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The Unexpected Blessing That Can Be Found in Our Suffering

While I was growing up, my mother frequently reminded me and my siblings not to toss garbage into the wastebasket but to walk over and carefully drop it into the can.

In my home, however, you are required to “shoot” at the basket. If you miss, you are to pick up the garbage and try again, and again, until you make it. (Yes, slimy, wet products or drinks should still be hand-carried and deposited in the trash.)

And because our “shooting” rule is more broadly applied, I picked up my husband’s socks from the bedroom floor recently, predicted, and carried out a behind-the-back bank shot into the open dirty clothes hamper. Quite pleased with myself, I asked my husband, “Did you see that?”

“Yep,” he announced, for no one but us to hear (darn, I thought), “and you’ll still be doing that when you’re 90.”

“No,” I countered, “at 90 I’ll be dunking the ball on a standard 10-foot hoop.”

He looked puzzled.

“By age 90 I’ll be on the other side of the veil. Which means I’ll probably not only be dunking but taking off from the free-throw line.”

“From midcourt,” he deadpanned.

 After yet another glorious general conference, combined with my reading the first volume of the new church history, Saints, Vol 1: The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846; The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days,  it got me thinking about the importance of having an eternal perspective as we go through life.

I pondered over reminders in conference that we will experience great joy in this life, yet inevitably, wrenching trials will come our way. 

I pondered the explanation by Elder Neil L. Andersen, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “trial and tragedy are woven deeply into the fabric of our Father’s plan. (Yet), these struggles, although difficult, often become our greatest teachers.” 

I pondered the experiences of church members in the Kirtland, Ohio, and Missouri periods and their sacrifices and hideous suffering. I pondered their tears, their grief, their heartfelt yearning to know “when will this end?”

These regular, everyday women and men are my heroes—not Hollywood stars, not rock stars, not sports stars, not the rich and famous—these valiant everyday men and women, devoted to the Savior, and to his cause, to building the kingdom of God on earth, and enduring to the end.

I pondered Joseph Smith’s brutal experiences in Liberty Jail and the Savior’s powerful affirmation, “know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7).

I pondered the reality that I, for one, prefer to bike ride down the mountain rather than crawl, increasingly bloody and bruised, up the mountain. Yet Joseph Smith clearly understood—better than most—the growth and, can we even say, the benefits and blessings, that come through adversity? He said as much, “The envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life; . . . Deepwater is what I am wont to swim in . . . and I feel like Paul, to glory in tribulation; for to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all” (Doctrine and Covenants 127:2).

In adversity, Joseph drew closer to, and came to know God, thereby realizing the promise, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

Nothing akin to what the Prophet experienced, but I too have come to know God better in my infirmities: in times of despair and weeping, feeling abandoned and alone, when pain infuses and enslaves my aching heart and then, driven to my knees, prayer becomes communion and solace. And while I do not yet glory in tribulation, I am profoundly grateful for lessons learned, for answers and help given during times of adversity—confirming to me the existence of our loving, gracious, intimately involved Savior, Jesus Christ.

More perspective from President Brigham Young:

"We talk about our trials and troubles here in this life; but suppose that you could see yourselves thousands and millions of years after you have proved faithful to your religion during the few short years in this time, and have obtained eternal salvation and a crown of glory in the presence of God? Then look back upon your lives here, and see the losses, crosses, and disappointments; (and) the sorrows … you would be constrained to exclaim, 'but what of all that? Those things were but for a moment, and we are now here’” (see Brigham Young, "Remarks," Deseret News Weekly, Nov. 9, 1859, page 1).

Fitted with this sure knowledge, Joseph Smith exulted, “Brethren (and sisters), shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage . . .  and on, on to the victory!” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:22).

How privileged we are to understand the plan of salvation, to know that exaltation comes only in and through Jesus Christ and obedience to His commandments. How privileged we are to have an eternal perspective and understanding of the wonders and the vicissitudes we experience in mortality and knowledge of the sure promise that glory awaits those who persist in righteousness. As well, in heaven, we will all be able to take off from the free-throw line and dunk the ball.

Lead image from Getty Images

Kristine Frederickson writes on topics that affect members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide. She teaches part-time at BYU. Her views are her own. Email: kfrederickson.desnews@gmail.com


The Standard of Truth is the first book in Saints, a new, four-volume narrative history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Fast-paced and meticulously researched, Saints recounts true stories of Latter-day Saints across the globe and answers the Lord's call to write history "for the good of the church, and for the rising generations" (Doctrine and Covenants 69:0). 699 total pages including notes and maps.

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