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Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel – Then Why Not Every Man

My former favorite negro spiritual (“Ain’t Got Time to Die” that I sang in BYU’s A Cappella) was replaced a couple of years ago with Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel? when my daughter’s high school a cappella choir sang it.

Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel, then why not every man?

Chorus:
Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel
Deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel
Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel
Then why not every man?

He delivered Daniel from the lions’ den
Jonah from the belly of the whale
And the Hebrew children from the fiery furnace
So why not every man.

The wind blows east and the wind blows west
It blows like the judgement day.
And every poor soul that never did pray
Will be glad to pray that day.

I set my foot on the gospel ship
And the ship it began to sail.
It landed me over on Canaan’s shore
And I’ll never come back any more.

It’s my favorite, because I have lived the question.

Tracy’s recent post quoted 3 Nephi 18:20:

And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.

This is, perhaps, the heart of the matter. I don’t believe this scripture if taken literally — at least not without lots of contextual additions. Sure, you have the enormous caveat of “which is right,” but I honestly don’t think God is as involved as the scripture might suggest. Or at least not involved in the way we often like to think he is. 

This is one of the classic problems of believers.

I have a friend — just a few years younger than I am (who I plan some day to write a post about) — who was a strong, valiant member. Went on a mission, married in the temple, had a family — did the whole “keep the commandments to the nth degree” thing. I once asked her if she would blog here. She is bright and articulate and very funny. She said she needed a few months.

Within that few months, her life fell apart. She left the church. She is now a single mom, back in college. And she is a solid atheist.

Her biggest sticking point — at least from our conversations — is the bad, terrible, evil things that happen to people. People who are decent, honest people who are trying to live good lives. Innocent victims, etc. Sure we all have trials, we all get that. But to have real, persistent evil perpetrated against you is something else. Why does God care enough to help you find your keys, but doesn’t intervene when Andrea Yates drowns her five little kids?

I know pulling out the “which is right” card can be convenient, but can anyone really tell me that God “wants” (or thinks it’s “right” for) babies to be sexually assaulted or abused? And can you honestly tell me that if I pray hard about this abuse (even a specific incident of abuse) that it will be resolved?

I don’t think any readers here would say that praying would stop such things. So maybe it’s the faith card we’ll pull. Is it because we don’t have enough faith? So if, say, President Monson prayed would it “work”?

This is a very hopeful scripture, but I honestly think it is misunderstood. Not that I have a better “translation” than the obvious, literal reading. But in my experience that reading simply doesn’t match reality. As Stephanie posted a few years ago:

You need to know that I believe in God. I know he exists. I know that he can do anything. I just don’t think he will. At least not for my family and not for me. Unless he feels like it. And for the past many years he hasn’t felt like it.

In that respect, I agree with my friend. Horrible things happen to good people and bad alike. Praying isn’t a magic genie, that — when rubbed with the right amount of faithfulness — pops out our “righteous” desires. Rubbing with faith doesn’t turn on the magic, either. God allows lots of very, very wrong things to happen in the name of agency.

Does God care about those bad things? I assume he does. But that doesn’t mean he stops them. So he cares in a sense that is pretty foreign to mere mortals. Sure, I might allow my child to bear the consequences of procrastinating an assignment or spending all their money on candy to “learn a lesson.” But I won’t let them run into the street to learn the lesson about getting hit by cars. And I wouldn’t dream of letting them be assaulted by an evil perpetrator, just so the perp can have his full expression of agency.

So I guess my question would be, what are the conditional things that make this scripture true? How do we reconcile the ideas of having a very involved God who “hears and answers prayers” with the reality of what many people (although, perhaps not you) live with every day?

{ 43 comments… add one }
  • Kayla January 16, 2012, 11:04 am

    This answer may not satisfy all (or any) of your question. When people do bad things to other people, or something bad happens to someone as a result of the actions of another person, and the victim asks “why would God let this happen to me?”, I think they are forgetting that God cannot control the actions of any of his children. God didn’t make anyone kill or abuse anyone else, or make someone decide to drive drunk, etc. That person decided to do it on his own, and God was powerless to stop them. I believe He cares 100% what happens to us, and he feels our sorrow and pain. But it’s not the purpose of the Plan to intervene when anything bad is going to happen.
    And in that same thought, I think because Heavenly Father has the huge, all-encompassing perspective of time and eternity that He does, He knows that whatever trial we suffer here – no matter how tremendous or devastating or difficult or painful – it will, in the true perspective, be over in an instant. We are so limited in our vision by being on this earth that our challenges can seem to loom larger than anything and everything. And as horrible as some of the things some of us are called to experience in this life are, I can’t see how they hold much bearing in the grand scheme of things. I know this sounds cold or insensitive, which is absolutely not how I intend to sound, but I don’t see our pain at bad things that happen to us on earth (i.e. abuse) extending beyond our death. Sure, the people who made the decision to inflict the abuse, for example, will have consequences to deal with beyond the veil, probably, but I don’t think the victims will continue to suffer. It won’t matter anymore. And Heavenly Father knows that.

    Maybe? I might be wrong on all of that. Them’s just some of my thoughts.
    Kayla recently posted…The first step is the hardestMy Profile

  • Stephen M (Ethesis) January 16, 2012, 12:51 pm

    bad, terrible, evil things that happen to people. People who are decent, honest people who are trying to live good lives. Innocent victims, etc.

    Which is why the actual promise in the scriptures is that nothing suffices to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

    So, you are right that God is not a vending machine. But I think that just how bad, just how terrible, things are, is, perhaps, not as bad as we think it is.

    I know, it is perhaps a trite thing to say that our trials are of a small moment, that God’s love and healing are infinite. But imagine that you were just going to live 10,000 years.

    How significant is anything that takes only ten years or 100 years in that sort of framework?

    Personally, I believe our pains are as great as our capacity or greater. As someone said “it is my pain” and “it is bitter” but “it is my heart.” I am not saying that what happens is not terrible.

    I’m not saying that there is no suffering, great enough to break men’s minds and worse. There surely is.

    Only that we need to consider what we are delivered from (death, hell and the grave), how we are delivered (through the resurrection and the grace of Christ) and what kind of answers God can give us that also allow for free agency, repentance and life?

    I’ve been an ad litem, been on the board of a child advocacy center and on the board of a rape crisis center. I’m aware of terrible pain and suffering, of truly innocent victims who have cried out. I’m aware of the heritage of the songs above, of people oppressed and seeking deliverance and God’s mercy.

    But I think that we shorten things too much if we look for deliverance within the walls of this world. We do that, and we are “of all men most miserable” to quote Paul, because we, better than anyone else, see the injustice.

    So I believe.
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  • Безплатни обяви January 17, 2012, 6:12 am

    Hello, i really like your article thanks you.

  • Mandie January 17, 2012, 10:37 am

    This is so powerful. I have no answers but wanted to reach out in love. To you and your friend.

  • May January 17, 2012, 10:38 am

    Alison, thank you very much for this post. This question has been in the forefront of my mind for the past two years, but I still don’t have any answers.
    In the LDS church we teach of a loving God, a Father that is involved in the nooks and crannys of our lives, that knows us by name and watches over us. But in practice, where is this God?
    It’s all very good and easy to say that our suffering is ‘but a moment’ and in the grand scheme doesn’t hold much bearing (please tell this to someone who is suffering /snark) and that God allows his children their agency…but what if the perpetrator is God? If the YW at camp pray for the rain to stop so they can go hiking and it does stop raining, it’s an answered prayer. What about those who pray for relief from drought, monsoons etc.? Why was one more important than the other?
    This is an extreme example, but we can’t have it both ways – if we believe in a God that intervenes, then he’s clearly choosing how he intervenes. And either we attribute far more answered prayers to God than we should, or he picks and chooses who gets his assistance. Either way, this isn’t a God I have any interest in.
    The only God I can now conceive of is exactly as you describe, who cares in a way we don’t understand.

  • Tracy Polyak January 17, 2012, 11:48 am

    I do not pretend to have all the answers. Certainly there is so much evil and cruelty in the world, and there are those that seem to experience so much more than their fair share.

