From The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Author: Frandsen, Christie H.
Encountering trials, or testing, is one of the purposes of mortality. A key verse of Latter-day Saint understanding is from the Book of Abraham: "And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them" (Abr. 3:25). Although often painful and difficult, trials are an essential and expected part of life and provide experiences necessary for developing Christlike qualities and spiritual strength (Abr. 3:25; D&C 98:12-14; Mosiah 23:21-22).
Abraham's trials provide a prototype for man's dilemma in the world. Early in life he was placed on an altar amidst idol worshippers and delivered by divine intervention (Abr. 1). Later, God commanded him to offer his son Isaac for a burnt offering. Prophets have said that if Abraham's feelings could have been touched more deeply in any other way than by the instruction to offer up his own son (Gen. 22:1-19), that way would have been followed. Modern scripture says that all must eventually be "chastened and tried even as Abraham" (D&C 101:4;132:37, 51). For Latter-day Saints, trials are not evidence of an indifferent God who allows his children to suffer, but rather evidence of a loving Father who honors the desire of his children to grow (Zech. 13:9; Heb. 12:6; Prov. 3:11-12).
Adversity may be a test of faithfulness and endurance. These tests allow persons to demonstrate to God and to themselves that they will love and trust him "at all hazards" (TPJS, p. 150). Ironically, God's love is often felt more closely and abundantly during times of adversity, when prayers are intensified and thoughts are turned to God, than during times of prosperity, when it seems easy to forget the need for divine help. Thus, the Lord has said: "In the day of their peace they esteem lightly my counsel" (D&C 101:8). Prosperity itself can therefore be viewed as a type of trial. Faith grows as one recognizes that, whether or not divine intervention modifies circumstances, God's power may change persons, enabling them to endure well (Mosiah 24:13-15; John 9:1-3). In a very real sense, whatever one's circumstances, life is a trial, a test of faithfulness (Hel. 12:1-3; D&C 101:4; Rom. 5:3-5). Adversity also May generate and perfect attributes of godliness, such as patience, empathy, sacrifice, and compassion.
Like all persons of faith, Latter-day Saints sometimes struggle to reconcile their acceptance of adversity with another important concept: that God has promised to bless and prosper the righteous. Latter-day Saints believe still in this ancient Deuteronomic covenant, renewed in modern times. During times of adversity, often the greatest anguish comes not from dealing with the difficult circumstances, but from introspectively determining whether they came as a result of personal unworthiness. In these situations, adversity can provide the motivation needed to repent (Deut. 11:26-28; 2 Ne. 1:20).
Even with this understanding, faithful Latter-day Saints often find the vicissitudes of life challenging. Nevertheless, they derive great strength and comfort from the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, and the promise that God will never test them beyond their ability to withstand (1 Cor. 10:13). Jesus' own mortal life was a perfect example of trials well endured. Latter-day Saints believe that Christ suffered every feeling of temptation, pain, sorrow, and despair that anyone has ever felt in the darkest hours of adversity so that he would be able to give comfort (D&C 122:5-8). In addition, they find hope in his assurance that these difficult times are a small moment in the span of eternity with great blessings to follow for those who, without bitterness or despair, prove worthy and endure to the end (D&C 98:3;121:7-8;122:5-9; Alma 7:11-13).
Holland, Jeffrey R. However Long and Hard the Road. Salt Lake City, 1985.
Kimball, Spencer W. Faith Precedes the Miracle, pp. 95-110. Salt Lake City, 1972.
Madsen, Truman G. "Power from Abrahamic Tests." In The Highest In Us, pp. 49-57. Salt Lake City, 1978.
Maxwell, Neal A. All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience. Salt Lake City, 1980.
Maxwell, Neal A. We Will Prove Them Herewith. Salt Lake City, 1982.
CHRISTIE H. FRANDSEN