Relationships are essential for happiness.
When Nephi’s brothers trivialized his spiritual experiences, the Lord explained to him that those who keep His commandments will prosper, while those who rebel will be “cut off from the presence of the Lord” (1 Nephi 2:18-21). Later, Nephi quoted a prophecy of Moses to his brothers to emphasize the consequences of failing to follow guidance from the Lord:
A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that all those who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people.1 Nephi 22:20 (See Deuteronomy 18:15-19, Acts 2:22-23
Nephi told his brothers that Moses was referring specifically to the Savior, and Jesus endorsed that interpretation when He visited Nephi’s descendants. (See 3 Nephi 20:23, 3 Nephi 21:11, 20.) The principle taught in this passage applies any time God speaks to us through one of His servants: Failure to heed His voice will have a detrimental effect on our relationships.
In the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, we read the following warning:
The day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people.Doctrine and Covenants 1:14
At first glance, this warning might suggest a kind of ostracism: being shunned by the people who are responsive to God. But that interpretation is inconsistent with the directions the Savior provided to His church:
Ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not;
But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out.3 Nephi 18:22
Another interpretation is that those who refuse to heed God’s voice will distance themselves from those who choose to follow God.
When we are baptized, we promise to participate in a community of believers. As Alma explained to the people at the waters of Mormon, the covenant of baptism includes a promise “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light” (Mosiah 18:8). We can’t keep that covenant if we avoid engaging with one another, serving together, and learning about each other. Building relationships with other members of the church is a fundamental duty of church membership and can also be a source of great joy.
But relationships can also be challenging.
President M. Russell Ballard a few years ago urged us to continue participating in the Church, even during challenging times. Borrowing a metaphor from Brigham Young, he urged us to “stay on the Old Ship Zion.” “Hold on with both hands,” he said. “And if any one of you have fallen out of the boat, we will seek you, find you, minister to you, and pull you safely back onto the Old Ship Zion, where God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are at the helm and will guide us right” (“Stay in the Boat,” General Conference, October 2014).
Today, I will remember that following the voice of the Lord will strengthen my relationship with Him and with other people. I will strive to heed the messages I receive from Him through His servants, and I will “stay on the boat” by participating actively in the Church.