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What Elder Uchtdorf taught about having a soul prepared for the unimaginable future


Editor's note: Our bi-weekly Friday column, “Found in the footnotes,” explores some of the footnotes from remarks given by General Authorities and General Officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I'm fairly confident a few words have risen in popularity over the last year: unprecedented, uncertainty, and unpredictability.

Perhaps that’s why I instantly gravitated toward a word in Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk. Like these other words, it also begins with an “un” prefix. The difference though is this word has an element of hope attached to it. The word? Unimaginable.

Just look at some of the ways Elder Uchtdorf used this promising word in his talk:

  • “It is my witness that though at times we may feel buried by the trials of life or surrounded by emotional darkness, the love of God and the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ will bring something unimaginable to spring forth.”
  • “God has something unimaginable in mind for you personally and the Church collectively—a marvelous work and a wonder.”
  • “With Christ at the helm, things will not only be all right; they will be unimaginable.”
  • “I bear my witness that this is God’s work and He will continue to do many unimaginable things among His children, His people.”
  • (Emphasis added)

When I read those statements, I am filled with a sense of optimism and a belief that better days are ahead.
And though sometimes that sense of optimism gets muted by our current life circumstances, Elder Uchtdorf reminded us that “every dispensation has faced its times of trial and hardship.” In his talk, he shared:

Young Joseph, the son of Jacob, was thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, betrayed, and abandoned. Joseph must have wondered if God had forgotten him. God had something unimaginable in mind for Joseph. He used this period of trial to strengthen Joseph’s character and put him in a position to save his family.

Two footnotes that accompany this paragraph made Joseph’s example even more powerful to me:

Joseph was perhaps as young as 17 when his brothers sold him into slavery (see Genesis 37:2). He was 30 years old when he entered Pharaoh’s service (see Genesis 41:46). Can you imagine how difficult it was for a young man in his prime to be betrayed, sold into slavery, falsely accused, and then imprisoned? Joseph certainly is a model for not only the youth of the Church but also every man, woman, and child who desires to take up the cross and follow the Savior.

The use of the word “imagine” in this footnote really stuck out to me. I’m sure Joseph never imagined being sold into slavery and imprisoned at such a young age. And yet, by him doing that, he was building a resilient soul. As Elder Uchtdorf explained in the other footnote that accompanies this paragraph:

In Psalm 105:17–18, we read, “He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron.” In another translation, verse 18 reads, “They have afflicted with fetters his feet, Iron hath entered his soul” (Young’s Literal Translation). To me, this suggests that Joseph’s hardships gave him a soul as strong and resilient as iron—a quality he would need for the great and unimaginable future the Lord had in store for him.

Perhaps, as we take up our cross to follow the Savior, we too have instances where the Lord is giving us hardships so our souls can be strong and resilient as iron.

I believe in the coming months and years we will all be able to look back on this time and see ways the pandemic helped us strengthen our souls. As Elder Uchtdorf said in his talk:

God has revealed and will continue to reveal His almighty hand. The day will come when we will look back and know that during this time of adversity, God was helping us to find better ways—His ways—to build His kingdom on a firm foundation.

And those better ways will help prepare us for “the great and unimaginable future the Lord [has] in store for [us].”

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