The Ark and Fighting for the Sacred

Go with me here: Imagine for a moment that Indiana Jones did NOT rescue the Ark of the Covenant from the Nazis, and that it is NOT hidden away in a vast government warehouse. If that’s not true, then what became of the actual Ark of the Covenant, the ancient sacred chest that carried the stone tablets upon which Jehovah wrote the 10 Commandments?

One of the theories that I find most interesting, and unproven, is that it has been hidden away in a city in Ethiopia for thousands of years:

“Through the centuries, Ethiopian Christians have claimed that the ark rests in a chapel in the small town of Aksum, in their country’s northern highlands. It arrived nearly 3,000 years ago, they say, and has been guarded by a succession of virgin monks who, once anointed, are forbidden to set foot outside the chapel grounds until they die.” (link)

Okay, that’s kinda weird, but how did the Ark even get to Ethiopia? “According to the Kebra Nagast, a great Ethiopian text dating back many centuries, the fate of the Ark was tied up with King Solomon’s love life. The wise monarch had a romantic dalliance with the Queen of Sheba, who bore him a child: Menelik I, emperor of Ethiopia.

On reaching adulthood, Menelik decided to visit his father in Jerusalem, and ended up bringing the Ark back with him to Africa. After being kept for several hundred years on the island of Tana Qirqos in Ethiopia, the Ark was eventually brought to the town of Axum, where it has remained to this day, shielded from the eyes of everybody except an appointed “guardian”.” (link)

I have always found this legend to be curious, and have watched several documentaries on the whereabouts of the sacred Ark. Why am I bringing it up now? Because yesterday I read an article about some atrocities involving the town of Axum, and the chapel that supposedly houses the Ark.

Ethiopia is a mess, warlords and rebels are constantly at war with the government there, and the citizenry takes the brunt of it. It has been that way for a long time. Word of what is going on there can leak out very slowly, as technology and telephone lines are routinely cut in the conflict.

Apparently, last November, militias attacked the town of Axum. When the battle began, many of the people in town picked up whatever they could, sticks, knives, stones, and ran to the Church of St Mary of Zion, fearing that the militia would sack the church and take the Ark of the Covenant.

It sounds like the stuff of movies, right? I thought it was a cool story, until I read that over 800 people died that day, defending what they considered sacred. (Links to reports link, link, link.)

800 people? Witnesses say, “bodies with gunshot wounds lay in the streets for days in Ethiopia’s holiest city. At night, residents listened in horror as hyenas fed on the corpses of people they knew. But they were forbidden from burying their dead by the invading Eritrean soldiers.” (link)

Eventually they were able to bury the victims in mass graves.

Such barbarity. Such bravery. It is impossible to ignore the courage of dedication of those who rushed into the fray to save what they believed to be sacred. Their willingness to sacrifice themselves is heartbreaking and inspiring.

I read things like this and remind myself that it is a big world, and evil is ever-expanding. I can’t help but ask, “What sacrifices have I had to make lately to fight against evil?”

Not many.

I believe what the prophet David O McKay said, “The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.” I do, however, wonder that we might focus so much on these personal battles that we turn a blind eye to the battles waging throughout the world, you know, the “love thy neighbor” part.

One example, just last month, the new administration reversed the Mexico City Policy which now allows US funding to organizations to encourage and facilitate abortions around the world. (Elections have consequences, #thanksdanbarker)

I have friends who fight moral battles – not just in their own souls, but for the greater good of mankind. Some feel like they are tilting at windmills as the forces of evil continue to redefine and diminish the importance of God and family in society, but tilt they do. It is admirable. (Yes, I’m talking about you, Angela)

It is easy to live in my bubble, and tell myself that I am willing and able to stand up and fight if the time came, but my actions say otherwise. Those battles are raging all around us, and all across the globe. Right now.

As you know, I am plenty outspoken, and I’ll usually say what I believe needs to be said, and defend what I believe deserves defending. But, I will admit that I have often found myself cowed into silence out of fear of raising a ruckus that results in retribution against me. (Yes, it is real, I have been blocked by Facebook before, as have many others I know.)

