At the most recent General Conference, Thomas S. Monson, the prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke of being of good cheer. Speaking to Mormons and non-Mormons alike, he said:
“Since last we met together in a general conference six months ago, there have been continuing signs that circumstances in the world aren’t necessarily as we would wish. The global economy, which six months ago appeared to be sagging, seems to have taken a nosedive, and for many weeks now the financial outlook has been somewhat grim. In addition, the moral footings of society continue to slip, while those who attempt to safeguard those footings are often ridiculed and, at times, picketed and persecuted. Wars, natural disasters, and personal misfortunes continue to occur.
It would be easy to become discouraged and cynical about the future-or even fearful of what might come-if we allowed ourselves to dwell only on that which is wrong in the world and in our lives. Today, however, I’d like us to turn our thoughts and our attitudes away from the troubles around us and to focus instead on our blessings as members of the Church. The Apostle Paul declared, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
As is his style, President Monson illustrated how it is possible to be of good cheer even in the harshest of times. One story that particularly touched the hearts of listeners was that of a German LDS (Mormon) woman who lived in East Prussia at the start of World War II. Her husband was killed during the war and she and her four children found themselves living in territory now occupied by others. The occupying force ordered all Germans to leave. Having no form of transportation, she began a 1000 mile journey on foot. She was permitted to take only a small hand-pulled cart and whatever would fit into it.
It was late summer when the trip began. They had no money, so they were forced to gather food from the fields as they traveled. Winter came and they had only rags wrapped around their feet, because the shoes had fallen apart. The young mother carried her baby and the oldest, only seven years old, pulled the cart. They dodged troops and other refugees who might prove dangerous.
And then her children began to die. She buried each of the three oldest, one by one, digging their graves with a teaspoon because it was all she had with which to dig. Imagine digging an entire grave with only a teaspoon and a broken heart. Last of all, shortly before journey’s end, the baby died and this time, no spoon remaining, she dug the grave with her fingers over the course of several heart-breaking hours, kneeling on the frozen ice and snow. At that moment, she felt she had lost everything-her entire family, her home, even her country. She found herself contemplating suicide.
As she thought about ending her life, the Holy Ghost prompted her to kneel and pray. She tried to ignore it, but finally obeyed. This was her prayer:
“Dear Heavenly Father, I do not know how I can go on. I have nothing left-except my faith in Thee. I feel, Father, amidst the desolation of my soul, an overwhelming gratitude for the atoning sacrifice of Thy Son, Jesus Christ. I cannot express adequately my love for Him. I know that because He suffered and died, I shall live again with my family; that because He broke the chains of death, I shall see my children again and will have the joy of raising them. Though I do not at this moment wish to live, I will do so, that we may be reunited as a family and return-together-to Thee.”
As she prayed, she was reminded that no matter how painful this life on earth could be, there was a great promise for her if she held on and kept up her spirits. Mormon beliefs include the knowledge that God is our loving Father in Heaven and that Jesus Christ died for us so we could live again. Mormons also teach that families can be together forever. God loves us too much to take our families from us if we love them enough to do what it takes to keep them forever. It was the knowledge of these three things that gave her the courage to get back on her feet and finish her journey through life.
President Monson said, “When she finally reached her destination of Karlsruhe, Germany, she was emaciated. Brother Babbel said that her face was a purple-gray, her eyes red and swollen, her joints protruding. She was literally in the advanced stages of starvation. In a Church meeting shortly thereafter, she bore a glorious testimony, stating that of all the ailing people in her saddened land, she was one of the happiest because she knew that God lived, that Jesus is the Christ, and that He died and was resurrected so that we might live again. She testified that she knew if she continued faithful and true to the end, she would be reunited with those she had lost and would be saved in the celestial kingdom of God.” [The celestial kingdom is where God resides and where we can also live if we live our lives for Him.]
Mormons often teach that the gospel is not a gospel of fear. The scriptures are filled with admonitions to be cheerful and not afraid. This can prove challenging when it seems the world is falling apart and the media is determined to keep you in a state of fear to sell newspapers or increase ratings. However, if we do all we can do to prepare for hard times, we can then choose to trust God, or choose to be afraid. You can’t always control what happens, but you can choose your attitude.
President Monson ended his talk with this admonition:
“From the holy scriptures we read, “Behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in [Him], they who have endured the crosses of the world, . . . they shall inherit the kingdom of God, . . . and their joy shall be full forever.”
I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.
My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.
I declare that God lives and that He hears and answers our prayers. His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and our Redeemer. Heaven’s blessings await us. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
Read the entire talk: Be of Good Cheer