Monday, June 9, 2014

President's Weekly Letter #83

My calling as a Bishop was a special calling.  Presiding over the temporal and spiritual affairs of my Ward members, placed me personally in the battle trenches to assist as they either endured or overcame their trials.  As their Bishop, I knew the struggles of many of my Ward members.  I remember often looking into their faces during sacrament service and realizing every single person there in some way was struggling with trials, opposition and adversity.

Missionaries here are no different.  All of you have trials.  Granted, you have thankfully not been called on to give your life as Christ, Prophets and many of the early saints and pioneers did, but you still face trials, opposition and adversity.  I segregate trials into 3 Classes.

Class 1Trials are operational problems such as achieving daily goals or overcoming challenges that you routinely struggle to solve.  Resolving these trials makes life better for yourself.  I have noticed in my life that most of my Class 1 Trials are problems that I created myself.  I am a strong believer that you are completely accountable for your situation and through agency you can make new choices, if needed, to resolve these trials and thereby create a better situation for yourself.  I believe God expects you to use your agency and initiative to achieve or remove Class 1 Trials.

Class 2 Trials are suffering that comes upon you as consequence to your disobedience or lack of wisdom.  Breaking God’s law or any natural law always brings consequences.  These trials cause you to humble yourself, to correct your ways and be obedient.  I suppose, Class 2 Trials must be endured and in some cases they might be removed.  

 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
 20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.  (Rev. 3:19-21)

Class 3 Trials come to you because God has in his design to refine you and make you pure through trials.  Such trials may be the result of acts of others or simply the result of living in this world with opposition in all things.  Class 3 Trials must be endured because the trials are just the way the nature of the thing is.  On a mission, Class 3 Trials might be dealing with emotional or mental issues, the cold and the dark, feelings of separation from family, troubles at home, spiritual struggles or physical limitations.  The nature of our work is trying.  People reject, ridicule and disrespect us.  We sometimes:  face long hours and days of finding with no prospects to teach, have (or are) problem companions, must learn and use the language, find it difficult to getting along with members, find it difficult to help investigators see the truth and the list goes on.  These difficulties are just the nature of missionary work.

I have learned that it really does not matter what the trial is and it does not matter if it is a Class 1, 2, or 3 Trial, the act of overcoming or enduring is the important thing.  Consider the following quotations from Brigham Young, John Taylor and Marion G. Romney

“Joseph could not have been perfected, though he had lived a thousand years, if he had received no persecution….You may calculate when people are called to go through scenes of affliction and suffering…the Almighty is rolling on his work with greater rapidity.”  (Brigham Young, DBY p. 351)

“It is necessary that we pass through certain ordeals in order that we may be purified.  People sometimes do not comprehend these things…I never look at these things in any other light than trials for the purpose of purifying the Saints of God…”  (John Taylor)

“If we can bear our afflictions with the understanding, faith, and courage, and in the spirit in which they [who went before] bore theirs, we shall be strengthened and comforted in many ways.”  (Marion G. Romney, CR Oct 1969)

There would be no growth of character without trials and adversity.  Much good comes from struggling due to adversity.  You would be no wiser and no stronger; you would be less compassionate and less grateful, if Satan’s plan had been followed and we were denied the blessing of agency and adversity.
I have frequently wondered why missionary work has to be so difficult.  Theoretically, the Lord wants his church to grow, so why not get on with it.  He could lead us to those interested and he could convince them of the truth through his spirit.  We would all have a full teaching pool and enjoy the wonderful experience of bringing people into the church with no problems.  The new members would be happier and start progressing toward eternal life instead of languishing in unbelief.  What is wrong with that picture?  

I am convinced it is not easy because you and your investigators become what God has designed you to become only by being purified through trials, especially Class 3 Trials for missionaries.  Purifying through trials is a metaphor in the scriptures to the refiner’s fire.  Gold becomes gold by passing through fire.  God “… shall sit as a refiner and purifier... and shall purge…” (Mal 3:2-3)

Even with the wonderful blessings that come from adversity, too often we try to avoid it or deflect it. We quickly pray for the Lord to remove the obstacle.  If all such prayers were answered, there would never be any adversity or even death.  Someone would pray that so and so remain alive.  Even Christ would have been delivered off the cross in answer to someone’s prayer.  He would not have had to suffer.  Job did not immediately jump down on his knees and beg the Lord to remove his difficulty.  He determine that he would get from the burdens all that God wanted him to obtain.

 6 … but he would put strength in me.
10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
11 My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.
12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
13 But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.
14 For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him.  (Job 23: 6, 10-14)

Elder van Komen coined the phrase, “Pressure is a privilege.”  I would likewise say, “Enduring trials is a privilege.”  When facing trials, especially Class 3 Trials, instead of praying to remove the trial, quitting, slacking off or finding the easy way, you will be blessed if you pray to: overcome, endure, be strong, learn the lessons, continue the good path, sacrifice willingly, and keep the faith.  There is great power in it and our weakness will become strengths.  (Eth 12:27) 

Christ set our example as he faced his trials.  Can you face your trials with the same resolve?

9 … they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.  (1 Nephi 19:9)

President Robinson

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