Accepting and Overcoming Adversity (1 Nephi 11:32-33)

“And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.

And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.” – 1 Nephi 11:32-33

The Savior is a perfect example of accepting and overcoming adversity.

At the time of Christ, many of the people didn’t believe in the Savior. They were so exasperated with Him, they had Him crucified. We read about Christ’s experience on the cross:

“And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,

And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,

He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.

He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” – Matthew 27:39-43

While suffering on the cross, people mocked Christ- that he couldn’t save himself from death, even though He claimed being the Savior.

But, the thing is, suffering and dying was a part of Christ’s mission. It was an obstacle he needed to endure in order to fulfill His mission on this earth. Had he given in to weakness, then He would not have completed His divine mandate. He would not have been able to overcome death and hell. He wouldn’t have been able to save us.

As I write this, I realize that maybe there are a few distinctions while experiencing trials.

One – Obstacles
In this life, we all must face obstacles. For the most part, this is what I’m interested in learning about. These obstacles exist and persist, and depending on how we exercise our agency – these obstacles can propel us toward the future that we were designed for. They can help us to achieve the missions we were created to complete.

Christ’s obstacle was to suffer in the garden of Gethsemane and then to die on the cross. It wasn’t a judgment on His righteousness. His suffering wasn’t a curse or because He had made a wrong decision along the way. His suffering and the obstacles He faced were the way.

Two – Resistance
I’m not completely sure if there is really a difference between obstacles and resistance. To be honest, I’m writing this and thinking this at the same time. This isn’t a final draft that I’ve been formulating for a while. So – I guess I should apologize in advance.

I’m thinking that there is a difference though. I’m thinking that resistance is more than an obstacle. I feel like resistance is actually a force of evil. Again, it could be lumped into the “obstacle” part of this blog post because Heavenly Father allows us to be subjected to evil.

I also think that it is good to make the distinction because it helps us to understand that the obstacles we face aren’t always just abstract, arbitrary, events in our lives.

There is a real power that is also trying to keep us from any kind of advancement, progress or joy. This power is coming from Satan.

Satan’s primary objective is to keep us from progress. He distracts us, mocks us, poisons us, scares us – anything he must do to get us to let go of the rod. He doesn’t want us to make it to our goal of love and joy with God in heaven.

Thankfully, we also have power. We can hold on to the rod – amidst obstacles and against resistance. We have access to Christ’s power. We also have been empowered ourselves. We have our own will; our own agency – we can keep holding on. We can keep moving forward.

We can follow the Savior’s example and persevere through both obstacles and resistance. We can accomplish the work we have been sent here to do, and then we can feel the joy that God offers us when we do it.

Faith, Joy, Iniquity, and Despair (Moroni 10:22 and 9:25)

I’m going a little bit out of order, but it works…

In Moroni 10, we read:

“And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.” – Moroni 10:22

This is kind of depressing. I mean, who likes thinking about despair. No one. BUT, we still need to think about it! How else can we protect ourselves against this if we don’t study it and understand how it can come into our lives???

Here, we learn that a lack of hope leads to despair. And despair comes because of iniquity.

I want to be careful as I write this. I know that there are other reasons people feel hopeless. I know that despair can come of depression and other chemical problems in the body. So, I don’t want to seem insensitive. I don’t think that despair only comes through iniquity.

However, iniquity will only ever result in despair. There is no other consequence of iniquity.

Additionally, I have experienced despair in my life. I have seen a therapist during a particularly dark time in my life. I learned to look at my own life with a sort of detachment – to look at the facts of the events in my life, rather than the emotion that was laced with those facts. And I learned how to change what I was doing (that was unhealthy), so that I could pull myself up out of despair and into hope.

I had despair, but mine was not a chemical issue. My doctor would have prescribed medication. Medications, however, are riddled with side-effects, and there is more than one way to “skin a cat.”

Since then, I have learned to apply the same techniques. This is where meditation comes in handy. And when I’m experiencing hopelessness or despair, often the Lord will teach me how I can change. I may not be out robbing banks, doing drugs, or prostituting myself – I’m not iniquitous, but there is a disconnect between me and the Spirit of God. And the connection is the same no matter how great or small the sin.

We learn in the chapter before:

“My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.” – Moroni 9:25

It is through Christ that we can be lifted up. Sometimes we are best able to access Christ and His atonement through therapeutic practices. When I saw my doctor, she explained that the practices and “homework” she was giving me – processing the experiences I had in my life that caused trauma and bad patterns – would help to liberate me so that the Atonement could have an effect in my life.

