Sunday, March 1, 2015
Overcome All Things -- Lessons from the Prophet Joseph Smith
Each semester the BYU-Idaho Alumni Office hosts a webcast featuring one of our great teachers at the university. This past week Brother Nathan Williams from our religion faculty gave a powerful message titled "If, Know, Therefore" lessons from the Prophet Joseph Smith on how to "overcome all things." This presentation was particularly relevant to me considering I have taught a course for over 20 years called Principles of Personal Achievement and have researched dozens of so called self'-help books and programs. While I have favorites and use several in my class, I have never considered using the Prophet Joseph Smith's teachings, revelations, and his life as an example on how we can overcome our challenges and even succeed in the midst of hard times. Brother Williams taught from the Liberty Jail sections of the Doctrines and Covenants (sections 121-123) and he focused on just three words: If, Know, and Therefore.
In Section 122 the Lord gives Joseph Smith several "ifs" starting with "If thou art called to pass through tribulation" (verse 5). After several more "ifs" the prophet is reminded to
know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good" (verse 7). Finally, Joseph is admonished to "Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass" (verse 9).
For each of us, we will face our own challenges and very hard times. In fact, "if" will certainly become "when." Following the prophets example in Liberty Jail and this pattern so clearly taught by Brother Williams, we have a very simple and effective blueprint on how to overcome our challenges.
For example, if and when I have a real personal trial, first I need to exercise faith and trust and know that my Heavenly Father is very aware of my needs and that "all flesh is in [His] hands (D&C 101:16). Because I have this trust, I can therefore act in faith and do those things that will help me productively face my challenges. Rather than grumbling, whining, and wallowing in self pity, I can choose to "hold on my way" and do my part to serve my Heavenly Father and his children.
As I contemplated this powerful lesson, it struck me that just like Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi had a similar "if, know, therefore" experience. In 2 Nephi chapter 4, what has become known as the Psalm of Nephi, he exclaims "O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities" (verse 17.)
Nephi is having a painfully soul searching if moment. Yet, he soon reminds himself of what he knows when he said "I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me" (verses 19 and 20). So, rather than wallowing in self pity, Nephi figuratively dusts himself off and rallies with a few therefores, including:
"Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul. Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions. Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation" (verses 28-30).
I am so grateful for Brother Nathan William's powerful message and for the Prophet Joseph Smith who provided such a great model for how to patiently and at times even cheerfully overcome all things.
I would encourage you to watch Brother Williams full webcast at by clicking here.