I few months ago I was in a ward council meeting that was hosted by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The meeting was created to assist bishops in developing effective and efficient ward councils.
Elder Oaks, an attorney by profession spoke of an incident he had as a young lawyer. At the time he primarily practiced real estate law focusing on contracts, deeds and trusts. It was at this ward council meeting that he recalled an event that took place years ago. A colleague of Elder Oaks’ passed away and many of the attorneys from his firm gathered at the funeral home to attend the viewing. The deceased individual was very wealthy, had amassed a great fortune and hundreds of parcels of real estate. This group of budding attorneys conversed over the casket about the vast wealth and real estate holdings of this great man. He had amassed wealth beyond comprehension and his fortune was scattered across the whole of the world. Thinking like an attorney, one of the men asked, “I wonder exactly how much real estate he left behind?” Without missing a beat, the younger Dallin Oaks simply said, “all of it.”
And so it is.
When we leave mortality we leave all of our physical possessions, even our body, for a time, will stay behind on this earth. Additionally, all our material wealth will remain here as we quietly bypass this life and advance to the next. Why is this on my mind? Why on this blog?
I can’t help but think of the purpose of our life. What is the purpose of life? Are we resigned to a life of pain and heartache? Or are we just here to build faith in a coming world–a world where our pain and grief will finally be removed from us?
There is much more to life than faith alone, your life has a divine purpose. It is this divinity that invites us to ask and find; knock and open.
I know that our Heavenly Father has prepared a marvelous plan for our happiness. As a man who struggles with the temptations that accompany SSA I know that this happiness at times is difficult to understand. There is something special that envelopes your whole soul when you know that God has a plan designed exclusively for you. Understanding this divine plan makes it is easier to understand why you are on this earth. I know that God wants all of His children to progress and become more like Him. As such, our mortality provides each of us with opportunities to grow and progress. It is here on Earth that we receive a physical body, exercise the agency necessary to teach us to choose between good and evil. We are here to gain the experience that helps us become more like our Father in Heaven and form family relationships (and friendships) that have the ability to become eternal.
How easy it is to lose sight of the plan of Happiness by getting caught up in our personal struggles!
In real life, we face actual, not imagined, hardships. There is pain—physical, emotional, and spiritual. There are heartbreaks when circumstances are very different from what we had anticipated. There is injustice when we do not seem to deserve our situation. There are disappointments when someone we trusted failed us. There are health and financial setbacks that can be disorienting. There may be times of question when a matter of doctrine or history is beyond our current understanding.
When difficult things occur in our lives, what is our immediate response? Is it confusion or doubt or spiritual withdrawal? Is it a blow to our faith? Do we blame God or others for our circumstances? Or is our first response to remember who we are—that we are children of a loving God? Is that coupled with an absolute trust that He allows some earthly suffering because He knows it will bless us, like a refiner’s fire, to become like Him and to gain our eternal inheritance?
Recently, I was in a meeting with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. In teaching the principle that mortal life can be agonizing but our hardships have eternal purpose—even if we do not understand it at the time—Elder Holland said, “You can have what you want, or you can have something better.” –Elder Donald L. Hallstrom Of the Presidency of the Seventy <READ THIS COMPLETE TALK
We are children of a Heavenly family. A loving Heavenly Father created us in His image and because of that he literally is our Father in Heaven. He endowed you and I with our individual agency. During our pre-mortal life we prepared ourselves for our earthly experience. In the pre-mortal life we were taught of the Plan of Salvation and the mission of Jesus Christ in that plan. We shouted for joy when we learned that we could receive a body, come to earth, take upon ourselves sacred and special covenants and return to live with God again. This is part of your divine purpose.
I know I am not the only person in life that asks, “why me?” Why do I have a same sex attraction? Why am I so different? What did I do to deserve this? I don’t know the answers to all these questions. But here is what I do know: I chose to partake in the Plan of Salvation. I was among the two-thirds of the host of heaven that chose to follow the plan of our Father. The more I study the scriptures and of mercy and grace, the more I appreciate the life that I have been given. That appreciation doesn’t dissolve the unhappy times I have…the times when my attraction to other men is so strong it almost feels debilitating. Knowing that a power greater than myself is in control makes dealing with the struggles of SSA more bearable.
The truth is, happiness is not synonymous with pleasure or even freedom from pain. Those who expect life to be carefree do not understand that joy is the brother and child of tribulation. True happiness comes from the personal, spiritual growth that rises out of the fires of mortal experience. “It must needs be,” Lehi taught, “that there is an opposition in all things.” Without that opposition, neither righteousness nor joy is possible.
Some of the trials we face in life we impose on ourselves. Others are caused by the sins and weaknesses of our fellow beings; some just come because we live in a fallen, imperfect world. There are even some that are caused by reasons we may never understand in mortality. Still, the sources of our trials are not nearly as important as the fact that they exist and the way we deal with them. The Savior himself underscored that fact for the Prophet Joseph Smith. At one of the lowest ebbs in the Prophet’s life, Joseph cried, “O God, where art thou? …“How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs [committed against] thy people?”
The Lord’s answer was patiently soft: “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
“And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high.” (D&C 121:1–2, 7–8.)
The Lord then listed tribulations the Prophet could face (and indeed, during his lifetime, did face), ending with words that undoubtedly sustained him through the terrible days ahead: “Above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, 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 122:7–8.)
Trials, then, are a fundamental part of the plan of life. But that doesn’t mean we have no hope for happiness in mortality. The key to happiness here and eternal joy hereafter is the atonement of Jesus Christ.
So I circle back to the group of lawyers conversing over a casket. How much of our worldly possessions will we leave on this earth? All of them.
How much pornography do I need to get rid of? All of it
How many inappropriate apps do I need to delete from my phone? All of them
How many days a week should I ask for help from a loving Savior? All of them
How many people love and support me? All of them
If we are to learn something of ourselves, we must embrace our trials and learn in our experiences. We have a promise that these experiences will be for our good. Try the Lord and ask him to assist you. I know what it’s like to believe that the gospel has been restored in its fullest and yet I have an attraction that is not consistent with that revelation. How is it that I believe so fully in the gospel, but am given a trial that is designed to keep me from acting upon it? I know we have the promises of celestial marriage and exaltation and eternal life, we have endowments, we have the Atonement and the plan of a merciful and kind Father. This knowledge doesn’t negate all my pain, but at times it provides me with enough.
Today I choose to work on my individual worth and strengthening my personal testimony, all of it.