My thoughts today are on the universal need of all mankind for help. It’s a fact of life that each of us has, at some point in time, faced a challenge that was too difficult to bear on our own and have needed the assistance of someone else. Also that we all surely will face many more such challenges in the days and years to come.
So what do we do when those struggles and challenges, tests and trials come? Who can we turn to for help? Obviously those who know us and love us most and those who are the wisest are probably our surest and safest sources for guidance and support.
Isn’t it natural then to believe that Heavenly Father is our best source of help. He knows us better than anyone else. He loves us more than anyone else. He is the only one who understands all the laws that govern life here and in the hereafter.
In Primary we learn that if we have a problem we can pray to Heavenly Father and he will hear and answer us. This seems to come easy to children who naturally trust in their parents and other loved ones to come to their aid in times of need.
Something happens as we grow older though, we think we have it all figured out. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who has tried to help their child with a seemingly simple task like putting on their pajamas only to be told, quite sternly, that I wasn’t needed because they were big now and could do it on their own – despite having switched the holes in their shirt for their arm and head and having it inside out or both legs stubbornly stuck upside down in one side of the pants.
But in one way or another, don’t we all do the exact same thing? We try to do things our way and find ourselves uncomfortable and stuck and we’re not really sure what happened or how to fix it but we’re also not quite ready to admit that we need help because that would mean that we don’t know absolutely everything yet?
Like the loving parent He is though, Heavenly Father stays right by our side in those moments, allowing us to deal with those crazy uncomfortable pajamas until we are willing to let him give us the assistance we need.
In fact the scriptures are full of promises that God has made to always be there with the help we need so long as we can humble ourselves to trust and ask.
D&C 1:28 “And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.”
D&C 78:18-19 “And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours. And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”
James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally , and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”
Psalms 5:11-12 “But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt though compass him as with a shield.”
And one of my personal favorites because I think it helps to put it all in perspective.
Moses 1:39 “For behold, this is my work and my glory -- to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
God wants us to succeed, he wants us to learn, this promise is repeated throughout the scriptures - He wants us to grow and become like Him and because his entire work and glory centers around each of us gaining eternal life He’s there with us every step of the way.
There are a few key things to note here though:
First, Heavenly Father will never force us to do it His way. Our agency is too precious to Him and too essential to us. He gives us the commandments and warns us of the consequences for good and for bad, but to step in and take away our ability to choose would also mean taking away our growth and understanding that is a necessary part of His plan for our ultimate happiness. Satan would try to have us believe that allowing us moments of failure and forcing us to figure things out means that Heavenly Father doesn’t love us. Any of us who have watched a child learning to walk know that this isn’t true, although we try to teach and train and help prepare them to walk on their own, stumbles and falls are part of the learning process and we have to just do our best to help minimize the possibilities for danger without interfering in the learning process. I think to some degree that’s what Heavenly Father does for us as well and I know He cheers as louder than anyone when we get back up and try again and find we can succeed.
Second, we have to know that obstacles and challenges are there for a reason. Satan tries to convince us that this is also evidence that God doesn’t really love us. Because of the Gospel we know that it’s simply not true. True agency requires that there be opposition. We have to have a choice to make if we want the blessings of choosing it. When we overcome those obstacles and challenges, when we face adversity and carry on we learn that all things are possible through the Lord. Our faith in His help and the blessings that He has given us is increased and we find we have grown to become more like Him. Even Christ was faced with opposition and challenges but when we look at his life we can see how he handled those situations and was able to take every one of those would be stumbling blocks and turn it around into a positive stepping stone. Your attitude in facing those obstacles can make all the difference. I have noticed though that complaining about them rarely makes them any easier.
Third, We have to follow His path if we want to succeed. Like a trail up a mountain made by guides who know the way, Christ has shown us how to return to Heavenly Father. In the early part of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi talked about the importance of this. Aside from having a firm grasp on the iron rod there wasn’t a safe path that led to the tree of eternal life. Christ said Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Some would argue that it doesn’t seem fair, with so many paths to explore why should only one path lead to God. We have to trust that God knows more than we do though and no matter how much we may wish it differently because He governs in fairness and order that in the end things work out the way that they should. Thankfully repentance is part of that great path and we can always find the trail again with Christ’s help.
The rod of iron that led safely through the path was symbolic of the word of God. One of the biggest blessings that Heavenly Father has given us to help us find and stay on the path are the lives and testimonies of His children.
I love that the scriptures are full of people who were just people like us who lived their lives, did what they could and even messed up sometimes – in some cases a lot of times. We can see what happened when they trusted in God and followed His plan and what happened when they didn’t. We can see how God works with each of us in our own imperfections and can do amazing things through us despite ourselves. We can see the courage and faith of Ester, the obedience and sorrows of Nephi. From David we learn that we can slay giants as well as the need for all of us to beware of pride and coveting and when we mess up we should humble ourselves in repentance. Each person’s story helps us because, like us, they were simply trying to figure life out and had moments of failure and moments where they were able to be worthy of God’s highest blessings.
Heavenly Father has also blessed us with prophets, seers, and revelators in our own time. I know that President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God. I know that he and those who work with him in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have been called by God to a sacred work and that they receive revelation that will help lead and guide the church. Over 2,000 years ago, Paul explained to the Ephesians why God gives us prophets and leaders and told the people the things that God’s true servants would do, he said, “And [the Lord] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up unto him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” In the midst of everything we see and hear today it’s easy to feel tossed and fro and feel uncertain of where to go or what to do or how to follow Christ. Not too long ago we were able to hear in person from Elder Rasband – an Apostle and servant of the Lord who exemplified the kind of teaching Paul described. We are also blessed through technology and media to hear from President Monson and our other leaders not only every six months in General Conference but continually through the resources that are online and available in Church Magazines. He’s also blessed us all with Stake and Ward leaders and teachers who love us and do their best to magnify the callings that the Lord has given them.
