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Lenten Thoughts

Mobile phones changed communication. Before mobiles, telephones were static, tethered by

a copper wire to a physical place. Most ordinary people didn’t own their own telephone in any case; it was a privilege of the well-off. Their only option was the ubiquitous red public telephone boxes. But since few possessed a telephone, there was no-one to phone! The telephone in the red box was reserved to get an ambulance, a doctor, the police.

Most communication was by letter, written with a fountain pen on paper and sent in an envelope with a postage stamp. For a time there were two deliveries a day, and if you posted a message early enough it might get there the same afternoon. There was no television; wireless was the source of national news. Newspapers were king, and most households got several each week. But wind the clock back a century or two: no wireless, and paper scarce and expensive. Letters were for the rich and newspapers non-existent. Illiteracy was normal for the working class anyway; many certificates were signed “X – his mark”.

Further back still, in medieval Britain, few went further than the next village. A small number did travel though, on foot or horse, with cart, donkey or backpack – merchants, monks, entertainers, soldiers, craftsmen and, of course, aristocracy. Travellers stopping for the night in village or hamlet were pressed for news, and the great fairs were popular for information as well as trade. There would be a mixture of gossip, opinion, myth, hearsay, rumour, mixed with a smattering of facts. News might be sensational entertainment rather than accurate – in fact, rather like social media today, accepted when startling or curious, but not always factual. Seems like human nature hasn’t changed much.

It was the same two thousand years ago in the Holy Land. In the weeks leading up to the first Easter, opinion was in ferment, gossip and rumour everywhere. Jewish rulers saw Jesus as a threat to their position and privilege. They set traps, asking difficult questions to discredit him. After all, they thought, an unlearned country carpenter is no match for our learning and scholarship. But their plans failed at every encounter. He tore apart their sophisticated thinking, revealing their hypocrisy, to the delight of the common people. Many thought he was the Messiah, come to free them from the hated Roman conquerers. The Romans themselves were neutral about religion, but wanted above all to avoid disruption and uproar, a fact exploited by the Sanhedrin, eventually leading to Christ’s death. A section of the people accepted him as a great teacher and healer sent from God. A smaller group knew Jesus was more than that: the Son of God, the Messiah, but as yet they didn’t fully understand his redeeming mission, which led to Gethsemane and the Cross.

There was a cauldron of conflicting views, and the crucifixion must have tried the faith of many. By worldly standards, that first Easter should have been a catastrophic failure. Betrayal in Gethsemane, an illegal trial, tortured to death on a cross then buried and sealed in a sepulchre. The Sanhedrin must have thought they’d finally got rid of this pestilential troublemaker, and expected his leaderless followers to disperse. But Jesus was not just a remarkable rabbi, he was the Son of God, who rose from the dead as he prophesied. His followers did not disperse. They grew in strength and numbers and changed the history of the world, without computers, phones, or social media.

The convenience and safety of Roman roads helped. Epistles could be sent throughout the Empire. Even so, the New Testament describes how quickly false letters, deceptive rumours and false doctrine began to circulate and disrupt the gospel. But there’s one form of communication that cannot be censored, stopped or corrupted. It’s impervious to fashionable philosophy or social trends: the whispering of the Holy Spirit. After Pentecost, the disciples were filled with this power, and as they preached it bore witness of the truth. Unlike travellers in medieval Britain, the Spirit only speaks truth. Neither does he embellish or exaggerate for effect, his voice is still and small. He’s completely impartial, has no favourites, is not swayed by lobby groups.

The power of the Holy Ghost far exceeds any human device, and unlike those early telephones, it’s freely available for everyone. But like the early wireless sets, the tuning can require experience and aptitude. It used to be a kind of art to tune those early wirelesses, and some were better than others. Spiritual communication is not like a wireless though. The Holy Ghost does speak in words occasionally, but mostly he speaks in feelings and impressions. It’s a delicate communication, easily disturbed, requiring humble obedience. We don’t have to answer a phone when it rings, and we can ignore impressions of the Spirit as well, if we want to. The early Christians discovered this, as steadily once vigorous congregations were corrupted by false doctrine, political opposition, organised persecution, and the death of the apostles.

A great apostasy from the original gospel of Christ developed. But the promise of Easter remained, which we celebrate each year. Jesus suffered infinite agony, beyond human comprehension, in Gethsemane and on the cross, to satisfy he demands of justice. Because of this we can return to him even though we are imperfect. He died on the cross but after three days he rose from the dead. Because of this we will all be resurrected. This is the original Easter message, restored to earth through Joseph Smith with all of Christ’s teachings and doctrines. And everyone can know the truth of it just by asking, then listening.


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