(Long Article-13 min: you may want to skim and download for future reference)
The Book of Job
“Hast thou considered my servant Job.” (Job 1:8) The entire Book of Job is in devoted to one issue: human suffering. The Book gives insights into the causes of adversity, and emphasizes the importance of turning to God. The book also exposes our limited knowledge and our great need for wisdom and understanding.
1. Most trials and afflictions are self-inflicted. They are the result of our own carelessness or transgressions.
Wilford Woodruff: Most troubles are “borrowed”
“The troubles of the children of men are very numerous, but a great many of them are borrowed. I believe two-thirds of the troubles of men are borrowed. [If we do what’s right] we escape a great many imaginary, trying, and perplexing scenes. (Journal of Discourses, 6:140-141, December 27, 1857)
James E. Faust: Tribulations caused by our own carelessness or transgression
“Unfortunately, some of our greatest tribulations are the result of our own foolishness and weakness and occur because of our own carelessness or transgression. Central to solving these problems is the great need to get back on the right track … (“Refined in Our Trials,” Ensign, Feb. 2006, 2-7)
Marion D. Hanks: Suffering is caused by our bad judgment and poor choices
Much of the pain we suffer and inevitably impose upon others is self-induced through our own bad judgment, through poor choices.
And for that, help is offered. To the penitent sinner comes the assurance that God will forgive, forget, and never mention our sins of which we have truly repented. (The Ensign, November 1992 p 64)
D&C 101: 2: Suffering the result of transgressions
I the Lord, have suffered the affliction to come upon [my people], wherewith they have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions;
2. Much adversity is caused vicariously, by carelessness or transgressions of others. God will rarely interfere with the free will/agency of His children.
Early Latter-day Saints knew well the sufferings of persecution. Suffering can be caused by an unkind word, a slight or discourtesy. A person can be hurt by an unfair or dishonest business transaction. Sometimes a person may bring suffering on others unintentionally through careless or malicious exercise of their free will and agency.
“No man is an island.” By “doing your own thing,” without regard to consequences, you can cause others to suffer.
3. Adversity is inherent in mortality. “The spirit is willing by the flesh is weak.” Challenges are an integral part of nature and earth life, ageing and natural disasters.
2 Nephi 2: 11-14: There must be opposition in all things
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things
For there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.
Matthew 4:45: The sun shines and rain falls on both the righteous and wicked
Your Father which is in heaven maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Howard W. Hunter:
“We came to mortal life to encounter resistance. It was part of the plan for our eternal progress. Without temptation, sickness, pain, and sorrow, there could be no goodness, virtue, appreciation for well-being, or joy” (“God Will Have a Tried People,” Ensign, May 1980, 25).
Joseph Smith: The saints will not escape judgments
It is a false idea that the Saints will escape all the judgments, whilst the wicked suffer; for all flesh is subject to suffer, and the righteous shall hardly escape; still many of the Saints will escape, for the just shall live by faith; yet many of the righteous shall fall prey to disease, to pestilence, etc., by reason of the weakness of the flesh, and yet be saved in the kingdom of God. (DHC 4:11)
Jack H. Goaslind: Adversity is part of our mortality experienced by everyone
The other thing that may diminish our happiness is adversity. Adversity is also part of our mortal probation, experienced by everyone. It is different, however, from sin. While we can choose to avoid sin, we usually cannot choose whether we experience adversity.
I am convinced if we are to have happiness in our hearts, we must learn how to preserve it, in our hearts, in the midst of trouble and trial. We can control our attitude toward adversity. Some people are defeated and embittered by it, while others triumph over it and cultivate godlike attributes in the midst of it.
I would offer one key to maintaining your happiness in spite of adversity. Christ said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:24) If you would find happiness and joy, lose your life in some noble cause. A worthy purpose must be at the center of every worthy life. . . Service helps us forget our own travails; it enlarges our souls and gives us greater capacity to endure our own trials. (Jack H. Goaslind, “Happiness,” Ensign, May 1986, 52)
Marion D. Hanks: The righteous are not immune from trials
Does God promise his children immunity from trouble and afflictions? Is tribulation evidence of his displeasure? Did the prophets of old and Christ and his Apostles live without adversity? did he promise his followers that they would be spared trouble?…
To early leaders in the Church came the admonition, “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many.” (D&C 24:8)
God does not deny us the experience we came here to have. He does not insulate us from tribulation or guarantee immunity from trouble. (CR, The Ensign, November, 1992 p 64)
4. Some trials are given by God teach or test us. Through trials we learn valuable lessons and gain priceless experience.
Hebrews 5:8-9: Even Jesus learned obedience by the things which he suffered
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
Doctrine and Covenants 122: 7-8: Trials will give experience and be for our good
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 98: 3: Your afflictions shall work for your good
Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.
D&C 101:3-5: We must be tested and tried as Abraham
Therefore, they must needs be chastened, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son.
For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified.
Yet I will own them, and they shall be mine in that day when I shall come to make up my jewels.
D&C 58:2-4: After much tribulation come the blessings and glory
For verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven.
Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.
For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory…
Ether 12:27: God will show us our weaknesses so that we may become strong
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Moses 5:10-12: Our adversity will bring joy
Adam said, Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.
And Eve, said Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God
Hebrews 12:6: The Lord corrects those he loves
“Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth”
Russell M. Nelson: We came to be tried and tested.
