—Doctrine and Covenants 122:7
Adversity is part of our Heavenly Father’s plan for us here upon the earth. We are here to be proven—to see if we will do whatever God commands us to do (see Abraham 3:25). As we struggle to meet trials, we grow and develop qualities that we can attain in no other way. When we seek his help, our Heavenly Father will strengthen us and make us equal to the trials that come to us.
Tell the following story:
Sister Bates loved music; she played the piano and the organ. She also enjoyed reading. But she became blind in both eyes.
How might have Sister Bates reacted to her tragedy?
Continue the story:
Sister Bates decided she couldn’t give up reading, so she learned to read Braille. She kept practicing the piano and learned to play by touch. She also devised a way to teach beginning piano students even though she was blind.
Have your family discuss the growth that she received in enduring and overcoming this trial.
Review our Heavenly Father’s plan for us to be tried and tested as part of our mortal experience (see Gospel Principles [manual, 1979], p. 11, and 2 Nephi 2:11). Emphasize that as we cope with our trials and adversity we can develop God-given strengths.
What are some of the blessings that came to the Prophet and which, as a consequence of the Doctrine and Covenants record, have come to all of us as a result of this experience? (He studied and increased in knowledge and understanding while there. He continued to receive revelations and, through his writings, direct the Church. He grew in compassion.)
Read his statement, “I think I could never have felt as I do now if I had not suffered the wrongs I have suffered. It has awakened my soul to the love of God” (History of the Church, 3:290).
What can we learn from the fact that the Prophet Joseph Smith received the blessing of peace in the midst of his afflictions in Liberty Jail? (We can pray for and receive peace of mind in any adversity that may come to us.)
Choose from among the following activities those you would like to do with your family:
List everyday problems on wordstrips and place them in a bowl. Have each person draw one and identify blessings that could come from such adversity. (Sickness, for example, can increase our compassion for the sick and our appreciation for the blessing of good health.)
Tell of a trial (either from your own life or from one of your ancestors) that has strengthened and blessed you.
Ask each one to say how some difficult experience he has had has been helpful to him—what he has learned from it, or how he has been blessed from it.
Encourage family members to recognize trials as challenges. Remind them to seek the Lord’s help in overcoming them.
Help your family recognize that we can take positive steps to climb out of adverse situations. Review the Prophet Joseph Smith’s experience (Doctrine and Covenants 121 and D&C 122) to discover step by step what he did to overcome his discouragement.
Draw steps and label each with the action we can take to lift ourselves. Your completed chart should look something like this:
Take stock of what you have
Accept adversity as a challenge
Don’t feel sorry for yourself
Pray for strength
Using your own problems or those of family members, discuss step by step how you could “climb out” of your discouragement. Emphasize that seeking the Lord’s help is the first step.
Encourage members to think of ways to act to diminish ongoing problems (the fifth step). List their suggestions and have them consider how doing the following could help:
Recognizing past victories
Compare life to a kite. The following parallels may help in your discussion:
Each one of us is like a kite.
Trials, like the wind, push against us each day. The resistance they provide, like the wind, keeps us, like the kite, up and going.
We have the gospel which, like the string of a kite, directs, controls, and anchors our lives.
Have each family member do the following:
Cut a small kite out of paper and attach a tail made of string, twine, or yarn.
Write on small pieces of paper some of the major trials you have undergone in life. Generally these would be situations that have required endurance, patience, and persistence—such as serious illness, a death, a handicap, a failure, a new job, a challenging Church assignment. Small children could draw things they have learned to do, like buttoning clothes and tying shoes.
Glue these papers on the kite’s tail.
Invite each person to look at the victories represented on the tail of the kite and recognize that he has already overcome a good deal of adversity.
Explain that we can gain courage and strength to meet future adversity if we recognize our past trials as a refining process that we have grown from (see Job 23:10). We should also remember that even though we have many problems, the Lord has blessed each one of us abundantly.
Relate the following story and ask family members to contrast the attitudes and the results:
“When my great-great grandparents joined the Church in Sweden, they were faced with a long ocean voyage to America, a train trip from New York to Omaha, and then a trek by wagon to Salt Lake City. But when they boarded the train in New York, they discovered that they were to ride in stock cars that had been used to haul hogs to market—and the cars were filthy and filled with hog lice.
“Grandmother accepted the inconvenience, but the humiliation was almost more than grandfather could bear. ‘To think we are no better than hogs,’ he grumbled. Reluctantly he made the trip anyway.
“Grandmother was expecting another child. …
“Somewhere on the plains of Nebraska, a healthy baby was born. But a few days later, the three-year-old son contracted cholera. … The boy died that night.
“The next morning the wagon master said they would hold a short funeral service and bury the boy in a shallow grave, apologetically explaining that they were in Indian country and didn’t have time to do anything more. But grandfather couldn’t accept this, and insisted on staying behind and digging a grave deep enough so the animals wouldn’t get the body.
“Throughout the day and into the night he worked, building a strong wooden coffin and digging a grave five feet deep in the hard soil. Finally, exhausted and sobbing, he buried his son and then walked all night to catch up with the wagon train. He was heartbroken and mad—mad at the wagon master for not waiting to give his son a proper burial, and mad at God for ‘allowing’ his son to die. …
“This wasn’t the end of their difficulties; they continued to suffer serious hardships and adversities throughout their lives. But although they both went through identical experiences, each was affected differently by them. Grandfather became withdrawn, cantankerous, and bitter. He stopped going to Church and found fault with Church leaders. He became caught up in his own miseries, and the light of Christ grew dimmer and dimmer in his life.
“On the other hand, grandmother’s faith increased. Each new problem seemed to make her stronger. She became an angel of mercy—filled with empathy, compassion, and charity. She was a light to those around her. Her family gravitated toward her and looked to her as their leader.” (Steve Dunn Hanson, “What to Do with Adversity,” Ensign, Feb. 1981, pp. 54–55.)
Explain that those who yield to adversity become weaker. To the valiant it is a stepping-stone to increased power (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). One way to overcome adversity is to make our problems into stepping-stones by finding out some good that can come from them.
Make some lemonade without sugar. Have each family member taste the drink. Add the sugar and have your family taste the difference. Explain that the bitter lemon juice is still present but by adding sugar you have made something that tastes good.
Suggest that each of us can do the same thing with the problems we face.
We can complain bitterly, “Why me?” or we can use the principles of the gospel to sweeten our lives.
During the coming week, help family members remember this principle by reminding complainers to make lemonade out of their problems. You may want to post a sign such as “When life hands you a lemon—make lemonade.”
Job (The story of one who withstood adversity with faith.)
John 9:2–3 (Trials do not always come because of sin.)
2 Nephi 2:11 (Opposition in all things.)
2 Nephi 2:27 (In spite of all trials we are free to choose liberty and eternal life.)
Ether 12:6 (Receive no witness until after the trial of faith.)
Doctrine and Covenants 50:5 (Blessed are they that endure.)
Doctrine and Covenants 122:5–7 (All these things shall give thee experience.)
Doctrine and Covenants 136:31 (Must be tried in all things.)
See also “Adversity” in the Topical Guide, Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible.
“Let Us All Press On,” Hymns, no. 243.
“Count Your Blessings,” Hymns, no. 241.
“Though Deepening Trials,” Hymns, no. 122.
“Gaining Strength from Adversity,” on the Family Home Evening Video Supplement (53276).
“Coping with Serious Illness,” “Facing Life’s Ironies,” and “You’re Not Alone,” on Family Home Evening Video Supplement 2 (53277).