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At the April 1980 general conference, Elder Howard W.Hunter, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told of joining a large crowd to watch the long-boat races in Samoa.
“The crowd was restless,” he said,“and most eyes were turned toward the sea, watching for the first glimpse of the [boats]. Suddenly there was a roar from the crowd as the boats came into sight in the distance. Each of them had a crew of fifty powerful oarsmen dipping and pulling the oars with a rhythm that forced the crafts through the waves and foaming water—a beautiful sight.
“The boats and men were soon in full view as theyraced toward the finish. Even though these powerful men pulled with their might, the weight of a boat with fifty men moved against a powerful adverse force—the resistance of the water.
“The cheering of the crowd reached a crescendo whenthe first long-boat crossed the finish line.”
After the race, Elder Hunter walked to where the boats were docked and spoke with one of the oarsmen, who explained that the prow of the long-boat “is so constructed that it cuts through and divides the water to help overcome the resistance that retards the speed of the boat. He further explained that the pulling of the oars against the resistance of the water creates the force that causes the boat to move forward. Resistance creates both the opposition and the forward movement.”1
What would happen without adversity?
In order to have adversity, the men first needed to get into the boat. Next, they needed water and a tool like oars to provide a way to create resistance. If there were no oars and they sat in the water, they wouldn’t go where they wanted to go and would float aimlessly where ever the currents took them. If there were no water and only oars, they wouldn’t even move anywhere.
Having resistance isn’t enough though. They could be all the smartest, strongest, well-trained athletes and have the best oars and boat but if they didn’t communicate effectively and paddle together, they wouldn’t move forward towards their goal of the finish line.
Our Lives as a Boat Race
Each of us is on a journey. We are all in the boat of life and have choices as we move through our journey. Daily we have the choice to let adversity overtake us, or to use tools and communication strategies to use adversity to our advantage.
The tools we use to overcome our challenges may vary depending on our situation and struggle, but some tools and communication strategies will be universal.
These include tools and communication such as praying for strength, relying on friends and family, reading scriptures and other uplifting books for insight and understanding. Cultivating deep relationships so we can have this communication is essential as well. It is important to work and practice daily communication and relationship building with our Heavenly Father, Jesus, spouses, children, friends, members of our quorums, etc. If we have been effective at this, it will make it so we can paddle through adversity and become stronger, rather than adversity overcoming us.
Questions to consider
How do you respond to adversity?
How has adversity and relying on God, family, and friends helped shape who you are?
Last week we had a great conversation in church about Lehi’s Vision in the Book of Mormon. For those not familiar with the vision, you can find all the details of the vision in 1 Nephi chapters 8 and 11.
In the vision, there is a part where mists of darkness arise around people who are striving to reach a tree with fruit that is most desirable and fills ones soul with joy. The tree, according to scripture, represents the love of God.
In the Church, I feel that when we discuss the mists of darkness that arise in Lehi’s dream, we often correlate that with temptations, sins, and distractions from Satan that take us off of our path to God and to wayward paths.
However, last week, as we discussed and read about the dream, I thought about times in my life when I have literally had mists of darkness arise when experiencing depression or discouragement. I’ll paraphrase one experience that I wrote about in the book Discovering Light:
There was one day while I was experiencing extreme depression and doubt. I was driving in the rain and crying from the heavy weight that I was feeling. Thoughts were swirling around in my mind and I pulled over and offered a mighty prayer in desperation, asking God to intervene.
Within a couple of minutes, my Grandfather called me, out of the blue. Hearing his voice as he said “my boy!” immediately snapped me out of my downward spiral of negative thinking and I smiled as I remembered the fun times I had with him growing up next door. Images of riding horses together, working together, singing together, etc. came into my mind.
I shared with him my emotional state and how depressed I felt. He opened up to me and shared with me how intimately he understood my situation and shared some very personal experiences of a time when he was depressed right after my Grandmother had passed away.
He then shared his testimony of how God carried him and helped him through and he knew God would do that for me too. This conversation gave me hope for that day and was a testimony to me that not only did my Grandfather care for me, but my Heavenly Father did as well and had sent Grandpa as an angel to rescue me.
This experience reminds me of something Russell M Nelson, from the Quorum of the 12 Apostles recently wrote in his book “Accomplishing the Impossible”. He writes:
…angels are at work. Often our members are “angels” to neighbors in need. Home teachers and visiting teachers, as ordinary people, frequently render service that seems angelic to grateful recipients….I am among the many who have often referred to the loving acts of an “angel mother” or an “angel wife,” or the priceless love of “angel children”.
Do we believe in angels? Yes! We believe in angels-heavenly messengers-seen and unseen; and earthly angels who know whom to help and how to help. Gospel messengers, or angels, can include ordinary people like you and me (pg 25).
