Jeff McClellan, director of Publications and Graphics, spoke at Tuesday's devotional. He based his address on the hymn “How Firm a Foundation,” pairing lessons we can learn from the song with experiences that have helped him build his foundation and strengthen his faith.
He began with the story of how his second daughter, Caroline, was born. Complications during her birth led to an emergency C-section. After she was born, McClellan gave her a priesthood blessing before she was flown to another hospital.
Caroline lived. As a fulfillment of her father’s blessing, her heart and lungs became healthy and strong. However, she lost a lot of blood, which led to severe damage. Now, fifteen years later, she is still at about a three-month-old developmental level. McClellan shared that their family loves Caroline, but the difficulties in her life sometimes raise questions of faith for them.
Like McClellan, “We all have circumstances that try our faith – times when, despite faithful living and earnest pleading, things don’t go according to the plan of happiness we envision or the divine promises we expect.”
“In periods of such extremity, how do we – how do you – sustain faith?” he asked.
On Jesus, lean for repose
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes
The answer has come to McClellan through the hymn “How Firm a Foundation.” His family is learning to lean on Jesus for repose. Sometimes their prayers and blessings for Caroline come to fruition. Sometimes, he shared, they seem to fall to the ground unnoticed and they must continue to have faith anyway.
“I realized that we are not commanded to have faith in blessings but in the Giver of blessings. And the first principle of the gospel is ‘faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,’ not faith in a charmed life free from trouble,” he said. “In the midst of our adversity, it may be tempting to think that God has not fulfilled His promises. But we do not lean for repose on desired outcomes. As the song says, we lean for repose on Jesus.”
McClellan used the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as an example of this kind of trust. When they refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol, their trust in God was not dependent on deliverance. They knew that whatever the outcome, they could be secure in Christ. We can have that blessing in times of trouble too if we lean on Jesus, emphasized McClellan.
Thy gold to refine
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine
McClellan shared another story about Caroline. When she was young, there was a period of time where she would wake up early in the morning. As he helped her one morning, McClellan realized that these kinds of experiences – though difficult – were to help him become what God wanted him to be. God designed this world and our trials to help us.
God gave the pioneers their experiences for the same reason. “We often honor the faith that sustained pioneers in intense difficulties. But we should also recognize that those intense difficulties forged and refined their faith; their hardships helped them become what God wanted them to be,” he said.
Even down to old age
E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sov’reign, eternal, unchangeable love
McClellan shared another example of a time his faith was tested. When he was young, his faith in the Book of Mormon was tested because Nephi references snow in one of his descriptions. McClellan had thought Jerusalem didn’t see snow and was troubled by this inconsistency. After he had read the Book of Mormon many times and gained a testimony of the book, he learned that he was wrong – it does snow in Jerusalem. This simple example can help us understand greater challenges.
“Imperfect faith is still faith,” he said. “Faith is a courageous, optimistic response to the adversity and ambiguity of this world. Faith is a choice to believe based on an incomplete and ever-changing body of data. Faith is saying, ‘Even though I am in pain, even though I am confused, even though I don’t hear God’s voice clearly, I still choose to believe. I will wait on the Lord.’”
McClellan then shared the story of Abraham and Sarah, who had to wait to see their promises fulfilled. They were promised a large posterity. They waited many years for their son to be born and neither met more than a few of their grandchildren. With our perspective, we can see that the Lord has fulfilled those promises. However, Abraham and Sarah had to have faith.
“Remember that like them, you have been blessed and you will be increased, with time. God takes the long view, and it takes a lifetime to become what God wants us to be. So be patient. And in the waiting and the hoping, remember that, like Abraham and Sarah, you are loved,” said McClellan.
My grace, all sufficient
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply
In a final story about Caroline, McClellan shared that he often walks her around the foyer at church. The foyer houses people whose situations don’t always match up with the chapel ideal: they’ve come to church late or are chasing small children. However, McClellan and his daughter – and the others in the foyer – can still feel the Spirit there.
“The gospel is still true in the foyer,” he shared. “We all spend time in the foyer, figuratively speaking. We each face circumstances that make us feel on the margins of the congregation, looking into the chapel from the foyer. And that’s okay because the gospel is true in the foyer.”
McClellan closed by sharing that Christ’s power to heal knows no bounds. “Because of Him, you have hope, we all have hope for everlasting redemption, and because of Him, we all have help in earthly anguish.”