Turning Tragedy to Triumph

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Recently, members of the press were given a tour of the grounds of the Provo City Center temple.  I’ve loved looking at the pictures of the new temple and watching the time-lapse of it’s construction.  It is particularly poignant to me because I played there for years with the Utah Valley Symphony.  We had just started playing at the Covey Center the previous season but we still had our school concerts there because you could fit so many more kids in the tabernacle than in the Covey Center.  Those were some of the best moments of the season.  Listening to the gasps of recognition when we started playing music from Harry Potter and watching our conductor interact with the kids are some of my favorite memories.  The last time we played there was two months before the fire.  I, along with so many others, were horrified to see what had become of our beloved tabernacle.  So many memories, so much history, all gone.  Little did we know that Heavenly Father had other plans.

This has started me thinking about how good often comes from bad.  I think it’s an easy metaphor to see with the tabernacle.  Nobody wanted the fire to happen, but we were able to turn that tragedy into a beautiful temple.  A place where covenants will be made, families sealed, and souls comforted.  However, I think there are times when it is harder to see.  We can become so focused on the bad that we can’t recognize the good.

Let me give you a few examples.  The first was a few years ago.  A politician, I don’t remember who, was running for election and he was asked about rape and abortion.  I don’t remember exactly what he said but his main point was that a baby that results from rape can be placed for adoption and that it can be a good thing.  It’s entirely possible that he did not phrase it well but he was roundly criticized for suggesting that rape was a good thing even though that’s not what he said.  Adoption can be a beautiful thing.  I have seen families sealed together after an adoption and it brought tears to my eyes.  But adoption has always been about making the best of a bad situation.  It always would have been better if the original family had been able to provide a stable and loving home for the children or if the mother had not been raped.  Nevertheless, a new family has been created and are now sealed together for eternity as if they had been born there.

My next example comes from a story I read from a man who grew up in Nigeria.  He told a story of a black couple who grew up in America had an opportunity to visit Uganda.  They saw all the poverty, sickness, and corruption and the wife remarked: “Thank God for slavery.”  So many people would hear that and be absolutely horrified that someone would suggest that slavery was a good thing.  Of course no one thinks that slavery was a good thing, but it’s also true that good can come from something bad.  Think of all the generations of people that were born here in America, the freest and most prosperous nation on earth, instead of in Africa where there is so much suffering.

painting by J.L.G Ferris

painting by J.L.G Ferris

My last example is fitting for this time of year.  We just celebrated Columbus Day last month and are celebrating Thanksgiving now.  There is a lot of cynicism surrounding both holidays because people are focused on the bad instead of the good.  Columbus was, indeed, inspired by God to sail across the ocean to discover the New World.  If you read his own writings you find a man who felt fairly compelled to make the voyage because of the Spirit.  The Book of Mormon prophesied of his voyage and said that the Spirit of God wrought upon the man and also other gentiles.  At the same time, this opened the door for many people to also make the voyage and exploit the people living in the New World.  There is no doubt that there were many who were dishonest and brutal to the Native Americans.  Many died from disease and war and whole tribes were wiped out or displaced.  At the same time there were many instances where the native peoples and the Europeans helped each other and worked together.  Those are the moments that we are celebrating on Thanksgiving.  Having so many people come to the New World who were seeking a place to worship freely laid the foundation not only for our Constitution and Government By the People but also for the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We don’t have to condone or celebrate tragedy to recognize the good.  We can recognize evil and sorrow without denying the beauty that can come from them.  This is, after all, the whole story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Fall resulted in our separation from God, but without it we could never have the experiences necessary to learn and grow and become like Him.  Christ’s atonement for all mankind was something terrible and beautiful.  It was such a horrible thing to contemplate that Christ even asked if there was another way that it could be accomplished.  Nevertheless, he followed through because he knew that the result would be the greatest gift ever given to mankind.  That it was good seems a gross understatement.

D&C 122:7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
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www.ksl.com

When trials and tribulations happen to us, those around us, and even to those we don’t know, the pain can be overwhelming.  A very natural reaction to pain is to do everything we can to remove the source of the pain.  That instinct can sometimes cloud our vision to the real purpose for the pain.  The pain that comes from these sources is the pain of growth which serves a real and necessary purpose.  It is not only an opportunity to help us learn and grow, but to see if we will use those moments to turn to our Heavenly Father or away from him.