Perhaps you have read The Hobbit, a children’s fantasy novel by English author J.R.R. Tolkien. The book was published in 1937 and follows the quest of Bilbo Baggins in which Bilbo gains increasing wisdom by applying his wits and common sense to challenges that come his way.
After writing The Hobbit, because of the book’s success, Tolkien’s publisher Stanley Unwin asked him to write a sequel. Tolkien “set to writing in the late fall of 1937. He wrote the first chapter in one month, which was breakneck speed for Tolkien. Then he stalled. When Bilbo Baggins disappeared from his own birthday party, Tolkien had no idea where Bilbo was going or why. He did not have a story in mind. He finally decided the story was about Bilbo’s ring, but he knew less about the ring than Bilbo.”[i]
C.S. Lewis and Tolkien often met on Monday mornings to discuss their common interests. In these discussions, Tolkien got the idea that Bilbo’s ring was a ring of power. It took him nearly 15 years to complete the book. Lewis pushed Tolkien at times to bring his ideas to life on the page when Tolkien would get lost in his daydreams.
Tolkien would later say: “The unpayable debt that I owe to [Lewis] was not ‘influence’ as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby. But for his interest and unceasing eagerness for more I should never have brought The Lord of the Rings to a conclusion.”[ii]
The Lord of the Rings would go on to sell 150 million copies, published in 38 languages and made into best-selling movies. All because his loyal friend encouraged him.
We all have need of a loyal friend. Friends who stick with you even when it’s not easy. Euripides said, “One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives.” I suppose that’s true, depending on your relatives.
Elijah asks Elisha to tarry while he goes to Bethel, Elisha says, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee” (2 Kings 2:2). Again, Elijah asks him to tarry while he goes to Jericho. Elisha responds the same way. And again, the same happens as Elijah goes to Jordan.
“I will not leave thee.”
Elisha stayed with Elijah. Similarly, Jesus asked his disciples, “Will ye also go away?” Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou are that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:67-68).
Likewise, we too can be loyal to the prophet and Jesus Christ. Even when things don’t go our way, or we don’t fully understand what the prophet is saying or doing at the time, we can stay with the prophet. Elder Ballard said, “There may be some doctrine, some policy, some bit of history that puts you at odds with your faith, and you may feel that the only way to resolve that inner turmoil right now is to ‘walk no more’ with the saints. If you live as long as I have, you will come to know that things have a way of resolving themselves.”[iii]
In today’s worldly culture of criticizing and questioning, if you give up your loyalty to the prophet, where will you go? Where else will you go to find the blessings of the spirit, living prophets, people who set an example, and the covenants of the temple. Where will you go to find the peace of the spirit? Like Elisha, we find peace in loyalty.
I suspect Elisha didn’t leave Elijah because he knew Elijah needed his support. That Elijah was about to leave this earth and needed sustaining in his ministry. Likewise, our leaders need sustaining. They need our support and prayers. It is a service we provide to stand with them whether they take us to Bethel, Jericho or Jordan.
I believe that part of Elisha’s test and one reason he received a double portion of the spirit that Elijah held, is that he stayed loyal to the prophet. I like to think that we too can receive more help and strength from the spirit when we stay loyal.
Trust in the Mantle
After Elijah ascends in a chariot of fire, Elisha took up the mantle of Elijah and stood by the river Jordan. Just like Elijah, he smote the waters with the mantle and the waters “parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over” (2 Kings 2:14).
The mantle is the power given to God’s chosen servants, and his prophets, which gives them the power, authority, revelation, and often the keys of the priesthood to do God’s work on the earth. Callings or positions in our church are not something we seek for, but we trust the mantle.
“While enjoying a walk with his wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, Elder Uchtdorf, then a General Authority Seventy, reflected upon the calling of the Apostle. Two giants of Church leadership — Elder David B. Haight and Elder Neal A. Maxwell — had died a few months earlier, leaving a pair of vacancies in the Twelve.
“The Uchtdorf’s thoughts turned to the two yet-to-be-called men who would fill those empty seats. Those servants would be accepting an overwhelming, lifelong assignment. They would require the sustaining support of Church members everywhere.
“We came home and we prayed for them,” he said. The couple asked God to sustain the two future Apostles — and for the members of the Church to sustain their new leaders.
Days later, Elder Uchtdorf, along with Elder David A. Bednar, was called to the Twelve.”[iv]
Like this story illustrates, we place faith and trust in the mantle and pray for and sustain those who carry the mantle.
