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In the past I would not have considered the scriptural injunction in John 14:27 to “let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid,” hard doctrine, but lately I find it hard. With unprecedented political chaos, confusion, and division, I find myself troubled, even afraid. Writing this article has comforted me and brought me back to the peace the Savior promised earlier in that same verse—the peace He gives, “not as the world giveth.” I hope the scriptural reminders I’ve included will do the same for you.
When Jesus walked the earth, He found few that could abide his doctrine long-term. In the 6th chapter of John, Jesus speaks of himself as the bread of life. He spoke symbolically and most were offended. “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:60) And they went away. “Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?” (John 6:67)
I can imagine the sadness in the Savior’s eyes as He asked that question. I can imagine His tender concern for each of us as He asks the same question in regard to us in this day: Will ye also go away because of hard doctrine?
Here’s an example of a scripture we can easily define as “hard doctrine” when applied to current concerns: in D&C 59:21 we read, “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.”
As we watch a virtual tsunami of evil sweep the earth, and as we live each day in the tumult of political chaos, can we confess God’s hand in all things? Oh how Satan laughs when we forget that God’s unwavering determination to safeguard agency is carried out with full knowledge of blatant misuse of that agency.
In the pre-mortal world I suspect Satan may have had the ability to show each of us, as God’s spirit children, the suffering, pain, and anguish that would result from God’s plan to give all men agency (essential to become like Him). How else could he have convinced so many to follow him? Maybe Satan was able to take us one by one into a virtual theater and show us movies of the violence and horror that would occur in the very time we would be on the earth. Maybe he showed us how our dearest family members would suffer and, consequently, some of us were sorely tempted to believe that Satan’s seemingly painless plan of force was really a better option. However, each of us born into mortality made the final, vital choice to follow Jesus, not Lucifer.
And so we are here, faced with daily doses of a reality that includes being subject to consequences of our own choices and natural law, and of the choices of those who share this period of mortality with us.
God’s Purposes Will Not Be Thwarted
How wise we would be, in the face of those consequences, seen in current world, national, and individual circumstances, to keep firmly in mind Mormon 8:22: “For the eternal purposes of the Lord shall roll on, until all his promises shall be fulfilled.” Nothing surprises the Lord. No bad choice messes up His work. No candidate or president can thwart his purposes. No despot or tyrant or failure in government, or crash in any economy will keep his Great Plan of Happiness from being fulfilled in every way for every person born on this earth. His redemptive power to lift up supersedes all earthly power to tear down.
God is in charge, He knows what He is doing, and He makes no mistakes. Not only that, we are His priority. He loves us, He cares for our eternal well-being above all else. He has declared, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
Everything the Lord does, he does for our benefit, even though we cannot see with mortal eyes how that could possibly be the case. In 2 Nephi 26:24 we read, “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.”
Do we believe those words clear to the core of our beings? Is it hard doctrine that the chaos and evil we see in the world today could be for the long-term benefit of mankind, and is part of God’s plan because it is all the inevitable result of God’s victory in the cause of agency in that long-ago war in heaven? Do we remember and believe that Jesus gave His life to overcome all this evil and that every child of God (regardless of current choices and our negative judgment of them) is invited to partake of his salvation?
Coming to Terms with All Evil and Tragedy
Yes, it will be a tragedy if our constitutional rights are trampled. Yes, it will be more than difficult to continue to witness the downward spiral and catastrophic events prophesied as prelude to the Second Coming. However, I think we can look at such adversity through the same lens as all other evil and tragedy we must face in this day and age of our mortal journey.
Mortality comes with the guarantee of adversity, met so much better when viewed in the perspective of our pre-mortal knowledge of the dangers and consequences inherent in this sphere. I’ve been inspired by those who maintain perspective and relentlessly hang onto faith in the face of tragedy and adversity, like the father whose entire family was killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, like the family of our incredible Young Women president who died in a rafting accident during our ward youth conference just a few weeks ago. Conversely, I’m concerned when I see people fall into the “how could a loving God let this happen?” mentality, regardless of what evil, corruption, or tragedy “this” refers to. All tragedies are covered by the same warm quilt of gospel truth, summarized so well by President Spencer W. Kimball in his classic address, Tragedy or Destiny. He told of several people who had pled for understanding of tragic circumstances, then said,
Could the Lord have prevented these tragedies? The answer is, Yes. The Lord is omnipotent, with all power to control our lives, save us pain, prevent all accidents, drive all planes and cars, feed us, protect us, save us from labor, effort, sickness, even from death, if he will. But he will not.
We should be able to understand this, because we can realize how unwise it would be for us to shield our children from all effort, from disappointments, temptations, sorrows, and suffering.
The basic gospel law is free agency and eternal development. To force us to be careful or righteous would be to nullify that fundamental law and make growth impossible.
We knew before we were born that we were coming to the earth for bodies and experience and that we would have joys and sorrows, ease and pain, comforts and hardships, health and sickness, successes and disappointments, and we knew also that after a period of life we would die. We accepted all these eventualities with a glad heart, eager to accept both the favorable and unfavorable. We eagerly accepted the chance to come earthward . . .
In the face of apparent tragedy we must put our trust in God, knowing that despite our limited view his purposes will not fail. With all its troubles life offers us the tremendous privilege to grow in knowledge and wisdom, faith and works, preparing to return and share God’s glory.9 (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, (2006), 11–21)
Let’s step away from over-anxiety in regard to the current political situation, which many label as tragic. Let’s quit putting our focus on the bad news of the world and focus instead on the good news of the gospel where joy is still to be found. President Russell M. Nelson in October 2016 General Conference said, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. . . Jesus Christ is joy” (November 2016 Ensign, page 82). Can we unite in gratitude for the gospel of Jesus Christ and all it offers us?
The Vital Principle of Unity
Here’s another hard doctrine: “If ye are not one, ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27). Perhaps the saddest consequence of our current political situation is the disunity it has fostered in families, congregations, offices, and in our country in general.
As members of Christ’s church can we unite in our absolute belief of the true doctrines of Christ that eclipse the hardness of mortal life? Can our faith in His word and his promises eclipse the hardness of living in this day and time? Can we remember that not only is evil sweeping the world, but light and truth as well—and light will triumph! Here’s a scripture I want to close with that may seem like hard doctrine when our lives and the world is in turmoil. Still, I bear witness to this truth that is so vital for us to understand that it is repeated three times in scripture: “Therefore, let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly” (D&C 100:15). May we cling with all our might to this promise.
May our hearts be comforted in Christ. May we walk uprightly, love God, and not just believe in Him, but believe Him and all His words. May the hard doctrines of Christ’s teachings keep us in a perfect brightness of hope that we may soon live in the amazing Millennium foretold, uplifted by His love and united in love for God and each other.