Cover image: “Lehi and Sariah” by Joseph Brickey.
At the end of 2018 many of us finished reading The Book of Mormon at the counsel of our Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. This meant that January brought us back to the beginning, back to 1st Nephi when Lehi sends his sons to get the plates of brass from Laban.
This is accomplished with a great deal of reluctance on the part of Laman and Lemuel, and an astonishing amount of faith on the part of Nephi. It’s a story familiar to most of us, but every reading can reveal amazing insights, just depending upon where we are in life.
If you read that story as a youth, you likely wondered if you would have been a grumbler or an obedient servant of God. Even as adults, we ask ourselves if we could undertake such a mission, slay Laban, and faithfully retrieve the records. Most of us have a hard time obeying our morning alarm clock; how would we do creeping in the dark towards a dangerous, armed leader, “not knowing beforehand the things which I should do”? (1 Ne. 4:6)
But this time I identified with Sariah. Here is a woman whose sons have gone back into the wilderness and she “truly had mourned” (1 Ne. 5:1), believing her boys to be dead. Several verses detail her complaints as she accuses Lehi of being a visionary man.
There is likely more to the story and more to Sariah, but at this point she is struggling with doubt and defeat. UNTIL… drum roll… the boys return. Sariah is elated, saying, “Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness…” They rejoiced, they gave thanks. All was well.
Except all wasn’t really well. That’s not faith. That’s “whew!” after it’s all over. Like Doubting Thomas (John 20:27), that’s believing only after seeing solid evidence. How often are we like this?
I think of the angst and worry many of us endure, the mighty prayers we offer, the long years we wait for our desires to materialize. It could be for a wayward child to return to the fold. It could be for an eternal companion. It could be for fertility. A financial blessing. A new job. Good health. Healed loved ones. Comfort in grief.
We all endure trials. But some of us respond like Nephi, believe God is watching over us and directing our righteous actions, and rejoice in His plan no matter what. Then there are those who cry, who even scream at God, who moan and despair, who give up in exhaustion.
And sometimes I am that latter person, wondering when God will agree with my flawed mortal reasoning and choose now to answer my prayers. These are the moments when we need to catch ourselves “glooming” and gird up our loins. We need to remember our testimonies, remember our Savior, and believe that our sorrow is known and will be addressed. This is when, as Lehi did, we must recall those times when God did manifest his love for us, did give us a promised land, so to speak, did send angels to us.
I don’t want to be someone who complains for years, and then when my trial finally ends, say, “Okay, now I know that God truly heard my prayers.” We must know that he hears them even when we still ache, when our problems seem to be growing rather than diminishing. Like saying, “But if not” (Daniel 3:17-18), we need to pledge our devotion to God even if we don’t get what we want.
One way I’ve found to get on board and stop being like Sariah in this relatable season of difficulty is basically to say, “I don’t see what you see, but I’m here and I’m going to trust you.” It’s thy will be done with the addendum, “and I’m going to stop grumbling.” Faith isn’t being relieved when a prayer is answered—that’s gratitude. And, quite honestly, an easy emotion to summon when something wonderful has finally happened.
No, faith is stronger, deeper, and much more difficult. It’s hanging in there with the Lord for the entire ride. It’s trusting in him beyond our mortal evaluations. It’s maintaining deep appreciation and, frankly, joy for what Christ did for us, even when it seems our lives are nothing like what we had hoped. Digressing here—this is yet another reason why I love coming to church, because everyone else there is going through the same trial: To maintain faith against visible odds. We learn from and draw strength from one another, we come to love and admire those suffering even greater calamities, and we see God’s hand in the lives of ward members as we await our own rescue.
What a great gift it is that the first story in The Book of Mormon is about an imperfect family fractured by lack of faith. Every one of us can learn from these people whose lives were tried to the limit. Some stumbled and some failed entirely, but some were heroes who mustered faith to follow God and were blessed beyond measure. Let’s be in that camp.
Hilton’s LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.