Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Father's Love

Today in Sunday School we were discussing the First Vision (account Joseph Smith gave of his vision of God the Father and Jesus the Christ), and with that, talked about some of the history of Joseph's family and his early life.  We went over the story, familiar to most anyone who has been a member of the Church for very long, of Joseph developing a bad infection in his leg when he was a 7-year-old boy.  The most common treatment at the time would've been to cut off the leg and spare the rest of the body the infection, but they had a doctor willing to try cutting into the leg, right into the bone, to remove the infection.  This would be an excruciating surgery, without modern anesthesia, and the doctor suggested giving the boy alcohol to numb the effects of the pain.  The very young boy refused, stating that he could handle the pain if his father would hold him.  He could keep his wits about him and push through the pain, if he had his father's strength and comfort.

I've thought about that story many, many times.  It has always seemed to me a foreshadowing of the life he would lead. As a 14-year-old, Joseph went to the grove seeking solitude so that he could pray, searching earnestly for heavenly answers to the questions that were so troubling his young heart, he simply expected some direction, some confirmation, of a sect to join.  He did now know that he would see God.  He did not know that he was taking steps on the path to being a prophet--the prophet who would restore the fulness of the doctrine, ordinances and Priesthood authority of Christ's Church to the earth, authority and fulness that had been lost in the Apostasy following the Apostles' deaths--but the adversary knew.  He knew who Joseph was, and what he had been foreordained to do.  I've thought often of how terrifying those moments must've been for that young man as he tried to pray and found himself unable to speak, weighed down by some real and powerful force seeking his destruction.  He exerted himself to his absolutely fullest extent, and just when he was about to give up and submit to destruction, he was delivered.  Not only delivered, he was filled up with and surrounded by Celestial light.  I often think of those moments in my comparatively small struggles--if we are doing all that we can, if we are exerting ourselves as much as we can, our God will not abandon us to destruction.  Joseph saw and felt in a very literal and frightening way how powerful Satan is;  and just as clearly and just as literally, he saw firsthand just how much more powerful is the Lord.  I think the Lord allowed Satan to grapple with Joseph for what must've seemed to Joseph an interminably long time, so that this boy who would be prophet could know very clearly just who and what it was the work of God had to contend with--so he would know how vital it was to always exert his full might in repelling the attacks of the Adversary, to working with all his might and zeal to move forward the work of God.

I have sometimes wondered if after that moment he thought back to his young self relying on his father's strength and comfort to get him through the pain.  Joseph was sent to a good family, to good parents, where he learned early to trust and rely on the wisdom and love of his parents.  Surely that must've made it a bit easier to learn to rely on the wisdom and love of his Heavenly Father as the trials got bigger and the pains got deeper.

I have spent many hours thinking about what it must've been like for Joseph those many long months he was in Liberty Jail--and what it must've been like for Emma.  He and those with him were hungry, cold, sick, uncomfortable.  They were rarely fed anything edible, and as they suffered physically, they were in agony emotionally--their wives, their children, and their friends were all being harassed, abused and struggling to get by while these men sat wrongly imprisoned, powerless to help their loved ones.  Joseph cried out to his Father, asking how long the pain must last.  He felt as though he and his loved ones had been abandoned.  And into the cold, dark misery of that prison came a familiar voice: "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversities and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God will exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.  Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands."

He promised "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you".  The life of the Prophet Joseph Smith has long been a testimony of that truth.  Difficulties arose often--his life was seemingly one storm right after another, but always, always, always, a Father's love and comfort attended him.  He kept his wits about him and pushed through the pain with the help of his Father's strength.

I have tried hard to remember that in my own little moments of struggle and trial. We often remind ourselves (in trying to get our bums off the couch to do the things we need to do) that where much is given, much is required.  But we must never let ourselves forget that where much is required, so very, very much is given.  With such a love as His, we can weather any storm and defeat any foe--including the greatest foe of all.  The Lord told the serpent he would have the power to bruise the heel of man, but that man would have the power to crush his head.  The Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God has been restored to the earth in its fullness and by the righteous exercise of its power the adversary is driven out, and he is in a panic to cause as much destruction and misery as he can before the end because he knows that he has lost, that he will never win again.  Be hopeful--it may seem like the darkness is getting worse, but that is only because the light is growing ever brighter, stretching ever farther.  And no matter how hard the great Deceiver is working to lead astray the souls of men, our Father and his servants are working even harder to win them home. Because ultimately, a Father's love is always more powerful than hatred, envy, misery and pride.

He did not abandon Joseph to destruction--he cast out the enemy and filled his child with light.  He will do the same for each of us in time.

1 comment:

Middle-aged Mormon Man said...

Well said. I think we could spend a year on 1820-30.