Chapter 4: Living Joyfully in Troubled Times
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 68–75
During 2015, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.
Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson
With faith in our Heavenly Father, we can have hope for the future, optimism in our present tasks, and inner peace.
We will all have disappointments and discouragements—that is part of life. But if we will have faith, our setbacks will be but a moment and success will come out of our seeming failures. Our Heavenly Father can accomplish miracles through each of us if we will but place our confidence and trust in Him.
It is a great blessing to have an inner peace, to have an assurance, to have a spirit of serenity and inward calm during times of strife and struggle, during times of sorrow and reverses. It is soul-satisfying to know that God is at the helm, that He is mindful of His children, and that we can with full confidence place our trust in Him.
Prayer—persistent prayer—can put us in touch with God, our greatest source of comfort and counsel. “Pray always, that you may come off conqueror.” (D&C 10:5.) “Exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me” is how the young Joseph Smith describes the method that he used in the Sacred Grove to keep the adversary from destroying him. (JS—H 1:16.)
Without faith in our Heavenly Father, we cannot be successful. Faith gives us vision of what may happen, hope for the future, and optimism in our present tasks. Where faith is, we do not doubt the ultimate success of the work.
Of all people, we as Latter-day Saints should be the most optimistic and the least pessimistic. For while we know that “peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion,” we are also assured that “the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst.” (D&C 1:35–36.)
With the assurance that the Church shall remain intact with God directing it through the troubled times ahead, it then becomes our individual responsibility to see that each of us remains faithful to the Church and its teachings. “He that remaineth steadfast and is not overcome, the same shall be saved.” (JS—M 1:11.)
In this chapter that focuses on living joyfully even when life’s circumstances don’t cooperate, Benson is quoted as saying how important it is to remain ”faithful to the Church and its teachings.” In a talk titled “Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth” given at the October 2014 General Conference, Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf provided four points for Latter-day Saints to consider. They were (with commentary following each point):
First, you must search the word of God. That means reading the scriptures and studying the words of the ancient as well as modern prophets regarding the restored gospel of Jesus Christ—not with an intent to doubt or criticize but with a sincere desire to discover truth. Ponder upon the things you will feel, and prepare your minds to receive the truth. “Even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you … that ye can give place for [the word of God].”
I for one would agree with this if “scriptures” meant only the Bible. However, he refers to the Standard Works. Still, I challenge my Latter-day Saint friends to read the book of Romans and see if what it teaches coincides with Latter-day Saint teaching.
Second, you must consider, ponder, fearlessly strive to believe, and be grateful for how merciful the Lord has been to His children from the time of Adam to our day by providing prophets, seers, and revelators to lead His Church and help us find the way back to Him.
Everything goes back to the church. Yet how do we know that the “prophets, seers, and revelators” of the LDS Church can be trusted?
Third, you must ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unto you. Ask with a sincere heart and with real intent, having faith in Christ.
There is also a fourth step, given to us by the Savior: “If any man will do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” In other words, when you are trying to verify the truth of gospel principles, you must first live them. Put gospel doctrine and Church teachings to the test in your own life. Do it with real intent and enduring faith in God. If you will do these things, you have a promise from God—who is bound by His word—that He will manifest the truth to you by the power of the Holy Ghost. He will grant you greater light that will allow you to look through the darkness and witness unimaginably glorious vistas incomprehensible to mortal sight.
The Mormon religion is entirely based on “do” “do” do” and yet it’s never though to be “done,” as Mormon theology offers no assurance that a person has done enough to qualify for the celestial kingdom. Instead of running around with our heads cut off, Christianity says the work is “done” because Jesus paid the price; only then are we are freed to do what He has commanded. Good works follows a genuine conversation but never precedes it. Mormonism contains backwards theology, with no satisfaction that the weight of our sins could ever be earned through one’s own effort.
At the fall 2013 general conference, Uchtdorf gave a talk he titled “Come Join With Us.” In what appears to be a catchy little segment, the apostle answered the question “But what about my doubts?”
It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Is doubting your doubts wise advice, especially since the Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to “test everything”? Is this what we normally do with life-and-death situations? Imagine if a wife asked, “Honey, did you turn the stove off?” and the husband replied, “Babe, just doubt your doubts!” Or what about if you’re not sure if you have enough gas to get to your next destination in the desert? Perhaps you should just doubt your doubts! A person who has constant headaches and wonders if there could be a possible tumor inside should certainly ignore these symptoms, right? Or should a person who believes he could balance himself from the eighth story ledge be encouraged to ignore all doubts and just do it?
