"All that I have read thus far is a preparation for the next line from Daniel W. Jones’ journal. It illustrates how those pioneer Saints may have known something about the enabling power of the Atonement that we, in our prosperity and ease, are not as quick to understand: 'We asked the Lord to bless our stomachs and adapt them to this food' (Jones, Forty Years Among the Indians, 81; emphasis added). My dear brothers and sisters, I know what I would have prayed for in those circumstances. I would have prayed for something else to eat. 'Heavenly Father, please send me a quail or a buffalo.' It never would have occurred to me to pray that my stomach would be strengthened and adapted to what we already had.
"What did Daniel W. Jones know? He knew about the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He did not pray that his circumstances would be changed. He prayed that he would be strengthened to deal with his circumstances. Just as Nephi, Amulek, and Alma and his people were strengthened, Daniel W. Jones had the spiritual insight to know what to ask for in that prayer. 'We hadn’t the faith to ask him to bless the raw-hide, for it was "hard stock." On eating now all seemed to relish the feast. We were three days without eating before this second attempt was made. We enjoyed this sumptuous fare for about six weeks' (Jones, Forty Years, 81–82).
"The enabling power of the Atonement of Christ strengthens us to do things we could never do on our own. Sometimes I wonder if in our latter-day world of ease—in our world of microwave ovens and cell phones and air-conditioned cars and comfortable homes—I wonder if we ever learn to acknowledge our daily dependence upon the enabling power of the Atonement."
- David A. Bednar, "In the Strength of the Lord," BYU Devotional, 23 October 2001
Click here to read the full talk
Elder Bednar shared a remarkable story from the life of Daniel Jones, who was part of the rescue efforts for the stranded 1856 handcart companies. During that time, he volunteered with a few others to remain and safeguard the possessions of the pioneer companies while the suffering individuals were taken to Utah for relief. But those who stayed behind soon found their provisions very inadequate to the point that they were forced to subsist on animal hides and other very meager possessions. That's the setting for the stunningly humble and faithful prayer of Daniel Jones.
The profound insight this offers, according to Elder Bednar, is that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we are able to pray not for circumstances to change, but for the strength to survive and learn from the circumstances we're in. That kind of prayer often requires a much deeper faith in God and trust in His eternal plan for our welfare. We learn to draw on the great "enabling power" that the grace of God provides in our lives, helping us to move forward and be blessed by the things we experience and learn.
As Elder Bednar cautions, in our prosperous and comfortable times, it can become easy to forget how dependent we are on that eternal enabling power. We must keep the proper eternal perspective and always acknowledge the blessings that come to us from God in myriad ways. And then, we are able to seek for even more enabling power to help us to grow and become more like Him.