    I do think that a huge part of it is in our agency to choose. Agency is so vital to the plan that Heavenly Father will not mess with it. I really love this scripture:

    “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and aafflictions and btemptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will ctake upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

    And he will take upon him adeath, that he may bloose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to csuccor his people according to their infirmities (Alma 7:11-12).”

    The atonement has the power to heal all of the pains and sorrows and weaknesses that occur in this existence. How or when exactly that is to happen, I do not know or even really understand.

    I love the video that you shared. It highlights a large group of people that have been sorely persecuted yet were brought through those trials by their faith.

    A great book to read on this subject is Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place.” Ms. Ten Boom endeavors to hide Jews in during WWII in The Netherlands and is ultimately discovered and sent to a concentration camp. She suffers horribly there, and her beloved sister and father both lose their lives in concentration camps. Yet she comes out with her faith intact–even strengthened.

    I am also reminded of the life of Squanto, the Native American that helped the Pilgrims. He was captured and sold as a slave in England. He was set free and allowed to return to North America. Shortly after he returned, he was captured again and this time sold as a slave in Spain. He was released and made his way back to England where he worked for many years as an apprentice until he could get an opportunity to again return to his people. When he finally was able to return, he entire tribe had died of smallpox.

    The Pilgrims were headed for Virginia but were blown off course by a storm, landing in a place that had been cleared for crops but was not currently in use. After half of the Pilgrims had died, Squanto showed up, speaking perfect English, and helped them learn how to sustain themselves in this foreign land.

    I have no idea what Squanto’s relationship was with God, but surely had as much reason as any to deny His existence. We, however, have the ability to see the unfolding of the whole story. We know that Squanto was one of those seeds that was being planted in preparation for the Restoration.

    The nature of faith is that we believe even though we can’t see the big picture. We first lean on the faith of others, and as we gain experience, we lean on those past experiences to keep going. It is vital that we keep journals and record those experiences, for we will need them to sustain us. I am not very good about keeping a journal, but I am very grateful for those times that I have done so. I find that as I go back and read, I realize that I have forgotten those precious, faith-building moments, and I re-live them as I re-read them.

    Thanks for bringing this up, Alison. I will be interested to read other responses.

  • Dannyk January 17, 2012, 12:33 pm

    Great comments so far. This is one of the great questions of life, one that I have had to think about a great deal as a result of some recent life experiences…some good and some bad. The one conclusion that I’ve come to that seems to satisfy the ups and downs of life is as follows: “The miracle of faith in God is not that He changes the circumstances of your life, but that He changes you and your heart.” I’ve experienced that there is only one kind of deliverance that we can always expect, and that is the one that is independent of circumstance. I find myself asking not for temporal/physical deliverance, but spiritual deliverance…because ultimately that is the greater miracle and can be given EVERY TIME.

    I feel like it is that sentiment that is at the heart of Christ’s promise to his disciples “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” I think one of the messages of that scripture is the part about “not as the world giveth”. The world’s form of peace and comfort is dependent on health, wealth, circumstance, a happy marriage, obedient children, etc. Christ seems to be saying, none of those things need to work out for you to experience the peace that I have to offer you.

    Practically speaking, that peace is obtained primarily by how I react to the things that happen to me that I have little control over…both good and bad. My reactions need to be rooted in faith, hope, and love; and I need to turn constantly from their opposites of fear, doubt and enmity.

    Example, 3 years ago my wife at the time confessed infidelity, and a decision to leave to “figure things out on her own”. That was something I couldn’t control much, and no matter how hard I prayed, I don’t think she was going to change her mind. All I could do was control my reaction. I chose forgiveness and love instead of anger and bitterness. I chose faith and hope in the future (whether it included my wife or meant a new life) instead of self doubts and fear. I chose to trust God completely instead of be bitter with Him (how easy would it have been to said…”didn’t I pray to see if I should marry her….and this is how you repay me?”). I chose to be grateful for the love and happiness that was in my life instead of dwell on the pain and sadness that seemed like it was around every corner.

    Embracing those emotions, choosing them very deliberately, was the way that I expressed my faith in God. My faith wasn’t dependent on an outcome, and I was determined to be grateful for the outcome no matter what it was. And as a result of choosing that way, which I’ve come to realize is at the very heart of the sermon on the mount, resulted in a kind of spiritual deliverance that quite honestly shocked me. I found deliverance IN the trial, instead of FROM the trial. I became more full of love for my offending wife, and for everybody else for that matter. I felt a sense of joy and satisfaction that didn’t match the circumstances at all, and I knew it came from God.

    Since then, I’ve deliberately tried to apply this approach…I seek spiritual deliverance instead of physical deliverance. Spiritual deliverance is my priority and the only one I feel I have a guarantee on receiving. That doesn’t mean I don’t pray for temporal deliverance…just that I don’t allow my satisfaction in life to depend upon it.

    Since that time, I’ve met and married an amazing woman, seemingly in response to prayers we both offered that very week. I’ve found a perfect job, after many weeks of prayer. I’ve lost some very important things that were never found and did not return to me, other things came back to me in a miraculous manner. My wife and I currently battle infertility…you can bet we pray for physical deliverance…but we’re more than content if the only kind of deliverance that comes to us is the one we’ve already obtained…a spiritual deliverance that lets us know everything will be more than okay, whether we have children of our own or not. That leaves us free to pursue children free from the anxiety of wondering why God hasn’t heard us….the fact is, He HAS heard us and answered already.

    Long comment, but that’s only because this is one of the most important questions we’ll ever ask ourselves. Thanks for providing a place to share what I’ve learned. If you’re interested, my wife and I have a blog devoted to talking about some of these very lessons learned….I guess you can get it if you click on my name.

  • Robin January 17, 2012, 4:40 pm

    Well, I have to say I agree with the first two comments. We are here to recieve bodies and to be tried in all things. “There must needs be opposition in ALL THINGS” Much of that opposition comes from poor choices by other people. We weren’t told we came here to live with very little discomfort, but that we would be tried to see if we would ( after all those trials) still choose to follow Heavenly Father’s plan, still endure to the end. I have cried many a night for the choices of my son or my father or my mother. It is painful for me to see the things that they do. It can hurt me, they can hurt me. But this is only a small “blip” in time. This is not ALL of our existence. As the one commenter stated, being here is like being good for a 15 minute trip to the store. It’s just a small thing. “Can’t you just be good for 15 minutes?”, a mom might say. But your brother runs with scissors and instead of putting his own eye out, he puts your eye out. It’s not “fair” but it happened. It is an experience that you can learn from. You can choose to be bitter, angry, hate your brother for the rest of your life, or you can choose to continue to live the rest of your life to it’s fullest with only one eye. There will be a loss, having only one eye, there will be some things that you can’t do. But, there will be other talents that you develope because you only have one eye. Talents that you would never have been able to develope without that trial. God knows that you will learn valuable things with one eye. But it’s only a temporary thing, because when you’re resurrected, you will have that other eye back. You will have that other eye back AND you will have learned many valuable lessons to help you in the eternities.
    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like my trials any more than anyone else likes their trials; and sometimes I wish I’d learn my lessons faster so I didn’t have to go through these things for what in my minds eye seems like an eternity, but I have faith in Havenly Father’s omniscience and I try to remember he loves me and knows that I can handle the trials that come my way. I know I can only handle them WITH His love and strength.

  • Robin January 17, 2012, 4:48 pm

    Oh, sorry I didn’t mean that I didn’t like all the comments, I was just referring to the first two. GREAT third comment!

  • Stephen M (Ethesis) January 17, 2012, 6:49 pm

    For what it is worth, this is what I had to say for Manuary at FMH:

    http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=7805
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  • Melissa January 18, 2012, 9:54 am

    My mother had a very profound spiritual experience during an extremely dark period of her life where she was allowed to go back and “see” a part of the pre-existence where Heavenly Father was asking her to take on certain trials in this life. She was told that she did not have to choose to accept but that by accepting them it would provide her the greatest opportunity to become like Him.

