Farewell to Manzanar, written by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, Japanese American, and James D. Houston.
The harsh reality of life is that we will all hit at least one of these walls at some point in our lives. So what will each of us do when we stand at the base of our own personal walls? Will we rise to the occasion and break through? Or will we crumble in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds? What we do when we get to these proverbial walls is what will ultimately define us as people. Being one who enjoys the study of history, I have often looked to those who have come before me to find the strength I need to press on.
I think about those who have been disowned by their own families because of personal beliefs, the pioneers that crossed the plains despite the harshest of conditions, those families who have ever sent a loved one overseas in support of the freedom we all hold so dear, and the horrible persecutions suffered by those early members of the church. After remembering them I think to myself, “Do I really have it all that bad? ” In sections 121, 122, and 123 of the Doctrine and Covenants, it highlights the revelations given to Joseph Smith as he was incarcerated at Liberty Jail.
It was one of the coldest winters on record in Missouri and they weren’t given blankets sufficient enough to keep them warm. Their food was often dirty and unclean, sometimes even poisoned. Even Joseph himself spoke of the jail as a “hell surrounded by demons. ” I doubt most of us here will ever have to endure something as extreme as those suffered by the Prophet Joseph and his companions during the winter of 1838-1839. The best example we should all look to when faced with trying times, however, is that of our Savior Jesus Christ.
So great was his suffering that he bled from every pore in Gethsemane. Later, a crown of thorns was placed upon his head and he was severely scourged. So extreme were the events leading up to the actual crucifixion that he couldn’t even carry his own cross to Calgary, as was customary. In my studies, I’ve come across literature that discusses in detail the medical aspect associated with crucifixion. Crucifixion was arguably the cruelest form of punishment ever devised by man. To sum it all up, those who were crucified suffered through an unequivocal amount of pain.
Where do you think the word excruciating comes from? So, I ask again, is it really that bad? The answer is NO. “The Son of Man hath descended below them all,” (D&C 122: 8) and nobody that has ever lived or ever will live has suffered as much as He did. No matter what this life throws at us, we can all find comfort in knowing that there is always someone who knows exactly how we feel, because Christ suffered for all of that so that we could one day stand before God and live with Him again. Some will always ask “Why me? ” when troubling times come upon them.
It is important to remember that just because trials and tribulations are heaped upon us, it doesn’t mean we have somehow strayed from the straight and narrow path. All of the prophets have faced some sort of persecution in their lives. Jesus Christ suffered more than any other being that has ever lived, even though he was the most worthy individual to have ever walked upon the face of this earth. All of the troubles are simply trials of our faith, and God will never, ever, put a trial before us that he knows we cannot overcome. He will always provide a way for us to rise above any trial or temptation that may come our way.
A true test of our faith can only be measured if we use that faith during the times when things aren’t going according to plan. Back in Liberty Jail, the Lord tells Joseph that all of these trials are for our own benefit, saying “If thou art called to pass through tribulation…know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. ” (D&C 122: 5, 7). In Jackson County, Missouri, the Lord tells Joseph that glory follows these trials, “For after much tribulation come the blessings…” (D&C 58: 3-4).
Adversity exists in the world today to provide the much needed contrast that helps us to discern right from wrong, after all, “…it must be needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. ” (2 Nephi 2: 11). If it weren’t for pain, we would feel no pleasure. If not for sadness, we could have no joy. We’ve all felt the great sense of accomplishment that accompanies the completion of a large project, even though these projects can be very stressful at times. If life weren’t hard from time to time, then the fruits of our labors would cease to be sweet.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell once counseled that “Rather than passing through trials, we must allow trials to pass through us in ways that sanctify us. ” It isn’t enough to merely experience trials, but we must go through them in such a way that we can learn from each individual experience so that we can grow closer to our Father in Heaven. I think it is most unfortunate when someone is going through an extended trial and the idea starts to creep into their mind that God no longer rests with them and has ceased to answer their prayers because He doesn’t love them anymore.
We must always remember that God loves each of us unconditionally and will never abandon any of us. To reassure those who may have doubts, Jeffrey R. Holland provided these inspiring words, (Quote—Chariots of Fire). He will answer your prayers in His own due time. It truly pains Him to put each of us through our own trials, but we must remember that He doesn’t put us through them to punish us, He does it because He loves us and knows that this is the only way which we can grow to become like Him. When it is all said and done, God just wants us to be happy, for “…men are, that they might have joy. (2 Nephi 2: 25).
President Monson once counseled that we must “…find joy in the journey…” of life. The Lord even counseled Joseph Smith of this as he was imprisoned in Liberty Jail, saying “Therefore…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. ” (D&C 123: 17). Even during the darkest of times, the Lord still wants all of us to ultimately find happiness. The Lord promises everyone that if we will endure to the end, He will give us eternal life.
A common misconception, though, is that enduring to the end means to simply “hang in there” when trials come our way. Elder Wirthlin sees it as being much more than that. Rather than simply suffering through life’s challenges, he sees it as a process in which we use these challenges to come unto Christ and become perfected in Him. If we remain faithful during our own dire circumstances and use them as learning experiences to become more Christ-like, God cannot deny you a spot with Him in the Celestial Kingdom.