“Strengthening Each Other,” Ensign, Feb. 1985, 3
What a wonderful time to be alive! This is the greatest age in the history of the earth in scientific and technological advancement. Additionally, this is the gospel “dispensation of the fulness of times,” when all of the power and authority of previous dispensations have been restored to earth. It is a wonderful time to be a member of the Church, with millions of members all belonging to the greatest community of friends in all the world. Wherever one goes as a faithful Latter-day Saint he will have instant friends if he makes his identity known.
When the emperor of Japan visited the United States some years ago, I attended a luncheon for him in San Francisco. I sat at a table with people who were not members of the Church who had lived in Japan where they had known Church members. The topic of conversation drifted to the culture shock experienced by persons who go to live in nations in which they are not reared. A knowledgeable man, who had lived abroad a number of years, said, “I have never seen anything like your people to make others feel comfortable and at home. Whenever a Mormon family came to Japan, a week had not passed before they had many friends. It was different with others. Most of them felt extremely lonely and experienced great difficulty in making adjustments.”
Remember, we are not alone. We belong to a great body of friends, thousands upon thousands who are striving to follow the teachings of the Lord. Even so, I know that there are many who are in the minority where they live. Fortunately, however, almost without exception there are Latter-day Saints nearby, people of our own kind, with whom we can mingle freely and live the standards we have learned to appreciate.
I remember interviewing a discouraged missionary. He was having trouble with a language which was not his own. He had lost the spirit of his work and wanted to go home. He was one of 180 missionaries in that mission.
I told him that if he were to go home he would break faith with his 179 companions. Every one of them was his friend. Every one of them would pray for him, fast for him, and do almost anything else to help him. They would work with him. They would teach him. They would get on their knees with him. They would help him to learn the language and be successful because they loved him.
I am happy to report that he accepted my assurance that all of the other missionaries were his friends. They rallied around him, not to embarrass him, but to strengthen him. The terrible feeling of loneliness left him. He came to realize that he was part of a winning team. He became successful, a leader, and he has been a leader ever since.
That’s what each of us must do for one another.
Paul wrote to the Romans, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.” And then he added these significant words, “And not to please ourselves.” (Rom. 15:1.)
There is a sad tendency in our world today for persons to cut one another down. Did you ever realize that it does not take very much in the way of brainpower to make remarks that may wound another? Try the opposite of that. Try handing out compliments.
For a number of years, while I had responsibility for the work in Asia, I interviewed each missionary one-on-one. I asked each what virtue he or she saw in his or her companion and would like to put into his or her own life.
When I raised that question, almost invariably the missionary, an elder for example, would stop with a surprised look on his face. He had never thought of his companion that way before. He had seen his faults and weaknesses but had not seen his virtues. I would tell him to pause and think about it for a minute. Then the answers would begin to come. Such answers as, “He’s a hard worker.” “He gets up in the morning.” “He dresses neatly.” “He doesn’t complain.”
It was a remarkable thing, really. These young men and women, for the most part, had been oblivious to the virtues of their companions, although they were well aware of their companions’ faults, and often felt discouraged because of them. But when they began to turn their attitudes around, remarkable things began to happen.
I know that each of us gets discouraged on occasion. Most of us feel at one time or another that we have failed. I am confident that the Prophet Joseph Smith felt a sense of failure and sadness when he crossed the Mississippi River to leave his enemies only to learn that some of his own people were saying that he was running away. He replied, “If my life is of no value to my friends it is of none to myself.” (History of the Church, 6:549.) He returned, and went to Carthage and his death a short time later.
I have seen President David O. McKay discouraged. I have seen President Joseph Fielding Smith and President Harold B. Lee and President Spencer W. Kimball discouraged. All of us can become discouraged. But when I think of discouragement, I sometimes think of a news article I once read:
“If you sometimes get discouraged, consider this fellow. He dropped out of grade school. Ran a country store. Went broke. Took 15 years to pay off his bills. Took a wife. Unhappy marriage. Ran for House. Lost twice. Ran for Senate. Lost twice. Delivered speech that became a classic. Audience indifferent. Attacked daily by the press and despised by half the country. Despite all this, imagine how many people all over the world have been inspired by this awkward, rumpled, brooding man who signed his name simply, A. Lincoln.” (Wall Street Journal.)
