The Refiners Fire

Today in church our teacher talked about Joseph Smith. For those of you who don’t know that name, he was the founder of the Mormon church. A man who, whether you believe he was given divine instruction to restore Christ’s gospel or not, was good and honest and courageous.

At one point in time, he, his brother and a few of his friends were imprisoned in a veritable dungeon, approximately 14 feet square. His crime? As always, false charges created by supposed witnesses, angry at him for the mere fact that he claimed to have been inspired of God to re-establish His church on earth. He and his followers were only trying to live what they thought true and right and hell was raised for them because of it. Joseph and his friends were imprisoned for over four months, not knowing what their fate would be and hardly able to endure the cruel circumstances they were in. Joseph wrote:

“We are kept under a strong guard, night and day, in a prison of double walls and doors, proscribed in our liberty of conscience. Our food is scant, uniform and coarse; we have not the privilege of cooking for ourselves; we have been compelled to sleep on the floor with straw, and not blankets sufficient to keep us warm…The Judges have gravely told us from time to time that they knew we were innocent, and ought to be liberated, but they dare not administer the law unto us, for fear of the mob.”

In early April of 1839, five months after they had first been imprisoned, Joseph and his friends were allowed to escape and reached safety in Illinois. Of course the Prophet only lived three years after that, enduring the wrath of men all the while who were seeking his blood.

Joseph was a good man before his experience in that jail, but he was better when he came out. How many people might have lost their faith in God during so dark a time?

It reminded me of my own harrowing experience a few years ago. I felt utterly alone. Absolutely abandoned by God and without hope. For the first time in my life, I questioned whether He even existed. I had nothing but past spiritual experiences to rely on and root my faith in. I kept praying, desperately hoping I would feel something. Something other than the empty void and terror that washed out all other emotion. Now, I never had a grand moment of confirmation come upon me, but ever so slowly I began to be able to distinguish the Holy Spirit working in my heart again. I wonder now if it wasn’t there all along and I simply could not detect it through my roiling mind and body.

I will not tell you I was not angry for a time. I couldn’t fathom why God would not just relieve me of my plight. I was a good person or at least actively trying to be and I had experienced the power of the Priesthood before. Why was I not healed? I was reminded by my family that good and bad events, fall upon both good and bad people. It is rare that God intervenes in this life. For those of us who have experienced the pain that can come with God’s generous gift of agency to those who do not use it for good, we can take comfort that all will be made right in the next life. Of course my situation was brought on mostly by myself and my failure to do my own research. I was not entitled to God’s intervention just because I thought I was a good person.

One blessing of the experience was having my eyes opened to that fact. The next great blessing came a bit later and oh how my heart ached and how ashamed I felt of being angry with Him when it did come. The experience was a path to an answer of over twelve years of prayer.

Like Joseph, I came out of my personal hell better. I was a changed person. My experience had been rather public but that turned out to bring some very good rewards. My shy nature? Gone. My faith in God? Strengthened. My faith in people? Strengthened. I had no idea how many friends I had until that moment. The friendship dynamic changes quite a bit after you’re married and I had felt so alone for so long out in Maryland. I had never realized that friendship doesn’t have to mean hanging out with a girlfriend a few times a week. True friendship is love, concern and service and I was overwhelmed with it when I really needed it.

I love who I am now (most of the time) and wonder if I would still be struggling without that experience. Of course we all keep rediscovering ourselves throughout our lives but I went through a whirlwind of a change and came a long way very fast. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change that experience if I could. It has brought so many great things to my life. Has cleared up so many false perceptions. I wish all people could come out of their darkest trials, better.

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Comments (6)

Mrs. OrganicMay 17th, 2009 at 11:31 pm

This is so beautifully written and I admire the perspective you have. I seem to continually struggle with keeping mine. I don’t mind so much going through hard things, but I do have the hardest time watching my children go through challenge after challenge. It wears a mother out.

Mrs. Organics last blog post..Garden Color

Becky NewsonMay 17th, 2009 at 11:55 pm

This is the same lesson I had to teach (for my first time in R.S. ever!!)… and I am amazed by the entirely different perspective you walked away with after your lesson. Of course, I also had to combine my lesson with #32 (Faith & Courage through Persecution), so it evolved a little differently, but I am so grateful for the Gospel, that it can apply to so many different situations so well, can speak to our hearts and souls in so many different ways.

I actually felt inspired to talk a little bit about something I hadn’t prepared at all - how we often, as women, wear an “I’m fine!” mask, never letting anyone in on our problems. The comments that followed were so uplifting… and I think, or I hope, that everyone felt a little more inclined to allow people into their struggles, after that.

Because I, like you, felt extremely alone after moving to Maryland. It wasn’t until I opened up and let my Visiting Teacher in on my struggle that things really began to change for me. I think it’s so important for us to remember to share our trials with each other. They really do “bind our hearts” to one another, and allow us all to come closer to God in the process.

As always, I’m so sorry for such a nightmare of a struggle that you went through. I am, however, so thankful that you found something so positive that resulted from it, and that took time to say so. Thank you sharing your thoughts and perspective, especially in this Gospel-centered way.

Becky Newsons last blog post..Facebook Friday… on Sunday

AnnetteMay 18th, 2009 at 12:31 am

I’ve read your struggle–riveted to each part. While I haven’t had that particular trial, I’ve had my own refiner’s fires where I’ve questioned and been angry and all that you described. You captured the difficulty and the joys so well–you put tears into my eyes.

Annettes last blog post..On Inspiration

gramma duckyMay 18th, 2009 at 1:00 am

Such a beautiful post. You are such a quick study in life’s lessons - a lot quicker than me. Love you so much.

KimberlyMay 19th, 2009 at 12:10 pm

What a beautiful post to conclude that series with. You are just incredible Summer. Not just because you write beautifully, but because you endured what you did with your faith intact. Your strength is inspirational.

Kimberlys last blog post..I Need Help

LyndiLouMay 19th, 2009 at 1:54 pm

I am always touched by what you share! Thank you for being willing to let us into your world… I appreciate it and I’m sure many others do as well.

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