    It is very easy to forget that the veil not only prohibits us from remembering but also from the understanding that we had then. We literally cannot comprehend at this time with our earthly perspective what we did then. With all the trials that my family has faced, it really has been useful to remember what my mother learned and remind myself that this is just another opportunity to become more like Heavenly Father and pray to be made equal to the task rather than feel sorry for myself and ask why.

  • Amy January 18, 2012, 2:42 pm

    Okay everyone seems to be commenting on the fact that their may be purpose in the trials etc. . . but everyone seems to be avoiding her main topic- which is how do we reconcile the scripture that if we ask in righteousness it will be granted and the fact that in reality it will nto always be granted. Yes it might be for my good but how do I teach my children that yes the scriptures are true but no even though they promise that f you have faith you w3ill get what you asked for you just might not. And most importantly that that not getting what you righteously asked for in faith doesn’t automatically mean you are a sinner with little to no faith and you just need to have more faith and pray harder. I am still figuring out that one myself. . .

  • Michelle January 19, 2012, 12:20 am

    I really appreciate and agree with what DannyK said. I think we come to understand God and prayer more when we focus less on outcomes and more on the process of becoming. I also know that that is so much easier said than done.

    I was thinking about this (because this change of mindset is something I’m working on in my life right now) when I ‘just happened’ to open up one night to the part in 1 Nephi where Nephi is receiving the interpretation to Lehi’s dream. It was one of those days, and I only had it in me to read one verse. The verse I read was the one that talked about the tree, how it represents God’s love (which we know is manifest through the Atonement), and then the angel declares that this love is the most desirable of all things.

    Most of the time, I just desire as easy a ride as possible. I don’t want pain. I don’t want trials. I want instant answers and protection from hard stuff. Do I really desire God’s love above all? I think that is what a broken heart and contrite spirit are about, but often, I’ve got my heart set on something else.

    I think sometimes God allows hard things to happen not because He doesn’t love us or doesn’t care, but because ultimately, He knows that the greatest of joy, the most desireable of all things, is for us to really come to know Him and know what His love and the Atonement really mean. And if we have all our immediate needs met always as we wish, would we really come to need Him and rely on Him? If we could have easy answers for all the horrible things that happen, would we really need to rely on Him and on the Atonement — not just for our own pain, but for all the horrible things of all time?

    And I think on the flip side that He gives us experiences with simple tender mercies, like finding our keys or having a storm clear, to let us know along the way that He really is there. And we can then choose to hold onto such experiences as anchors when we hit storms. Because we will. That is what it means to be fallen creatures in a fallen world.

    I think of Victor Frankl, or the ten Boom sisters. I think this is the truth they came to believe in. True peace and joy come from letting go and choosing to trust God no matter what. No. Matter. What. Not to get anything from Him (because He’s already promised us that we can and will have all that He has if we endure well this fallen journey), but to have our hearts able to receive His love and have it change us.

    And I really don’t think that caveat of really understanding what is right and good for us is a small thing. For us to really discern what is right, what our souls really need, is something that I think most of us often don’t understand. That is part of the fall, too. We just don’t see what He sees. I also think we don’t understand how vast and wide the reach of the Atonement is. The more of the awful I see in the world, the more I come to appreciate the depths of what the Atonement must be, because a lot of it is pretty awful.

  • Amber January 19, 2012, 5:50 am

    Very good question. I think that we just don’t and can’t understand why, but we must continue to have faith and “believe that man doth not comprehend all the things that the Lord can comprehend.” — Mosiah 4:9

    Plenty of people in the scriptures were not saved– think of the believers burned in the city of Ammonihah ( I think that’s the right city). The only way to get through this crappy life is to believe in God and that this life is not the end and in the end everything will be made right and that it is just for a small moment. We can still be happy and feel joy even when our world is crashing down around us. God will let us know he is there, he understands and he feels our pain, but He will not take it away right away, but He will help us get through it. Our understanding from these experiences may be worth more than being delivered from terrible situations. There is nothing like experiencing pain, disappointment and sorrow firsthand. Then we become truly empathetic and can finally begin to understand the atonement.

    I think the examples of people like Corrie Ten Boom are great. I think we just don’t understand everything and that’s why this life is a test. We must have faith that God is doing what is best for all involved even when we can’t see how. It may take some time to get there, and that is O.K. too. God is patient. I think many people would agree that they often feel the closest to God and the Savior during their times of trouble. We just have to live one moment, one hour, and one day at a time. Then when things go better- wow do we appreciate it more or what?!!

  • Barb Bohan January 19, 2012, 10:21 am

    I question why at times. I think that in mortal experience and agency that we can’t draw a line of what is allowed and what is not to have a real experience here. God suffered with us is what many hold onto and I do too. God is pure and good and does not like the least degree of evil and unless people repent or are insane and not accountable, they cannot dwell with him. They would not be able to stand to be in the presence of so holy a being. We can’t control others. We can only try to be sane and do what we can to help others. God does give us strength and even if we don’t always have complete deliverance, he does help us bear our burdens.
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  • Alison Moore Smith January 19, 2012, 11:49 am

    A woman on FaceBook made the statement below. She didn’t want to sign her name, but gave me permission to post her thoughtful comments.

    I think in this life what can exist must exist. No matter how great the horror or ugly or grotesque if it were denied in the least degree it might negate our existence. But I’m not sure exactly. It would make our existence different. There could still be agency if the worst acts were not permitted although it would be limited agency. But to be agency in the truest since, I don’t know if we can have any limits. When I wish for a world where certain acts were not possible, I feel I may sin in such a wish. Yet, I believe that sin pains a loving Heavenly Father much more than I can feel in several life times. Also, I have experienced deliverance in my life through improved circumstances, but it took time and it was not a complete deliverance. During the worst of times, I still felt God’s love. At times I felt his love in ways that I felt I could never repay. I know not everyone who is at their lowest feels this love. And while things are better now, I often do not feel the sweet assurance of God’s love these days. I don’t have all the answers. Faith and trust.

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  • YvonneS January 19, 2012, 6:11 pm

    Before I had lived long enough to have really bad things happen in my life I had many wonderful experiences with the gospel that helped build and strengthen my relationsip with the divine. Everytime I had a what seemed like was the worst possible experience I had those experiences to remind me of that divine love. But everytime I had one of those experiences it was more difficult than the last. I came to realize that terrible things happen to everyone. And the stronger you become the greater the trial has to be to help you grow. I have felt far removed from the person I was before the awful things happened. But, I decided to stay the course and keep my committments with the expectation that my well was deep enough to see me through. I am a little more skeptical now, but I still find comfort in my prayers. I have learned to pray for strength and courage and patience. I have learned to ask that the Lord reveal his will to me and to help me to understand and accept it.

    Sometimes it is good to remember that when the Lord doesn’t stop the rain some farmer might be praying for the rain to continue.

  • Michelle January 20, 2012, 1:17 am

    “Sometimes it is good to remember that when the Lord doesn’t stop the rain some farmer might be praying for the rain to continue.”

    Like.
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  • Tracy Keeney January 20, 2012, 4:13 pm

    Stephen and DannyK, I think your answers are spot on and very much mesh with my thoughts as well. Danny, Blessings to you and your wife– and I truly wish all the happiness in the world to both of you.

