The call of trials, tribulations, and the Lord’s testing of our faith and patience is strong and resounding in each and every one of our lives. There is wisdom to be gained in this process.
“We Must be Tried and Tested as Abraham”
We cannot think that our ever-loving, kind and wise Father in Heaven, and His beloved Son Jesus Christ who clearly knows the end from the beginning, is not allowing us to suffer these Christ- cultivating hardships, were it not for a wise and divine purpose. We seem to grow most when we do not clearly understand the complexities of what we are going through. For it was Jehovah himself who stated in D&C Section 101: “We must be tried and chastened even as Abraham. For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified.”
What does it mean to be tried even as Abraham? We all must go through these trials, so let’s examine them closely.
To be tried as Abraham is one of those very difficult personal tutorials. First, in experiencing this trial (which again, all of us must do), we must lose something that is very important to us. For example, Abraham was asked to give the life of his beloved son, Isaac.
Second, we must be asked to suffer the loss of something or go through a trial we don’t entirely understand. The end from the beginning is not at all clear to us, even when we are in the midst of this test.
Third, we must be required to do or go through something we don’t want to do, nor do we like doing it.
Speaking on this subject, Pres. Spencer W. Kimball told us the why and what this process is all about. He stated:
“If we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, in our lives, we might be excluding our greatest benefactors. If we had the power to eliminate these things from our lives and others, we might have saved Christ from the suffering and death in the garden of Gethsemane and upon Golgotha, which would have robbed the world from Christ’s glorious atoning sacrifice and our own Eternal Life with the Father and His Son.”
Pres. Kimball continues, “The suffering, agony and Atonement of the Savior were part of His eternal education and part of the ‘terrible arithmetic’ of His atoning sacrifice.” For whatsoever Christ created in association with the time before the foundation of this world, He also redeemed, atoned for and provided “the Atonement for,” in his suffering, death and through the glorious Atonement He wrought for all of us here.
One author illustrated it in these words:
Pain stayed so long I said to him today,
“I will not have you with me anymore.”
I stamped my foot and said, “Be on your way,”
And paused there, startled at the look he wore.
“I, who have been your friend, He said to me,
“I who have been your teacher – all you know
Of understanding, Love, of sympathy,
And Patience, I have taught you. Shall I go?”
He spoke the truth, this strange unwelcomed guest;
I watched him leave, and knew that he was wise.
For He left a heart grown tender in my breast,
He left a far, clearer vision in my eyes.
I dried my tears, and lifted up a song-
Even for the one who had tortured me so long.
Pres. Kimball followed by saying, he is positive that the Lord planned our destiny, and that sometime in the future, we will understand fully, and despite our present limited view, that the Lord’s purposes will not fail. Indeed, his purposes cannot fail, for the sacrifice has been made, the price has been paid, and Christ will not be finished until we all come home and “there are no empty chairs” at the feast of the Lord. All have been purposely and safely gathered in, safely gathered home.
Brother Joseph’s Example
When Joseph entered into the jail called Liberty (an interesting name for a filthy, rock-bottomed hole that Joseph and his faithful fellow prisoners had to endure for three and a half months) in the bitter cold winter of 1839, he weighed 220 pounds. Upon his release from this pit of affliction (which turned into a place of revelation and personal refinement) he had lost one-third of his body weight — Joseph now weighed in the 140’s.
Joseph entered Liberty with a different understanding than he left with. While languishing in this hole, Joseph learned to lay down the traditionally manly traits of justice, revenge, fighting for right, might, righteous indignation, strength, boldness, and enmity. These traits were to be replaced with what are traditionally seen as the more feminine traits the Lord wanted him to learn: Those precious D&C121 traits of persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, and pure-knowledge. These eternal traits were to be developed in Joseph and passed on to the followers of Christ until they replaced the former.
Joseph plea,“O God where art thou? Where is the pavilion that covereth thy Hiding place,” was answered with “My son, peace be unto thy soul, thine afflictions and adversity shall be but a small moment, endure it well.”
Joseph was also instructed, “How long can rolling waters remain impure?” You see, my brothers and sisters, rolling waters are impure until they have encountered enough rocks along the way to purify them. They are not pure until they have gone over, around and through enough obstacles to make them pure.
Is this not also true for us? We also must roll over, encounter, and pass-through enough trials, pitfalls, adversity and weakness, sufficient to purify us. Christ is the only judge who discerns when the trials have been sufficient to purify the vessel. He will have a tried and purified people, either through our own will and choice or by the process of compelling us to be humble through that which we must encounter and endure.
I find it beautiful and stunning that the great Jehovah used Joseph’s rough stone rolling metaphor with a new twist, to instruct His dispensational Prophet: Joseph, you are not yet pure and recall that I will have a pure and a tried people. You must encounter more hard knocks; you must continue to roll over even more of the rocks of this world and the stones of eternity to become the pure and polished vessel I require you to be, so I may use you up in my service.