YMF Sunday School is a series where members of the yMf community prepare Gospel Doctrine lessons and present them on this blog. Readers are encouraged to discuss lessons in the comments section. This week’s lesson is lesson 28 in the Doctrine and Covenants & Church History manual: “O God Where Art Thou”. The lesson was prepared by Kathryn Elizabeth.
Welcome, brothers and sisters. Whatever brings you here, a tweet, a link from Facebook– or a longing to find something that feels right and true– whatever it is, I am glad to have you.
We are truth-seekers. We wander down paths familiar and strange looking for light; we rejoice when we find it. Do you ever find truth in the strangest of places? I have, and I love how it takes me by surprise, but makes my spirit spring to life. It feels even more accomplished to find truth in the dark, scary parts of our mortality, like mining for gold. You dig and you dig. It’s dirty, cold, and painful. And all at once, there it is, a glimmering hope that you’ve discovered the greatest treasure there is: truth.
But sometimes it doesn’t feel quite so rewarding. Sometimes it feels like nothing will ever come from all the pain and darkness.
Sometimes it feels as though Heavenly Father has withdrawn his presence from your life entirely.
How do we navigate through these times? How do we turn the terrifyingly dark parts of our lives into something sacred and good?
In 1838-1839, the Prophet Joseph Smith found himself in such a place. This was a tumultuous time for the Saints in Missouri. They were facing fierce, violent persecution from outsiders, as well as discord and dissension among the members.
The Lord teaches in patterns. The early saints were asked to make physical sacrifices, but we are, for the most part, asked to make spiritual sacrifices (not that physical sacrifices don’t exist, today). The Prophet Joseph Smith was confined to a literal prison and faced physical darkness for the coldest months of a Missouri winter. I’d ask you to put yourself in his situation, but I don’t think we can. We likely do not have the proper framework to understand the physiological challenges that come from such circumstances, but I am certain that a band of truth seekers like us has spent plenty of time in spiritual darkness.
Are you in your spiritual jail, facing death at any moment? Did you fight your way out of darkness and move into light? Are you somewhere in between, still uncertain of what the outcome might be?
Wherever you are, it is ok to be there. Wherever you are, keep searching.
What do we learn from D&C 121–122, revelation given to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail? We learn from the very existence of these chapters of scripture that it is possible to turn the foulest locations into sacred spaces, to turn a jail into a place of learning. From the contents of these chapters, we learn that God is always near. We learn that we are valued more than we can comprehend. We learn that in our deepest trials, God will never, never forsake us. Our heavenly parents are infinitely compassionate beings. How could they abandon us?
Not many years ago, I found myself lost in the midst of a crisis of faith. I felt alone. I felt confused. I feared my doubts and I feared my faith community. The Church had always been part of me, my identity. Who was I, if I wasn’t Mormon?
I pulled myself away from everyone. Stopped writing letters to missionaries I had known my entire life. Stopped responding to my visiting teachers. Hiding out in my car for many Sacrament Meetings. Skipping lessons in the Primary book because I could not bear to hear an eight year old girl ask me why she can’t ever hold the priesthood. It was all too much.
I drifted away from the church but in this distance, I found God. I found a God who said “I will never forget about you.” A God who says, “All are welcome in my kingdom.” I came to know this God as one who knows compassion towards me and I came know his son, a Savior who comprehends the pain that comes with such trials. Neither one will ever forsake us.
I like to think this is the same God that Joseph Smith found. I believe he found a new side to a God with whom he was already well acquainted, but now, on some profound level, connected. This same connection with the divine is possible for each of us.
So, truth-seeking friends, have you had similar experiences? In what unexpected places have you found God? In what ways have your darkest places become sanctified?