Fear Not, I Am with Thee
Contributed By By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer
Faith in Christ overcomes fear of the future, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve told graduates of Brigham Young University–Hawaii during commencement exercises on December 15. More than 270 students from around the world participated in this year’s winter graduation.
Recalling a story about Stonewall Jackson, a general in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, Elder Bednar shared how the war hero’s famous words, “Never take counsel from your fears,” have helped more than just the soldiers he led.
“Many military historians consider General Jackson to be one of the most gifted tactical commanders in U.S. history,” Elder Bednar said. “As a young man he fought in the Mexican-American War, and during the Civil War he served with General Robert E. Lee and commanded Confederate troops in a number of key battles with the Union forces.”
Once, as General Jackson was discussing strategic options with his associates, a commander began his recommendation with the statement, “I fear we will not find our wagons tonight.”
General Stonewall responded to the words “I fear” in his colleague’s observation with a penetrating truth that ultimately became the general’s trademark: “Never take counsel from your fears.”
“We live in a world that grows increasingly confused and chaotic, ever more evil and dark,” Elder Bednar said. “Nothing could have emphasized that truth more than the tragic events that occurred yesterday in Connecticut.”
Elder Bednar shared the words of President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve:
“The world is spiraling downward at an ever-quickening pace. I am sorry to tell you that it will not get better.
“I know of nothing in the history of the Church or in the history of the world to compare with our present circumstances. Nothing happened in Sodom and Gomorrah which exceeds in wickedness and depravity that which surrounds us now. Words of profanity, vulgarity and blasphemy are heard everywhere. Unspeakable wickedness and perversion were once hidden in dark places; now they are in the open, even accorded legal protection. At Sodom and Gomorrah these things were localized. Now they are spread across the world, and they are among us” (“The One Pure Defense,” address to CES religious educators).
Elder Bednar added some of his thoughts: “As we consider so many of the things that are occurring all around us today, we could perhaps find ample reasons to be afraid, to hesitate, and to wonder if things in our lives can indeed turn out the way we have long hoped they would turn out.
“As you now prepare to go forth from BYU–Hawaii to work and to serve and to learn, some of you may question or lack confidence in your own ability to succeed temporally and spiritually. Or perhaps you wonder if the Lord’s promises of support and guidance—which you readily recognize and acknowledge in the lives of so many other people—will likewise be evident in your life.”
An individual may be uncertain about pursuing an opportunity because they cannot foresee all of the details about how things will work out, causing them to be reticent to start and take the first steps on that path. Or they may be so concerned about making a mistake that they fail to act in faith and press forward, increasing the likelihood of the very failure one fears.
“To not take counsel from our fears simply means that we do not permit fear and uncertainty to determine our course in life, to affect negatively our attitudes and behavior, to influence improperly our important decisions, or to divert or distract us from all in this world that is virtuous, lovely, or of good report.
“To not take counsel from our fears means that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ overrules our fears and that we can press forward with a steadfastness in Him. To not take counsel from our fears means that we trust in God’s guidance, assurance, and timing in our lives.”
Direction, protection, and lasting joy come as individuals learn to not take counsel from their fears, he said.
“As we exercise faith in Christ and trust in His promises, we can walk into the dark with the absolute assurance that our pathway will be illuminated—at least far enough to take the next step, and then the next step and the next step,” he said.
Individuals will be steadfast and immovable as they move into ever more troublesome days ahead as they follow the principle of not taking counsel from their fears, he said. Prophets have repeatedly emphasized that faith in the Lord should replace fears.
Drawing from a survey of 1,100 young people between the ages 16 and 25, Elder Bednar spoke of current fears many are facing today. Among the top five were money issues, underachieving, loneliness, and war. The gospel of Jesus Christ provides the perfect remedy for one’s greatest fears, Elder Bednar said.
“In a world where so many fear being alone, how blessed we are as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments and are blessed to have the constant companionship—the companionship—of the Holy Ghost,” he said. “The Savior reassured His disciples: ‘I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up’ (D&C 84:88). … We are never alone. If we are faithful we need not fear—and we absolutely never need to fear being alone.”