In the midst of adversity, we can find help and peace by following the words of the prophets and remembering the Lord.
In Helaman 7-12, the prophet Nephi returns to Zarahemla from the land northward to find that the people in his native land had turned to wickedness in “the space of not many years.” Nephi was “swollen with sorrow.” Not only had he faced extreme adversity and lack of success during his latest mission to the northern lands, but now he also faced similar adversity at home.
Yet, in the midst of his despair and discouragement Nephi will find that God has a unique purpose for him and his prophetic message. Oftentimes, it is in the midst of difficulty that we find our purpose. I learned this lesson from Suzanne several years ago.
Suzanne worked as a reporter and news anchor in Idaho Falls, Idaho. She and her husband had tried for years to have a child. And despite their faith and prayers, they could not get pregnant. They had visited doctors, been tested, and tried every available treatment without success. They applied for adoption, but they were too far down the availability list to qualify.
Suzanne wondered why God would not bless her with a child while so many around her were blessed. She wanted to be a mother. Despite her prayers and faith, she wondered why had God taken away her chance to be a mother?
During her 14-year career as a reporter, Suzanne had covered most of the major crime stories and had established relationships with police officers in the area. One morning in October, she received a call from a police officer giving her a tip that a man, who had been digging through a dumpster looking for aluminum cans, had discovered the dead body of an abandoned baby.
Suzanne hurried to the crime scene. She watched as the detectives climbed into the dumpster and began their investigation. As she watched, she was despondent and angry. “What a waste. What I would have given to have that child!” she thought to herself. “How could something like this happen?”
With tears in her eyes, she watched as the detectives lifted the tiny body from the alley dumpster to the coroner’s van and drove away. In her news story later that day, she reported that police soon located the teenage girl who hid her pregnancy from her family and delivered the baby in her bathtub before abandoning it in the alley.
Suzanne later interviewed the father of the teenage mother. He told Suzanne that Idaho did not have a Safe Haven law like other states. The law allows mothers to leave children at designated safe havens like hospitals or fire stations without the fear of prosecution. He felt if that law had been in place, his daughter would have not abandoned her baby in a dumpster and the baby would be alive today.
Suzanne later told me, “I knew, right then, I had a mission and it was personal.” She immediately went to work. She contacted her State Senator, used her contacts in the various state offices and began to lobby for a Safe Haven Act for Idaho. She wrote letters, made phone calls, and brought the issue to light.
Because of her work and determination, the law was passed the following year. At the signing of the bill into law, Suzanne was covering the story. When the Governor signed the bill, he called Suzanne to the front of the room and gave her the pen used to sign the bill into law. He told her without her resolve, the bill would not have been brought to light. But the story didn’t end there.
One day a few months later, the phone rang and a caseworker for the Department of Welfare told Suzanne about an abandoned baby that was left at the hospital the previous day. She told Suzanne that she was chosen from the list of potential parents who were trying to adopt. If they wanted the baby girl, they could adopt her.
So, the necessary paperwork was completed and Lilly found her new home with Suzanne and her husband. Lilly was Idaho’s 5th Safe Haven baby. Since then, dozens of abandoned babies have been legally and safely adopted because of the Safe Haven Act.
Suzanne told me that if she hadn’t been going through the adversity in her life and was unable to have a child, she likely wouldn’t have pursued the Safe Haven Act in Idaho. And she would not have Lilly as part of her life.
Could it be that adversity does, at times, open the door to God’s timely purposes? Does God use adversity to lead us to his path? He does. But when you’re in the midst of that adversity, it is often hard to remember the Lord and that He has our best interest at heart.
On December 26, 1983 at the age of twenty-one, Art Berg was soon to be married and driving from California to Utah late at night. His friend John was driving and fell asleep. As the car veered off the road, both Art and John awoke. John tried desperately to avoid hitting a cement barrier but couldn’t, and the Volkswagen he was driving struck the barrier and rolled several times down the side of the freeway. Despite wearing a safety belt, Art was thrown from the car as it rolled over and over. When Art regained consciousness, he was laying helplessly on the floor of the Nevada desert and worst of all, he couldn’t feel his legs. Art had broken his neck. He would later learn from his doctor that he was left a quadriplegic.
