There were times of difficulties, and it seemed the Spirit of the Lord often struggled among the branch members who in turn struggled with pressures within the community to relinquish their gospel standards. However, the work of the Lord continued, and the branch was blessed in many ways.
On the west coast of the south island of New Zealand is the small mining town of Westport. When I served part of my mission there, the branch of the Church in Westport was small and met in rented facilities. Often there would be less than twenty in attendance to meetings on Sunday. As there were no priesthood holders in town, my companion and I conducted the meetings. There were times of difficulties, and it seemed the Spirit of the Lord often struggled among the branch members who in turn struggled with pressures within the community to relinquish their gospel standards. However, the work of the Lord continued, and the branch was blessed in many ways.
For me personally, one Sunday in Westport stands out above all others. In our meeting that day we had a missionary couple visiting. The Nelson’s were a wonderful couple, and we loved having them come visit and appreciated their support in our small branch. They were from the Logan, Utah area and served several missions during their retirement years. I don’t know why this day was to be different—maybe it was the Spirit the Nelsons always brought with them, or it was something that needed to be taught the branch at that time. My testimony was certainly strengthened as I experienced the power of the Spirit and the love of the Lord.
There have been many times in my life where I have felt inspired to say something, but this day was to be special. As I began my prepared thoughts I began to recognize the sweet whisper of the Spirit. As my talk continued, I realized I was turning pages in my scriptures to verses I had not prepared to read. At this point I distinctly remember looking around the room and then at Elder Nelson and thinking I must be giving an excellent talk—everyone was listening. That is when I realized that I was still speaking, but I didn’t know what I was saying. At that point I began to listen to what I was saying and joined with the others in being taught by the Spirit.
The message that day to our small branch was one of peace, love, and hope. One scripture I remember reading to them contains the words of Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith while he was translating the Book of Mormon. “Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward. Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you. Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Amen’ (Doctrine and Covenants 6:33–37).
I don’t know if anyone in Westport will remember that day, but I will never forget it. As I “liken all scriptures’ unto myself as Nephi directed us to do (1 Nephi 19:23–24), I feel the Savior’s love in the words, “fear not.’ Today, as I read the Book of Mormon, the message to “fear not’ is very clear. Nephi declared that as the wicked destroy themselves (1 Nephi 22:13), those who “fight against Zion shall be destroyed’ (1 Nephi 22:14). My faith is strengthen in the Lord as I read that “he will preserve the righteous by his power . . . Wherefore, the righteous need not fear’ (1 Nephi 22:17). And again, Nephi repeats nearly the same words as if to emphasize that the Lord will indeed keep his word “the righteous shall not perish . . . they who fight against Zion shall be cut off’ (1 Nephi 22:19).
There are many scriptural accounts of the Lord preserving the righteous. The scriptures give evidence that strengthens our faith that the Lord will keep his word. The righteous need not fear. “Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you . . . they cannot prevail’ (Doctrine & Covenants 6:34). As we move forward with courage in the faith of our Lord, we will hear the words, “Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love’ (Doctrine and Covenants 6:20). The Apostle John wrote, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear’ (1 John 4:18).
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May we strengthen our faith in the Lord and know that “he will preserve the righteous by his power . . . Wherefore, the righteous need not fear’ (1 Nephi 22:17) and feel encircled in the arms of His love.