In other words – therapy was a blessing of the Atonement. Christ suffered and has given men and women the wisdom to help each other! Going to therapy was a gift of Christ’s suffering. The gifts of the Atonement don’t only come through abstract prayer sessions. (Of course, I believe prayer is important!) Sometimes the answers to these prayers come through other, more practical forms of work.

In any case – the result is the same. When we are able to access the power of the atonement (whether it is during our prayers, with the assistance of a therapist, or with the assistance of medications), once we can access that power, our souls are filled with hope of His glory. We begin to feel the promise of the joy of rest.

Anyway – there is so much more I could write about this. I can’t even begin to pretend that this blog post is the beginning and end of this subject. But I hope that it scratched a surface for you. If you are feeling despair, think of how you might be disconnected from God and Christ. Perhaps your despair is caused by your own sin. Perhaps this despair is caused by the sin of another. Maybe your despair is caused by the malfunction of a mortal body or brain. Any of these scenarios can be healed through the Atonement of Christ. Pray to the Lord in Christ’s name. Listen to the advice he gives you. Maybe you’ll be guided to read a scripture. Maybe you’ll find you need to repent and change. Maybe your’e answer will come as a prompting to get more professional help for scars and wounds that need more than a proverbial band-aid and antibiotic cream.

No matter what, I know that the Lord will help us.

I know this because I know that the Lord wants us to have joy. He promises us joy, peace, and rest. He wants us to experience all of His greatest blessings. Best of all, He doesn’t expect us to be able to have any of these blessings without His help

The Joy of Hope

This is just one of my favorite scriptures.

“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” – Ether 12:4

This scripture brings me joy.

This scripture was given to us by Ether, but recorded for us by Moroni. Moroni- who had just witnessed the complete extinction of a civilization – his civilization. AND he had just abridged the records of another civilization that went extinct based on their wicked choices.

Ether also witnessed the destruction of his civilization.

These men witnessed an event that most of us will never really see – and yet they tell us – during such hopeless times that if we believe in God, we can have hope.

A belief in God gives us hope for a better world (which means a lot when you just witnessed the end of your civilization!). This hope for a better world anchors our soul to Christ. We understand that He is the author of such a world. Then, our hearts are turned to Him and filled with His love. We do good works for others because of the Love of God that we have obtained.

Is this not joyful?!

It’s possible to have joy in any circumstance when we have the perspective and hope of God.

Joy in Adversity (Ether 6:9)

The Book of Ether (in the Book of Mormon) is a short abridgment of a group of people that lived in the Americas before the Nephite civilization (so – before 600 BC).

This group of people, the Jaredites, left Babel during the time of the destruction of the tower of Babel and were guided to the Americas. They had an arduous journey – including a year-long “cruise” in barges that would be occasionally submerged underwater – propelled by ocean currents and storms.

We read of the Jaredites:

“And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind.

And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.” – Ether 6:8-9

So – think about this for a second. The Jaredites are in un-steerable barges. They get submerged under sea and are driven forth by these winds and currents in order to move. It doesn’t sound super pleasant. Storms are what propel these people.

I think that it is the same in our lives – whether or not we will recognize it. Storms and obstacles are the very thing that have the power to propel us in our lives. How do we react to them? Are we like the Jaredites?

During these storms and trials, they sang praises to the Lord. They trust in Him. Because of their trust in God, they were able to have the perspective to understand their trials and find joy in them.

The Terror of the Wicked (Mormon 6:7-8)

There is less and less joy to be found in the people of the Ancient Americas (as recorded in the Book of Mormon. This is because of their wicked decisions and rebellion against God.

We read:

“And it came to pass that my people, with their wives and their children, did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them.

And it came to pass that they came to battle against us, and every soul was filled with terror because of the greatness of their numbers.” – Mormon 6:7-8

These people are standing and awaiting their death. They are filled with terror. It sounds like absolutely horrible conditions.

Compare this with those Lamanites who had been converted several hundred years before:

” And they did look upon shedding the blood of their brethren with the greatest abhorrence; and they never could be prevailed upon to take up arms against their brethren; and they never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection; therefore, death was swallowed up to them by the victory of Christ over it.

