Updated: May 29, 2022
When I was a teenager in Arizona, my friends and I spent our weekends skateboarding. We loved to drive around town looking for new spots, which often got us into trouble. One day we came across an old middle school that was closed and about to be torn down. There were fences around the campus and signs warning us to keep out, but for a teenage boy there couldn’t be a more welcome invitation to sneak in and explore. We thought we were having the time of our lives, skating through the hallways and in the gym. While exploring we noticed that someone wrote on the chalkboard in several rooms “beware room 18”. Well, none of us were about to be afraid of some vague warning on a chalkboard, so we went straight for room 18. All of us walked in the room and looked around as the door shut behind us automatically. On the chalkboard it said “get out, it’s a trap”. We didn’t see anything all that remarkable in the room, until we looked closer at the door, and realized there was no handle. The room had four brick walls, one window, and the door we came through. I took my skateboard and hit the window as hard as I could, but I realized it was not glass but a reinforced probably bulletproof plastic. We realized we were trapped. None of us had cell phones, and of course we didn’t tell any of our parents where we were going. We had no water, no food, and no way to call for help. That day I experienced true fear. I was scared that we would get hurt, starve to death, or worse get caught by the police for trespassing and brought home to our parents. After a few minutes of banging on the window and trying to force the door open, we realized that there was a small window above the door that had been smashed out. It was 8 feet off the ground and no more than 2 feet in height, and there was jagged glass all around it. We found an old projector screen to cover the broken glass, and the tallest guy (me) lifted up the smallest guy through the window. He climbed through, fell down on the other side unscathed, and let us all out.
Fear is a universal part of the human experience, whether we get ourselves into trouble like my younger self or not. We are hardwired to feel fear in order to try to avoid harm. It is natural to respond to fear by retreating, backing down, or perhaps with anger or lashing out. In Exodus 14, we see the climax of the escape of the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt. At this point, they had left Egypt and camped by the Red Sea. Pharaoh’s army overtook them and they saw them marching towards them. They were afraid, and lashed out at Moses saying “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?” It’s easy for us to judge them since we know they are about to be saved by a miracle. Remember that they didn’t know what was going to happen next. They had hope that the Lord would save them and they were following the prophet, but in that moment all they could see was an army coming towards them. At that moment their faith was lost and was overtaken by fear. Then “Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord , which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” Moses led the people and gave them an example of faith in the Lord. I realized in reading the story this time, that Moses didn’t seem to know the details of how they would be saved, he only knew that he trusted in the Lord. After testifying to the people that they should fear not and trust the Lord, he turned to the Lord for an answer to his problem. Once he turned to the Lord in that moment, he was told that the power of the Lord would part the Red Sea for them to cross. If I were Moses, I would have much preferred for the Lord to give me a detailed play by play description of how they would be saved after leaving Egypt. We see this pattern repeated time and time again in the scriptures, as well as in our own lives. The Lord promised that He would deliver the children of Israel from Egypt, and He followed through with that promise. The people experienced fear, anxiety, and doubt. Through this experience of deliverance, the people had the opportunity to learn to trust in the Lord. Moses had faith that the Lord would deliver them, but He didn’t receive detailed instructions until he urgently needed them. Similarly, in our lives we are given promises when we make covenants with the Lord. We seek certain blessings that may not come right when we want them. We must have faith as Moses, and trust that the Lord will follow through with His promises even when it may seem hopeless. We must seek personal revelation from God to help guide us in our unique situation.
You might be familiar with D&C section 8, which is a famous passage instructing us how to receive revelation from God through the power of the Holy Ghost. In verse 2 we read “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.” I have read this scripture many times, as a missionary and in my adult life. Sometimes I have an idealized picture of revelation from God coming when I am peacefully reading scriptures and praying at home, and I receive a comforting message from God that all is well. In verse three we read “Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.” Moses had to have been under a great deal of stress, was out in the wilderness under attack by an army, and was in dire need of an urgent answer at that time. Of all the possible examples of receiving revelation, the Lord chose to use this example of Moses and the Red Sea. I take away two main points from these scriptures. First, revelation may not come to you under ideal, perfectly controlled circumstances. I know in my busy life I don’t often have large blocks of time to ponder and pray. Don’t get me wrong, we have to prepare ourselves spiritually to receive revelation by praying, reading scriptures, attending church, following the commandments. But we might receive revelation at unexpected times or situations, as we go about our lives and encounter problems. I am going to try to be more sensitive to the promptings of the spirit when I am in the thick of the day trying to balance all that is going on around me with family and work responsibilities. We should do as Alma taught, and “let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord”. The second takeaway from the example of Moses is that revelation may not come to us until it is urgently needed. Even the great prophet Moses was not told the whole plan of deliverance by the Lord until it was time to part the Red Sea. Should we expect the Lord to broadcast to us far in advance how is going to save us from our personal struggles? We must learn to be as Moses and face our fears, do all that we can do to follow the Lord. We can have full trust in the Lord that he will deliver us from our challenges, in His own time and His own way.
We will all go through periods of fear and uncertainty in our lives, and there certainly is plenty going in the world to be fearful of. Just a glance at today’s headlines shows war, inflation, ongoing impacts of the pandemic, social unrest, deterioration of the value of family and marriage in society. In 2 Nephi chapter 2, Lehi teaches his sons that there must be opposition in all things. We must experience fear and uncertainty in our lives in order to learn to have faith. As a medical oncologist I work with people every day that are fighting cancer and facing unbelievable fears. I specialize in cancers of the head and neck, which are all the cancers that start above the clavicle. People with cancer of the tongue, throat, or eye not only have the threat of cancer ending their life, but also the possibility of losing the ability to eat, speak, or see. I learned early in my training that a big part of my job is providing hope and encouragement to people facing these challenges. I have to be careful with my choice of words, tone of voice, and body language with all of my interactions. I have not personally been through what my patients are going through, but my experience allows me to empathize and guide them through difficult decisions. Just this week I met with a woman that noticed a painless lump under her eyelid several months ago. After it didn’t go away her doctors eventually got a scan that showed a tumor in the tissues around her eye. She was told that surgery would most likely result in the loss of her eye, which is functioning completely normally right now. She came to me to discuss alternative treatments that could possibly cure her cancer and save her eye. We will do our best with what we have. The best part of my job is getting to help people through one of the most fearful and uncertain times of their lives, and often see them overcome their health issues. I am constantly amazed at the faith and courage of people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and walks of life.
We, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, have the best and most important tools to overcome fear. We have our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, personal revelation through the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the restored church. In D&C 68:6 the prophet Joseph Smith received revelation for the whole church, and the Lord said “be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you…” It is my prayer that we can learn to be as Moses, that we can face our fears, turn to the Lord for personal revelation, and have the faith to act and follow God’s commandments.