“We Can Relate to Latter-day Saints of the Past,” Liahona, July 2021
As a historian with the Joseph Smith Papers Project, I love giving devotional talks and interacting with Church members about the history of the Church. As I’ve done this, I’ve noticed that some people have a hard time relating to Saints in the past. Depictions of these individuals often focus on their heroic traits, making it seem as though they never struggled with doubt, disease, or despair.
But Church members living in the 1800s were no less human than you and I are today. They experienced joy and happiness, pain and suffering—and frequently just ordinary, uneventful days. I have learned much from their experiences about how to navigate the human condition.
I hope your study of the Doctrine and Covenants this year is helping you learn about the way Saints in the past dealt with life’s challenges. I also hope my article on how Joseph Smith navigated trials will build your faith and help you see that we can relate to the challenges he went through (see page 30). One of the challenges was that he struggled to get direction from the Lord to know how to help the persecuted Saints in Missouri. When the Lord did answer, He gave the Prophet a comforting prompting: “Be still and know that I am God” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:16).
There is much we can learn from those who have gone before—not just from their miraculous experiences but from their quiet devotion as well.
Matthew C. Godfrey
Church History Department