I’ll forever be grateful for my Grandfather who was close to the Spirit and listened to a prompting from God and acted as an angel to my prayer when I was in the middle of a “mist of darkness”.
From personal experience, I know that darkness, doubt, and depression can be overpowering and make one feel like it is impossible to accomplish the task of even getting through another day. I know that with God’s help, we can all accomplish the impossible to either have strength to hold on while we are experiencing “mists of darkness” and eventually make it through.
I received the following from one of my old friends today:
I truly believe in the power of Prayer or otherwise I wouldn’t be posting this…. Our sweet, beautiful little angel Ashlynn is very seriously ill, we just found out today that she may have liver failure and we will be heading up to stay with her at a London Hospital to figure out what to do for her. We are completely shocked and horrified over this news. All I ask is that everyone would please say a prayer for our beautiful, beautiful baby girl, we would be forever grateful.
My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and his daughter. They had to try and try to get pregnant and bring her into the world and she’s only a few months old. Please join me in praying for the little baby and his family. Their last name is Beutler, if you want to say a specific prayer for them.
If you are like me, there have been times in your life when you have prayed for an answer over and over and it appears that no one is listening. Sometimes you may wonder if there is even a God at all. Sometimes you may wonder if the Divine experiences and revelations you have received were something contrived by your own mind, or not. Some may feel they haven’t ever felt God’s love in their life due to terrible circumstances. If you feel that God isn’t answering your prayers, ther is a great talk by Neal A Maxwell, former Mormon apostle: “Thanks be to God“.
Here’s an excerpt taken from the talk:
Yes, even in our prayers, we can, unintentionally, ask “amiss.” (2 Ne. 4:35.) No wonder humility is such an everlasting virtue. For us to accept God’s “No” as an affirmative indication of his love—rather than a lack thereof—and as a signal that we have asked amiss, this is true humility!
How often have you and I in our provincialism prayed to see ahead and, mercifully, have been refused, lest our view of the present be blurred?
How many times have we been blessed by not having our prayers answered, at least according to the specifications set forth in our petitions?
How many times have frustrating, even gruelling, experiences from which we have sought relief turned out, later on, to have been part of a necessary preparation which led to much more happiness?
“And now when Alma heard this … he beheld that their afflictions had truly humbled them, and that they were in a preparation to hear the word.” (Alma 32:6; italics added.)
How many times have we impatiently expressed our discontent with seemingly ordinary and routine circumstances which were divinely designed, shaping circumstances for which, later on, we were very grateful? Alas, have there perhaps not also been those times when we have been grumpy with God or, unlike Job, even “charged God foolishly”? (Job 1:22.) How many times, naively, have we vigorously protested while on our way to a blessing?
Therefore, our faith in and thanksgiving for Heavenly Father, so far as this mortal experience is concerned, consists—not simply of a faith and gladness that he exists—but also includes faith and thanksgiving for his tutoring of us to aid our acquisition of needed attributes and experiences while we are in mortality. We trust not only the Designer but also his design of life itself—including our portion thereof!
I really like this quote because many times in my life I’ve prayed for something I think I wanted and God was patiently waiting for me to be ready to receive it.
For example, I prayed for a number of years to meet a good lady to marry and start a family with. However, whenever I met a lady who I thought would be good, I felt God was telling me to wait. Sometimes I would try and force a relationship against the will of God and of course the relationship wouldn’t work. It wasn’t until I humbled myself and realized I had some personal issues with feelings of abandonment and anxiety that I needed to overcome that I realized God was being merciful to me (and the girls I had been trying to force things with) by not giving me the “green light” so to speak to get into a serious relationship. After I had dealt with overoming my feelings of anxiety, depression, and abandonment (which you can read more about in detail here), did God place a lady in my life.
What experiences have you had with feeling that God wasn’t answering your prayers, only to find that He really was listening?
If you’re an NFL fan, like I am, you’ve probably been amazed by the turnaround of the Denver Broncos season since their evangelical Quarterback, Tim Tebow began starting for them. Watching him for most of a football game is painful. He misses passes constantly, hardly converts on 3rd downs, and overthrows his wide-receivers. On paper his statistics from a passing perspective look awful.
Yet, somehow he keeps pulling wins out by some miracle in every game.
When he scores a touchdown, he drops to a knee and starts praying. This is his signature thing to do and it actually has a nickname now. People call it “Tebowing“. Here’s an example:
Some people like it, and some people are highly annoyed by it.
When we look in the scriptures, we see some examples of people being condemned for praying in public such as when Jesus tells us to pray in our closets rather than making it a big scene in public, but also many instances where people prayed in public such as Daniel in the Bible and Nephi in the Book of Mormon.
