I’ve been reading Saints – the first volume, The Standard of Truth, the story of the Restoration of the Gospel and Church of Jesus Christ from 1815-1846.
It’s making me aware of how difficult that process was, in an intimate way, through many people’s stories set in the context of broader events that the Saints and the Church of that time went through. How much hardship they endured, how much uncertainty and searching; giving up and starting again, doing their best to follow revelations and their hearts, and being persecuted, derided, thrown out, shot at, and so on.
It wasn’t an easy process, and they, all, had to find their way, as I do today. We have so many blessings and ‘easy’ things, spiritually and Church-wise, because of their effort and faithfulness. We eat the fruit of their labours and hardship along with them. Elder Holland’s General Conference talk and the hymn after it – ‘Now Let Us Rejoice’ remind me how and why they did it.
They hoped for the ‘day of salvation’ – looked forward with an eye of hope – towards and beyond our day… as we should. Their hope for and faith in the glorious blessings of the Restoration and the redemption of the world gave them the determination and strength to press forward. Though evidence seems scanty at times (sometimes long times), God’s blessings will come and His promises be fulfilled. The eye of hope looks at what cannot be seen by the physical, mortal eye; at things which only our spirits and hearts can imagine.
These Saints sought always for a promised land, and went through many disappointments – false starts, transgressions, misunderstanding, tragedy, apostasy, and other failures – on their way. In some ways they reached it. Places which later became unsafe were at first refuges for them, and they were able to settle finally in a place of relative freedom, without fear of mobs and somewhat less injustice, where they built and kept their houses and land and became, at last, independent.
But it wasn’t finished. We’re all on this journey, one filled with bumps, dust, unwanted challenges, ongoing frustrations, injustices, unfairness, and in between, opportunities for kindness, love, patience, wisdom, courage and wonder. This bittersweet, beautiful and awful journey for which we must have a shining goal in sight to persevere through. That is what these early saints had, what all who’ve sought their promised land have had, and what we have. Despite great differences in culture and time, we have this in common with them all.
Journeys to a Promised Land
From Egypt to Canaan
Walked the Israelites of old –
God journeyed with them there,
Performing miracles untold.
Lehi and Sariah followed God;
They trusted Him to lead them
To a land of promise
O’er ocean and mountainous rim.
He tested their love and devotion,
So far across the world from home,
To know if they would worship Him
Where’er they might roam,
No matter the trials they faced.
With promises great, God told them
to follow His word at all times;
Then He would protect them from evil
And ever make mighty their race.
But pride and lust, their enemies,
First place in the hearts would take
Of generations yet to come,
And their God they would forsake;
While those who trusted in God’s word
Were faithful to the end
And looking forward with eyes of hope,
Eternity in God’s presence would spend.
When pioneers in distant lands
Were converted to the Truth,
Their hearts were changed
As they followed their God,
Finding strength like unto Ruth.
Their sacrifice was mighty:
Such heartache, such loss was shared!
But suffering showed
Their unwavering faith –
A testimony uncompared.
Now I am called in these latter days
My journey also to make;
Through mists and valleys
I find myself led by a Father
Who will not forsake.
Though seas are rough
And mountains rise forth,
He is there by my side at all times.
Obstacles become blessings,
Showing me weakness or strength.
With the grace of Christ, sufficient,
I will overcome all, through faith.
Often it seems that the Promised Land
Is far and will never be reached.
But I, too, must trust in the miracles
Of the God whose presence I seek.
As I follow His word here below
With courage and a faithful heart,
He will protect me and lead me
Home, never again to depart.