Challenging times are not new to us. Humanity has faced challenges—in many degrees and forms. The Book of Mormon contains historical accounts of many challenges and also ways that certain groups of people have thrived in difficult times—ways that we can learn from amidst the challenges that we now face.
Become highly favored of the Lord. The prophet Nephi went through many afflictions, but he was able to thrive because he “[was] highly favored of the Lord in all [his] days.” Some might think that having the most powerful being favor us must be very hard to achieve. Afterall, it is the prophet Nephi we are trying to emulate here. Nephi’s story provides us with guidance on how we can gain the favor of the Lord.
One of the most quotable passage in the Book of Mormon is Nephi’s obedient response to his father’s request that he return to Jerusalem to obtain important records. He said, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded…”. On many occasions, Nephi was commanded to do something that seemed impossible to accomplish, but in all these occasions, the Lord provided a way for Nephi to accomplish the things that the Lord had commanded him.
But it was not a ‘walk in the park’ for Nephi. The Lord did not simply provide a way for him. Nephi had to exercise his faith first and then do what the Lord had asked of him. When Nephi and his brothers went back to Jerusalem to get the plates of brass, their first 2 attempts failed. His brothers wanted to give up, but Nephi, believing that God would provide a way for them to get the plates, went into the house of Laban and was successful in getting the plates for his family.
We learn from Nephi’s story that the Lord favors those who have faith in Him and seek to do His will, even during troublesome times when trials weigh our souls down. He favors those who seek the mysteries of God and desire to know His will. He favors those who roll up their sleeves and go about doing the Lord’s work. The Lord has promised, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him”. He further added, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love”.
Respond with Grace. In one of the wars recorded in the Book of Mormon, Moroni, an army commander, wrote to the Nephite governor, Pahoran, condemning him for not sending supplies and reinforcements to his armies who were in dire need. Moroni wrote this not knowing that Pahoran himself was in trouble and had been cast out by a rebellious faction of his own people.
Given Pahoran’s circumstances, he could have responded with anger but instead, he responded with consideration and grace, explaining his circumstances and reassuring Moroni that they were still fighting for the same cause.
During difficult times, we need to respond graciously and with forgiveness more than ever. Pahoran’s response to Moroni prevented two righteous men from becoming enemies and strengthened their relationship even more. We, too, can choose to respond with grace like Pahoran and seek to understand when we are misunderstood, to speak with compassion when we are spoken harshly of, to have patience when others are losing theirs, and to continue to love even when there is little left to love.
Difficult times can either bring us together or tear us apart. When the choice is placed before us, may we always choose the former.
Endure to the End. In the Book of Mormon, we read about the magnitude of difficulties that Lehi faced on their journey to the Promised Land—starvation, fatigue, his oldest sons’ rebellion, and accusations of being a visionary man who was leading his family to perish in the wilderness, among many others. Lehi described his heartache and pain, describing his journey as the “days of [his] greatest sorrow”. Amidst the difficulties he faced, he could have easily turned away from God. Instead, he continued to trust in the Lord with such resolute faith and endured the challenges he faced to the end of his days.
We learn from Lehi’s experience that we can’t just sit and chill and wait for a happy ending. His life teaches us that endurance doesn’t simply mean to “hang in there” until the end of our lives. It means seeing our trials as God’s way to temper us in fire and try us in the waters of adversity to help us become as refined as fine steel. It means growing our faith and striving to keep God’s commandments. It means “patient continuance in well doing”. It means desiring to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and acting upon that desire. It means trusting and relying upon His love and grace to sustain us through difficult times.
And when we have reached the end of our days, we may be able to echo what Lehi wrote shortly before his death, “The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.”
Difficult times are inevitable. It is necessary for our refinement, but we have also been given guidance through the scriptures on how to face these challenges and thrive in the midst of them. The Book of Mormon is one of the many scriptures that God has prepared to guide us. May we turn to it to seek the Lord’s counsel not only during difficult times in our lives but every day as we seek to know His will.