Moses was misunderstood, disregarded, and maligned. His contemporaries accused him of unimaginable evil and his descendants continue to ignore his words. Yet, prior to the coming of Christ, he was the prophet and deliverer par excellence. Let’s draw a few lessons based on a snapshot from his early life.
Moses: The Origin Story
Plucked from the Nile as an infant and formally adopted into Pharaoh’s family, Moses had an extraordinary start. He was educated in the highest halls of academia and trained for decisive military action. Moses could single-handedly overwhelm a gang of Middle Eastern bullies (Exodus 2:17) and then compose a full library of sacred Scripture that spanned history, poetry, law, architecture, social compacts, and more. Moses despised injustice and took a stand with his enslaved Hebrew brethren (Hebrews 11:24-25).
Moses: The Rejected Savior
One day, when Moses was 40, he determined to “visit” his people, which was no ordinary social call. Moses visited his people much the same way the LORD would visit His people to deliver them from their bondage (Exodus 3:16). Moses intended to start something big. And the first thing he saw was an Egyptian taskmaster beating an Israelite. Rage and calculation coalesced into murderous revenge – Moses slew the Egyptian and buried his corpse in the sand.
The next day, Moses saw a second beating – but this time it was two Hebrews going at it. When Moses intervened, the tables turned, and Moses’s life changed forever. First, he learned that the murder he’d committed the day before wasn’t so secret. Second, he discovered that the Israelites resented him and rejected his efforts to intervene on their behalf. “Who made you prince and judge over us?” asked the man in the wrong (Exodus 2:14). And, so, Moses had but one choice – exile. God was sending Moses away, as it were, for an altogether different education, courtesy of four decades of animal husbandry.
Although Moses’s rage takes center stage in the Exodus account, another factor was at play. Stephen highlights this aspect in Acts 7 – the Israelites had thrust aside Moses’s efforts at deliverance in the same way they would reject Jesus many generations hence. Even though the people of Israel were enslaved, despised, beaten, and threatened with extinction, they weren’t yet ready to reach out to God for deliverance. While Moses was receiving that aforementioned education, God’s covenant people finally did the decisive thing – they asked God for help.
Lessons for Utah
Born-again Christians all too often fall into the same trap that snagged Moses. By the strength of their Bible education, zeal, and aggressiveness, they think they can deliver people from the LDS religion. It’s obvious, or so it seems to them, that LDS people would want to escape the endless Temple requirements, the excessive guilt, and the historical baggage of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Much to their chagrin, they discover people who don’t see it their way. LDS people are quite happy, so it seems, to stay Mormon even if they complain about Mormonism.
And, so, born-again Christians go on the offensive. They attack. They argue. They won’t be ignored! But in so doing, they inadvertently delay the gospel’s work by pushing the Latter-day Saint to defend his or her faith rather than to seek the truth that God offers.
So, what can we do? First, we obey Jesus. He asks, and I’ll paraphrase, “What credit is it to you if you love, serve, and help the people who love, serve and help you back?” (see Luke 6:32-34). He then commands us to love, serve, and help everyone – even our enemies (Luke 6:35)! And Latter-day Saints aren’t the enemy – they’re people who need the real Jesus to shine his love into their hearts. How much more, then, should we love, serve, and help them.
Second, we ask like Jesus asked. When Jesus wanted to get people thinking, he asked questions. “What is written in the Law?” or “What do you think?” or “What do you want me to do for you?” were common refrains. Questions genuinely asked from a heart of love in the sight of loving service is God’s way.
Third, we suffer like Jesus said we would suffer. Born-again Christians in 21st Century America often labor under the delusion that if we’re just nice enough or wise enough or serving enough, we’ll find ourselves in the good graces of those we’re trying to win. Not so. Jesus said, “’A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Jesus healed every disease, cast out demons, and fed the masses. And they still crucified him. Now, it’s extremely unlikely that LDS people will physically assault you for sharing the gospel. But you might be disregarded, ghosted, or even maligned. And if so, rejoice. You’re in good company.