On February 16, 1832, 187 years ago, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon received the remarkable vision of the three kingdoms of glory, a central part of our doctrine and of the plan of salvation. Joseph and Sidney bore testimony of Jesus Christ, “who is the Son, whom we saw and with whom we conversed in the heavenly vision.”
They heard the Savior say:
“I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.
“Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory. …
“And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven. …
“For by my Spirit will I enlighten them.”
Not long after that glorious vision, in March 1832, a group of men prepared and perpetrated a cruel and most brutal attack on Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. In the middle of the night, they attacked the Prophet and Sidney in their homes. Joseph was dragged out of the house and into a meadow, beat up, and threatened with a knife. The men tried to pour liquid tar into his mouth. When that was not successful, they ripped off his clothes and poured the tar all over his hair and his beaten body, “covered him with feathers, dumped him to the cold ground, and left the scene.”
After his attackers left, Joseph tore the tar from his lips. He found Sidney not far from him, lying on the ground, and wasn’t sure if Sidney was dead or alive.
When Joseph and Sidney managed to get back home, family and friends tended to them all night. The next morning, Joseph got dressed and preached a sermon from the doorstep of the home where he was staying. In the aftermath of this event, one of Joseph and Emma’s twins died. It was the fourth child he and Emma lost, born during the first four years of their marriage.
That same month, in March 1832, Joseph received several important revelations from the Lord. Among the counsel the Lord gave to Joseph was this profound statement: “Be of good cheer, for I will lead you along.”
Why is it that the most treasured blessings and the most severe trials often go together? Why did Joseph and Sidney not lose their faith in the Savior and His promises? What kept them going despite the fierce challenges and crises they had to face?
In our world today, at least in the western world, we are generally not physically persecuted, tortured, or abused for our faith anymore. But we, like Joseph and Sidney, must face personal trials—trials that could put us in crisis and challenge our faith.
Some of those challenges to our faith may originate in questions like these: Why is life sometimes so stressful and difficult? Why must I face severe illness, accidents, or tragedies? Why do bad things happen to my family members and friends even though they love the Lord and are faithful?
Some of you may be confused because of things you hear about our Church history. Others may mourn about good friends who disagree with some teachings and leave the Church. You even may ask, “Why is the Church so clear and strict on doctrine and policies?”
All these questions and challenges cause pain and are in need of a response. But like Joseph Smith and others in his time, you will have to make up your mind and learn to love and trust God, choose to follow Him, and seek divine guidance for your life.
Let me offer you today three suggestions that will help you—even during the most difficult phases of your life—to stay cheerful, trusting that Heavenly Father knows and loves you and that He will guide you.
Hold On to Divine Law and Absolute Truth
My first suggestion for you would be to hold on to divine law and absolute truth. I was very impressed by a message President Russell M. Nelson shared with the General Authorities of the Church a little more than a year ago. The title was “Divine Law—Absolute Truth.” He shared how learning about and clinging to God’s eternal laws and truths has been a compass for him throughout his life. It has blessed him in his profession, family life, and Church responsibilities. It has given him guidance and confidence in all that he does.
Eternal truths are “things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.” They never change; they are totally predictable and reliable. Because of these laws, you can know with a surety that our globe is rotating around the sun and that you and I can enjoy living on this beautiful planet earth. Because of these laws, you can watch the stars appear in the night sky and you can go to the beach and see most magnificent sunrises and sunsets. They happen every day. You do not even need to think about or question their reality.
If you jump out of a boat, you are going to splash into the water. If you jump out of a plane, you better have a parachute, for the law of gravity will bring you down full force. Some people call these the laws of nature, but we know that they are a part of the eternal laws of God. He created and organized the universe, including our earth and our nature, by applying these laws. Because these laws are eternal, they are absolute, and they can be proven. They will bless us if we follow them. And so it is with all truth and with all laws that come from God.
Have you heard the following before?
“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
“And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
The commandments and laws of God are not just things that He asks randomly or arbitrarily from us. They are so predictable and so reliable that you can even experiment on them. Here are some examples.
Do you sometimes struggle financially because you must make your living, pay for school, and perhaps even care for other family members? Then try this experiment:
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
Your means to live may always be scarce. But the Lord invites you to claim the blessing of paying your tithing and of giving your offerings. If you do so, you will always have enough for your needs.
Do you need to be reassured that the gospel is true and that you are following the right path? Try this experiment:
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
When was the last time, you read the Book of Mormon and tested this promise for yourself? You will not be disappointed as you seek answers and guidance for your life by studying the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon.
Are you in need of a blessing from heaven? Then try this experiment:
“And … he [God] doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you.”
When Christiane and I served a mission in Berlin, Germany, Elder Bell, one of our wise mission leaders, knew and taught that obedience would bring immediate blessings—blessings, of course, selected by God, not by the one seeking them. A year after Elder Bell was released, he wrote a letter to one of the missionaries he had trained and gave him the following advice: “Buddy, I love you. Keep up the good work. Find more rules and obey them.”
