Sunday, November 1, 2009

But If Not...

In shuffling through some conference talks from before my mission, I came across a talk about which I had forgotten and feel the need to share with you this week. This talk was given by Elder Dennis E. Simmons of the seventy in the April 2004 General Conference and is entitled "But If Not...."

Elder Simmons tells the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego being thrown into a fiery furnace at King Nebuchadnezzar's command. They responded that they had faith to be saved, but if it saving them was not the Lord's will, they would still not do as the king commanded and worship his idols. We know that the Lord did deliver Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego according to His will and their faith. In his talk, Elder Simmons focuses on the phrase from the account, "but if not."

Elder Simmons said:

"The Lord has given us agency, the right and the responsibility to decide (see 2 Ne. 2:27; Hel. 14:30; D&C 101:78.) He tests us by allowing us to be challenged. He assures us that He will not suffer us to be tempted beyond our ability to withstand (see 1 Cor. 10:13; Alma 13:28.) But we must understand that great challenges make great men. We don’t seek tribulation, but if we respond in faith, the Lord strengthens us. The but if nots can become remarkable blessings."

Events take place in our lives beyond our control. Sometimes we feel that the particular trial that we are experiencing is not fair, that our faith should somehow have saved us from grief, sorrow, and heartache. Elder Simmons taught that we need to trust in the Lord regardless of the outcome. Faith precedes and is the source of many mighty miracles (see Hebrews 11 and Ether 12.) However, the Lord does not always deliver us from our trials in order to test our faith so that we may prove that we will be faithful in good times and bad.

Elder Simmons concluded with these words: "Our God will deliver us from ridicule and persecution, but if not. … Our God will deliver us from sickness and disease, but if not … . He will deliver us from loneliness, depression, or fear, but if not. … Our God will deliver us from threats, accusations, and insecurity, but if not. … He will deliver us from death or impairment of loved ones, but if not, … we will trust in the Lord.

"Our God will see that we receive justice and fairness, but if not. … He will make sure that we are loved and recognized, but if not. … We will receive a perfect companion and righteous and obedient children, but if not, … we will have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that if we do all we can do, we will, in His time and in His way, be delivered and receive all that He has" (see D&C 84:35–38.)

Note that the very last phrase does end with the caveat, "but if not...." Trials of our faith last only as long as this life. All that is unfair about this life can be made right through the Atonement.1 Eternal life is promised to all who are faithful.

President James E. Faust said: "Through faith and righteousness all of the inequities, injuries, and pains of this life can be fully compensated for and made right. Blessings denied in this life will be fully recompensed in the eternities. Through complete repentance of our sins we can be forgiven and we can enjoy eternal life. Thus our suffering in this life can be as the refining fire, purifying us for a higher purpose. Heartaches can be healed, and we can come to know a soul-satisfying joy and happiness beyond our dreams and expectations."2

I conclude with a story from the Book of Mormon about a people who were highly favored of the Lord. These people followed the prophet, served each other, and otherwise honored their baptismal commitment. The 23rd chapter of Mosiah states that the people did prosper exceedingly in the land. Mormon continues:

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.

Our personal righteousness and faith do not shield us from life. But they do help us deal with life and help us return to live with our Father in Heaven. Eternal life with our Father in Heaven and our families is the goal and purpose of this life.


1Elder David S. Baxter Of the Seventy,” Ensign, May 2006, 124
2 James E. Faust, “‘Woman, Why Weepest Thou?’,” Ensign, Nov 1996, 52