We came to be tried, to be tested, and to choose. Our decisions determine our destiny. (Gen Conf Apr 2005)
Orson F. Whitney: No pain we suffer, no trial we experience is wasted
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer … builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven …” (Spencer W. Kimball, Tragedy or Destiny, Speeches of the Year (Provo, 1955).
Ronald E. Poelman: by responding positively to adversity we grow spiritually
The sons of Mosiah, in the course of their missionary labors, “had many afflictions … both in body and in mind … and also much labor in the spirit.” (Alma 17:5.) Partly because of such experiences, they became “strong in the knowledge of the truth; … men of a sound understanding … [who] searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God. …
“They had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation.” (Alma 17:2–3.) Through their positive response to adversity, they grew spiritually.
In the time of Nephi, son of Helaman, “the more humble part of the people … [suffered] much affliction”; but they fasted and prayed frequently and became “stronger in their humility, and … firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation.” (Hel. 3:34–35.)
There are encouragement and comfort in knowing that we will not be tested beyond our capacity to endure, that we will benefit from our adversities, and that the resources and circumstances necessary for us to do so will be provided. , “Adversity and the Divine Purpose of Mortality,” (Gen Conf May 1989)
John Dickson: The blessing of having only one arm
I want you to know that having one arm for nearly thirty years has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. I hasn’t been my greatest challenge, but is has been a great teacher to me, teaching me to be more patient and tolerant with others as I have had to learn to be more patient with myself. It has helped me to understand the necessity of our having challenges in life to help develop our character and stamina, helping us to become what the Lord ultimately wants us to become.
Our challenges may be physical, spiritual, economic, or emotional, but if we will treat them as opportunities and stepping-stones in our progress, rather than barriers and stumbling blocks, our lives and growth will be wonderful. I have learned that between challenges it is very restful but that any real growth that I have ever enjoyed has always come with a challenge.
Life is not intended to be easy, but I promise those that labor faithfully in the service of their fellowmen, and with determination handle every challenge properly and under the influence of the Spirit, that they will be blessed with feelings of happiness which will permeate their whole soul, and these are blessings that mold and build us and that can never be taken away. (Gen Conf, The Ensign, Nov 1992, p 45)
Glenn Pace: Trials are often to sanctify the righteous
Disasters and tribulation are not always for the punishment of the wicked, but often for the sanctification of the righteous. We admire the early members of the Church for their faithfulness through their numerous trials. It is interesting to contemplate whether they succeeded in facing their obstacles because of their spirituality or whether they were spiritual because of the obstacles they faced. Into each of our lives come golden moments of adversity. (CR, The Ensign, November 1992, p 12-13)
Wilford Woodruff: We must have trials to be comfortable in the presence of the prophets and apostles who suffered
We have been called to pass through trials many times, and I do not think we should complain, because if we had no trials we should hardly feel at home in the other world in the company of the prophets and apostles who were torn asunder, crucified, etc, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Doct. 444)
Richard C. Edgley: Don’t pray to be spared from trials
The faithful do not pray to be spared the trials of life but pray that they may have the strength to rise above them. In so doing they come closer to Heavenly Father and to that state of perfection they are seeking. (Ensign, May 1993, p 11)
Joseph Smith’s: Characterization of Himself – Rough Stone Rolling
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women–all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty, who will give me dominion over all and every one of them, when their refuge of lies shall fail, and their hiding place shall be destroyed, while these smooth-polished stones with which I come in contact become marred (DHC 5:401)
Dallin H. Oaks: View adversity in the context of the purpose of life
When we give thanks in all things, we see hardships and adversities in the context of the purpose of life. We are sent here to be tested. There must be opposition in all things. We are meant to learn and grow through that opposition, through meeting our challenges, and through teaching others to do the same. . . .
Jesus taught this lesson when He and His disciples met a man who was born blind. “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” the disciples asked. “Neither,” Jesus answered. The man was born blind “that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:2–3).
If we see life through the lens of spirituality, we can see many examples of the works of God being furthered through the adversities of His children. . . .
When we understand this principle, that God offers us opportunities for blessings and blesses us through our own adversities and the adversities of others, we can understand why He has commanded us again and again to “thank the Lord thy God in all things” (D&C 59:7). (Dallin H. Oaks, “Give Thanks in All Things,” Liahona, May 2003, 95–98)
5. Trials are caused by Satan putting stumbling blocks in our path
James 1:12-14: Stumbling blocks can be stepping stones
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
D&C 19: 4, 15-18, 20: Repent or suffer as Christ
And surely every man must repent or suffer, for I, God, am endless.
Therefore I command you to repent – repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings before – how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
For behold, I, God have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent.
But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
Knowing the Sources and Causes of Adversity and Trials Help us to Face Them
- If our suffering is caused by our poor choices or transgressions we should seek wisdom and repentance.
- If our challenges are cause by others, we may need to reconcile with them or avoid them altogether.
- If our adversity is caused by natural disasters we may need to minister to others and become more patient.
- If our trials are divine tests or tutorials we may want to turn to the Lord for guidance and understanding.
- If our turmoil is caused by Satan’s stumbling blocks, we may need to strengthen ourselves spiritually through prayer, scripture study, church attendance, and service.