ARLINGTON, TEXAS — As individuals confront trials and tribulations they must not shrink, retreat or recoil, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said during a Church Educational System devotional for young adults held in Texas Hall on the University of Texas at Arlington campus.
"Many of the lessons we are to learn in mortality can only be received through the things we experience and sometimes suffer," he said. "And God expects and trusts us to face temporary mortal adversity with His help so we can learn what we need to learn and ultimately become what we are to become in eternity."
Elder Bednar shared an experience he had while president of BYU-Idaho, when he and his wife, Susan, hosted Elder Neal A. Maxwell and his wife as they visited the university's campus. Earlier in that same year, Elder Maxwell had gone through debilitating chemotherapy for leukemia, causing his physical strength and stamina to be limited during the visit.
"During the course of our conversations that day, I asked Elder Maxwell what lessons he had learned through his illness," Elder Bednar said. "I will remember always the precise and penetrating answer he gave. 'Dave,' he said, 'I have learned that not shrinking is more important than surviving.'"
It is often during difficult experiences — sometimes filled with pain and trial — that individuals are able to build character, purify their heart and expand their soul as they gain the education they came to earth to acquire, Elder Bednar taught.
"The Savior did not shrink in Gethsemane or Golgotha," he said. "Elder Maxwell also did not shrink. This mighty apostle pressed forward steadfastly and was blessed with additional time in mortality to love, to serve, to teach and to testify. Those concluding years of his life were an emphatic exclamation point to his example of devoted discipleship — through both his words and his deeds."
Just as Elder Maxwell faced tribulations with an understanding of God's plan of happiness, grace and dignity, so can all valiant Latter-day Saints around the world, Elder Bednar said.
Elder Bednar shared a story of a young couple who, only three weeks after getting married, the husband was diagnosed with bone cancer. Through their experience they have learned spiritually vital lessons about not shrinking, and about allowing their individual will to be swallowed up in the will of the Father.
Elder Bednar told of an experience that happened as he visited them in the hospital where he was prompted to ask the young man if he had the faith not to be healed. Surprised by the questions he asked, Elder Bednar felt that as he counseled with the couple an understanding came and that if God's will were for the good of the young man to be healed, then that blessing could only be received if the valiant couple first had the faith not to be healed.
"In other words, [they] needed to overcome, through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, the 'natural man' tendency in all of us to demand impatiently and insist incessantly on the blessings we want and believe we deserve," he said. "We recognized a principle that applies to every devoted disciple: strong faith in the Savior is submissively accepting of His will and timing in our lives — even if the outcome is not what we hoped for or wanted," he said.
It is through allowing faith in Jesus Christ and a complete submission to His will that individuals are able to find greater comfort and peace, he said. Righteousness and faith are instrumental in moving mountains — if moving mountains accomplishes God's purposes and is in accordance with His will.
"Even with strong faith, many mountains will not be moved," he said. "And not all of the sick and infirmed will be healed. If all opposition were curtailed, if all maladies were removed, then the primary purposes of the Father's plan would be frustrated."
It is through trusting in the Lord's will and timing — like the young couple and Elder Maxwell — that individuals will learn essential lessons for eternity as they work through affliction and hardship.
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"This young man and young woman were blessed in extraordinary ways to learn essential lessons for eternity through affliction and hardship. ... [They] are just like so many of you, [as they] came to understand that not shrinking is more important than surviving. Thus, their experience was not primarily about living and dying; rather, it was about learning, living and becoming."
Sister Bednar also addressed the young adults of the Church. She spoke of having the ears to hear the word of the Lord, the eyes to see his plan, the feet to follow His path and the heart to understand the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
"The atonement of Jesus Christ strengthens us to do hard things, things we don't think we can do when we don't understand God's will and timing in our lives," she said.