    I agree with everything you said, Alison. Yes, God DOES choose how He’s going to answer our prayers–He decides whether or not He’s going to give us exactly what we’re praying for, or not. And I remember very well that question from Stephanie-as well as the long conversation that ensued. And it does seem horribly unfair when we consider it the way you put it ” “Why does God care enough to help you find your keys, but doesn’t intervene when Andrea Yates drowns her five little kids?” If I remember correctly, Stephanie posed a similarly put question. And I admit very willingly that I’ve known some people who seem to be “tested” a LOT more than I have been. People who’ve had to endure much harder trials than I’ve ever been asked to endure. (That might mean that I have a weaker spirit that COULDN’T endure them, it might mean I have a stronger spirit that Heavenly Father feels doesn’t need to be “proven” through harsher trials, it might mean those kinds of trials just haven’t HAPPENED to me yet but they’re coming… and I’m sure there are other possible reasons…I honestly don’t know.) But I think it has a lot to do with what we need to learn, how He knows what we need in order to grow, what he knows we can endure, etc. The sad thing about this, is that people like your friend and Stephanie feel like they CAN’T endure it, so they quit, when the truth is, doctrine teaches us that He only gives us what we CAN endure. So your friend, for example, COULD have endured it– she just didn’t. Of course, the test isn’t over yet… she has the rest of her life to determine that.
    If I remember correctly, without going back to reread the whole thread she began, Stephanie believed that Heavenly Father dished out positive and negative answers to prayer “on a whim” and “whether or not he felt like it” and he just didn’t “feel like” answering her prayers the way she wanted him to — as though it all just depended on what kind of a mood He happened to be in on the particular day she was praying. She believed that for some reason, whenever it came to her, he just never “cared enough” to answer her prayers eve though she DID have faith. But she seemed to ignore the fact that the purpose of having faith isn’t just about having ENOUGH of it that He’ll answer our prayers the way we want him to and give us what we’re asking for, it’s ALSO about having the faith to carry on and endure to the end even when we DON’T get what we want. In fact, I’d say the greater “proving” of our faith is in the latter, remaining faithful THROUGH our trials, DESPITE not having our prayers answered the way we hope for them to be, rather than demonstrating enough faith that they ARE answered the way we hope for them to be.

    The problem with thinking about ONE scripture (like 3 Nephi 18:20) that talks about how God answers our prayers if we have faith and believe, is that there are OTHER scriptures and passages that teach that we DON’T always get what we want- even if we have enough faith. We can’t quote one scripture and act or think or expect things to go EXACTLY as that one scripture says, when there are OTHER scriptures that give further information and teach us that faith doesn’t ALWAYS get us what we want. Examples:
    D&C 18:18
    Ask the Father in my name, in faith believing that you shall receive, and you shall have the Holy Ghost, which manifesteth all things which are expedient unto the children of men.
    D7C 88:64 Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you
    (And for both of those, it’s GOD’s opinion of what’s “expedient”, not ours)
    D7C 122:7 “If thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; … know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”
    Notice the Lord didn’t say “if thou be cast into the deep… if the heavens gather blackness… if all your children die, if you get tarred and feathered, if you lose your home over and over again, if you get thrown into prison over and over and it’s always on false charges, if people are LITERALLY hunting you down to try and kill you and you finally do end up getting shot… know thou my son that if you pray hard enough and with enough faith that I will make it go away and everything will be peachy.” Does anyone believe that Joseph’s prayers for relief weren’t answered the way he hoped because he didn’t have enough faith?
    Yes, there ARE scriptures that say “knock and it shall be opened, ask and ye shall receive”. There ARE scriptures that say “ask in faith, nothing waivering, and it shall be given him” but there are also scriptures that say
    “Whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 36:3).
    There’s doctrine and truth in THAT verse too. It doesn’t say “whosever shall put their trust in shall shall be FREED from their trials and afflictions…” it says you’ll be supported THROUGH your trials.
    Of course, sometimes Heavenly Father DOES free us from trials—from illnesses, from financial problems—but obviously that doesn’t always happen, EVEN IF we’re living righteously, paying our tithing, going to the temple and praying with faith.
    Even Christ Himself prayed for his trial and affliction to be removed from Him—does anyone believe that the reason it wasn’t removed was because He didn’t have enough faith?

  • Dannyk January 23, 2012, 10:11 am

    Tracy, I agree with most of what you said, and it’s possible that where I disagree is only semantics, but I did think it was worth mentioning.

    I think there is a great difficulty with either the way we interpret or talk about the doctrine He only gives us what we CAN endure” that comes from 1 Cor 10:13 – There hath no temptation taken you but such is common to man; But God is faithful, and will not suffer you to be tempted above that which ye are able…but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

    What we often end up saying as a result is that God gave us this or that because He knew we could handle this or that. I don’t feel comfortable with that statement. I know someone who lost a daughter to an accidental overdose. It goes without saying no one is really prepared for something like that….but specifically in this case, I don’t think there was ever some decision process going on up above where God said “You know, you haven’t learned this really important principle yet, and I think this will be just the thing you need to get you there.” If anything, I think he saw it coming and thought to Himself “Oh boy, this is going to be really rough for her, and most likely this is going to be not just the straw, but the 1000 pound boulder, that broke the camel’s back.”

    The truth is, some things just happen, people use agency and we get affected by it. God isn’t always out assigning this trial and withholding that one because he things some people are ready for it and others aren’t.

    I had a specific impression about this doctrine found in 1 Cor 10:13 that altered the way I traditionally thought about it. We mistakenly think that the temptation that needs bearing is the circumstance, the event, the trial at hand that has given rise to the difficult question of “why me”. We ask “How is it that God thinks that I can bear that? It is too great!”

    The truth is, the trial/circumstance (in the above example – death of a child) is not the temptation…the temptation is to choose to lose faith in the face of your trial. That is why Paul so confidently declares God will provide a way to escape. That way IS faith, hope, and love! In fact, Paul’s promise says less about the difficulty of the individual trials you may be required to bear, and more about God’s Supreme Power to help you overcome ALL things! When things get really difficult, we may be tempted to think that God hasn’t kept his end of the bargain, He has given us more than we can bear, this is TOO much!

    What I think Paul is trying to say is there is no temptation too great, no trial too hard to bear, no circumstance too difficult…nothing for which the Atonement of Christ cannot bring relief and a way out of the despair. Indeed, for those who choose faith instead of fear, hope instead of doubt, love and compassion instead of anger and bitterness…relief will come in the form of HIS peace, HIS love, HIS comfort and joy.

    I hope that makes sense, and I hope it comes across with all due respect to the comment Tracy made. I agree with so much of what you said, but I’ve become very sensitive to the way we talk about that doctrine and how painful it is for those who don’t feel spiritually or emotionally or mentally prepared to handle the awful things that life throws at them. Also, shifting the “temptation” that Paul talks about away from the difficult circumstance itself, and instead focus on the temptation to lose faith and hope and love (regardless of how big or small the trial).

    Much love to all for a great discussion!
    Dannyk recently posted…Alt Summit 2012My Profile

  • lisamarie January 24, 2012, 10:24 pm

    I have not been to this website or commented here in years. I have been too busy with life’s problems! 😉 I think it is very interesting that I stumbled on all this tonight. I have read this post and all the comments as well as the ENTIRE Stephanie thread and Stephen’s post at FMH on grief and loss.

    Reading all of this has been very helpful. Some of the comments have given me a bit of hope and comfort tonight. I’m thankful for that!
    Right now, I am feeling very much as Stephanie was 4 years ago. Dang! I sure wish we could know how things are NOW! I sure hope her trials have eased up and she has found peace and healing.

    As I read Stephanie’s posts, I just kept thinking over and over that she was grieving heavily. Grief just stinks! I am at the beginning of it myself and at the moment it doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. Lately, I feel like my faith is the size of “a shriveled up pea” (I described it like that to a close friend recently) but, hey that’s bigger than a mustard seed, right??

    These are hard questions you pose, Alison. I think about them more often than is probably healthy 😉 So…how do I reconcile the idea of an involved God who hears and answers prayers with my current reality?
    Right now I can’t completely reconcile it. But I DO talk to Him about it every single day. Sometimes I yell, and cry and scream and rant and rave to Him. He has assured me, He can take it. He did not answer one ginormous prayer the way I wanted. And I assure you it was a biggie! But He does answer lots of little ones. Right now, I try really hard to let that be enough. Some days it is. Some days it isn’t. But I keep talking to Him about it…and that does seem to help.

  • lisamarie January 24, 2012, 10:43 pm

    I wanted to add one more little thought! Tracy Keeney in her comment above mentioned that doctrine teaches us that God only gives us what we CAN endure. I have always thought that too! BUT. My last few years have been so difficult that I now think that He does indeed send us far more than we can handle…far, far more! At least he has sent me more than I feel like I can reasonably handle myself!