What a remarkably effective tool of the adversary: Simply to shut up those who oppose him.

I have a gnawing feeling that tells me that it is not enough to focus on that which resides in my personal bubble, and that which impacts me personally. There is so much more.

Honestly, I don’t really know what that means, or what will become of those feelings, but when I read of people like the Ethiopians who were willing to sacrifice their lives, for what they considered sacred, I think back to my ancestors who did the same.

So little is asked of me, but I have been given so much. I am acutely aware of the scripture, “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.” (D&C 82:3)

There is a battle waging outside my door – whether I acknowledge it or not. I believe I will be held accountable for what I choose to do about it.

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  1. I’ve read about the ark in Ethiopia, really interesting possibility. I’ve been thinking about this post. If a mob was storming the Salt Lake Temple, for instance, would we feel the call to stand in front and be killed? I don’t know.

    I remember hearing the statement that many are willing to die for Christ, but how many are willing to live for Christ? To me that’s the daily choice we have to make. To stand where we need to stand. To lift where we need to lift. To testify, bless, build. Could that including dying too? Who knows.

  2. Little known fact in Utah… if you go to Denny’s and tell the server about your pioneer ancestry —and — giver her $2.75, she will give you a free cup of hot chocolate. Unless you are a Pharisee, pioneer ancestry has little to do with your salvation beyond giving you a blood related example to look up to.

    While working on my military history degree, I always tried to tie my papers to what I knew of family history (thanks granny, for do so much temple work dating to medieval times). My capstone was the “Utah expedition” aka Johnstown’s invasion aka Buchanan’s blunder.
    I have been blessed with being able to look at even more of the archives than most, although the Churxh is trying to digitize and release as much as possible. I truly hope that people take advantage of those resources and learn of the actual sacrifices made for the sake of the gospel. Beyond the snippets that we might get from church magazines or General conference talks, there are so many examples and it is truly humbling. We have been spoiled for the last 100 years. I fear for what my grandchildren will have to endure.

  3. The news about Ethiopia is so desperately sad. With the new executive order that has taxpayers funding abortions and pushing abortion in our new foreign policy is ideological colonization and just adds to this sadness. It is happening so swiftly.

    Brad, you’re right, we must do more. Atomic Mom’s comments are spot on and very useful for parents with children in school.

    Thank you for this post. I know I have lots of work ahead!

  4. Thank you, once again, for your comments.

    You raised some very thought provoking questions.

    You asked/said “What sacrifices have I had to make lately to fight against evil?”.

    I think the difference lies differently for us than those in Ethopia or for our ancestors who crossed the plains or others who were asked to make some very difficult sacrifices, many of whom gave their very lives.

    As we consider what sacrifices we make, it might be less physical sacrifice for us but more of a moral sacrifice. Consider our Prophet’s counsel to be worthy of and carry a valid Temple recommend, even though we aren’t able to do the proxy work in the Temples right now. You’re manking plenty of sacrifices to keep yourself worthy of that recommend. PLENTY!! Just not the same type of sacrifices as others are making.

    This leads me to thoughts of the coming of Christ to Adam-ondi-Ahman.

    Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:

    Before the Lord Jesus descends openly and publicly in the clouds of glory, attended by all the hosts of heaven; before the great and dreadful day of the Lord sends terror and destruction from one end of the earth to the other; before he stands on Mount Zion, or sets his feet on Olivet, or utters his voice from an American Zion or a Jewish Jerusalem; before all flesh shall see him together; before any of his appearances, which taken together comprise the second coming of the Son of God—before all these, there is to be a secret appearance to selected members of his Church. He will come in private to his prophet and to the apostles then living. Those who have held keys and powers and authorities in all ages from Adam to the present will also be present. AND FURTHER, ALL THE FAITHFUL MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH THEN LIVING AND ALL THE FAITHFUL SAINTS OF ALL THE AGES PAST WILL BE PRESENT. It will be the greatest congregation of faithful saints ever assembled on planet earth. It will be a sacrament meeting. It will be a day of judgment for the faithful of all the ages. And it will take place in Daviess County, Missouri, at a place called Adam-ondi-Ahman.
    Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man, 578.

