Due to COVID-19, my church has suspended meetings. Normally we have members of the congregation give talks every Sunday, so now my local congregation sends out a weekly newsletter with written talks. My bishop asked me to write a talk on “enduring trials of faith with patience.” I’m sharing it here too with the hope that someone finds it helpful.
What is patience? Our Guide to the Scriptures defines patience as “calm endurance; the ability to endure affliction, insult, or injury without complaint or retaliation.”
What does that look like?
When I think of patience I think of my father. He’s had moments of impatience but he so often responds to inconvenience, insult, and affliction with calmness. Many times I have observed him pause before speaking after someone has hurled defiance, rudeness, or disrespect at him. I witnessed it first hand when I was the one rebelling against him. I couldn’t help it, I knew everything when I was eighteen years old! His loving patience grabbed my attention and pierced my heart in a way I don’t think anything else could have. It made me consider who I was becoming, and who I wanted to be.
One of my favorite examples of patience comes from The Book of Mormon. The scripture in Mosiah chapter 23 says Alma and the Nephites who followed him “fled eight days’ journey into the wilderness” to escape from the armies of King Noah, who wanted to kill them because they had different religious beliefs. Imagine speed hiking for eight days without even a trail to walk on! They stopped when they found “a beautiful and pleasant land,” and they went straight to work: “they pitched their tents, and began to till the ground, and began to build buildings; yea, they were industrious, and did labor exceedingly.” These people were tough! More important than their hard work and perseverance was their choice to repent of their sins and follow Christ. Because of that choice the Lord blessed them that “they did multiply and prosper exceedingly in the land.” They were doing well. They were making the right choices.
After all this, Mormon writes, “nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people, yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.”
A Lamanite army that had gotten lost discovered Alma and his people. They asked for directions (they must have had women with them) and promised Alma they would leave his people alone if he helped them. Alma gave them directions and the Lamanite leader broke his promise, which was almost unheard of even among enemies in those days. The bulk of the Lamanite army followed Alma’s directions home while some remained to stand guard over Alma’s people. Later the wives and children of the Lamanite guards moved in too.
The Lamanite guards, under the direction of a cruel and cunning ex-Nephite named Amulon, “began to exercise authority over Alma and his brethren, and began to persecute him, and cause that his children should persecute their children.” Amulon wouldn’t even spare children from his cruelty. He then “exercised authority over [Alma’s people], and put tasks on them, and put task-masters over them” (Mosiah 24:8-9). Slave labor.
“And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.”
Amulon ordered them to stop praying, and “he put guards over them to watch them,” and ordered the guards to kill anyone who prayed to God. Alma and his people “did pour out their hearts to [God]; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.” I love that.
The next part speaks for itself. It’s powerful!
“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”
Then the Lord kept his promise:
“And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord. And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.”
The Lord then spoke to Alma to have his people gather everything they needed during the night, “and in the morning the Lord caused a deep sleep to come upon the Lamanites, yea, and all their task-masters were in a profound sleep. And Alma and his people departed into the wilderness.”
Talk about deliverance from trials! They were literally slaves, and the Lord saved them. As powerful a witness as that is, I think perhaps the greater lesson is that the Lord visits his people in their afflictions when we let Him in. He gets into the trenches of it with us! He made their burdens light by carrying their burdens with them, and by strengthening them so that the burdens were easy to bear. He gave them grace in their moment of need.
This account has been meaningful to me on more than one occasion. I often read it when I feel overwhelmed, and it gives me faith to submit to the Lord’s will for me.
The Book of Mormon holds another account of extreme hardship and bondage. Mormon, who abridged all these records, put it right before the story of Alma’s people. In Mosiah chapter 21 he describes what happened to a group of Christians who complained and murmured about their understandably difficult circumstances. They eventually repented, and the Lord delivered them, but their trial was prolonged because for a time they chose not to submit to the Lord’s will for them. In fact their resistance led to immense additional suffering, sorrow, and even death at the hands of the Lamanites, which of course increased their burdens. A powerful contrast. I’m sad for those people, and sad for me when I see myself mirroring their attitude and choices when faced with painful trials.
We certainly don’t need long to think of a trial right now. The entire world shares a trial of faith and patience because of COVID-19, and it’s just plain hard. Many have lost their jobs or income. Many have missed out on important family events. Many are lonely or afraid. Many have died. Many are in mourning. Most if not all of us already had other trials in full swing before this virus came along, and likely most if not all of us have encountered new ones since.
I’m reminded of a talk I heard in General Conference a few years ago. I say a few years and now as I look it up it was 2008 … It’s happening; I’m getting old. Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge of the First Quorum of the Seventy, one of the primary bodies of leadership and authority in the Lord’s Church, described two ways to go through life: the Lord’s way, or some other way. He taught, “The Lord’s way is not hard. Life is hard, not the gospel. ‘There is an opposition in all things,’ everywhere, for everyone. Life is hard for all of us, but life is also simple. We have only two choices. We can either follow the Lord and be endowed with His power and have peace, light, strength, knowledge, confidence, love, and joy, or we can go some other way, any other way, whatever other way, and go it alone—without His support, without His power, without guidance, in darkness, turmoil, doubt, grief, and despair. And I ask, which way is easier?”
Elder Corbridge continues, “[Christ] said, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; … and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ Life is hard, but life is simple. Get on the path and never, ever give up. You never give up. You just keep on going. You don’t quit, and you will make it.”
When I lack patience I find I also lack perspective. In the midst of pain and hardship, when I pour out my heart to God in prayer, He gives me the eternal perspective I need. When I am willing to give up my impatience and submit my will to His, He fills me with grace, and I’m able to move forward. I have learned that as I do this one day at a time, eventually I look back and realize He has changed my disposition, and surrendering to life’s trials becomes easier.
We can help each other develop patience, and I don’t mean finding ways to test tempers. Elder Neil A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote, “So often what people need so much is to be sheltered from the storms of life in the sanctuary of belonging” (Maxwell, “All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience” (2007)). Simply being a friend is a powerful gift to one who needs perspective, faith, and patience.
Many of you know I moved to Gettysburg at the start of a divorce. It is the deepest pain I have known, and for a long time I wanted nothing to do with patience. I only wanted the pain to end. I went back and forth between seeking God and pushing Him away. My faith was faltering and frail. I felt lost. Had it not been for the kindness, love, and friendship many of you have given me, I am certain I would still feel lost. I’m still healing and learning from my past, but I am reconnected to my Savior. I testify He has the power to make life easier! I know this because I have experienced it. He can heal all pain and all wounds, including the ones we create ourselves. My healing began when I finally accepted what I cannot change, and sought patient courage to change the things I can.
Surely, Jesus Christ gave us our greatest example of patience:
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
He calmly endured insult, physical and emotional injury, betrayal, mocking, abuse of all kinds, and excruciating death. He willingly submitted His will to His Father’s to take upon himself every individual’s pains, afflictions, temptations, sicknesses, infirmities, and sins (Alma 7:11-13). He did all this without complaint or retaliation. He did it because He loves us and He loves His Father.
Whatever hardship you currently face, Jesus Christ wants to make it lighter for you. He wants to endure it with you. All trials have an end. May we choose to trust our Father’s words, “know thou, my [child], that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7).