THE USES OF ADVERSITY, by Carlfred Broderick, Deseret Book, 58 pages, $10.95.
Carlfred Broderick, a professor of sociology at the University of Southern California and a marriage counselor, also served as an LDS stake president. A few years ago, he delivered an address about adversity at Brigham Young University's annual women's conference. Now that address is published as a small but religiously powerful book.
Ironically, Broderick suffered his own bout with cancer and died in 1999 at the age of 67.
In these rich pages, he deals with the classic religious question with which people of all faiths wrestle: What do you say to people who suffer what seems unfair, even endless suffering? Why do so many people suffer almost unspeakable trials?
Using anecdotes from his own experience and throwing in a light touch reminiscent of LDS Apostle Matthew Cowley, also an impressive speaker, Broderick provides examples of people he has known who suffered.
He said, "The gospel of Jesus Christ is not insurance against pain. It is resource in event of pain, and when that pain comes (and it will come because we came here on Earth to have pain among other things), when it comes, rejoice that you have resource to deal with your pain."
In Broderick's opinion, people come to live on an unjust Earth, where there is "pain and grief and sorrow." Broderick asserted that he personally hated pain, injustice and loss. "But we came to a world where we are not protected from those things."
When giving blessings to people who were suffering in various ways, Broderick said "the Lord taught" him things he did not know. One was a woman who made a bad choice for a husband, someone Broderick knew would bring her misery. So, when she asked him for a blessing, he thought to himself that she had almost "asked for this."
But he gave her a tender blessing anyway because he was prompted to express godly love to her. She continued to deal as effectively as she could with her problems, and he came to believe that in a pre-existent state she had chosen to "live in the trenches" so she could help others.
Once, Broderick was out of the country having finished a professional workshop, so he decided to nap in the middle of the day. He "curled into bed and thought how deliciously wicked it was to be sleeping in the middle of the day."
Then a church leader called his hotel and requested that he offer counsel to a troubled young woman. She told him a sad story about the abuse she suffered growing up, saying her father told her she would always be "a sow's ear." During a long chat, he was able to help her recover her self-esteem.
There are several other instructive anecdotes told in the most charismatic way. Broderick was concerned that church leaders not give young people the wrong idea that if people live a good life, God will bless them with perfect spouses and children and they will "all stick to the yellow brick road and live in Oz."Instead, he wrote, "God sustains us in our pain ... and we are safe in his love."