Something good happens when you decide to follow and trust the mantle. I’ve noticed that when you hear the prophet talk and you trust the mantle, you assume that his words are God’s words. As a result, you are more apt to try to follow them. You avoid second guessing, you are quick to observe and this gives a level of peace and comfort in an uncertain world.
When I was a young man, my father tried to take my brothers and I to the priesthood session of conference. It was a tradition in our family. So, when I turned twelve, I was anxious to attend. Never having attended general conference before, I wondered what it would be like to see the prophet in person. I had been taught in primary class, the importance of having a testimony of a prophet on the earth.
So, we arrived early for conference and sat on the balcony overlooking the rostrum. About five minutes before conference was to begin, all the brethren in the tabernacle stood, and the brethren started to walk into the room. Then, President Spencer W. Kimball and his counselors walked in. President Kimball was walking towards me. As he did, I felt a strong impression and a witness of the spirit that he was a prophet called of God
After that moment, it was easier to follow the Prophet. I gained a great love for President Kimball. I listened to his words. I trusted the mantle. This trust led me to a mission and a testimony.
I have seen the power of the mantle on Bishops, Elder’s Quorum leaders, Releif Society Presidents and my own ministering brothers and sisters. I believe they have a mantle of sorts whereby they can part the Jordan in your life. You see, I love the metaphor of Jordan. It stands as a barrier to reaching the places you are called to go in life. And sometimes we need the help of our local leaders to find a way across the struggles that come our way.
Years ago, my home teacher was Brother Neal. He came to visit one Sunday. In that visit, he turned to me, and said “McKay, I want to teach you how to pray.” Now, I had prayed my whole life. What could he teach me about prayer? But he had the mantle. I assumed he was inspired to teach me because he had the mantle. So, I listened. He said, “McKay, I’ve learned it is sometimes difficult to have meaningful prayer because you tend to forget what you want to talk to the Lord about.”
He said, “I write down throughout the day, the things about which I know I need to counsel with the Lord. So, when I pray, I set aside the time necessary, I review my notes beforehand, I refer to them if needed, and I bring my concerns and thankfulness to the Lord.”
Well, Brother Neal was inspired. He was right. I needed to learn to pray. The mantle of his calling helped him know what I needed in my life. I followed his example and it has helped my prayers ever since.
Following the Prophet isn’t Always Popular
In 2 Kings 2:23, we read that as Elisha traveled to Bethel, as he was going by the way, children or young people of the city mocked Elisha and said, “go up bald head go up.” While this verse reveals that Elisha may not have had much hair, it also reveals something that can be a bit too common even in our day.
Sometimes it seems popular on social media or other places for people to criticize the leaders of the church. They claim church leaders are out of touch. They insist they aren’t with the times. I see some people thinking it is popular to criticize the leaders of our church. You can always count on a news article or social media to tear down and criticize even the most well intended or inspired words or actions.
The question is: do we join them, even in small ways? Years ago, Elder Boyd K. Packer was speaking about Lehi’s dream of the tree of life. He said, “You may think that Lehi’s dream has no special meaning for you, but it does. You are in it; all of us are in it.”[v]
He then said, “One word in this dream or vision should have special meaning to you young Latter-day Saints. The word is after. It was after the people had found the tree that they became ashamed, and because of the mockery of the world they fell away.”
The mockery of the world has power. Stay as far away from it as possible. Mockery and criticism have an erosive power to slowly undermine the best of us. On the other hand, so does support and faith and sustaining. Just as criticism feeds on itself, faith-filled comments build and compound on themselves, adding brightness and hope to your life.
Elisha is a Type for Christ
In 2 Kings 4:1-7 is a wonderful story of a woman who came to Elisha. Her husband is dead and the creditors are threatening to take away her sons to pay the debt.
Now, many of us at some point in our life, whether by life’s circumstances, sin, or our own mistakes find ourselves in a similar situation. The creditors are here. The consequences of our decisions are knocking at the door. Usually we have lost the peace or faith in our life. And we have little power to change our circumstances. Like the woman we plead for help.
I believe in this story Elisha is a type for Jesus Christ. Elisha asks the woman what she had? She said she had nothing but a pot and a little oil.
Often it is the same with us. We only have a little faith, a little hope, or a little spirituality left. We, like the woman, have a little oil. And God can do something with a little faith.
