Temporal and Spiritual Needs
“If you don’t like what we say
Try living here a couple days.
Watch all your friends and family die.”
To the second point, that religion has no application until tangible, basic needs are taken care of, I contend that religion is as much for our happiness in this life as it is to prepare us for eternal life in the world to come. True principles provide a framework from which to face and conquer problems, and not having experience with the full breadth or depth of the evil in the world does not make the things missionaries teach untrue. There are gems within the gospel that can strengthen us to stand.
In 1 Corinthians, we’re told that we will face no temptation that we cannot conquer (1 Corinthians 10:13). In Philippians, Paul tells us that we can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). Certainly God is willing to help us through our pains and trials; what’s more, he’s prepared to do so, to succor us, having gone through and felt everything we will face (Alma 7:11-13).
Not only can a true belief strengthen us against trial, but it can allow us to draw closer to God than we might have been able to otherwise. An experience that illustrates this principle is the hardship of the Martin and Willie handcart companies. In the early days of the Church, many converts were emigrants from Europe. They desired to join the Saints in Utah, but were too poor to afford oxen or horses and a wagon. As a result, they were forced to pull handcarts carrying all their belongings across the plains. The Martin and Willie companies left late in the year, and became stranded in the deadly cold of winter. Many died as a result of exposure or starvation.
In a Sunday school class, some individuals criticized the members of the company for taking such great risk, and the leaders of the Church for permitting it. An older man listened for a moment, and when he could stay quiet no longer, rose and said this:
“I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church, because everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.
“I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it. I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
“Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company” (read more in this talk).
Life is difficult. There are people in the world who face more evil in a week than I may in the course of my lifetime. But it is in our darkest times that we need light the most, not least.