The Savior Himself referred to this eternal truth when He encouraged His disciples to test His word, saying, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
So, I invite you this morning to hold on to these eternal truths and test them for yourself. You will come to the same astonishing result as the Brother of Jared, who noted, “Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.”
In his remarks to the General Authorities, President Nelson invited us to ponder three eternal plain and simple truths that will bless our lives and be a compass to us:
- Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. We all need to rely on this truth. Jesus Christ is at the center of the plan of salvation. This plan includes the truth that we all are children of God, that we live in a fallen world, and that we all are imperfect and need redemption.
- We can sustain His living prophets and be blessed. At the end of His life, the Savior mourned over the city of Jerusalem, lamenting about the people who had rejected and stoned the prophets He had sent to them. He warned them that because of their rejection of the prophets, their house would be left desolate. In the German translation of the Bible, the word desolate in this verse is translated as “left by God,” reading “therefore your house will be left by God.” So, if we follow the counsel of our living prophets, God will never leave us. We will always be blessed for our obedience. This is an eternal truth you and I can build on! I invite you to study the words of President Nelson and the counsel he has recently given. As you follow that counsel, you will be blessed beyond measure, and you will find relief in your trials.
- The temple is the house of the Lord. This is the third eternal truth that President Nelson reflected on. If you ever wonder who you are, what your destiny is, how the plan of salvation and the gospel of Jesus Christ relate to you, visit the temple often. Not only will you feel the power of the plan in your life, but you will also feel close to those family members for whom you do the work. You will see and feel and understand the glorious destiny that is yours. The doctrines and truths learned in the temple clearly show you the path back to your heavenly home and put everything that you experience here on earth into the right perspective.
So, hold on to divine law and eternal truth. Look for them, find them, study them, and experiment on them. Law and truth will be a compass of clarity amid the fog of life surrounding you.
Live after the Manner of Happiness
My second suggestion to you is that you make a conscious decision to live after the manner of happiness. The prophet Lehi taught, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” Remember that this is the same prophet who saw in a dream the source of all joy and happiness. He saw the tree of life and described it as “a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.” We know that the tree Lehi saw was a representation of the love of God. Feeling God’s love in our lives is “most joyous to the soul.”
Nephi must have been very impressed by the teachings of his father, Lehi, about happiness. Nephi was the one who recorded the phrase: “And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.” Living after the manner of happiness means that we live our lives as true disciples of Jesus Christ, following His example.
Nephi then identified 11 principles that marked that special way of living. In our modern language they might be described as the following:
- Listen to the prophet.
- Keep the commandments and your covenants.
- Walk with the Lord; follow Him.
- Love the scriptures.
- Have families, multiply, and enjoy your life.
- Prepare for bad times.
- Educate yourself; obtain skills.
- Love the temple.
- Be diligent; work hard.
- Protect and cherish political freedom (having no king).
- Serve in the Church.
Living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ just makes us happy! Listen to the conversion story of Dr. Richard Huang, a former atheist and a medical doctor from New York. He works as a pathologist and described himself as being logical and rational. He is a believer in facts. And yet he stated: “I was never really sure about my life. I knew that I live in this world, I knew I existed, but there wasn’t really a certainty as to the purpose, as to why, and as to what’s going to happen to me. Since I wasn’t happy and I wanted to change my life, I thought I should probably do something I had never done before. The opposite of atheism is theism, so that’s something I decided to explore.”
So, he went to the internet and started his research with the book of Christianity, the Bible. And because the Church of Jesus Christ gives Bibles away for free, he requested one. A couple of days later, two sister missionaries stood at his door to deliver the Bible. They started teaching him, and a friend from medical school invited Richard to his home and to church. Richard was skeptical, but his friend invited him just to come and see and observe. He went for the experiment and was totally surprised at what he found. He describes it in the following way:
“These are people who are extremely happy, right? They always have a smile on their face, and they’re just laughing all the time. And to me, it was like watching a beer commercial without the beer.
“When I was looking for my faith, I was expecting a miracle to help me see the light, but God knew that I would not have believed in miracles, so what He did was put people in my life to show me the truth of the gospel. And I believe in people. It was like this big moment of clarity when I realized that if everything that I have heard is wrong, if everything is not true, then why are these people so happy?
“Everything they do is guided by their principles. And because I saw the fruit of them living the gospel, I was able to reason that the principle they live by must be true.
“I never thought I would ever end up being [a member of the Church]. Um, I am eating my words now. What I have found is I have a sense of purpose. It is to become better, to become more like Christ. And now, to me, my faith is everything, and I am so happy that I made that realization.”
My dear young friends, remember that there will be times in your lives when you will face stress and you will face people who are challenging your faith. Often, they will try to base these challenges on so-called “facts.” Some people may even mock you and call you naïve. Lehi saw in his dream that the people who have partaken of this fruit would be mocked.
“And after they had tasted of the fruit, they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost. …
“And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building, they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.
“These are the words of my father: For as many as heeded them, had fallen away.”
Let me assure you that despite your trials—even if you are having heart-wrenching questions or experiencing periods of doubt—you can be happy. Decide consciously to press forward on the covenant path and live the gospel of Jesus Christ even in times when you might not have all the answers. As you do so, you will be blessed, and you will be happy.
