Monday, January 18, 2010

ZION: The Old Testament (Jeremiah 1 to Jeremiah 14)

The Old Testament (Jeremiah 1 to Jeremiah 14)

The Prophet Jeremiah

Of his prophetic ministry to Israel, about forty years in duration, culminating at about the time of the Babylonian captivity (587 B.C.), Jeremiah tells us:

Then the word of the LORD came unto me saying,
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. (Jeremiah's reluctance was not unusual, nor is his reference to his inability to speak: See Moses 6:27:34; Exodus 4:10-17; Isaiah 6:5-7).

It would seem as one studies the lives of the prophets, ancient and modern, that the acid test of their divine callings is whether or not they receive a prophet's "reward" for their labors. What is that reward? Consider the lives of Paul, Peter, Stephen, Christ, Joseph Smith, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses, Abraham, Noah, Alma, Nephi, or Moroni to name a few. Each is called to pass through the fires of rejection, self-doubt, persecution, and ultimately vindication only after the unfolding of history validates their prophetic utterances. Seldom does the population at large receive God’s messengers, and when welcomed at all only a relative handful recognize them.

Of these basic truths Jeremiah's life stands as a lonely powerful witness. Still a young man when called as a prophet (he was called during the thirteenth year of King Josiah's reign, about 627 or 626 B.C., making him a contemporary of Lehi in Jerusalem), he warned of an unidentified "evil" coming from the north, which would destroy Judah and Jerusalem. (See Jeremiah 1:13-16; 4:6; 6:1; 10:22).  For many years he warned of the impending doom, while even members of his own family, long wearied by the apparent non fulfillment of his prophecies, plotted against him to take his life in order to silence him. (See Jeremiah 11:18; 12:6; 18:18 23; 20:7-12).  So alone is Jeremiah in the midst of a wicked and rebellious Israel that even he begins to wonder if he has been deceived. (See Jeremiah 20:7-9).  In the midst of the crucible through which he is called to pass as he cries out in desperation to the Lord, comes this answer of little comfort:

If thou has run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?
For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even they have dealt treacherously with thee; yea, they have called a multitude after thee: believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee. (Jeremiah 12:5-6).

In other words, "Jeremiah, if you think things are bad now, they're only going to get worse." Not much comfort. It reminds one of the Lord's answers to Joseph Smith's outcry in Liberty Jail, when he was told his incarceration and mistreatment at the hands of his enemies, ". . .shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (D&C 122:7). Sometimes God's answers to his prophets are the tests. Joseph also learned that his trials had not yet afflicted him as severely as they did Job (see D&C 121:10), but perhaps only Job suffered as much self-doubt as Jeremiah. So abandoned does Jeremiah feel at one point that he curses the day he was born. (See Jeremiah 20:14-18, then compare with Job 3:3-4).

Much has been written about the suffering of prophets, but seldom do we really understand the reason why they are put to death. What is it that so arouses their peers? Is it because the prophets call the world to repentance? Such a simplistic notion is not a sufficient answer. Rather than death, most such prophets are paid a substantial fee for their preaching. Billy Graham comes immediately to mind, for example. No, there must be something more, and that something more is always the fact that they bear witness of the supernatural. In Christ's case he performed miracles in the presence of witnesses who could not explain, but sought to deny his power. True prophets earn the hatred of the world for their spiritual endowments of God's power, and then having the audacity to proclaim their witness of that divine investiture. In short, the world dispatches its blasphemers to serve and please the God whom they ignorantly worship. (See John 3:11; 8:53; 10:32-33, 36, 39; Acts 5:32; Acts 7:53, 56-58; Acts 22:22; JS-H 1:22-25).

Stephen uttered the prophetic words that sealed his fate when he said, "I see." (See Acts 7:56-60). Those words were his death warrant. Had he spent his life as the philosophical Billy Grahams of the world always have, merely denouncing the vices and failings of men, he might have died peacefully in his sleep. But Stephen saw and he knew. Those in the world hate and despise such certainty.

What was it that outraged the Jews when Paul came among them? These words:

. . . suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.
And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. (Acts 22:6-8).

