Sunday, April 22, 2012
Suffering, Families and Temples
This semester in my class for Eastern Religious Thought, we studied various ancient authors from the Orient. I struggled to connect with one in particular who taught his followers that no God existed, nor did he believe many other beliefs connected to the Plan of Salvation as we know it. His influence has been felt not only in the Orient, but all across the world as he teaches the doctrine of avoiding suffering. He professed that the domestic life, such as marriage and family, causes the greatest of suffering and that if one would choose homelessness and deep studies in his teachings, that each would arise above all suffering.
Yesterday in class, an epiphany illuminated my understanding of why his sole focus rested upon the avoidance of suffering.
I contemplated first what Heavenly Father teaches us of trials, tribulations and suffering. In the New Testament, Paul professed to the Corinthians that God gives men weakness so that they may triumph over them. The well-known scripture in Ether teaches that if we come before God, he will show unto us our weakness. And then He continues, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
President Eyring reinforced the principle in the most recent General Conference when he directed his remarks to “those who are in the midst of hard trials, who feel their faith may be fading under the onslaught of troubles.” He then clarified what Paul and Moroni and many other prophets, seers and revelators have taught. President Eyring continues, “Trouble itself can be your way to strengthen and finally gain unshakable faith.”
If the purpose for troubles, trials and suffering is to turn us to God, according to these prophets, then it would be very important that this professor of the avoidance of suffering, who does not believe in a god, must remove suffering from his doctrine to prove that we don’t need a god to relieve our suffering. Great satisfaction filled my heart yesterday, as I learned of this truth more deeply. Our weakness and trials have the ability to help us remember our Heavenly Father and the Savior.
Having established that life’s problems can turn our hearts to our loving Heavenly Father, I would like to focus our minds toward the temple and how making and keeping our temple covenants endows us with power and the blessings to overcome problems. Our beloved prophet Thomas S. Monson told us last year, “The world can be a challenging and difficult place in which to live. We are often surrounded by that which would drag us down. As you and I go to the holy houses of God, as we remember the covenants we make within, we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation. In this sacred sanctuary we will find peace; we will be renewed and fortified.” (Thomas S. Monson April Conference 2011)
Robert D. Hales echoed President Monson a few weeks ago, “Through the Savior’s Atonement and by following [the] basic patterns of faithfulness, we receive ‘power from on high’ to face the challenges of life. We need this divine power today more than ever. It is power we receive only through temple ordinances.”
As we attend the temple frequently, we will continue to build our foundation upon the rock of our Savior Jesus Christ and as Helaman of the Book of Mormon promises, “when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Helaman 5:12)
Often, I am reminded of one of my favorite literary characters, Jane Eyre who faces a severe trial and must choose between a man whom she loves deeply or to obey God’s command to not commit adultery. Her heart aches intensely as she struggles for what would become a choice for happiness or misery. She walks out into the garden and makes a choice, “I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?”
Jane Eyre sees her commitment to God as one of the most valuable possessions and it gives her the strength to overcome her greatest trial. If Jane, who is not endowed in the Holy Temple, is strengthened to this extent, by virtue of her obedience to the Ten Commandments, how much more are we blessed as we make and keep our covenants in the Lord’s Holy Temple.
As Jane went into the garden to make her choice, similarly we go to our garden, within the walls of the temple. It is in that garden where we make our choices, where we seek for guidance, for answers, for counsel and for peace. Not only is it our garden, but also we learn of the original garden given to Adam and Eve and we learn more deeply how to fully partake of the all-encompassing blessings of the Atonement wherein, that other garden, that lonely Garden of Gethsemane, the Savior suffered for our sins.
As recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, He says, “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
“But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
“which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
“Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.”
You and I know that the abundant blessings of the Atonement are felt even more keenly as we make ourselves worthy to enter into the Lord’s House; the Holy Temple. Although our trials and suffering can never be avoided, as our author from the Orient suggests, but they can be lifted as we yoke ourselves to the Savior, becoming worthy to make and keep our temple covenants.
As I conclude, I reiterate that our trials and sufferings truly lead us to our creator and to the temple, that our weakness may be strong unto us. At the end of John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, after Adam and Eve have been expulsed from the Garden of Eden, Adam realizes that more good will eventually result from the Fall that could have been possible without it. He recognizes the great blessings to mankind in the way of forming family relationships and he proclaims heavenward,
Dear friends, I testify to you of the power and blessing to overcome the problems we face. I reiterate the words of President Eyring that “There is nothing that has come or will come into your family as important as the sealing blessings.” And to this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.