So where do you stand on the issue? Do you feel it’s over the top to pray in public (i.e. “Tebowing“) or do you feel it’s o.k.?
Cast your vote below:
You amy have a child with whom you are struggling. When appropriate, kneeling in prayer with the child could have a much greater impact than anything you might say in resoning with him or her. Children need to see prayer in action. They need to feel it. Then comes the witness (of the Holy Spirit), which is so important.
I have often said something to missionaries that also applies to parents. The primary objective of a missionary is to provide a spiritual experience to the investigator. Similarly, the single greatest thing you can do for your…children…is to give them a spiritual experience. Help them to experience the Spirit with you, and then teach them how to have the experience alone….it’s worth more than all the instruction you could provide on the subject…(pg. 43-44)
Gene R. Cook was the area Seventy in my mission (for those who are not familiar with the LDS, or Mormon structure, the seventies are similar to the structure found in the book of Acts where the Apostles appoint people (seventies) to oversee geographical areas of the Church). He shared similar stories with us and taught us how to teach people to experience God on our lives through teaching them to pray by kneeling down with them. I had many great experiences on my mission by doing this.
Of all the experiences I’ve been able to share with teaching people about prayer, the one I had with my little 2 1/2 year old daughter the other night was one of my favorites.
She was scared and said there were monsters in her room. She was sobbing uncontrollably and I first tried reasoning with her. That wasn’t working at all. Then I remembered Gene R. Cook’s words in his book and also on my mission and I asked her to fold her arms and pray with me. I told her I would say the words and then she could repeat them. She said, in her cute little voice “alright”. We prayed. It was a simple prayer. I said things like “please take the monsters away” and “bless I’ll be calm” and after a few moments I felt the Holy Spirit enter into my heart. As I felt the Spirit, I could notice a change in her physically as well. She relaxed and sighed relief.
After the prayer was over, I asked if she felt better. She nodded and then I told her that she can pray to Heavenly Father anytime she’s scared and He will take away the fear and replace it with good things. She smiled and said “alright” and then snuggled down and within a few minutes was asleep.
What a miracle!
I’m so grateful for the power of faith and prayer and that God will answer the simplest prayers. I know that if we strive to incorporate prayer in with leading our families that the Lord will guide us as parents and the Holy Spirit will help us more than we could ever do on our own.
Do you have any experiences with prayer and your children that you feel would be helpful for other readers?
I recieved the following message from a reader the other day:
I liked reading your letter on God and receiving his message through understanding of God´s manner of speaking.
I have been reading very much and watching Daystar programs considerably. All of these things are interesting but the more I read the Bible and meditate, pray, and listen for that voice of God— the farther and farther from understanding anything it seems.
If I continue to understand less and less as there is so much contradiction, the natural process would be to become an athiest. Something I am not hoping for.
But my simple and nieve question is– If God can do anything, why can´t he communicate with us?
After all that silly business of speaking in tongues is accepted as real and I think is nonsense. Is that God speaking to us?
I wish I could find some message that felt like it really represented our relation to God, if there is indeed a relation.
I have written about this in previous articles throughout the years. Most notably Discerning between God Speaking and our Own Desires, and Receiving and Recognizing Answers to Prayers. In these articles, I address various ways to understand God and how He has spoken to me.
I feel that it would be beneficial for the reader to see other people’s responses though rather than just mine. Take some time to pray and ask God to help this reader before you respond. I have faith it will help him.
Thanks for your help!
My Grandfather recently passed down a lot of the books in his library and one of the books I picked up is entitled “LDS Adventure Stories” by Preston Nibley.
One of the stories I read tonight was one of the most amazing accounts of bravery and faith I’ve ever read. It details a plane crash in Alaska in Joseph H. Tippetts’ own words and was published in the Improvement Era in October of 1943. If you are a member of gospelink.com you can look up the account and read it online.
I was going to write a detailed article of the story, but upon reasearching the lds blogs I found details of this event are given nicely in a blog called “Alaskan Odyssey” written about a year ago, which includes pictures from the crash.
It is a miracle that 4 men survived the plane crash and lived for a month in the harsh Alaska winter. They all had broken bones, yet had to struggle to survive the weather and when a search party gave up looking for them, all they could do was pray and work to find assistance. The hardships that were endured and overcome are miraculous. Brother Tippetts gives an amazing account of how faith, patience, prayer, and God’s providence kept he and his companions alive. He also accredits the Bible and Book of Mormon and a book called Unto the Hills by Richard L Evans as books that kept his faith strong throughout the trial in the wilderness.
