I’ve been reading the book Saints that the Church just published and I was curious if you had any thoughts on why the early Saints had to go through such difficult trials and experiences. It breaks my heart to read some of the things the women and children had to endure. I know God has a purpose for everything.
Thank you for your feelings of concern and empathy toward our early brothers and sisters in the faith. I too have felt the sadness and concern for the welfare of those early saints as they struggled in faith to follow the prophets and the word of God to the Land of Zion.
What brings me solace and peace is knowing that, first, their pains and worries were short-lived and now find themselves in a state of peace and assurance that he Gospel is true and their Redeemer is by their side.
Let’s remember that many prophets, throughout the history of this very earth, have had to face harsh trials, persecution, judgement and many even martyrdom.
Joseph Smith is such an example, and whenever I read his story and the amount of pain he suffered, yet, his resolute determination to fulfill God’s plan is a characteristic we all ought to assimilate in our own lives; Faithful Obedience!
In Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants we read:
1 O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
2 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?
3 Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?
4 O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol—stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us.
5 Let thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy sword avenge us of our wrongs.
6 Remember thy suffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever.
He (Joseph Smith) was reminded by the Lord that all of his trials were but a “small moment”:
7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
So, in His ever so tender and loving care, the Lord, blessed him with peace, but not the earthly kind; peace of soul is ever-lasting and ever-present and renders the bearer in a state of never-ending happiness.
The Lord continued to remind him that he was not as Job of old because at least (Joseph’s) friends weren’t against him nor were his friends contending against Joseph. And this brings me to think that these early saints really understood why they had to go through all of the trials and turmoils. Their faith had them looking ahead, steadfastly and with an eye single to the Glory of God.
This brings me joy and hope that they are happily awaiting that Great Day of the Lord in their white robes singing praises to the Lord and their God.
In the Saturday morning session of General Conference (April 2019), there were two speakers who quoted (one of) my favorite scriptures and it reads (emphasis added):
41 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it (Mosiah 2:41)
In a talk titled “Lessons from Liberty Jail” given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, he declares:
“As we think on these things (circumstances surrounding the conditions of Joseph Smith and others in the Liberty Jail, which were less than humane), does it strike us that spiritual experience, revelatory experience, sacred experience can come to every one of us in all the many and varied stages and circumstances of our lives if we want it, if we hold on and pray on, and if we keep our faith strong through our difficulties? We love and cherish our dedicated temples and the essential, exalting ordinances that are performed there. We thank heaven and the presiding Brethren that more and more of them are being built, giving more and more of us greater access to them. They are truly the holiest, most sacred structures in the kingdom of God, to which we all ought to go as worthily and as often as possible.
But tonight’s message is that 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.”
As I write these lines, my eyes are filled with humbled tears because I know many of our brethren and sisters suffered greatly but I am filled with hope and my faith is unshaken and I bare my witness that The Lord in Heaven, even Jesus Christ is sitting at the right Hand of God in all of his Glory awaiting His Father’s direction and instruction for that glorious and triumphant return; I know that many of those saints who suffered through times of sorrow and pain, will be lifted up and will join the Angels in Heaven to receive their King of Kings.
I am in awe to think that we all could be joining those saints in sacred adoration when the Lord returns to usher in his millennial reign.
Thank you for being perceptive to the pains of others and thank you for helping us remember them.