Chapter 35: The Blessings of Trials, Chastening, and Persecution

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 260–66


President Brigham Young understood God’s eternal purposes, and he applied this understanding to the tribulations he and other Saints endured. President Young said: “I have heard a great many tell about what they have suffered for Christ’s sake. I am happy to say I never had occasion to. I have enjoyed a great deal, but so far as suffering goes I have compared it a great many times, in my feelings and before congregations, to a man wearing an old, worn-out, tattered and dirty coat, and somebody comes along and gives him one that is new, whole and beautiful. This is the comparison I draw when I think of what I have suffered for the Gospel’s sake—I have thrown away an old coat and have put on a new one” (DBY, 348).

Teachings of Brigham Young

The Lord tests and tries us so we can prove ourselves worthy of celestial glory.

The people of the Most High God must be tried. It is written that they will be tried in all things, even as Abraham was tried [see D&C 101:1–4]. If we are called to go upon mount Moriah to sacrifice a few of our Isaacs, it is no matter; we may just as well do that as anything else. I think there is a prospect for the Saints to have all the trials they wish for or can desire. Now if you possess the light of the Holy Spirit, you can see clearly that trials in the flesh are actually necessary (DBY, 346).

We are now in a day of trial to prove ourselves worthy or unworthy of the life which is to come (DBY, 345).

All intelligent beings who are crowned with crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives must pass through every ordeal appointed for intelligent beings to pass through, to gain their glory and exaltation. Every calamity that can come upon mortal beings will be suffered to come upon the few, to prepare them to enjoy the presence of the Lord. If we obtain the glory that Abraham obtained, we must do so by the same means that he did. If we are ever prepared to enjoy the society of Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or of their faithful children, and of the faithful Prophets and Apostles, we must pass through the same experience, and gain the knowledge, intelligence, and endowments that will prepare us to enter into the celestial kingdom of our Father and God. … Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation (DBY, 345).

Should our lives be extended to a thousand years, still we may live and learn. Every vicissitude we pass through is necessary for experience and example, and for preparation to enjoy that reward which is for the faithful (DBY, 345).

If Adam had not sinned, and if this posterity had continued upon the earth, they could not have known sin, or the bitter from the sweet, neither would they have known righteousness, for the plain and simple reason that every effect can only be fully manifested by its opposite. If the Saints could realize things as they are when they are called to pass through trials, and to suffer what they call sacrifices, they would acknowledge them to be the greatest blessings that could be bestowed upon them. But put them in possession of true principles and true enjoyments, without the opposite, and they could not know enjoyment, they could not realize happiness. They could not tell light from darkness, because they have no knowledge of darkness and consequently are destitute of a realizing sense of light. If they should not taste the bitter, how could they realize the sweet? They could not [see D&C 29:39] (DBY, 345–46).

We are the happiest people when we have what are called trials; for then the Spirit of God is more abundantly bestowed upon the faithful [see 1 Peter 3:14] (DBY, 347).

I say to the Latter-day Saints, all we have to do is to learn of God. Let the liars lie on, and let the swearers swear on, and they will go to perdition. All we have to do is to go onward and upward, and keep the commandments of our Father and God; and he will confound our enemies (DBY, 347).

We have passed through a great many scenes, we may say, of tribulation, though I would have all my brethren understand that I do not take this to myself, for all that I have passed through has been joy and joyful to me; but we have seemingly sacrificed a great deal, and passed through many scenes of trial and temptations, no doubt of this. We have had to suffer temptations, more or less, and we have taken the spoiling of our goods joyfully. I have, myself, five times before I came to this valley, left everything that the Lord had blessed me with pertaining to this world’s goods, which, for the country where I lived, was not a very little (DBY, 347–48).

As to trials, why bless your hearts, the man or woman who enjoys the spirit of our religion has no trials; but the man or woman who tries to live according to the Gospel of the Son of God, and at the same time clings to the spirit of the world, has trials and sorrows acute and keen, and that, too, continually (DBY, 348).

Cast off the yoke of the enemy, and put on the yoke of Christ, and you will say that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. This I know by experience (DBY, 347–48).

Saints being driven out

As depicted in this painting, the Saints were driven by mobs from their homes in Kirtland, Ohio; Jackson County, Missouri; and Nauvoo, Illinois.

The Lord helps the disobedient become humble by chastening them and allowing them to be persecuted.

When we look at the Latter-day Saints, we ask, is there any necessity of their being persecuted? Yes, if they are disobedient. Is there any necessity of chastening a son or a daughter? Yes, if they are disobedient [see D&C 105:6]. But suppose they are perfectly obedient to every requirement of their parents, is there any necessity of chastening them then? If there is, I do not understand the principle of it. I have not yet been able to see the necessity of chastening an obedient child, neither have I been able to see the necessity of chastisement from the Lord upon a people who are perfectly obedient. Have this people been chastened? Yes, they have (DBY, 350).