Joseph Tippett’s concluding words in his account show his humility and faith:
In looking back over our experience I can truthfully say that God was good to us. we can give him credit for leading the boat to our rescue. The captain of the boat had gone over thrity-five miles off his course to come into that little bay to rescue us. He was influenced to come to that spot in answer to prayer. We regard it as a modern miracle. The influence of the faith and prayers of our good wives and friends did much to bring us safely home…we join in thanking God for performing a miracle in our behalf. May we ever remain faithful to him.
Also just last week, Joseph Tippett’s son appeared as a guest blogger and wrote about more details of Joseph Tippett’s life and you can read this account here.
After reading this, I feel amazed at what God can help us accomplish when we put our trust and faith in Him.
Periodically I read the blog Musings on Mormonism. It is a blog from a former LDS member who is juggling family and spirituality and posts blogs that for the most part appear to be sincere.
The other day I read the post entitled “Can our Hearts be Trusted“. She describes how praying and receiving an answer from God isn’t legitimate because our hearts can decieve us. She then goes on to state the only thing we can trust is God’s word and nothing else.
This statement was very amazing to me for a number of reasons. First, how are we to know God’s word if we can’t recognize and discern his voice? Next, in my opinion it is borderline blasphemy to say that God can’t answer prayers and speak to our hearts through not only feelings, but in our minds and through scriptures as well. Finally, I feel that it is a tool from Satan to deceive us into thinking that we do not need to pay attention to the feelings and promptings God gives us. It states in scripture that God speaks to us in our minds and in our hearts through feelings, visions, scriptures, and other means such as prophecy.
The question then is how do we learn to discern between what our desires are and what God’s desires are? Furthermore, if one claims to be a prophet and speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost as the prophets of the New Testament did, how are we to know if what they are saying is truth? Many people may answer this by saying to look it up in the Bible and that will confirm the truth. However, how is one to know what truth is when reading in the Bible or any other scripture for that matter? Clearly the answer is through the Holy Ghost. But once again, the question arises how do we know if what we are feeling is from God or just our own desires? Worse yet, how do we know what we feel isn’t Satan trying to deceive us?
These thoughts caused me to reflect on a post I wrote about 2 years ago called “Receiving and Recognizing Answers to Prayers.” In this post and especially in the comments by other readers, there are common threads on how we can live our lives in tune so we can receive and recognize answers to our prayers.
In one of the threads, it discusses how God will send us the Holy Ghost through feelings accompanied with a positive conviction. Personally, I feel that all inspiration we receive should be backed up, as our “musings” friend alludes to with the scriptures.
From my own personal experience, I know this is a truth: God speaks to us through His Holy Spirit and we feel this many times as a burning in the bosom, or exceeding joy that is more than just our own made-up desires that confirms all truth. We do need to learn and practice to discern from our own feelings and God speaking to us though.
Personally, I feel that our friend over at Musings has it 1/2 right. We do need to test our answers to the Word of God and not soley rely on a desire…especially if we’re not sure if it’s from God or not. We shouldn’t rely soley on just our feelings and also it is important to have had a witness of what scripture is truth and this will come through an answer from the Holy Spirit as well.
I know we can learn to recognize and discern between Heavenly Father’s promptings and our own desires.
What are your thoughts on this subject?
For those of you who are LDS or attend meetings, how often have you heard the phrase “When I was on my mission…”? If you’re like me, it’s a phrase you hear almost as much as “I know this church is true.
Whenever I hear the “mission” phrase I think to myself “what about today?” Let me share an example.
Today in church we studied President Monson’s most recent article on faith and prayer. The teacher did a great thing, I thought and opened up discussion for people to share their experiences they’ve had with prayer.
As we were reading, I thought about an experience I’d had with my younger sister and thought it would be great to share. I’ll admit it. I’m guilty. I started the comment by saying “When I was on my mission I learned how to truly pray intimately with the Lord in someone’s behalf…” and then I preceded to explain a very personal and spiritual experience my sister and I had while we prayed together.
I hadn’t realized what I’d done until hands started firing up all over the place with people saying “When I was on my mission…” Suddenly, I realized what I’d done.
The whole rest of the lesson was about experiences people had had 5 -30 years ago while they were on their missions. I appreciate them sharing these comments, and have definitely been to worse meetings where people don’t even want to participate at all, but after the 5th time of hearing the “mission” phrase I started thinking about the LDS culture a bit more.
First, an LDS mission is amazing and filled with opportunities to grow closer to Jesus than almost anything else I’ve ever done. I was fully immersed in studying about the Lord and helping others. I’m sure this is why people love to talk about their missions. However, I asked myself the question: “What about today?”
That’s great that we had spiritual experiences to fall back on, but what are we doing today to have them? Maybe I’m off-base, but it seems that we as Mormons tend to fall back on our missions too often and don’t have daily spiritual experiences through faith and prayer like we once did.
What are your thoughts?