I grew up in a household where my father’s life was threatened on a regular basis, sometimes openly in a court room. After serving in the military for 24 years, he started a security and investigative business, eventually moving into investigating worker’s compensation fraud for large insurance companies. He also worked with the local and state police and sometimes the FBI helping them out with some difficult and dangerous situations, or just providing them with better equipment to use than they had. He was great at setting people up to expose when they were lying about injuries or finding out other information and some of the situations he handled resulted in mortal danger. As a result, our house had guns in almost every room (sometimes hidden in hollow books), and “panic button” devices we could press that would instantly trigger an alarm to the police to call us and if we didn’t answer, they would dispatch someone to our home immediately.
In spite of these concerns, we didn’t really live in an atmosphere of fear. There was the natural parental concern for our safety, but we knew if there was a dangerous situation, physically, we were prepared. We also prayed for safety and protection. I do recall one incident where my dad helped the state police with something very dangerous and the state attorney general stupidly revealed our involvement and home address to a family of felons. That resulted in a fear that we may need to immediately move. That was the most worrying incident which put us on high alert for a time.
In a previous article on veils, I pointed out a couple scriptures that dealt with the requirements to part the veil. One of them was in Doctrine & Covenants 67:10 which reads:
10. And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual.
The last couple weeks I have wanted to better understand fear and what the scriptures teach about how to strip it from myself and overcome fear by faith.
Doing a search in Scripture Notes for fear* (* is a wildcard to pick up variations) results in 686 results which is a lot of work to go through. So my next thought was to turn to the Study Helps section of the library.
There we find 4 topics in the Topical Guide, a Bible Dictionary entry, and a couple items in the Triple Combination index (which should be included in the Topical Guide)
The Bible Dictionary points that there are two major uses of the term in scripture.
What is godly fear? God doesn’t want us to be afraid of Him. He loves us and wants us to come to him. So why use the word fear to associate with our love of him?
Perhaps it is the warning voice that God lives by eternal law. He can’t let mercy overpower justice when we fail to repent, and a “healthy” fear of eternal consequences from a life of unrepentant sin is an act of mercy.
There are some very strong examples in the scriptures of God’s warnings. Some are very challenging. We read of Uzza, who upon seeing the oxen transporting the ark of the covenant stumble, put forth his hand to steady the ark so it wouldn’t fall (1 Chron. 13:9-10; 2 Samuel 6:6-7). The Lord instantly killed him for touching the ark without being one allowed to do so. It terrified the people and David was even afraid to bring the ark of the covenant home to Israel.
Why did God do this? From Numbers 4:15 came the command that those assigned to transport the ark were to “not touch any holy thing, lest they die.”
Using the Bible Hub link from this verse, I found Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary which provides this explanation:
“Let the sin of Uzza warn all to take heed of presumption, rashness, and irreverence, in dealing with holy things; and let none think that a good design [intention] will justify a bad action. Let the punishment of Uzza teach us not to dare to trifle with God in our approaches to him; yet let us, through Christ, come boldly to the throne of grace…”
God doesn’t want us trifling with the commandments. Poor Uzza was made an example to invoke the seriousness of sin and God’s word. Do I think Uzza went to hell? I would hope not. I think his example saved a lot of other people from hell by making God real to them.
The scriptures identify a number of blessings that come to us when we fear God such as protection, courage, longer life, revelation, and acceptance from God.
We also have keys on what it means to fear the Lord:
Micah 6:8. He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Another characteristic is it is those who are looking forth for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man (D&C 45:39). The expectation of God’s coming creates a proper attitude of preparing ones self to be ready.
When Moses’ father-in-law Jethro gave him counsel about how to lighten his load, he told him how to set up leadership in the camp of Israel with men of certain qualifications.
Exodus 18:21. Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:
1) able men – capable, well educated, hard workers
2) fear God – people of faith and devotion who understand and reverence the laws of God
3) men of truth – discern between good and evil, right and wrong
4) hating covetousness – coveting and selfishness are the source of most problems between people.
When you consider today’s rulers of millions, it’s the rare man or woman that displays any of these characteristics.
