Liberty and Adversity

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Near the end of 1776, the American colonies were entrenched in a war against Great Britain. This was part of the war for independence. Things at that time were not going well for the Americans who were seeking freedom. They had lost a number of battles, forts, and cities, including Fort Washington and New York City. While he watched the battle of Fort Washington, General George Washington was dismayed at the loss of life. At the end of the battle he wept openly. It was a hard loss. The war was a series of defeats for the Americans. The cold fall with so much adversity might have seemed bleak and hopeless. Indeed it was for a number of people but many Americans found new resolve in their adversity. They strengthened their desires for freedom from what they saw as an oppressive government. In the midst of this adversity Dr. Benjamin Rush said, “Our republics cannot exist long in prosperity. We require adversity and appear to posses most of the republican spirit when most depressed.” (Source: David Hackett Fischer. Washington’s crossing. (2006). Oxford University Press, USA). To quote David Fischer, “It was a time when many Americans resolved to act in a way that made a difference in the world.” The revival in the resolve and hearts of those fighting the war of independence came from their defeats, not their victories. It was in the Americans’ responses to calamity and tragedy that their greatness grew. We don’t show our strength and character in times of ease, we demonstrate it by how we respond when all the world seems to be falling down around us.

How do you cope with adversity? Do you turn tail and run? Do you break down on the side of a highway and abandon your car? Do you end up shattered upon the jagged rocks of adversity? Or do you fight? Do you face the adversity and move forward? Fighting is not always the solution – there are some fights that are beyond us – but when faced with adversity we should strive address it as best as we can. Sometimes that might be by running away, like Joseph did from Potiphar’s wife. For Joseph, his running from adversity led him into greater adversity – being cast into prison. How did he deal with this potential tragedy? He remained true to who he was and became the most important man in prison. Through his righteousness and faith he faced adversity and overcame it, eventually rising to the second most powerful man in Egypt. We can say that Joseph was successful because of his adversity, not in spite of it. His liberty only came through his adversity.

Adversity is an eternal principle. We read in the Book of Mormon: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.” (2 Nephi 2:11). Opposition is adversity. It’s part of the gospel. It’s important for liberty. We also read in 2 Nephi: “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 2:27). Opposition gives us the ability to choose eternal life or eternal death (spiritual, not physical). Choosing God brings happiness; choosing the devil brings misery. Our choices are important. We need to remember that adversity is necessary, even if it is difficult and painful. Jesus has been there. He understands all our pain.

“If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea; if thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb; and if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (D&C 122:5-8).

All our adversity is for our good, even if in the midst of it that might seem like a cruel sentiment. I have to add that there is plenty of adversity of our own making that comes from sin or unwise choices but if we repent and if we persevere and if we overcome that adversity, it will be for our good. Not sinning would have been better, of course, but all adversity can be for our good. Having faith in Christ gives us the strength to maintain this attitude and knowledge through even our darkest, most difficult adversities. We can hope against hope. Instead of becoming shattered upon the jagged rocks of adversity we can survive the shipwrecks in our lives. We might be stuck on an island for some time, even the rest of our lives, but we can build a new home there and make the best of whatever situation we are in. That is what the Americans did during the Revolutionary War. It was a war that looked like it could not be won. It was a war between a raw, weak army and a battle-hardened one. The Americans persevered through the dark days and won their freedom. Liberty truly came through adversity.

Selected October 2009 General Conference Quotes and Thoughts – Priesthood Session

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The following notes are only from talks by the Apostles.
 
Elder M. Russell Ballard – Communication Between Fathers and Sons

Priesthood and family are two of the most powerful things in the gospel.

Fathers and sons – how to talk to each other. We are all on a journey of becoming who we will become someday. No one has arrived yet. Fathers are the primary model of manhood for their sons.

Sons – how to take full advantage of your relationship with your father.

