Long-suffering, or patience in affliction, is perhaps given less attention than other core Christian virtues. The Book of Mormon, however, provides insight into the relationship between this Christlike attribute and other virtues. Alma 7:23 reads, “And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.”
The Book of Mormon prophet King Benjamin also connects this attribute with others when he describes the characteristics of a saint as someone who “becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
Yet, its importance is perhaps best understood by examining the lives of those who demonstrate it. For example, a mother of a large family, in the middle of raising her children, demonstrated this virtue after receiving a diagnosis of a serious form of cancer.
Initially, she recalled, the news hit her hard. In the days immediately after being diagnosed, she felt adrift in her fears. Tears were constantly simmering beneath the surface as she contemplated the “what ifs” of her circumstances. What kind of pain and discomfort would she have to endure during treatments? Would there be permanent side effects? Would the treatments even be successful? What kind of effect would this have on her husband and children? And — worst of all — would she be able to continue raising her children? All of these questions and many more overwhelmed her. She pleaded with the Lord to be healed from this infirmity.
After much prayer, fasting and several priesthood blessings, the Lord revealed to this mother that it was not His will that she be immediately healed but there was purpose in this affliction. He also let her know that she was not alone and that He was aware of her struggles and her needs.
Reassured of God’s love for her, she made the decision to trust in His plan. Peace calmed her troubled heart. Grounding herself in her faith in the Savior, she was able to face the ensuing weeks, months and years of invasive and often painful surgeries, procedures and treatments with a serenity and strength that bolstered and comforted her family.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained, “Patience means accepting that which cannot be changed and facing it with courage, grace, and faith. It means being ‘willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father’ (Mosiah 3:19). Ultimately, patience means being ‘firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord’ (1 Nephi 2:10) every hour of every day, even when it is hard to do so” (“Continue in Patience,” April 2010 general conference).
The sons of Mosiah demonstrated a similar patience and submissiveness as they began their mission to the Lamanites and left the luxuries of home to preach the gospel to a people who had long hated their people. The Lord promised them if they would “be patient in long-suffering and afflictions” then He would “make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls” (Alma 17:11). Ammon later described the deprivations suffered by his brethren, “for behold they were naked, and their skins were worn exceedingly because of being bound with strong cords. And they also had suffered hunger, thirst, and all kinds of afflictions; nevertheless they were patient in all their sufferings” (Alma 20:29). Through their ministry eventually thousands of Lamanites repented and accepted the gospel.
In Doctrine and Covenants 24:8, God instructs us to “be patient in afflictions for thou shalt have many.” But He adds the comforting promise, “for lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.”
Those that do so recognize with deep gratitude and joy the patience, goodness and longsuffering of our Heavenly Father. The mother stricken of cancer, many years later, bore powerful witness to her posterity of the many tender mercies given to her from the Lord during her experiences.
Ammon, after 14 years of preaching to the Lamanites, outlined in detail the many afflictions suffered by him and his brothers, saying “we have suffered every privation we have been cast out, and mocked, and spit upon, and smote upon our cheeks; and we have been stoned, and taken and bound with strong cords, and cast into prison” (Alma 20:28-29). Yet, just six verses later, he pronounced, “Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name. Yea, blessed is the name of my God” (Alma 20:35-36).
The greatest example of patience in afflictions, of course, is found in the life of Jesus Christ. Elder Robert C. Oaks, then of the Presidency of the Seventy, said in his October 2006 conference address, “[Christ’s] long-suffering and endurance are best demonstrated on that excruciating night in Gethsemane as He uttered, in His atoning agony, ‘O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt’ (Matthew 26:39). He truly suffered and bore and endured all things.
“While nailed to the cross on Calvary, Christ continued in His perfect example of patience as He uttered the singular words, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34).
“These examples of patience have greater meaning for us when we consider the admonition found in 3 Nephi: ‘Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am’ (3 Nephi 27:27)” (“The Power of Patience,” Ensign, October 2006).
The LDS Church News is an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The publication's content supports the doctrines, principles and practices of the Church.