The pioneers’ faith in Jesus Christ was able to carry them through hardship and trial, said Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge, a General Authority Seventy, during the Day’s of ‘47 Sunrise Service on July 24.
“Hardship, suffering, disappointment, failure and faith, but always leading to ultimate triumph, have been the common lot of the faithful — beginning with Adam and Eve, to Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Lehi, Joseph Smith, especially Jesus Christ and everyone who followed after them,” said Elder Corbridge.
Held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, the service ushered in Utah's Pioneer Day holiday with music and testimony. President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency and his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, attended the early morning meeting.
Following multiple musical numbers by the Salt Lake Valley Combined Institute Choir and Days of ‘47 Royalty, Elder Corbridge said some might ask why the early pioneers willingly endured hardships to gather in the Western United States. Some may wonder why it was necessary for them to leave their homes and homelands.
He also posed the question, “Does faith, faithfulness and righteousness require willing abandonment of almost everything else?”
“Our natural instinct understandably is to shrink from suffering, but it is a grave mistake for that to be life’s primary objective, however instinctive it may be,” he said. “That kind of thinking wrongly equates the pursuit of joy with the hollowness of ease. While that has some appeal, it is a deeply flawed strategy because suffering and joy are not incompatible, but essential companions. You can suffer and never know joy, but you can’t have joy without suffering.”
Elder Corbridge spoke at a BYU devotional about how he read material that was antagonistic to the Church as part of an assignment as a General Authority Seventy. Here's what he learned from the experience.
Because the pioneers’ gathering in the West was such a large scale migration, Elder Corbridge said these events can’t be explained as religious fanaticism. Charles Dickens described the Latter-day Saints who left England for Zion as “the pick and flower of England.”
For a first-hand testimony, Elder Corbridge shared the insights of Jane Charters Robinson, one who left her homeland in 1855 to go to Zion: “I believed in the principle of the gathering and felt it My Duty to go altho it was Servr(e) trial to Me in My feelings to leave My Native Land and the pleasing associ(ations) that I had formed there but my heart was fixed. I knew in whom I trusted and with the fire of Israels God burning in my bosom I forsook My home, but Not to gather wealth or the perishible things of this world.”
One reason Church members might have endured these trials was to feel the sense of community the early Saints offered, Elder Corbridge said. Another might be the charismatic leadership of Joseph Smith and others. The desire to build a temple and be endowed with power from on high might also have helped people endure.
“In the end, however, all of those explanations fall short for me,” Elder Corbridge said. “Maybe they played a role, but even in combination they are insufficient. There is no good explanation, at least in human terms, which leads me to conclude: This was not a human endeavor, but the work of God.”
Elder Corbridge said the pioneers westward migration and their ability to make “the desert blossom as a rose” through all the hardships they endured is a testament of God’s work to gather Israel, which continues today.
To help apply the pioneers’ experience to those in attendance, Elder Corbridge posed a question: “What are the characteristics of people who not only survive, but thrive in great adversity?”
Elder Corbridge said that more people benefit from hardships and suffering than are left broken by them. One who obtains an eternal perspective, has faith in the Lord, seeks the welfare of others and can change and adapt in new situations is not just one who can survive, but one who can thrive.
“Survivors and thrivers see things for what they are, good and bad, and deal with them,” Elder Corbridge said. “Bad things happen, but as with the early Saints, we must accept life’s realities, even the harsh ones; trust with the Lord’s help we may endure well; and all things, both good and bad, will ultimately work together for our good.”