Note: This is a Coronavirus-free post. Also, this post is either a week late – or a week early. It is based on part of last week’s Come Follow Me curriculum, Jacob 7. I have thought about it all week, so I decided to post it anyway, because it does have some bearing on our upcoming General Conference.
Back when I was a younger man, living as a lumberjack in the wilds of Alaska, I leaned a thing or two about cutting wood.
Okay, not really, I was never a lumberjack, nor have I ever even been to Alaska. But, I did spend some time cutting and hauling firewood in a pickup truck to make some extra money, which is almost exactly the same as being a lumberjack. And I have a flannel shirt.
Which brings me to log splitting. There are several ways to do it, with the most obvious being an axe. However, when it comes to tough, gnarly logs, a wedge works better.
It is a simple process: You put the wedge in the log and whack it with a sledgehammer. The wedge penetrates the wood and splits it apart. Less messy and less dangerous than using an axe.
Why am I going on about wedges? Because of Sherem. Yes, the Sherem that Jacob dealt with in the Book of Mormon. (Jacob 7, to be precise.) (Let me plow through the scriptural part, then focus on the application.)
Sherem was one of the infamous antichrists, along with Nehor and Korihor, and, of course, their boss, Lucifer. Their opposition to Christ and His teachings earned them the title.
Each of the antichrists went about their work by using the principle of the wedge – just like in splitting wood. Their technique was to find, or create, an issue they could use to try and split the people apart, and away from the doctrines of Christ.
Each of them used similar wedges and similar styles. Sherem’s wedge was to convince people that they should be fixed only on living the Law of Moses, because there was no way of knowing if there was going to be a Christ. (Literally anti-Christ.) (Jacob 7)
Korihor used the same wedge, “Korihor began to preach unto the people that there should be no Christ.” (Again, literally anti-Christ.) (Alma 30:12)
Nehor took a little different approach, trying to split the people with two different wedges: 1) That the priests should be popular and supported financially by the people, (Alma 1:3) and 2) That they were all already saved, so they could relax. (Alma 1:4)
Those were their wedges, and every wedge needs a good sledgehammer. In the case of the antichrists, their hammers were their skills with words and their ability to flatter people into believing them. It also helped that they were very smart – oh, and they had the Devil’s help, too.
Sherem was described this way: “And he was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil.” (Jacob 7:4)
Sherem was busy among the people, trying to pound his wedge in deep enough to split them off from the truth – “that he might overthrow the doctrine of Christ.” (Jacob 7:2)
Enter the prophet Jacob. Jacob was not about to get sucked in by someone like Sherem, and his explanation is instructive for us. He said:
“And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken.” (Jacob 7:5)
And Jacob wasn’t shaken, and it all ended rather badly for Sherem.
What did Jacob have to resist Sherem’s slick-talking efforts? Experience, personal revelation and a deep knowledge of the scriptures.
Does that apply to you and me? I surely hope so. As we live our lives and gain experience, faith and increased knowledge, it makes it more possible to confront those who are attempting to drive wedges between us and the gospel.
Personally, I know what I have experienced in my life. I know that I have witnessed miracles. I have felt the presence of God and angels. I have witnessed the power of faith and the priesthood. I’m sure many of you have as well.
These experiences help us to be unshaken when hammers start pounding the wedges, trying to separate us from the gospel of Jesus Christ. In order to accept any of those wedges, and let them split us away from the gospel, we would be required to re-write our entire spiritual lives to fit that new narrative. Sounds unlikely, but it happens all the time.
Are we invincible? Of course not – but I do know that if we have – and remember – those testimony-making experiences, we will be more likely to discern the wedges and stand strong. (Insert invitation to keep a journal here.)
As Paul taught the Romans, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)
Paul was quite direct that nothing is going to split us off from the Lord, and that includes clever, slick-talking antichrists with well-placed wedges.
What does this have to do with General Conference? Plenty. For Jacob, his experience and knowledge of the scriptures and revelation helped him remain unshaken in the face of someone attempting to drive a wedge in the Church.
For us, our knowledge of the scriptures and the revelations and teachings of the living prophets can help us remain unshaken in the face of those attempting to drive wedges in the Church.
And there are many of those wedges, and even more who relentlessly pound on them.
Many of these wedges are inside of us, and tougher to spot. President Thomas Monson addressed this well in a talk called “Hidden Wedges.”
I am referring more to those overt wedges that are being used by those who desire to separate Christ’s followers from His Kingdom here on earth. Often, those wedges are not even recognized for what they really are, until the damage has been inflicted.
There are many outside of the Church who would use these “wedge issues” to try and sully the reputation of the Church, and pull people away.
There are others who use these same wedge issues to try and diminish the Church and its leaders – even while professing devotion – from within the Church.
Part of the reason Jacob was unshakeable in the face of Sherem was that he understood how revelation and prophecy work, and was familiar with them. He was able to discern Sherem’s attempted wedge and not get conned.
I invite you to listen carefully to Conference to see if any of the prophetic teachings call out any of the wedge issues that are currently causing division within the Church. For example, last October Conference, President Dallin Oaks reaffirmed the principles in the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” (link) He specifically pointed to the wedge issue of same-sex marriage. (link) I know that many who embrace and drive those wedges issues were not happy about it.
We are blessed to have prophets to help us identify the wedges that are being used to split us away from the gospel, and the Savior. If we listen to them, and heed their counsel, we can also avoid being conned.
Enjoy Conference. I know from personal experience and spiritual witnesses that the prophets are indeed, “watchmen on the tower,” that can see and warn us of challenges and societal wedges that we face currently, and those that are yet to come. (And if you don’t believe that to be the case, you haven’t been paying attention lately.)
Stay safe, happy and healthy.
PS: Join me next week for my Conference updates! I’ll be posting my immediate thoughts right after each session.