by Sharon Lindbloom
2 December 2020
In mid-November there was a lot of chatter about a then-upcoming online event promoted by the LDS church. One example of many:
“Global faith leader Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shares a simple way you can find hope and healing—no matter your circumstances. Next Saturday, tune in at 2:00 a.m. (Philippine Time) to hear a special message for the world.”
On November 20th (2020) President Nelson’s “Message of Hope and Healing” was broadcast several places online. Hundreds of thousands of people watched it live with great anticipation, and many more hundreds of thousands have watched it on YouTube since. The 11+ minute video message was one that President Nelson said he felt impressed to give, and it went something like this.
President Nelson spoke of his credentials as a retired surgeon – suggesting he knows a thing or two about healing.
He also spoke of his age – suggesting that he knows a thing or two about suffering and trials. He listed some of the “ills that plague our world…including [the pandemic,] hate, civil unrest, racism, violence, dishonesty and lack of civility,” and then proclaimed the remedy to “fix the many spiritual woes and maladies that we face: The healing power of gratitude. In a nutshell, President Nelson gave to the world the age-old advice to count our blessings.
Gratitude is an excellent attribute to have and to foster. There is no doubt that it does us great good to think about our blessings while turning our focus away from things we are missing or may have lost. President Nelson invited people to use social media and “Post every day about what you are grateful for, who you are grateful for and why you are grateful” (#GiveThanks). His goal in encouraging people to do this: “At the end of seven days, see if you feel happier and more at peace.”
I found President Nelson’s whole message to be rather odd. Not that it’s odd to encourage gratitude, or to suggest that people count their blessings, or even to “flood social media with a wave of gratitude that reaches the four corners of the earth.” All of this is to be expected around the Thanksgiving holiday and is, in fact, quite common — both among people of faith, and people without faith. What I found odd in President Nelson’s message was this: While he highlighted his accomplished credentials and spoke like a man qualified in medicine, science, and aged wisdom, he didn’t sound at all like a prophet of God (as he believes himself to be).
President Nelson did speak of God, and he made the point that our thanks-giving should be directed toward God. Yet while his message was advertised as one of “hope and healing…for the world,” it failed to proclaim the true source of our hope, which is the only source of our healing. Counting our blessings may make us “feel happier,” but it will not go far in making our souls “more at peace.” The apostle Paul wrote,
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
True and lasting hope, peace, and joy are found in God – in God Himself – not in the tangible blessings He may graciously grant us. This is a worthy message to deliver to a hopeless world.
God said through the prophet Isaiah, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). This is a worthy message to deliver to a fearful world.
The Psalmist wrote, “[The LORD] heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). This is a worthy message to deliver to a broken world.
Jesus said through the apostle John, “in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This is a worthy message to deliver to a restless world.
The apostle Paul wrote of Christ, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross” (Ephesians 2:14-16). This is a worthy message to deliver to a divided world.
The apostle John wrote, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17). This is a worthy message to deliver to a loveless world.
But President Nelson’s message to this desperate world was to recognize that things could be worse, so count your blessings.
The resounding message given to the world via the prophets and apostles of the Old and New Testaments is one of God’s goodness, justice, and mercy. It is of His holiness, His care for us, and His redeeming love. It is of His power, His sovereignty, and His unshakable faithfulness. It is a message that tells of our great God Who covers us with a multitude of great mercies.
Psalm 100:4-5 says,
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him. Bless his name for the Lord is good. His steadfast love endures forever and His faithfulness to all generations.”
This is the message a hurting world needs. This is the message President Nelson should have given. Biblical prophets pointed to God Himself as the cure for the “ills that plague our world.” Therefore, we are profoundly grateful, we are deeply thankful, because God is faithful.
Our hope, that is, our confidence, is in God; and that hope in the One Who is faithful is where a despairing world will find healing and peace.
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