostility, self-appointed adversaries often throw up obstacles to the work of building the kingdom, whether it be in the realm of proclaiming the gospel, strengthening and perfecting the Church's membership or extending the ordinances of salvation to our kindred dead.
Some contend aggressively against the restored gospel of Christ. They contest the prophetic claims of God's servants, living and dead, and even malign their character. They seek, ostensibly through scientific evidence and other means, to undermine the validity of the Book of Mormon, thinking, perhaps, that if they can discredit what Joseph Smith characterized as the "keystone" of Mormonism, the entire structure will topple.
Upon examination, scrutiny and consideration, these efforts to date have been shown to be far from compelling. Yet tragically, some individuals are being led away from the "iron rod" into "forbidden paths" by the sophistry of such arguments (see 1 Nephi 8:28), neglecting the fact that the real proof of the Book of Mormon is the manifestation that comes to each sincere seeker through the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10:3-5.)
At times when observed events may threaten to overshadow us with a cloud of despair, it is well to remember the mariner's call, "Steady as she goes," or, to put it in a scriptural expression, "Be still and know that I am God." (See Psalms 46:10; Doctrine and Covenants 101:16.)
Prophecies of the scriptures can be for us both a guide and an assurance as we navigate the perilous straits of the last days.
Here is a guide, for example from Nephi, who beheld in vision "that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were . . . upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small" (1 Nephi 14:12). What a remarkable description of conditions that prevail in our day, when the influence and presence of the Church has expanded globally, though its membership is but a tiny fraction of the world's population.
The assurance comes as Nephi further describes his vision, relating that the forces of evil would be combined against the Lamb of God. "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory" (verse 14 emphasis added).
What potential and promise is implied in those last words! They have application to each of us individually as we do our part in building the kingdom of God, whether it be reclaiming a lost loved one, reaching out to a brother or sister who has strayed, sharing the gospel with a neighbor, diligently and prayerfully preparing a talk or lesson, or redoubling our efforts to attend the temple. The power of God in carrying out His purposes will indeed descend upon us as we increase our personal righteousness.
The declaration of Joseph Smith, written in a letter to a Chicago newspaper editor and published March 1, 1842, in the Church's Times and Seasons, is as timely today as it ever was: "Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and . . . 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 may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every 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."