By Meredith Marshall Nelson

The Gospel Doctrine lesson #42 manual objective is “To help class members understand the characteristics we should develop to live our religion more fully.”

Our Objective

To comment on several verses included in the lesson, as they have related to my life as a woman of faith.


This Life is Not a Test

James 1:3 “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”

I was a newborn mother. My child was beautifully pleasant during the day, but at night he would cry on and off for hours. I was teaching full-time at BYU, and had to leave the house at 6:30am every day. I was dead with fatigue. Every night, my husband and I took turns sitting on the yoga ball, and bouncing while we sang to our son as he cried. We consulted with experts, read every book, and prayed ourselves dry.

It was 2:00 am, and I found myself in hot tears along with my son, praying again, “Dear God, Why do you feel the need to prove me like this? You already know my heart. Why this test? Why don’t you answer my prayer, night after night, that my son will sleep? I know my faith isn’t perfect, but I have never ceased to call on you. Isn’t that enough?”

I was stuck philosophically in a phrase I had heard throughout my life in Sunday school lessons: “trial of faith.” I thought I was on trial. That God was pushing me just to see how strong my faith was. It felt cruel, meaningless.

Then the answer came tenderly, direct to my heart: “This is not a test. This is not a punishment. This is just a part of mortality. And it will make you like me.”

Suddenly, every endless hour became meaningful. This challenge was not an arbitrary “test” or “trial.” Rather, it was a means for me to learn how to be God-like in patience, how to give the touch of the Comforter, how to sacrifice in love. I have come to believe that is true for every challenge in my life.

The Orson F. Whitney quote in the lesson manual is a beautiful support for this idea.

Ask in Faith, Nothing Wavering

James 1:6 “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind, and tossed.”

In my story above, and in many other instances in my life, I was afraid that the reason my prayer wasn’t answered was because my faith was not sufficient in some abstract way.

But I have learned to shake that fear off. “Nothing wavering” has come to mean that I do not take the time to worry over my faith at the moment I am exerting it. I go to God and say, “Here I am, imperfect in faith, yet expressing all the faith I have by coming to you. Help thou mine unbelief.”

Acknowledging the weakness of my faith is steadying for me. I feel far less “driven and tossed” when I do it. It reminds me to rely on the power of Christ, which is sufficient, and by which I may be made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Why Do I Ask and Not Receive?

James 4:3 “Ye ask and ye receive not, because ye ask amiss…”

Quoting myself here (insert eye-rolling emoticon) from a comment on another post:

I haven’t refined this idea yet, but it occurred to me only very recently that the reason we often end up confused about why God allows this or that to happen in our lives, and sometimes blame God, or on the other hand excuse God, is that we have a very different focus from God.

We care almost exclusively about the things that happen to us and around us — those are what occupy the bulk of our fervent prayers (help me pass this exam, cure my mother’s cancer, protect my son from harm). God cares almost exclusively about what happens inside of us. Everything external to us is a means toward the purification of our hearts, toward filling us with love. So while we wring our hands begging God to change the situation in our family, at work or at church, God is waiting and wanting to change our hearts.

It is a sign of God’s essential love and mercy that our prayers about the office, the house, the school, the church, are also often answered.

Swift to Hear

James 1:19 “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:”

This month, one of our Mormon Women Project interviews received tens of thousands of views, and several comments condemning the interviewee for her life choices. Were those who typed the comments swift to speak, slow to hear? Slow to hear the sorrow and pain this woman had experienced along the way, slow to hear her joy and fulfillment, slow to hear her spiritual depth, slow to hear how closely she had consulted with the Lord? I read the comments, and felt my lips pressing more tightly together as I reminded myself to really, really hear people.

Why is the Mormon Women Project important? It gives us a chance to hear without speaking. Hundreds of women of faith share their stories, without a chance for me to interrupt. The result is that so many of their stories have changed me. If I assumed the right to judge each woman on the site, based on how her life choices compare to mine, I would miss the chance to learn and be changed. It is the gorgeous variety of the life paths portrayed at MWP that has given me confidence and patience in my current life: I will not follow the same path as any of them, but because of these women, I believe that I have infinite possibilities in my life’s work and in the Spirit.

Related Mormon Women Project Interviews

Your Trial is Your Greatest Treasure, Barbara Barrington Jones

I don’t think I could have done anything in this life without my faith. Nothing. I’m still on my knees every day thanking God: Thank you for trials. Thank you for those years. And I tell women, “Your trial is your greatest treasure. Go out and share it with other women. Somehow this trial will be for your benefit. You know there is a god. You know why we are here.” It seems very trite and we hear it all the time, but it’s so true.

Sharing the Burden, Dawn

My faith has so many times come up against a wall. In that moment I can either lose my faith or reconcile my faith to the truth, to the bigger picture. It is in those moments of desperation, those moments of the greatest pain, fear, and uncertainty, that I’ve had to reach out into the dark and ask for my Savior’s help.

Other Related Women’s Voices

A Women of Faith, Margaret D. Nadauld

A woman of faith trusts God and faces adversity with hope. She knows of His interest in her life. She knows that He knows her. She loves His words and drinks deeply of that living water. She is grateful for the prophet He has sent for these latter days, and she trusts his counsel and follows it, for she knows that by so doing she will find safety and peace. In prayer she seeks the kind, unfaltering guidance and help of a listening Heavenly Father. As she prays, she listens—allowing the communication to be two-way. She trusts that in His still and quiet way, He will lead her by the hand and give her answer to her prayers.

Agency: A Blessing and a Burden, Sharon G. Larsen

Choices would not be a dilemma if good were rewarded as quickly and spectacularly as was Elijah or if wrongdoing meant immediate death. But it is not that simple when our work is to increase our faith.

Looking for additional perspectives on this lesson? We recommend Mormon Sunday School, Meridian Magnetize and LDSLiving.