As I sat down to write today, I wondered, what could I possibly have to teach to such a strong and righteous group of people that they don't already know, or that they don't already do. And I answered myself saying nothing. There is nothing I could possibly teach them, for they have taught me.
Then I wondered what I could possibly share with them that could strengthen them or help them through the trying times that we now face. And again, I answered myself saying, nothing, for if ever a people so valiantly have endured it is for sure them.
So I said to myself, what I would like to do is to convince them of their strength, and righteousness; that they may see how the trial of their faith has brought them forward, for they are a humble people and boast not in their hearts but approach their days in a spirit of learning and love; yet, how could I do something like that? Just about everything that I could say to them I have learned because of them. So at a loss as to where to start, I began a study, in hopes that my goal would be met, and you the reader, the listener, would see the impact of the endurance of the trial of your faith, not just upon yourselves, but upon all those whom you come in contact; personally, through social media, in your work and family lives, in the many ways you live your days coming in contact with the children of God.
In my study, I read a passage from Elder Neil L. Andersen Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stating: "Fiery trials are designed to make you stronger, but they have the potential to diminish or even destroy your trust in the Son of God and to weaken your resolve to keep your promises to Him. These trials are often camouflaged, making them difficult to identify. They take root in our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, our sensitivities, or in those things that matter most to us."
I like the way Elder Andersen stated that trials are often camouflaged making them difficult to identify and that the root in our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, sensitivities, or in those things that matter most to us because I think that is the most qualifying trail. We expect to have hard times when we are facing pandemics, facing protests, and the falling apart of our country. We know these things are to come, and we face these trials with great strength and resolve we are valiant in remembering our God, for these trials are prophesied trials, and though, they do take us off guard, we come back and face them knowing that He has our back and come what may, in the end, it will work out for it is in His plan.
But what about those things that are not prophesied, that are not public but personal and hit us below the belt when we least expect it. What about those things that are camouflaged that we don't recognize right away and hit us in the most sensitive spots? How do we endure then? And how do we endure not only then but then during pandemics and war? How do we remain “steadfast and immovable” (Alma 1:25) during a trial of faith when everything hits us all at once, public and private?
As you know, I have spent the past five and a half months living in Iowa to help the family. I left for Iowa with a glad heart and full of my strength ready to face new challenges and serve in whatever way the Lord would desire of me. Little did I know what he desired of me would be a very real and intense trial of my faith.
I found that not only Satan, but personal feelings, things that seem normal and just part of life; can combine against us during tough times, and we may find ourselves in a place of depression, embarrassment, or sorrow; coupled with a feeling of neediness, aloneness, and even despair. These are all the things I felt at one point or another during my time away, and it was a struggle at times to keep my head above water and my heart correctly in the game. I know that we have all been in this place at one time or another, or maybe you are here now, so the question again is, how do we survive.
Elder Anderson also taught that: "When faced with a trial of faith—whatever you do, you don’t step away from the Church! Distancing yourself from the kingdom of God during a trial of faith is like leaving the safety of a secure storm cellar just as the tornado comes into view. It is within the sanctuary of the Church that we protect our faith. Meeting together with others who believe, we pray and find answers to our prayers; we worship through music, share testimony of the Savior, serve one another, and feel the Spirit of the Lord. We partake of the sacrament, receive the blessings of the priesthood, and attend the temple. The Lord declared, “In the ordinances … , the power of godliness is manifest” (D&C 84:20). When you are faced with a test of faith, stay within the safety and security of the household of God. There is always a place for you here. No trial is so large we can’t overcome it together (see Mosiah 18:8–10).
But what if the tornado that hits is a quarantine? How can we face our trials together and not step away from the church when there is no church?
