For part of last year I participated in the General Conference Odyssey, but had to stop because of time constraints and other priorities. The project is ongoing and in 2017 I will be attempting to contribute again as time permits.
My previous contributions can be found here. Posts by other bloggers writing about the April 1975 General Conference today are linked at the end of this post. You can also visit the project group on Facebook.
Today we are writing about the Friday Morning Session of the April 1975 Conference.
In 1975, Elder Marion D. Hanks was an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He had previously served in England as mission president. Serving under his direction in England were young Elders Jeffrey R. Holland and Quentin L. Cook, both of whom are now Apostles.
In April 1975, Elder Hanks gave a wonderful sermon on trusting the Lord through affliction. He taught that “Faith is confidence and trust in the character and purposes of God.”
He recognizes that there is a “siren song of invitation to ‘curse God and die’—die spiritually, die as to things pertaining to righteousness, die to hope and holiness and faith…” But Elder Hanks emphasizes that he is not just speaking abstractly. He points to the inspiring examples of goodness, courage, and kindness in our own communities and neighborhoods that go unsung and unreported by a media the focuses on the sensational. But the unsung heroes he cites are not those who escaped suffering through faith, but those who “have met difficulties with courage…who had little but ingenuity and will and courage and faith” even as they continue to suffer.
Where does their strength to endure, rather than escape suffering come from? He declares that “as life supplies its store of tribulation we need the consolation that comes with knowing that God is good and that he is near, that he understands, and that he loves us and will help us and strengthen us for the realities of a world where sin and affliction exist. […] Comfort came to them in the quiet knowledge of the nearness of a Savior who himself had not been spared the most keen and intense suffering, who himself had drunk of the bitter cup.”
The Jews looked for a Messiah that would save them from the oppression of Roman rule. But Christ came to save them from sin and death while still leaving them under the control of their oppressors. Sometimes we do the same thing when we look for a savior from our suffering. Elder Hanks recognizes that the “solutions that we wish and pray for do not always come about.” But he points that that the“power that remade Paul, that poured in love and washed out hostility and hate, did not save him from the great travails, from Nero’s dungeon or a martyr’s death. Christ lived in him, he said, he had found the peace of God that passed all comprehension. Nothing, not tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, nor any other creature, could separate him from the love of Christ…” Paul was not saved from tribulation, but from sin and hate.
That does not mean, however, that God will not help us in our afflictions. Small miracles will happen when we follow the promptings of the Spirit. Elder Hanks relates the story of a farmer who wanted to be able to help his daughter serve a mission. As he prayed, the Holy Spirit prompted him to plant onions:
“He thought he had misunderstood. Onions would not likely grow in this climate, others were not growing onions, he had no experience growing onions. After wrestling with the Lord for a time, he was again told to plant onions. So he borrowed money, purchased seeds, planted and nurtured and prayed. The elements were tempered, the onion crop prospered. He sold the crop, paid his debts to the bank and the government and the Lord, and put the remainder in an account under her name—enough to supply her wants on a mission.”
Elder Hanks reminds us of the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk who in anguish felt that he could bear anything if he could only understand the divine purpose in what was happening. We all may feel like him in our difficulties. But, said Elder Hanks, “the ancient prophet learned that the righteous live by faith and that faith is not an easy solution to life’s problems. Faith is confidence and trust in the character and purposes of God.”
“Our religion … can carry us through the dark times, the bitter cup. It will be with us in the fiery furnace and the deep pit. It will accompany us to the hospital room and to the place of bereavement. It can guarantee us the presence of a Captain on the rough voyage. It is, in short, not the path to easy disposition of problems, but the comforting assurance of the eternal light, by which we may see, and the eternal warmth, which we may feel.”
If we will submit to the Lord as a humble child, he will captain us and comfort us through the storms. But it requires trust in His goodness and purposes.
Other bloggers writing about the Friday Morning Session of the April 1975 General Conference today: