After Much Tribulation Cometh the Blessings D&C 102-105
Looking back on these times in church history, I often think about the tribulation the Saints faced and how it seems like they just couldn't catch a break. Just as it seems like things are going well, more tribulation piles on. I know that when we celebrate events like Pioneer Day, we often talk about the strength of these early Saints and how we couldn't possibly live through what they lived through.
But over time and as I have gotten older, I realize that even though the tribulation has changed, it hasn't ended. Anyone that has lived this past year and a half can testify to that. While I may not be having to endure being persecuted for my beliefs, it doesn't make the trials any less real.
All throughout the scriptures I see examples of people having to prove their allegiance to the Lord by living through sometimes unimaginable tests. The hardest thing about these trials of faith is the step that is required into the darkness. That first act of trust, when there is so much unknown. The willingness to sacrifice when you don't know the outcome.
The Parable of the Owl Express
Elder James E. Talmage tells The Parable of the Owl Express.
While in college, Elder Talmage was on assignment, appointed to do fieldwork, and one night descended a steep terrain towards a train station to take the train home in the middle of a snow storm. That train was called the Owl Express, and had been delayed due to snow drifts on the tracks.
Long after midnight, when the train finally arrived, Elder Talmage lingered behind, watching the engineer and his assistant as they replenished water and tended to the locomotive before leaving again. He realized that, if there was an accident, these two men were directly in harm's way, most likely to be injured or even killed.
With these thoughts in mind, he approached the engineer to express these thoughts. The engineer responded:
“Look at the engine headlight. Doesn’t that light up the track for a hundred yards or more? Well, all I try to do is to cover that hundred yards of lighted track. That I can see, and for that distance I know the roadbed is open and safe. And believe me, I have never been able to drive this old engine of mine—God bless her!—so fast as to outstrip that hundred yards of lighted track. The light of the engine is always ahead of me!”
We Never Know What Lies Ahead
And Elder Talmage says of this answer:
I thought deeply of the words of the grimy, oil-stained engineer. They were full of faith—the faith that accomplishes great things, the faith that gives courage and determination, the faith that leads to works. What if the engineer had failed, had yielded to fright and fear, had refused to go on because of the threatening dangers? Who knows what work may have been hindered, what great plans may have been nullified, what God-appointed commissions of mercy and relief may have been thwarted had the engineer weakened and quailed?
For a little distance the storm-swept track was lighted up; for that short space the engineer drove on!
We may not know what lies ahead of us in the future years, nor even in the days or hours immediately beyond. But for a few yards, or possibly only a few feet, the track is clear, our duty is plain, our course is illumined. For that short distance, for the next step, lighted by the inspiration of God, go on!
Now, this story of the Owl Express may not be the same as what happened with Zion's Camp, but I love the analogy of having to have faith in the face of the unknown.
The people that marched with Zion's Camp certainly had faith. They knew their endeavor might cost them their lives, but they stepped up and did it anyway.
A New Understanding of Zion's Camp
In my younger years, I have to be honest and say that I didn't really ever understand the purpose of Zion's Camp. Though I was taught it many times, both in Seminary and in Sunday School, I never could grasp the message in there. I wondered, like many of the participants, what the purpose was of all of it, and why the Lord would drag them all the way there only to turn them around having done nothing but suffer along the way.
There have been many days in my life, both within this last year or so and even going back into my life by 30 or more years, when I have been asked to do something for which I had no valid explanation for why, and when all was said and done, it seemed like I got nothing for my trouble. Many times, even after it was over and the trial had passed, I still didn't understand the reason for it. And I've done my fair share of grumbling about it too.
Reading these sections again as part of this week's lesson, I finally fully understand why Zion's Camp happened. And it has made me reflect on some of the trials of faith I have endured, and I wonder if my grumbling made me miss the great blessings that the Lord had in store for me. There are probably many, if I had just trusted Heavenly Father a little more and complained a little less.
Challenge Cards and this week's lesson helps
Be sure to grab the Challenge Cards this week for free over in FREE STUFF and then come back to this post as you need links to the activities!
Zion's Camp (Doctrine and Covenants Stories)
On the Lord's Side: Lessons From Zion's Camp
A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings
Treasure in Heaven: The John Tanner Story
The Acceptable Offering of Zion’s Camp
This was really great! Thank you for your insights. I especially related to your closing statement. I too, wonder what blessings I have missed out on because of my complaining. Ugh…:)