    The good news is that I really do believe that I don’t have to endure it by myself. I have a great group of friends, family and a loving Father and Savior to carry it together! On all those strong backs, it is a little easier and can be endured…..well, that’s what I am telling myself. And on my good days…I totally believe it!

  • Tracy Keeney January 25, 2012, 9:36 pm

    “but specifically in this case, I don’t think there was ever some decision process going on up above where God said “You know, you haven’t learned this really important principle yet, and I think this will be just the thing you need to get you there.” If anything, I think he saw it coming and thought to Himself “Oh boy, this is going to be really rough for her, and most likely this is going to be not just the straw, but the 1000 pound boulder, that broke the camel’s back.”
    I agree completely DannyK. So it must have been the way I worded something, that prompted you to give that example. But everything you just said is exactly how I believe as well.
    I think that alot things just “happen” because of agency, our own, or someone else’s. Sometimes they happen just through the random process of nature and the human condition– not because Heavenly Father is up there orchestrating every event of our lives. The difference is that sometimes he intervenes, (to save the child, for example) OR he just allows nature to take it’s course.
    I have a child who was born with severe disabilities. It wasn’t anything I did– I wasn’t doing drugs or anything that could negatively affect her development. Nor was it anything inherited from her father or I. It was simply an anomoly that happened during cell formation. Could Heavenly Father miraculously heal her? Sure He could. Lazarus was raised from the dead, as was Jairus’ daughter. The blind were made to see. The deaf made to hear. The leper cleansed. The man with the palsy instantaneously made whole. He could make Sara walk and talk like the 19 year old she is– but instead she’s in a wheelchair and has the mental capacity and developmental abilities of an 8-12 month old baby.
    My brother lost a son. At 2 years old, he fell into a pool and drowned. A nurse who lived next door performed CPR, my brother adminstered to him– but neither professional medical care or priesthood power could revive him. In this case, Heavenly Father saw fit to allow nature to take it’s course, (a child who’s been submerged for 15 minutes isn’t going to revive withOUT some divine intervention). But there are numerous cases where kids HAVE been submerged for so long and HAVE been miraculously revived. The operative word being “miraculously”. The problem that some often face is trying to reconcile the difference– some would tend to say, “God cared about THAT person’s child, and didn’t care about mine” or “He cared enough about THAT mom, to save HER the pain of losing a son, but He didn’t care enough about ME to save MINE. I know He ‘loves me’, but not enough to care about helping me”, which unfortunately, is exactly the direction that a previous conversation with another commenter seemed to go.
    LisaMarie– I think what you said makes ALL the difference in the world. “He does indeed send us far more than we can handle…far, far more! At least he has sent me more than I feel like I can reasonably handle myself! ”
    That’s the key, right there— “reasonably handle myself”– I think by ourselves, yes, the things we sometimes suffer ARE more than we can handle ourselves. The point is, we’re not SUPPOSE to handle them ourselves– He WANTS us to lean on Him. It’s much harder when we don’t– and yes, maybe even undoable. We just have to keep hanging on—and keep reminding ourselves like you said. We have our good days and our bad days– the days we believe and the days we begin to doubt and are hanging on for dear life.
    Thank you for so sincerely expressing your faith — even when it feels like it’s waning!

  • Alison Moore Smith January 26, 2012, 12:48 pm

    Thank you for all the comments. I’m sorry to be slow responding. It’s been very busy with lots of big projects. 🙂

    Kayla #1

    When people do bad things to other people, or something bad happens to someone as a result of the actions of another person, and the victim asks “why would God let this happen to me?”, I think they are forgetting that God cannot control the actions of any of his children.

    But he can. He drowned the Egyptian armies pursuing the Israelites, right? That pretty much stopped them dead in their tracks.

    He can stop people from doing things, he can intervene and protect people, he can give us an escape route. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. God saved Shadrac, Meshach, and Abednego, but let Abinidi burn.

    I believe He cares 100% what happens to us, and he feels our sorrow and pain. But it’s not the purpose of the Plan to intervene when anything bad is going to happen.

    While I tend to agree with this, the problem I see is that we (in the church) always use examples of when he DOES intervene as the faith promoting stories. Either the stories are false (God really doesn’t intervene and we are just erroneously attributing events to him) or sometimes he does intervene and sometimes he doesn’t (which really sucks when you are the one he doesn’t intervene for).
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Professional Results at HomeMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith January 26, 2012, 1:06 pm

    Stephen M, #2:

    Which is why the actual promise in the scriptures is that nothing suffices to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

    While I agree that such a promise is easier to defend in light of reality, I don’t think it fits with what the scriptures actually say. This scripture in particular, for example.

    I do understand perspective. But what I see (and what I’m talking about) is how many scriptures and many stories we hear can actually harm our faith. The quoted scripture doesn’t say:

    And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right according to a formula that only I can tell, given my superior experience, believing that ye shall receive (which is the kind of believing that sometimes even prophets can’t muster), behold it shall be given unto you some day, some time, in the eternities, when I think it’s a good idea. But even if it’s not given to you, I’ll still love you tons. Nothing can change that.

    How significant is anything that takes only ten years or 100 years in that sort of framework?

    There’s a problem, I think, with your question. It assumes that percentage of time (as part of eternity) defines the importance of an event. How long did Hitler rule? Does his contribution to history matter? Do his actions matter?

    Our time on earth — in the context of eternity — is nothing. Yet we’re taught that what happens here is extremely important and of eternal consequence.

    Only that we need to consider what we are delivered from (death, hell and the grave), how we are delivered (through the resurrection and the grace of Christ) and what kind of answers God can give us that also allow for free agency, repentance and life?

    Nicely said.

    But I think that we shorten things too much if we look for deliverance within the walls of this world. We do that, and we are “of all men most miserable” to quote Paul, because we, better than anyone else, see the injustice.

    If so, then I think we need to be more careful about how we present things and how we interpret scriptures and the stories we use to promote faith. Think, for example, how often we hear “God always hears and answers our prayers.” And think how that is presented.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Professional Results at HomeMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith January 26, 2012, 1:35 pm

    May, thanks for your comment.

    May #5:

    In the LDS church we teach of a loving God, a Father that is involved in the nooks and crannys of our lives, that knows us by name and watches over us. But in practice, where is this God?

    This is exactly what I’m talking about. Very well said, May. This is the way much of our doctrine is taught. This is how our prayers are directed.

    In contrast, over the years I’ve come to be something of a Mormon deist. I do believe in miracles and prophecy, but believe that for the most part, God set up the system and lets it run — or lets us run it, depending on how you look at it. Kind of a clockwork universe light. Or something.

    I could certainly be wrong, but the idea seems not only more reasonable and more aligned with reality, but it makes me feel better. It’s a lot easier to think that God’s plan is to set up a good system and let us at it, than that he is “in the nooks and crannys of our lives,” but just doesn’t really want to be bothered with MINE.

    Thinking that “he hears and answers every prayer,” but his answers to me are usually, “Well, whatever.” is crushing. And when you can’t seem to get on his good side — so that you’ll gain favor or have him notice you or something — is even worse.

    but what if the perpetrator is God?

    Good question. We know from scriptures (think Job), that sometimes he does inflict the pain, to teach us something.

    My life is pretty good right now and I’m very grateful for the reprieve. I attribute it to God, if for no other reason than that I don’t want to seem ungrateful if the goodness was something he was involved in. But it’s hard to chalk up the good stuff to God and not the bad stuff, too.

    …if we believe in a God that intervenes, then he’s clearly choosing how he intervenes. And either we attribute far more answered prayers to God than we should, or he picks and chooses who gets his assistance.

    I agree. But I’m sorry this has left you uninterested in God. In my mind, life and the universe make even less sense without God. I’m just trying to reconcile various things.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Professional Results at HomeMy Profile

  • jennycherie January 26, 2012, 3:44 pm

    “I do understand perspective. But what I see (and what I’m talking about) is how many scriptures and many stories we hear can actually harm our faith. ”

    That’s interesting – but I think, accurate. So often, when people share ‘faith-promoting’ experiences, I almost feel like it seems a little superstitious. I wish I could think of an example so that would make more sense!

