When You Find Yourself Asking...Why Me? - A Discussion on Adversity & The Atonement

How thankful I am that we have such a simple and glorious gospel. To this day, the prophet and apostles of our Church share a message that is timeless, beautiful, and gravely important to our eternal salvation. I would like to reiterate some of the words that have been spoken on adversity and the atonement, alongside some scriptural and personal narratives.

Firstly, the topic of adversity.

We all have it.

In fact, we are promised it!

President John Taylor taught: “I heard the Prophet Joseph say, in speaking to the Twelve on one occasion: ‘You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God, and (said he) God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings.’”

We all have adversity, and there is a distinguishable reason for that.

1. There needs to be opposition in all things.

Nellie F Mariott, the second counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, quotes these lyrics in last general conference:

“Have thine own way Lord!
Have thine own way!
Thou art the Potter;
I am the clay.
Mould me and make me
After thy will.
While I am waiting
Yielded and still.”

Opposition, trials, adversity – they all are part of the refining process of our Heavenly Father, making us more like the person we need to become. Sometimes we think we would be happier, if we just didn’t have to go through this (insert trial here). But, (and this is a big but), Can we love Jesus Christ and His way more than we love ourselves and our own agenda? Nellie F. Mariott states, “When we offer our broken heart to Jesus Christ, He accepts our offering. He takes us back. No matter what losses, wounds, and rejection we have suffered, His grace and healing are mightier than all. Truly yoked to the Savior, we can say with confidence, “It will all work out.”

2. Sometimes adversity comes because we are not living obediently.

We are blessed in this life to have agency. Agency is the ability to make choices for our self. With choice, comes consequences. Sometimes we make good choices, and the consequences are good. Sometimes we make bad choices, and the consequences are bad. If we follow this logic, it would appear to make sense that if we strive to make better choices, or more right choices, we will probably experience better consequences, or more positive consequences.

It is important to understand that some suffering and affliction can enter our lives if we fail to truly repent of our sins. President Marion G. Romney taught: “The suffering and distress endured by people of this earth is the result of unrepented and unremitted sin. … Just as suffering and sorrow attend sin, so happiness and joy attend forgiveness of sins” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1959, 11).
In addition to the negative consequences of sin, when we live disobediently, we cannot have the Holy Ghost remain with us. We learn from the scriptures that a member of the Godhead cannot dwell in an unholy place. Living without the spirit, may seem almost unnoticeable when we are in this state because life continues normally with or without the spirit. However, once you have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, the difference is unmistakable. Living obediently, means that you will be comforted, guided, aided, and inspired by a member of the Godhead, and upon baptism and confirmation if you continue to live worthily you are promised that he can chill out with you 24/7! Elder Vinas reminds us, “With the influence of the Holy Ghost, we will not be offended, nor will we offend others; we will feel happier, and our minds will be cleaner. Our love for others will increase. We will be more willing to forgive and spread happiness to those around us.” Yet, despite this promise, if we do not live obediently, he won’t be around. You may not notice at first, but ask yourself, is the Holy Ghost in my life right now?

In the Book of Mormon we are promised that if we are obedient to the commandments, we shall prosper in the land. This is an additional blessing (a.k.a less adversity) of obedience. Elder Richard J. Maynes of the seventy explained in this past general conference that, “The joy we experience in this life will be in direct proportion to how well our lives are centered on the teachings, example, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”

3. Now, sometimes adversity comes and we were totally living obediently.

Not only may we experience more joy and success, when we centre our lives on Christ, and live obediently, but we may also be better equipped to dealing with adversity when we are striving to live the commandments of God. This is important because living obediently will not prevent us from having any adversity (because as I mentioned previously, adversity is necessary in this life to grow, to learn, and even to be happy); however, living obediently will give us the skills necessary to combat this inevitable adversity.

For example, because I am obedient to my covenant to remember God, and stand as a witness for him at all times and in all places, the principle of prayer is second nature to me. I recall a very lonely time in my life. I was 17, and my left lung had collapsed. I had been hospitalized for a significant time, and was hooked up to chest tubes that were pumping me with air, and draining air and fluid from my deflated and wounded lung. I had three failed surgeries. I had been transferred via ambulance to three different hospitals. The outcome was looking bleak. I spent my nights alone in a hospital in a city I didn’t call home, feeling very, very alone and scared. My adversity was not caused by disobedience, or even some type of impact or injury. It had happened suddenly, unexpectedly, and without any reason.

