We often assume in our perception of trials and challenges that the trials aren’t our fault, that these challenges are something that happens to us instead of something that happens as a result of our choices. While it is certainly true that some trials—natural disasters for example—are not by our choice, others are at least the consequence of our own choices. And, in some cases, we actually choose to undertake things that we know will be difficult. Does that mean that they are not still trials?
Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson 27 illustrates this. The Church members during the Kirtland and Missouri periods were sometimes innocent of what they were being persecuted for. But other times they brought the persecution on themselves. And, in the case of Zion’s Camp, they chose to do something difficult, even though they knew that it would be hard.
Parley P. Pratt published the following poem in his poetry collection, The Millennium, in Boston in 1835, the year following his experience as a member of Zion’s Camp. Pratt was one of the missionaries sent out to recruit volunteers for the effort to provide military relief to the Saints in Missouri, and the upbeat nature of the following poem makes me think that it may have been written before the group started its march, perhaps even as a recruiting tool (although it doesn’t appear to have been published at that time).
Charity and True Patriotism
by Parley P. Pratt
- Behold the man whose tender heart
- Expanded with a Saviour’s love,
- Wide as eternity expands,
- His bowels with compassion move.
- He looks on Zion from afar,
- He hears her captive exiles groan.
- Then leaves his wife and children dear,
- His brethren and his peaceful home,
- And hastens at his Lord’s command
- To call his brethren from afar,
- As volunteers for Zion’s land,
- That in her sorrows they may share.
- He dare assert her injured cause,
- And sound the trump of freedom when
- They trample on his country’s laws,
- And disregard both God and man.
- His distant brethren hear the sound
- And rise to march to Zion’s land;
- Behold the armies gathering round
- Against the powers of hell to stand.
- The little stone begins to roll.
- It shall prevail and never cease,
- But fill the earth from pole to pole
- With freedom, union, love and peace.
Pratt, Parley P. The Millennium (Boston, 1835)
Instead of focusing on the trials ahead, Pratt focuses on the motivation needed to confront them. He suggests that the man with a “tender heart” and compassion and filled with “a Saviour’s love” will hear the cries of his brethren in Missouri and respond to the Lord’s command, leaving his home and family to march to save Zion.
I like Pratt’s suggestion that the members of Zion’s Camp will go “that in her sorrows they may share.” The idea that we should share in others sorrows reminds me of the Book of Mormon injunction to “mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort.”
For me this is a kind of key to how we face trials. We first must realize that trials are difficult to bear, even if we bring them on ourselves or choose to face them. They are still difficult, still trials. Then, we should follow the scriptural injunction.