    To me, the stories that are truly faith-promoting, are the stories of people who have suffered greatly, and, in their suffering come to know God. The closeness did not come from a relief of their suffering, but from receiving the strength to endure it by calling out to God, and leaning on Him daily to get through.
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  • lisamarie January 26, 2012, 8:49 pm

    “While I tend to agree with this, the problem I see is that we (in the church) always use examples of when he DOES intervene as the faith promoting stories. Either the stories are false (God really doesn’t intervene and we are just erroneously attributing events to him) or sometimes he does intervene and sometimes he doesn’t (which really sucks when you are the one he doesn’t intervene for).”

    Thank you so very much for this! I am really grateful for this whole conversation! You cannot possibly know how helpful it is to me right now!

    The quote above is exactly why I am struggling so severely right now, as are my children. It is quite difficult week after week to sit through testimonies and lessons that focus so heavily on this. I have to answer a lot of hard questions from my children every week after church and dry many, many tears (including my own!)

    Our situation is one where an intervention could have occurred, and yet for whatever reason did not. I think in time it will be easier to bear, and we will come to understand….but right now it is rather excruciating.

  • Tracy Keeney January 26, 2012, 9:24 pm

    “While I tend to agree with this, the problem I see is that we (in the church) always use examples of when he DOES intervene as the faith promoting stories. Either the stories are false (God really doesn’t intervene and we are just erroneously attributing events to him) or sometimes he does intervene and sometimes he doesn’t (which really sucks when you are the one he doesn’t intervene for).”

    Again– I agree completely– as well as with Jenny’s comment;
    “To me, the stories that are truly faith-promoting, are the stories of people who have suffered greatly, and, in their suffering come to know God. The closeness did not come from a relief of their suffering, but from receiving the strength to endure it by calling out to God, and leaning on Him daily to get through.”

    As I said earlier, for ME anyway– faith is proven even MORE by situations where the miracle DOESN’T happen, but people remain faithful, rather than ones where someone has faith that a miracle will/can happen and it does.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 27, 2012, 4:44 am

    Tracy P. #6:

    I do think that a huge part of it is in our agency to choose.

    I agree, but the real question is how does this scripture fit with the idea of agency. How does God fulfill this promise (if, indeed, he does) within the context of agency?

    Agency is so vital to the plan that Heavenly Father will not mess with it.

    And so he doesn’t save you or give you the thing you ask. That’s my point.

    The atonement has the power to heal all of the pains and sorrows and weaknesses that occur in this existence.

    I understand that and agree. But the scripture isn’t talking about healing you in the afterlife. It’s talking about a response to prayer.

    A great book to read on this subject is Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place.”

    I’m glad you brought that up. It’s an interesting tangent. One of the parts that most contributes to this thread is how she thanks God for the fleas and, later at least, can see a silver lining in having the fleas.

    It’s tough to reconcile her position, which is to take the Biblical scripture to thank God in all things (including flea infestations), because it assumes all things that happen (good or bad) are God’s will and a result of his action and/or intervention. I don’t think that fits with LDS doctrine. At least, as I said above, I don’t know how to attribute things that are good or have a good outcome without attributing other stuff to him as well.

    I am also reminded of the life of Squanto

    That’s an interesting connection, if not very comforting. So Squanto loses everything so that the gospel can be restored? That might be an accurate “big picture” analysis, but it rather goes back to my quasi-semi-lds-deist idea. Your prayers will be answered if it helps “the plan,” but if it’s just about you or your family or something, it’s a crap shoot. You might be saved, you might burn. Whatever.

    The nature of faith is that we believe even though we can’t see the big picture.

    And there is the core of the issue. What do we have faith in?

    I do not believe that God answers prayers in the way we (members) seem to imply most of the time. I don’t think he cares about the most intimate deals of our lives the way we tend to present it. I don’t think he intervenes to help nearly as often as we assume. In fact, I don’t think there is much scriptural support for those ideas.

    My faith is that:

    God and Christ are who they say they are.
    We can be redeemed from our fallen state by the atonement.
    Injustices will be rectified in an eternal sense.

    In almost all cases, the faith we are commanded to have is faith in Christ. Period. It’s not faith that X will happen.

    When my friend Robes — who I’ve written about before — was dying of brain cancer, his wife was told more than once (by well-meaning church members) that she just needed to have more faith. As if God had promised that if she just had enough faith, it would somehow be the magic elixir to heal him.

    That’s not the way faith works.
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  • lisamarie January 27, 2012, 9:43 am

    “When my friend Robes — who I’ve written about before — was dying of brain cancer, his wife was told more than once (by well-meaning church members) that she just needed to have more faith. As if God had promised that if she just had enough faith, it would somehow be the magic elixir to heal him.”

    wow……..can you send me a link to where you have written about your friend Robes? My husband just died of the same cancer.

    I have had all those same things said to me (and people continue to say them)…..and I hear them every week in church. I am in complete agreement about the way faith works. But we don’t teach it that way at church.

  • dannyk January 27, 2012, 10:29 am

    Alison – It looks like you’re headed down the list responding one at a time, you may or may not get to what I wrote and respond with your insights. I thought I’d take an opportunity to add a little bit to more to address some of the questions you’ve been posing to others.

    I agree with the consensus that seems to have developed in the comments that there are many faith promoting stories that are harmful to a healthy and realistic faith in God…whether those stories come from fast and testimony meetings or ancient scripture. I think our testimony meetings (and our general approach to what we expect out of faith) are influenced by the number of ancient scriptures we could relate to the idea that God does get involved…in addition to scriptures like you’ve quoted that state “whatever you ask, in my name, having faith, you shall receive”.

    In thinking about scripture and why there might be a bias towards “faith promoting stories”, I’ve come to this conclusion. There is a natural “selection bias”. We don’t hear about the times God doesn’t come to the rescue and intervene because there just may be no one left to tell that story. Scriptures are bound to highlight examples of physical/temporal deliverance (even if that’s not God’s main concern) simply because those who are delivered live to tell the tale.

    Of course there are some examples of those who are NOT spared that we DO have record of…Abinidi, the Anti-Nephi-Lehites that are mowed down by the lamanites, the believers in Alma 14 that are burned alive, the thousands of men and women who have died a martyrs death willingly, members of the Martin and Willie handcart company, and of course – Christ. But imagine the sheer number of others that history and scripture knows nothing about, simply because no one can tell the story.

    So we have this selection bias that seems to suggest that survivors were supremely blessed because of their faith. And although that’s true, I don’t think they were blessed in the way we tend to think they were. We equate survival, health, wealth, finding lost things, being relieved of infertility, being spared the death of a child, etc. to the evidence of the hand of God.

    But that isn’t so…I would argue that the REAL miracle, is that each of those listed above (starting with Abinidi) were spiritually delivered from a burden that would never be relieved temporally. The REAL miracle is that they were filled with faith instead of fear, hope instead of doubt, love instead of anger. They experienced real Unity with God, the kind of stillness and joy that isn’t dependent on any outside force changing – it is instead a state of being.

    That’s why I love the story of Mosiah 24. I love how clear it is…that they were delivered spiritually before they were delivered temporally from their bondage. And who knows….maybe the only reason God intervened to deliver them temporally is so that we could KNOW about the real miracle that he’d already worked in them…that he brought them comfort and peace to them “even while you are in bondage”. Had He not liberated them, that miracle (which I think is greater than their actual deliverance in its spiritual significance and personal relevance) may never have been told.

    I personally think that the main reason we even have scriptures telling us of the temporal deliverance of any person or people is to accomplish one of two goals. 1) To act as a constant reminder that God is mighty unto deliverance, and that each example of temporal deliverance is only to remind us of the much greater deliverance and that one that God truly cares about…spiritual deliverance (whether in the form of spiritual restitution after we’ve sinned, or at-one-ment with divine comfort during trying moments i.e. Mosiah 24, or the Garden of Gethsemane for that matter). And 2) because he had to intervene temporally in order to fulfill covenants He made (ie freeing the children of Israel, or protecting Nephi from his brothers so that the Book of Mormon could come about).

