Elder Bednar Counsels Those Facing Adversity to “Shrink Not”
By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer
When faced with trials or tribulations in life, devoted disciples of Jesus Christ can learn “spiritually vital lessons about not shrinking,” said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve during a Church Educational System devotional on March 3.
Elder Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, spoke to young adults around the world from Texas Hall, University of Texas at Arlington campus. The devotional was translated into 39 different languages.
“Many of the lessons we are to learn in mortality can only be received through the things we experience and sometimes suffer,” he taught. “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.”
While serving as president of Brigham Young University–Idaho, Elder Bednar hosted Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Sister Colleen Maxwell, on campus. Elder Maxwell had limited physical strength and stamina after going through debilitating chemotherapy for leukemia earlier that year.
“During the course of our conversations that day, I asked Elder Maxwell what lessons he had learned through his illness,” Elder Bednar stated. “I will remember always the precise and penetrating answer he gave: ‘I have learned that not shrinking is more important than surviving.’”
Sharing scriptures from Doctrine and Covenants 19 “concerning the Savior’s suffering as He offered the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice,” Elder Bednar reminded those listening that “the Savior did not shrink in Gethsemane or Golgotha.”
During difficult experiences—often filled with pain and suffering—character is built, hearts are purified, and souls are enlarged as individuals gain experience and spiritual tutoring, Elder Bednar explained. 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, Elder Bednar assured, as they “shrink not” and allow their individual will to be “swallowed up in the will of the Father” (Mosiah 15:7).
Describing a faithful young couple, married only three weeks when the husband was diagnosed with bone cancer, Elder Bednar related several journal entries written by them. They expressed the “eternally important lessons” learned through the difficult and challenging experiences associated with the cancer.
Elder Bednar told of visiting this couple in the hospital, being asked to give a priesthood blessing, and asking the husband an unplanned but inspired question. “If it is the will of our Heavenly Father, do you have the faith not to be healed?”
As Elder Bednar counseled with this faithful couple, they “increasingly understood” that a blessing of healing could only be received if they had the faith not to be healed and were “willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [them]” (Mosiah 3:19).
“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,” Elder Bednar explained. “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.”
Elder Bednar shared the words of the young husband from his journal: “Having faith is not necessarily knowing that God would heal me, but that He could heal me. I had to believe that He could, and then whether it happened was up to Him. As I allowed those two ideas to coexist in my life, focused faith in Jesus Christ and complete submission to His will, I found greater comfort and peace.”
Elder Bednar then instructed, “Even with strong faith, many mountains will not be moved. 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.”
Trusting in the Lord’s will and timing is essential, he said. “This story is both ordinary and extraordinary. This young couple is representative of millions of faithful, covenant-keeping Latter-day Saints all over the world who are pressing forward along the strait and narrow path with steadfast faith in Christ and a perfect brightness of hope.” Elder Bednar emphasized: “They were not serving in highly visible leadership positions in the Church, they were not related to General Authorities, and sometimes they had doubts and fears. In many of these aspects, their story is quite ordinary. But this young man and young woman were blessed in extraordinary ways to learn essential lessons for eternity through affliction and hardship. … 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 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.
“Many young adults become disillusioned, disheartened, and discouraged because events they thought would happen in their lives have not yet occurred,” she said. “Some mistakenly believe that if God hasn’t given them the happiness or blessings they were hoping for or thought they deserve, that He doesn’t care. To show their displeasure with God, some lose faith, dishonor covenants, put their trust in worldly pleasures, and turn from God to self. Instead of having feet to follow the path of righteousness, they deviate from the gospel plan, wander off, and become lost. We all know someone who is off the path.” Sister Bednar continued, “We can feel God’s love in our lives as we see the positive reaction of many as we reach out to serve and rescue.”
Individuals will find answers and feel the love and concern the Lord has for each one by following His path—clearly marked by the teachings of prophets, seers, and revelators. She emphasized, “We’ll feel His love and concern and have increased courage and steady feet to follow in His path now and forever.”
Individuals must also develop a heart to understand the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
“To me, the Atonement of Jesus Christ provides individual comfort and powerful evidence of God’s love for us,” Sister Bednar said. “It strengthens us to do hard things, things we don’t think we can do. It helps us hold on when we do not understand God’s will and timing in our lives.”