The story of Jonah and the whale is a well-known story from the Old Testament. Jonah is called on a mission to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. As I understand it, this mission would be similar to a missionary called to preach in Iran today. Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh, so he went the opposite direction. He gets on a ship, and the ship runs into a great storm that threatens the lives of every person on board. Jonah somehow realizes that he is the cause of the storm and tells the people to throw him into the sea. Jonah is swallowed by a giant fish. He spends three days in the belly of the fish. He decides at some point to pray about his situation, and the fish vomits him out on dry ground. He goes to Nineveh where he prophesies total destruction if the people do not repent. The people repent, and the city is saved. One would think that Jonah would have been happy to see the salvation of the people, but he was not. The Lord is clearly not pleased with Jonah because He rebukes him.
Has the Lord ever told you to do something that you did not want to do? I have had that experience. There was a time in my life when I wanted to get on an airplane and fly out of Anchorage. It did not matter to me where I went or what I did; I simply wanted to go. I fought this feeling for approximately two years before it left. The reason I did not get on that airplane and leave is because I knew what Jonah eventually learned -- it is impossible to run from God.
There are, however, people who do turn from the Lord when things get tough. The Jews, apparently, have a prophecy that the Messiah will bring manna from heaven when He returns, similar to the way that God blessed the children of Israel with manna while they wandered in the wilderness. People were drawn to Jesus Christ because He miraculously fed thousands of people with little or no food. However, many of them murmured when the Lord told them, “I am the bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:41). Some of those same people turned away from the Lord when He tried to teach them that He was the “living bread” sent from heaven (John 6:51). The Savior turned to His disciples and asked them if they would turn from Him also. Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:6-69).
Peter and the other Apostles knew that there was no place else to go besides Jesus Christ. An Apostle in our day poses the same question to us that Jesus Christ posed to His ancient Apostles. In his talk titled “To Whom Shall We Go?” Elder M. Russell Ballard explained.
Today is no different. For some, Christ’s invitation to believe and remain continues to be hard – or difficult to accept. Some disciples struggle to understand a specific Church policy or teaching. Others find concerns in our history or in the imperfections of some members and leaders, past and present. Still others find it difficult to live a religion that requires so much. Finally, some have become “weary in well doing.” For these and other reasons, some Church members vacillate in their faith, wondering if perhaps they should follow those who “went back, and walked no more” with Jesus.
If any one of you is faltering in your faith, I ask you the same question that Peter asked: “To whom shall [you] go?” If you choose to become inactive or to leave the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where will you go? What will you do? The decision to “walk no more” with Church members and the Lord’s chosen leaders will have a long-term impact that cannot always be seen right now. 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. An inspired insight or revelation may shed new light on an issue. Remember, the Restoration is not an event, but it continues to unfold.
Never abandon the great truths revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Never stop reading, pondering, and applying the doctrine of Christ contained in the Book of Mormon.
Never fail to give equal time to the Lord through honest attempts to understand what the Lord has revealed….
So before you make that spiritually perilous choice to leave, I encourage you to stop and think carefully before giving up whatever it was that brought you to your testimony of the restored Church of Jesus Christ in the first place. Stop and think about what you have felt here and why you felt it. Think about the time when the Holy Ghost has borne witness to you of eternal truth.
I have received that witness from the Holy Ghost, and I can say that I know. I know that there is no one besides Jesus Christ who can bless me as He does. I know that there is no other organization besides His Church that can help me to prepare to return to His presence. I am grateful that I took the time and made the effort more than forty years ago to discover the truth for myself. It was this knowledge that kept me from running away from my many blessings when I was sorely tempted to do so.
I know that Heavenly Father lives and that Jesus Christ is His Son. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on earth today. I know that we are led by a prophet of God, even President Russell M. Nelson. I encourage all of you to gain this same testimony in order that you may stand strong against the temptations of this day.