Elisha tells the woman, get every pot you can find. Go to your neighbors and get their pots. Shut your door and with your sons, start pouring. They do, and every pot is filled.
Now, I believe it is the same with us. Jesus Christ will not only help us find our spirituality, help us repent, help us fill our soul, but he has power to fill every part of our life. He has power to pay every debt, bring life to us, pay for every sin and restore our well-being.
And if we come to him like the woman went to Elisha, Christ will do so with your sons, your family, and help you in more ways that you think. He has power to heal and anoint and light your life and the life of your children. Don’t doubt.
In 2 Kings 4:8-37, we read the story of the great woman of Shunem. She notices that Elisha often passes by her home in Shunem. She constrains Elisha to eat bread. “And so it was that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread” (vs. 8).
Then the woman and her husband build a little chamber for him to rest. Elisha asks her, “What is to be done for thee? He asks should I speak to the king for thee?”
Her response is that she is content with her people. She is then blessed with a son, something she had been unable to do. Years later, her son falls ill and dies. Elisha’s servant cannot heal the boy. Elisha himself raises the young man from the dead.
Again, in this story Elisha is a type of Christ. I believe that Christ, or his servants, pass by us more often than we think. Perhaps angels, perhaps earthy ministers. And we can invite them into our lives to become part of our home and eat with them.
Revelations 3:20 says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him.”
Not only did the woman make accommodations for Elisha, but she put into his room a bed, a table, a stool, and a candlestick. The same goes for us. We can carefully prepare for Christ to take up residence in our life. Perhaps we can thoughtfully organize our day to put more of him in our day.
President Nelson said, “The voices and pressures of the world are engaging and numerous. But too many voices are deceptive, seductive, and can pull us off the covenant path. To avoid the inevitable heartbreak that follows, I plead with you today to counter the lure of the world by making time for the Lord in your life—each and every day.
“If most of the information you get comes from social or other media, your ability to hear the whisperings of the Spirit will be diminished. If you are not also seeking the Lord through daily prayer and gospel study, you leave yourself vulnerable to philosophies that may be intriguing but are not true. Even Saints who are otherwise faithful can be derailed by the steady beat of Babylon’s band.
“My brothers and sisters, I plead with you to make time for the Lord! Make your own spiritual foundation firm and able to stand the test of time by doing those things that allow the Holy Ghost to be with you always.”[vi]
We can make time in our day for the Lord by reading more of his word. Elder Richard G. Scott stated the following:
“Scriptures can calm an agitated soul, giving peace, hope, and a restoration of confidence in one’s ability to overcome the challenges of life. They have potent power to heal emotional challenges when there is faith in the Savior. They can accelerate physical healing.
“Scriptures can communicate different meanings at different times in our life, according to our needs. A scripture that we may have read many times can take on nuances of meaning that are refreshing and insightful when we face a new challenge in life.”[vii]
When the woman’s son dies, Gehazi attempts, but could not raise the child. Only Elisha could raise the child from the dead. Likewise, Jesus Christ is the only way to life everlasting. The world, in the end, will not be able to restore what you have lost—from sin or mistakes or other circumstances. Only Christ has that power. In times of despair, he has the power, he is the only one who can help us change, live again, and open our eyes to who we can become.
Naaman and Leprosy
Naaman was captain of the host of the King of Syria. A mighty man. But he was a leper. Leprosy in the scriptures often has a type or a shadow. That type is spiritual leprosy. At times, we all can suffer from spiritual leprosy.
“Leprosy causes a progressive loss of feeling in the affected parts of the body. At some point the disease so seriously affects the nerves that there is no longer any feeling in, say, a hand or a foot.
The distinctive feature of spiritual leprosy, like its physical counterpart, is a progressive loss of feeling. It is a progressive loss of feeling that takes place not in our nerves but in our sensitivity to the Spirit and to its promptings. This progressive loss of contact with the Holy Ghost makes spiritual leprosy as threatening to our souls as the physical disease is to our bodies.”[viii]
The King of Syria sends a letter to the King of Israel and the King of Israel is wrought with worry that they could not help Naaman and a conflict might ensue. Elisha sends a message to the King and tells him to send Naaman to him so everyone will know there is a prophet in Israel. So, Naaman with his chariot and horses come to the door of the house of Elisha. Elisha sends a messenger and tells Naaman to wash in the Jordan seven times.
