Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The analogy of the carrot and the egg

I love the Book of Mormon and the scriptures because we can relate all of the stories to our own lives and to our trials, experiences, joys, and concerns. With this knowledge of the power of the scriptures, we can turn to the words of the ancient prophets and learn God’s will for us and strengthen our testimonies that He loves us and that He speaks to us through their words.

I recently started the book of Alma in the Book of Mormon and a story in the first chapter really stuck out to me. As you read the story, focus on the reaction of the members of the church of God to the trials they experience.

19 But it came to pass that whosoever did not belong to the church of God began to persecute those that did belong to the church of God, and had taken upon them the name of Christ.

20 Yea, they did persecute them, and afflict them with all manner of words, and this because of their humility; because they were not proud in their own eyes, and because they did impart the word of God, one with another, without money and without price.

21 Now there was a strict law among the people of the church, that there should not any man, belonging to the church, arise and persecute those that did not belong to the church, and that there should be no persecution among themselves.

22 Nevertheless, there were many among them who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows; yea, they would smite one another with their fists.

23 Now this was in the *second year of the reign of Alma, and it was a cause of much affliction to the church; yea, it was the cause of much trial with the church.

24 For the hearts of many were hardened, and their names were blotted out, that they were remembered no more among the people of God. And also many withdrew themselves from among them.

25 Now this was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them. . . .

27 And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.

28 And thus they did establish the affairs of the church; and thus they began to have continual peace again, notwithstanding all their persecutions.

We can divide the members of the church of God into two categories: the ones who followed the prophet’s counsel, did not react to the persecution, and bore with humility and patience their afflictions; and the ones who were proud and did not turn the other cheek, instead rejecting the prophet’s counsel and fighting back.

Now, focus on the results of the two opposite reactions. Those who were proud and fought back became hardened and many left the church. This created an increased trial for those who remained steadfast, for the faithful did not even have the support of their brethren who should have been a strength to them. However, some of the saints were steadfast and immovable regardless of the actions of their brethren or the persecutors. Instead of reacting adversely to the persecution, the saints spent their energy reacting as the Savior would have—serving their fellow beings. By reacting in a Christlike manner, the faithful saints were able to have continual peace again, notwithstanding their many persecutions.

This story brings to mind an object lesson or an analogy that I heard in a class last week at EFY, the youth church camp at which I’ve been a counselor this summer in between jump rope events. The teacher of this class, Lani Hilton, held up a carrot and a pot and asked what would happen if she put the carrot in boiling water. The answer, of course, is that the carrot would become soft. Then she held up a raw egg and asked what would happen if she put the egg in the boiling water. The answer was that, as we all know, the egg would harden. The two objects, put into the same environment, the same hard situation react in completely opposite manners.

How do we react to hard things? How do we react when sore trials come upon us? Do we think to pray? Do we rely on our Redeemer, on the merits of Him who is mighty to save? Or do we fight back, hardening our hearts, asking God why us, arguing that our trials are not fair, and questioning His love for us?

How we react to trials and afflictions depends greatly on our faith. President James E. Faust, an apostle, said:

It’s not so much what happens to us but how we deal with what happens to us. That reminds me of a passage from Alma. After a long war “many had become hardened,” while “many were softened because of their afflictions.” (Alma 62:41) The same circumstances produced opposite responses. The writer who lost so much was not able to draw from the well of faith. Each of us needs to have our own storehouse of faith to help us rise above the troubles that are part of this mortal probation. –“Where Do I Make My Stand?,” Ensign, Nov 2004, 18

Each of us needs to have our own storehouses of faith, meaning we need to know that trials do not equate to God’s lack of love for us or His nonexistence. We need to have the faith to trust in the Lord with all our hearts that He has everything under control and lean not unto our own understanding (see Proverbs 3:5-6). In Mosiah chapter 23, we learn:

21 Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.

22 Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people.

When we exercise faith in Him and do as He commands both in bad times and in good, we will have peace notwithstanding our persecutions. We shall have peace knowing that we are doing what the Lord wants us to do and therefore will be lifted up at the last day. We shall have peace because the Lord promised that if we keep the commandments, we shall abide in His love and our joy will be full (see John 15:10-11). And we shall have peace because we are living worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost, who is the Comforter (see John 14:26-27).

I think of the words of our Savior in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” I LOVE this verse because in it the Savior teaches us that all the things that He has spoken to us—all the words in all the scriptures—are to help us find peace in this life and understand that He has conquered the world! If we hold out faithful to the end, we shall dwell with God with our families! These things are true because the Lord God hath spoken them!

As we rely on the Savior and do the things we have seen Him do (see 2 Nephi 31:17), we grow and learn from our trials and afflictions. He has overcome the world. Nothing the world throws at us can compare to what He went through while on this earth that we may have peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. When we, in faith, focus on the bigger picture, we will be able to bear with patience the persecution that is heaped upon us.

Jesus Christ suffered and died for us, and more importantly, He lives that we may know to what source to look for a remission of our sins and for peace and comfort in our trials. The scriptures contain scores of stories that we can relate to ourselves and from which we may learn. I love the phrase, “if you want to talk to God, pray. If you want God to talk to you, read the scriptures.” I know that God speaks to us as we tell Him of our doings in prayer and as we strive to find solutions to our problems in the scriptures. We are all children of our Heavenly Father who loves us and who wants to help and bless us. Ours is the choice to harden our hearts and turn away from Him or to exercise patience and humility and allow the trials to soften our hearts so the Lord can mold us into what He wants us to become.

Jeremy