Building a Wall

Walls are useful. I spend most days in a room surrounded by four walls and a ceiling, which shields me from adverse weather while eliminating (I think) a lot of distractions. Walls and fences can delineate land that is intended for a specific use. Walls can also serve a decorative function, allowing us to hang art or paint murals to beautify our surroundings.

But the most intuitive purpose for walls is to provide physical protection: to obstruct people who might otherwise harm us. Captain Moroni prepared for an impending invasion by turning cities into strongholds, building elaborate walls “round about every city in all the land” (Alma 50:1-6). King Hezekiah prepared to repel the Assyrian army by repairing the wall around Jerusalem and building a second wall around it. (See 2 Chronicles 32:5.)

When the Babylonians eventually conquered the kingdom of Judah, “they brake down the wall of Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 36:19). About a hundred and fifty years later, Nehemiah obtained permission from the king of Persia to return to Jerusalem and lead the people in rebuilding the wall around the city (Nehemiah 2). They completed this project in just 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15), in spite of severe opposition from their neighbors. (See Nehemiah 4.)

I admire Nehemiah’s dedication and diligence in completing the wall, but I am less impressed by the intangible walls which he and his peers built between themselves and their neighbors. For example:

  • Zerubbabel and Jeshua said, “Ye have nothing to do with us,” when the Samaritans offered to help them rebuild the temple (Ezra 4:3).
  • Ezra instructed the men to “put away” their foreign wives and their children from those marriages (Ezra 10:1-3). (See also Nehemiah 13:23-27.)
  • When the people found a negative passage about Ammonites and Moabites in the scriptures, they decided to exclude foreigners from their congregations (Nehemiah 13:1-3). (See Deuteronomy 23:3.)

We all establish these kinds of walls in our relationships, to some degree. There is a limit to how vulnerable we can be with strangers, for example. It takes time to build trust. But cutting ourselves off from relationships with other people can also be damaging.

When the Savior established His church on the American continent, He established some boundaries. He instructed church leaders not to allow people to partake of the sacrament unworthily (3 Nephi 18:28-29). But He also made clear that those people should be welcomed to church meetings. “Unto such shall ye continue to minister,” said the Savior, “for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them” (3 Nephi 18:32).

I think the Savior is teaching us an important principle. Virtual walls may be necessary, but they need to be porous. There ought to be doors. Of course we can’t trust everyone all the time, but we need to be open to the possibility that some of our fears are overblown. We must not insulate ourselves so thoroughly that we’re unable to participate in meaningful relationships.

Today, I will take note of the barriers I have placed in my interactions with others. I will look for ways to open doors, to build more trust and to challenge apprehensions. I will take care that the walls I erect and maintain are constructive, not stifling.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: