2 Nephi 2
In this chapter, Lehi outlined the hero’s response to opposition and adversity as he gave his final counsel to his son, Jacob. Lehi reminded Jacob that challenges and suffering, temptations and trials are all part of God’s plan. Like Jacob, some people are born in less than ideal circumstances, some have dysfunctional families, some have to move around a lot, some experience wealth, some experience poverty, some experience times of contention and war in their families or countries, some experience illness or death, some feel like they are always traveling in the wilderness through clouds and storms. No matter the trials, God has promised that “he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”
In his October 2013 address “I Will Not Fail Thee, nor Forsake Thee,” President Thomas S. Monson said, “It may be safely assumed that no person has ever lived entirely free of suffering and sorrow, nor has there ever been a period in human history that did not have its full share of turmoil and misery.” Lehi said it this way: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” If there were no opposition in life, men “must have remained in the same state in which they were created….in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin” (2 Nephi 2:22-23). Pres. Thomas S. Monson continued, “Were it not for challenges to overcome and problems to solve, we would remain much as we are, with little or no progress toward our goal of eternal life.”
Heavenly Father will force no man to heaven and eternal life. He has given “unto man that he should act for himself” and in order for a man to choose and to act, there must be opposition, there must be laws, there must be choices. To each law given there is a “punishment that is affixed [which] is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed.” It has been this way since the beginning when there was “the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.”
Knowing that we would not always obey the laws and would face the punishment of the law, Heavenly Father provided redemption “through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may….make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved” (2 Nephi 2:8-9).
So how do heroes respond when they are faced with choices and with challenges? Lehi taught Jacob that there are really only two ways to respond when we come to a fork in the road or when adversity comes our way. We can respond “according to the will of the flesh” or “according to the will of his Holy Spirit.”
For example, when faced with the challenge of unemployment one can “look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words” so that one may act according to the knowledge and inspiration he receives from the Holy Spirit in his search for new career opportunities. Or, one can be overwhelmed with the choices and situation he is faced with and seek consolation and comfort in the things of the flesh: “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness…hatred…envyings… drunkenness, revellings, and such like” (Galatians 5:19-21) which may impair his knowledge and judgment as well as limit his motivation and action. In seeking God and choosing to obey His counsel, we “become free forever, knowing good from evil: to act for [ourselves] and not to be acted upon.” In choosing the counsel of the flesh one gives “the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you.”
President Monson said, “When the pathway of life takes a cruel turn, there is the temptation to ask the question ‘Why me?’ At times there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel, no sunrise to end the night’s darkness. We feel encompassed by the disappointment of shattered dreams and the despair of vanished hopes. We join in uttering the biblical plea, ‘Is there no balm in Gilead?‘ We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone. We are inclined to view our own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism. We become impatient for a solution to our problems.”
Too often in our rush for a quick solution, we seek the balm of the flesh, rather than the balm in Gilead. We find ourselves faltering and wonder how we can rise above our challenges and overcome our mistakes. History is full of examples of those who have faltered and fallen and risen again. History “is replete with the experiences of those who have struggled and yet who have remained steadfast and of good cheer. The reason? They have made the gospel of Jesus Christ the center of their lives.” These are the heroes of history. These are the heroes of today. We can be heroes, too, if we will choose to make Jesus Christ the center of our lives and act “according to the will of his Holy Spirit.” Pres. Monson assured us: “This is what will pull us through whatever comes our way. We will still experience difficult challenges, but we will be able to face them, to meet them head on, and to emerge victorious.”
Heavenly Father wants us to succeed. He wants us to “have joy.” He wants us to choose “the good part” for He has “none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of [our] souls” (2 Nephi 2:30). “Our Heavenly Father, who gives us so much to delight in, also knows that we learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass. We know that there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were—better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before. This should be our purpose—to persevere and endure, yes, but also to become more spiritually refined as we make our way through sunshine and sorrow.”
*Share a time when you responded like a hero in sorrow as well as sunshine?
*Share an example of one of your heroes who has acted according to the will of his Holy Spirit in the midst of afflictions?