Monday, March 15, 2010

Enduring Well- Section 121

The heartache and grief that was caused by the persecution of the Saints, and the incarceration of Joseph Smith at liberty jail, prompted the petition of the prophet to the Lord found in Section 121. The Lord answered his plea with these consoling words:
Doctrine and Covenants 121:7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
This reply can be restated in the form of a principle; if we endure our times of trials well, then we will triumph over all our foes and gain exaltation.
To comprehend the full meaning of this principle we must understand what it means to endure “well”.
What is enduring “well”?
Elder Holland gives several suggestions in his talk, Lessons From Liberty Jail.
May I remind us all that in the midst of these difficult feelings when one could justifiably be angry or reactionary or vengeful, wanting to return an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, the Lord reminds us from the Liberty Jail prison-temple that “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only [or ‘except’] upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36). Therefore, even when we face such distressing circumstances in our life and there is something in us that wants to strike out at God or man or friend or foe, we must remember that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained [except] by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; . . . without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:41–42; italics added).
It has always been a wonderful testimony to me of the Prophet Joseph’s greatness and the greatness of all of our prophets, including and especially the Savior of the world in His magnificence, that in the midst of such distress and difficulty they could remain calm and patient, charitable and forgiving—that they could even talk that way, let alone live that way. But they could, and they did. They remembered their covenants, they disciplined themselves, and they knew that we must live the gospel at all times, not just when it is convenient and not just when things are going well. Indeed, they knew that the real test of our faith and our Christian discipleship is when things are not going smoothly. That is when we get to see what we’re made of and how strong our commitment to the gospel really is.
Surely the classic example of this is that in the most painful hours of the Crucifixion the Savior could say, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). That is a hard thing to ask when we’re hurting. That is a hard thing to do when we’ve been offended or are tired or stressed out or suffering innocently. But that is when Christian behavior may matter the most.
Remaining true to our Christian principles is the only way divine influence can help us. The Spirit has a near-impossible task to get through to a heart that is filled with hate or anger or vengeance or self-pity. How I love the majesty of these elegant, celestial teachings taught, ironically, in such a despicable setting and time.
I believe the words given at the end of this marvelous discourse received from Liberty Jail also give us a way to endure “well”.
Doctrine and Covenants 123:17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.
Enduring means more than just waiting for a trial to pass, it involves an active process of doing all that we can to help ourselves. Doing our part allows us to call upon the powers of Heaven to make up the difference in our weakness. This is seen in the Book of Mormon teaching “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” Doing all we can cheerfully means that our attitude also plays a great role in that process of enduring “well”.
Elder Holland gives some added perspective to this teaching from Joseph Smith:
What a tremendously optimistic and faithful concluding declaration to be issued from a prison-temple! When he wrote those lines, Joseph did not know when he would be released or if he would ever be released. There was every indication that his enemies were still planning to take his life. Furthermore, his wife and children were alone, frightened, often hungry, wondering how they would fend for themselves without their husband and father. The Saints, too, were without homes and without their prophet. They were leaving Missouri, heading for Illinois, but who knew what tragedies were awaiting them there? Surely, to say it again, it was the bleakest and darkest of times.
Yet in these cold, lonely hours, Joseph says let us do all we can and do it cheerfully. And then we can justifiably turn to the Lord, wait upon His mercy, and see His arm revealed in our behalf.
What a magnificent attitude to maintain in good times or bad, in sorrow or in joy!
The great promise of enduring well is the reward of triumph over all our foes. These may be seen or unseen; these foes are anything that deters us from being back in the presence of the Father. They can be vices, habits, weaknesses, or even individuals or dominions. Understanding this promise, of the possibility of conquering all of these obstacles and allowing us to receive exaltation, is enough to bring a cheerful heart and attitude to any trial we may face. We can turn our own every day trials into a Prison-Temple experience just like Joseph Smith did, it is all up to us.

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