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How Well Can You Fly When Everything Goes Wrong?

"Ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions (Mosiah 24:14). We gain experience, refinement, and growth through adversity.

Elder Robert E. Wells, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, explained the purpose of adversity in mortality. 

He said:  "One of the purposes of this life is to be tested, tried, and proven to see how well we will serve the Lord.  The Prophet Joseph said that we would be tested to see if we would serve and remain faithful through all hazards. 

We knew before we came that there would be many adverse circumstances to test us:  accidents, sickness, and disease to prove us; temptations and distractions to try us; disappointments, discouragements, reverses, failures, and all kinds of situations to determine our character."

Elder Wells then told this story:  "I have been flying many kinds of aircraft for the last 30 years, both in the U.S. and in Latin American countries.  Not too long ago when I had returned to the States after an absence of some years, a very dear friend offered me the use of his new twin engine Cessna. 

"We discussed my qualifications and of being covered under his insurance policy, and it turned out that I needed a check ride with a qualified inspector as it had been some time since I had flown that particular type of plane.

"The arrangements were made, and I met the inspector at the side of the airplane at the appointed hour with my licenses from the USA, Argentina, Paraguay, and Ecuador, and logbooks showing flights in Cessna 310s across jungles, mountains, deserts, international boundaries, etc. 

He smiled calmly but was unimpressed and said, "I've heard about you, and I have no doubt about how much flying you have done, but I have to assume that those flights were when nothing went wrong.  Now let's fire up this bird and see how well you fly it when "everything goes wrong!"

"For the next hour he made everything go wrong!  He simulated every emergency he could think of.  He turned things off that should have been on.  He turned things on that should have been off.  He tried to create disorientation or panic.  He really wanted to know how well I could fly when everything did go wrong! 

In the end he climbed out, signed my logbook, and announced,  'You're okay.  I'd let my wife and kids fly with you.'  I took that as being a great compliment.

Elder Wells continued: "The question still is:  How well can you fly it when everything goes wrong?  How well can you live when every test, every trial, every proof of your faithfulness  is exacted of you?"  ("How Well Can You Fly It When Everything Goes Wrong?"  New Era, June 1978, pp. 46). "

Everyone experiences Adversity.  The Lord has said, "My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom"  (D&C 136:31). We must experience adversity to fulfill the purpose of our mortal lives. 

Regardless of our ages, occupations, social standing, education, or Church positions, our faith will be tried and tested.  Moroni, understanding this truth, said, "I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith"  (Ether 12:6).

As we live righteously, developing patience, we can endure our trials and understand their purpose.  By remaining steadfast, we can become refined and purified.  The Lord will reward us in his own due time. "Adversity comes in many forms."  Let us examine some of the different forms in which  adversity may come:

1. "Opposition in all things:"  After the Lord created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden, he commanded him:  "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself"  (Moses 3:1-17).

The eternal principle of agency, the ability and freedom to choose between good and evil, is essential to our salvation.  By our exercise of agency, we are tested and tried.  In order for this testing to take place, opposites must exist, such as right and wrong. 

The Lord permits evil to exist for this purpose, although he is not, of course, the author of evil.  Lehi explained this principle to his son Jacob:  "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.  If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad"  (2 Nephi 2:11).

2. "Tribulation:"  Jesus said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation"  (John 16:33).

Some of  the tribulations we might have are financial problems, illnesses, deaths in our families, difficulties in our relationships with others, the inability to have children or the challenge of raising a handicapped child, and natural calamities.  Sometimes we suffer the natural consequences of our own follies.  However, at times the Lord allows tribulations to come to us simply for our development.  He is giving us an opportunity to develop our faith and character.  Problems can become blessings.

3. "The challenge of ease or affluence:"  And what of those who seem not to be called upon to endure great trials?  Does the Lord not love them?  Perhaps their trials are simply not evident, being quietly borne.  Or perhaps ease and comfort are trials in themselves--a temptation to sins of omission or a test of our ability to give of ourselves and our goods to others.

As Mormon explained, "We may see at the very time when the Lord doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One--yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity"  (Helaman 12:2; see also 2 Nephi 28:24).