In my time in Iowa, I was a member of a lovely tiny little branch. I had barely gotten started with membership and serving in a new calling when pandemic and quarantine hit and I quickly found myself alone, in the gospel, as my family are not active members. The branch tried but it was small and I didn't hear from anyone aside from email messages from the stake. I had no priesthood in the home to help with sacrament, blessings or other needs and at this time none could be offered as church members were not allowed in the home where I was staying, and as an essential worker my ministering priesthood holder's family was not comfortable with me in their home so, I struggled. Even to keep the Sabbath was a great task as I was caught in the middle of family and faith and I found myself having to make tough choices which at times were very painful and I was filled with all the emotions of despair.
I felt bad because I couldn't partake of the sacrament. And Satan used this to try and make me disappointed with my branch for not being more proactive. But instead of letting that fester, I kicked it out by reading the sacrament prayer to Heavenly Father each week, personally, as if I was participating and praying to Him in a spirit of repentance and gratitude dedicating myself weekly to Him and praying for strength. I also prayed for my little branch, the leadership, and priesthood that they may be strengthened and have the help they need to help others.
I was then hit with aloneness as my little branch didn't really have a social media gathering, a very small number of us posted to the branch page, but there was not "gathering" on zoom, or even through apps. We didn't really communicate other than like buttons and a comment here and there. I tried a couple of times to get something going but it didn't work and so Satan came to tell me I should feel sorry for myself because I was alone and be upset because I had no phone calls to check on me. But it just wasn't right and I couldn't allow myself to feel that way and instead of letting it fester I quickly extinguished the fire by praying for those who would have served me if they could for they too were in a terrible state. I chose to pray mightily making it not about me, but about we, and other than small disappointment I was okay and I felt strengthened and even happy. I found that as I daily immersed myself in scripture study, church history study, and family history I was filled with companionship and I was not alone.
However, the trial was to continue and even grow in intensity as I felt ostracized by my family members who are no longer of my faith. It was a most difficult and trying time as it wasn't expected and took me quite off guard. Sometimes I was picked on with jokes concerning my principles, other times if I mentioned an event or thought I was questioned fiercely concerning church history or doctrine; and at other times I felt raked over the coals for participating or standing for what I believed was true or for what I needed to do. Satan surely came then blasting my thoughts and feelings of defensiveness, despair, pain, and sorrow. However, I just couldn't let him have this one, I had to fight and find a way to blend and love my family without leaving behind the principles I hold dear. After a couple of particularly heated discussions and events, I found myself on my knees praying desperately for help for I was at a complete loss. I was lead to approach my family asking for forgiveness for my defensiveness, and seclusion and I began to serve them, even on the sabbath, in the best way that I could without disrespecting my principles or theirs. Things immediately got better and there began mutual respect that allowed us each to continue to worship at home in our different ways without feeling bad.
But then I felt embarrassed and ashamed. And believe it or not, it was because of the blog that I write for Come Follow Me. After leaving and having my church records transferred and accepting a new calling, I was released by default from the position of Gospel Doctrine Teacher and I struggled greatly with feeling as if I had no right to post a blog when it wasn't my assigned task to do so. Satan came then, in a camouflage, telling me that I might be overstepping my bounds, that I might appear as boasting in myself, or that I might be pushing myself and writings on others when it wasn't my place to do so. This was a great struggle for me and I wrestled with it for many weeks. But Heavenly Father reminded me through my heartfelt prayers that I wasn't writing for fame or blog hits, I was writing for Him and it mattered not whether one person read or many read, that preparing the lesson each week, was like going to church. So each Sunday morning, I prayerfully went to church and wrote the blog, and learned many things and cried, and my heart was filled, and then....I posted it...and prayed that it would help someone else as it had helped me and that I would not be seen as boasting but as a humble student sharing what I had learned so we could all "go to Church" and be connected with the spirit. After this, Many blog hits came, many read and some even commented, liked, and shared and I was greatly humbled for even in quarantine I was able to serve. Then interestingly enough, some weeks later, I had a dream, and in the dream, I was being asked to teach again. The following week, just as I was preparing to come home, I had a phone call and was asked to teach the zoom Gospel Doctrine Class for my homeward; and I cried....