    So how, as a culture, do we move past this focus on situation and circumstance being the focus of our testimonies and faith promoting stories?

    We realize that the “all things which are good cometh of God” mentioned in Moroni 7 is not referring to “things” such as health, wealth, life, or circumstance in general…but instead to states of being.

    Example – Two men are looking for and praying for a job, and they are doing so with great faith. In the first scenario, they don’t get the job, and each react differently to that “circumstance”. One man becomes frustrated, angry, and feels like God has left him on his own despite a lifetime of service, and thinks “YOU OWE ME THIS”. The other man doesn’t get the job either, but remains patient, faithful, humble, hopeful, and diligent in his extended pursuit of something that quite possibly may never come to him.

    In the second scenario – the same men praying faithfully for the job get the job, but yet again have different reactions (which of course they choose). One man is very proud of himself, pleased that his smarts were recognized and all his skills were so evident that they chose him above other candidates…he views this as confirmation that he really was superior to others. The second man also gets his job, but falls to his knees in gratitude, thanks God for answering his prayers (even though it’s possible God had nothing to do with it). He is humble, grateful, and he even thinks about this as a faith promoting story where he prayed for something, and God helped him intervene (even if God had nothing to do with it).

    What I hope I’ve demonstrated here is that it didn’t really matter whether the first guy got the job or not…either way he was going to embrace a state of being that is opposite to the great miracle of Unity with God despite circumstance. When he got the job, he was prideful and looked down on others and forgot God, when he didn’t get the job, he was angry and felt like God should have helped him out. That is a man for whom there is no consistent, divine presence in his life that gives real meaning to everything he does and everything he experiences.

    As highlighted by the second man…faith and patience and gratitude are their own rewards. It doesn’t matter whether he gets the job or not, both scenarios allow him to express emotions that are divine, that change his state of being to resemble something closer to God’s, and help him achieve the real miracle in life….UNITY.

    So the “good things” are really the emotions and states of being that typify Godliness…and not whether or not you got the job which God may not have cared about much in the first place. The “evil things” are really the emotions that encourage the natural man within us and increase our distance from God regardless of circumstance.

    Maybe if our testimony meetings and faith promoting stories focused more on that (the state of being God helped us find even when things weren’t going according to plan or prayer)…we wouldn’t have some of the problems that have been discussed here, and members would be encouraged to seek after the one and only miracle they can rely on (but that depends almost entirely on them to choose) – and that is a spiritual deliverance no matter what hell is raging on in your life.

    Again, sorry for the long comment – this is a very nuanced subject – and I figured I’d rather be long and clear. Thanks again for all the insights shared here.
    dannyk recently posted…A Few Love Announcements…My Profile

  • Tracy Keeney January 27, 2012, 3:44 pm

    Alison and Lisamarie– it may not ALWAYS be taught that way at church — maybe not during EVERY lesson on faith and/or prayer, but it IS taught that way. I can’t imagine ANY member of the church, who’s been a member for any significant amount of time NOT knowing that prayer isn’t always answered the way that we want as long as we have enough faith. I would say that in at LEAST 50% of the discussions during lessons about faith and prayer that someone ends up talking about how prayers aren’t always answered the way we want, how we have to be willing to say “nevertheless, not my will but thing be done”. As I mentioned before, I don’t think anyone would say that Joseph Smith lost all of his children because he didn’t have enough faith. Not even the people who told Robes’ wife that she needed to have more faith. I think people say those things either because they THINK it’s going to be comforting somehow, OR because they AREN’T thinking, and are just blurting out the “sunday school answer” that first comes to their mind because they don’t know what else to say. So they give the pat answers– fast, pray, put names in the temple, have faith, etc. But I’d bet that a discussion with those very people, not a surface one, but a deeper more sincere one, would reveal that even the people who told Robes’ wife that she just needed to have more faith KNOW that “enough faith” isn’t a cure-all.
    LisaMarie– I’m truly sorry about the loss of your husband. We just had a brother who used to be in our ward die from brain cancer as well. When we moved into the ward 2 years ago, it had just split, so I never got to know very well personally– only seeing him every now and then at ward activities when he’d pop in to visit. But my son is friends with HIS sons. He survived with it for years and years and finally succombed to it last June. People STILL talk about him during sacrament meetings, still post to his Facebook page and talk to him like he’s actually going to answer back. I’ve watched a few people die, I know people who’ve lost young children, but I’ve never seen people talk about a person so much after they’re gone. I mean, it’s almost every single testimony meeting, someone talks about this man. Nor have I seen people who aren’t related to a person who’s passed away, continue to talk to them and post things to their Facebook page like they’re still around. And alot of what they talk about is HIS faith. The faith he had as he became sicker and sicker… the way HIS faith, helped the faith of those around him. The changes for good that took place in the lives of OTHERS as they watched him struggle with dignity, grace and faith. So maybe THAT has something to do with it. Maybe the LACK of a miracle is what helps people grow and depend on the Lord more.
    I’ve thought about this as it relates to my daughter. Her disabilities don’t do anything for HER– they aren’t helping to develop HER faith. She has the mind of an 8 month old. No understanding of language or concepts. So she’s one of those with a sure front row seat in the Celestial Kingdom. So then why is she here? She HAS her body. If that’s all she needed, and she’s got it, why is she here? She’s not here because SHE’S being tested. She’s here because I’M being tested. Her father is– her brother, her sisters, her teachers, the kids at school, the kids in Primary, etc. Maybe she’s here to give us an opportunity to learn patience, unconditional love, kindness, tenderness, sacrifice, compassion, charity… all the Christlike qualities that we all need to develop. We’ve recevied so many little notes from her teachers, aides at school, college students studying Special Ed that have spent alot of time working with her, telling us how much they learned about themselves working with her, how working with her taught them unconditional love, etc. If faith healed all the kids like Sara, would those lessons be learned? I guess they could be learned in other ways– but then THOSE situations, whatever they be, could be “prayed away” with “Enough faith” too, right? I don’t know– just thinking outloud. But it does make me believe all the more that there IS a reason, even if we don’t understand what it is.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 27, 2012, 3:00 pm

    [I still intend to try to respond to earlier posts. But when I saw lisamarie’s comment in my list of comments to approve, I just had to respond right away.]

    lisamarie, I am so sorry to hear of your situation. My heart just breaks for you. :’-(

    I’m sure I can’t understand, but watching my dear friend die and watching my other dear friend become widowed with three young children, I have seen from a distance how difficult that can be. And how long and life-altering.

    Robes was a man you’d have to know to understand. He and Sam served in a bishopric together. He was bright, talented, quirky, very funny in a kind of dry, intellectual way. He was actually our bishop when he was diagnosed. So many stories. Some we can never tell out of respect. 😉

    I sang “Consider the Lilies” at his funeral. When I stood up on the stand to sing, I was startled to see a row of excessively tall men near the back of the cultural hall. He was a sports writer for the Sun Sentinel and most of the Miami Heat (and Coach Riley) came. 🙂

    I don’t often refer to him by name — Robert “Robes” Pitchforth Patton — but I’ve written about him a number of times. Most are just little asides about how he and his disease changed us. Here is one that relates an experience with him:

    How to Have an Extraordinary Life

    Below are a few other writings about him. (Kind of hard to find because when he died the internet wasn’t quite the booming place it is now. Mostly just the the geeks like me.)

    Arena press room has been dedicated to reporter’s memory

    Riding for Robes – written by Robes’ sister, Ellen Patton (who came in second in our blogging contest last year, btw), who became a good friend after her many visits to Boca to see her brother

    Closer to Heaven in ’97 – this is my favorite, because it is SO Robes. Ellen published a talk he gave in our sacrament meeting in late 1996. If you read anything, read this. It’s not about cancer — because he wasn’t diagnosed until a couple of months later — but this is him. I relayed bits of this for years in conference speeches about goal setting. 🙂

    lisamarie, what do you think would be most helpful to you right now?
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Not SubtropicalMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith January 27, 2012, 5:21 pm

    Dannyk #7:

    I’ve experienced that there is only one kind of deliverance that we can always expect, and that is the one that is independent of circumstance.

