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Conference Counsel: It really can all work out in the end

By Ryan Comer - | May 25, 2024

Photo supplied, Intellectual Reserve

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during the afternoon session of general conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 6, 2024.

I once had a co-worker who told me he didn’t like going to a certain family member with his problems. I asked him why and he said because this family member always told him the same thing, and frankly, it wasn’t helpful. He said the family member always told him, “It will all work out in the end.”

Such a statement may seem trite. Someone who is going through a difficult challenge and cannot see a pathway forward just wants solutions, and such a comment provides none.

While I agree that the criticism of such a comment isn’t entirely without merit, I wonder if there’s a lesson to be learned. One lesson is that when we go through trials, it can be difficult to remember that it will all, in fact, work out in the end for those who love God. That’s the message in Romans 8:28, which reads: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.”

So, while such a comment may not provide a desired solution, it does, in fact, serve as a reminder that if we love God, everything will ultimately work out for our good. If we can remember that while we’re going through trials, the trials will become easier to bear.

The idea of all things working for our good was the subject of an address at the April general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Elder Gerrit W. Gong, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the church.

Photo supplied

Ryan Comer

“A Chinese story begins as a man’s son finds a beautiful horse,” Elder Gong said.

“‘How fortunate,’ the neighbors say.

“‘We’ll see,’ says the man.

“Then the son falls off the horse and is permanently injured.

“‘How unfortunate,’ the neighbors say.

“‘We’ll see,’ says the man.

“A conscripting army comes but doesn’t take the injured son.

“‘How fortunate,’ the neighbors say.

“‘We’ll see,’ says the man.

“This fickle world often feels tempest tossed, uncertain, sometimes fortunate, and — too often — unfortunate. Yet, in this world of tribulation, ‘we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.’ Indeed, as we walk uprightly and remember our covenants, ‘all things shall work together for your good.’

“All things for our good.

“A remarkable promise! Comforting assurance from God himself! In a miraculous way, the purpose of creation and the nature of God are to know beginning and end, to bring about all that is for our good, and to help us become sanctified and holy through Jesus Christ’s grace and atonement.”

The statement that “it will all work out in the end” is only possible because of Jesus Christ and his atonement.

“Jesus Christ’s atonement can deliver and redeem us from sin. But Jesus Christ also intimately understands our every pain, affliction, sickness, sorrow, separation. In time and eternity, his triumph over death and hell can make all things right. He helps heal the broken and disparaged, reconcile the angry and divided, comfort the lonely and isolated, encourage the uncertain and imperfect, and bring forth miracles possible only with God.

“We sing hallelujah and shout hosanna! With eternal power and infinite goodness, in God’s plan of happiness all things can work together for our good. We can face life with confidence and not fear.”

We may not see how things will all work out in the end when we’re in the midst of trials. With particularly difficult challenges, we may be convinced that things aren’t working out. Another person may look at how a certain situation has worked out for us and say that it didn’t work out.

Last week’s Sunday school lesson was about Abinadi, a Book of Mormon prophet who spoke about the wickedness of the people and was subsequently burned to death. Here was a prophet of God, doing everything he was commanded to do, and he was burned to death for his efforts. How could one say it worked out well for him? A woman in the Sunday School class pointed out something that resonated with me and has remained in my mind since. Because of Abinadi’s courage and faithfulness, a man named Alma was converted to the gospel. Alma went on to bring many others “into the fold of God,” and much of the Book of Mormon would not have been written if not for Abinadi. I would guess that Abinadi would say things worked out pretty well. And I feel it’s a pretty safe assumption that Abinadi has a reward in heaven that he’s pretty satisfied with. There’s another reality related to that last statement. Sometimes things will work out for us, but it may not happen in this life. Faith and perspective are critical. Our time on earth is just a tiny period of our overall existence. Our existence didn’t start with birth and it doesn’t end with death. Even if things don’t work out a certain way during our time on earth, they can still work out after.

“With our trust and faith in God, trials and afflictions can be consecrated for our good,” Elder Gong said. “Joseph, sold into slavery in Egypt, later saved his family and people. The prophet Joseph Smith’s incarceration in Liberty Jail taught him ‘these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.’ Lived with faith, trials and sacrifices we would never choose can bless us and others in ways never imagined.”

This kind of faith may not seem possible. It’s certainly easier to talk about than to actually demonstrate, especially in extremely difficult circumstances. But there is a method to obtaining it.

Said Elder Gong: “We increase faith and trust in the Lord that all things can work together for our good as we gain eternal perspective; understand our trials may be ‘but for a small moment’; recognize affliction can be consecrated for our gain; acknowledge accidents, untimely death, debilitating illness and disease are part of mortality; and trust loving Heavenly Father does not give trials to punish or judge. He would not give a stone to someone asking for bread nor a serpent to one asking for a fish.”