Those who turn away from the holy commandments will meet trials that are trials indeed. They will feel the wrath of the Almighty upon them. Those who are still and are good children will receive the rich blessings of their Father and God. Be still, and let your faith rest on the Lord Almighty [see D&C 101:16] (DBY, 351).

We are infinitely more blessed by the persecutions and injustice we have suffered, than we could have been if we had remained in our habitations from which we have been driven—than if we had been suffered to occupy our farms, gardens, stores, mills, machinery and everything we had in our former possessions (DBY, 346).

Haun's Mill Masacre

As rendered in this painting, local militias were sometimes antagonistic and hostile towards the early Saints.

The righteous will be persecuted by the wicked, but God will lead His people, and His work will go forward.

Have no fears, for if the word of the Lord is true, you shall yet be tried in all things; or rejoice, and pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks, even if it is in the spoiling of your goods, for it is the hand of God that leads us, and will continue so to do. Let every man and woman sanctify themselves before the Lord, and every providence of the Almighty shall be sanctified for good to them (DBY, 347).

[God] led this people in different parts of the United States, and the finger of scorn has been pointed at them. … The Lord has his design in this. You may ask what his design is. You all know that the Saints must be made pure, to enter into the celestial kingdom. It is recorded that Jesus was made perfect through suffering [see Hebrews 5:8–9]. Why should we imagine for one moment that we can be prepared to enter into the kingdom of rest with him and the Father, without passing through similar ordeals? (DBY, 346).

Joseph could not have been perfected, though he had lived a thousand years, if he had received no persecution. If he had lived a thousand years, and led this people, and preached the Gospel without persecution, he would not have been perfected as well as he was at the age of [thirty-eight] years. You may calculate, when this people are called to go through scenes of affliction and suffering, are driven from their homes, and cast down, and scattered, and smitten, and peeled, the Almighty is rolling on his work with greater rapidity (DBY, 351).

Every time you kick “Mormonism” you kick it upstairs; you never kick it downstairs. The Lord Almighty so orders it (DBY, 351).

If we did not have to bear the iron hand of persecution, the principles we believe in, which attract the attention of the good and the evil upon the earth and which occupy so many tongues and circumscribe their philosophy, would be embraced by thousands who are now indifferent to them (DBY, 351).

Every time they persecute and try to overcome this people, they elevate us, weaken their own hands, and strengthen the hands and arms of this people. And every time they undertake to lessen our number, they increase it. And when they try to destroy the faith and virtue of this people, the Lord strengthens the feeble knees, and confirms the wavering in faith and power in God, in light, and intelligence. Righteousness and power with God increase in this people in proportion as the Devil struggles to destroy it (DBY, 351).

Let us alone, and we will send Elders to the uttermost parts of the earth, and gather out Israel, wherever they are; and if you persecute us, we will do it the quicker, because we are naturally dull when let alone, and are disposed to take a little sleep, a little slumber, and a little rest. If you let us alone, we will do it a little more leisurely; but if you persecute us, we will sit up nights to preach the Gospel (DBY, 351).

Suggestions for Study

The Lord tests and tries us so we can prove ourselves worthy of celestial glory.

  • Why do you think President Young called this life “a day of trial”? (See also Abraham 3:22–26.) How can trials prepare us to enter the celestial kingdom?

  • Why is it necessary to experience the opposing forces of good and evil? (See also 2 Nephi 2:11–14.)

  • Why do you think President Young was so grateful for the trials he and other early Saints received? How have trials helped you become a better Latter-day Saint?

  • What does it mean to “put on the yoke of Christ”? (See also Matthew 11:28–30.) How does putting on the yoke of Christ help us be joyful when we face trials? (See also Mosiah 24:13–15.)

The Lord helps the disobedient become humble by chastening them and allowing them to be persecuted.

  • Why does the Lord sometimes chasten us? (See also D&C 101:2–8.) What is the importance of our response to that chastening? How can learning this principle correctly help parents and children create better families?

  • President Young said that the Saints were “infinitely more blessed by the persecutions and injustice [they had] suffered … than if [they] had been suffered to occupy … everything [in their] former possessions.” Why is it a greater blessing to be punished for disobedience than to be allowed to remain comfortable in a sinful state?

The righteous will be persecuted by the wicked, but God will lead His people, and His work will go forward.

  • President Young said that the disobedient would be persecuted, but he also spoke about obedient people—such as Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, and missionaries—who have been persecuted. According to President Young, why does God allow the wicked to persecute the righteous?

  • President Young said that persecution against the Church would only cause the Lord’s work to go on “with greater rapidity.” What does this tell us about how we should respond to attacks against the truth? What can we do to teach our children to overcome persecution?