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Be not silent, nor unquestioning.

By Jennifer Whitcomb

Religious persecution is not a cross I have to bear.  Although at times I feel like a stranger in a foreign land when it comes to the beliefs and convictions that separate me from the general populous, I have only to glance backward at history to know that I have been born in an age when I ought to feel gratitude with every waking breath for those who have fought this battle before me. 

I brought my two primary-age daughters to an activity at the temple this weekend. They were asked to bring a story of an ancestor to share.  We tossed a few ideas around and decided en route to call Mimi—the family’s history enthusiast. Thank goodness for cell phones!  And for living in an area rich with history vital to who we are; oral tradition is alive and well.  She vivaciously told us the story* of 11-year-old Patience; niece to the well-known Anne Hutchinson, friend and peer to Roger Williams and our great-grandmother, several generations removed.

Patience’s older sister Mary was engaged to be married to a young man named Christopher Holder, who, as a defender of religious freedom was expelled from Boston for being “a common opposer of all authority.”  When he came to Boston again in 1657, he and two other young men had their right ears cut off in prison for not listening. 

My modern-day church leaders often counsel me with words of wisdom that I have been guilty of not listening to… [and I continue to treat myself to jumbo bags of m&m’s and redbox movies]. 

Christopher’s future mother-in-law (Patience’s mother) Katherine Scott traveled to Boston to encourage him in his suffering.  For her kindness she was publicly whipped with “ten cruel stripes with a threefold corded knotted whip” and thrown into prison. 

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Looking Back, Moving Forward

In one of my favorite talks from this recent general conference (as though I could really pick a favorite), Elder Ballard talked about learning from mistakes of the past, and learning from the wisdom and experience of others.

I was sobered as he talked about learning from larger patterns, such as what is often called the pride cycle: “righteousness, followed by prosperity, followed by material comforts, followed by greed, followed by pride, followed by wickedness and a collapse of morality, until the people brought calamities upon themselves sufficient to stir them up to humility, repentance, and change.” Elder Ballard clearly noted that this classic historical cycle is emerging again in our society. He also was clear about how choices — at the individual and collective levels — can and do have spiritual consequences.

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