Why are some physical infirmities allowed to persist despite our faith, prayers, and the power of the priesthood to heal us?
Response by , producer in the Church’s Audiovisual Department, Development and Production Division.
President Spencer W. Kimball taught that if all who are physically afflicted were immediately healed following prayers and blessings, our Heavenly Father’s plan would be annulled and the gospel principle of moral agency would be thwarted (see Faith Precedes the Miracle , 97).
Without suffering, sorrow, disappointment, and death, he said, there would be no joy, success, resurrection, eternal life, or godhood. “If we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors.
Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery. The sufferings of our Savior were part of his education” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, 98).
As a child, I had little understanding of the lessons that my Heavenly Father had in store for me. All I knew was that I hated being a stutterer. Speaking was an arduous task, and I often sat in terror thinking that a teacher in school or church might call on me to speak in class.
A speech therapist told me that I would probably stutter my whole life. As I grew older, I prayed and fasted that such would not be the case. I longed to have my tongue loosed so that by the time I became a full-time missionary “I might go forth and speak with the trump of God” (Alma 29:1).
To my disappointment, when I was a missionary in Mexico my stuttering became even worse in Spanish. I could not help but feel that the “trump” through which I shared the gospel was defective. But out of that pain grew a peace that assured me I was not alone and that something much deeper than my halting speech was being communicated.
I have come to realize that the Lord has His own purposes for giving us physical infirmities, and sometimes being released from them involves more than the exercise of faith, prayer, and priesthood power. The Lord Jesus Christ has said, “He that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed” (D&C 42:48). It may be that some physical infirmities are appointed unto us for our experience and ultimate good (see D&C 122:7) and that total healing in this life is not expedient. Also, by virtue of being appointed to mortality, we have undoubtedly agreed to accept what nature and genetics might give us. President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has said:
“We must work out our salvation without expecting the laws of nature to be exempted for us. Natural law is, on rare occasions, suspended in a miracle. But mostly our handicapped, like the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, wait endlessly for the moving of the water.
“… If healing does not come in mortal life, it will come thereafter. Just as the gorgeous monarch butterfly emerges from a chrysalis, so will spirits emerge” (“The Moving of the Water,” Ensign, May 1991, 8, 9).
Although we do not always understand the blessings that can come from infirmities, we need to remember that “all things [are] done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things” (2 Ne. 2:24). We may continue to be afflicted with a certain infirmity and yet know that according to our faith and His wisdom, the Lord will bless us in our time of need.
I still struggle to control my stuttering. But today I see that my struggle prepared me for my work in helping people express something deeper than words through motion pictures produced by the Church. I thank my Heavenly Father for spiritual growth I would have ignorantly rejected.
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted,” said Elder Orson F. Whitney (1855–1931) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God” (quoted in Faith Precedes the Miracle, 98).