Tuesday, October 26, 2021

President Ezra Taft Benson on the timing of rewards and consequences

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1943, and served as the 13th President of the Church from 1985 until his death in 1994 at age 94.
"Daily, constantly, we choose by our desires, our thoughts, and our actions whether we want to be blessed or cursed, happy or miserable. One of the trials of life is that we do not usually receive immediately the full blessing for righteousness or the full cursing for wickedness. That it will come is certain, but ofttimes there is a waiting period that occurs, as was the case with Job and Joseph. 
"In the meantime the wicked think they are getting away with something. The Book of Mormon teaches that the wicked 'have joy in their works for a season, [but] by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return' (3 Ne. 27:11). 
"During this testing time the righteous must continue to love God, trust in His promises, be patient, and be assured... 
"I testify to you that God's pay is the best pay that this world or any other world knows anything about. And it comes in full abundance only to those who love the Lord and put Him first. 
"The great test of life is obedience to God. 
"The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord and then do it. 
"The great commandment of life is, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength' (Mark 12:30). 
"May God bless us to put the first commandment first and, as a result, reap peace in this life and eternal life with a fulness of joy in the life to come." 
- Ezra Taft Benson, "The Great Commandment — Love the Lord," General Conference April 1988
Click here to read or watch the full talk

In my experience, both personally and in counseling with others, it's so easy and so common to blame our troubles or challenges on other people, on fate, on circumstances.  And occasionally, that is valid; but so often, our state in life is a result of our own choices and actions. President Benson makes this point very forcefully, also reminding us that though God is deeply aware of us, he often postpones the consequences so that we can learn and grow in faith.

Knowing that the "waiting period" is there for a purpose, but is truly temporary, can make all the difference in how we endure. And doesn't this final statement from President Benson encapsulate so much in a few beautiful words?

The great test, great task, and great commandment of our mortal life are all closely related: will we follow God, with willing hearts, with all our hearts? That is the way to find peace in life, and eternal life in the worlds to come.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
February 24, 2015

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