“Life—every life—has a full share of ups and downs. Indeed, we see many joys and sorrows in the world, many changed plans and new directions, many blessings that do not always look or feel like blessings, and much that humbles us and improves our patience and our faith.” That quote is found in Chapter 3 of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter. President Hunter taught often about adversity and the need for hope and encouragement as we journey through life. The lesson comes from four such talks – three from general conferences and one from a CES Fireside. Links to those talks are at the bottom of the page.
I remember well the first time I saw the Mormon Message entitled “The Refiner’s Fire.” (The link is below.) I don’t think any of us can truly anticipate how hard life can be at times. However, the strength this sweet sister finds through the Atonement of Jesus Christ is inspiring! It is the lesson we are all here to learn. That video epitomizes President Hunter’s reminder that in times of trouble, “Jesus Christ possesses the power to ease our burdens and lighten our loads.”
That quote also brought Elder David A. Bednar’s talk from April 2014 LDS General Conference to mind. He told the story of a friend who went into the mountains to cut and haul firewood. There was already some snow in the mountains. However, the farther up the mountain he got, the deeper the snow got. Having recently purchased his truck, this man was confident he could handle the snow and so he kept driving. Unfortunately he went too far and got stuck. The harder he tried to get out the more his wheels spun. He didn’t really know what to do or how he would get out. So he got out of his truck and went to cut the firewood he had come for. He completely filled the back of his truck with a heavy load of wood. He decided to try one more time to get out of the snow. Slowly the truck inched its way out and he was finally back on the road. Elder Bednar taught us this lesson about his friend, the truck and the load of firewood:
“For my friend, the load of wood provided life-saving traction. The empty truck could not move through the snow, even equipped with four-wheel drive. A heavy load was necessary to produce traction.
“It was the load. It was the load that provided the traction that enabled my friend to get unstuck, to get back on the road, to press forward, and to return to his family.
“The unique burdens in each of our lives help us to rely upon the merits, mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah (see 2 Nephi 2:8). I testify and promise the Savior will help us to bear up our burdens with ease (see Mosiah 24:15). As we are yoked with Him through sacred covenants and receive the enabling power of His Atonement in our lives, we increasingly will seek to understand and live according to His will. We also will pray for the strength to learn from, change, or accept our circumstances rather than praying relentlessly for God to change our circumstances according to our will. We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14). We will be blessed with spiritual traction.”
By yoking ourselves to the Savior, President Hunter tells us we will have “the power and peace of standing side by side with a God that will provide the support, balance, and the strength to meet our challenges and endure our tasks here in the hardpan field of mortality.” And Elder Bednar tells us “we are not and never need be alone. We can press forward in our daily lives with heavenly help. Through the Savior’s Atonement we can receive capacity and strength beyond our own.”
Helping us learn to keep perspective through our trials, President Hunter teaches us:
“When the difficulties of mortality humble us and refine us and teach us and bless us, they can be powerful instruments in the hands of God to make us better people, to make us more grateful, more loving, and more considerate of other people in their own times of difficulty.
“We all have difficult moments, but even in the most severe of times, those problems were never intended to do anything but bless the righteous and help those who are less righteous move toward repentance.”
He also reminds us that “God knows what we do not know and sees what we do not see.” Adversity is a necessary part of life. It is part of God’s plan. He knows what is best for us and what will help us become who He wants us to be. Trust in His plan will bring peace during times of trial. Brigham Young said, “Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation.”
I really like how Orson F. Whitney said the same thing, with even greater depth:
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”
Perhaps the most beautiful talk I have read about trusting God and relying on the Atonement of Jesus Christ while enduring adversity was the one given by Richard G. Scott the general conference following his wife’s death. He taught that adversity is evidence that the Lord feels we are prepared to grow and that those experiences stimulate growth, understanding and compassion which will benefit us eternally. He said, “To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.” I love his tender reminder:
“Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love.”
The entire talk is definitely worth reading!
President Hunter encouraged us to “have faith and hope, two of the great fundamental virtues of any discipleship of Christ” and that “if our faith and hope are anchored in Christ, in his teachings, commandments, and promises, then we are able to count on something truly remarkable.” He then leaves us this powerful promise:
“I promise you in the name of the Lord whose servant I am that God will always protect and care for his people. We will have our difficulties the way every generation and people have had difficulties. But with the gospel of Jesus Christ, you have every hope and promise and reassurance. The Lord has power over his Saints and will always prepare places of peace, defense, and safety for his people. When we have faith in God we can hope for a better world—for us personally, and for all mankind.”
Evidence of the Lord’s tender care during our afflictions can be readily found in the scriptures. Here are just a few:
1 Nephi 20:10 – I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
1 Nephi 21:13 – The Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.
2 Nephi 4: 20 – My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions.
Jacob 3:1 – He will console you in our afflictions, and he will plead your cause.
Alma 26:27 – Bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.
Alma 36:3 – I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.
D&C 24:1 – I have lifted thee up out of thine afflictions, and have counseled thee.
D&C 24:8 – Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.
D&C 98:3 – All things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good.
D&C 121:7 & 8 – Peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
As I look back on some of the hardest times in my life, I can see that was when my testimony grew the most. I could not have learned the things I have learned in any other way. Relying on the Savior, I had the strength to bear hard things. Holding fast to the covenants I have made, I found great hope. Faith to submit my will to the Father’s gave me peace. As I continue to align my will with His, I know I will be blessed with the strength, hope and peace I need to endure what is yet to come.
God Will Have a Tried People – Howard W. Hunter
The Opening and Closing of Doors – Howard W. Hunter
Come Unto Me – Howard W. Hunter
An Anchor to the Souls of Men – Howard W. Hunter
The Refiner’s Fire – Mormon Message
Finding a Safe Harbor – Joseph B. Wirthlin
Adversity – Henry B. Eyring
Bearing Our Burdens with Hope – Mormon Message