10 January 2010



So there's Joshua standing on the banks of the River Jordan probably riddled with fear about what he's got to do. He's got to take over Moses's job as leader of the Children of Israel. He's had an insider's view of what that job entails and he's probably scared to death. And for his first big task on the job, he's got to take the entire lot of Israel across the river Jordan to inhabit the Promised Land.

Regardless of his fears, Joshua receives beautiful council from the Lord to “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

I like that even though Joshua was pretty close to the Lord and had been mentored by Moses for years, he STILL needed to have the Lord tell him repeatedly to “be strong and of a good courage.”

I think we need to hear it repeatedly too. We need to remember that the Lord has promised to “go before our face” that He will be “on our right hand and on our left and that his angels will be round about [us] to bear [us] up.”

We can rely on his Spirit to help us remember these things when we feel fearful and weak.

When I was an advertising student in Pasadena, CA, we had a combined project with a photography class. We were assigned to art direct a photo essay showing two disparate groups. Our group chose something like square-dancers and surfers. Another group in the class decided to photograph East-LA gangsters and Mormons. Everyone laughed at the contrast. I smiled too and thought it would be a visually compelling project. But then the photo department chairman started saying disparaging things about members of the church. He gave examples of photos they should take showing Mormons in a derogatory manner. I wanted to run and hide.

I prayed for help; I knew I needed to speak up. All the students in my department knew I was Mormon. My teacher knew I was Mormon. She looked embarrassed by the photo chairman’s comments. She looked at me and I prayed some more. And this great idea came into my mind. I raised my hand and said, “yes, I really like this idea of shooting the combination of Mormons and gangsters. I am Mormon and I would love to talk with you more about my church.” (The photo chairman blanched.) I said, “It will be a great project. In fact, if you’d like to get fantastic photos, there is a visitor’s center behind that large Mormon temple on Santa Monica Boulevard. You can get shots of that temple from the visitor’s center side without getting run over by cars. There are people there who will spend all day with you. They will answer your questions, they will let you photograph them, they might even feed you lunch.”

After the class I was bombarded by the group. They wanted the address of the visitor’s center. They were so fired up. They all knew someone who knew gangsters they could photograph, but they had been worried about finding Mormons. The end result was a gorgeous photo essay. Little old temple workers in their white suits standing in front of the Los Angeles Temple looking confidently at the viewer. A family that had been sealed together posed. The photos were stunning. None of them were in the derogatory light the photo chairman had suggested. It was wonderful. During the final critique my teacher asked me to comment on the project. The photo chairman wouldn’t look at me (in fact, years later, he will still avoid eye contact.) I thanked the group for going to the source to represent The Church. They had gone to east LA for the gangster part and participated in a BBQ with some cousin’s cousin’s gang. The gang photos were authentic and gorgeous. Same with the Mormons. I thanked them for showing an authentic portrait of Mormons, rather than a caricature. It was a great opportunity.

It wasn’t nearly as big a deal as leading an entire nation into a new land, but, I felt strengthened to know what to say. I had wanted to run and hide, just like Joshua might have wanted to run and hide. But the Lord needs each of us to act where we are. He needs each of us to go forward in our mission, whatever that may be.

Joshua’s mission was to cross the river Jordan and to obtain the promised land. It would not be easy. But the Lord would be with him “whithersoever” he went.

What is your mission? What does the Lord want you and I to do? On which river bank do we stand, wringing our hands in fear and dismay?

continues in PART THREE