“All we can hope for is for God to bring us home.” (Thanks, Stephen.)

July 3, 2008
By

1) There is a man in my ward who is a dean at a major college in our area. He is a brilliant scholar in his field, and he has served as a Bishop and in a Stake Presidency. He also is one of the most humble men I have ever met. A couple of years ago, one of his adult daughters died in a freakish surgery accident – totally unexpected – leaving behind a husband and an infant daughter.

In a Priesthood lesson a few months ago, we were discussing “things I’ve learned in life” – everyone taking turns sharing something with everyone else. He said something that broke my heart – that I am sure I will never forget. This brilliantly humble man, whose Gospel knowledge blows us all away but who sits quietly throughout most lessons and just listens, said:

“I have learned that our deepest and most difficult trials can bring us closer to God than anything else can. I am profoundly grateful for that lesson; I just wish I had not had to learn it the way I did.

2) In high school, I was blessed to sing for David Dahlquist, one of the most impressive musicians and directors I have ever met. (A song he wrote – “Lullaby” – took second place in the 1980 All-Church Music Contest.)

“Mr. D” had numerous opportunities to leave our little farm community school and pursue a career at the college level and beyond. He stayed, however, because he simply loved touching kids’ hearts and helping them find glory and majesty in music. The sheer joy and rapture on his face when a song “clicked” with his students was wonderful to behold. He touched more lives directly and profoundly in his 30 years as a teacher than perhaps anyone else in the history of the towns that feed into that high school. Other than my father, he probably is the one teacher who has been the greatest inspirational example in my life.

His and his wife’s story is told in the September, 2002 Ensign – (”In a Quiet House”). It illustrates Dave and Maria Elena amazingly well. What it doesn’t mention is that Mr. D served as a Bishop and as a Stake President during some of the time (the last few years) the story details. Their story will break your heart and fill your soul.

Please read it now at the link above. (This post will still be here when you are done. Really, go ahead and read it before moving on here. Don’t keep reading this; read it first.)

As difficult as it is to understand and accept experiences like these, I am inspired by our ability to rise above anything that happens in our lives by holding fast to a faith – any faith – that allows us to see the good even in the trials that break our hearts. Stephen is an inspiration to me. As he said so eloquently elsewhere, “All we can hope for is for God to bring us home.” I am grateful for that faith and that hope – and I pray that I will not have to learn the lessons my friend and Mr. D learned in the same way they did as God works to bring me home. 

(Please pardon a personal request: Mr.D retired a few years ago, and a scholarship fund was established in his name to help an exceptional student each year who sings at Payson High School pursue his or her college career. If you know of anyone who can read his story and bring this fund to a greater audience – or bring it to someone who can endow it to provide a regular scholarship off of the interest, I will be eternally grateful.)

  • Just for Quix

    I have learned that our deepest and most difficult trials can bring us closer to God than anything else can. I am profoundly grateful for that lesson; I just wish I had not had to learn it the way I did.

    I wish I had arrived to where I am with much less heartache. That our marriage and family would be strong and vital without all we’ve been though. Yet, I don’t curse the personal growth and faith that has come in the wake. Neither would I give back to God if all it meant is that I wouldn’t have had to endure that pain. Maybe it is good I lived through so I could look back with these eyes. At the time I could see nothing better than to mourn my sadness and death and wish my life weren’t my own.

    Thank you for touching post, Ray.

  • Jeff Spector

    You have to admire a family who has been through all they endured to be able to put things in the proper perspective and be able to continue forward. It is no less than the miracle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that enables that. These people are examples of true saints for enduring that heartbreak and coming out stronger. It certainly makes my difficulties seem small.

    Thank you, Ray and the Dahlquists.

  • http://www.ldscooperative.com/ Stephen Wellington

    Great Post Ray…inspirational and heart warming.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Just to be clear, I should add that it was Stephen Marsh whom I quoted in the post. Sorry, Stephen W to shoot down anyone who thought you were profound. *grin*

  • http://radiobeloved.wordpress.com/ Neal Davis

    I’m always uncomfortably specific to pray for humility “because of the word”, hoping against hope to learn these lessons in the easiest way possible, if there is such a way. But the gospel is ultimately about steeling yourself and transforming…

    Thank you for these thoughts. I just watched “Emma Smith: My Story” in the dollar theater in Provo today, and trials are thick on my mind.

  • http://www.fulness.com Spektator

    This is an incredible story of Christ-like patience and compassion. Kristiana, at an age when most young people have a hard time seeing anyone’s needs but their own, shows a remarkable maturity in her service for Rebekah. Wonderful post, Ray.

    Perhaps something for another thread. As I pondered upon the story, I was struck by the contrast between the life experiences of the people in this story. David, Maria Elena and Kristiana with full faculties placed in an environment where the limits of compassion and perseverance are tested. On the other side, Rebekah, Jenny, Ryan, and Sean limited in their capacity to comprehend any of life’s glories or challenges move from day to day trapped in a body which offers little in the way of ‘spiritual processing capacity.’

    Moroni teaches us the ‘little children are alive in Christ’ and do not need repentance nor baptism. He teaches that a little child that dies before they are able to comprehend the meaning of the gospel is saved. The question is: Does 21-year-old Sean represent a little child?

    We are given experiences by which we can develop those attributes that God exhibits. David and Maria has been given the opportunity to demonstrate patience and compassion for decades as they raised four children who required much. Jenny, for her entire life remained ‘as a child’ and was not capable of experiencing the trials and tests that most of us are confronted with day by day.

    Do Rebekah, Jenny, and Ryan simply ‘sail through’ to the Celestial kingdom? Will they stand next to those struggled and prevailed in life’s challenges? Will God bestow upon them the same glory and honor as those whose lives endured significant choices and consequences? Will they be raised during the Millennium absent of the temptor’s power and is that a reasonable substitute for a life of learning?

