How would you like to receive a calling like this:
Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day.
For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God….Ezekiel 2:3-4
Does that sound a little daunting?
Ezekiel is not the only prophet to have received an assignment like this. God’s instructions to Abinadi, for example, sound very similar: “Abinadi, go and prophesy unto this my people, for they have hardened their hearts against my words; they have repented not of their evil doings; therefore, I will visit them in my anger, yea, in my fierce anger will I visit them in their iniquities and abominations” (Mosiah 12:1). Doesn’t sound like a mission that’s likely to make you popular, right?
But the Lord goes on: “Be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words” (Ezekiel 2:6). Ezekiel’s job is not to stir up more contention. It’s to tell the truth. If the people respond disrespectfully, Ezekiel needs to stand steady as a representative of God and not allow their unkind words to fluster him.
In Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, a number of people who had already arrived at the tree and were partaking of the fruit became ashamed when they saw other people mocking them. But Lehi and part of his family remained at the tree. “We heeded them not,” he said, “for as many as heeded them, had fallen away” (1 Nephi 8:33-34).
Easy to say, hard to do. When other people are speaking disrespectfully and are unwilling to engage in genuine dialogue, it’s tempting either to respond in kind or to withdraw from the conversation. We certainly don’t have to engage with everyone who hurls insults at us, and there is a time when dignified silence is the only appropriate response, but there is also a time when the kind of engagement God required of Ezekiel is badly needed. God needs people who will tell the truth, respectfully, kindly, and firmly. In the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Defend your beliefs with courtesy and with compassion, but defend them” (“The Cost—and Blessings—of Discipleship,” General Conference, April 2014).
Today, as I interact with people who may be less than civil, I will model civility. I will share my convictions respectfully, and if others respond inappropriately, I will choose to “be not afraid of their words.”