    So, I’m wondering if this will be broadcast to all of the faithful members of the church, similar to how the Temple dedications are now being shared with specific members in that particular area. All are given special invitation by their Priesthood leader (Stake President) and they are only available to those who hold a current Temple recommend (and those are checked at the door when you enter).

    I sure think the time is coming quickly! That Temple recommend just may be our ticket to that glorious meeting.

    And I sure want to be part of that great meeting.

  5. Great read, Brad. And interesting thoughts from Atomic Mom. BUT … these ideas of sacrificing and fighting for what we believe is right are all very personal. I have had long discussions with Heavenly Father about my efforts at being a force for good in my world. What, exactly, am I called to do? There are no easy answers and I’m sure that the answers can/will change over time.

    My concern is that there is a feeling (expressed by Atomic Mom and others) that there is one answer for all of us – being more politically out-spoken, “out there,” vocal, expressing our views publicly. That may be the way for some to go, but not all and I’m not comfortable with telling others something specific like that.

    I went back to school to get a masters degree. My classes were filled with professors telling students what to believe and think about the world. I expressed my differing views carefully and at strategic times. I was not at a place to manage the fire that can be rained down on someone with opposing views in those situations.

    I currently work in a career field with lots of SWJs (social justice warriors) who mistakenly believe that everyone working in that field think the same way. I do not. Though I love my work (seriously), I would be unable to continue to work if I were vocal about my differing views. This does not keep me from doing the work that I feel is so important and needed in the world – and it falls in line with what I feel the Lord expects of me at this time.

    I enjoyed your thoughts about sacrifice and what we (and others) can do/have done. It is definitely food for thought as I approach Heavenly Father (again) about what I need to be doing right now to make the world – my world – a better place.

  6. It rolls back into the counsel that President Nelson gave, that “In coming days it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting , and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” Thank you for your comments, Brad, and The Atomic Mom.

  7. I do believe that we need to stand up for what is right, but I also believe we need to be deliberate about it. Take for example the tiff that starts most years about what the holiday cup Starbucks uses. People get really wound up that it says Happy Holidays or nothing, or it’s just plain red. That’s not a battle worth fighting.

    But coming soon to a school district near you: critical race theory, comprehensive sex ed, rules have changed regarding trans people (you can go into whatever restroom/locker room based on how you identify — are we willing to stand up for our sons & daughters privacy?), we have the ever present assault on the family, female & male gender roles as outlined in the Family Proclamation are under even more attack. The school dist we live in uses a curriculum to teach “citizenship skills”. One of the lessons boldly states, “The traditional nuclear family of a married man & woman should not be taught as normal, or valued over other family structures”. When I saw that I asked for a meeting with several of the superintendents of our school district. As we met, I dissected the whole curriculum booklet page by page. They were honestly shocked that there might be people that did not agree with this very progressive, very anti-family curriculum. I didn’t change their minds, but I was able to advocate for the principles in the Family Proclamation, and reminded them there were a lot of families that do not agree with this “curriculum”.

    We’ve also seen massive censorship just in the last few weeks. We’re also going to be forced to really stand up for the principles of freedom outlined in the Constitution. And this might not be popular to say, but we will have to fight to get the freedoms back covid policies have taken away. (I live in New Mexico, we still can’t do most things here). I think each of us will need to follow the Spirit to know what we should be doing & where we can be most effective in standing up for what is right. That also includes getting involved in local issues ie: run for school board, city council, etc. We can’t leave things to other people, we can only do the work we should be doing.

    Sadly too, even in our own wards & stakes we will have to advocate for the truth as well.

    1. Maybe I’m naive but I really believe that the policies set up to curb the pandemic will go away once the danger is passed. We are still in the middle of it.

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