The Lord's Side
The Lord has left no doubt in defining His side and where the Saints should be in their thoughts, words, actions, and practices. We have His counsel in the scriptures and in the words of the prophets. To ancient Israel, the Lord said through Moses: "I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil." (Deut. 30:15.) The Lord counseled His prophet Jeremiah to instruct the people: "Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death." (Jer. 21: 8.) That is the contrast; that is the choice. Either we are on the Lord’s side of the line or on the side of the adversary. Nephi declared, [we] "are free to act for [ourselves]—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life." (2 Ne. 10:23.) Yes, "men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." (2 Ne. 2:27.)
The line between those who are on the Lord’s side and those who follow the adversary has been with us from the beginning. Even before the creation of this world, the children of God divided themselves into two groups with different loyalties. One-third of the host of heaven followed Lucifer, separating themselves from the presence of God and from the two-thirds who followed the Son of God. (See D&C 29:36-39.) This division has persisted throughout the history of mankind and will continue until the day of judgment when Jesus comes again in His glory. We read in Matthew that all nations will gather before Him, and He will "separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." (See Matt. 25:32-34, 41.)
The Prophet Nephi tells us why many choose the wrong side of the line: "Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—-Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world." (3 Ne. 6:15.) The Lord has given us prophets to guide us and keep us from evil if we will accept and follow their instruction. The Lord would say to us today as He said to the ancient Israelites: "Be not afraid nor dismayed … for the battle is not yours, but God’s. The Lord will be with you. Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper." (2 Chr. 20:15, 17, 20; emphasis added.) In our conferences, we sustain the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators. The Lord has appointed them as watchmen to warn the people (see Ezek. 2:1-8; Ezek. 33:6-7) and as the "servant[s] of all" (D&C 50:26). He said, "whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." (D&C 1:38.)
One latter-day prophet, President George Albert Smith, said: "The spirit of the adversary is the spirit of destruction. There are two influences in the world. The one is the influence of our Heavenly Father and the other is the influence of Satan. We can take our choice which territory we want to live in, that of our Heavenly Father or that of Satan." President Smith then said, quoting his grandfather: "'There is a line of demarcation, well defined. On one side of the line is the Lord’s territory. On the other side of the line is the devil’s territory. … If you will stay on the Lord’s side of the line, you are perfectly safe, because the adversary of all righteousness can not cross that line.' What does that mean? It means to me that those who are living righteous lives, striving to keep all of the commandments of our Heavenly Father are perfectly safe, but not those who trifle with his advice and counsel." (In Conference Report, Oct. 1949, pp. 5-6.)
Other latter-day prophets have issued warnings, when inspired by the Lord, on such subjects as moral cleanliness, Sabbath observance, child and spouse abuse, homosexuality, abortion, and gambling. These statements are the word of the Lord through His prophets to help people avoid the pitfalls, sorrow, suffering, and misery of sin and error. The statements of the prophets are not given to compel, coerce, dictate, control, or infringe on any person’s right to choose.
Church leaders are guided by the Lord’s injunction in the Doctrine and Covenants: "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile." (D&C 121:41-42.) The prophets and other Church leaders never have misled the members on a principle of righteousness. Every principle is for our benefit. However, if we choose to ignore the prophets, we choose the consequences that follow. We have the God-given agency to either follow the prophets or not, but we cannot choose the consequences of exercising that agency. They will follow with absolute certainty. If we ignore the prophets, we become like the people the Savior chastised when he said, "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46.)
In addition to the scripture and the words of modern-day prophets, Latter-day Saints can discern clearly by the promptings of the Spirit the things they must do to be on the Lord’s side. To be on the Lord’s side, we need to learn that true principles will lead us to peace and happiness in this world, and to glory and exaltation in the world to come. We also need to learn that choosing the other side will only bring us problems, heartache, and sorrow. If we come too close to the line and tarry too long in the presence of evil, we are asking for trouble because we increase the likelihood that we might slip over the line into the territory of the adversary and become supporters of his cause instead of the Lord’s.
We must be cautious of seemingly small thoughts and actions that can lead to large consequences. Just a little anger, unkindness, or disobedience; a dishonest deed; a few unclean thoughts, or a little pornography; one experiment with drugs; a few lies, a little fraud; or a feeling of hate can lead us into the camp of the adversary. Giving just an inch here and there can put us close enough to the line that one slip will take us right over it. Young people who decide to experiment with only one cigarette, one dose of drugs, or one drink of alcohol—only one—often find themselves led into additional use, and in time they become addicted to a substance that controls them and that they can break only with great difficulty.
Now is the time to show which side of the line we are on. Alma said, "This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God." (Alma 34: 32.) We may need courage to take a stand. We may be unpopular. We may have some groups and associates who disregard our standards and even scoff at our ideals and beliefs. Isn’t it interesting that these groups consider it "freedom of expression" to profane the Lord’s name and use obscenities, but oppose prayer in public places. These groups combat public faith and prayer yet uphold the right of anyone to have an abortion. They openly oppose good and love evil.
Being on the Lord’s side means not only that we shun evil but that we seek and cultivate the good wherever it can be found, whether within or without the Church. In a recent conference address, President Howard W. Hunter said, "As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we seek to bring all truth together. We seek to enlarge the circle of love and understanding among all the people of the earth. Thus we strive to establish peace and happiness, not only within Christianity but among all mankind. In the message of the gospel, the entire human race is one family descended from a single God. Every person is a spiritual child of God. In this gospel view there is no room for a contracted, narrow, or prejudicial view. There is no underlying excuse for smugness, arrogance, or pride. We believe there is a spiritual influence that emanates from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space. (See D&C 88:12.) All men share an inheritance of divine light. God operates among his children in all nations, and those who seek God are entitled to further light and knowledge, regardless of their race, nationality, or cultural traditions. Elder Orson F. Whitney … explained that '[God] is using not only his covenant people, but other peoples as well, to consummate a work, stupendous, magnificent, and altogether too arduous for this little handful of Saints to accomplish by and of themselves.' (In Conference Report, Apr. 1921, pp. 32-33.)" (Ensign, Nov. 1991, pp. 18-19.)
Recognizing this broad view of who can do good, we must be cautious that we do not confuse our opposition to wrong-headed ideas or dangerous practices with opposition to sincere, good-hearted people. Many good and honest people of different faiths or of no faith at all are on the Lord’s side in seeking the betterment of their fellowmen and exerting a positive influence on society. As I come to the close of my remarks, I express my love for you and my earnest hope that you always will be on the Lord’s side, on the side of truth and righteousness. I admonish you to follow the prophets, to heed their counsel and give your attention to their warnings. All they say and do is for your benefit. Be grateful for the good that people do everywhere, whether to serve society generally or in behalf of the Church. Always be tolerant and considerate of the views and beliefs of others, recognizing each one as a son or daughter of God.