Faith, not fear

One of the least understood emotions is fear. Phobias abound. Some fears seem foolish to those not afflicted by them, others are profoundly real, terrifying and a genuine cause for alarm. But many of our fears and phobias can be alleviated, soothed with a kind word from understanding friends or family members, priesthood leaders and visiting teachers. We also can conquer many of our fears simply by facing those things we fear most.

The word fear is used many times in the scriptures, but it is important to distinguish between two different uses of the word.On one hand is the "fear of the Lord."

According to the Bible Dictionary in the LDS edition of the Bible, "The fear of the Lord' is frequently spoken of as part of man's duty . . . and is also described asgodly fear.'

"In such passages fear is equivalent to reverence, awe, worship, and is therefore an essential part of the attitude of mind in which we ought to stand toward the All-holy God." (Bible Dictionary, p. 672.)

"The fear of the Lord," according to Prov. 1:7, "is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." The psalmist also reminds us that He will "extend his mercy to those that fear Him" (Psalm 103:11).

President Spencer W. Kimball expanded on these scriptures when he said that the fear of God is "not a superficial, intellectual kind of acceptance, but a deep spiritual inner feeling of dependence and closeness; not a fear composed of panic and terror, but a fear of the Lord composed mostly of intense love and admiration and awesome nearness in a relationship of parent and offspring - father and son - father and daughter." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 73.)

On the other hand is the fear spoken of as something unworthy of a child of God, something that "perfect love casteth out." (1 John 4:18.)

Nearly 40 years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson counseled the members of the Church: "We live in a world of fear today. Fear seems to be almost everywhere present. But there is no place for fear among the Latter-day Saints, among men and women who keep the commandments, who place their trust in the Almighty, who are not afraid to get down on their knees and pray to our Heavenly Father. God is at the helm. I know it and you know it. Even during the days of persecution and hardship, the Lord has continually encouraged us to trust in Him to keep his commandments, to do that which is right and then to be unafraid." (Conference Report, April 1954.)

The scriptures contain many words to soothe our fears: "Fear not to do good . . . for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap;" (D&C 6:33). "Whosoever belongeth to my church need not fear." (D&C 10:55). And "If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear." (D&C 38:30.)

President Benson, in an address in Salt Lake City in 1978, reminded us: "We should act without any fear when we feel impressed to go ahead as the Spirit prompts us. Don't hesitate to move." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 168.)

President Benson also reminds us:

"The Lord has made it very clear that no man can assist with this work unless he is humble and full of love (see D&C 12:8). Humility does not mean timidity. Humility does not mean fear. Humility does not mean weakness. You can be humble and still be courageous. You can be humble and still be vigorous and strong and fearless.

"In the early days of the Church the elders were human also, and the Lord was not always pleased with them, as He made very clear in some of the revelations. But great teacher that He is, He would often commend them for the work they had done then correct them. . . . He said, `But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of men. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.'

"That is pretty plain, isn't it? Sometimes we have among [usT those who are afraid because of the fear of man, and if you permit yourselves to get that spirit of fear, the adversary will back you up. He will support you. He will encourage you in it until you get to the point where you are afraid to exercise your authority and to bear testimony regarding this message. Remember the promise made: `And they shall go forth and none shall stay them, for I the Lord have commanded them' (D&C 1:5). There is no place for fear. There is no place for discouragement, because you can't fail in this work if you do your part. . . .' " (God, Family, Country, pp. 61-62.)

"Fear not, for I am with thee" (Gen. 26:24) should be our guide as we not only face adversity in life, but also as we help build up the kingdom of God here on the earth.

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