A lot of this seems to come down to willingness. Are we willing to trust? Are we willing to believe? Are we willing to have an eternal perspective? If the answers to those questions are yes, then faith can grow.

Faith doesn’t mean that we’ll immediately understand perfectly why every trial happens. Why do some people receive certain blessings while other people don’t? Sometimes, we have to be comfortable with, at least for a period of time, not knowing.

“When we trust God and his love for us, even our greatest heartbreaks can, in the end, work together for our good,” Elder Gong said.

“I remember the day I received word of a serious car accident which involved those I love. At such times, in anguish and faith, we can only say with Job, ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.'”

Are we willing to have that kind of humility?

When you’re struggling to see how things will work out, it’s helpful to think about those for whom we know things did work out.

Elder Gong spoke of a man in Huddersfield, England, named Samuel Bridgstock, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer before being called as a new stake president.

“Given his dire diagnosis, he asked his wife, Anna, why he would even go to be interviewed.

“‘Because,’ Sister Bridgstock said, ‘you’re going to be called as stake president.’

“Initially given a year or two to live, President Bridgstock, who is here today, is now in his fourth year of service. He has good and hard days. His stake is rallying with increased faith, service and kindness. It is not easy, but his wife and family live with faith, gratitude and understandable sadness they trust will become eternal joy through Jesus Christ’s restoring atonement.”

Brother Bridgstock, seemingly struggling to see how things could work out as stake president given his diagnosis, can now say it has worked out pretty well. His family trusts that even though things are hard now, eventually, they will have eternal joy.

Another example Elder Gong shared was from the life of the daughter of his first mission president, Rebekah, who had been praying for comfort and received an opportunity to answer another person’s prayer.

“Late one evening, Rebekah, grieving her mother’s recent passing, had a clear impression to go buy gas for her car,” Elder Gong said. “When she arrived at the station, she met an elderly woman struggling to breathe with a large oxygen tank. Later, Rebekah was able to give the woman her mother’s portable oxygen machine. This sister gratefully said, ‘You’ve given me back my freedom.’ Things work together for good when we minister as Jesus Christ would.”

Rebekah had lost her mother, but because she followed a prompting, she was able to use something that belonged to her mother to bless someone else. Here’s another lesson: Perhaps it’s not always about how things will necessarily work out for us, but how things can work out for someone else. Are we humble and charitable enough to let God use us to bless others, even during heartbreaking circumstances when we may feel compelled to turn inward? He sees all, knows all and can bless all.

“When we are still, open and reverent, we may feel the beauty, purpose and serenity of the covenant belonging the Lord offers,” Elder Gong said. “In sacred moments, he may let us glimpse the larger eternal reality of which our daily lives are part, where small and simple things work together for the good of givers and receivers.

“A father assigned with his teacher-age son as ministering companions explained, ‘Ministering is when we go from being neighbors who bring cookies to trusted friends, spiritual first responders.’ Covenant belonging in Jesus Christ comforts, connects, consecrates.”

The words of a pair of Latter-day Saint hymns are expressions of great faith. Elder Gong shared some of the lyrics, first from “Be Still, My Soul,” and then from “Come, Come, Ye Saints.”

“Be still, my soul: Thy God doth undertake

“To guide the future as he has the past.

“Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;

“All now mysterious shall be bright at last.”

“Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;

“But with joy wend your way.

“Though hard to you this journey may appear,

“Grace shall be as your day. …

“And should we die before our journey’s through,

“Happy day! All is well!”

Further evidences that all things can work for our good include the Book of Mormon and temples. Regarding the Book of Mormon, Elder Gong said:

“Written by inspired prophets who saw our day, the Book of Mormon begins with raw drama — a family dealing with deep differences. Yet, as we study and ponder 1 Nephi 1 through to Moroni 10, we are drawn to Jesus Christ with a firm testimony that what happened there and then can bless us here and now.”

Regarding temples, Elder Gong said:

“We come by covenant and ordinance to God our father and Jesus Christ and gain eternal perspective on mortality. One by one, name by name, we offer beloved family members — ancestors — sacred ordinances and covenant blessings in the Lord’s pattern of saviors on Mount Zion.”

It would be nice to see exactly how everything will work together for our good. Sometimes, we get to see it, but sometimes, we don’t. Not yet, at least. As I look back on the life I’ve lived to this point, I can see how certain situations worked together for my good, but there are also situations that I struggle with. How it will work together for my good still isn’t clear. But because I have seen how certain situations have worked together for my good, because I have seen how situations have worked together for the good of others and because I have a willingness to have faith in God and his promises, I have confidence that, though simplistic, the phrase my co-worker’s family member used that “It will all work out in the end” is true.

Contact Ryan Comer at rcomer@standard.net. Follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rbcomer8388 and on Twitter at @rbcomer8388.


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