Each Tuesday afternoon at BYU-Idaho, students have the opportunity to attend a campus devotional service. Speakers range from campus faculty to church leaders.
This weeks speaker was Jo Anne Ray, a faculty member in the teacher education department. She gave a lovely address, speaking about trials, and spiritual experiences that result from harder times.
Each of us, no doubt have experienced or will experience a tough times. Some see these experiences as burdens, and they can be. But it’s important to remember that these experiences are for our good. The Prophet Joseph Smith was one who saw many a hard time during the course of his short life. One of the most difficult came in the winter of 1839. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles describe the situation in these words:
“The jail, one of the few and certainly one of the more forbidding of such structures in that region, was considered escape proof, and it probably was. It had two stories. The top of main floor was accessible to the outside world only by a single small, heavy door. In the middle of that floor was a trapdoor through which prisoners were then lowered into the lower floor or dungeon. The outside walls of the prison were of rough-hewn limestone two feet thick, with inside walls of 12-inch oak logs. These two walls were separated by a 12-inch space filled with loose rock. Combined, these walls made a formidable, virtually impenetrable barrier four feet thick.”
“In the dungeon the floor-to-ceiling height was barely six feet, and inasmuch as some of the men, including the Prophet Joseph, were over six feet tall, this meant that when standing they were constantly in a stooped position, and when lying it was mostly upon the rough, bare stones of the prison floor covered here and there by a bit of loose, dirty straw or an occasional dirty straw mat.”
The food given to the prisoners was coarse and sometimes contaminated, so filthy that one of them said they “could not eat it until [they] were driven to it by hunger.” On as many as four occasions they had poison administered to them in their food, making them so violently ill that for days they alternated between vomiting and a kind of delirium, not really caring whether they lived or died.”1
Having been imprisoned for several months in these awful circumstances, Joseph was motivated to these words of prayer…
“O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries? Remember thy suffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever.” -Doctrine and Covenants 121:1-2, 6
Oftentimes we may ask where God is. We feel like for whatever reason, He is not as close as He once was, especially during difficult times. It is my testimony that God is closer than ever during these times. I take comfort in these scriptures, the first being God’s reply to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; though shalt triumph over all thy foes.” -Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” -Proverbs 3:5-6
“And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” -Malachi 3:3
I believe that it is the difficult times in life that God shapes us. If we can remember that, and exercise faith, it will be easier to endure our trials.
Elder Holland teaches,
“…when you have to, you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in any situation you are in. Indeed, let me say that even a little stronger: You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life-in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced.
So next time life seems a little heavy, stressful, or too much, trust God. Remember that Jesus Christ suffered more than we can comprehend, for us. For you, and for me. He is on your side, cheering you on to success, blessing you along the way.
1 Holland, Lessons From Liberty Jail
See also Holland’s address The Ministry of Angels
*Image from Reflections of Christ.