General Conference, October 2018 – Saturday Afternoon Session – “Firm and Steadfast in the Faith of Christ” by Elder D. Todd Christofferson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Elder Christofferson related a story from the Old Testament (1 Kings 18) at the beginning of his talk about the prophet Elijah and the priests of Baal and I wanted to provide some context for this particular story–it’s been a while since I studied the Old Testament and I was a little fuzzy on some of the details:
1 Kings 16
Ahab became the king of Israel after the death of his father Omri. Ahab married Jezebel, a Phoenician princess, and built an alter to Baal, the nature god that Jezebel worshiped, and he began to worship Baal, too. (From the text, it actually sounds like he built an alter to Baal in the temple he built for Baal, but I’m not entirely clear on that.) “And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.” (1 Kings 16:33) I’m not sure of the significance of the grove but it’s a pretty strong statement to say that Ahab did more to anger the Lord than ALL the kings of Israel before him!
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Baal was the primary god of the Phoenicians, a god of fertility, also called “the Lord of Rain and Dew.” (This is significant, keep reading!)
1 Kings 17
Enter Elijah, the prophet.
Elijah warns king Ahab that there will be a drought–he specifically states that “there shall not be dew nor rain these [3.5] years” (1 Kings 17:1, see Luke 4:25 for the length of the drought/famine)–unless the king and the people repent. Spoiler alert: they don’t repent!
1 Kings 18
In the third year of the famine, God sends Elijah to Ahab. Elijah asks Ahab to gather everyone, including the priests of Baal, to Mount Carmel where the people will choose, once and for all, whether they will worship God or Baal. Elijah asks for two bulls to be brought for sacrifice. The priests of Baal will lay their bull on some wood and ask their god to set fire to the wood to burn their sacrifice and Elijah will do the same for his God, the God of Israel, and whichever god is able to light the fire, that is the god the people will worship.
The priests of Baal call on their god for hours, but nothing happens. They jump on top of the altar and shout, but nothing happens.
Then it’s Elijah’s turn.
He builds an altar in the name of the Lord, with 12 stones (it’s specifically stated in the scriptures that this is in reference to the 12 tribes of Israel, see 1 Kings 18:31) and makes a trench around it. He lays the wood and then the bull on top. To really hammer the point home that idols have no power, only the God of Isreal, Elijah has the people pour four barrels of water on his wood and his sacrifice. And then he has them pour water on the wood and sacrifice two more times, a total of 12 barrels of water! He also fills the trench with water.
Elijah prays to the Lord and asks Him to show the people that He is the Lord God.
Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. (1 Kings 18:38)
Take that, priests of Baal.
Elder Cristofferson paraphrases what Elijah might say today and I really, really like this, so I’m going to quote it:
Either God, our Heavenly Father, exists, or He does not, but if He exists, worship Him.
Either Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the resurrected Redeemer of mankind, or He is not, but if He is, follow Him.
Either the Book of Mormon is the word of God, or it is not, but if it is, then “get nearer to God by [studying and] abiding by its precepts.” (Introduction to the Book of Mormon)
Either Joseph Smith saw and conversed with the Father and the Son that spring day of 1820, or he did not, but if he did, then follow the prophetic mantle, including the keys of sealing that I, Elijah, bestowed upon him.
Moroni promises us at the end of the Book of Mormon that, if we ask God in the name of Christ “with a sincere heart, with real intent” God will reveal to us, through the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true. (Moroni 10:4)
But the journey isn’t over once we’ve determined the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon! No! Now we do something about it! To quote Elder Cristofferson, “the gospel becomes… the defining of [a person’s] life and character.”
Our full conversion and healing “happens if, and only if, we do not harden our hearts or stiffen our necks against Him.”