Why Do We Have Trials?

During the early days of the Restoration, missionaries were often called to leave home and family behind, sometimes for years at a time. In this scene from a video based on a conference message from Elder Hales (see link at right), a missionary waves farewell to his wife.

“I have often pondered, Why is it that the Son of God and His holy prophets and all the faithful Saints have trials and tribulations, even when they are trying to do Heavenly Father’s will?” Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said. “Why is it so hard, especially for them? … Why such terrible tribulation? To what end? For what purpose?”

Elder Hales answered those questions in his October 2011 general conference address, saying, “As we ask these questions, we realize that the purpose of our life on earth is to grow, develop, and be strengthened through our own experiences. How do we do this? The scriptures give us an answer in one simple phrase: we ‘wait upon the Lord.’”

Waiting upon the Lord

“Tests and trials are given to all of us. These mortal challenges allow us and our Heavenly Father to see whether we will exercise our agency to follow His Son. He already knows, and we have the opportunity to learn, that no matter how difficult our circumstances, ‘all these things shall [be for our] experience, and … [our] good’ (D&C 122:7).

“Does this mean we will always understand our challenges? Won’t all of us, sometime, have reason to ask, ‘O God, where art thou?’ Yes! When a spouse dies, a companion will wonder. When financial hardship befalls a family, a father will ask. When children wander from the path, a mother and father will cry out in sorrow. Yes, ‘weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning’ (Proverbs 30:5). Then, in the dawn of our increased faith and understanding, we arise and choose to wait upon the Lord, saying, ‘Thy will be done.’”

Elder Hales spoke of what it means to wait upon the Lord, noting that in the scriptures, the word wait means to hope, anticipate, and trust.

“To hope and trust in the Lord requires faith, patience, humility, meekness, long-suffering, keeping the commandments, and enduring to the end,” Elder Hales said.

The Songs They Could Not Sing

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said that understanding Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness is the key to learning to wait upon the Lord.

“Among the most frequently asked questions of Church leaders are, Why does a just God allow bad things to happen, especially to good people? Why are those who are righteous and in the Lord’s service not immune from such tragedies?”

Although we do not know all the answers, Elder Cook said, we do know the important principles that allow those facing tragedies to face them with faith and confidence in the future.

Principles of Faith

“First,” he said, “we have a Father in Heaven, who knows and loves us personally and understands our suffering perfectly.

“Second, His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer, whose Atonement not only provides for salvation and exaltation but also will compensate for all the unfairness of life.

“Third, the Father’s plan of happiness for His children includes not only a premortal and mortal life but also an eternal life as well, including a great and glorious reunion with those we have lost. All wrongs will be righted, and we will see with perfect clarity and faultless perspective and understanding.”

Eternal Perspective

“From the limited perspective of those who do not have knowledge, understanding, or faith in the Father’s plan—who look at the world only through the lens of mortality with its wars, violence, disease, and evil—this life can seem depressing, chaotic, unfair, and meaningless. …

“Many do not appreciate that under His loving and comprehensive plan, those who appear to be disadvantaged through no fault of their own are not ultimately penalized. …

“There are many kinds of challenges. Some give us necessary experiences. Adverse results in this mortal life are not evidence of lack of faith or of an imperfection in our Father in Heaven’s overall plan. The refiner’s fire is real, and qualities of character and righteousness that are forged in the furnace of affliction perfect and purify us and prepare us to meet God.”

Continue in Patience

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency spoke of the blessings of patience and trusting in the Lord’s timing.

“The children of Israel waited 40 years in the wilderness before they could enter the promised land. Jacob waited 7 long years for Rachel. The Jews waited 70 years in Babylon before they could return to rebuild the temple. The Nephites waited for a sign of Christ’s birth, even knowing that if the sign did not come, they would perish. Joseph Smith’s trials in Liberty Jail caused even the prophet of God to wonder, ‘How long?’

“In each case, Heavenly Father had a purpose in requiring that His children wait.”

Called to Wait

“Every one of us is called to wait in our own way,” President Uchtdorf continued. “We wait for answers to prayers. We wait for things which at the time may appear so right and so good to us that we can’t possibly imagine why Heavenly Father would delay the answer.”

President Uchtdorf recalled when he was preparing to be trained as a fighter pilot and spent much of his training in physical exercise, including lots of running. During those runs, President Uchtdorf noticed that men who smoked, drank, and did many other things contrary to the gospel and the Word of Wisdom were passing him.

“I remember thinking, ‘Wait a minute! Aren’t I supposed to be able to run and not be weary?’ But I was weary, and I was overtaken by people who were definitely not following the Word of Wisdom. I confess, it troubled me at the time. I asked myself, was the promise true or was it not?

“The answer didn’t come immediately. But eventually I learned that God’s promises are not always fulfilled as quickly as or in the way we might hope; they come according to His timing and in His ways. Years later I could see clear evidence of the temporal blessings that come to those who obey the Word of Wisdom—in addition to the spiritual blessings that come immediately from obedience to any of God’s laws. Looking back, I know for sure that the promises of the Lord, if perhaps not always swift, are always certain.”