The Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor said, “To the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.”1
I shy away from abrasive discourse. These days especially, I work hard to keep myself from jarring speech. There is so much of it. But Samuel the Lamanite’s talk from the wall (Helaman 13-15), made famous by the familiar illustration and his miraculous survival, was neither gentle nor avoidable. And the Lord ensured that he was heard. Fortunately, he spoke the truth.
Of course, Samuel’s audience of prosperous BC Nephites found the Lamanite prophet’s speech offensive, too. He spoke plainly of their sins, and clearly of Christ.
His old fashioned, Old Testament-style message has resonance today with its still unpopular messages, including:
• Nothing can save us from destruction but repentance and faith on Jesus Christ
• It’s easier to revere dead than living prophets
• Happiness is not found in sin
• We love our things more than the God who gave them to us. Riches without gratitude lead to pride and destruction
• We support “prophets” who flatter us and uphold our decisions, rather than those who admonish us
• We procrastinate repentance
• Christ is coming. He is our pathway to Life.
So I’ve been thinking: Am I addicted to soft messages, to ideas I already cherish, and which do not challenge me? Am I open to inspired, even critical voices? How much do I let style get in the way of the content of messages? To whom should I be listening more?
Also, to reverse the situation, there are times when the Spirit may direct me to speak plainly “the words of the Lord which he doth put into my heart” (Hel 13:5) to those not disposed to appreciate them.
As Latter-day Saints women, when and how might we may find ourselves with the opportunity to speak an unfamiliar or unpopular truth when prompted by the Spirit? Can we do so in the company of those who may disagree, regardless of the consequences?
Years ago, President Kimball foresaw a time of growth in the church when Mormon women would step forward and speak, reflecting “righteousness and articulateness in their lives.”2
That day is here, isn’t it? A day when, to add President Kimball’s perspective to D&C 1:20, “Every [wo]man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.”
I am elated to be among the female followers of the gospel of Christ with the privilege of speaking and being heard. I’m thrilled that our voices are expanding. And though I desire graciousness of speech, I do not want to be so careful that I understate those truths most important to me. I probably need a little more of Samuel the Lamanite’s courage.
Mercifully, unlike him, we are not usually called to shout to the hard of hearing, but perhaps we may speak more clearly and, as Amulek, “say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord.” (Alma 11:22)
A high, but worthy standard.
*I recommend M. Catherine Thomas’ discussion of the power of the Word in her chapter, “Is there not Thunder in the Word?” from The God Seed, Digital Legend, 2014.
1 Flannery O’Connor, “The Fiction Writer and His Country,” 1957.
2 Spencer W. Kimball, “The Role of Righteous Women,” Ensign, November 1979.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
Mohawk Junkie, Jessamyn Lau
“I’ve learned that boldness enacted from a place of peace can be good.”
Other Related Women’s Voices
Defenders of the Family Proclamation, Bonnie L. Oscarson
“I recently read the story of Marie Madeline Cardon, who, with her family, received the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ from the first missionaries called to serve in Italy in 1850. She was a young woman of 17 or 18 years of age when they were baptized. One Sunday, while the family was holding a worship service in their home high in the Alps of northern Italy, an angry mob of men, including some of the local ministers, gathered around the house and began shouting, yelling, and calling for the missionaries to be brought outside, I don’t think they were anxious to be taught the gospel—they intended bodily harm. It was young Marie who marched out of the house to confront the mob. They continued their vicious yells and demands for the missionaries to be brought out. Marie raised her Bible up in her hand and commanded them to depart. She told them that the elders were under her protection and that they could not harm one hair of their heads. Listen to her own words: ‘All stood aghast. ….God was with me. He placed those words in my mouth, or I could not have spoken them. All was calm, instantly. That strong ferocious body of men stood helpless before a weak, trembling, yet fearless girl.’ The ministers asked the mob to leave, which they did quietly in shame, fear, and remorse. The small flock completed their meeting in peace.”