By Fiona Givens
The Gospel Doctrine lesson #37 manual objective is “To remind class members that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to his commandments.”
To discuss the role of Christ in alleviating and sanctifying the inevitable pain of mortality.
Mormons believe that a war in heaven took place before the foundations of the earth over the question of human agency. Unfortunately, LDS thinking around it and the counsels that preceded remain somewhat obscure and over-simplified. Generally, it is thought that Satan’s plan entailed coercion of some sort. We would either be forced to behave well, or, if we behaved badly the natural consequences that bad behavior entails would be rendered null and void. Lucifer’s recommendation was rejected. Scripture tells us that in order for us to develop and strengthen the attributes belonging to the members of the Divine Family it is necessary for us to “taste the bitter that [we] may know to prize the Good”—the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ.1
Edward Beecher, author of “Concorde of Ages,” offers a brilliant insight into this more compelling and theologically satisfying theory—the idea that the pain we experience in mortality is not punitive. Rather it is educative: “From pleasure, of course, there was no temptation to revolt; but from a discipline of suffering such as was needed to fit them to be founders of the universe with God, they could be tempted to revolt.”2
Today’s lesson contains three vital truths on the nature and necessity of suffering and the power it entails, if we so choose, to make us holy. On four occasions Christ encourages us to pick up our cross and follow Him.3 We all have crosses to bear. There are no exceptions. We all agreed to walk the path of which Christ is both “the author” and “the finisher.” In order to become the author of our faith Jesus Christ determined to come to earth, divest Himself of His Godhood and pick up the cross that being born into mortality entailed. In so doing he became our “captain” showing us, by His Divine example, the way back to the Celestial Family.
Secondly, we learn that “we do not have a high priest [Christ] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are.”4 Christ, as the author of our faith, descends from His place among the Gods to enter mortality in order to experience the “discipline of suffering,” so that we would know that our High Priest, our Advocate with the Father has Himself been subjected to the same (and even greater) pain, isolation, loneliness, rejection and grief that mortality inherently entails. His walk along the path of suffering empowers Him to be the “Finisher of our Faith: “Father, behold the suffering and death of him, who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed….Wherefore, Father, spare these my [sisters and brothers] that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.”5
Thirdly, “It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer [author] of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”6 Christ, sanctified through suffering becomes the Sanctifier of our own pain. Having suffered as we suffer, Christ now has the power not only to empathize with us but to lighten our grief and sorrow: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”7
Christ, therefore, becomes our anchor in times of distress. He has become both the High Priest and the Sacrifice in whom resides the hope of our salvation. For, as we read in Hebrews: Jesus Christ is “now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that…he might taste death for everyone.”8 The Son of Man has become our Saviour through His suffering and everlasting death—the fear of which is “swallowed up in victory.”9 Walking through those final moments of physical and spiritual agony into death, He thereby also opened the doors of Resurrection to us all with the promise that he “shall wipe away all tears from [our] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.”10 By so doing, The Saviour of the world becomes the “Finisher of our faith.”
2Edward Beecher, “The Concorde of Ages: or the Individual Organic Harmony of God and man” (New York: Derby and Jackson, 119 Nasau Street, 1860), 98.
3Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23.
8Hebrews 2:9, NRSV.
9I Corinthians 15:54.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
Standing Firm When It All Falls Apart, Ashlee Birk
I’ve always had faith, I’ve always known that Heavenly Father answers my prayers, I’ve always seen His hand in my life. But it wasn’t until I went through this total low point where all I had left with was Him that I realized how much He cared and was there for me. I’ve always known about the Atonement and known that the Atonement is there for me when I make a mistake. Whenever someone would wrong me, I knew I needed to forgive them. But as I have gone through this tragedy, in which three people wronged me on so many levels, my faith has helped me understand the Atonement on a much deeper level. The Atonement is there even if you’re just struggling with the fact that the story you’re living is different from the one you had planned. The Atonement is also there to help you forgive and feel compassion for a man who made a really bad choice. I think that’s been my greatest blessing, to understand the Atonement and the power that it can have on those hard days when it feels like your faith has been flat in the dirt for weeks and someone is just dragging you. If you pray for help, Heavenly Father will send you a little light, and He will send you the right person to say the right thing.
A Calling and a Purpose, Katie Jennings
Being childless will never be easy or less painful for me, but I’ve learned to use that pain and that experience to help others come to accept their path in life and their purpose in the world and in the kingdom of our Heavenly Father. Believe me when I say that He knows what He is doing. Learning to trust in that is never easy, but it’s so worth it. I can make it through anything if I trust in Him and “lean not unto of mine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). I am grateful for the trials that I’ve been given because they’ve made me the strong, compassionate woman that I am today.
Other Related Women’s Voices
Hope in Christ, Barbara W. Winder
Sisters, the anxiety and disquieting influence of this earth life could have been avoided had we stayed nestled in the household of our heavenly parents, but then how could we have progressed? As our Father and the Savior planned for us to come to earth, they said, “We will prove them herewith, to see if they [you and I] will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abr. 3:25). This was to become a testing ground; we would come to an understanding of good and evil, of happiness and suffering, of joy and pain. We knew the plan. We desired it; we endorsed it. We defended it. We even fought for it!
A Time For Hope, Ardeth G. Kapp
There will be some steep climbs ahead, but our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has covenanted and promised to climb with each of us every step of the way. Think of it! Young women, covenant this day, this very day, if you haven’t already, to plant your feet firmly on the path to the celestial kingdom. Lift up your heart, lift up your heart, and let your soul rejoice, and never, never, never give up.
The Light of Hope, Dwan J. Young
The Lord wants us to be filled with hope—not just because it points us to a brighter tomorrow, but because it changes the quality of our lives today. Hopeless may be the saddest word in our language. Despair is the enemy of our souls. It can paralyze us, halt our progress, and cause us to lose our way. But hope awakens us like a light shining in the darkness….We can endure all things when our hope is centered in one who will never fail us—our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world.