"Be Ye Prepared For The Times of Tribulation"
A Moment To Ponder
(Reflective Questions and Self Evaluation)
*These questions should be answered a second time after reading this chapter.
- What are the days of tribulation referred to in the scriptures?
- What are the tribulations that I can prepare for?
- What causes tribulation?
- What are the signs of the times?
- What is the purpose of trials and suffering?
- Have I followed the counsel of the prophets on being prepared?
- Am I prepared for my days of tribulation?
Before digging deeper into the subject stated above, I would like to touch on personal trials, tragedies, and tribulation.
On the "Road to Exaltation," the traveler will experience tribulation. Some will be experienced collectively, and others will be individual, intimate, and personal. The tribulation we frequently hear of in the news, refers to a particular catastrophe in a certain region of the globe. Yet, within that event, there is personal consequences of individual suffering and pain. The magnitude of the tragedy often overrides the sensitivity of human suffering. Each person has a story to tell that is different regarding that calamity. Each individual will deal with that event in a unique way. The experience then becomes singular and part of their earthly experience.
Just as fire is used to refine steel and make it strong and unbreakable, God attempts to use tribulation to strengthen the spirit of man. The greatest trials in life can result in the greatest blessings of growth. Indeed, tribulation can be a refiner's fire. Through suffering one comes to know the Savior, better understands his great sacrifice, and appreciates his atonement.
Tribulation: A condition of affliction and distress; a state of pain or anguish.
In times of tribulation one may think or feel many things. "Why is life so hard? It doesn't seem fair. If there is a god, then why do so many bad things happen? Where is He when I need Him?"
These are all questions that mortals may ask. Their grief, sorrow, or dilemma could often be resolved by asking different questions, and then seeking answers in humility. Most resolutions will come after a period of preparation, for the Spirit can only talk to us when we are ready to listen.
A very spiritual and singular tribulation recently touched our family. Through seeking the Spirit of peace, the pen created this script, and the Spirit the answers. This was Micah's eulogy, my fourth grandson, who passed away as this book was being written.
Read the Short Story, "Sacred Moments Hard To Endure."
I remember some years ago. I had almost lost a daughter to diabetes having been complicated by the flu. She had lost near half of her body weight due to dehydration. Her veins were collapsing and not accepting IVs. Emaciated, she resembled a child soon to die of starvation. When I asked my doctor would she live, he would not respond. He confirmed that she was very sick and only time would tell.
I took my troubles to the Lord. I am sure it was in and out of the Temple. I do remember humbly asking Father in Heaven to give me comfort and the strength to deal with any outcome no matter what it would be. That comfort came softly, but firm. The Spirit whispered a question:
"If you could go back 10 years, and make a choice of having this daughter in your life, knowing the outcome would mean her passing this day, would you still choose to have her in your life?"
My soul did not respond with sorrow, but with gratitude. I would go through that tragic experience in a heartbeat, and more than once based on the joy this little angel brought into our home for ten years. If she lived or died, I would be grateful everyday for the time I had with her in this life. She was so perfect, and later we learned, assigned to this condition for her and our own family's exaltation.
This challenge in my life resulted in a health blessing in which I expressed gratitude for the blessing of her, with no other expectation than allowing God's will to be done. Multiple miracles have come into my life as a result of this sweet daughter of our Heavenly Father. Her mission was not yet accomplished as she had other lives to bless. And so she continues to this day, blessing the lives of others.
In these two sacred and shared experiences, God has taught me the right questions to ask. Both experiences had different outcomes. In times of tribulation man must turn to God instead of away from Him. Our Heavenly Father and the Savior, know our sorrows through that of their own. They are perfectly qualified to know what is best for us. They will always be there when we worthily seek their help.
One explanation to the question, "Why does God not intervene?" is simple, yet profound. If God controlled everything in our life, there would be no freedom of choice. Without free agency, one cannot become a god. There are eternal laws that God decreed, and He has bound Himself to those laws by covenant. He has subjected Himself to those laws, and we are subjected to them as well.
To suppose that the Savior of mankind and our Heavenly Father do not understand our grief, sorrows and struggles, is a display of pure ignorance. One who comes to know the Savior begins to comprehend the depth of his compassion and empathy for our sufferings.
Read: D&C 88:6
I speculate that in "descending below all things," The Great Redeemer experienced the most inconceivable torment and pain. It is my belief that he comprehends the suffering of every mortal soul that has or will live on this earth; even those who will choose to follow Satan and become a son or daughter of perdition to be consigned to outer darkness and eternal damnation. Our King also knows the joys of "ascending above all things", and the glorious reward of eternal and everlasting life. Great comfort should be gained in knowing our Redeemer knows through intimate and personal experience our deepest pains and sorrows. His compassion is perfect, because he is perfect.
There is no man or woman who has ever lived on this earth, or who ever will, that has not or will not experience some form of tribulation. The blessing behind tribulation is the character it can build, and the lessons it teaches us during this mortal probation. The opportunities to excel, grow, and progress are perfected during our personal and individual days of tribulation. It is in these trials that our inner divinity and spiritual character are tested. These are often the times when mortal man becomes closest to God. One receives revelations and the confirmation of the Holy Ghost that God does live and love them. Tribulation is a blessing that leads to perfection.
