Thursday, November 1, 2018

President John Taylor on God's help as we endure in faithfulness

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.
"In all these events which are now taking place we recognize and acknowledge the hand of God. There is a wise purpose in it all, which He will yet more fully make plain to us. One thing is clear, the Saints are being tried in a manner never before known among us. The faithful rejoice and are steadfast; the unfaithful fear and tremble. Those who have oil in their lamps and have kept them trimmed and burning now have a light for their feet and they do not stumble or fall; those who have neither light nor oil are in perplexity and doubt; they know not what to do. Is not this the fulfillment of the word of God and the teachings of His servants? Have not the Latter-day Saints been taught all the day long that, if they would remain faithful and endure to the end, they must live their religion by keeping every commandment of God? Have they not been continually warned of the fate which awaited them if they committed sin? Can adulterers, fornicators, liars, thieves, drunkards, Sabbath breakers, blasphemers, or sinners of any kind endure the trials, which Saints must pass through and expect to stand? ...
"If all who call themselves Latter-day Saints were true and faithful to their God, to His holy covenants and laws, and were living as Saints should, persecution would roll off from us without disturbing us in the least. But it is painful to know that this is not their condition.... The Lord has commanded that the inhabitants of Zion must purge themselves from iniquity, folly, covetousness, and vanity, and listen to and obey His laws, or they cannot have His protection. He has also said that if His people will obey His laws and keep His commandments, to do them, not in name only, but in reality, He will be their shield and protector and strong tower, and no man will be able to hurt them, for He will be their defense.
"These trials of our faith and constancy which we are now passing through will be overruled for our good and future prosperity. In days to come we shall be able to look back and perceive with clearness how visibly God’s providence is in all that we now witness. Let us do all in our power to so live before the Lord that if we are persecuted, it shall not be for wrong-doing, but for righteousness."
- John Taylor, from "An Epistle to the Church," October 6, 1885; see Clark, Messages of the First Presidency 3:36–37

Many of the leaders of the Church were in hiding in 1885 because of persecution related to the practice of polygamy. As they were not able to safely attend General Conference in October, President Taylor and his counselor George Q. Cannon wrote an extensive letter to the Church containing much interesting instruction.

In this excerpt, President Taylor addresses the persecution the Church had been experiencing, as well as the general principles of faith and trust in God in the midst of trials. A great summary lies in the statement, "The faithful rejoice and are steadfast; the unfaithful fear and tremble."

Trials and challenges will come in life. But faithful saints, who strive to keep God's commandments, remaining faithful and enduring patiently, can move forward with confidence in God's protection and blessings; God "will be their shield and protector and strong tower." That's a beautiful promise.

President Taylor also urged the patience that will eventually lead to understanding and perspective: "In days to come we shall be able to look back and perceive with clearness how visibly God’s providence is in all that we now witness."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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