We gain strength through our trials and tribulations as we study, pray and face our fears with faith in Jesus Christ.
One of my FAVORITE seminary lessons to teach is 2 Nephi Chapter 2. I call it “The Last Lecture.” The first time I read this in preparation for teaching seminary I was immediately reminded of a life-changing book that I read by Randy Pausch titled “The Last Lecture.” Randy is a college professor and explains that every year- and it is this way with any teacher at the end of the school year- you have a last lecture for your class. In The Last Lecture you include all the most important things you want your students to remember. Reading the first few chapters of 2 Nephi, I can imagine Lehi preparing his last lecture for his children and posterity and I am reminded that in the end, we gain strength through our trials.
Consecrated for thy gain
In chapter 2 he is speaking to Jacob who was born in the wilderness, suffered great afflictions and many of those because of his brothers. He reminds him that God will take those afflictions to be “consecrated for thy gain.” Afflictions,Trials, Distress, Anguish-we have all faced it in one way or another. No one is immune from those things. Some are unknown to those around them-depression, anxiety, mental illness-an auto-immune disorder-loneliness. Some are easier to spot-cancer, loss of job, loss of a child-financial ruin. None is harder than another. We are given what we need.
I have learned not to ask the “why” but what can I learn? How can I grow from these trials and tribulations? I learned that from my parents as they faced a business challenge that took them from a million dollar home into our basement. All the while my Dad served as Stake President and my Mom stood firmly beside him supporting and strengthening him and my youngest sister.They faced some public humiliation, nasty phone calls and negative newspaper articles about the situation. No one ever was mean or degrading-especially in the stake but that did not make the situation easier. Our family felt the prayers of many. Again, we gained strength through our trials. Despite prayers, fasts, priesthood blessings, faith, trust in the Lord; this trial continued for 12+ years and still impacts them today.
As our family watched the situation something wonderful happened. We came together in a way we never had before, for the good of our parents. I will say that we have always been a close family but at this point, everyone gave what they could according to their situation. Through the years we all “took turns” helping where we could. I know for our parents this time was one of great pain. I would say for my siblings, my husband, myself and all the grandchildren, it was a time of incredible growth and learning. For a while, we had the opportunity to basically live the Law of Consecration as a family. We were all blessed with an amazing understanding of God’s timing. Our home during that time literally felt like the temple and I could not help but compare in some ways our home to a type of Liberty Jail-a temple experience in which they were bound for a time. As a family, we gained strength through our trials.
Looking back on these difficult years, our parents were completely taken care of and every basic need was met-which was always a promise in priesthood blessings they received. During this time, their health was preserved. Their children have all been blessed to marry for time and eternity in the temple. All six children (5 girls, 1 boy) had the blessing and honor of serving full-time missions and now three of their grandchildren. I know that as my father continued to serve in his calling that it was a blessing, as the perspective you receive on trials is great in a leadership calling. I remember my Mom saying that she could feel the Lord carrying her heart in His hands at times. This faithfulness in a time- a long time- of great affliction has been an amazing blessing to our family as well as many who have watched them face this. Their example gave strength and support to so many. Little did I know, at the time that I would need it for myself about 15 years later.
We gain strength through OUR trials and tribulations
Calvin and I really have had a great life. We have 5 beautiful children. Two of our daughter sealed in the temple, one served a full-time mission. We have an adorable grandson and one on the way. We, like my parents have always tried to follow the prophets counsel and do what we know we should. We strive to be diligent with Family Prayer, FHE, Family Scripture Study and do all that we can to fortify and strengthen our home.
In the last three years we have watched a daughter who needed to return home a little early from a mission for health reasons. It was a very difficult time for all of us as we watched her find her way through that time. We have seen another daughter face a chronic health condition that has made it so that she cannot serve a full time mission (at least for now) that she had always planned to serve at this point (she is 20). She has not been able to attend college the last two semesters because she could not do it with her health challenges (this is an incredibly bright girl who enjoys learning). She has had to give up almost her entire life to deal with this chronic condition. To watch a very capable and strong young woman who loves the Lord, and has always been very successful in life, want to wither away and give up has been extremely difficult. We had some struggles with our teenage son who was always a kid that has been easy to parent. But there was a while there when we simply could not trust him and what he was telling us. Through all this, we have learned again that we gain strength through our trials and tribulations.
Lehi gained strength through his trials
Going back to Lehi as he gives his last bit of advice before he dies to Jacob-his son who has suffered much. I understand now why this was a valuable thing for Lehi to tell Jacob. Lehi was speaking from experience. He was authentic in what he was saying. He had experienced the things he spoke of and through that still testified of a loving Heavenly Father who would “consecrate our afflictions for our gain.” In his life he left his home, his birthright, his friends and probably even extended family. He spiritually lost children and eventually grandchildren and numerous posterity. He faced children literally trying to KILL other children (some days, when the fighting gets crazy, I think I have it bad!) He watched his dear wife deliver children “in the wilderness” and then struggled to raise them when he did not have much to provide. If anyone knew afflictions, Lehi certainly did and he knew that God had consecrated the afflictions of a “tender parent” for his gain.
Jacobs life would not get easier. But God helped Jacob, through his afflictions, to build his testimony so it became “unshakable” in the Lord (Jacob 7:5) as did his son Enos’ testimony (Enos 1:11). We see Joseph Smith and the early saints and witness time after time the strength of their testimony through afflictions. We gain strength through our trials and tribulations.
As I look at the past (and we are still in the middle of much of our struggles) I can so clearly see the many miracles that have happened that are not what we have prayed for, yet they have come and I still consider them miracles. For our daughter facing health challenges-the miracle of strength through the atonement, just to continue on every day. For our missionary daughter the miracle that coming home was in “finishing” the mission she needed to accomplish. For my son, a return of the Spirit striving with him, a light in him and a desire to do those things that in the end, will bring him the greatest joy. In our lives, we gained strength through our trials and tribulations.
For some of our trials and tribulations it may not be until we pass this mortal life that we see resolution or even miracles. But this I know, that God will consecrate our afflictions for our gain. He loves us and wants us to grow to our potential and most of that growth will only occur as we rely on Him and trust in Him. As we are stretched we will grow and an all-loving, all-knowing Father in Heaven knows that .