Many more examples could be given. The point is that doubts should not just be ignored. I’m not saying it is possible to empirically make your doubts go away, but some research and testing would certainly be helpful to see if the doubts in play have any foundations that ought to be considered.
And so the same should be with Mormonism? If you have doubts about:
- Joseph Smith’s integrity
- The Book of Mormon story
- The Book of Abraham “translation”
- Mormonism’s compatability with the teachings of the Bible
then researching these issues would be the wisest move possible. As my friend Peter Barnes used to say, truth never runs from error but error always runs from truth. Blindly remaining “faithful to the Church” when there’s smoke in the kitchen is certainly foolish.
Happiness must be earned from day to day, but it is worth the effort. We have no cause to really worry. Live the gospel, keep the commandments. Attend to your prayers night and morning in your home. Maintain the standards of the Church. Try and live calmly and cheerfully. … Happiness must be earned from day to day. But it is worth the effort.
If this paragraph wasn’t so serious, it would be laughable. “No cause to really worry”? Tell that to the many depressed Latter-day Saints who don’t know where they’ll go if they die in their sleep tonight. They have no assurance that they have done everything they need to do in order to reach their version of Nirvana, the Celestial Kingdom. They try hard, but they can’t “maintain the standards of the Church.” They want to “live calmly and cheerfully,” but down deep they know they aren’t successful in doing what they are told. What Benson is offering here is a false bill of sales. A wise person would resoundly reject this teaching.
If you are a person who has accepted Mormonism and turned off the waves to your brain, then I suggest doing some more research. Test out this religion and see if it stands the test. True happiness is found only in an authentic relationship with the Jesus of the Bible. Find out how you can know for sure that you are forgiven of your sins and are assured of going to His kingdom.
When George A. Smith was very ill, he was visited by his cousin, the Prophet Joseph Smith. The afflicted man reported: “He [the Prophet] told me I should never get discouraged, whatever difficulties might surround me. If I were sunk into the lowest pit of Nova Scotia and all the Rocky Mountains piled on top of me, I ought not to be discouraged, but hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I should come out on the top of the heap.” … Be cheerful in all that you do. Live joyfully. Live happily. Live enthusiastically, knowing that God does not dwell in gloom and melancholy, but in light and love.
Willing oneself to recovery is not enough. The first step is getting onto the right path. If Mormonism is not what its leaders claim it to be, then it behooves the Latter-day Saint to do what is necessary to come into a relationship with the God and Jesus as described in the Bible.
“To live happily is to grow in spiritual strength toward perfection.”
Heavenly Father wants us to be happy, and He will bless us as we follow His will for us.
“Men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). Our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy. He expects us to be happy. But there is no happiness in a letting down of standards. There is no happiness when you fail to live according to your convictions, according to that which you know to be right. It is so easy to form the habit of taking it just a little easy on certain things. It is so easy to form the habit of faultfinding, or criticizing, of carrying in our hearts reservations regarding certain things in the Church. It is so easy for us to become a bit bitter, and then dwell on that, to become sad and carry a sad face with us. A sad face never won a battle in war or love.
Happiness not based on Truth is fleeting. Emotions make a person go up and down. True happiness is found only in a personal relationship with God.
Do we realize that happiness here and now consists in freely, lovingly, joyfully acknowledging God’s will for us—and doing it in all ways and all affairs big and small? To live perfectly is to live happily.
The question is, who reading this article is living “perfectly”? (The author certainly is not!) Is perfection even attainable today? If so, who is successful in this endeavor?
For more information, see:
- “Becoming Perfect Before the Lord”
- “Jorge Zaballos Attempt at the Impossible”
- Review of Anthony Sweat’s “I’m Not Perfect. Can I Still Go to Heaven?”
- For a two-part podcast series on the “Perils of Perfectionism,” go to:
We will never be alone if we live as we should, because our Father will always be with us to bless us. He wants us to be successful. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to achieve the good goals we set. He will do His part if we do our part.
To me, these sentences epitomize the saddest aspect of the Mormon religion. To capture the power of that last sentence, let’s read it backwards: “If we do our part, He will do our part.”
Ladies and gentleman, Jesus has already done His part. Romans 5:6-8 says,
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
To think that we have to do our part before He can do ours is as unbiblical a concept as there ever was. The Mormon system is completely bankrupt and can never save a drowning man from his sins.
For more reviews on the Ezra Taft Benson manual, click here.