Therefore, they would suffer death in the most aggravating and distressing manner which could be inflicted by their brethren, before they would take the sword or cimeter to smite them.” – Alma 27:28-29

The rebellious Nephites were terror-filled and blood-thirsty. The faithful and converted Lamanites (from years before), revered the sanctity of life and had no fear of death whatsoever.

I don’t know that I need to say much more other than – it’s obvious that I’d rather be like the Lamanites. Who wants to be filled with terror? Who wants to be bloodthirsty? Why not be righteous and then be filled with the confidence and peace of God?

Purpose in Christ (Mormon 5:16-18)

The Nephites had rebelled from God, from His blessings, and from the knowledge and covenants that they had received from Him.

We read:

“For behold, the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with their fathers; and they are without Christ and God in the world; and they are driven about as chaff before the wind.

They were once a delightsome people, and they had Christ for their shepherd; yea, they were led even by God the Father.” – Mormon 5:16-17

The Nephites no longer had the spirit with them. They were without God, they were without Christ – and what was the result: a meaningless life.

Once, they were led. Once, they had direction, and now they were just blowing in the wind.

I know that this can sound like some kind of romantic idea – no rules, no direction, no religion, nothing forcing us to go somewhere. We have songs about this concept of “nothingness.” And I think that there are times when we have intellectualized ourselves into believing that this lack of purpose is somehow superior than some other kind of life.

I think it’s depressing! Being driven about as chaff before wind? Personally, I find no joy or hope in it, and I think that’s because there is no purpose in such a modality of living.

The truth is, purpose and meaning is what will bring us joy – even in the most difficult of circumstances. I can’t help but think of Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Understanding his meaning and purpose in life gave him the tenacity he would need to endure three years in concentration camps. Believing in “nothing” will not give you the strength to endure the trials and adversities we face in our lives.

In fact, Frankl has said something very interesting about freedom:

“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.” – Viktor Frankl

Blowing about in the wind as chaff sounds like freedom, in a way. But it’s not the “whole thing.” That’s not the real freedom that God offers. Freedom isn’t only the “negative” aspect. It doesn’t only mean that we have the freedom to choose or be. It also means that we are free from (fill in the blank). We are free from – sorrow, fear, addiction, etc. This kind of freedom only comes through discipline, or as Frankl describes it responsibleness..

Our freedom can degenerate into arbitrariness (doesn’t that sound like chaff blowing in the wind) unless we will have discipline!

Follow the Good shepherd. Then our lives have meaning. Then our lives have purpose. Then, our lives have joy.

A Joyful Society (4 Nephi 1:15-17)

After Christ’s Visit to the Americas, the people were changed. They covenanted with Him. They kept their covenants and the commandments. And what followed is nothing short of amazing.

” And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.

And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land.” – 4 Nephi 1:15-18

This society – it was heaven on earth. It was Zion.

How was it possible? The love of God which dwelled in the hearts of the people.

So, I know that I could write at least 10 pages on this subject – the love of God that dwells in the hearts of people. For now, though, just understand that this isn’t some kind of amalgam concept of “love” that we seem to have now. They had the very specific love of God – the pure love of Christ – the love what doesn’t fail. This love comes as a result of discipline and covenant keeping.

Through covenant keeping and discipline, we develop God-like love, or charity, and then we can experience the following:

  • joy in the success of others – (lack of envy)
  • Peace – (no strife)
  • Virtue – (no whoredoms)
  • Sanctity of Life and safety – (no murder)
  • Healthy Family life – (no manner of lasciviousness)
  • Happiness
  • Safe Property – (No robbers)
  • Safe Life – (No murderers)
  • A United Class – (No Racism or class)
  • Blessings
  • Heir to the Kingdom of God
  • Prosperity
  • The Abundant Life

Often, I think that we have a backward approach on this. We think that if we will just work at joy, peace, safety then we’ll have it. Or we think we make laws to prevent murder, robbery, and rape, and then experience the kind of society described in 4 Nephi. We think that we can “eradicate” class through governmental control.

We often try to approach this ideal society backwards – looking at the corollaries, rather than the cause.

The way to be the kind of society like these Nephites after Christ’s visit is through humbly covenanting with God. It is through Righteousness and devotion to the commandments that will enable us to become the kind of people who have hearts filled with the love of God.

I find this message to be especially hopeful. It’s possible! Christ will make us perfect. He will complete us and enable us to live joy – even while in this mortal state. If we will just turn to Him. He will teach us how it is possible, and empower us by filling our hearts with His love.