Had Saul the Pharisee employed his doctoral credentials among the Jews by speaking as a Talmudic scholar, rather than bearing witness of what he had both seen and heard, he would never have become Paul the Apostle, nor suffered such a torturous demise. The minute Paul became a witness of the supernatural he was asking for trouble, and he received his prophet's reward. Christ himself met with a similar fate among his neighbors when he declared he was the fulfillment of Isaiah's Messianic prophecies, as we learned earlier. (See Luke 4:14-32).

We might do well to ask ourselves the question, "What is the difference between true and false prophets?" The simple response to that inquiry is to evaluate the degree of the man's sacrifice. A true prophet will go to his grave with his testimony on his lips, asserting his witness with his last breath and forgiving his tormentors, but false prophets cling to life with all they possess. (See Philippians 3:1-15).  True prophets will always forsake the ways and praise of mortal men. False prophets by contrast are always more concerned with their "Nielsen rating" among men, or the high value of their mortal life when faced with certain death. (See Helaman 13:24-29; also read the 6th Lecture on Faith).  Few false prophets are willing to sacrifice their lives, while true prophets count it a blessing.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland recently characterized this truth in an October 2009 General Conference address ("Safety for the Soul") as evidence of his witness of the divinity of the Prophet Joseph Smith's calling.  Said he:

As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest — and last — hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?

Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 4:539). Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. (Ensign, November 2009, 88-90).

Like Isaiah before him, and all the prophets that followed including Joseph Smith, Jeremiah's prophecies have application for us. In his words to ancient Israel there is a message for the Latter-day Saints today. Are we better than they were? Are we more devout, more spiritual, and more pure? Are we married to the Bridegroom yet? Have we like ancient Israel received our bill of divorcement? Have we played the harlot? Let each answer for himself.

Are we hearkening to the voices of these ancient prophets, despite the evidence we have suggested that they speak of us? In our day we think the prophets spoke to an idolatrous and weak-kneed Israel. We see their sins and weaknesses from the pinnacle of perfect 20-20 hindsight. In their day the prophets were rejected as dreamers who spoke of the wickedness of Israel in some far-distant future day, and thus neither dispensation of Israel likens the words of prophecy to them. We think the prophets are always talking about somebody else.

There is a sobering juxtaposition at work in these last days that bears further examination before we move on. In ancient Israel the true prophets were the anti-establishment figures who came among the chosen people to discomfit the church in their sins. Even in the early days of this dispensation Joseph Smith could not be considered anything other than “anti-establishment.”

I remember asking Lowell Bennion on one occasion many years ago to come to our ward to speak in sacrament meeting. His question of me still burns in my memory to this day. He asked, “Do you want me to afflict the comfortable or to comfort the afflicted?”

There is ample evidence to suggest that modern Israel has replicated and perhaps exceeded their ancient counterparts in our love affair with the world. While it may appear to some critics of the Church (I am not one of them) that the modern prophets since the turn of the twentieth century have capitulated to the exigencies of the world in order to fulfill our mandate to take the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people, like all illusions this one is also a mirage. It is not the prophets whose hearts are set upon the world, it is the hearts of the people they serve. We assume that we must make a complete break with our history in order to preach a more acceptable gospel that renounces plural marriage (the hallmark of our “weird” past).

We might do well to let go of our moral relativism and pay attention to what is going on around us. The world appears to be on a slippery downhill slope. Judge Robert Bork said it well with the title of his recent book, Slouching Toward Gomorrah. Rather than abhorrent revulsion at the ways and praise of the world today, we seem to embrace it with all our hearts. Even William Bennett, today’s moral watchdog on the national scene, expresses his concern in the title of his recent book, The Death of Outrage.