His doctor told him that he had lost the use of his feet and his legs, his stomach muscles, two of his three chest muscles, and most of his shoulder and arm muscles. He told Art that he would need help for the rest of his life to eat, get dressed, and to move from place to place. He also told Art that he would likely never drive, work, have children or play any kind of sports.
I met Art twelve years after his accident. By that time, Art had married his fiancée Dallas, and they were the parents of two children. Art had set a world record as a quadriplegic by completing an ultra-wheelchair marathon of over 325 miles from Salt Lake City to St. George, Utah in record-setting time. He was a best-selling author, successful business owner and accomplished motivational speaker.
Through his adversity, Art had developed an amazing spirit of uncommon faith. He wrote, “That same Master who calmed the tempest of the sea also calms my storms and yours. While not always removing the storms from our lives, he replaces fear with faith, and doubt with understanding.”
Art travelled over 200,000 miles a year as a motivational speaker. He often travelled alone, was self-sufficient, could feed himself and drive a car. When I would pick up Art at the airport, he would usually have someone from the flight still talking to him. People loved being around him. His courage was uplifting and contagious. He said,
“Struggle and pain … were not put here to torment or mock men, but to lift and build them…. Adversity, pain, and struggle do not challenge the Lord’s love for us, they prove it. To those who love God, the stony, rough way becomes a blessing and an opportunity for miracle after miracle. The rewards are sweeter and the panorama before them more beautiful than the way of ease and instantaneous miracles. When we are denied immediate relief from our heartache, tears, or tragedy, it is because there is a better way that will teach us more and work for our ultimate good. Some miracles just take time. Thank God for that!”[i]
Some adversity comes to us through no fault of our own and other adversity we cause through our poor choices or disobedience. Regardless, it is easy to feel discouraged when we can’t find immediate relief from our heartache. In speaking of our day, President Benson noted, “As the showdown between good and evil approaches with its accompanying trials and tribulations, Satan is increasingly striving to overcome the Saints with despair, discouragement, despondency, and depression.”
The corona virus, social unrest, natural disasters, prevailing wickedness, economic and other challenges of our current day bring with them discouragement and depression. If we have sinned or made mistakes, it’s easy to feel despair and despondency especially when we don’t feel able to overcome on our own.
Nephi reminds us, however, that there is peace and hope in following the words of prophets. Had the people of Nephi’s day listened and followed Nephi’s counsel they would have found peace without more adversity.
President George Albert Smith taught:
“From father Adam until the present time, [those] who have had the greatest joy and happiness in life have been those who have followed the teachings of the prophets of the Lord; those who have ignored them have paid the penalty in many cases by sorrow and destruction, missing the great blessings that our Father has placed within their reach.”[ii]
The reason God gives us prophets is to help us fight the tactics and trials of Satan in our day. Prophets share the words of God to us in our circumstances and with our specific trials.
In a recent message at BYU, Elder Randall Bennett reminded the students that President Nelson has recently taught that “If you will act with faith…and follow God’s prophets, you will be given power to do whatever the Lord needs you to do and to become whatever he needs you to become.”[iii]
The people of Nephi’s day learned this lesson. After Nephi was given the sealing power (see Hel. 10), he inflicts a famine on the last. When he lifts the famine and because of the adversity they faced, they repented. “And behold, the people did rejoice and glorify God, and the whole face of the land was filled with rejoicing; and they did not more seek to destroy Nephi, but they did esteem him as a great prophet, and a man of god, having great power and authority given unto him from God (Hel 11:18).” The result? Peace in the land.
There is peace in following the Prophet. We can find strength to overcome by following the prophet. We can overcome adversity by following the words of the prophet.
Let’s consider some of Nephi’s teachings as well as the words of President Nelson for our day.
“And as [Moses] lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall [the Messiah] be lifted up who should come. And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal (Hel 8:14,15).”
