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originally posted at modern molly mormon. i decided to also post it over here, on my personal blog.
the first principle of the gospel is faith, as we are taught in the fourth article of faith.
but what is faith? faith is something so intangible, something that can be so vague to some and yet so clear to others. moroni teaches that "faith is things which are hoped for and not seen" (ether 12:6). all through the scriptures we are bombarded with examples of faith. moroni also teaches that we "receive no witness until after the trial of [our] faith."
one of my favorite scripture stories comes from moses. the children of Israel were plagued with serpents. they were dying from these snake bites. the Lord commanded Moses to create a brazen serpent, and lift it up on a pole. "and as many as should look upon that serpent should live" and be healed from the venomous bites. many people died, because they thought it was ridiculous. looking at a snake on a pole, healing them from their bites? if someone told you to do that, would you believe them? i probably wouldn't! but those who had faith, who looked up at the brazen serpent, lived. (see helaman 8:14-15, john 3:14-15)
in april conference of 1981, elder loren c. dunn said, "faith is the realization that the Lord can help us with all things." this includes healing from our pain. both physically, as shown with the children of israel, and emotionally.
often as victims of abuse, we wonder why Heavenly Father would allow such horrible things to happen to His children. we may question whether He is aware of our suffering, and we may even wonder if he cares about us at all.
in our attempt to understand why these things happen, we must come to believe that we are daughters of a loving Father who wants us to be happy. in fact, His love is so great that he gave us the gift of agency. this gift allows us to choose for ourselves the path we will follow. we may choose to keep the commandments and receive His promised blessings. the choice to disobey is also ours, and when doing so, we must be prepared to accept the consequences of our actions.
likewise when others make mistakes or sin, we may in turn become the victims of their actions.
marvin j. ashton explained this in the following way. "our freedom to choose our course of conduct does not provide personal freedom from the consequences of our performances. God's love for us is constant and will not diminish, but he cannot rescue us from the painful results that are caused by wrong choices."
He can, however, help us heal from that pain. but we must have faith in His willingness and ability to do so.
in a talk titled "answers to life's questions," elder m. russell ballard teaches that "life's most challenging questions seem to be those that begin with the word why. 'why is life so hard?' 'why is there so much sorrow, hate, and unhappiness in the world?' 'why does death take the young?' and 'why must the innocent suffer?' we all have wrestled with such questions from time to time as we struggle with the vicissitudes of mortality...i believe the only satisfying answers to such questions come from the comforting perspective of faith in our Heavenly Father and His eternal plan for our happiness.
the prophet alma called the pain 'the great plan of happiness' (alma 42:8). it is known more commonly as the plan of salvation. it is beautiful in its simplicity to all who seek prayerfully to know and understand the true meaning and purpose of life.what a wonderful, warm, and reassuring thing it is to know that the primary objective of the very God of heaven is 'the immortality and eternal life of man' (moses 1:39), or, in other words, our eternal happiness and joy. sometimes i wonder if we really appreciate what that means and how it should affect our lives.
critical to our knowledge of the plain of happiness is an understanding of the great governing principle of agency. a person does not have to spend much time in the schoolroom of mortality to realize that Heavenly Father's plan does not provide for blissful happiness at every step along our mortal journey. life is filled with harsh realities that tug at the heart and tear away at the soul.
one cannot look at suffering, regardless of its causes or origins, without feeling pain and compassion. i can understand why someone who lacks an eternal perspective might see the horrifying news footage of starving children and man's inhumanity to man and shake a fist at the heavens and cry, 'if there is a God, how could He allow such things to happen?'
much adversity is man-made. men's hearts turn cold, and the spirit of satan controls their actions. in foreseeing the day of suffering in our time, the Savior said, 'the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound' (d&c 45:27). violence, immorality, and other evils run rampant on the earth. much adversity has its origin in the principle of agency. often overlooked is the fact that choices have consequences; we forget also that agency offers the same privilege of choice to others. at times we will be affected adversely by the way other people choose to exercise their agency. our Heavenly Father feels so strongly about protecting our agency that he allows his children to exercise it, either for good or for evil.
we mortals have a limited view of life from the eternal perspective. but if we know and understand Heavenly Father's plan, we realize that dealing with adversity is one of the chief ways we are tested. our faith in our Heavenly Father and his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, is the source of inner strength. through faith we can find peace, comfort, and the courage to endure. as we trust in God and his plan for our happiness with all our hearts and lean not unto our own understanding (see proverbs 3:5), hope is born. hope grows out of faith and gives meaning and purpose to all we do. it can give us comfort in the face of adversity, strength in times of trial, and peace when we have reason for doubt of anguish.
when the plan of our Heavenly Father is understood, the answers to life's questions are found in the gospel of Christ. Jesus said, 'peace i leave with you, my peace i give unto you: not as the world giveth, give i unto you. let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid' (john 14:27)."
i understand how difficult it can be to understand the Lord's plan. i have been there, shaking my fist as heaven, questioning why things happen. if God really does care, if He knows what i am going through. the truth is this: He does know. and He does care. we must have faith in Him, in His ability to help us. in His plan for our happiness.i do not believe that suffering is His plan. i do not believe that he causes bad things to happen. what i do believe is that He allows us to make our own choices, and to deal with those consequences. if the Lord stopped every bad thing from happening, we would not learn or grow. we would not learn to take responsibility for our actions. we would not learn forgiveness, or the importance of the atonement. the Lord can, and i believe sometimes does, help us to avoid bad situations.
have you ever been prompted to do something you didn't understand, then later realize you had avoided something terrible?
my dad shared an experience had had in high school with me a long time ago. he was driving on the freeway, going home from a basketball tournament. he felt prompted to get off the freeway, and go get a drink at a gas station. he ignored it, and felt it a second time. the second time he was impressed to get off the freeway, he did. a few minutes later when he got back on, he came upon a terrible car accident caused by a drunk driver. he told me he didn't know if he would have been involved, but that he sure is glad he decided to follow the prompting of the Spirit to stop and get that drink.
now although this experience is kind of a drastic one, i believe that we are prompted to avoid even the tiniest of disasters. we may never even know we are avoiding them. with all of the bad that does occur, that the Lord does not actively stop, i believe there are thousands of bad things the Lord helps us to avoid. we can continue to do so if we have faith in Him, if we trust Him, and if we choose to follow His commandments.