How to Recognize True Servants of God
Lessons from the Book of Mormon
Samuel the Lamanite was a true servant of God. At risk of life and with arrows flying, he delivered a message from an angel of God to the wicked Nephites of Zarahemla.
Their prosperity led them to pride and wickedness. They disputed and contended one with another until their iniquity and hardened hearts turned them to strife, malice, persecutions, and murder. Their ingratitude caused them to forget the Lord, their God, and even “trample under their feet the Holy one” (Helaman 12:2).
As God often does, He sent a servant to warn the people to repent so they would not be destroyed. What an event to witness! Samuel, barred from the city, climbed atop the city wall and shouted to the people “whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart” (Helaman 13:3-4).
He boldly prophesied their destruction unless they would repent and put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. At the brink of their iniquity, continually choosing darkness instead of light, they cast out, mocked, and attacked a true prophet of God (Helaman 13:24-25).
And thus we see some interesting facts about servants doing the Lord’s work. A servant might appear from nowhere—at least not from among the people. He must be bold and courageous enough to deliver God’s message to the people—even if put at risk. The message must point not to himself—promising never to lead astray—but instead to Christ. His message, according to pattern, will likely say: “Yes, I’m talking to you people, today. Wake up! Repent, have faith, look to God, be saved!”
So it also was with the people of King Noah and the Lord’s servant, Abinadi.
King Noah “did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord. Yea, and they did commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness” (Mosiah 11:2). King Noah centered his heart on riches and riotous living. He and his priests were supported in their laziness, idolatry, and whoredoms by taxes laid on the people.
Enter Abinadi. He was not from the priestly class that surrounded King Noah. He was obscure, yet he had a message from God; and he boldly proclaimed it, saying, “Wo be unto this people, for I have seen their abominations, and their wickedness, and their whoredoms; and except they repent I will visit them in mine anger. And except they repent and turn to the Lord their God, behold, I will deliver them into the hands of their enemies; yea, and they shall be brought into bondage (Mosiah 11:20-21). Abinadi ultimately gave his life to deliver that message.
Would you have listened to Samuel on the wall? Would you have considered the words and prayed about a fervent declaration that might really be from God? Would you be one of the few to recognize the Lord’s warning voice in Abinadi’s message? Likewise, would you have listened to the message from Joseph Smith if you had lived among traditional Christianity back in that day?
King Benjamin is another great example of a true servant of the Lord who had stunning success with his people. He loved the people even as he warned them about their iniquities. He labored with “all the might of his body, and the faculty of his whole soul” to establish peace in the land (Mosiah 11:20-21). In his farewell speech, he reminded the people that as he served them, he never asked for gold or silver from them, but labored with his own hands for his support. He asked for no honor for himself, but taught that all mankind should be in service one to another.
Without reservation, he announced that an angel of the Lord appeared to him with a great prophecy about the Lord Jesus Christ. King Benjamin then testified about Christ’s coming to the earth to be the Savior of mankind. As Benjamin pointed the people’s minds and hearts to Christ and warned them of coming judgments, King Benjamin revealed that he was commanded by the Lord to teach these truths.
Fruits of the spirit manifest abundantly when people are willing to receive and live God’s eternal truths. Upon receiving King Benjamin’s righteous exhortation, the spirit of the Lord caused a mighty change of heart to come upon the people; and as a group, they were born again! They had no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. They rejoiced with exceeding great joy, and entered into a covenant with God to always do God’s will the remainder of their days (Mosiah 5).
And thus we see the full circle of God’s intended work through His servants. They warn. They turn people’s hearts to Christ. As people truly repent and do God’s will, spiritual fruits are realized. God then offers a covenant to people who have righteously turned to Him.
Mankind needs direction. And God sends direction via his servants to call His people to repentance and to give them light. It may come from an unlikely source, but the message always points to Christ. And it is always intended to save.
Moroni has such a warning message for us today. He asks us, the Gentiles, why we have polluted the holy church of God. What could be the holy church of God today? Does the church we uphold reflect more on King Benjamin’s humble ways, or the ways of the self-absorbed Zoramites? Moroni asks why we walk in the pride of our hearts, engaged in all manner of iniquities, who love money more than the poor and suffer the hungry, needy, naked, and afflicted to pass by unnoticed? He asks why we have built up churches to get gain and why have we transfigured the holy word of God. Then Moroni warns that the sword of justice hangs over our heads (Mormon 8).
Is it time for serious reflection and repentance? Is it time to forsake the arm of flesh and turn our hearts to Christ and be saved?
Interestingly, the scriptures foretell of last days servants who will come forth near the end. In 3 Nephi 21 we are told of a marvelous work that the people will not believe though a man shall declare it to them. We are told that the life of this servant will be in the Lord’s hand, and he will be marred, but not hurt (…not Joseph Smith, then, who was killed). This servant will bring forth the words of Christ to the Gentiles, and whosoever will not believe the words will be cut off from among the people who are of the covenant.
Here is another prophecy about a servant who will bring Zion, D&C 85:7 reads:
Isaiah 42* also speaks of a latter day servant. Note that the Lord is speaking, therefore the servant of whom He speaks, is not Himself:
1 My servant whom I sustain,
my chosen one in whom I delight,
him I have endowed with my Spirit;
he will dispense justice to the nations….
6 I Jehovah have rightfully called you
and will grasp you by the hand;
I have created you and appointed you
to be a covenant for the people,
a light to the nations,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from confinement
and from prison those who sit in darkness.
Do we sit in darkness? Are we blinded by false traditions? Did Moroni prophesy about our polluted condition? Was Christ speaking about us when He said:
Patterns in the scriptures teach us important truths. Nowhere in the scriptures are any “chosen” people guaranteed success. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Cycles repeat. And as God often does, He sends servants to warn the people to repent so they will not be destroyed.
Would we recognize a true messenger today if one were sent among us?
*Isaiah 42 from the translation of Isaiah by Avraham Gileadi