The nuances are subtle and enticing. By welcoming the world to Salt Lake City in the 2002 Winter Olympic venue, it is said we were letting our light shine and not hiding our light under a bushel. It was said this would be a good thing, to let the world know we are not the reprehensible and weird characters we have historically been painted to be. To the hard-liners – the so-called “Mormon fundamentalists” – who are still at this late date maintaining that the Manifesto was a shameful cave-in to the world, it would be well to acknowledge that we cannot go backward from where we are. Having made the decisions necessary to assimilate the Church into twentieth and twenty-first-century American civilization beginning with the Manifesto, we will play out the future by doing all within our power to bring the world to Christ to the degree that we can before the end comes, led by the inspiration of living Apostles.

President Wilford W. Woodruff put a simple question to the Latter-day Saints as he explained the reasons for giving up plural marriage. He said in part:

Some have thought that revelation had ceased. But this is not the case. The Lord is with us, and gives us revelation. . . I have received a revelation and a commandment from the Lord. . . the First Presidency of the Church and the Twelve Apostles are led and guided by the inspiration of the Lord, and the Lord will not permit me, nor any other man, to lead the people astray. (Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, 5 vols. [Burbank, Calif., and Woodland Hills, Ut.: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992], 2: October 25, 1891 at the Brigham City Quarterly Conference).

The Olympics were a triumph. That said, the Church’s “compromise” with the world seems nearly complete. The well-documented compromises made by the participants in the 2002 Winter Olympic bid process (most are members of the Church) are witness to that fact, but despite the rough start the Games were salvaged. Perhaps only the work being cut short in righteousness in this dispensation will ultimately separate us from our ancient idolatrous cousins in Israel. (See Romans 9:28; D&C 109:59; 52:11; 84:97). The good news in our day is that the priesthood keys are here to stay and will never again be taken from the earth. (See D&C 13; 138:44; 90:2-11; JS-H: 69).

The stone cut out of the mountain as witnessed by Daniel will continue to roll forth until it fills the whole earth. The stone won’t roll back uphill, nor will it gather moss. Make no mistake – we are on a collision course with our ultimate destiny. Let us not take comfort in our alliance with Egypt, for it will as surely fail us now as it did ancient Israel. (See Jeremiah 25:15-38, for example). Our only strength and comfort can be in God and his power – not in the arm of flesh we have come to love so much in these last days. I said the nuances were subtle and enticing. They are, but I reject the assertion by some that the Church is in a complete state of apostasy.

Having commented on our current sins as a people, however, let us not become discouraged. This is not a “last days” phenomenon. It has forever been the case since Satan seduced Adam and Eve in the Garden. When confronted for partaking of the forbidden fruit by Elohim, Adam's defense was, "The woman thou gavest me, and commanded that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree, and I did eat." When Elohim questioned Eve, her response was, "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." (See Moses 4:15-19).

It is always somebody else's fault, repentance is for the other guy, and our sins are only human idiosyncrasies. Whose fault is it that all mankind is fallen? Who are we blaming when each of us partakes of the forbidden fruit? Will we see ourselves in the mirror of prophecy? When will we seek God and Zion instead of Satan and Babylon? When will we stop justifying ourselves in our sins and repent? That is the question that has confronted every dispensation from the beginning. It is not merely a global question – individually it is time to re-examine our own hearts. We are nothing as a people, if not consistent.

JST Jeremiah 3:6-20

Compare Jeremiah's words, and ponder the possibility that he may be speaking to the Latter-day Saints in our day:

The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.
And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.
And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.
And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.
And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.
Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.
Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.
At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.
In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.
But I said, How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? and I said, Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me.
Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 4:3-8, 30-31

Jeremiah continues his rebuke of Israel in these verses, and warns that Israel must “circumcise the foreskins of their hearts,” a graphic metaphor to teach all men that it is not enough to confess God with our lips. We must serve him will all our hearts in addition to conforming to all the outward ordinances. (See Paul's discourse on this subject in Romans 3-4). The translation in the Jerusalem Bible is particularly excellent). The Jews stumbled at the foundation stone of Christ. Many do the same in the Church today.

Jeremiah continues his appeal to Israel in the concluding verses with a much-used metaphor of the earth likened to a woman taken in travail, struggling as with her firstborn to bring forth Zion in the last days. (See D&C 136:34-36; Moses 7:48). Any parent will verify that childbirth the first time is much more anxious and uncertain than with subsequent births. So shall it be with the establishment of Zion.