“I promise you—not the person sitting next to you, but you—that, wherever you are in the world, wherever you are on the covenant path—even if, at this moment, you are not centered on the path—I promise you that if you will sincerely and persistently do the spiritual work needed to develop the crucial, spiritual skill of learning how to hear the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, you will have all the direction you will ever need in your life. You will be given answers to your questions in the Lord’s own way and in His own time.”[iv]
“Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people…then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceeding great prosperity. And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him (Hel. 12:2,3).”
“Brethren, we all need to repent. We need to get up off the couch, put down the remote, and wake up from our spiritual slumber. It is time to put on the full armor of God so we can engage in the most important work on earth. It is time to ‘thrust in [our] sickles, and reap with all [our] might, mind, and strength.’ The forces of evil have never raged more forcefully than they do today. As servants of the Lord, we cannot be asleep while this battle rages.
“Repentance is the key to avoiding misery inflicted by traps of the adversary. The Lord does not expect perfection from us at this point in our eternal progression. But He does expect us to become increasingly pure. Daily repentance is the pathway to purity, and purity brings power. Personal purity can make us powerful tools in the hands of God. Our repentance—our purity—will empower us to help in the gathering of Israel.”[v]
“O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth. For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither…at the command of our great and everlasting God. Yea, behold at his voice do the hills and the mountains tremble and quake. Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for they are they that shall be save. (Hel 11:7,8, 23).”
“Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
“Whether you are diligently moving along the covenant path, have slipped or stepped from the covenant path, or can’t even see the path from where you are now, I plead with you to repent. Experience the strengthening power of daily repentance—of doing and being a little better each day.
“When we choose to repent, we choose to change! We allow the Savior to transform us into the best version of ourselves. We choose to grow spiritually and receive joy—the joy of redemption in Him.When we choose to repent, we choose to become more like Jesus Christ!”[vi]
“Wo shall come unto you because of the pride which ye have suffered to enter your hearts, which has lifted you up beyond that which is good because of your exceedingly great riches! Yea, wo be unto you because of your wickedness and abominations! And except ye repent ye shall perish…. (Hel. 7:26).”
“My dear brothers and sisters, I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions—every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of the day, even the gripping plague of pornography and other mind-numbing addictions”[vii]
Other words from President Nelson for our day:
“You were taught in the spirit world to prepare you for anything and everything you would encounter during this latter part of these latter days. That teaching endures within you!”[viii]
“If you proceed to learn all you can about Jesus Christ, I promise you that your love for Him, and for God’s laws, will grow beyond what you currently imagine. I promise you also that your ability to turn away from sin will increase. Your desire to keep the commandments will soar. You will find yourself better able to walk away from the entertainment and entanglements of those who mock the followers of Jesus Christ.”[ix]
Put your trust in the words of the prophets. If you do, and if you do your best to follow the words with diligence; you will find help in your afflictions, you will find deliverance and you will find peace.
Alma 36:3 says, “Whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day”
So, what can we take away from Helaman 7-12? First, we will all face adversity. Second, the Lord uses adversity to help us be humble like the dust of the earth. Third, when in the midst of adversity, if we have faith and, like the dust of the earth, we follow the words of God and the prophets; we will find deliverance and peace. And like Suzanne and Art, from adversity we just may discover blessings and miracles in our life we wouldn’t otherwise find had we not had adversity in our life.
[i] Art Berg, Some Miracles Take Time, p. 176. Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, UT
[ii] George Albert Smith, Conference Report, April 1916.
[iii] Randall K. Bennett, Prophetic Invitations and Promised Blessings, BYU Speeches, March 19, 2019.
[iv] Russell M. Nelson, Hope of Israel, worldwide youth devotional, 3 June 2018.
[v] Russell M. Nelson, We Can Do Better and Be Better, April 2019 General Conference.
[vii] Russel M. Nelson, The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like Without It?, Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2017.
[viii] Russell M. Nelson, Stand as True Millennials, Ensign, October 2016.
[ix] Russell M. Nelson, Prophets, Leadership, and Divine Law, worldwide devotional for young adults, Brigham Young University, Jan. 2017.