Monday, June 26, 2017

President John Taylor on the difference between suffering and experience

President John Taylor (1808–1887) was born in England and immigrated to Canada where he and his wife were converted after hearing Parley P. Pratt preach.  He was ordained an apostle in 1838, and became the third president of the Church in 1880, serving until his death in 1887 at age 78.
"We have learned many things through suffering, we call it suffering; I call it a school of experience, I never did bother my head much about these things; I do not today. What are these things for? Why is it that good men should be tried?
"Why is it, in fact, that we should have a devil? Why did not the Lord kill him long ago? Because he could not do without him. He needed the devil and a great many of those who do his bidding just to keep men straight, that we may learn to place our dependence upon God, and trust in Him, and to observe his laws and keep his commandments....
"I have never looked at these things in any other light than trials for the purpose of purifying the Saints of God, that they may be, as the Scriptures say, as gold that has been seven times purified by the fire."
- John Taylor, discourse at Grantsville, Oct. 29, 1882; see JD 23:336
Click here to read the full talk

Sometimes a change of perspective or interpretation can alter the whole nature of an experience. President Taylor suggests that what we consider suffering, might more properly be considered an episode in the school of experience. With that perspective, when things are hard, we can be looking for the lessons to be learned or the blessings to be gained from the experience.

President Taylor also recognizes the necessity of an adversary in the plan. Having opposition and temptation help us "learn to place our dependence upon God, and trust in Him, and to observe his laws and keep his commandments." If there were no opposition, we might not have opportunity to learn those same lessons.

I am not familiar with a scriptural passage that talks of gold seven times purified; there is one that refers to silver in that sense (see Psalm 12:6). But the message is clear and the application is memorable. Trials will purify the Saints of God in that school of experience—if we allow them to. Joseph Smith was once told, after the Lord listed many of his trials: "know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good" (D&C 122:7), The same applies to us.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

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