By Paula Hicken
Every person experiences tribulation of some kind during life. Although difficult or painful, trials are an essential part of the earthly experience God intended for each of His children.
Tribulation Comes as Part of the Gift of Agency
Agency is the ability and freedom to choose good or evil. Latter-day Saints believe that the ability to choose is God-given, a fundamental part of His plan of salvation and happiness for His children.
Each of us faces tests to our morals, principles, and commitments. We encounter temptations and tribulation. Because of agency we are able to choose what we will do or say in each experience we have. With freedom of choice comes responsibility for our choices. We can make choices, but our choices are connected to consequences that affect not only us but other people.
We can learn from our choices and their consequences. “The knowledge that our Father lets us taste the bitter precisely so we can prize the good should be a source of courage and good cheer to those who, in their yearning to become like him, seek to do all they can do” (Bruce C. Hafen, The Broken Heart: Applying the Atonement to Life’s Experiences (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), 139).
God’s Law of Opposition
All inhabitants of the earth experience times of tribulation as a result of Adam and Eve’s choice to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.
And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. . . .
And [Adam and Eve] would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin (2 Nephi 2:22–23).
The role of opposition in life is explained in a passage in the Book of Mormon: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so . . . righteousness could not be brought to pass. . . . And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery” (2 Nephi 2:11, 13).
Opposition allows God’s children to learn to treasure the good in life. “As surely as the dark gives meaning to the dawn, so does pain give meaning to pleasure, and sorrow to joy. All that we love, all that we strive for, all that we relish, we know only by contrast”< (Terryl Givens and Fiona Givens, The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life ([Salt Lake City]: Ensign Peak, 2012), 33).
Latter-day Saints believe that life’s tribulations are evidence of a loving Father in Heaven who helps His children to develop spiritual strength and Christ-like qualities. In a compelling revelation given to Joseph Smith while he was persecuted and imprisoned in Liberty Jail, the Lord described harrowing tribulation that Joseph was enduring and concluded with the lesson “know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7–8).
Jesus Christ Teaches about Tribulation
Jesus understands the trials and tribulations of earthlife. His mortal life was a perfect example of tribulation well endured. Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ suffered every feeling of pain, sorrow, despair, loneliness, and temptation that anyone has ever felt so that he would be able to succor them. This He did in the Garden of Gethsemane. (See Alma 7:11–13.)
During some of His last moments with His disciples, Jesus told them He would soon die and be resurrected. In an effort to give them peace and hope about his departure, He told them: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Turn to the Lord for Help During Tribulation
Moses promised the Israelites that “When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; . . . he will not forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 4:30). Latter-day Saints believe the same promise applies to anyone who turns to the Lord for help and strives to become better at becoming more like the Savior.
Because of their increased or intensified prayers to God for relief and direction during times of tribulation, God’s children often feel His love more abundantly.
The apostle Paul wrote that “tribulation worketh patience” (Romans 5:3). Latter-day Saints believe that hard experiences refine each of us spiritually when we keep our faith in Jesus Christ. Like heat tempers glass or fire refines gold, we can become stronger and purified through the intensity of life’s difficulties.
Jesus Christ’s counsel to His disciples, as recorded in John 16:33, also remind us that these difficult times are only small moments in the span of eternity. We are assured that because Christ overcame the tribulation of mortality, we will also.