Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What a Prophet teaches me about ADVERSITY

Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Adversity will be a constant or occasional companion for each of us throughout our lives. We cannot avoid it.
 The only question is how we will react to it.
 Will our adversities be stumbling blocks or stepping-stones?
Father Lehi taught his son Jacob that in order to bring to pass righteousness, the Lord’s plan allowed for wickedness. In order for God’s children to appreciate joy, they must also be subject to misery (see 2 Ne. 2:23). To accomplish the purposes of God, there must needs be “an opposition in all things” (2 Ne. 2:11). Our adversities are part of that opposition. Elder Howard W. Hunter explained the principle in a general conference address many years ago:
“We came to mortal life to encounter resistance. It was part of the plan for our eternal progress. Without temptation, sickness, pain, and sorrow, there could be no goodness, virtue, appreciation for well-being, or joy” (“God Will Have a Tried People,” Ensign, May 1980, 25).
 The Lord uses adversities to send messages to his children.

 They can turn our hearts to God.
Nephi was told that the natural enemies of his descendants would be “a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me” (2 Ne. 5:25).
The idea of a scourge to cause people to remember God reaffirms a familiar teaching in the 12th chapter of Hebrews: “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth” (Heb. 12:6). Even as adversities inflict mortal hardships, they can also be the means of leading men and women to eternal blessings.
I read of a ...contrast after the devastating hurricane that destroyed thousands of homes in Florida some years ago. A news account quoted two different persons who had suffered the same tragedy and received the same blessing: each of their homes had been totally destroyed, but each of their family members had been spared death or injury. One said that this tragedy had destroyed his faith; how, he asked, could God allow this to happen? The other said that the experience had strengthened his faith. God had been good to him, he said. Though the family’s home and possessions were lost, their lives were spared and they could rebuild the home. For one, the glass was half empty. For the other, the glass was half full. The gift of moral agency empowers each of us to choose how we will act when we suffer adversity.
 Our responses will inevitably shape our souls and ultimately determine our status in eternity. Because opposition is divinely decreed for the purpose of helping us to grow, we have the assurance of God that in the long view of eternity it will not be allowed to overcome us if we persevere in faith. We will prevail. Like the mortal life of which they are a part, adversities are temporary.
 What is permanent is what we become by the way we react to them.
Our adversities can be the means of obtaining blessings unobtainable without them.
How can adversities be for our good? Speaking in area conferences more than 20 years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson explained:
“It is not on the pinnacle of success and ease where men and women grow most. It is often down in the valley of heartache and disappointment and reverses where men and women grow into strong characters”
(in Conference Report, Stockholm Sweden Area Conference, 1974, 70).

“Every reversal can be turned to our benefit and blessing and can make us stronger, more courageous, more godlike”
 (in Conference Report, Philippine Islands Area Conference, 1975, 11).
A few years ago I listened as a widow spoke in fast and testimony meeting. She told how she had lost her husband a year earlier. “He was a good man,” she said, adding, “I lived in his shadow.” Now that he was gone, she said she had to develop qualities in herself that were dormant during her husband’s lifetime. She expressed appreciation for that opportunity. Some might not understand that expression, but I do. I heard my own mother express a similar thought about the effect on her of losing her husband—my father—after only 11 years of marriage. To carry this point to an even more personal level, I know it was a blessing to be raised by a widowed mother whose children had to learn how to work, early and hard. As promised in the scriptures, the Lord consecrated her affliction for her gain (see 2 Ne. 2:2) and for the blessing of her children.
Thousands of years ago, Egyptian taskmasters afflicted the Israelites with heavy burdens. However, the Bible records, “the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew” (Ex. 1:12).
We may look on the shortage of money and the struggle to find rewarding employment as serious adversities. I remember such experiences and feelings, and I am unpersuaded that relative poverty and hard work are greater adversities than relative affluence and free time. You are all familiar with the cycles reported in the Book of Mormon in which prosperity led to complacency and pride and spiritual downfall and in which deprivations led to humility and spiritual growth. I believe that the easy way materially usually is not the best way spiritually. For many, though not all, material wealth and abundant free time are spiritual impediments.

If we face up to our individual adversities or hardships, they can become a source of blessing. God will not give us adversities we cannot handle, and he will bless us richly for patiently doing the best we can in the circumstances.
Elaine Cannon reminds us of an important way these blessings come and how we can make the most of them.
“When we are pushed, stung, defeated, embarrassed, hurt, rejected, tormented, forgotten—when we are in agony of spirit crying out ‘why me?’ we are in a position to learn something”
(Adversity, 47).

President Kimball gave us these inspired thoughts on the blessings of adversity:
“I’m grateful that my priesthood power is limited and used as the Lord sees fit to use it. I don’t want to heal all the sick—for sickness sometimes is a great blessing. People become angels through sickness.  “Have you ever seen someone who has been helpless for so long that he has divested himself of every envy and jealousy and ugliness in his whole life, and who has perfected his life? I have. Have you seen mothers who have struggled with, perhaps, unfortunate children for years and years, and have become saints through it? … No pain suffered by man or woman upon the earth will be without its compensating effects if it be suffered in resignation and if it be met with patience” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball [1982], 167–68).
I know that the consequences of the “furnace of affliction” bring eternal blessings. Those blessings are made possible because of the Resurrection and Atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know and testify to the truth of Alma’s teaching: “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” (Alma 36:3).

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