As I finished working on and then teaching today’s lesson in our stake religion class, I felt a desire to share it. It’s long (maybe I post less often because I make things too long)… but I hope if there are things which lift your spirits or help you in some way…that you won’t mind that it is so long. In our class this semester (we don’t know what else to call them), we are studying phrases from the incredible hymn by Philip Paul Bliss, “More Holiness Give Me.” We’re endeavoring to become more like the Savior (and to understand and know Him better), and this hymn is like a “recipe” for becoming more Christ-like. Today we did our best to cover “More patience in suffering” and “More meekness in trial.” (It is IMPOSSIBLE to crunch everything into an hour … but one of the things which is so enjoyable about our class is that we’re never in a hurry …at least we try not to be). That is SO pleasant. We have wonderful discussions. (And you’ll have to pretend you’re in class – and you can respond to the questions if you’d like).
MORE PATIENCE IN SUFFERING – MORE MEEKNESS IN TRIAL
How many of you have experienced some trials, some adversity, some suffering? (Well… if you don’t think you have, you probably haven’t been paying attention … ha ha) One of my favorite hymns about trials, adversity, and suffering is Hymn # 85: “How Firm A Foundation.” (We sang all 7 verses; I wish we’d do that more often in our gatherings; it’s a shame to leave any of them out). DID ANYTHING STAND OUT TO YOU MORE THAN USUAL? Probably EVERYONE has some DEEP WATERS and FIERY TRIALS…. But we’re promised that in EVERY CONDITION – as we FLEE to the SAVIOR for REFUGE – “as thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be!” Some days demand MORE than others, don’t they…. And some “SEASONS” of our life demand more. “I am thy GOD and will still give the aid! I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to STAND!” He will SANCTIFY to us our DEEPEST DISTRESS. Our FIERY TRIALS are meant to refine the GOLD that is in us. And He will NEVER, no NEVER FORSAKE US!!!… even if ALL HELL endeavors to shake us!!
WHAT DO YOU THINK IT MEANS TO HAVE PATIENCE IN SUFFERING, AND MEEKNESS IN TRIAL? Now… if you’re someone who NEVER has trials or suffering – if you NEVER feel “BLUE” or depressed … I’m going to HELP YOU! n Take everything personally – endeavor to make everything that goes wrong your fault. n Do as much criticizing as you can – of yourself, your spouse, your kids, your parents, your neighbors, leaders, people In the news, people you don’t even know… find fault and promote contention. n Eat all you possibly can – set goals, like 300 lbs by the end of the year! – eat things that make you feel tired, give you a headache, make you sick. n Plan a ski trip to Las Vegas (plan that which is unrealistic, impossible). n Spend a lot of time dreaming about things that may never come true. n Compare yourself to others; don’t let one person represent more than one or two talents or categories, though – and don’t find out too much about them except for the ONE thing in which they are better or more skilled than you are (if you find out more about them it may begin to decrease your stress and depression). n Spend all the money you can – get a lot of credit cards and get out there to those malls and haul all the stuff away (CAUTION: There may be some initial euphoria before the depression sets in…but it’ll come!! – like with the BILLS….). n Don’t plan your day – just let it happen. Be surprised, be shocked, be caught off guard, be frustrated. Don’t do the dishes or the laundry. n When you feel angry, scream and throw things – don’t stop to figure out WHY you’re upset or why you feel bad, just let it all out as fast and noisily and with as much drama as you can. Break things you can’t replace, and say and do things which you’ll regret and feel embarrassed about later on. n Don’t sing or whistle or hum or play the piano or any other musical instrument. n Don’t socialize! Lock yourself in your room! Don’t call people on the ‘phone, don’t go outside if there’s a chance you might run into someone. Don’t eat with your family. n Say YES to everything anyone even hints that they want you to do, whether you’d enjoy it or not, whether you have time for it or not, whether it’s something you feel you can do or not. Call up people to get more things to do.
OK… that’s just plain SILLY – but I think sometimes we mistakenly add FUEL to the fires of adversity…. I actually DO (and have DONE) some of the things on this RIDICULOUS LIST!! HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THE HARD THINGS IN YOUR LIFE? WHAT KEEPS YOUR HEAD “ABOVE WATER?” Sometimes we ask QUESTIONS like “If God really loves me, why am I having so much trouble in my life?” “Why would a loving God allow such suffering?” Likely we can ALL think of examples of things which have happened to us and loved ones (and strangers) which “didn’t make sense.” I strongly feel that we shouldn’t “COMPARE” our trials or suffering with ANYONE ELSE’s… but at the same time I think it helps to know how others HANDLE their trials – how they RESPOND to suffering. I love the book by Rabbi HAROLD KUSHNER: “WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.” He lost a son to cancer. His book is full of LIGHT and HOPE. He explains that SUFFERING IS ONE OF OUR GREATEST TEACHERS, and that NO ONE is exempt. A life without suffering is a life without GROWTH, without a need to draw close to HEAVENLY FATHER for COMFORT, for PEACE, for UNDERSTANDING… and for meekness and patience.
