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Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 4: Living Joyfully in Troubled Times

Finding Happiness Despite Living in Troubled Times

At the end of WWII, Elder Benson was sent to Europe to assess the needs of the Saints. He says that as he stood in a meeting with 480 members, cold and half starved, he was impressed with the light of faith in their eyes. Many were in the last stages of starvation. All of them were suffering greatly from the cold and various kinds of privation. Yet none of them complained about their circumstances. Even in their extreme difficulty, they were living joyfully.

“Our Saints … are full of hope, courage, and faith, and everywhere they look cheerfully forward with expressions of deepest faith for the gospel and for their membership in the Church. It was one of the greatest demonstrations we have ever seen of the real fruits of the gospel in the lives of men and women.”

When we think of the fruits of the gospel, we often include prosperity, or at least having our needs met. Yet these Saints were in a state of depravation and starvation, and Elder Benson says it was “one of the greatest demonstrations we have ever seen of the real fruits of the gospel in the lives of men and women.” This begs the question as to what the real fruits of the gospel are.

God is at the Helm

We all face challenges in our lives that can seem overwhelming and devastating. When times are difficult, and all worldly supports have dropped away leaving us completely alone to fend for ourselves, we need to know that God is at the helm. Knowing that the Lord is always there, always mindful of our needs, and is ever faithful to his promises to us makes all the difference in the world.

When we begin to look at life from an eternal perspective rather than an earthly perspective, we can always have hope. We hope for the fulfillment of the promises made to those who keep God’s commandments. We have hope in a glorious resurrection. We have hope in Christ’s atoning sacrifice. This brings with it the peace of Christ through the ministration of the Spirit. When the spirit whispers to our hearts that all will be well in the due time of the Lord, we can weather any storm for our faith is in He who created us.

What makes this possible is our faith in Christ. When we feel abandoned by all our earthly support, we have some where we can turn. If we refuse to put our faith and trust in the Savior then we will have to face our greatest trials in life without the Lord’s help and support. Faith in Christ is the key to surviving and thriving, even in times of trial and distress.

The Conditions of Happiness

Happiness doesn’t just happen by itself. We choose to be happy in times of suffering. This kind of happiness comes through expressing our gratitude for the blessings of the Lord. Even in times of darkness there are blessings for which we can express gratitude. This is what allows us to make room for happiness when it appears we have no right nor reason to be happy.

Sometimes Satan simply brings upon us a spirit of depression. The Prophet’s counsel is to outlast this spirit until it leaves us. This is not an easy thing to do. These are the times when our faith in the Lord, and our willingness to get outside ourselves and serve others will be our salvation. Notice that there is nowhere in the scriptures where the Lord promises his people that all their trials will be taken away. Instead we are promised that if we exercise faith and keep the commandments, we will be made equal to our trials that we might come away triumphant.

We are encouraged to keep praying continually. Prayer brings a strength, a calm that comes from no other source. As a word of advice for those facing great trials, President Benson gives this suggestion and promise:

"While you are going through your trial, you can recall your past victories and count the blessings that you do have with a sure hope of greater ones to follow if you are faithful. And you can have that certain knowledge that in due time God will wipe away all tears and that 'eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him' (1 Cor. 2:9.)."

A Change of Habit

"Men are that they might have joy." The Lord expects us to be happy. The only reason for unhappiness is sin. If we have developed some bad habits of finding fault in others or in situations, we need to stop it. If we have not given the Lord His due credit for blessings given us, then we need to start being more attentive to expressing our gratitude.

A life of gratitude is not one of criticism and strife. A life of gratitude is one filled with thanksgiving, a recognition of the good all around us, and the role the Lord plays in our personal happiness. These are all things that happen outside anything that happens in the world. This all takes place within our minds and hearts. Our happiness is not dependent on the conditions of the world around us, it is reliant on our attitude toward God and Christ.

Can you begin to see why the Lord, throughout the scriptures, keeps telling the prophets who are suffering to lift up their heads and be of good cheer? The Lord knows that he has already won the fight. We will be exalted if only we can keep our eyes on the prize and not on the current circumstances. We have every reason to be happy, even in times of trial, for Christ is already the victor, and we are His.

The European Saints Elder Benson spoke to were starving and destitute, but they were living joyfully, looking forward to the blessings of the Lord.  They had learned these lessons. They knew that the world was not responsible for their happiness. Happiness comes from God, and they had put their faith and trust in Him, completely independent of the physical situation around them. This allowed them to continue on in faith and love, expressing gratitude for that which they did have. In all their physical misery, they were still able to be happy.

Read President Ezra Taft Benson's teachings at lds.org.

Kelly likes to keep the gospel simple. For more of his articles and lesson helps go to his website, http://mormonbasics.com.