Monday, June 9, 2014

President's Weekly Letters #84

Eleven-year old James Kirkwood and nine-year old Bodil Mortenson were members of the Mormon Willie Handcart Company in 1856.  Winter storms began early that year.  In October, the handcart company had been starving for weeks and were without adequate clothing, blankets or supplies.  Rocky Ridge extends 15 miles on the high plains of central Wyoming terminating at Rock Creek Hollow and has a 700 foot elevation rise in one 2 mile segment.  The Company made its way over Rocky Ridge in subfreezing, blizzard conditions with snow over 1 foot deep.  It took 27 hours for some to reach camp at Rock Creek Hollow that day.   James Kirkwood had carried his four-year old brother part of the way. Staggering into Rock Creek Hollow, James carefully put his brother down by the fire; he then laid down and died. Bodil Mortenson was assigned to care for some small children as they crossed Rocky Ridge.  Bodil was exhausted and weak and was traveling alone hoping to reach Salt Lake City to be with her sister. She climbed, with several other younger children, shivering and hungry up the snow-covered slope of Rocky Ridge.  When Bodil reached the camp, she was sent to gather sage-brush for a fire.  She did not return to camp.  The next morning in the bitter cold they found her frozen to death with brush still in her arms.  Apparently, exhausted from the ordeal of Rocky Ridge, she had sat down and leaned against one of the cart wheels to rest.

At the same time, members of the rescued Martin Handcart Company came to the icy Sweetwater River in the bitter cold.  Many, remembering the terrible earlier experience crossing the North Platte River, fell to the ground sobbing and saying, “We cannot do that.”  They had been weeks with little food and inadequate clothing. Then three, eighteen-year-old young men from the rescue party stepped forward.  They waded into the icy River and for a good part of the day, carried most of the Martin Company people across to the other side.  President Brigham Young cried like a child when he heard what they had done. Later he said, “That act alone will ensure C. Allen Huntington, George W. Grant, and David P. Kimball an everlasting salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of God, worlds without end.”  The exposure was so great in the icy stream and bitter cold that in later years all of these young men died from the effects of what they did that day.  They left a legacy of faith for us to follow. 

Noah preached the gospel 120 years to the people before the flood to try to save the world but without a single convert outside his little family.  We know from Joseph Smith that Noah is Gabriel.  He stands next in authority to Adam in the priesthood and was the father of all living in his day.  He is who appeared to and informed Zacharias that his wife would bear a son.  He also appeared to Mary and announced the birth of our Lord and Savior.  Noah was the Elias (DC 27: 6-7) who appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple and restored the keys of Abraham’s dispensation; still, he had no converts.  (Moses 8:17)

Ammon and his companions did not have it easy.  Some were imprisoned and they all suffered great adversity.  From their own words they suffered many afflictions in both body and mind, hunger, thirst, fatigue and labor in spirit.  The Lord allowed them to learn patience and long suffering.  (2 Nephi 17:11)

Captain Moroni endured great adversity trying to preserve the rights of the people.  At age 25 he motivated people to support their lands, houses, wives, children, rights, privileges and liberty to worship according to their desires.  You all know the story as he faced huge difficulty to repel the powers of evil against him.  (Alma 43:9-10)

Nephi spent 8 years traveling in the wilderness, obtained the brass plates, broke his bow, built a boat, dealt with brothers who wanted to destroy him and built a new life in the Promised Land.  He was a great prophet by any standards, yet wondered why his heart should weep, his soul linger in the valley of sorrow and his strength slacken because of his afflictions.  He felt that he yielded to sin and temptation. (2 Nephi 4:26-27)

Paul had affliction heaped upon him during his ministry.  There is a direct relationship between his afflictions and the power of his ministry.  Five times he received 40 stripes save one, was 3 times beaten with rods, stoned 1 time, 3 times suffered shipwreck, endured a night and a day in the deep and endured numerous perils plus: weariness, painfulness, hunger, thirst, cold and nakedness and was let down through a window in a basket to escape a garrison of soldiers.  (2 Cor. 11: 24-33)

Scholars have wondered what sort trial Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, but his attitude about his trials was remarkable; he took pleasure in his trials because they made him strong.

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.  (2 Cor. 12:7-10)

You have a physical body in a world with opposition in all things.  Agency and Class 3 Trials (Life and Trials Part 1) in adversity are blessings that help you learn and grow.  Character growth comes through effort overcoming trials.  Self-confidence comes by figuring something out and doing it yourself even though it is difficult. Trials come to you because God has in his design to refine and purify you, but He can only do this as you pass through trials.  He allows you, by means of trials, to be purged so you can become more like Him.  You experience here many wonderful things but you need to also face trials.  God does not make success doing his work easy but it is possible and it is rewarding.

Suppose life was nothing but pleasant and joyful without trials and hardship.  You are wiser and stronger and are more compassionate and grateful by overcoming trials and adversity.  Without trials and adversity, would James Kirkwood and Bodil Mortenson understand hope?  Would the 3 young men in the Sweetwater River understand love?  Would Noah have internalized diligence and obedience?  Would Ammon’s faith in Christ be different if he had only studied faith during a problem free, blissful life?  Did Captain Moroni gain knowledge and understand virtue?  Did Nephi know something about charity before he completed his assignment on earth?  Was Paul more patient and develop more faith in Jesus Christ through his trials?

Missionaries deal with emotional and mental issues, the cold and the dark, feelings of separation from family, troubles at home, spiritual struggles, addictions, temptations and physical limitations.  The nature of your work is trying.  People reject, ridicule and disrespect you.  You sometimes face long hours and days of finding with no prospects to teach.  You learn and use the language.  Sometimes it is difficult to get along with members or your companion, or to help investigators see the truth and the list goes on.  These difficulties are just the nature of missionary work.

This missionary adversity is not life threatening, but still the nature of your missionary work is difficult at times.  You have a responsibility to leave your legacy of faith by doing your work with the same dedication in trials as those who went before you.  You can still chose your attitude while doing the work.

17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; (2 Cor. 4:17)

17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.  (DC 123:17)

President Robinson

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