Read: D&C 112:13, D&C 103:12, D&C 58:2-3
There are many great examples in the scriptures of valiant men who stood tall in the face of adversity. Job of the Old Testament was tested by Satan and lost everything. Nephi was nearly murdered by his brothers. Joseph of the Old Testament was sold into slavery. David slew Goliath with a stone and a sling. Abinadi was encircled by fire, facing off wicked King Noah. Daniel was thrown into the lions' den. Paul of the New Testament was shipwrecked and imprisoned. The Prophet Joseph Smith was repeatedly beaten and incarcerated without cause. Their sufferings stand as a testament of their love for the Savior. Faith in adversity, courage during tribulation, trust in God through their affliction, they accomplished their purpose on earth and sealed their reward in heaven.
What made these great man so fearless and valiant? What were their attitudes like? The scriptures suggest answers.
"Happy is the man whom God correcteth; therefore despise not thou the chastenings of the Almighty: For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole. For he shall deliver thee . . . He is wise in heart; and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? . . . Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him . . . For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth; And though after my skin worms destroy, this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." (Job 5:17-19, Job 9:4, Job 13:15-16, Job 19:25-26)
Job, an amazing and near perfect man, did not blame God for his sufferings. Even though he had lost his family, friends, earthly wealth, and health, he did not murmur against God in his sorrows. Through all of his losses, he looked inward to see what more he could do to reconcile himself before God. In his search for complete repentance, he found hope and trust that one day he would see God and be redeemed through His mercy. The Lord later restored to him, all that he had lost and much more.
Read: 2 Nephi 4:26, 30, 34 What should our attitude be during our trials?
Nephi lived a complete life of faith. Securing the brass plates, building a ship, crossing deserts and oceans, suffering hunger, being beaten and tortured by his brothers, he always turned to the Lord in his sorrows. The Lord always came through for him, just as He will for us. Faith during tribulation is awe inspiring and beautiful.
Read: 1 Nephi 7:12 Faith in trials.
Joseph who was sold into slavery, imprisoned, and later raised to the throne of Egypt, acknowledged these afflictions were part of God's design.
"Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. . . . And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance." (Genesis 45:5, 7)
The courage of David when faced with challenges is depicted in these verses. He put his life in God's hands. We read in the Old Testament this account:
David said moreover, "The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine . . . Then David said to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the army of Israel whom thou hast defied. . . . This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand: and I will smite thee, . . ." (1 Samuel 17:37, 45)
None were more bold than Abinadi, who carried forward God's will with faith and trust, even unto death.
Read: Mosiah 17:9-10 In his own words.
Daniel of the Old Testament had favor with the king and was preferred over presidents and princes. Wicked leaders plotted against Daniel by passing a law preventing the Jews from worship. Daniel refused to put man before God. He prayed to his god anyway. His faith was unshakable, and tested.
"Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." (Daniel 6:10)
Daniel was thrown into a lion's den, which was the punishment as decreed by law. God preserved and protected Daniel. The king, witnessing and acknowledging the miracle of surviving the lion's den then pronounced throughout the land, that Daniel and his people would be allowed to worship their god freely all the days of their lives.
The bold and mighty Apostle Paul of the New Testament suffered dearly in the name of the Savior. He experienced persecution, imprisonment, stoning, beatings, and even a shipwreck. He feared no man and stood as an example to all by,"exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22)
The Apostle Paul's attitude was portrayed in a question.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Romans 8:35)
From December 1838 through April 1839 (4 months) the Prophet Joseph Smith was unlawfully imprisoned in Liberty, Missouri. The winter cold and discomfort in the jail was near unbearable. His treatment by prison guards was unconscionable. This was truly one of the darkest moments in his life. Joseph was not only burdened with his own sufferings, but equally with the sufferings of the Saints. In his anguish, he sought the Lord asking: "Oh God where art thou? . . . "How long shall thy hand be stayed. . . . how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions . . . ?" (D&C 121:1-3)
The Lord gave a brief reply and then unfolded the powerful revelations found in the Doctrine & Covenants Sections 121 and 122.
Read: D&C 121:7-8, 10, D&C 122:5-9
Now is the time to stop and ask: Is my faith strong enough to endure similar hardships?
God's elect must be tried and tested. We all may face one day unseen challenges and persecutions. Without a doubt, many of tribulations will come from wicked men. How will we endure knowing that Lucifer waits to capitalize upon those most vulnerable moments? Will we allow his deceit to determine our destiny? Will our most difficult trials turn us from God or towards Him?
Tribulation can be brought about in many ways: by one's own poor judgment, by the acts of evil men, by Satan's cunning designs, or by natural disasters. Tribulation can last for a moment; it can continue for years, or it can last a lifetime. No matter what the tribulation, our challenge is to learn, endure well, and grow from that experience.