For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities.
Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction.
The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant.
For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl: for the fierce anger of the LORD is not turned back from us.

And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life.
For I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail, and the anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion, that bewaileth herself, that spreadeth her hands, saying, Woe is me now! for my soul is wearied because of murderers.

Jeremiah 6:1-4, 22-25

Jeremiah continues his assertions that "evil from the north country" will fall upon Jerusalem and destroy the city for her iniquity. He describes the conquering force as "a great nation," and declares they are "cruel and have no mercy." If Jeremiah, like Isaiah, can be read typologically (that is, his words are a type for our day), one can only speculate on which nation the modern-day protagonist is. Remember, it is easy for us to discern Jeremiah's warning to Israel looking back, but he told this story about an evil from the north country for thirty years before it came to pass. He tells them to prepare for war, but they are past feeling, and he is ridiculed and rebuked.

O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Beth haccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction.
I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman.
The shepherds with their flocks shall come unto her; they shall pitch their tents against her round about; they shall feed every one in his place.
Prepare ye war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon. Woe unto us! for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out.

Thus saith the LORD, Behold, a people cometh from the north country, and a great nation shall be raised from the sides of the earth.
They shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for war against thee, O daughter of Zion.
We have heard the fame thereof: our hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of us, and pain, as of a woman in travail.
Go not forth into the field, nor walk by the way; for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side.

The message of Jeremiah's life and ministry is that he was tested by the trial of his faith to the uttermost, but he remained faithful despite his self-doubt. He was a lonely man with a lonely ministry, and his was a lonely voice cast adrift on a sea of mistrust, persecution, and abominations. History is evidence of his vindication. Will we make the same mistake as the ancients?

Another parable, another message for our day:

The Parable of the Dam:

A certain village was located below a hydroelectric dam on a large river in a nearby state. The dam had been designed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in cooperation with the United States Department of the Interior. The senior project engineer assigned to the development of the dam had worked with a large staff of engineers and others, and together they had been instrumental in the design, the engineering, and ultimately the construction of the dam and the hydroelectric facility.
The years of research, development, and construction of the dam were represented by an exhaustive and comprehensive series of drawings, calculations, environmental impact studies, and blueprints that had been filed with the local public library in the event anyone should desire to verify the findings and recommendations.
From its inception the senior engineer cautioned the public about the ultimate demise of the dam, knowing as he did that the location and vulnerability of a man made dam had the potential of massive death and destruction. For over forty years after its construction the senior engineer warned of the dam's eventual failure, and as the years passed more and more evidence surfaced to affirm his conclusions. His warnings for the most part, however, fell upon deaf ears. No one in the village was interested in the possibility that their comfortable lifestyle might change, even though the warnings were coming from the man they knew had conceived, designed, and built the dam.
Then one day a young boy moved into the village with his family. He was a studious young lad, quite above average for his age, but nevertheless unschooled in the ways of the world and men. He stumbled across the detailed and complex set of plans for the dam one day while at the library. He studied them for months in his spare time, and concluded that the senior project engineer's concerns were justified. In fact he began to state his belief based upon his study of the blueprints that the dam would fail during a specific period of time in the next year. He urged the townspeople to begin making immediate preparations for the catastrophe.
Now the senior project engineer had been instructing the people for years about what to do simple things that might save their lives if they heeded his counsel but few had listened to him. They all listened to this boy's ideas, however, because they thought it was so curious that a boy would make such a precise prediction about the dam's failure.
And it came to pass that the people began to call the staff of engineers, seeking out the opinions of the experts about the things the boy was saying. Although the plans and blueprints were available to all who cared to examine them, the people thought they could save themselves some time and effort by just asking one of the staff members. Many of the people explained they were just too busy to study all those complex documents themselves, even though the engineers had invited them to do so for many years. It was so much simpler to call an expert and get somebody else's opinion.
The staff of engineers was divided on their opinion of the boy's prediction, however. There seemed to be no unanimity of thought. Dissension and confusion resulted, as accusations and insults were heaped upon the boy. Some suggested that the boy was mad, others insisted that he no longer be permitted to live in the town, and still others implied he should be put in prison to silence him. Some of the older staff members who had been part of the original team, however, knew the boy's warnings were correctly deduced from the engineering design, and merely referred their questioners to the documents in the library, hoping the people would form their own conclusions.
And it came to pass that the senior project engineer also agreed with the young boy's conclusions, but remained silent while the controversy boiled among the townspeople. And the night before the dam broke he issued a news release giving specific instructions to the townspeople about how to escape the destruction of the dam failure. Those who had listened to his consistent instruction over the years were prepared to respond to the measures he had suggested in his news release. Those who had turned a deaf ear to his warnings were swept away in the flood waters, because they could not make preparations quickly enough.
Today the world is a village downstream from a hydroelectric dam destined to fail. The senior project engineer has given counsel and specific instruction to the townspeople, and every now and again a boy discovers the crack in the dam.
He who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Jeremiah 8:18-22

