Chapter 13: Facing the Challenges of Life

“Chapter 13: Facing the Challenges of Life,” The Gospel and the Productive Life Teacher Manual Religion 150 (2017)

“Chapter 13: Facing the Challenge of Life,” The Gospel and the Productive Life Teacher Manual

Chapter 13

Facing the Challenges of Life

People Enjoying Nature, Mumbai India


Challenges and trials are part of our mortal probation. Faithfully coping with life’s difficulties can become opportunities for us to grow spiritually. Help students understand that with the Savior’s help we can have peace during our trials (see John 16:33). Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that adversity is to be endured and that we are to learn from it: “Real storm fronts do pass turbulently through our lives, but they do not last forever. We can learn the important difference between passing, local cloud cover, and general darkness” (Lord, Increase Our Faith [1994], 43).

Principles to Understand

  • Adversity is part of our mortal experience.

  • The challenges of mortality can help us grow.

  • Maintaining faith in Jesus Christ helps us solve problems and overcome adversity.

  • We must endure to the end.

Teaching Suggestions

Adversity is part of our mortal experience

Ask students how they would complete the following sentence: “My life will be easier when I finally .”

Remind them that it is common to hope that life could be simple and pleasant, yet for many, life is difficult. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Packer, Boyd K.

“We will not as a people, as families, or as individuals be exempt from the trials to come. No one will be spared the trials common to home and family, work, disappointment, grief, health, aging, ultimately death” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Cloven Tongues of Fire,” Ensign, May 2000, 8).

Explain that three categories in which trials can be placed are:

  1. Those brought on by our own mistakes.

  2. Those imposed upon us because of others.

  3. Those that are just a part of mortal life.

Invite students to share examples from any of the three categories. Remind students that they should not share experiences that are too personal or private.

Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), and invite students to listen for how we should respond to our trials:

Hinckley, Gordon B.

“I have enjoyed these words of Jenkins Lloyd Jones, which I clipped from the newspaper some years ago. Said he: …

“‘Anyone who imagines that bliss … is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed.

“‘[The fact is] … most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. …

“‘Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.

“‘The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride’ (“Big Rock Candy Mountains,” Deseret News, 12 June 1973, A4)” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Conversation with Single Adults,” Ensign, Mar. 1997, 60).

Ask two students to take turns reading Doctrine and Covenants 122:7 and 136:31 aloud. You may want to suggest that students consider marking the phrase in each verse that indicates why the Lord allows trials in the lives of His children. Invite them to list in their class notebooks or study journals some of the trials they have faced.

  • How have you become a better person as a result of your trials?

Show some sandpaper and a piece of wood. While sanding the wood, ask the following questions:

  • What value can this rough paper have?

  • What can sanding this wood be compared to in our lives?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

Maxwell, Neal A.

“In life, the sandpaper of circumstances often smooths our crustiness and patiently polishes our rough edges. There is nothing pleasant about it, however. And the Lord will go to great lengths in order to teach us a particular lesson and to help us to overcome a particular weakness, especially if there is no other way” (Neal A. Maxwell, Notwithstanding My Weakness [1981], 67–68).

  • How can our trials smooth us and prepare us for eternal life?

  • How does our attitude make a difference as we face the challenges of mortality?

The challenges of mortality can help us grow

Ask a student who is physically able to come to the front of the class and do ten push-ups. Then ask another student to stand up and do the hand and arm motions of a push-up in the air.

  • How is resistance an important factor for muscle growth?

  • In what ways can this be compared to spiritual growth?

Help students understand that life’s trials often provide the resistance by which we can increase our strength as Latter-day Saints.

Write the following sentences on the board:

  • Stepping-stones or stumbling blocks?

  • Trials can polish.

  • Afflictions can be divine chastening.

Invite three students to take turns reading aloud the statements by Elder John B. Dickson, Elder Richard G. Scott, and Elder Neal A. Maxwell under the section “The challenges of mortality …” in the student manual. Ask students to explain how the sentences on the board relate to each statement.

  • What are the most typical challenges that young people encounter?

  • What have you found to be the most helpful responses to these kinds of challenges?

  • In what ways have your difficulties helped you become a better person?

Maintaining faith in Jesus Christ helps us solve problems and overcome adversity

Invite students to think about a time when they faced overwhelming obstacles and were not certain what to do. Then ask them to name which of the following questions are most conducive to growth during serious trials and why:

  • Why does this have to happen to me?

  • What can I learn from this experience?

  • Is there anything I should change about myself?

  • Why do I have to suffer this now?

  • Have I done anything to cause this?

  • How has the Lord blessed me and helped me through past trials?

Invite a student to read 2 Kings 6:14–15 aloud and look for the question Elisha’s servant asked. Then ask another student to read verses 16–17 aloud.

  • What great lesson did Elisha teach his servant about facing adversity and trials? (See verse 16.)

  • What did Elisha know that his servant did not know? (See verse 17.)

  • How do you think the young servant felt when he was able to see the horses and chariots of fire?

  • How can we apply this story to our own lives?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Holland, Jeffrey R.

“In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike—and they will—you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham’s seed” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “For Times of Trouble,” New Era, Oct. 1980, 15).

  • Why is it important to remember that when we are following gospel principles the “armies of heaven” will support us?

We must endure to the end

Assign three students to take turns reading the following three scriptures aloud and to share what they teach about enduring to the end: 2 Nephi 31:20; Doctrine and Covenants 24:8; 121:7–8.

Explain that we must never stop trying when problems and their attendant pains multiply. We can draw strength from the Lord, knowing that uncertainty about our problems is part of our test in mortality. We demonstrate our faithfulness and love of the Lord by living gospel principles while facing our unexpected challenges. Enduring to the end is not just sitting through the difficult parts of life.

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

Maxwell, Neal A.

“Since there was no exemption from suffering for Christ, how can there be one for us? Do we really want immunity from adversity? Especially when certain kinds of suffering can aid our growth in this life? To deprive ourselves of those experiences, much as we might momentarily like to, would be to deprive ourselves of the outcomes over which we shouted with anticipated joy when this life’s experiences were explained to us so long ago, in the world before we came here.

“Life is a school in which we enrolled not only voluntarily but rejoicingly; and if the school’s Headmaster employs a curriculum—proven, again and again on other planets, to bring happiness to participants—and if we agreed that once we were enrolled there would be no withdrawals, and also to undergo examinations that would truly test our ability and perceptivity, what would an experienced Headmaster do if, later on, there were complaints? Especially if, in His seeming absence, many of the school children tore up their guiding notebooks and demanded that He stop the examinations since these produced some pain? … One learns by taking the full course!” (Neal A. Maxwell, All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience [1979], 26–27).

Ask a student to read aloud the fifth verse of the hymn “How Firm a Foundation” (Hymns, no. 85). Invite students to listen for what it teaches about adversity. You may want to sing the hymn as a class.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

Suggested Student Assignments

  1. Ask students to think of two people they know who have endured many trials in their lives and, if possible, to ask those people how they grew from their experiences. Encourage students to express their gratitude to those people and to convey their feelings and admiration for what they shared. Tell them to be prepared to share in the next class any insights they gained about how to endure well the challenges we often face.