Sunday, August 23, 2009


This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Adversity, by President Henry B. Eyring
First Counselor in the First Presidency

While I was serving as a missionary in La Grande, OR, we had an unusually long period of prosperity. It seemed that our teaching pool was full to overflowing, local church members were even more helpful than usual, and my companion and I were the best of friends—things were going very well. After some time of this, we began to wonder if there was some catch. Sure, we were doing our best to be exactly obedient, but we always did that. In fact, we even mentioned that we might be missing out on some growth opportunities that trials provide. We even considered praying for adversity.

It turns out that we did not pray for adversity (can you blame us?), but looked for growth in the bounteous time. After our time of peace and plenty, transfers came and missionary life returned to normal: spiced intermittently with its share of trials.

With all the differences in our lives, we have at least one challenge in common. We all must deal with adversity.

President Eyring's comments on the universality of adversity were followed by a description that closely matched my experience in La Grande: "There may be periods, sometimes long ones, when our lives seem to flow with little difficulty. But," he continued, "it is in the nature of our being human that comfort gives way to distress, periods of good health come to an end, and misfortunes arrive."

I'm reminded of lines of a poem on missionary service that juxtapose the extremes associated with the work:

A mission is a strange experience. It's a trial and a test.
A mission throws at you the worst yet teaches you the best. ...

I've never had it so easy. I've never had it so tough.
Things have never gone so smoothly. Things have never been so rough.
(from Highs-N-Lows, link)

I remember those days in La Grande with fondness (along with other happy low-adversity times from each of my other areas with many different companions). At the same time, I recall the hard times with something similar to fondness, too; for it was in the hardest times that I could honestly ask, "What does the Lord want me to learn or do?"

These memories of good reactions to adversity (I probably don't react as well now as I did then) are in line with what President Eyring states as the aim of his talk:

My purpose today is to assure you that our Heavenly Father and the Savior live and that They love all humanity. The very opportunity for us to face adversity and affliction is part of the evidence of Their infinite love. God gave us the gift of living in mortality so that we could be prepared to receive the greatest of all the gifts of God, which is eternal life.

It may be difficult to acknowledge in the midst of affliction and adversity that such trial is evidence of divine love. Nevertheless, in the clarity that follows successfully enduring such trial, we understand that it has all been beneficial in our eternal progression (compare to D&C 121:7-8).

A kite rises against the wind, not with it.

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