If we were never going to have hard things happen, why would our BAPTISMAL COVENANT include BEARING ONE ANOTHER’S BURDENS THAT THEY MAY BE LIGHT – MOURNING WITH THOSE WHO MOURN – COMFORTING THOSE WHO STAND IN NEED OF COMFORT? If the plan included nothing but SMOOTH SAILING and HAPPY DAYS, why would there be SCRIPTURES like these: REVELATION 21:4 – And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And why would we have HYMNS such as the one we sang, with words of comfort and kindness and Heavenly Help – without MERCY?? And, indeed, why would we need the ATONEMENT if we had NO INFIRMITIES, and if NO ONE EVER DIED? ALMA 7:12 – And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
Have even PROPHETS experienced TRIALS and SUFFERING? Even, currently, PRESIDENT MONSON? How about PRESIDENT KIMBALL? ELDER HALES referred to President Spencer W. Kimball as “being a righteous man like Job,” who endured many trials-cancer of the throat, heart surgery, boils, cranial surgery, and numerous other afflictions. He said that President Kimball’s experiences served “as an example of how we should meet similar adversity and suffering in our lives.” (President Kimball Endured His Trials with Faith, Courage, LDS Church News, 1998, 07/25/98) And how about ELDER HALES?? . . . . How about PRESIDENT HUNTER? Those who have had to endure much of suffering and trials will find President Hunter is one who can relate and offer answers from his own suffering. Concerning this aspect of President Hunter’s life, President Boyd K. Packer humorously remarked, “I once asked President Hunter if he had a doctor’s book, and if so I wanted to borrow it. He asked why. I said, ‘I want to keep it. It seems to me you read through it looking for some major affliction you haven’t had, wonder what it would be like, and decide to try it.'” (“President Howard W. Hunter – He Endured to the End,” Ensign, April 1995, p. 28.) President Gordon B. Hinckley declared, “I believe that [his suffering] went on longer and was more sharp and deep than any of us really knew. He developed a high tolerance for pain and did not complain about it. That he lived so long is a miracle in and of itself. His suffering has comforted and mitigated the pain of many others who suffer. They know that he understood the heaviness of their burdens. He reached out to these with a special kind of love.” (“A Prophet Polished and Refined,” Ensign, April 1995, p. 33.) President Hunter himself said: “Our detours and disappointments are the straight and narrow path to Him” (“The Opening and Closing of Doors,” Ensign, Nov 1987). Can we find MEEKNESS and PATIENCE in President Hunter’s life??
What about THE PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH? Was HE MEEK and PATIENT? He, who experienced SO much adversity and suffering, taught this: … all the Saints . . . [including] prophets and apostles have had to come up through great tribulation.. (Teachings .. Prophet Joseph Smith 1938 ed., pp. 260-61) BROTHER TRUMAN MADSEN helped me when he shared this: From his own experiences, the Prophet Joseph was eminently qualified to talk about affliction… President Brigham Young is quoted as observing that the Prophet was more perfect in 38 years, with the severe tribulation through which he passed, than he would have been in a thousand years without it. (Truman Madsen, Eternal Man [Deseret Book Company, 1966], p. 57-59.)
And how about the SAVIOR? Does HE teach us about MEEKNESS and PATIENCE in TRIALS and SUFFERING?? I want to share something that Bishop Glenn L. Pace taught: Part of the reason the Savior suffered in Gethsemane was so that He would have infinite compassion for us as we experience our trials and tribulations. Through His suffering in Gethsemane [and beyond], He became qualified to be the perfect judge. Not one of us will be able to approach Him on the Judgment Day and say, “You don’t know what it was like.” He knows the nature of our trials better than we do, for He “descended below them all.” (Glenn L. Pace, Spiritual Plateaus, p.89)
So WHAT ABOUT US?? Can WE become increasingly MEEK and PATIENT? I found a wonderful thought from PRESIDENT LORENZO SNOW: Do not compromise to avoid suffering. Some of our brethren have queried whether hereafter they could feel themselves worthy of full fellowship with prophets and Saints of old, who endured trials and persecutions; and with Saints of our own times who suffered in Kirtland, in Missouri, and Illinois. The brethren referred to have expressed regrets that they had not been associated in those scenes of suffering. If any of these are present, I will say, for the consolation of such, you have to wait but a short time and you will have similar opportunities, to your heart’s content. You and I cannot be made perfect except through suffering; Jesus could not. In His prayer and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, He foreshadowed the purifying process necessary in the lives of those whose ambition prompts them to secure the glory of a celestial kingdom. None should try to escape by resorting to any compromising measures. “All who journey soon or late, Must come within the garden gate, And kneel alone in darkness there, And battle hard, yet not despair.” (10 January 1886, JD, 26:367)
It is by our meekness and patience in our suffering that our natures are perfected. As we OVERCOME OBSTACLES and FACE TRIALS, there are STRENGTHS added to our WEAKNESSES…. Is it possible that this is ONE WAY in which GOD turns our WEAKNESS into STRENGTH?? Severe trials bring PERFECT FAITH… COMPLETE TRUST in our HEAVENLY FATHER and in our SAVIOR and REDEEMER.
