Using the Book of Mormon to Face the Tests Ahead
--Part Two of Four--
by M. Catherine Thomas
The present and the future do not hold so many terrors if we believe the Lord’s reassuring words that the refining process is under his benevolent control:
“Fear not thine enemies, for they are in mine hands and I will do my pleasure with them.
“My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom” (D&C 136:30-31).
President John Taylor commented on the necessity of the Saints’ being tested but of the insignificance of the pain of the testing process in relation to the great destiny of the Saints:
“It is necessary that we pass through certain ordeals, and that we be tried. But why is it that we should be tried? There is just the same necessity for it now that there was in former times. I heard the prophet Joseph say, in speaking to the Twelve on one occasion: ‘You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God and (said he) God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.’ . . .
“But all these personal things amount to but very little. It is the crowns, principalities, the powers, the thrones, the dominions, and the associations with the Gods that we are after, and we are here to prepare ourselves for those things. We are after eternal exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom of God.” (Journal of Discourses, 24:197-198)
In fact, Zion will be built by those who are purified by their sufferings and have learned to endure suffering in order to obey the Lord’s every command. Zion will have to suffer in order to be redeemed because her citizen’s have not learned to obey: Were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and to individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.
“But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them:
“And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom:
“And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.
“And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer” (D&C 105:2-6).
The sacrificing to obey unlocks the blessings and powers of heaven:
“Verily I say unto you, all among them [the Saints] who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command—they are accepted of me. For I, the Lord, will cause them to bring forth as a very fruitful tree which is planted in a goodly land, by a pure stream, that yieldeth much precious fruit” (D&C 97:8-9).
“Let us here observe that a religion that does not re quire the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation. . . . It is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. . . .
“. . . And in the last days, before the Lord comes, he is to gather together his saints who have made a covenant with him by sacrifice” (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, (1985), p. 69-70).
Elder John Taylor encouraged the Saints to cleave to the Lord as the night darkens:
“In relation to events that will yet take place, and the kind of trials, troubles, and sufferings which we shall have to cope with, it is to me a matter of very little moment; these things are in the hands of God, he dictates the affairs of the human family, and directs and controls out affairs, and the great thing that we, as a people, have to do is seek after and cleave unto our God, to be in close affinity with him and to seek for his guidance, and his blessing and Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in the right path. Then it matters not what it is nor who it is that we have to contend with, God will give us strength according to our day” (Journal of Discourses, 18:281).
Another source of reassurance is the knowledge that our coming to earth at this time in the earth’s history was not random event. We were prepared before we came to earth to do the work we would be called to do (see D&C 138:56). President Benson has taught:
“For nearly six thousand years, God has held you in reserve to make your appearance in the final days before the second coming of the Lord. Some individuals will fall away; but the kingdom of God will remain intact to welcome the return of its head—even Jesus Christ. While our generation will be comparable in wickedness to the days of Noah, when the Lord cleansed the earth by flood, there is a major difference this time. It is that God has saved for the final inning some of His strongest children, who will help bear off the kingdom triumphantly. That is where you come in, for you are the generation that must be prepared to meet your God. . . .
“Make no mistake about it—you are a marked generation. There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time then there is of us. Never before on the face of this earth have the forces of evil and the forces of good been as well organized. Now is the great day of the devil’s power. But now is also the great day of the Lord’s power, with the greatest number ever of priesthood holders on the earth” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 104-105).
Having faith in our premortal preparation, we can find unique blessings in realizing that the personal tests we face were specially suited to our individual, spiritual needs. Perhaps the greatest insight to come out of this realization is that the Lord orchestrates the details of the lives of his seeking and obedient Saints. With his orchestration of their individual trials comes also deliverance from those trials.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie listed the tasks that lie ahead of these premortally prepared Saints, tasks that will require a greater commitment to spiritual principles than ever before:
“We have yet to gain that full knowledge and understanding of the doctrines of salvation and the mysteries of the kingdom that were possessed by many of the ancient Saints. O that we knew what Enoch and his people knew! Or that we had the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, as did certain of the Jaredites and Nephites! How can we ever gain these added truths until we believe in full what the Lord has already given us in the Book of Mormon, in the Doctrine and Covenants, and in the inspired changes made by Joseph Smith in the Bible? ...