  1. Trust your father. He is not perfect but can help you. Talk to him, let him know your thoughts and dreams. You dad wants you to be happy and successful.
  2. Take an interest in your father’s life and his job and who he is. Find out what you don’t know about him.
  3. Ask your father for his advice on friends, dating, school, church, and so forth. This can also motivate him to give better advice and be a better person.

Fathers

  1. Listen to your sons. Ask the right kind of questions. Need to know what is going on in his life. Don’t assume you know how he feels or is thinking. Find a best way to connect. Have a one on one relationship. At least one really good conversation per month. Ask about feelings as often as you can without overdoing it. Listen more than you talk.
  2. Pray with and for your sons. Give them blessings. Share your testimony. Never give up even when fervent prayer in behalf of any who wander is all you can do.
  3. Have the big talks with your sons – drugs, girls, gospel, sex, pornography. Have open and frequent conversations on these topics. Talk about wholesome sexual relationships within marriage.

The most important decision for returned missionaries is to marry the right girl in the temple. Court and date and do not just “hang out”. Do not go the way of the world.

Honor your priesthood and love one another by making relationships with each other.

Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf – Adversity and Work

The brethren pray always for us. Winter will always give way to Spring. Remain steadfast in hope.

Shared story when he was 11 and living in the loft/attic of a barn. He was a refuge for the 2nd time in a few years. Boys made fun of him because of his East German accent. Now he can look back and see the great personal growth he made in the midst of that adversity.

Two important principles that sustain through adversity.

1. Work. Keep working, regardless of what you do. His parents worked various jobs to survive – truck driving, mining, laundry. Work kept their minds off their difficult circumstances. As they kept working, things got better. Those who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and work are a benefit to all. Don’t compare your efforts to others. Just do the best we can. Work is an ointment for anxiety.

If stuck in the mud, the Lord will be more willing to him who gets out and pushes instead of just praying. The righteous work we do in our homes cannot be delegated. Do not devote ourselves solely to worldly things.

Retirement is not part of the Lord’s plan of happiness. We need to consecrate everything to the Lord’s word. Endure joyfully to the end. Whether you are the youngest Deacon or the oldest High Priest, there is work to do.

2. Learn. Education is not the filling of a bucket, it is the lighting of a fire. Learning is not merely a good idea, it is a commandment. You do not progress faster than you gain knowledge. Knowledge does away with darkness, anxiety, and doubt.

Books can become your university. Seek knowledge by study and faith. Apply faith to your study. It will amplify your intellectual capacity. Do not neglect the fountain of revelation. Seek out the knowledge that leads to peace and truth.

It is often in the trial of adversity that we learn the most important things.

Pres. Henry B. Eyring – Spiritual Preparation

His containers of consecrated olive oil. Be prepared for any emergencies. When the call comes be ready. Preparation begins long before the crises that we might face.

Make choices to rise to your destiny as children of God. We don’t know what will come but know what you need to be ready.

1. Have faith. Priesthood is power to act in the name of God. You have to have faith that God lives and has confidence in you. Faith dies not come on a moment, it comes from courageous and sustained labor in the Lord’s Kingdom.

Deacons and Teachers an Priests can give as inspired and powerful talks as you hear in General Conference.

Some do not prepare as they should. We will be held accountable if we can help and do not.

2. Confidence to live up to the promises and blessings. Courage to stand firm in the face of temptations and adversities. We can be examples for the youth. D&C; 121 – pattern of righteous priesthood action.

Be unwearying in the Lord’s work. No lights out method of shepherding the youth.

Don’t tell your kids to do something or make a sacrifice you are not willing to do yourself. Have a feeling of wanting to do more to rise to the occasion and he prepared.

Pres. Thomas S. Monson – Anger

Anger is the root of many of the tragic stories in the news. Cease from anger and forsake wrath.

Story of husband and wife arguing in the car, thrown toy that was aimed at wife but hit the 18 month old son and damaged his brain.

Anger doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t build anything and can destroy everything.

There are many causes for anger. We can get upset for perceived wrongs or insult. A man is a fool who takes an insult where none is intended.