    What does it mean in this context when the scriptures state that ‘this life is the time to prepare to meet God?’ That we work out our salvation with fear and trembling?

    While, on the surface, the teachings of the Church are comforting relative to those who die without knowledge or experience, a deeper analysis leaves one questioning just what is expected. Our life experiences shape our soul. Joseph Smith taught that life’s bumps and bruises are intended to produce a polished shaft for the Lord’s quiver. Yes, I know the pat answer that we don’t know and that the Lord will provide. Perhaps it is that I am no longer satisfied with the sound byte response to deep questions.

  • http://www.ldsaliveinchrist.com Jared

    Ray–thanks for this post. It is wonderful to learn of faithful Saints overcoming great challenges. It helps each of us realize what we’re capable of when we’re determined to follow the Savior.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    The post moved me. I’m actually in town for the first time in years, with computer access on a 4th of July weekend. I’m glad I read the post and the link.

  • wayfarer

    I sometimes wonder about the eastern approach to life-that it is our role as human beings to accept whatever Allah sends us,as opposed to the western-of fighting for life.I just can’t seem to find the serenity to be somewhere in between.SpektatorI’m with you,and yet I cannot imagine an adequate answer .
    The only thing I know that helps is speaking with others who can tolerate life’s ironies,knowing that many of our trials are truly Abrahamic.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Spektator and wayfarer (#6 & #8) – I agree that it’s hard to understand when you sit and contemplate the “deeper” issues. In some ways, I think Stephen nailed the deepest issue in his statement, “All we can hope for is for God to bring us home.” There really is something deep and profound in what we term “simple faith” in and “simple acceptance” of our trials. I don’t understand it fully, but I am grateful for the examples I see around me from those who have faced great obstacles and trials and shown me that reconciliation is possible – and actually ennobling.

  • http://adventures-in-mormonism.com bfwebster

    I’m the ward mission leader currently and teach the Gospel Essentials class in our ward. Our lesson last week was on faith in Christ, and I taught it from the perspective of someone who has been through an unwanted (and heartbreaking) divorce, unemployment, bankruptcy and foreclosure, as well as a number of other trials (including having several currently inactive adult children). What I told my class was that Christ makes no promises as to what we will experience or be spared in this life; all He promises is that He will be waiting for us on the other side of whatever we are called to pass through. And that He always keeps His promises. ..bruce..

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    What does it mean in this context when the scriptures state that ‘this life is the time to prepare to meet God?’ That we work out our salvation with fear and trembling?

    Those of us who need the work, need the work and ought to pay attention to it and to avoiding going the other way.

    Those who don’t need the work, obviously don’t need the work.

  • http://www.fulness.com Spektator

    #12 Stephen

    I have always been intrigued by the scripture. However, I think people stop reading too soon. Here is something that may point to the ‘rest of the story from Alma 34:’

    “32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
    33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.”

    Reading on into verse 33, one finds an interesting conditional clause:

    “IF we do not improve our time while in this life, THEN comes the night wherein there can be no labor performed.”

    Does this suggest the following – if we improve our time in this life we can perform labor following our ‘day?’ but if we don’t, we are ‘dammed’ as in stopped from progress?

    I have a copy of the first edition of Talmadge’s Articles of Faith which includes a reference to progression from kingdom to kingdom. I guess it didn’t meet with the brethren’s approval at the time because it was removed in the second edition.

    I suspect that there is more to the story. I emphatically support the idea that the gospel was intended to prepare us to become like Him. I doubt that any of us could reach that lofty goal in the span of a few decades. If I can use myself as an example, I didn’t really ‘wake up’ until my time was short…

    As I analyze the alternatives, I can see at least two options. The first is that we do have the opportunity to progress after this life and continue to develop that characteristics of God as a spirit, the idea expressed by James Talmadge. The second would be the concept of multiple mortal probations, something found in places like the Journal of Discourses. In my opinion, either idea does not run counter to the compassion of a loving God.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Spektator, you’ve just articulate very well why I think we still see the eternities through a glass, darkly. There are so many versions of our concept of eternal progression in other non-Western religions that I am blown away when I contemplate the subtle differences that each teach the same basic principle.

    Compared to the orthodox Christian concept of the nature of life (which I see as astoundingly simple and lacking in the need for any kind of deep faith whatsoever), concepts of eternal progression – in their various manifestations – are so much more inspiring and edifying and stimulating and faith-based that it’s like comparing apples and green beans.

  • http://www.fulness.com Spektator

    #11 bruce

    “Christ makes no promises as to what we will experience or be spared in this life; all He promises is that He will be waiting for us on the other side of whatever we are called to pass through. And that He always keeps His promises.”

    While this sounds like something I would hear in Gospel Doctrine class, I do take issue with your statement “all He promises is that He will be waiting for us on the other side.” Christ DOES make a promise to us in this life. It goes like this:

    “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

    Those who teach that we can receive no comfort in this life negate the gospel. Christ taught ‘come unto me’ repeatedly:

    “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

    “For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

    Christ does offer us more than just a ‘promise’ of something good after this life. He can make our burdens light just as he did for Alma and his people in Mosiah 24. That is the core purpose of the gospel; the message that we can ‘come onto Him’ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and receive of Him comfort and a pure heart.

  • http://www.fulness.com Spektator

    “14
    So, Ray…
    Which are the apples and which are the green beans?

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    I’m planning a post on that, Spektator, now that it has come up. So, just a tease here – no answers. :)

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    a reference to progression from kingdom to kingdom

    Probably based on a sermon of the same that explains that the Terrestrial kingdom is like the moon because it waxes and wanes as it fills and empties of those who are progressing through it.