Now lets examine the other side of fear…the ungodly kind.
Why is it that we fear and why is it a sin? There are various ways people show sinful fear in the scriptures. I will just share a few examples.
The Bible Dictionary points out that the first mention of fear in the Bible was that Adam became afraid after his sin of partaking of the fruit. It says:
“Sin destroys that feeling of confidence God’s child should feel in a loving Father and produces instead a feeling of shame and guilt. Ever since the Fall God has been teaching men not to fear, but with penitence to ask forgiveness in full confidence of receiving it.”
In other words, if we sin we lose confidence to come to God. Our guilt and shame separates us in an atmosphere of fear because we know we have offended our maker and by doing so can no longer enter his presence. Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can overcome fear by faith and repentance, be clean, and then boldly come to God seeking reunion with him after our separation.
People also fear what man can do and this is a big sin as well because we stop trusting in God.
Saul said to the prophet Samuel:
1 Samuel 15:24 “…I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.”
Where do we hold our ground and draw the line in the sand? Do we fear man instead of God?
Do our leaders fear the people these days? It sure seems like they don’t :) but they don’t fear God either. They do the will of secret combinations.
In another example, Gideon was sent to fight the Midianites, The Lord had him tell the army, everyone who is afraid, go home. We don’t need you poisoning the rest of the troops with negativity and doubt. Of his 32,000 man army, a staggering 22,000 went home.
Then the Lord had Gideon test the remaining men at the water after a long march to see who lapped water like a dog instead of bowing the knees to drink. Only 300 did and they were chosen as the brave ones who weren’t afraid of crocodiles or something and went right down prostrate to drink.
Those 300 then became the army of the Lord to take on the Midianites. Under no circumstances would anyone think 300 could defeat an army so much larger but with the Lord’s directions and their faith they did. It was an act of great faith.
We all have them. For Indiana Jones it’s snakes. For others it’s spiders, heights, public speaking, and a bazillion other things. The latest government and media induced fear is mysophobia, the fear of germs. Why do we have these irrational fears? Is it right for individuals of faith to be afraid of anything? Shouldn’t we be overcoming fear by faith? Do we put our faith in the arm of flesh or the mighty arm of God by sanctifying ourselves, getting personal revelation, and following what the Lord himself teaches us (which is what President Nelson taught in his April 2016 talk titled “The Price of Priesthood Power”).
Another example from the scriptures is the temporary fear when God or an angel appears to man on earth. It immediately generates fear in people but the first thing they say is “fear not” (Ex. Gen. 26:24, Luke 2:10) because their purpose is holy in delivering a message from beyond the veil.
While preparing this article this week, the Lord gave me an uncomfortable object lesson. :) Recall that I come from a very safety oriented family… Well, one of our young “adult” children went off and did something not safe one night. When my wife and I spoke with her on the phone, I was not happy about her decision and reminded her of safety protocols and even though I was mostly calm on the phone, I was internally worried and upset about her decision, which naturally translated into a fairly stern voice. She knew I wasn’t happy about the situation. After speaking with her, my wife and I prayed for her protection and as I was laying down to go to sleep, the Spirit gently reminded me I was writing an article on overcoming fear… I started to chuckle and it immediately released all my tension. A spirit of peace finally rested on me, and I stopped worrying. Things were in God’s hands at that moment and there was nothing I could do about it.
I was then reminded of King Mosiah. His sons had been very wicked and in their sore repentance it says they “[suffered] much and [feared] that they should be cast off forever.” Once they repented and were clean, they “[pleaded] with their father many days that they might go up to the land of Nephi” to preach to the Lamanites. It was dangerous and Mosiah wasn’t about to send them on some foolish quest. That is until he finally calmed down enough to inquire of the Lord if he should let them go. That’s when the Lord told him that their mission would result in great success and that the Lord would protect them. Because Mosiah had faith, he trusted them to the Lord and this resulted in his fears dissipating (Mosiah 28:4-8). And we know they were protected by divine power (Alma 19:23).
