Monday, July 22, 2013

Tower Defense in Times of Peace

The Savior often taught in parables because stories help us relate to and understand His teachings. In the 101st section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord gives a parable about workers in a vineyard:1

In this parable, the workers do most everything that the Lord asks them to do. They plant the olive trees, they build a hedge, and they even get started on the foundation of the tower upon which one of them is supposed to keep watch. However, as the construction of the tower wears on, the workers began to doubt their Lord’s counsel. “It’s a peaceful time,” they reasoned together, “why should we build a tower to warn against enemies? We have none.” They even came up with a wise use of the money their Lord would save in not building the tower.

But all their reasoning did not save them from the enemies against which the Lord warned. Despite peaceful times and their money probably doing well in their investments, enemies came and destroyed the vineyard.

Where did the workers go wrong? These were hard-working men whom the Lord trusted to accomplish His work.

“Let us reason together”

The workers second guessed the counsel of their Lord and Master and began to lean unto their own understanding. “All is well in Zion,”2 they reasoned, and concluded that they knew better than their Lord. Do we second guess the Lord when His prophets give us counsel? Do we sometimes think we know better than they, making judgment calls from our limited knowledge rather than trusting the Lord who is omniscient?

Certainly, thinking for ourselves is no sin; on the contrary, we are expected to do many things of our own free will and bring to pass much righteousness. But when we do not understand, we should not use our own judgment alone, or even the judgments of our peers, but seek the counsel of our priesthood leaders, search the words of the prophets, and seek understanding of the Lord through prayer. “Come, saith the Lord, . . . and let us reason together that ye may understand.”3 Only in this way will we remain on the path of safety.

Let’s now explore two reasons why building a tower and a defense in times of peace is a good idea.

 “Wo be unto him who is at ease in Zion”

The workers thought that protection against enemies in a time when there were no enemies did not make sense. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,” the Lord told the people in Isaiah’s time, “neither are your ways my ways.”4 The Lord knew that enemies would come if not protected against. Our cars, businesses, and homes have locks and alarms, not to physically prevent the efforts of people who attempt to rob us each night, but to discourage people from even trying. Our country has an army and navy, not because terrorist groups try to fly bombers in every day, but because they may very well try if we didn’t have those protections in place.

I think it interesting to note that the parable never actually states that the workers decided not to build a tower, but “while they were at variance one with another they became very slothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord. And the enemy came by night…”5 Their failure to act immediately when given a commandment led to the destruction of the vineyard.

The same applies to building our own foundation for our own spiritual protection. We are counseled often to study our scriptures daily, to counsel with the Lord daily, to serve, spread the gospel, avoid any unclean thing, be examples, hold family home evening, eat together as a family, attend our Church meetings and serve faithfully in our callings. At times when temptations seem distant and when school is too hard and too busy, basketball season is getting exciting, or a deadline looms close, we may begin to reason that the Lord’s counsel through His servants is good, but unnecessary for us at that particular time. We may think that there are no enemies close by and that continuing to build our foundation is extra and unnecessary effort. Nothing could be further from the truth. As is taught in this parable, if not protected against, enemies will come.

“Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!”6

"When the devil shall send forth his mighty winds"

Perhaps an even more pertinent reason to build up a hedge and tower is to protect against enemies that will come regardless of our protections. We live in a world that is ever spiraling downward. We live in an age where avoiding the influences of the adversary is impossible. We may think that the daily temptations which we encounter on the internet and through other activities do not affect us. However, if not protected against, these small, daily temptations will chip at us almost undetected, until it is too late and the enemy has broken down our hedge and destroyed our vineyard. “Remember,” taught Helaman, “. . . that ye must build your foundation [upon Christ], that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds . . . it shall have no power over you.”

Trust in the Lord

For me, the overarching principle taught in this parable in the Doctrine and Covenants is taught in Proverbs:

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all they ways acknowledge him, and he will direct they paths."

Trusting in the Lord always is the only path to safety and eternal life. Building upon His rock is gives us the only sure foundation, “a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fail.”7

Let us act in all diligence when the Lord commands, without slothfulness. Let us reason with Him and gain understanding though meaningful prayer with Him. And let us gain the eternal rewards and blessings that He wishes to bestow upon us through our faithfulness.