“Mormon Messages,” a series of short videos produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and readily available online, are inspirational gems, a small but rich collection of treasures.
They’re excellent for use in lessons, both at church and in the home, and I would hope that faithful Latter-day Saints who are active online would consider using them, and posting links to them, for others to see. In most cases, they’re perfectly pitched to appeal to non-Mormons as well as to Mormons.
The teacher in my high priests group this morning used two of them in his lesson. They were powerful. (The theme was charity, and service to others. Even my stone-cold heart was melted.) I went online to find them just now, but, while thus far I haven’t located the two that I was looking for — mostly because I got sidetracked by watching others — I found another that spoke powerfully to me — and especially so given certain events in my life over the past three months.
A famous and well-loved passage in Shakespeare’s As You Like It came to mind while I was listening to Elder Christofferson’s remarks. In the play (II.i.12-17), Duke Senior reflects upon the conditions in which he now lives, having been unjustly deposed and exiled by his villainous brother. He compares his apparent suffering — his being forced to live outside, under the sky and exposed to the weather — to an ugly toad.
But, legend had it, at least certain toads had a magical “precious jewel” embedded in their heads, a jewel with miraculous healing powers.
The “uses” (or benefits) that he discovers in his exile are found in his freedom from society (“public haunt”); it turns out that the world of nature “speaks” more eloquently and with greater truth than do human tongues and books and even sermons. Stones, in fact, prove to be better company than can be found in the artificial and, as he’s painfully discovered, sometimes treacherous world of palaces and courtiers.
“Sweet are the uses of adversity,” says the Duke,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
It’s very difficult to see benefits in adversity, in illness, injury, injustice, financial difficulties, and the myriad of other troubles that, sooner or later, will come upon all of us (if they haven’t yet already). And, indeed, if we don’t open ourselves to the possibility of such benefits, they may never materialize.
Through the grace of God, however, and by means of the atonement of Christ, they can and will materialize, sooner or later, in the lives of those who are receptive.
I’ve sometimes looked at the series of crop failures, financial setbacks, and dishonest, swindling business partners encountered by the family of Joseph Smith Sr. — including the infamous “year without a summer” (1816), caused in part by the eruption of Mount Tambora in the distant Dutch East Indies — and wondered whether God used that peculiar assemblage of local and global catastrophes in order to position the Smith family next to the hill in which the golden plates of the Book of Mormon had been deposited by Moroni nearly fifteen hundred years before. Not that the Lord caused them simply in order to move the Smiths from one place to another — which would be rather like using a sledge hammer to kill a fly — but that, as the master chess player, he knew, in his wisdom, how to bring good out of natural and human evil. Perhaps he could better be called the only real alchemist, because, if we’ll let him, he can transmute base lead into gold.
Had Joseph Smith, and the Smiths in general, not been open to God’s word, theirs would have simply been one more redundant and ultimately insignificant case of poverty and blighted hopes. As things turned out, though, their willingness to listen and to obey has brought light and truth to millions, and will be the cause of bringing divine grace and hope to many millions more in the generations to come. Still, they had to get to Cumorah.