At the time of the Civil War, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln said, “It is my constant prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side” (Abraham Lincoln: Man of God, 385).
Are you on the Lord’s side?
First Samuel 17 deals with a battle we almost all learn about as we are growing up. It is a dramatic story. It is the story of David and Goliath.
Here are all the troops—the Israelites on one mountain and the Philistines on the other. Goliath is coming down the hill to meet David, and David is coming down his hill to meet Goliath. Goliath has his armor, his spear, and his sword. David is armed with only his sling and a little bag with five smooth stones in it.
“And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
“Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
“This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; … that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Sam. 17:43, 45–46).
David was strengthened by the Lord. He became a great king and a great religious leader.
David was a good man for much of his life. He had great accomplishments. But David went out on his balcony and glanced at Bathsheba. He could have turned away, but instead he continued to look. He wanted Bathsheba, and he ultimately had her. Then he sent her husband, Uriah, into battle where he felt Uriah surely would be killed. In fact, he was killed. That freed David to marry Bathsheba, and he did. David realized he had done wrong. In his heart, he knew he had sinned.
This man who as a boy was the slayer of Goliath, who later was a great warrior, who was king, who united all Israel, pleaded with the Lord for mercy. He petitioned the Lord saying:
“Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
“Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me” (Ps. 51:9–11).
David, a great man of such tremendous ability and potential, recognized that through his wrongdoing as a mature man he had lost the relationship he had with his Father in Heaven. That relationship allowed him to have sufficient faith to personally challenge Goliath, sufficient faith to lead great armies, and sufficient faith and the Spirit of the Lord to compose beautiful psalms and to do all the things which he had done in an otherwise seemingly great life. Now, by his sin, he had cast away his ability to call upon the Spirit. It reminds us of the New Testament verse: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
If we know the symptoms of losing the Spirit, and if we watch what is happening to us, we can guard against it; and we can protect ourselves from falling into that situation.
When I was a missionary, as my companion and I were studying, we came across a four-word verse: “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thes. 5:19). We thought that was an intriguing verse and that quench was an interesting word. As we would walk along tracting, if we found ourselves being somewhat light-minded, one of us would say to the other, “Quench not the Spirit.” It became a phrase that would come up whenever we found ourselves beginning to say or do things we felt we shouldn’t. That phrase has continued to come to my mind at such times throughout the rest of my life.
There are a number of verses that deal with the opportunity or problem of losing the Spirit.
“For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
“Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven;
“And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts” (D&C 1:31–33).
Applying this verse in the Doctrine and Covenants to David, with all the things David had done, the time came when the Spirit quit striving with him. He realized what he had lost in his life.
Nephi warned Laman and Lemuel that Jerusalem could lose the Spirit and what the results would be in these words: “For behold, the Spirit of the Lord ceaseth soon to strive with them; for behold, they have rejected the prophets, …” (1 Ne. 7:14).
The inhabitants of Jerusalem lost the Spirit because they were rejecting the prophets. How might we find ourselves rejecting them? By failing to follow the guidance and direction of the prophets.
Today we can likewise harden our hearts against the Holy Spirit by doing things in our lives we know are wrong. We can reach a point where the Holy Spirit is prompting us so we will recognize we are doing wrong, yet we don’t want to hear that, so we let the Spirit have no place in us.
It can happen to anybody. It happened to Joseph Smith. Over a very small thing, he temporarily lost the Spirit. He found he couldn’t translate unless he was worthy to be guided by the Spirit of God. David Whitmer recounted this situation. He said “something went wrong about the house and [Joseph] was put out about it. Something that Emma, his wife, had done. Oliver and I went upstairs and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation, but he could not do anything. He could not translate a single syllable. He went downstairs, out into the orchard, and made supplication to the Lord; was gone about an hour—came back to the house, and asked Emma’s forgiveness and then came upstairs where we were and then the translation went on all right. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful” (A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:131).
Joseph Smith must have felt he had lost the Spirit. He had to go and think about it, ponder it, pray about it, come in and apologize to Emma, and then he could translate again.
Every day we have to work to keep the Spirit. Every day there are things that can happen in our lives. Like David, we may see something that we were not looking for: a poster, a magazine, or something on the street. It may cause us to lose the Spirit. We have to work to keep it, to bring it back, to have it in our lives. To be on the Lord’s side, as Lincoln said, is what is important.
Each week as we listen to the sacrament prayer, we can consciously place ourselves among those who “witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (D&C 20:77).
As we look around us today, we can see men and woman of accomplishment who in a moment of temptation have fallen as did David. Let that not be the case with any of us. We must work hard to be on the Lord’s side and have His Spirit in our lives.