Mormons, please consider the lesson of the unwise bee.

By Sharon Lindbloom
13 February 2017

The LDS Church’s February 2017 issue of Ensign magazine includes a parable written by LDS apostle James Talmage, originally published in the Improvement Era in September 1914. “The Parable of the Unwise Bee” poetically tells the story of a wild bee who becomes unwittingly trapped in Mr. Talmage’s office. No effort on Mr. Talmage’s part could coax the bee to fly out the room’s open window to freedom. Consequently, the bee died. Mr. Talmage explains,

“I knew the inevitable penalty of its mistaken opposition and defiance, and I had to leave the creature to its fate. Three days later I returned to the room and found the dried, lifeless body of the bee on the writing table. It had paid for its stubbornness with its life.”

A parable (in a faith context) is intended to illustrate a spiritual lesson, and that’s what Mr. Talmage’s parable has done for me, though probably not in the way he intended. Reading “The Parable of the Unwise Bee” I can’t help but think of how Mormons have responded to me as I have presented the biblical Gospel of grace to them. Explaining his parable, Mr. Talmage says,

“To the bee’s shortsightedness and selfish misunderstanding I was a foe, a persistent persecutor, a mortal enemy bent on its destruction; while in truth I was its friend, offering it ransom of the life it had put in forfeit through its own error, striving to redeem it, in spite of itself, from the prison house of death and restore it to the outer air of liberty.”

Yes! So well said. Latter-day Saints harbor mistaken ideas of what I am as a missionary to Mormons. They often believe I am a “foe,” an “enemy,” a “persecutor” bent on their destruction when, in fact, I am acting as a friend. And here’s why.

In responding to a Latter-day Saint who insisted that the intent of Mormonism Research Ministry is to hurt, offend and be rude to people, I explained,

“…the intent of our ministry is to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to critically evaluate the differences between Mormonism and biblical Christianity.

“In examining Mormonism, we have found that it does not conform to many of the essential teachings on the true nature of God, Christ, and salvation as laid out in the Bible. We are under conviction that Mormonism leads sincere people away from saving faith in the one true God. Therefore, Christ’s love compels us to expose spiritual error in an effort to bring people to His truth.

“At MRM we have a firm conviction that the wrath of God is real. We believe the Bible teaches that God will one day pour out His wrath on sin, and the result will be a godless eternity for all those who have turned away from His merciful and gracious offer of redemption in Christ. We believe Mormonism leads people away from worship of the one true God and calls them to trust instead in a false Christ. So we endeavor to explain the ways in which Mormonism deviates from the Bible in the hope that some may see and understand that Mormonism is not what it claims to be — it cannot provide true reconciliation with God leading to eternal life in His presence…

“What you see as offensive and rude…is really a loving attempt to call you to put away Mormonism’s false gods and embrace the one true God (Joshua 24:23).”

Like the “shortsighted” unwise bee of the parable, this Mormon (and others as well) believed me to be “a persistent persecutor.” But, in fact, I am a friend offering truth in place of falsehood in order that “the life [she] had put in forfeit through [her] own error” might be redeemed in Christ, setting her free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8).

In other words, that is, in the words of the (biblical) apostle Paul,

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

In Mr. Talmage’s parable, the unwise bee misunderstands kindly-offered help for an outright attack and angrily stings its would-be deliverer. Mr. Talmage explains,

“We are prone to contend, sometimes with vehemence and anger, against the adversity which after all may be the manifestation of superior wisdom and loving care, directed against our temporary comfort for our permanent blessing. …Disappointment, sorrow, and affliction may be the expression of an all-wise Father’s kindness.”

Mormons, as LDS apostle Talmage counsels, “Consider the lesson of the unwise bee!” The Christian who tells you the truth is not your persecutor. Rather, he or she is an expression of God’s kindness toward you, as God mercifully and patiently extends His hand, calling you to come home (Romans 10).