King Benjamin expressed it this way: “And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.”
Stand Ye in Holy Places
My third suggestion to you is reflected in the invitation of the Lord to His covenant people. “Wherefore, stand ye in holy places and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come.”
Holy places are where the Spirit of the Lord can dwell. The most holy place on earth is the temple of the Lord. Other holy places could be the Church building or your home, your dormitory, your private spot of refuge, where you can study and ponder the scriptures and pray for guidance and answers. A place becomes more holy to us as we try our best to live worthy of those spiritual blessings. If you stand firm in those holy places, striving for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, you will never falter.
The story of Job in the Old Testament makes this point very clear. The scriptures say that Job was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.”
Job had a wonderful family with seven sons and three daughters. He was wealthy and blessed in every way. God was pleased with Job. The story tells of a conversation between Satan and God. God referred to the faithfulness of Job, and Satan basically said, “No wonder he is so faithful.” His exact words were these:
“Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
“But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.”
In other words, Satan thought that Job was so faithful only because of all the blessings he had. So, God allowed Satan to tempt Job.
And a short time later, Job found himself stripped of all his blessings. In a storm of tragic incidents, Job lost his health, he lost his wealth, and he lost his precious family members, who died through tragic events.
But Job stood in his holy place, and he did not move. Instead he “rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
“And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
“In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”
When you face disaster, friends are often not far away, giving you all kinds of counsel and advice that you really do not want to hear. And so it was with Job. His friends tried to convince him that the reason for such blows must be the consequence of some wrongdoing.
In our day we may hear false explanations such as this one: if there really were a God, He would not allow this to happen. The seed of doubt is so quickly sown. Yet Job stood firm in his faith. Of course, he did not understand why he had to face this trial, so like all of us probably would be, he was full of self-pity, complaining of his situation. He searched his soul for reasons, for how he could have possibly offended God, but he found none, and he wavered not in his faith.
It was God Himself who later came to resolve the paradox by inviting Job to get up and act like a man, explaining some eternal truths just by asking him one simple question: Job “where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.”
Job learned that he was one of God’s chosen sons in the premortal world, destined to come to earth to be tested and tried. God expects of all of His children that, throughout our lives, we should do as the Apostle Paul said:
“Seek the Lord, if haply [you] might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”
When Job understood his identity as a son of God, who once lived with Him, now on this earth to qualify for eternal life and exaltation, he cried out:
“I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
“Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee and declare thou unto me.
“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.”
Are you standing in holy places, ready to receive spiritual guidance and direction as Job did in his trials? Look at the wonderful promises that God has for you:
“For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they … abide the day. “And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong, and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation.”
Isaiah has a similar promise for you, the young and rising generation:
“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? …
“He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. …
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
My dear young friends, I invite you today to experiment and hold on to divine law and absolute truth, to consciously live after the manner of happiness, and to stand firm in holy places. As you strive to do so, you will always be all right! You will come to know our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is willing to guide you along if you allow Him to do so. It was He who comforted His servant Joseph Smith during his most severe trials.
After five months’ imprisonment in Liberty Jail, the innocent Prophet Joseph Smith shared this powerful conviction: “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren [and sisters], let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”
I know that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ. I know that with Jesus Christ on our side, we can do and endure everything. We can be of good cheer, knowing that He will lead us along. I have experienced such blessings throughout my life, and I invite you to do the same. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Doctrine and Covenants 76:14.
 Doctrine and Covenants 76:5–6, 9, 10.
 See Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days (2018), chapter 14.
 Doctrine and Covenants 78:18.
 Doctrine and Covenants 93:24.
 Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21.
 Malachi 3:10.
 Mosiah 2:24.
 Elder Bell, in an interview with President Kopischke, 2005.
 John 7:17.
 Ether 3:12 .
 See Russell M. Nelson, “Divine Law—Absolute Truth” (address given to General Authorities), 4.
 See Russell M. Nelson, “Divine Law—Absolute Truth,” 4.
 See Matthew 23:37–38.
 See Matthäus 23:38 (Deutsche Einheitsübersetzung).
 See Russell M. Nelson, “Divine Law—Absolute Truth,” 5.
 2 Nephi 5:27.
 2 Nephi 2:25.
 1 Nephi 8:10.
 1 Nephi 11:22, 23.
 2 Nephi 5:27.
 See 2 Nephi 5:6–27.
 See verse 6.
 See verse 10.
 See verse 11.
 See verse 12.
 See verse 13.
 See verse 14.
 See verse 15.
 See verse 16.
 See verse 17.
 See verse 18.
 See verse 26.
 1 Nephi 8:28, 33–34.
 Mosiah 2:41.
 Doctrine and Covenants 87:8.
 Job 1:1.
 Job 1:10–11.
 Job 1:20–22.
 Job 38:4.
 Acts 17:27–28.
 Job 42:3–5.
 Doctrine and Covenants 45:57–58.
 Isaiah 40:28–29, 31.
 Doctrine and Covenants 123:17.