    Dannyk, that’s a great addition to the discussion. We should teach more of that, because that is the truth.

    Thank you for sharing your very personal story.

    Since then, I’ve deliberately tried to apply this approach…I seek spiritual deliverance instead of physical deliverance. Spiritual deliverance is my priority and the only one I feel I have a guarantee on receiving.

    Beautifully said. 🙂
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Professional Results at HomeMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith January 27, 2012, 5:29 pm

    Robin #8:

    We weren’t told we came here to live with very little discomfort, but that we would be tried to see if we would ( after all those trials) still choose to follow Heavenly Father’s plan, still endure to the end.

    I don’t disagree with you, but I’m asking a different question. I’m asking how we reconcile the scripture above with what you said in this quote.

    When we read the Ensign or listen to conference or listen to a lesson from the manual, you don’t hear a lot of:

    Here we are on earth. And it’s really going to suck! But it’s OK! It’s supposed to suck. Just stick with it. In 100 years or so you’ll get just what you deserve (with that atonement caveat, of course).

    Stephen M #10 and Melissa #11, thanks for sharing your personal story. Stephen, I’ve read some of your stuff before. I know you’ve heard this before, but I don’t know how I’d go on.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Valentine’s GlassesMy Profile

  • lisamarie January 27, 2012, 6:34 pm

    Alison: Thank you for sharing the links! I enjoyed reading them. He was a man very much like my husband. My husband was serving in a Stake Presidency at time of diagnosis. He survived about a year and a half also. He handled his illness faithfully and beautifully. I am very proud of him.

    My dear friend asked me the same question today:”what would be most helpful?”

    It has only been a few months. I am really raw. I now am in this grief-filled place. My goal is to be in a more healed and peaceful place. Between here and there is a terrible chasm that cannot be circumvented. It must be gone straight through to get to where I need to be. It’s nice when people allow my children and I our journey through the chasm. We all like happily ever-afters, but they can’t be rushed. They take time. We as LDS people are well-versed at comforting those in need of comfort…..boy, can we bake a mean casserole!! 😉 But we are not as familiar with mourning with those that mourn. We don’t know how to do death very well. Because of modern medical advancements, we frankly just don’t deal with it as much as our ancestors did. I feel like a guinea pig to my ward and stake 😉 I am a very young widow (my husband was in his 40’s) I have young children to raise alone. The only one in my ward and Stake. (Okay, there ARE 2 elderly widows in one other ward)

    So that was the long answer….the short one is: Let people grieve. Cry with them. Right now I don’t want to be fixed( no earthly person can do it anyway!) or given advice. I just want someone to cry with me!

    DannyK: I LOVED every word of that last post! I found it extraordinarily helpful! Thank you so much! Our family has been through a TON of hard stuff in the last 10 years, and Mosiah 24 has gotten us through some tough stuff!

    Tracy K: I know it is unrealistic to expect faith to be taught the way I want to hear it every week. I really don’t think I expect that. Let’s see if I can put what I am feeling into words. I’m not sure if you (or anyone here reading) have ever buried an immediate family member or not. This is how it is for me: I feel like I am walking around completely flayed. Just totally skinned! Everything that comes at me hurts horrifically. I am hyper-sensitive, and I KNOW that…..but nevertheless it still hurts. So it seems like every testimony I have listened to for the last few months is structured like this: “I had this problem, I prayed/fasted/went to the temple and voila! It was solved!”

    Am I generalizing and exaggerating? You bet your life! But it sounds that way to a very beleaguered and grieving mind. Add to that the fact that I live in an EXTREMELY young ward. There is ONE set of grandparents. We usually have a 30 year old Bishop (My husband was Bishop of this ward in his 30’s) We sent our very first missionary EVER off just 2 months ago. So, there is not a lot of life experience, or really any experience here…..so along with that you get young teachings, and young testimonies. Sometimes I think that I am one of the FIRST people they have ever witnessed having to deal with a REALLY HARD THING! I have a big job, don’t I???? 😉

    I am an anomaly here…..they really are not sure WHAT to do with me……my poor Bishop has not called, come over or spoken to me since the funeral….I think he’s scared….or something! They have no idea what to do with a widow!

    Anyway…..that way WAY long, but it felt nice to share it here. Thanks! 🙂

  • lisamarie January 27, 2012, 6:46 pm

    “As I said earlier, for ME anyway– faith is proven even MORE by situations where the miracle DOESN’T happen, but people remain faithful, rather than ones where someone has faith that a miracle will/can happen and it does.”

    Oh, and Tracy–thank you sooooo much for sharing this! I totally agree! That’s what I am shooting for, but dangit! It’s not as easy as it looks! 😉
    Maybe with time, it will get easier…one can hope, right?

  • Erin January 31, 2012, 2:19 pm

    I’m sorry if this idea has already been written above; I am at work and just don’t have the time to give the above-comments a good read & ponder. However, I do wish to address the spiritual wrestling:

    Our 7 y.o. daughter has head lice (stigma alert on!). We have tried *everything*–OTC shampoo/pesticides, literal nitpicking, louse hunting, etc. We have subjected her to 3 applications of shampoo that supposedly kills the little buggers. In desperation, she requested and received a priesthood blessing. I hoped that the blessing would cast out the lice, send them on a little lice march out the front door, to die a slow and painful death outside, away from any blood source.

    However, the blessing did not do this. My daughter & I talked about the blessing, why it did not “work.” I tried to help her understand that when God answers our prayers, sometimes he casts out the lice in our lives, but sometimes, he wants us to rely on each other–so maybe the answer to prayer is that we find a doctor who can treat her. Maybe God answers the prayer by helping our minds–being a scientist who can create an effective treatment. Maybe God wants us to rely on the Holy Ghost, inspiring me to find the lice in her hair (when I couldn’t find them all on my own). Maybe God wants us to appreciate the good things in our lives. And maybe God has a completely different thing in mind for us.

    I tried to help her understand that no matter what, God will answer our prayers.

    I know I get frustrated when the Ensign and sacrament meeting talks and correlated lesson manuals present the simplistic, sexy, and shallow ways that God answers prayers (the lice left! the truck swerved out of our way at the last minute! the baby lived!). I also believe that the writers of the scriptures got caught up in the simplistic, sexy, and shallow ways that God answers prayers–I think it is a human condition to want the tangible answers. I think in this instance, it is okay to take the scriptures with a large grain of salt.
    Erin recently posted…LDS & SSA, etc.: The Alphabet Soup of Me, Part 1My Profile

  • Tracy Keeney January 31, 2012, 10:43 pm

    Good points all around Erin– there are many reasons why Heavenly father doesn’t always create a “miracle” to answer our prayers– and it’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes. Especially, since being as we are, we tend to want to know the “why”.
    — And I have to ask…. IS there a “sexy” way that God answers prayers? Sorry– that just tickled my funny bone! 🙂

  • Erin February 1, 2012, 3:15 pm

    LOL! I guess by “sexy,” I meant the flashy answers to prayers, for example, having an angel visit you, the previously defunct car battery starting up miraculously on your way to visiting teaching, tracting out that one last house which leads to an entire family being baptized–basically, anything that conventional wisdom holds as a miracle, and is held up in church meetings as proof of God’s existence and love.

    On another note, I think of the miracle of Elizabeth Smart. Not the miracle that she was found, but that millions of people united to find her, prayed for her, cared about her. Given that humans can be callous (i.e., the Kitty Genovese case), all of those people united is a miracle in itself.
    Erin recently posted…Gardner’s Theory of Intelligence & Feeling the Holy SpiritMy Profile

  • jennycherie February 2, 2012, 5:51 am

    Erin – I get what you mean about the sexy answer – to me, it’s the one that so many just love to share in fast and testimony meeting, that sounds superstitious or overly miraculous and make us look nutty to the visitors. 😉 I admit, when I read Tracy’s reference, it made me think of an answer that causes people to go looking for the nearest pole to start dancing! Of course, that would also make us look a little nutty.
    jennycherie recently posted…Joy to the WorldMy Profile

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