4. "Temptation:"  Everyone is subject to temptation.  It is an adversity that we must endure.  The Lord allows us to be tempted, knowing that sometimes we will fall.  But he expects us to repent and become strong enough to resist all temptation.  Overcoming temptation is a necessary part of working out our salvation.

"The Lord knows our bearing capacity, both as to coping and to comprehending, and He will not give us more to bear than we can manage at the moment, though to us it may seem otherwise.  (See D&C 50:40; 78:18)  Just as no temptations will come to us from which we cannot escape or which we cannot bear, we will not be given more trials than we can sustain.  (See 1 Cor. 10:13.)"


(Neal A. Maxwell, in Conf. report, Oct. 1982, p. 97; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 67).


We do not always fully understand why the Lord allows particular challenges to come to us.  But we can be sure that if we face them with complete trust in the Lord and his wisdom, we will receive blessings.  He has promised us:  "Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.

"For after much tribulation come the blessings.  Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory" (D&C 58:3-4).  After the Prophet Joseph Smith had been a prisoner in Liberty Jail for several months, he prayed to the Lord:  "O God, where art thou?"  (D&C 121:1) and appealed to the Lord in behalf of the suffering Saints. 

The Lord answered:  "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;  "And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes"  (D&C 121:7-8).  Three sections of the D&C (D&C 121, 122, 123), containing marvelous eternal truths, came from Joseph Smith's inspired writings in Liberty Jail.

Understanding the purpose of adversity can help us gain courage to do or to endure difficult things.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell quoted the words of one young man, afflicted with a terminal illness, who demonstrated this kind of courage:

"I have now had leukemia diagnosed for 15 months, although few people even know about it.  My goal has been to lead as normal a life as is possible; hence the subject rarely gets mentioned because most people I encountered, doctors included, tend to treat it as a tragedy rather than as an incentive to get one's affairs in order promptly.

"My parents took the news quite hard, perhaps because my brother died unexpectedly eleven years ago of undiagnosed causes.  Most are pessimistic; however, I have failed to see how pessimism would help me make the best use of my time, which is of an unknown length, not only for me, but everyone.

"'Against medical and parental advice, I have since gotten married and am finishing my first year at BYU and we're expecting a baby in July.   I feel great and am truly enjoying the blessings that are coming from being married in the temple, studying the scriptures, working hard in school, and living each day rather than simply waiting to die as some would recommend'" 

(The Christ-Centered Life,"  Ensign, Aug. 1981, p.16).


Adversity forces us to reach deep within our souls for the inner strength and peace of mind that can come only from faith and trust in our Father in Heaven.  Indeed, adversity is often the catalyst that develops such faith and trust in the Lord. "The great challenge is to refuse to let the bad things that "happen" to us do bad things "to us". ("Viewpoint:   Antidotes to Adversity,"  Church News, 8 Dec. 1985, p. 16).

The scriptures provide excellent examples of how faith and trust in the Lord can be strengthened through adversity.  In Mosiah 24, we learn that Alma and his people were in bondage to the Lamanites.  Amulon, an extremely harsh taskmaster, was their ruler, and he caused the people to suffer greatly. 

In their affliction, the people cried to the Lord for comfort and deliverance.  In response, Amulon decreed that no one was to pray vocally at any time.  Whoever did so would be put to death.

Although Alma and his people were prohibited from praying vocally to God, they "did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts." "And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying:  Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will convenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

"And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do "that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions."

"And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did "strengthen" them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit "cheerfully" and "with patience" to all the will of the Lord.

"And it came to pass that so great was their "faith" and their "patience" that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying:  Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage"  (Mosiah 24:12-16).

We, too, can be strengthened in adversity by our faith and confidence in God.  Sometimes we will have to patiently and cheerfully submit to the will of the Lord.  But he has the power to lift us from the depths of depression and discouragement and turn our trials into eternal blessings.

As the Lord made a promise to the people of Alma, so he has made a promise to his Latter-day Saints:

"All things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name's glory, saith the Lord"  (D&C 98:3).  If we are faithful during trials, adversity, and affliction,  we show that we truly love the Lord and prepare ourselves for great blessings.  If we trust in the Lord, he can turn our times of trial into times of eternal blessing.


(taken from R.S. 1988 manual, Spiritual Living, 19, p. 122 additional sources listed, p. 127)