'Crucible of adversity'
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In his youth, Joseph Smith suffered pain almost beyond endurance when he underwent surgery to remove part of a bone in one of his legs after a bout of typhus fever.
President Spencer W. Kimball, before he became president of the Church, suffered several maladies, including painful boils and, later, cancer that required surgery that forever altered his speaking voice.
President Howard W. Hunter, while serving as acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, delivered his address to the October 1987 general conference while seated in a wheelchair, having undergone multiple surgeries and experiencing nerve damage to his feet.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, two years before his death in 2008 at age 97, underwent surgery and chemotherapy in a bout with cancer of the large intestine.
These are but four accounts of suffering endured by righteous men. Hundreds of thousands could be related.
Adversity and affliction take various forms. Some people suffer physical ailments while others are wracked mentally or emotionally. Some endure the pangs of loneliness, never having fulfilled desires for marriage or children, while others mourn deaths of loved ones, or sorrow over failed marriages or children who stray. On and on, adverse situations and afflictions could be added to the list of life's challenges.
President Kimball knew much about suffering, disappointment and circumstances beyond his control. At the April 1979 general conference, he said: "The Lord has not promised us freedom from adversity or affliction. Instead, He has given us the avenue of communication known as prayer, whereby we might humble ourselves and seek His help and divine guidance, so that we could establish a house of prayer. ... They who reach down into the depth of life where, in the stillness, the voice of God has been heard, have the stabilizing power which carries them poised and serene through the hurricane of difficulties."
Before he became president of the Church, President Kimball wrote: "Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery" (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 98).
Seated at a microphone in the Tabernacle, President Hunter said: "I have observed that life — every life — has a full share of ups and downs. Indeed, we see many joys and sorrows in the world, many changed plans and new directions, many blessings that do not always look or feel like blessings, and much that humbles us and improves our patience and our faith. We have all had those experiences from time to time, and I suppose we always will."
President Hunter said that he took great comfort in Lehi's words to his son Jacob who was born in the wilderness in a time of travail and opposition: "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so... righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad" (2 Nephi 2:11).
Orson F. Whitney, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve from 1906-1931, said: "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 and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, 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 that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our [Heavenly] Father..." (Orson F. Whitney, quoted by Spencer W. Kimball, in Faith Precedes the Miracle, 1972, p. 98).
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve, who has had his own personal experience with tenuous health and persistent pain from the time he was a young child, said adversities have brought him closer to the Spirit and prepared him for the responsibilities that have come to him. The trials Joseph faced in sickness in his youth and adversities that came upon him as the Prophet of the Restoration "were not meant to destroy him, but to strengthen him. Like Job, when faced with trials, Joseph sinned not, nor charged God foolishly," Elder Hales said (Church News, Feb. 27, 2010, p. 10).
Elder Marion G. Romney of the Quorum of the Twelve who later served as a counselor to two Church presidents, referred to mortality as "the crucible of adversity and affliction" wherein would be implemented the Father's plan for proving and refining His children (Conference Report, October 1969, p. 57, or Improvement Era, December 1969, pp. 66-67).
While none would choose to undergo adversity or suffering, all can be spiritually strengthened through humbly seeking the Lord in times of great need.