In 1968 a marathon runner by the name of John Stephen Akhwari represented Tanzania in an international competition. “A little over an hour after [the winner] had crossed the finish line, John Stephen Akhwari … approached the stadium, the last man to complete the journey. [Though suffering from fatigue, leg cramps, dehydration, and disorientation,] a voice called from within to go on, and so he went on. Afterwards, it was written, ‘Today we have seen a young African runner who symbolizes the finest in human spirit, a performance that gives meaning to the word courage.’ For some, the only reward is a personal one. [There are no medals, only] the knowledge that they finished what they set out to do” (The Last African Runner, Olympiad Series, written, directed, and produced by Bud Greenspan, Cappy Productions, 1976, videocassette). When asked why he would complete a race he could never win, Akhwari replied, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; my country sent me to finish the race.”
He knew who he was—an athlete representing the country of Tanzania. He knew his purpose—to finish the race. He knew that he had to endure to the finish, so that he could honorably return home to Tanzania. Our mission in life is much the same. We were not sent by Father in Heaven just to be born. We were sent to endure and return to Him with honor.
The challenge is overcome the trials that we meet along the way.
Last conference Elder Clayton spoke about three sources of trials.
1. Natural Causes (natural disasters, physical disabilities, illness)
2. The Sin of Others (addiction, abuse, gossip and unkindness)
3. Our own Sins
The first two are harder to accept than the last because we can be living be keeping the commandments and living as God would have us and still suffer the effects of those things. It is natural to ask why.
The prophet, President Kimball explains it really well. He said, "Is there not wisdom in his giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?
"If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.
"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things … righteousness … wickedness … holiness … misery … good … bad. …” (2 Nephi 2:11.)
"There are people who are bitter as they watch loved ones suffer agonies and interminable pain and physical torture. Some would charge the Lord with unkindness, indifference, and injustice. We are so incompetent to judge! …
Imagine if the power of a person's prayers and priesthood were limitless even though our understanding is limited. I might heal people who should die. I might relieve people of suffering who should suffer. I fear I would frustrate the purposes of God.
"Had I limitless power, and yet limited vision and understanding, I might have saved Abinadi from the flames of fire when he was burned at the stake, and in doing so I might have irreparably damaged him. He died a martyr and went to a martyr’s reward—exaltation.
"I would likely have protected Paul against his woes if my power were boundless. I would surely have healed his “thorn in the flesh.” [2 Corinthians 12:7.] And in doing so I might have foiled the Lord’s program. Thrice he offered prayers, asking the Lord to remove the “thorn” from him, but the Lord did not so answer his prayers [see 2 Corinthians 12:7–10]. Paul many times could have lost himself if he had been eloquent, well, handsome, and free from the things that made him humble. …
"I fear that had I been in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, I might have deflected the bullets that pierced the body of the Prophet and the Patriarch. I might have saved them from the sufferings and agony, but lost to them the martyr’s death and reward. I am glad I did not have to make that decision.
"With such uncontrolled power, I surely would have felt to protect Christ from the agony in Gethsemane, the insults, the thorny crown, the indignities in the court, the physical injuries. I would have administered to his wounds and healed them, giving him cooling water instead of vinegar. I might have saved him from suffering and death, and lost to the world his atoning sacrifice."
Trials are in our lives to help our progression. We do not always understand them, but God does.
President Brigham Young said, "Let us alone, and we will send Elders to the uttermost parts of the earth, and gather out Israel, wherever they are; and if you persecute us, we will do it the quicker, because we are naturally dull when let alone, and are disposed to take a little sleep, a little slumber, and a little rest. If you let us alone, we will do it a little more leisurely; but if you persecute us, we will sit up nights to preach the Gospel."
We can't choose if we have trials, but we can choose how we react to them.
In Alma 62:41 is says, "But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their aafflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility."
I really like this scripture because there was a group of people who had challenges and hardships. Some of them came away from the trial better people and some who had the same difficulities chose to harden their hearts. They didn't use the opportunity to become better. You may as well, if you have trials try to gain something from it.
Elder Talmage wrote, "No pang that is suffered by man or woman upon the earth will be without its compensating effect … if it be met with patience.”
Not every trial will be for our benifit automatically. Notice the qualifier above, "if met with patience." We have a choice about how we deal with our challenges.
Joseph Smith was counceled "My son, apeace be unto thy soul; thine badversity and thine afflictions shall be but a csmall moment;
And then, if thou aendure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes." (Docterine and Covenants 121:7-8)
We need to remember who we are and that we are here for only a short period in time.
The prophet Joseph Smith counciled to have faith, have courage and to hold on. I really like the last one - hold on. Because sometimes that's all that we can do; just tie a knot at the end of the rope and hold on until the storm passes.
It doesn't matter what our trials are. It just matters what we do with them.
Some trials are taken away quickly. And with some trials we are given the opportunity to develop patience, humility, and faith.
I'm thankful to the early saints. The ones that remained faithful. There were some that said it was too much. They lost sight of who they were and what they were to do. Over a centurey has passed and their small moment has come and gone. How blessed are those that held on!