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The Jonah Reflex
A little less than four weeks’ travelling brought us to the Missouri river. We crossed it on a steam ferry-boat, and encamped at the town of Florence, Nebraska, six miles above Omaha, where we remained about a week, making our final preparations for crossing the plains.
“The elders seemed to be divided in their judgment as to the practicability of our reaching Utah in safety at so late a season of the year, and the idea was entertained for a day or two of making our winter quarters on the Elkhorn, Wood river, or some eligible location in Nebraska; but it did not meet with general approval. A monster meeting was called to consult the people about it.
“The emigrants were entirely ignorant of the country and climate—simple, honest, eager to go to ‘Zion’ at once, and obedient as little children to the ‘servants of God.’ Under these circumstances it was natural that they should leave their destinies in the hands of the elders. … These men… with one exception, favoured going on. They prophesied in the name of God that we should get through in safety. Were we not God’s people, and would he not protect us? Even the elements he would arrange for our good, etc.
But Levi Savage used his common sense and his knowledge of the country. He declared positively that to his certain knowledge we could not cross the mountains with a mixed company of aged people, women, and little children, so late in the season without much suffering, sickness, and death… Savage was accordingly defeated, as the majority were against him. He then added: ‘Brethren and sisters, what I have said I know to be true; but, seeing you are to go forward, I will go with you, will help you all I can, will work with you, will rest with you, will suffer with you, and, if necessary, I will die with you. May God in his mercy bless and preserve us. Amen.’
You and I may know the right things to do– that is knowledge. By if you and I are intelligent, we will consistently do the right things. It is one thing to know what to do, but intelligence is consistently doing the right thing.
It important and good and necessary to know that the gospel is true. Intelligence is consistently being true to the gospel…
An acquaintance met J. Golden on the street one day and in conversation asked, "Do you believe that Jonah was swallowed by the whale?"
"When I get to heaven I'll ask Jonah," J. Golden answered.
"But," said the man, "what if is not there?"
"Then you will have to ask him," Golden quickly replied.
Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying,
Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
WOE to the bloody city! [Nineveh is] all full of lies [and] robbery; the
prey departeth not; The noise of a whip, and the noise of the
rattling of the wheels, and of the pransing horses, and of the
jumping chariots. The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword
and the glittering spear: and [there is] a multitude of slain, and a
great number of carcases; and [there is] none end of [their]
corpses; they stumble upon their corpses: Because of the
multitude of the whoredoms of the well-favoured harlot, the
mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her
whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts (Nahum 3:1-3).
The Jonah Travel Plan
Why did Jonah run?
I fled before unto Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
Do we cheer for the day when the wicked will “get theirs” rather than pray for their repentance?
Surely, as Latter-day Saints we must avoid the Jonah reflex. Moreover, knowing of and believing in the prophecies does not relieve us of the responsibility to do all we can to avoid the conditions which, unchecked, will bring them to pass.
Jesus . . . prophesied that in the last days, because of iniquity, the love of many would wax cold (Matthew 24:12). Yet we must not regard iniquity or human hardening and coarsening with a sense of inevitability
[In the story of the Prodigal Son], we can miss, if we are not careful, the account of an elder son, for the opening line of the Savior’s account reads, “A certain man had two sons”—and He might have added, “both of whom were lost and both of whom needed to come home.”
This [older] son is not so much angry that the other has come home as he is angry that his parents are so happy about it. …
No, he who has virtually everything, and who has in his hardworking, wonderful way earned it, lacks the one thing that might make him the complete man of the Lord he nearly is. He has yet to come to the compassion and mercy, the charitable breadth of vision to see that this is not a rival returning. It is his brother. As his father pled with him to see, it is one who was dead and now is alive. It is one who was lost and now is found.
Who is it that whispers so subtly in our ear that a gift given to another somehow diminishes the blessings we have received? Who makes us feel that if God is smiling on another, then He surely must somehow be frowning on us? You and I both know who does this—it is the father of all lies…It is Lucifer, our common enemy, whose cry down through the corridors of time is always and to everyone, “Give me thine honor.”
One observer has written: “In a world that constantly compares people, ranking them as more or less intelligent, more or less attractive, more or less successful, it is not easy to really believe in a [divine] love that does not do the same.
When I hear someone praised,” he says, “it is hard not to think of myself as less praiseworthy; when I read about the goodness and kindness of other people, it is hard not to wonder whether I myself am as good and kind as they; and when I see trophies, rewards, and prizes being handed out to special people, I cannot avoid asking myself why that didn’t happen to me.”
Most “thou shalt not” commandments are meant to keep us from hurting others, but I am convinced the commandment not to covet is meant to keep us from hurting ourselves.
I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me;
out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about; all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
A family moved into a house near us. The home was new, so I was part of the crew of Latter-day Saints who spent a number of nights putting in landscaping. I remember the last night, standing next to the husband of the family as we finished. He surveyed our work and said to us standing nearby, “This is the third yard you Mormons have put in for us, and I think this is the best.” And then he quietly but firmly told me of the great satisfaction he got from membership in his own church, a conversation we had often in the years he lived there.
In all that time, the acts of kindness extended to him and his family never ceased because the neighbors really came to love them. One evening, I came home to see a truck in his driveway. I had been told they were moving to another state. I approached to see if I could help. I didn’t recognize the man I saw loading household things into the truck. He said quietly as I drew near, “Hello, Brother Eyring.” I hadn’t recognized him because he was the son, now grown older, who had lived there, married, and moved away. And because of the love of many for him, he was now a baptized member of the Church. I don’t know the end of that story because it will have no end. But I know that it begins with love.