The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” -Molière
Tempest: a violent windy storm.
Whirlwind: a column of air moving rapidly around and around in a cylindrical or funnel shape.
Thunder and lightning: a loud rumbling or crashing noise heard after a lightning flash due to the expansion of rapidly heated air; the occurrence of a natural electrical discharge of very short duration and high voltage between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud, accompanied by a bright flash and typically also thunder.
Earthquake: a sudden and violent shaking of the ground, sometimes causing great destruction, as a result of movements within the earth's crust or volcanic action. These defined words create a picture in my mind’s eye of the physical tumult and chaos these Book of Mormon people endured. The cataclysmic events were literally unimaginable to them. They had never experienced anything like it. 3 Nephi 8: 5 “...there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land. 6 And there was also a great and terrible tempest; and there was a terrible thunder...7 And there were exceedingly sharp lightnings, such as never had been known in all the land...12 ...for behold, the whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the whirlwinds, and the thundering and the lightnings, and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth... 17 And thus the face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the quaking of the earth.” My father served in WWII on Iwo Jima. I’ve read from his firsthand accounts of the time. His participation in clearing caves of enemy soldiers, with his dog Scout, was heartstoppingly dangerous. He described the constant terror of facing death. He went so far as to describe the smells and sounds. He never forgot. He never could forget. And I couldn’t imagine his experience. Military men and women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and other hotspots. First responders run into danger while others flee. Many have been abused, are the victims of today’s slave trade, and suffering occurs in too many ways to account. These people have all experienced unimaginable devastation physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But I haven’t. My life has been marked by none of this. 2020 changes that and brings fear, illness, and violence to us all. Our world is in commotion, turned upside down and inside out. The life we knew has morphed into something we don’t recognize. Hyperbole? Maybe. But I never imagined this new world. I see physical and metaphorical tempests, whirlwinds, thunderings, lightnings, and earthquakes. Political, spiritual, and moral division, unemployment, soaring suicide rates, plunging economies. Violence and rage. Sex trafficking. Wildfire, rare Western Derecho winds, hurricane-force winds in Salt Lake City, Bomb cyclones. Covid 19. These are definitely the “times to try men’s souls.” (Thomas Paine, Common Sense) I’ve never seen this confluence of events in all my life. It‘s a new era. Edmund Burke starts to put this mortal moment into eternal perspective when he wrote: “Adversity is a severe instructor, set over us by one who knows us better than we do ourselves, as He loves us better, too. He that wrestles with us, strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper. This conflict with difficulty makes us acquainted with our object and compels us to consider it in all its relations. It will not suffer us to be superficial.” (The International Dictionary of Thoughts, p. 11) Adversity perpetually accompanies humanity. It has always been so. We’re subjected to confusion and fear due to mortality’s claim AND, at the same time, those of us who claim membership in God’s kingdom have ready access to tools and resources imbued with a mitigating power to guide us through. These two realities simultaneously exist within us. An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life: “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” The Law of the Harvest is real-in each of us, in our world. We reap what we sow. On one side “too many in the world today ‘have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind’ (Hosea 8:7). That whirlwind is awful to contemplate.” And on the other, “it remains for Latter-day Saints and other decent people who love righteousness to plow for a more desirable type of harvest, and to steer others away from destruction.” (Church News Archives, 2004) Applied perspective is everything! “One’s life . . . cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free. . . . Therefore, how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, ”Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!” . . .Real faith . . . is required to endure this necessary but painful developmental process. (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds,” Ensign, May 1991, pp. 88, 90) We are incredibly blessed to live in this tumultuous yet glad day wherein the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church enables us (literally) to persevere in faith. Thomas Paine wrote: “I love the man who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength in distress and grow brave by reaction. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles to the death.” I join with Charles Dickens in saying: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities) Take courage from Him who holds us in His hands as we live in the paradox of our earthly existence! God loves us! We can count on Him! I know this is true and I acknowledge His mercies and His plan.