Jeremiah, like all the prophets, knows destruction is inevitable, is resigned to Israel's fate, and senses the hopelessness of his situation. Still, he continues to teach the word he has been called to proclaim. (See Jeremiah 15:16; Ezekiel 3:1, 3; Revelation 10:9-10). It was not a popular message in his day, nor is it in ours. He speaks here as though he is already held captive with his people in a far country, so certain is he of the fulfillment of his prophecy:

When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me.
Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the LORD in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities?
The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.
For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me.
Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?

Jeremiah 9:17-22

It is little wonder Jeremiah excited the passions of the people against him with rhetoric such as this passage. In their day of peace and tranquility, prosperity and great learning, it should not be surprising how unpopular he was.

Hugh Nibley offers these thoughts about recognizing the voice of a true prophet:

It was a test that few have ever passed: the humiliating test of recognizing a true prophet and taking instruction from the weak and humble things of the earth. Was the wondrous modern age of applied science that began in the nineteenth century to be excused from taking the same test of authority? Remember that the prophets of old came to generations that were very modern in their thinking, smart and sophisticated, advanced, liberated, intellectual; the Hellenistic world, if anything, surpassed our own in those qualities of social advancement. (Nibley, The World and The Prophets, [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1974], 7).

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Consider ye, and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women, that they may come:
And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters.
For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, How are we spoiled! we are greatly confounded, because we have forsaken the land, because our dwellings have cast us out.
Yet hear the word of the LORD, O ye women, and let your ear receive the word of his mouth, and teach your daughters wailing, and every one her neighbour lamentation.
For death is come up into our windows, and is entered into our palaces, to cut off the children from without, and the young men from the streets.
Speak, Thus saith the LORD, Even the carcases of men shall fall as dung upon the open field, and as the handful after the harvestman, and none shall gather them.

Jeremiah 14:10-12, 17-22

The message through Jeremiah to backsliding Israel in this chapter is almost the precise message to modern Israel through his Prophet Joseph Smith. Drought and famine have overtaken the land at this point because of the wickedness of the people, and Jeremiah cries out for deliverance with all the faith he can muster, yet he knows full well why the Lord has ceased to listen. When we read these prophetic verses are they a present-day mirror, or merely a window on the past to us? In 1833, gathered in Missouri and suffering great persecution at the hands of their enemies, the Lord gives this explanation to the Prophet:

They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.
In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.
Verily I say unto you, notwithstanding their sins, my bowels are filled with compassion towards them. I will not utterly cast them off; and in the day of wrath I will remember mercy. (D&C 101:7-9).

Multiple choice question: Is the Church (a) slower to hearken, or (b) quicker to hearken to the voice of the Lord through His servants than it was in 1833? Or (c) who cares?

His words through Jeremiah in this chapter are essentially the same message:

Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.
Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.
When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.

Therefore thou shalt say this word unto them; Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.
If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword! and if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with famine! yea, both the prophet and the priest go about into a land that they know not.
Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul lothed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble!
We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee.
Do not abhor us, for thy name's sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.
Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.

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