Joseph Smith 19: Stand Fast Through the Storms of Life
From the Life of Joseph Smith
This section relates a challenging episode in Joseph Smith’s life, in which, after staying up and caring for a sick child, he was attacked by a mob and tarred and feathered. He nonetheless attended Sunday services and preached the next day. His son died five days later.
-What sense do you make of the fact that God didn’t intervene to stop these tragedies? Is divine intervention in such situations something we should pray or hope for?
-There are a lot of stories from the early history of the Church like this one, about people having to cope with horrendous life events. How can we tell these stories in a way that doesn’t guilt people (e.g., “you think your life is bad? at least you didn’t get orphaned and have to cross the plains pulling a handcart!), but gives us encouragement in dealing with our own challenges?
-When you’ve been faced with difficult life circumstances, what things have others done that have been helpful? How can we as a community support each other through challenging times?
Those who follow Jesus Christ will be tried and must prove themselves faithful to God.
This section emphasizes that we have to prove ourselves faithful to God, and that the righteous will have to endure afflictions and tribulation. Joseph Smith taught that “men have to suffer that they may come upon Mount Zion and be exalted above the heavens.” God will try his people, but “all things shall work together for good to them that love God.”
-How do you understand the idea that we have to prove ourselves faithful? Does this put God in the role of some malicious experimenter giving us difficulties to see what we’ll do?
-It seems that we have two potentially contradictory ideas about suffering: 1) suffering is in some sense good—it’s necessary for growth/development, and 2) suffering is a problem—we are called to do what we can to alleviate the suffering of others. How do you make sense of this?
-In your own life, when have you found that you’ve learned something valuable from going through adversity, and when has it just made you bitter? What makes the difference?
God will support and bless those who trust Him in their times of trial.
This section emphasizes the power of the gospel to help us in times of trial. Joseph Smith taught, “The harder the persecution the greater the gifts of God upon his church.” He emphasized his trust in God even in the midst of afflictions.
-How has your own faith in and relationship to God helped you during difficult times? What things have
helped you to continue to trust God even when life seems to be falling apart?
-One of the points made in this section is that God is aware of what’s happening. Why does it make a difference to know this (especially if God doesn’t seem to be doing anything about the situation)?
The faithful do not murmur in affliction, but are thankful for God’s goodness.
This section discusses the importance of not murmuring, of remembering others who have also been afflicted and yet remained faithful, and the need to continue in obedience. It quotes Joseph Smith on several occasions sharing his gratitude to God, even with all the challenges of his life.
-Does remaining faithful preclude having negative feelings (anger, fear, disappointment, etc.), in response to the storms of life? (The book of Job might be interesting to bring in here.)
-I’ve found that something that can make a difference when things are hard is having space where I can talk honestly about what I’m experiencing and feeling—which often includes things like feelings of frustration. Does this go against the command not to murmur?
-How can we find a state of gratitude when life is turbulent? (A personal thought on this: sometimes this gets framed as an either/or, something along the lines of “you shouldn’t be feeling x, because you should be grateful for what you do have”—but I find it easier to be genuinely grateful when I realize that awareness of and appreciation for the good in my life can co-exist with more negative feelings.)
Confidence in God’s power, wisdom, and love will help us avoid discouragement in times of trial.
This section emphasizes that confidence in God will help us keep going. Joseph Smith expressed his confidence that ultimately God would deliver his people, and encouraged the Saints to remain steadfast and courageous, because all would be well in the end.
-Why do we believe in God’s power, wisdom, and love? What if our particular trials cause us to seriously question those things, if we feel betrayed by or angry at God?
-Are there particular teachings about the nature of God or the purpose of life that you have found especially helpful during difficult times?
-What does it mean to you to have hope? How do you hold on to it when no end seems to be in sight?