At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lists a number of unlikely scenarios in which we should consider ourselves fortunate. One of those goes like this:
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matthew 5:11-12, 3 Nephi 12:11-12).
To be reviled is to be criticized in an abusive or insulting manner. It is to be belittled and treated with contempt, as though you don’t matter, as though you are worthless. This does not sound like an enviable position to be in, and we can all say from experience that it is not fun. Why would the Savior tell us that we are blessed (fortunate) when we are reviled?
He gives the answer: because we are in good company. Some of the greatest people who have ever lived on the earth were reviled. Here are examples:
- Nephi reminded his brothers that Moses was reviled by the children of Israel during their journey to the promised land (1 Nephi 17:30, 42).
- The people of Ammonihah reviled Alma, spit upon him, and cast him out of their city when he tried to call them to repentance (Alma 8:13).
- Even after Nephi, the son of Helaman, received substantial power from God, his people reviled against him and tried to imprison him (Helaman 10:15).
- In the ancient civilization of the Jaredites, the people reviled and mocked the prophets who warned them of an impending curse (Ether 7:24).
- The prophet Isaiah described the Savior as “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Mosiah 14:3, Isaiah 53:3).
It may seem crazy to be happy when something like that happens to us. But remembering that we are in good company may strengthen us to endure the humiliation with dignity. The prophet Jacob promised that people who “have endured the crosses of the world and despised the shame of it” will one day experience eternal joy (2 Nephi 9:18). Would it be unreasonable for those people, looking ahead with hope, to feel a foretaste of that joy today, even during their trials? Perhaps that’s why Paul, using some of the same phrases as Jacob, wrote that Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame,” because He was aware of “the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). Other people despised Him: belittled Him and treated Him as if He were worthless. But He despised the shame itself: recognized that it was actually meaningless compared with the joy that awaited Him if He fulfilled His mission faithfully.
Today, I will remember that, if people look down on me or treat me badly because of my beliefs, I am in good company. I will also look forward to the joy which will be the final outcome if I am faithful to God, and I will find joy today in that hope, even if my circumstances are not ideal.