November 26, 2007

"Realize from whence your blessings flow"

Brigham Young March 16, 1856 After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States saw an increase in the mentioning of prayer. In the October General Conference of 2001 Henry B. Eyring described the circumstances:

The world seems to be in commotion. There are wars and rumors of wars. The economies of whole continents are faltering. Crops are failing from lack of rain in places all over the earth. And the people in peril have flooded heaven with prayers. In public and in private, they are petitioning God for help, for comfort, and for direction. You have probably noticed, as I have in recent days, that prayers have not only become more numerous but more heartfelt. I often am seated on the stand in a meeting near the person who has been asked to pray. I have listened recently with wonder. The words spoken are clearly inspired by God, both eloquent and wise. And the tone is that of a loving child seeking help, not as we might from an earthly parent but from an all-powerful Heavenly Father who knows our needs before we ask. Such a turning to fervent prayer when the world seems out of joint is as old as mankind. In times of tragedy and danger, people turn to God in prayer... The great increase in heartfelt prayer, and the public acceptance of it, has been remarkable to me and to others. More than once in recent days, someone has said to me with great intensity and with a sound of worry in the voice, "I hope that the change lasts." That worry is justified. Our own personal experience and God's record of His dealing with His children teaches us that. Dependence on God can fade quickly when prayers are answered. And when the trouble lessens, so do the prayers.

Elder Eyring said the Book of Mormon repeats that sad story over and over again:
From the book of Helaman, "O, how could you have forgotten your God in the very day that he has delivered you?" (Helaman 7:20). And later from the same book, after God had answered prayers with gracious kindness, the awful pattern is described again: "And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him. Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity. And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him (Helaman 12:1-3). And now, from the next words of that same scripture, we learn why it is we forget so easily the source of our blessings and cease to feel our need to pray with faith: "O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world! Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom's paths! Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide" (Helaman 12:4-6).[1]

Brigham Young expressed similar sentiments during the drought and famine of 1856. Brigham was perfectly satisfied with the circumstances; he believed they were calculated to remind saints that they depend on God:
I tell you honestly that I do not know when I have been more thankful, in all my life, than I have to see the pinching hand of want compel every man and woman to pray God our Father, to give us day by day our daily bread. It makes me happy, inasmuch as the people will not otherwise understand that the Lord does feed them. In years of plenty their understandings seemed closed to this fact, they did not appear to realize that the Lord made the earth fruitful, and caused it to yield its fruit bountifully. And while our flocks and herds were increasing upon the mountains and plains, the eyes of the people seemed closed to the operations of the invisible hand of Providence, and they were prone to say, "It is our own handy-work, it is our labor that has performed this."
It seems we are all prone to wander to a certain extent:
It seems to be so interwoven with our nature, while we are blessed and surrounded with all the comforts of the earth to forget that the Lord furnishes these things to us, Then I say that I rejoice, when the Lord brings us into circumstances calculated to make us aware that if we are fed it is Him that feeds us, that if we are clothed it is Him that clothes us, for we cannot do it ourselves, that if we get bread to eat, from this until harvest, it must be the hand of the Lord that furnishes it, for of ourselves we cannot obtain it. I am glad to see you brought into a state where you may begin to think and realize from whence your blessings flow. The Lord rules and reigns.

Keeping an eye single to God's glory can help carry us through in times of want. Our circumstances in life are calculated to stretch us, and we would do well to learn from Job, who, in the midst of his terrible trials, said:
And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21).
The scripture then says "In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly" (Job 1:22).
In other words, we might be brought to a state where we must acknowledge the Lord rules and reigns; if so, let it be an exalting, rather than damning experience. Heber C. Kimball encouraged the Saints to be grateful even, if not especially, in times of want:
I have seen the time in Nauvoo, the last time I went to England, when I could sit down with my family and eat all we had in the house, and then not have half enough. I never was so poor in my life as I was then, and I was sickly and afflicted. Was I happy? Yes, just as happy as I am now, and just as comfortable in my feelings. I always felt as thankful when I had not anything as when I had plenty; I feel as thankful with a little as I do with ever so much. But I have heard some people say, that they could not ask God to bless a jonnycake, and feel thankful for it. I could mention many such characters, people who are never thankful, only when they have an abundance. I am thankful when I have a little; I am thankful now, and I never was more so than I am this day, for there is a prospect of some people learning a lesson, though I doubt very much whether all will (Journal of Discourses 3:252).[2]
Gratitude, especially or at least for another day to learn. Footnotes: [1] Henry B. Eyring, "Prayer," General Conference, October 2001. [2] Heber C. Kimball also used this instance to emphasize the importance of following the prophet; see footnote one in Taking Safety in Prophetic Counsel.

2 comments:

janeytop said...

Do you think that God would purposely give us trials as a way of reaching out to us?

LifeOnaPlate said...

Certainly; but you have to define "trials" and clarify ways in which God might "give" trials.

When people think of trials they typically think of hardships like illness, loss of a job, etc. Trials are the very nature of life, and include what we might call blessings. Anything that tests us or is designed to strengthen is is a trial. "We will prove them now herewith," was the premortal statement.

Our probation allows circumstances that test our true desires.

Did God "purposely" flood New Orleans? I don't know that he directly caused it, but he did create and/or allow the circumstances that caused it. Joseph Smith was fond of a statement from the Old Testament, that "time and chance happen to all men." Sometimes stuff just happens because it is the nature of mortality.

So these trials might be a way for God to call us back to Him, and they may be an indirect result of a fallen world which God has orchestrated. Either way, they are calculated to improve us, if we will.

What do you think?

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