I strive to live a Christ centred life. Because of that, his name is imprinted upon my heart. So what did I do when I felt so lonely and scared? I prayed. I asked for nothing in my prayers, I left my fate to Him. Instead, I prayed in gratitude for all the blessings in my life. I was in pain, but I knew that I have worked hard to become more like my Saviour expects me to be, and for that I could not be scared. I felt such a peace come over me as I said my prayer of gratitude. And how much sweeter is my life I am living now after being able to go through that trial, and come out okay.

Elder Hugo Montoya stated in the last general conference, “It does not matter what our personal struggles are—whether they are disease or prolonged loneliness or suffering the temptations and tests of the adversary—the Good Shepherd is there. He calls us by name and says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

From this I hope you can understand that living obediently, and always remembering Christ will lead to more happiness. In addition, it helps us face those trials that seem to come for no good reason at all. Sometimes bad things happen to “good people.” Sometimes good things happen to “bad people.”
Adversity exists as an opportunity to grow and become more like our heavenly father or mother, in order for us to better understand joy, and because this is part of the plan – that we live in a fallen world where bad things happen, and even other’s choices may affect our lives as well.

President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God. … The Lord will not forsake us.”

This leads me to the second most popular general conference topic I would like to discuss with you, the atonement.

Elder Fransisco J. Vinas of the seventy said, “Through our experience in life, we learn that joy in this world is not full, but in Jesus Christ our joy is full (see D&C 101:36). He will give us strength so we will not have to suffer any manner of afflictions save they are swallowed up in His joy (see Alma 31:38).”

When we remember the atonement, adversity will be easier. So then how do we remember, and engage with the atonement? By partaking in the sacrament.

Elder Montoya reminds us that, “At least once a week, we should meditate as President Joseph F. Smith did on “the great and wonderful love made manifest by the Father and the Son in the coming of the Redeemer into the world.” Inviting others to come to church and to worthily partake of the sacrament will allow more of Heavenly Father’s children to reflect on the Atonement. And if we are not worthy, we can repent. Remember that the Son of the Highest descended below all and took upon Him our offenses, sins, transgressions, sicknesses, pains, afflictions, and loneliness. The scripture teaches us that Christ “ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things.”

The atonement is not just a means to alleviate sin or sickness specifically, but It is also a means to alleviate all trials and adversities. Dallin H. Oaks explains that, “In mortality we have the certainty of death and the burden of sin. The Atonement of Jesus Christ offsets these two certainties of mortal life. But apart from death and sin, we have many other challenges as we struggle through mortality. Because of that same Atonement, our Savior can provide us the strength we need to overcome these mortal challenges."

Alma describes this part of the Savior’s Atonement in the Book of Mormon when he says: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11; also see 2 Nephi 9:21).

President Boyd K. Packer further explains this passage by stating: “He had no debt to pay. He had committed no wrong. Nevertheless, an accumulation of all of the guilt, the grief and sorrow, the pain and humiliation, all of the mental, emotional, and physical torments known to man—He experienced them all.”

A little while ago my grandfather passed away from a special type of lung cancer. This was incredibly hard to experience for everyone in my family. One aspect of this hardship that I found particularly painful, was watching my grandpa hooked up to the same type of lung machines, watching him cough that certain type of cough I had felt, and remembering the exact twinge of pain you feel as your lungs can't stay inflated or fill with fluid or blood. It was a traumatizing experience for him. It was a traumatizing experience for me as I recalled how painful it is to not have properly functioning lungs.

When we face adversity we are never alone. We may feel tempted to think that nobody knows our struggles, and partially this may be true. Most people will never know the struggles we go through, or how we experience pain and sadness. No one may ever know how I have felt in a particular moment, or a trial I have been through. Except for our Saviour. He actually has been through the exact same thing you have. That was part of the atonement. You are not alone. You are never alone. The furthest distance between you and your Heavenly Father is the distance between your knees and the floor. Pray. Ask for his love and peace and you will find it. He knows you, your name, and he has even felt what you are feeling right now.

Listen to these hymn lyrics, as they touch your soul, as they have mine:

Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?
Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.

Adversity is real. Adversity is necessary. And adversity can be overcome.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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