These are not the only sources that we can learn from though. We can learn from the examples of our own family and friends. Since it’s July I’d like to share with you a family pioneer story that I just learned somewhat recently.
Jacob Nesser was born in 1810 in Switzerland. He was baptized and served a mission there. In 1862 he left Switzerland and was part of the William H. Dane Handcart company. He traveled across the ocean and set out across the plains with his wife, Regula Lobbey Nesser and about 7 children to answer the call of the prophet to gather. They traveled with friends and family. The journey seems to have been difficult for both of them in their early 50’s however, which apparently for the time period was considered advanced in age. Regula died and was buried at Winter Quarters. It seems as though shortly after that one of his sons died along the way as well. Family records tell the rest of his tale. Jacob continued on the trail with his children and reached the Salt Lake Valley. He decided to settle down in the town of Providence, Utah. He married again and had 7 more children. Life in the valley wasn’t easy for Jacob and his family. He found the changes from his homeland in addition to the complications of advancing age and probably the loss of his wife and child extremely difficult. He had been a shoemaker by trade in Switzerland and tried to continue on in that trade but had limited resources and success. It seems as though he loved his family and children but poverty and poor health took their toll. He grew bitter towards the church. Just about 10 years after reaching Utah he died. The children from his first marriage left Utah and moved to Jackson County Missouri. His second wife Elizabeth, and her children ended up leaving Utah to join an apostate group that had promised to take care of them but did not. According to the records that I’ve been able to find so far only one of his children – his oldest daughter from his second marriage remained in the Church.
Some of you may be wondering why I would tell such a tragic story when talking about how God helps us best. Where was God during all those times of struggle? Outwardly Jacob had done all he could, I don’t know his heart but I think I could easily imagine his feelings and frustrations, his disappointment and even some of his bitterness. I don’t have all the answers about why he was asked to endure what he did even as he had tried to be faithful, but thankfully I know that’s not where Jacob’s story ends. Not quite 40 years after Jacob’s death, his great grandson James Burlington decided to join the church but about the same time he married a woman who was not a member and lost interest. Heavenly Father still wasn’t done with them yet though and thankfully his 5th great-grandson, my father was introduced to the church yet again when his roommate at college decided to share the gospel. Like I said, I don’t have all the answers but what happened with Jacob and Regula and their family and to me it is a testimony even though Regula died on the journey and Jacob struggled and became bitter that Heavenly Father loved them and was grateful for the faith that they had shown and that He never forgot them and wanted their children to have the blessings of the gospel. We may give up on Heavenly Father, but He never gives up on us.
Jacob’s story has also helped me put in perspective the concept that President Monson has taught so often. Our decisions determine our destiny and sometimes little choices we make can have a great impact on our future.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, “The beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it pours knowledge into our souls and shows things in their true light. With that enhanced perspective, we can discern more clearly the choices before us and their consequences. We can, therefore, make more intelligent use of our agency. Many of God’s children fall into unanticipated traps and unhappiness because they either lack or ignore gospel light. They are unaware of their options or are confused about the outcomes of their choices. Ignorance effectively limits their agency.”
We have been blessed by Heavenly Father with the gift of the gospel, with the blessings of covenants, with the power of the priesthood, with scriptures, with prophets, with teachers, leaders, family, friends, with our own talents and wisdom and the ability to receive revelation through the Gift of the Holy Ghost. He has surrounded us with everything we might need to be successful and face our challenges if we can only be humble and teachable.
So why does it still seem so hard? What can we do if we’re still struggling and in need of help?
Sometimes when I feel myself facing a particularly difficult challenge I try and take some time for honest personal reflection. I try to remind myself -
- I don’t have to do it all, I just have to do my best and leave the rest to God.
- Great things don’t happen overnight, they happen bit by bit, line upon line.
- God has given me so many blessings that are all around me if only I take the time to look.
- I may not be able to choose my circumstance but I can choose what I do about it.
- It doesn't do any good to worry about things that are out of my control, I can only work to make right what is within my sphere of influence.
I also ask myself the hard questions. Please understand that these questions might be different for each of us based on our struggles or personal tendencies. These are just some that I have found helpful and hopefully can help get you thinking-
- Am I focusing on the most important and essential things, the things of eternity or am I focusing on the things that are just nice or not important at all?
- Will this matter 5 minutes or 5 days from now? 5 years or 50?
- Am I too busy trying to figure it out on my own and relying on Google that I’ve stopped trying to listen for the still small voice and seeking answers through study and prayer?
- What am I doing that’s getting in the way of God being able to bless me?
- Am I following the plan that God has laid out for my life or am I trying to follow the plan of the world and hoping for God’s blessings?
- What idols am I letting come between me and God?
- Am I letting someone else’s lack of faith alter my eternity?
- Am I trying to carry the worries and burdens of tomorrow with only today’s strength?
- Are my actions consistent with my faith in a loving Heavenly Father?
I know that as we seek Heavenly Father’s help that He will show us the way to safety. He wants each of us to return to Him. He loves each of us because we are all His children. Struggles and challenges come to each of us but He’s given us all we need to make it through, and not only make it through but to feel joy and success as we journey. Whenever we’re struggling all we have to do is turn to Him and follow the path He gives us.