Though I experienced many things in my stay away from home I must say the grand finale was fear. COVID 19 is most definitely a scare tactic and a good one, however, at first I was not fearful for I followed the admonition the Prophet and I was careful with masks and distance and cleaning. I was even blessed with a job where I had little one to one contact with others but for my daughter, it was not so and she and I worried daily of exposure, and then... it came. I had been in direct contact on more than one occasion and my daughter had indirect contact and suddenly, I was terrified, for both of us. What if we were positive, what if we had taken this home to our family, and the what if's kept coming and coming and I began to panic. We started our self-quarantine and qualified for testing and talk about terrifying and traumatic and I am a healthcare worker. Yet I've never experienced anything like what I did with testing and waiting. This one really hit me hard, and the fear was almost overwhelming, with the potential to take me down. I fasted and prayed in a way that I never have before and asked others to pray for us. Overtime my prayers developed into not just a fasting and prayer to be negative and get results quickly but it was for His will. I found that He had given me the strength to accept whatever should come, even though I was scared. I knew he would help me do whatever I had to do and my prayers and fasting grew into not so much for myself but for my daughter and her family that they would be spared. When our test results came in and read negative I cried like I've never cried before for both of us and I was immensely grateful for such a great blessing.
These are just a few of the things I experienced in my time away, they are not grand stories, but they are I think, typical stories of how we are tested and tried in ways that are camouflaged and have the ability to weaken us.
While away I learned how to rely solely on the Lord, for there was no one else. I could not receive a blessing or even treatment for my severe recurrent migraines, yet seeking the priesthood from the Lord through fasting and prayer I was healed. I was spared from sickness, I was spared from harm's way, I was blessed immensely with the things that I needed and even wanted such as acceptance into a nursing program and a huge scholarship to be able to accept. I found that my sole and complete reliance on Christ himself through the father was a game-changer. I found strength, I found joy, I found the ability to not panic, to not be needy, to not have to seek the approval of others, but to live solely through and for Him. I say this because I don't think I had ever solely relied on him in this way for I've always had access to others to lift me up, to care for me, to bless me, to see that my tender feelings were not hurt, to walk me through the many trials of my faith. But this time, it was just me and Him.
So how do we overcome the trial of our faith in troubled times, what do you do when it's just you and the Lord, and all things are hitting us at once. We go to church, even when we can't. We humble ourselves in heartfelt, meaningful prayer, and/or fasting. We communicate with others of our faith, of our wards and branches, and participate in zoom meetings or other activities given to us for our benefit in survival. We find a base to hold onto by having meaningful scripture study, and not just a read through, for we are in the times where one cannot stand on the testimony of others, we must have our own to survive particularly in a new world of social distancing and war.
During this time I prayed to Father in Heaven to overcome my feelings of low self-worth and self-esteem, I prayed to overcome the neediness I felt and to be strong in service to others, I had to remember that the Lord wants us to be happy. He doesn’t “play tricks” on us to get us to doubt the gospel. Choosing to choose the right in a time of turmoil and adversity will make us happy, It made me happy. It made me humble, it made me grateful, it made me stronger. It renewed in me the spirit of the Holy Ghost that I had a baptism and I became again even a new woman.
How do you remain “steadfast and immovable” during a trial of faith? You immerse yourself in the very things that helped build your core of faith: you exercise faith in Christ, you pray, you ponder the scriptures, you repent, you attend church, even in quarantine and take the sacrament even if/when you can't. You keep the commandments, and you serve others to the best of your ability. This is what we need to focus on today, this is our future, for the trials will surely keep coming, and we must overcome that we may be perfected and stand strong.
I testify to you that God is real, Jesus Christ is His Son, and they love you. If we remain steadfast in following the admonition of His prophet and remain true to the gospel principles we will have safety, peace, and even joy, regardless of our circumstances.
How to Face Trials