But Naaman is angry. He says I thought the prophet would come out and call on the name of God and strike his hand over the place and do something magnificent. So, he left in a rage.
Now, how often do we turn on the Lord or our bishop or our Relief Society president with spiritual leprosy and expect some great thing, and instead get simple instructions. What if they don’t even come to us personally but send ministering brothers or sisters instead? Do we take offense?
Then, the servant came to Naaman and said, “If the prophet had bid thee to do some great thing, would thought not have done it?” The same for us. We often expect some great thing. But what the Lord often gives to us is a small and simple way to find answers to our prayers.
I recently read the following, “One of the tests that comes our way in life is the Get over it test. Too many of us get off track in our course in life because we take too personally the offenses that come from other people.”
Too many of us get stuck or sidetracked because we can’t let go of what someone said or did. Get over it. Inspiration will often come from the most obvious sources. That means a friend or bishop or elder’s quorum president or morning study.
In the end, Naaman followed the small and simple words of Elisha and he was healed of his leprosy. So, we can find relief from our spiritual leprosy from following the words of the prophets.
Open Your Eyes
Because Elisha was aiding the King of Israel in their conflict with Syria, the King of Syria send a great host by night to take Elisha. The servant of Elisha wakes early and sees the host. Then a great exchange between Elisha and the servant begins.
Elisha tells the servant, “Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16).
Still the servant couldn’t see. “And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).
Joseph F. Smith said,
“The hand of the Lord may not be visible to all. There may be many who cannot discern the workings of God’s will in the progress and development of this great latter-day work, but there are those who see in every hour and in every moment of the existence of the Church, from its beginning until now, the overruling almighty hand of Him who sent His only begotten son to the world to become a sacrifice for the sins of the world.”[ix]
There are those on the earth who can discern and can see how God’s work in this earth will unfold. When we listen to them, we soon realize that the forces on our side are bigger and more significant than we think.
Here’s a simple example. Whether Lorenzo Snow or Joseph F. Smith or Russell M. Nelson; prophets have foretold that temples will dot the earth. Can you imagine the audacity of that statement when Lorenzo Snow made it in 1899. But today, there are 282 temples in operation.
And I expect that when the scrolls of the earth are turned back and we get to see things as they really are, that there were thousands, perhaps millions beyond the veil who were about doing a great work to bring about the time in which temples would indeed dot the earth. And I expect we will see that those who are with us, are greater than those who are not.
Now, this gospel principle applies to us in our life as well.
It is easy when a son or daughter loses their faith for a time, or sickness comes into our life like a wrecking ball, or some type of upheaval takes hold in our life to think the same as Elisha’s servant, “What ever shall we do?”
But God loves to bless. He will order and keep and protect. In his due time, he will come to the aid of the family and circumstances of those that love him. It is extremely helpful to picture in your mind the vision of Elisha’s servant. 2 Kings 6:17 says, “And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” So it can be with you.
I served my mission in Sapporo Japan. We didn’t baptize a lot of people. The work was extremely difficult. But I would often picture a mountain of chariots and horses behind our work. It is the same with missionaries of our day. It is the same for you. You have more support than you know.
Cast your hopes forward with faith. God will send aid in his time and in his way. Hope in the power of God. As once author famously said, “When there is hope in the future, there is power in the present.”
Trust in the mantle. There is power in your life when you place your trust in the words of the prophet and those called to lead. Remember, Christ has power to fill every pot and every part of our spiritual lives. Don’t doubt. And watch, you can open your eyes to see the strength of Jesus Christ in your life and the lives of your family.
[i] C.S. Lewis’s Role in The Lord of the Rings, Harry Lee Poe, Crossway, June 12, 2021.
[ii] Humphrey, ed., The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 362 as published in Newsweek, 3/4/17.
[iii] To Whom Shall We Go, M. Russell Ballard, October 2016 General Conference.
[iv] Inside the Quorum of the Twelve: Sustaining Is Act of Faith, Confidence, Love, Church News, August 16, 2018.
[v] Lehi’s Dream and You, Boyd K. Packer, BYU Speeches.
[vi] Make Time For the Lord, Russel M. Nelson, October 2021 General Conference.
[vii] The Power of Scripture, Richard G. Scott, October 2011 General Conference.
[viii] Spiritual Leprosy, Stephen D. Nadauld, BYU Speeches.
[ix] The Mantle is Far Greater than the Intellect, Boyd K. Packer, Teaching Seminary: Preservice Readings.