You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in any situation you are in—just as Joseph received beautiful, comforting revelation in the “prison-temple” of Liberty Jail.
Read the speech here:
Read more about Jeffrey R. Holland here:
Read more on overcoming adversity here:
Jeffrey R. Holland was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this CES fireside address was given on 7 September 2008.
© Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved
Complete volumes of Speeches are available wherever LDS books are sold.
“Now then, three lessons from Liberty Jail: May I suggest that the first of these is inherent in what I’ve already said—that everyone, including (and perhaps especially) the righteous, will be called upon to face trying times. When that happens we can sometimes fear God has abandoned us, and we might be left, at least for a time, to wonder when our troubles will ever end. As individuals, as families, as communities, and as nations, probably everyone has had or will have an occasion to feel as Joseph Smith felt when he asked why such sorrow had to come and how long its darkness and damage would remain. We identify with him when he cries from the depth and discouragement of his confinement:
O God, where art thou? . . .
How long shall thy hand be stayed . . . ?
Yea, O Lord, how long shall [thy people] suffer . . . before . . . thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them? [D&C 121:1–3]
That is a painful, personal cry—a cry from the heart, a spiritual loneliness we may all have occasion to feel at some time in our lives.
Perhaps you have had such moments already in your young lives. If so, I hope you have not had too many. But whenever these moments of our extremity come, we must not succumb to the fear that God has abandoned us or that He does not hear our prayers. He does hear us. He does see us. He does love us. When we are in dire circumstances and want to cry “Where art Thou?” it is imperative that we remember He is right there with us—where He has always been! We must continue to believe, continue to have faith, continue to pray and plead with heaven, even if we feel for a time our prayers are not heard and that God has somehow gone away. He is there. Our prayers are heard. And when we weep He and the angels of heaven weep with us.
When lonely, cold, hard times come, we have to endure, we have to continue, we have to persist. That was the Savior’s message in the parable of the importuning widow (see Luke 18:1–8; see also Luke 11:5–10). Keep knocking on that door. Keep pleading. In the meantime, know that God hears your cries and knows your distress. He is your Father, and you are His child.
When what has to be has been and when what lessons to be learned have been learned, it will be for us as it was for the Prophet Joseph. Just at the time he felt most alone and distant from heaven’s ear was the very time he received the wonderful ministration of the Spirit and wonderful, glorious answers that came from his Father in Heaven. Into this dismal dungeon and this depressing time, the voice of God came, saying:
My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. [D&C 121:7–8]
Even though seemingly unjust circumstances may be heaped upon us and even though unkind and unmerited things may be done to us—perhaps by those we consider enemies but also, in some cases, by those whom we thought were friends—nevertheless, through it all, God is with us. That is why we had our marvelous choir sing tonight Sarah Adams’ traditional, old Christian hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee” with that seldom-sung fourth verse, which they sang so beautifully:
Out of my stony griefs
Bethel I’ll raise;
So by my woes to be
Nearer, my God, to thee.12
We are not alone in our little prisons here. When suffering, we may in fact be nearer to God than we’ve ever been in our entire lives. That knowledge can turn every such situation into a would-be temple.
Regarding our earthly journey, the Lord has promised:
I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up. [D&C 84:88]
That is an everlasting declaration of God’s love and care for us, including—and perhaps especially—in times of trouble.” – Jeffrey R. Holland