Okay, if you are related to me, have heard me speak in church, or are even just an acquaintance, you have probably heard this story. I don’t care though, it is so good. Hands down, it was the most life-changing experience of my entire existence. So deal with it!
Right after I graduated high school, I had the opportunity to go on the Church History Trip to the eastern United States. We got to visit several historical church sites for two whole weeks! It was life-changing in many ways, but the most life-altering experience for me happened on the very first night. This was a time of major trial for me. Because of these trials, I genuinely felt like God had forgotten me, forsaken me, or just STRAIGHT UP hated me. I had never experienced that feeling before in my life. I was miserable. I spent too long in the pool of comparison…and my hands were getting pruny enough to prove it.(; I believed that Heavenly Father was picking favorites and giving them blessings…and I definitely did NOT think I was one of His favorites. I really thought I had no reason for living, and I was about to abandon my belief in a higher power altogether. SPOILER ALERT: I was wrong…OH EM GEE, I was DEAD wrong. I would not wish those emotions and feelings on my worst enemy, and I never want to experience anything like that again.
The first night, one of my four awesome (seriously, amazing) roommates told us that our chaperones assigned everyone to read Doctrine and Covenants 121-122. It was the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith while he was wrongly imprisoned in Liberty Jail. None of the other girls, including myself, remembered hearing that assignment, and we were not going to visit Liberty Jail in Missouri until later in the trip. Regardless, the four of us read the two chapters together as a room. This time in Joseph’s life is arguably the most difficult time up to that point. He was captured and incarcerated one day following the Haun’s Mill Massacre where almost twenty saints died and others were beaten and brutally attacked. His wife and children were robbed and threatened, before having to flee to Illinois for their lives. Over 60 of his closest friends were being thrown in jail, and kept in jail until they testified against the Prophet in court. He, like me, and like all of us at some point in our lives, felt like God had forsaken him. Although, I know Joseph Smith’s situation and trials of that time were way worse than mine have ever been. I still felt like I could relate to him on a smaller scale.
The four of us read the Prophet’s agonizing prayer, “Oh God! Where art thou?” A prayer I sympathized with now, more than ever. Then a few verses later, we read the Lord’s sweet answer, “My son, [to me, I read, “My Alexa”] peace be unto thy soul, thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high…” Later, in the next chapter, I read the final verse, “Therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.” When I read that, I physically felt the Lord tell me, “I have not forgotten you, I have NEVER left you, and I NEVER will.” For the first time in months, I physically felt the love of God. At least, I let myself feel it…for the first time in months. I realized that God’s love for us is INDESCRIBABLE. I heard and felt so many reasons why Heavenly Father loved ME, why He had NEVER forsaken me, why He was proud of me, and how beautiful HE thinks I am, inside and out.
I got out of the pool of comparison. I will admit that I still find myself in that nasty pool even now, but I never let myself stay too long anymore. I found out the next morning that none of the chaperones assigned us to read any scriptures…and they never gave us official scripture assignments even afterwards. I know my sweet roommate was inspired to have us read those two chapters, whether she knew it or not. God needed me to hear those verses, and He used my amazing roommate’s spiritual intunement to help me. I found myself trapped in my own, personal “Liberty Jail” and nothing and nobody could ever pull me out…except God. The person who I almost abandoned and stopped believing in altogether, had been there all along. He was not mad at me, or punishing me, even when I was not very nice to Him at the time. I learned how much God loves me. With that, I learned how much God loves everyone else…how much He loves YOU. I normally would feel weird comparing myself to somebody as awesome as the Prophet Joseph Smith, but it was Heavenly Father who told ME, that the “worth of every soul is great in the sight of God.” (D&C 18:10). HE told ME that I am not worth any less than even His greatest Prophets. This applies to ALL of His children, no matter how unworthy you may THINK you are of His love and forgiveness.
Here I am, almost four years later and I have suffered through far worse than I had ever dealt with before. Yet, I have NEVER, EVER doubted that Heavenly Father was really there. He promised me that he had “NEVER forsaken me, and that He NEVER would.” I believe Him. Now, I physically feel Him and His Son going through these trials with me every step of the way.
Have you ever been, or are you now, trapped in your own, personal “Liberty Jail?” The only one who can bail you out, is God. Turn to Him. Know how much He loves you. Know that He is proud of you. Know that He thinks you are beautiful, inside and out. Know that “thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment,” and that our trials are for our good and give us experience. As hard as any trials are or ever will be, God NEVER forsakes us, and He NEVER will.