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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Building With The Bricks That Are Thrown At You

Sometimes I feel bad for people who don't have 'nose-to-the-grindstone', soul wrenching difficulties very often.  Yes, I know, this probably sounds a bit masochist right off, but I'll explain.  Extensively.

No I do not rejoice in pain of any kind, physical, emotional, financial, social, spiritual, mental, etc.  It really bothers me, to a point that makes it almost impossible for me to endure, to see others suffering, especially those I love most.  But what I have seen happen in my wife's life and mine as a result of exercising faith during difficulty makes me realize how much further behind and ignorant I would be if I hadn't seen the level of contrast that comes as a package deal with holding on to Christ in the midst of that much affliction.

In Truman Madsen's lectures on the prophet Joseph Smith, Truman says: "Let us now do a close-up of the personality and character of the Prophet Joseph Smith. May I begin with the comment of the late Sidney B. Sperry, who was perhaps the Church's most knowledgeable Hebraist. He studied years ago with some of the world's renowned scholars at the University of Chicago and then came to Brigham Young University, where he remained for his entire career. One reason he studied ancient languages was to gain the advantage of reading in the earlier source materials. Because of his scholarly achievements, some of his colleagues spoke of him as "the accomplished SBS."  Early in his life, he said, he had aspired to know more about the scriptures than any man living. He told me, and this is the point, that he had become aware that no man in this generation could possibly know as much about the scriptures as did the Prophet Joseph Smith. I begin with that because a feeling constantly recurs as one studies the life of Joseph Smith. You never quite get to the bottom. There is always more. You can be so impressed and overcome with glimpses that you say, "Nothing good that I could learn of him would be surprising." And then you become surprised. There is always more. It takes deep to comprehend deep, and I often wonder if any of us have the depth to fully comprehend this man. [emphasis added]."

I intensely admire all the quiet, "old souls" of the world, regardless of their actual physical age; those who are, quite frankly the opposite of me, who prefer to quietly observe more than speak because, usually, they are the ones who are like a deep well of experience and wisdom to whom the world needs to pay more attention.  Those who are most like this, when they truly speak their minds, give us some of the worlds most profound and well timed lessons.  Why is this?  Is it simply because of their observatory nature or is there something else?

I believe it is because they, many of them, have been on the receiving end of so much trial, so much abuse, so much being beaten down life and have, of their own volition, followed the Savior's invitation via the Holy Ghost to, as The Script says in their song "Superheroes", "turn[ed] their pain into power".  My wife is one those people.  The things she has seen and experienced dwarf almost anything I have ever heard about challenges of any other mortal alive today.  I have been working, ever since I've known her, to reach the deepness of understanding and heart that she has.  Keeping in mind how sheltered I was growing up from what the world is really like, it has been an extremely grueling experience, easily the most challenging and revealing of processes.  I have seen and experienced things, along side her in private moments, that have stretched my mind and soul to places I, or anyone else who knew me growing up, would scarcely imagine, many times with me "kicking and screaming" through it and sometimes in teeth gritted, head bowed commitment to her and my Savior.  There is very rarely a dull moment in our apartment.

But the reason why I paint this picture is because of that phrase "it takes deep to comprehend deep".  According to doctrines of the LDS church, we all have the inherent ability to become like God.  The total of trials God tailors for us, on a individual basis, are meant to bring us to that point and transform us to become like Him.  That's what will happen provided we don't prevent it by resisting His efforts to build our character through hardship, training us to not be affected negatively by difficulty or "acted upon".  That being said, if someone goes through much of their life, or even just long periods, with very little or even relatively tolerable difficulty, the compensatory level of such they will face may multiply exponentially and quickly.  Only the soul that is highly spiritually conditioned to respond to trials to come with faith in Christ will be successfully brought to total cleansing, healing, perfection, and exaltation.

I hope that the reader does not get the impression that I suggest that they must seek pain or trials, intentionally open themselves up to religious persecution or anything like that.  Those things will come whether we look for them or not the more we are focused on the Savior.  I am also not suggesting that there is some quota of pain, responded to in faith, that will only result in our transformation into divine beings if it is reached.  There is no celestial checklist of roadblocks that we must hurdle over in order to reach our true potential.

Our character can be perfected, our faith completed, our souls eternally glorified with good experiences or bad ones, big and small.  It just depends on whether we choose to act or allow ourselves to be acted upon.  The reason why I said that I sometimes feel bad for people who don't have 'nose-to-the-grindstone', soul wrenching difficulties very often is because, at least for me, those kinds of experiences have always had similar results to Alma the Younger.  The more I have turned to my Father in Heaven and sought the changing power of the Atonement of Christ amid them, the more I have felt "joy as exceeding as was my pain!"  If I hadn't seen and suffered the things I have in my heart, I would not understand the polar opposite on the happy side of life, which always ends up being more than worth it.

*edit (June 2016)
Bruce and Marie Hafen explained it this way: "We grasp meaning on in the midst of contraries.  Thus only those who have lived in the depths carved out of their hearts by tribulation can have room enough for their hearts to contain and truly comprehend the fullness of joy that awaits them."
*end edit

I've still got a long way to go, but I'm grateful for the "bricks" that have been thrown at me.  As David Brinkley once said, "A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him."  The more bricks that are thrown at me, the more opportunities I have to lay with them an iron clad, unbreakable, impenetrable foundation on my Lord and Savior and the stronger that foundation gets.

At this point, I am eternally thankful for the foundation my Father in Heaven has helped me build, founded on His Son, our Redeemer, constructed with bricks of opposition, decorated with the joys and blessings of obedience, all held together with the mortar of faith in Jesus Christ.

Doctrine and Covenants 78:19, "And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more. [emphasis added]"