I love hearing missionary stories. One of my older brother’s friends served a mission in Canada. He loved his mission but it was also very cold up there. He once said that the missionaries up there have a saying: The COLDER your mission, the HOTTER your wife! I have taken that saying and put it in my own words: the harder your trial, the greater your blessings. I feel like that is what they were trying to say.
Today I will be talking about trials, specifically on being grateful for your trials.
I wrote this talk with this question in mind: Why do bad things happen to good people?
I began by taking a look at the most perfect person who walked the earth. The Savior.
Elder Holland explained that “The wounds in His hands, feet, and side are signs that in mortality painful things happen even to the pure and the perfect, signs that tribulation is not evidence that God does not love us.” (Christ and the New Covenant page 259)
This gives me comfort to know that no matter how hard life gets, God is mindful of me and He still loves me. And how can I complain about life when Christ did nothing wrong yet suffered the worst?
Sister Reeves of the Relief Society presidency said “The trials and tribulation that we experience may be the very things that guide us to come unto Him.” (Claim the Blessings of Your Covenants October 2013) It is during times of trial that I have prayed the most sincerely, and I have felt the comfort of the Spirit strongly during those times of trouble, and I have drawn closer to the Lord.
One thing I wanted to mention is the cutest couple ever: Elder Richard G. Scott and his wife Jeanene. Jeanene passed away about 20 years ago, yet Elder Scott talks about her as if she is still with us. He is still so in love with her, and it's the cutest thing. After she passed away, the first general conference talk that he gave was all about trials. It is titled Trust in the Lord (October 1995). He says: “[Trials] are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more…To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.”
We should be grateful that the Lord wants us to grow and He trusts us with trials that He knows we can overcome.
There are so many stories which illustrate this principle of the refinement that comes from trials, but I’ll just share one quick story.
My mom was baptized at age 26, and about 3 months later she was called to be a Sunday School teacher. As a new member of the church she felt scared and she felt like she didn’t know much, but with faith she accepted her calling. In her Sunday School class, my dad was one of her students and that is how they met. “For after much tribulation come the blessings.” (D&C 58:4) My dad does not consider himself to be a blessing, but of course he is.
I never thought I’d say this, but I recently saw a Disney Pixar movie which increased my understanding of the plan of salvation. Pixar’s latest movie, titled Inside Out, touched my heart so profoundly. For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, basically it’s about this young girl named Riley, and you get to explore her mind. Her emotions are the main characters in the movie. Joy and Sadness are especially significant in the movie. I loved the way this film portrayed the importance of sadness. I’ll come back to the movie in just a second.
Most of us are familiar with the scripture 2 Nephi 2:25 “Adam fell that men might be, and men are, that they might have joy.” In other words, we came to earth so that we may be happy. That is the purpose of our existence. In that same chapter, in verse 23, it explains that if Adam and Eve would have remained in the Garden of Eden, they would have remained “in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery.” Elder Bruce C. Hafen explained that sin, misery, and other trials help create the context for learning what joy means. This is the message that Inside Out portrayed so beautifully!
I have since learned, that when we go through trials, whether it be sins or something we have no control over, the Atonement erases that pain and it also allows for human development.
“Christ’s sacrifice and the plan of redemption [gives] meaning and purpose to all of [Adam and Eve’s] opposition.” (Elder Bruce C. Hafen Ensign September 2015)
I also want to briefly discuss the character Joy from the movie Inside Out. For me personally, I found that Joy was very similar to the Savior, even though I know that’s probably not what the filmmakers were going for. Joy carried the weight of Riley’s past memories, and she carried Sadness. Like the Savior, Joy was willing to literally help carry this young girl’s burdens. Joy was willing to do anything so that this young girl could be happy. And unlike the other emotions, Joy glowed with light. She makes me think of Hymn no. 89 which says “The Lord is my light; He is my joy.”
Another reason that I love this movie is because, one of the hardest trials I ever had to endure was sadness. There was a time in my life where I was extremely sad all of the time. I always thought that sadness was something to be ashamed of, and that it was a sign of weakness. So I kept my sadness to myself. I admire this movie for showing that it is OK to be sad. This was a difficult time for me, but looking back I have noticed blessings that have come from that trial. For example, I have learned how to cope with those sad feelings, and I learned how to deal with rejection, and with rude people, and with feelings of embarrassment, among other things. This new knowledge is something that I will use on my mission and for the rest of my life. This trial has made me stronger. And for that I am so grateful. During this sad time, I felt completely worthless, but that trial gave me the chance to truly exercise my faith in the plan of salvation. For I knew that my Heavenly Father loved me, and that He had a plan just for me, and that Christ understood exactly what I was going through.
President Ezra Taft Benson once said, “The Lord works from the inside out. [It’s as if President Benson knew I would use this movie in my talk!] The world works from the outside in…The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.” That is exactly what happened to me. My trials did not go away immediately. My environment did not change, but I changed and I grew both mentally and spiritually.
That quote reminds me of my favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon which is Alma 36. That is the part when Alma the Younger tells his son about his own experience with repentance. He mentions how sorrowful he felt, and in this case, his trial came from his sins. He says in verse 21 “There could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains…on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.” I love that comparison that he makes between the sadness from his sins and the joy of repentance. In verse 24 he says “Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” This is why we do missionary work, to let others experience the joy of the gospel. I am grateful for my knowledge of the Atonement and the plan of salvation, and on my mission I want to help others through their trials.
Alma testifies the following in verse 27: “I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me.”
I know that Heavenly Father will support us under our trials, just as he helped Alma and all the other great prophets of the scriptures. I know the Church is true. I know that Heavenly Father loves each one of us so much. I know that President Monson is a prophet of God and like us, he is human and he has to go through his own trials. I am thankful for his example. I testify that, because of the Atonement, we can be perfected with the Lord’s help. I know that the Savior suffered for all of our pains and afflictions. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
A lovely sister in my ward sang a musical number after my talk. The song is titled Gethsemane written by Melanie Hoffman. Here are the lyrics:
Jesus climbed the hill
To the garden still
His steps were heavy and slow
Love and a prayer
Took Him there
To the place only He could go
Jesus loves me
So He went willingly
He felt all that was sad, wicked or bad
All the pain we would ever know
While His friends were asleep
He fought to keep
His promise made long ago
Jesus loves me
So He went willingly
The hardest thing that ever was done
The greatest pain that ever was known
The biggest battle that ever was won
This was done by Jesus.
The fight was won by Jesus
Jesus loves me
So He gave His gift to me
Jesus loves me
So He gives His gift to me