It is important to know, when you feel down, that many others do also and that their circumstances are generally much worse than yours. And it’s important to know that when one of us is down, it becomes the obligation of his friends to give him a lift. I hope that each of us will cultivate a sensitivity toward the feelings of others, and when encouragement is needed, make an effort to extend it. Be a friend, and you will have a friend. God be thanked for wonderful friends.
There is also in our society a sad tendency among many of us to belittle ourselves. Other persons may appear to us to be sure of themselves, but the fact is that most of us have some feelings of inferiority. The important thing is not to talk to yourself about it. All of us cannot be tall, dark, and handsome. All of us cannot be trim of figure or have a beautiful face. The important thing is to make the best of all that we have.
Don’t waste your time feeling sorry for yourself. Don’t belittle yourself. Never forget that you are a child of God. You have a divine birthright. Something of the very nature of God is within you. The Psalmist sang, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” (Ps. 82:6.)
I think that David must have been sitting under the stars thinking of this great potential when he wrote:
“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
“For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
“Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.” (Ps. 8:4–6.)
Each person has the potential for great things. Said the Lord through revelation, “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God will lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” (D&C 112:10.) What a marvelous promise that is, and so applicable to our personal development.
There is another trait related to our personal progress about which I would like to comment. In our academically advanced age, one sees much of what I choose to call intellectual arrogance. It is for the most part a false and specious thing. And, because it is a specious thing, it generally gives rise to cynicism and ultimately to discouragement in one form or another.
A Book of Mormon prophet said, “O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.” (2 Ne. 9:28.)
There is an interesting story in the history of the Church. It concerns a man who was great and then fell because he became somewhat arrogant. Concerning him, President Wilford Woodruff said, “I have seen Oliver Cowdery when it seemed as though the earth trembled under his feet. I never heard a man bear a stronger testimony than he did when under the influence of the Spirit. But the moment he left the kingdom of God, that moment his power fell like lightning from heaven. He was shorn of his strength like Samson in the lap of Delilah. He lost the power and the testimony which he had enjoyed, and he never recovered it again in its fulness while in the flesh, although he died in the Church.” (As quoted by Stanley R. Gunn, Oliver Cowdery: Second Elder and Scribe, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1962, p. 73.)
As the years pass, each of us faces challenges within ourselves, generally in areas where we need development and refinement. Questions may arise in our minds concerning the Church, its history, its doctrine, its practices. I want to give you my testimony concerning this work. I have been heavily involved in it for more than a half a century. I have worked with the presidents of the Church from President Heber J. Grant onward. I have known in a very personal way President Grant, President George Albert Smith, President David O. McKay, President Joseph Fielding Smith, President Harold B. Lee, and President Spencer W. Kimball. I have known the counselors of all of these men, and I have known the Council of the Twelve during the years of the administrations of these Presidents. All of these men have been human. They have had human traits and perhaps some human weaknesses. But over and above all of that, there has been in the life of every one of them an overpowering manifestation of the inspiration of God. Those who have been Presidents have been prophets in a very real way. I have intimately witnessed the spirit of revelation upon them. Each man came to the Presidency after many years of experience as a member of the Council of the Twelve and in other capacities. The Lord refined and polished each one, let him know discouragement and failure, let him experience illness and in some cases deep sorrow. All of this became part of a great refining process, and the effect of that process became beautifully evident in their lives.
My dear friends in the gospel, this is God’s work. This is his Church and the Church of his Beloved Son whose name it carries. God will never permit an imposter to stand at its head. He will name his prophets, and he will inspire and direct them. Joseph Smith was his great prophet in opening this dispensation of the fulness of times. Joyfully and truthfully we can sing, “Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah! Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.” (Hymns, no. 147.)
God bless each of us with faith, and with testimony of this great and holy work. May he also grant joy to each of us through the service we give in the fulfillment of God’s plans concerning his great work in these latter-days.
The Lord himself has spoken it: “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.” (D&C 65:2.)
Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:
1. It is important to know that each of us gets discouraged on occasion.
2. Each of us should cultivate a sensitivity toward the feelings of others and, when encouragement is needed, make an effort to extend it.
3. We shouldn’t waste our time feeling sorry for ourselves.
4. We should try handing out compliments and building up others.
5. The Lord refined and polished each of the Presidents of the Church, letting each one know discouragement and failure and experience illness and sorrow. This great refining process, so evident in their lives, is a part of each of our lives.
1. Relate your personal feelings or experiences on overcoming discouragement. Ask family members to share their feelings.
2. Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
3. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop?