We live in difficult times. We are told in the scriptures that Men’s Hearts Shall Fail Them.
Before reading this article I ask that you watch the short three and a half minute video by Elder Russell M. Nelson. It will set the tone for this article.
Now that you have seen the video, we are both better prepared to talk about where hope comes from and what hope has to do with the treasures of your heart.
The Power of Hope
In the 2015 manual, Teachings of Prophets: Ezra Taft Benson, lesson 4 talks about the Saints in Germany at the close of WWII. Their cities were bombed, their occupations gone, they were starving. His job was to deliver the relief sent from the Church to the needy Saints. He wasn’t sure what he would find when he met them. This is how he describes his experience.
“The worst destruction I have witnessed was seen today. … As I rode through the streets [of Berlin] and walked through some impassable by auto, I … saw half-starved women paying exorbitant prices anxiously for potato peelings. … I saw old men and women with small hatchets eagerly digging at tree stumps and roots in an effort to get scraps of fuel and then pulling those home for miles on anything that would roll—from two little wheels of a once baby carriage to small wagons—as beasts of burden.
“Later I faced in a cold half-wrecked third floor auditorium off a bombed street 480 cold half-starved but faithful Latter-day Saints in a conference meeting. It was an inspiration to see the light of faith. … There was no bitterness or anger but a sweet reciprocation and expression of faith in the gospel.”
“Not a single member registered any complaint about their circumstances in spite of the fact that some were in the last stages of starvation right before our very eyes.
“… Our Saints … are full of hope, courage, and faith, and everywhere they look cheerfully forward with expressions of deepest faith for the gospel and for their membership in the Church. It was one of the greatest demonstrations we have ever seen of the real fruits of the gospel in the lives of men and women.”
How does hope work? What is it about hope that allows people in such circumstances to remain uncomplaining and still able to exhibit the “light of faith?” Lest you think this was a fluke, an abnormality, or just a one-time event, here is a quote from Elder Teh from the April 2014 General Conference. He and his wife had been sent to visit the members in the Philippines who had just experience a major earthquake and a super typhoon.
Most of the members we met were still living in temporary shelters like tents, community centers, and Church meetinghouses. The homes we visited had either partial roofing or no roofing at all. The people did not have much to begin with, and what little they had was swept away. There was mud and debris everywhere. However, they were full of gratitude for the little help they received and were in good spirits despite their very difficult circumstances. When we asked them how they were coping, everyone responded with a resounding, “We’re OK.” Obviously, their faith in Jesus Christ gave them hope that everything would work out eventually. Home after home, tent after tent, Sister Teh and I were being taught by these faithful Saints.
… One good sister put it this way: “After the water receded and it was time to begin cleaning up, I looked around my home and thought, ‘Wow, I have accumulated a lot of garbage these many years.’”
What is Hope?
Under the Topic section of ChurchOfJesusChrist.org, hope is defined this way:
Hope is the confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness. The scriptures often speak of hope as anticipation of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.
Where Is Our Treasure?
Before we talk about how hope is developed and how it works, let’s look at a reference that has to do with hope about our treasures. As part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the people how to pray, how to fast, and how to prioritize their lives. Here is Matthew 6:19 – 21.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Our “treasure” is what we value most. What we treasure is demonstrated by where we focus our time and attention. If our constant attention is on our toys, our boat, our skis, our entertainment system, our phone, etc., then that defines our treasure. Our treasure is what is most important to us.
The Lord encourages us to choose the kind of treasure that is of an eternal nature. We are eternal in nature. He wants us to choose what is also eternal to be our focus, even though we live in a temporary world “where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.” When we leave this world all the “things” of this world will stay here where they were made. All that we will be able to take with us are those things which are as eternal as we are.
What can we focus on that is eternal? There are family relationships, our faith in Christ, our love of all things good, our desires to please our Father in Heaven, and of course, our relationship with our Father in Heaven. These things cannot be taken from us. It does not matter what happens in mortality, the things of eternity cannot be ruined by the things of mortality.
This is why those who had suffered so much through war and devastation were still able to be happy. Their focus was not on what happens in mortality, it was on the things of eternity. Their priorities were aligned with God’s priorities, so He was able to emotionally, and spiritually sustain them even in the most trying of physical circumstances. They understood, like that one good sister, ‘Wow, I have accumulated a lot of garbage these many years.’ She saw the things of this world for what they are, temporary and only to be used as conveniences, not as the staff of life.
Expanding Our Vision
When we focus our time and attention on the things of eternity, things like family, service, profitable prayer, learning how to fast, and doing the Lord’s work, several things begin to happen. The Lord makes promises to those who do these things. We are promised eternal life. We are given greater endowments of the Spirit. Our sins are forgiven, and so forth.
As we begin to taste the sweetness of the fruits of the Spirit, the joy of a life that is in line with the Lord’s will, the promises made to the faithful begin to seem more real. We gain greater reassurances that where we have put our faith is actually producing what we have been told it would produce, happiness in this life, with a promise of eternal happiness in the hereafter.
This is the treasure we seek, the hope of eternal joy in the presence of our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, with our family members. Our obedience to the commandments begins to pay off in understanding the ways of God, the doctrines of the gospel, and the reasons for trials in this life. We begin to grasp why we are here and what some of the lessons are we need to learn.
This helps us rise above the desire to possess the “things” of this world. We begin to see that physical possessions are convenient or fun, but are not lasting, and do not produce lasting happiness. In other words, we begin to see beyond the boundaries of mortality and see the value of pursuing the things of eternity.
With our attention on eternity and not on the here and now, we are able to go through the trials of life with joy in our hearts, and an assurance of the rewards of a better hereafter. This is what the Saints in Germany and the Philippines were demonstrating.
The Opposite of Hope
We strive to gain and exercise faith, hope, and charity. The opposite of these are doubt, despair, and failure to care for our fellowmen. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, in the April, 2014 General Conference, gave a talk entitled “The Infinite Power of Hope.”
When we stop focusing on eternity, and we only look at present circumstances, our hope can evaporate, and we are left with despair.
The adversary uses despair to bind hearts and minds in suffocating darkness. Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul, and deadens the heart. Despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward.
Hope, on the other hand, is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances. It pierces the darkness with a brilliant dawn.
How Hope Is Displayed
Again, here is President Uchtdorf:
Hope is not knowledge, but rather the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us. It is confidence that if we live according to God’s laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future. It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance.
It is important to note his first statement in that paragraph — “Hope is not knowledge.” We don’t have to have a certain level of knowledge or education to have hope. Anyone who is willing to be obedient to the commandments and is willing to believe in the promises of the Savior can have hope of the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises.
We hope for forgiveness of sins. We hope for a promised resurrection from death. We hope for a glorious reunion with our loved ones that will last in bliss forever. We hope for a reunion with our heavenly parents and our Savior. We hope to become perfect someday and expand our own families into the far reaches of space. We hope for the promised exaltation and glory Christ has told us He would share with us.
The hope Christ offers us is beyond the mortal mind to grasp in its fullness. But to those of us who are obedient to His commandments, he opens the understanding of those blessings a little at a time. This encouragement helps us withstand the sorrows and ever changing conditions of this life. Hope settles us and bring us peace that transcends what happens around us.
Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.