Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Endure it Well

The following is based on some thoughts/excerpts of a letter I recently wrote to a friend. I have removed the personal references, and want to share with you what I said to them...

My friend was going through a trial that was quite difficult and prolonged. As I witnessed them exercise their faith and courage, I was...

...reminded of the scriptures in Doctrin and Covenants section 121 (a scripture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).The scripture background is written as follows:

“Prayer and prophecies written by Joseph Smith the Prophet while he was a prisoner in the jail at Liberty, Missouri, dated 20 March 1839 (see History of the Church, 3:289–300). The Prophet and several companions had been months in prison. Their petitions and appeals directed to the executive officers and the judiciary had failed to bring them relief.

At the time this was written, the persecutions against the church had become very fierce and were causing a large amount of grief and pain with the members of the church – even at times, death.

In the scripture, Joseph shares with us his lamenting to the Lord about his tribulation. He says, “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” (verse 1). Then he laments for a few more verses until finally we hear the Lord’s voice say, “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all they foes.” (verses 7-8).

Now, I know you may have heard these verses a million times – especially verses 7-8 (often recited in church), and I certainly don’t need to give you a speech about enduring your adversities well. And I won’t - because I think that verse is often used a bit out of context and without the proper perspective…

You see, if you read Joseph’s lament from verses 2-6,…

 How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?

 3 Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?

 4 O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol—stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us.
 5 Let thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy sword avenge us of our wrongs.
 6 Remember thy suffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever.

…you’ll see that never once is he lamenting his own situation. He is lamenting and crying to the Lord about the plight and problems of his PEOPLE, his family, his friends. He is crying because he can’t be there to do more, and because the hurt of his people has become his own. In other words, the Lord’s response to Joseph has nothing to do with enduring his “own” trials and afflictions. I mean, it is, but in proper perspective, you realize that his affliction and adversity was that of bearing the burdens of others! Think about how amazing that is. Still not sure? Re-read the verses 2-6 and see the words, “they”, “thy people”, “us”, and “saints”. These words clearly show his concern was about others.

As I consider that thought, I remember that our very covenant of baptism is really about promising (as Alma taught us in Mosiah 18 – from the Book of Mormon) to bear the burdens of others. To mourn with those that mourn. That is what Joseph was doing! He was struggling under the weight of the burden of others because he so deeply cared and loved for them! I love that sentiment A LOT more than how that scripture is traditionally taught. And, I think it is a fairer representation of the kind of man Joseph Smith was. Even more important, it is a great example of how our Savior, Jesus Christ is with us.

People, who for the great love for their friend, their spouse, their children, and their neighbors - who mourn and cry with those who are suffering - bear in part, that burden and share in it. To me, that is perhaps the best way to get to know Christ. To do what he did – which was to mourn for and with us, to cry with and for us, to share in our pain, in our struggles, in our troubles. And because of it, can succor us and be our partner, our friend, our advisor, and our savior.

The Lord does not ask us to endure “our adversity”. He really asks us to endure well the burdens of others. In the bible (Matthew 11:29-30), Jesus says,…

 28  Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you crest.
 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

He isn’t asking us to bear our own yoke of burdens. He does that for us through his infinite atonement. He asks us to bear his – which is that of bearing the burdens, the pains, the suffering of others through love and compassion and empathy. It is true charity. Through us, he can reach others with His love. We indeed have a role to play in his atoning sacrifice!

I hope that I can be more like my Savior, and that my actions and my words and my heart is as inviting to others around me as the Savior is with me. That somehow I can help bear and lighten their burdens and through that help others feel of their true worth, and the Savior’s love for them.