An example of tribulation caused by one's own poor judgment is the accumulation of excessive debt. While attending a Stake Conference in Mesa Arizona in 1995, Elder James Faust presented clear and concise counsel. He started with a question; "Do you know the difference between a rich man and a poor man?" He then answered his question, "A rich man collects interest, and a poor man pays interest."
For that hour he preached from the pulpit, "Avoid debt! If you are in debt, get out of debt!" President Ezra Taft Benson and many general authorities have echoed the same message.
"Avoid debt as if it were the plague!"
I marvel at the lack of obedience on the part of the Saints to this counsel. Now, fifteen years after Elder Faust's address, the prophetic counsel of an apostle has significant meaning. The unprecedented credit availability that flourished through the last three decades making many millionaires, has disappeared and wiped out the fortunes of thousands. This "buy on credit philosophy" has turned around to haunt and impoverish countless lives. The byproduct of this current credit collapse has and will leave many homeless, jobless, and penniless. Society as a whole will now pay the piper for this deceitful philosophy, and unquenchable appetite to satisfy immediate wants.
Excessive debt is usually a result of unbridled wants. Greed, selfishness, and overindulgence has created a societal norm that believes it is okay to "play now, and pay later."
The adversary wants mankind to be in financial bondage and debt. This emotional and mental slavery causes man to focus on the things of this world rather than the things of God. Could Satan have created a better unwanted stress and diversion to occupy man's thoughts away from God and His commandments?
Other tribulations which show poor judgment are based upon disobeying the commandments. "Choosing the right," will always reap rewards. A promise has been made by the Lord, "if you keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land." (2 Nephi 1:20) By following the words of the prophets, we can better prepare for our temporal security.
The financial crisis of 2008-2009 was a tribulation brought on by the evil acts of men. In their uncontrollable desire for further wealth and power, these men of influence invented false financial instruments (credit-swaps & derivatives) which were designed to make a small group of greedy men rich at the expense of the larger population. These corrupt acts have catapulted our country into high unemployment, countless bankruptcies, and a recession that may develop into a depression unlike our generation has ever experienced. Indeed, these acts of greed and dishonor may change the course of history and redesign our country from what we know it as today.
Tribulation is also caused by the Master of Mahan. In his unbelievable power to entice man, he has cast the world into turmoil. Through corruption in government, where countless payoffs and favors are fulfilled through earmarks, and hidden legislative acts, Satan moves his agenda forward with great success. Elder Bruce R. McConkie's writings are prophetic. Quoting him:
"FAMINES, DEPRESSIONS, AND ECONOMIC TURMOIL:-- Because of iniquity and greed in the hearts of men, there will be depressions, famines, and a frantic search for temporal security -- a security sought without turning to the Lord or obeying his precepts. We may expect to see the insatiable desire to get something for nothing result in further class legislation and more socialistic experiments by governments. Economic inequalities will certainly give rise to further class welfare and bickering. There will be riots, bloodshed, hunger, commotion, turmoil, and panics. These are all signs of the times." ("Mormon Doctrine" in 1958, Second edition 1966, Page 729):
The Adversary will also tempt leaders of nations to war against one another in order to foster greater chaos and world dominance. There will be a battles over the resources of world. Lust for power and wealth will rage in the hearts of evil men and they will wreak havoc and suffering upon all mankind. The associated tribulations will be painful and great.
Other tribulations are caused by natural disasters. Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, droughts, floods, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, pestilence, diseases, plagues, famines are occurring in these, the last days, and they will increase. Man must be prepared for such calamities.
The prophets have told us numerous times that these are the last days. They are referring to the period of time before the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Often remarked is a term heard in the church, "Days of Tribulation." The warning is, that as we approach the miraculous events of the future, wickedness will grow and times will become much much harder. We have been told, preceding the second coming a "desolation" will also occur. For scores of years, we have been reminded of prophecy regarding the "Signs of the Times." About thirty years ago, in a 1980 General Conference address, "Prepare For The Days Of Tribulation," Ezra Taft Benson warned of what was to come. Read his words and follow his counsel of warning.
Generation by generation Satan has sought to desensitize the saints into believing that the words of the prophets would not be fulfilled in their own day. The longer we procrastinate, the easier it is for the greatest of liars to deceive us. We have been given guidance and direction in this matter.
The initial church program of preparedness was received by revelation in 1936 and resulted in the church welfare program announced in 1937. Seventy years have passed and the counsel has not changed. To those who have heeded the heavenly direction of this program during times of war, economic turmoil, and natural disasters, it has been a fulfillment of inspired counsel. The program has fostered self-reliance among the saints and has been a source of great comfort and relief to thousands upon thousands throughout the world on all continents.
How firm is your belief in the words of the prophets? If one does believe, then he or she will be obedient to the counsel given. In Elder Benson's talk, members of the church were instructed to have a year's supply of food and supplies in order to survive the difficult days ahead.
It is most important to realize that despite the calamities and upheavals foretold by the prophets, we have not been left without guidance and direction. For it has been promised: ". . . treasure up wisdom in your bosoms. . . if ye are prepared, ye need not fear." (D&C 38:30)
We have been given the tools that we need to be prepared both temporally and spiritually in these last days.