Our lesson in Priesthood today was about persecution. Towards the end of the lesson, the teacher made the comment that persecution was a largely negative topic that, in his eyes, was a serious downer. Probably true, but I thought of a couple key scriptures and thoughts that left me feeling positive.
Doctrine & Covenants 121:7–peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment.
I think we forget sometime that persecution is temporary. And as is so wonderfully stated in the very next verse, enduring it well shall lead to our exaltation and triumph. In a way, persecution and trials in general are foundational elements of our testimonies in that well-endured trials lead to added trust and faith in the Lord.
I do not believe that trials are anything more than opportunities for growth and expansion on our part, and the choices we make determine the value those experiences will have in our lives.
While this verse is specifically in reference to the temptation to do sin, I find a greater application to life in general. The temptation in persecution and trials is to believe that God no longer cares or that it would be easier to give in or give up. The truth is that God allows the temptations and trials of our world to happen because they provide the opportunities necessary for our own salvation. Endurance breeds trust not only in the Lord but in ourselves. While learning to trust that the One who calmed the sea can also calm our own lives, it is equally important that we prove that the Lord can place His trust in us through our actions. After all, we could never be found worthy to inherit all that the Father has if we, the heirs of His glory, have not proven that He can trust us.
Beyond that, the Lord uses trials to remind us of the purpose of our mortal toil. As the prophet Lehi so aptly pointed out, without the bad, we cannot know the good, for both are required in order to comprehend the other. In that sense, persecution, trials, temptation, and other negatives are necessary growing points.
2 Kings 6:16–And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
The scripture in 2 Kings is the story of Elisha the prophet and his servant who found themselves surrounded by an army. When the servant cried in fear, Elisha asked that the Lord open the eyes of the servant so that he might behold the numberless host standing in defense of the prophet.
During today’s lesson, someone pointed out that the forces against us are great. A full third of the Host of Heaven was cast out along with the Son of the Morning, and they stand united in opposition of our success. Someone noted the relatively small portion of members of the church and the seemingly overwhelming odds of those gathered against us. But I think we often forget that a full two thirds of the Host of Heaven stood by the Savior.
Elder Eyring once spoke to my mission, and he noted that if we could but have our eyes opened, we would witness thousands of our posterity and forbears calling our names, clearing our path, and working for our good. In addition, he stated that we would witness family upon family, friends beyond friends, and legions of angels each united in the cause of our salvation.
Sometimes we find the proximity and tangibility of real life overwhelming to the point of failing to recognize that there is a plan in place for all of mankind to not only keep our second estate, but to excel while doing so. The truth is that fear is not a godly attribute nor is it something that we should allow to control or dictate the actions of our life. As someone pointed out with the recent scare with swine flu; the difference between being prepared and not being prepared is the difference between worrying and being truly afraid. The analogy is true also for our spiritual preparation.
The righteous are cognizant of the Hosts of Heaven, they are confident in the Lord’s ability to work miracles, and, though at times worried, they move with the assurance that He who counts the sparrows and dresses the lilies of the field does so with an infinite and intimate knowledge, love, and understanding of all that has, is, and will come to pass in our lives. Persecutions, trials, and temptations in general are nothing more than opportunities for us to show our worthiness to be called by His name and receive the associated blessings with each successful passing.