When I thought of this story, I realized that the appropriate antidote to fear is to inquire of the Lord and ask if he will provide or protect us in whatever circumstances of concern we face. If a spirit of peace rests upon us, we should not fear even if consequences result that are negative. Believe that the Lord is in control and trust the process. Every fear can be overcome by pressing forward with faith in Jesus Christ and believing in his divine power to change our circumstances and our very nature that we do not fear. That doesn’t mean you need to cross a canyon on a tightrope to prove it, but it means crossing the barriers of your life that hold you back from accomplishing your mission.
This also doesn’t mean doing dangerous things to overcome fears. There is a rational fear of dangerous things which we do not need to overcome. That fear is a protection for our mortal lives, but when we need to accomplish something difficult or dangerous, we can seek the Lord’s help and protection and press forward. Sometimes the protection lasts only until we have delivered a message and our work upon the earth is complete and culminates in termination of our mission such as Isaiah, Abinadi, or Joseph Smith. None of them feared what man could do, but feared God and completed their work in righteousness before servants of the devil took their lives.
We recall the story of Elisha and the young servant who had to overcome fear by faith through divine assistance. An army had surrounded them and the young man feared them and cried:
2 Kings 6:15 …Alas, my master! how shall we do?
16. And [Elisha] answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
17. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
Who surrounds us? Do we pray for angels to surround our family members for protection? We should every day. Heaven has blessings they are willing to bestow upon us, if we ask. Asking is a law of heaven.
Then Elisha prayed to the Lord and asked that the (spiritually blind) army around them be smitten with physical blindness and the Lord performed this miracle to defeat the army. They were then led to Samaria where they were surrounded by Israel’s army and their sight was restored. Now it was their turn to fear, yet Elisha told their armies not to attack but give them bread and water and let them go. Perhaps this is symbolic of contrition in recognizing their utter weakness before God, and then a symbolic conversion and sacrament. They never again bothered Israel (at least till the memory of this event was gone).
In our day, the spiritually blind rule. They live in fear because they do not fear God. As a result, they use fear as a tool of power. They believe in controlling others by generating fear in them. If a person feels enough fear, they will look for safety, which reminds me of this quote by Benjamin Franklin.
“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Exchange the word liberty with “agency” and you’ll understand the precise situation we find ourselves in today as a result of fearmongering from rulers in high places. Where is our faith? Do we cherish the gift of agency and trust in God, or do we trust in man which always results in ungodly fear and separation from God? Do we believe there are more that be with us than be with them?
Where is our faith? Where is our trust in God? The deceptions of worldly institutions should not result in misplaced faith in man, yet that is today’s world of media hype leading to fear which leads to control under the promise of safety. As a result, we will lose both agency and safety (or health). The Lord gave us this knowledge:
D&C 89:4. Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—
Conspiracies abound to destroy our health. We need to open our eyes to them.
Paul spoke of great examples of faith in Hebrews 11. He also mentioned something really interesting in verse 35.
Hebrews 11:35 “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:”
He clearly states there were miracles that happened to raise the dead when some were killed by the godless, and others endured tremendous torture for their faith, not giving in and accepting deliverance by denying their testimony of Jesus, so that they might obtain a better resurrection…
I used to wonder at the early Christians and their faith in being thrown to the lions or killed in terrible ways, but we have modern day parallels happening right now because people will not deny Christ or give in to the fear their governments are imposing on them. There are many regions of the world where being a Christian is a death sentence. I sit in a fortunate spot where that is not my lot in life yet, but I pray for the protection of Christians in these countries who cling to their faith in ways I am not called to endure.
I’m just finishing listening to the book “The Heavenly Man” which tells the remarkable story of a Christian man in China and the torture he and others endure for Christ and absolute miracles happening for them and those around them because of their great faith in Christ. I believe God is working through many faith filled people throughout the world to prepare us all for the second coming of Christ by overcoming the fear of the world. God is performing his “strange act” (Isa. 28:21) and amazing things are happening. Babylon is falling and terrible and fearful things are upon us. They are necessary to bring about a Zion people who have full trust in God. Eliminating fear and putting our full trust in Jesus Christ will free us from worry and doubt. It will let us see clearly when all around us is chaos. This is the foreordained path we must walk to have any hope of protection.
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