“We have yet to attain that degree of obedience and personal righteousness which will give us faith like the ancients: faith to multiply miracles, move mountains, and put at defiance the armies of nations; faith to Quench the violence of fire, divide seas and stop the mouths of lions; faith to break every band and to stand in the presence of God. Faith comes in degrees. Until we gain faith to heal the sick, how can we ever expect to move mountains and divide seas?
“We have yet to receive such an outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord in our lives that we shall all see eye to eye in all things, that every man will esteem his bother as himself, that there will be no poor among us. . . . As long as we disagree as to the simple and easy doctrines of salvation, how can we ever have unity on the complex and endless truths yet to be revealed?
“We have yet to perfect our souls, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, and to walk in the light as God is in the light, so that if this were a day of translation we would be prepared to join Enoch and his city in heavenly realms. How many among us are now prepared to entertain angels, to see the face of the Lord, to go where God and Christ are and be like them? . . .
“We have yet to prepare a people for the Second Coming. . . .
“Shall we not now, as a Church and as a people and as the Saints of latter days, build on the foundations of the past and go forward in gospel glory until the great Jehovah shall say: ‘The work is done, come ye, enter the joy of your Lord; sit down with me on my throne; thou art now one with me and my Father’” (Ensign, April 1980, p. 25).
On another occasion, Elder McConkie made a sobering statement on the necessity of the development of our faith:
“It may be, for instance, that nothing except the power of faith and the authority of the priesthood can save individuals and congregations from the atomic holocausts that surely shall be” (Ensign, May 1979, p. 93).
President Brigham Young also observed that, in general, the Saints are not prepared for the blessings that the Lord anticipates bestowing on them:
“Jesus has been upon the earth a great many more times than you are aware of. When Jesus makes his next appearance upon the earth, but few of this Church and kingdom will be prepared to receive him and see him face to face and converse with him; but he will come to his temple. . . .
“When all nations are so subdued to Jesus that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess, there will still be millions on the earth who will not believe in him; but they will be obliged to acknowledge his kingly government. You may call that government ecclesiastical, or by whatever term you please; yet there is no true government on earth but the government of God, or the holy Priesthood. Shall I tell you what that is? In short, it is a perfect system of government—a kingdom of Gods and angels and all beings who will submit themselves to that government. There is no other true government in heaven or upon the earth. . . .
“Is man prepared to receive that government? He is not. I can say to these Latter-day Saints, You are not prepared to receive that government. You hear men and women talk about living and abiding a celestial law, when they do not so much as know what it is, and are not prepared to receive it. We have a little here and a little there given to us, to prove whether we will abide that portion of law that will enable us to enjoy a resurrection with the just. . . .
“. . . We have line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, and it is something that accords with the capacity of finite beings, and you improve upon this, and the Lord will open your minds to receive more, and let you see the order of the eternal priesthood; but if you do not live your religion, you cannot receive more” (Journal of Discourses, 7:142-143; italics added).
Many of us are not yet living our religion. The Saints can reach for more. In the foregoing statements of the Lord and his prophets and apostles, one common observation is that amidst the latter-day trials, the Saints will need familiarity with the Lord’s voice. For example, President Heber C. Kimball said, “Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?” (Whitney, Heber C. Kimball, p. 450)
President Ezra Taft Benson remarked on the current state of the Saints’ preparedness to meet the Savior:
“Watchmen—what of the night? We must respond by saying that all is not well in Zion. As Moroni counseled we must cleanse the inner vessel (Alma 60:23), beginning first with ourselves, then with our families, and finally with the Church. . . .
“. . . It takes a Zion people to make a Zion society, and we must prepare for that” (Ensign, May 1986, p. 4; italics added).
Watch and Be Ready: Preparing for the Second Coming of the Lord, Various Authors, Deseret Book, 1994; Chapter Two: Using the Book of Mormon to Face the Tests Ahead, by M. Catherine Thomas