Faith in God includes prioritizing His words over the words of other people.
To ancient Israel, through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord counseled, “Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings” (2 Nephi 8:7, Isaiah 51:7). Then He asked the following rhetorical question:
Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of man, who shall die, and of the son of man, who shall be made like unto grass?
And forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth, and hast feared continually every day, because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? And where is the fury of the oppressor?2 Nephi 8:12-13, Isaiah 51:12-13
No matter how intimidating other people may be, they are human just like you and me. It is nonsensical to care more about pleasing them than we care about pleasing God.
Joseph Smith learned this lesson at an early age. After experiencing the First Vision at the age of fourteen, he was ridiculed and criticized by many people in his community, include religious leaders. But he knew it was more important to please God by telling the truth than to placate his neighbors by telling them what they wanted to hear (Joseph Smith—History 1:21-25).
After receiving the gold plates and translating 116 pages with the assistance of a prosperous and respected neighbor, Martin Harris, Joseph faced a more difficult challenge. Martin’s wife wanted to see the manuscript. He asked Joseph to request permission from the Lord to borrow it, so he could show her their work. Here is Joseph’s description of what happened next:
I did enquire, and the answer was that he must not. However he was not satisfied with this answer, and desired that I should enquire again. I did so, and the answer was as before. Still he could not be contented but insisted that I should enquire once more. After much solicitation I again enquired of the Lord, and permission was granted him to have the writings on certain conditions.History, 1838-1856, volume A-1, page 9
So far, so good. But when Martin took the manuscript and failed to abide by the conditions, the pages were lost, and Joseph realized that the loss was ultimately his fault. “I have sinned,” he said, upon learning that the manuscript was gone. “It is I who tempted the wrath of God; for I should have been satisfied with the first answer which I received from the Lord—for he told me that it was not safe to let the writing go out of my possession” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, page 131).
The Lord subsequently affirmed to Joseph that he had sinned and was accountable for his mistake:
Behold, you have been entrusted with these things, but how strict were your commandments; and remember also the promises which were made to you, if you did not transgress them.
And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men.
For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God.Doctrine and Covenants 3:5-7
About eight months later, in March 1829, Joseph Smith received another revelation in which the Lord reaffirmed this principle.
I command you, my servant Joseph, to repent and walk more uprightly before me, and to yield to the persuasions of men no more;
And that you be firm in keeping the commandments wherewith I have commanded you.Doctrine and Covenants 5:21-22
It is one thing to ignore unkind treatment from others; it is harder to avoid being persuaded by a friend. Peer pressure is real, and not just for young people. We want to please others, especially people we rely on, especially people we love and respect. But when their advice conflicts with the guidance we have received from God, we must put God first.
As Elder Lynn G. Robbins has reminded us, “Trying to please others before pleasing God is inverting the first and second great commandments” (“Which Way Do You Face?” General Conference, October 2014).
Today, I will prioritize God’s commandments over “the persuasions of men.” I will remember that God is far more knowledgeable and far more powerful than the people I interact with. I will not hold back from doing what is right, even at the risk of being criticized for doing so. I will not fear “the reproach of men.”