Can you be angry and not sin? Can you feel the Spirit when you are angry? No. The spirit of contention is of the Devil. God’s doctrine is to do away with anger.

No one can make us angry – it is a choice. Becoming angry is following the influence of the devil.

Shared story of Elder Marsh’s wife saving the strippings of the milk. Thomas B. Marsh became angrier and angrier and swore before a magistrate that the Mormons were dangerous. This was a factor in Bogg’s extermination order. 19 years later Marsh came back, saying he had lost much because of his choices.

Don’t given in to the feelings that lead to anger – irritation and so forth. Think of the consequence of anger. Leave unsaid the harmful and hurtful things you might say. School thy feelings.

The Oath & Covenant of the priesthood applies to all of us priesthood holders. Great promises await us if we are true to the Oath & Covenant of the priesthood. Harbor no animosity but be peacemakers.

There is no man more beloved than Joseph Bitner Wirthlin

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Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin passed away late last night (December 1, 2008). Although I did not know him personally, he always came across as one of the most soft-spoken and gentle people. I never really appreciated his talks until Pres. Merrill Bateman (it could have been Pres. Samuelson, I’m not positive), president of Brigham Young University, stated that once the conference issue of the Ensign was released, he and his wife always read Elder Wirthlin’s talk first. After this I started paying more attention to his talks. They are always amazing and full of charity. His talks are also powerful, which his soft manner and voice belie.

Here are a few recent quotes of his that brought strength and comfort to me.
On adversity:

“But whenever my steps led through seasons of sadness and sorrow, my mother’s words often came back to me: ‘Come what may, and love it.’ How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can’t—at least not in the moment. I don’t think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don’t think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life. If we approach adversities wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead toward times of greatest happiness.” (Source).

On sorrow and trials:

“It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. With all the pressures and demands on our time and the stress we face each day, it’s little wonder we get tired. Many feel discouraged because they have not measured up to their potential. Others simply feel too weak to contribute. And so, as the flock moves on, gradually, almost imperceptibly, some fall behind. Everyone has felt tired and weary at one time or another. I seem to feel more so now than I did when I was younger. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, even Jesus Christ knew what it meant to be tired. I do not wish to underestimate the weight that members of the Church bear upon their shoulders, nor do I minimize the emotional and spiritual trials they face. These can be heavy and often difficult to bear. I do, however, have a testimony of the renewing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that the Lord ‘giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.'” (Source).

On debt:

“This is simple counsel but a powerful secret for financial happiness. All too often a family’s spending is governed more by their yearning than by their earning. They somehow believe that their life will be better if they surround themselves with an abundance of things. All too often all they are left with is avoidable anxiety and distress. Those who live safely within their means know how much money comes in each month, and even though it is difficult, they discipline themselves to spend less than that amount. Credit is so easy to obtain. In fact, it is almost thrust upon us. Those who use credit cards to overspend unwisely should consider eliminating them. It is much better that a plastic credit card should perish than a family dwindle and perish in debt.” (Source).

On kindness:

“Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known. Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes.” (Source).

On judging others:

“Each one of us will travel a different road during this life. Each progresses at a different rate. Temptations that trouble your brother may not challenge you at all. Strengths that you possess may seem impossible to another. Never look down on those who are less perfect than you. Don’t be upset because someone can’t sew as well as you, can’t throw as well as you, can’t row or hoe as well as you. We are all children of our Heavenly Father. And we are here with the same purpose: to learn to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.” (Source).

I hope that we will all take the time to reread some of Elder Wirthlin’s words and live by his teachings. He was a man who exuded kindness and charity. As Elder Holland stated at the October 2008 General Conference, “Within the ranks of the general authorities of the church, there is no man more beloved than Joseph Bitner Wirthlin. We praise him for living the sermons he preaches.” Elder Wirthlin’s words, stories, and love will be missed. I am happy though that he is now reunited with his dear wife.