MEEKNESS rhymes with WEAKNESS but is the EXACT OPPOSITE! PRESIDENT BRIGHAM YOUNG: God never bestows upon His people, or upon an individual, superior blessings without a severe trial to prove them, to prove that individual, or that people, to see whether they will keep their covenants with Him and keep in remembrance what He has shown them. Then the greater the vision, the greater the display of the power of the enemy… (JD, 3:205) Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation. (JD, 8:150) The people of the Most High God must be tried….. I think there is a prospect for the Saints to have all the trials they wish for or can desire. (Discourses of Brigham Young. Compiled by John A. Widtsoe. SLC: Deseret Book, 1978, p. 345) 4:369). (I don’t know that I have ever wished for or desired trials….)
In my experience NO ONE IS EXEMPT! But NO ONE is EXCLUDED from RELIEF from suffering through FAITH, through CHRIST’s ATONING SACRIFICE… through His GRACE…. I love the truths in a verse from GALATIANS 5:22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith…. What if we had a CONTEST to see Who had suffered the MOST, and Who had suffered the LONGEST . . . WHO WOULD WIN?? THE SAVIOR! (It really is NO contest!) And He’s aware of how much we LEARN, how much we GROW, how much we are SANCTIFIED by our hard experiences. From the hymn we sang: He will SANCTIFY to us OUR DEEPEST DISTRESS. HE SAID: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM YOUR ADVERSITY? (This is something for each of us to think about) Here are just a FEW ideas which came to my mind about increasing our MEEKNESS and our PATIENCE (Nothing NEW….) AVOID COMPLAINING and SELF-PITY / DON’T WHINE – “WHY ME???” BE GRATEFUL / PRAY FOR PEACE / PRAY TO LEARN LESSONS / FOCUS ON THINGS WHICH BRING COMFORT AND JOY / REACH OUT TO OTHERS / DON’T LOSE YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR / SEEK TO BE MEEK AND HUMBLE – HUMILITY is the NATURE of MEEKNESS! The Savior taught: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) GORDON B. HINCKLEY: “I cannot escape the interpretation that meekness implies a spirit of gratitude … an acknowledgment of a greater power beyond oneself – a recognition of God and an acceptance of his commandments. This is the beginning of wisdom.” (October 1964) Elder VAUGHN J. FEATHERSTONE: “Those who are meek are absolutely submissive to God. They are teachable and have humble hearts. They are modest in their dress, speech, and service…. The meek feel no need to receive credit; rather they desire to give it to those who may need it. (The Incomparable Christ: Our Master and Model, p. 126-127) Elder NEAL A. MAXWELL: The ultimate model of meekness is Jesus . . . Meekness, then, is a saintly quality, and therefore of Deity. When we take his yoke upon us, in our small ways we can best learn of Jesus and of His meekness and lowliness. Then, as divine attributes are painfully and slowly developed in us, we marvel the more at His having perfected these attributes. Appreciation of Him yields to adoration and emulation of Him! (Men and Women of Christ, p. 60) … Meekness can be a great help to us all in coping with the injustices of life and also in avoiding the abuse of authority and power, to which tendency most succumb – except the meek. (Even As I Am, p. 20)
It seems that there are PLENTY of TRIALS ahead, doesn’t it . . . for ALL of us and for EACH of us . . . . LORENZO SNOW taught a POWERFUL truth: If a stormy cloud sweep over the horizon of your course in this land, as in America … if the cup of bitter suffering be offered and you be compelled to partake … if Satan is let loose among you, with all his seductive powers of deceiving and cunning craftiness …if the strong relentless arm of persecution is against you, then, in that hour lift up your heads and rejoice that you are accounted worthy to suffer with Jesus, the Saints, and holy prophets, and know that the period of your redemption approaches. (1 December 1851, MS, 13:364; BLS, pp. 196-97) May we increase our MEEKNESS and our PATIENCE, and may we find REST … not in blaming God for our troubles, but in the love of God which brings hope and the strength to bear our burdens and sorrows, along with helping our neighbors to bear theirs . . . .