Elder Steven E. Snow, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy and Church Historian, addressed students Tuesday in the Marriott Center in a devotional titled, “Stepping Stones and Stumbling Blocks.”
Elder Snow relayed the story of the Willie and Martin handcart companies and of the great sacrifice and ordeal they went through to reach the Salt Lake Valley. A few of the survivors viewed the experience as a stumbling block, lost their faith and left the Church, but for others the suffering served as a stepping stone and refiner’s fire.
“How do we turn adversity into a stepping stone and not a stumbling block?” Elder Snow asked. “How can we make a bad experience become a learning experience?”
Part of the answer lies in perspective, he said. “How we choose to lead our lives and how we make faith part of our lives, ultimately helps us face the challenges which come to everyone in this earthly existence.”
In our effort to turn faith into assurance and a witness that will guide us through stumbling blocks, Elder Snow suggested following the same pattern required of new investigators: action. Like prayer, scripture study, and church attendance, a series of stepping stones which lead to a testimony, members of many years continue to “step forward on the stepping stones which will increase our faith.”
“As our study and prayer continue, we accept new callings in the Church which cause us to stretch and grow. We serve others through home or visiting teaching. We prepare for and keep covenants made in the temple. As we continue on this path of learning, serving, and growing, we touch on the stepping stones which strengthen our faith and ultimately lead us to an assurance or witness of truth. From this spiritual growth we are then more prepared to face and overcome the adversity which is part of our mortal probation.”
Elder Snow quoted Elder Boyd K. Packer: “[Today’s children] will see many events transpire in the course of their lifetime. Some of these shall tax their courage and extend their faith. But if they seek prayerfully for help and guidance, they shall be given power over adverse things. Such trials shall not be permitted to stand in the way of their progress, but instead shall act as stepping stones to greater knowledge.”
“The trail of life is strewn with stumbling blocks placed there to test us and to try us,” Elder Snow said. “Sometimes it seems we are literally stumbling through life as we deal with the challenges and trials of this mortal existence.”
Elder Snow suggested some stumbling blocks that we can avoid if we are obedient, plan ahead, and remain vigilant.
“First, beware of the stumbling block of pride,” he said. “Pride can blind us from danger. If we are caught up in ourselves and our own well-being, we become more susceptible to the enticing of the adversary. Pride prevents us from serving and giving and causes us to become self-centered and demanding. Pride interferes with relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and loved ones. No one cares to be around a truly selfish person.”
“Second, be aware of the stumbling blocks of negativity and pessimism. While there are challenges and difficulties we all face, it is important to maintain an eternal perspective…. If we tend to focus on only those things in our lives which do not go as we intend, we will miss the marvelous blessings we otherwise enjoy. Be optimistic. The glass really is half full. President Hinckley said it best, ‘Save your fork, the best is yet to come!’”
Elder Snow said that being optimistic is good for you and cited Dr. Martin Siligman, a psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania, who researched optimism for more than a quarter of a century.
“Among his conclusions: Optimistic people are happier, healthier and more successful than those with a negative outlook on life. Optimism results in less depression, higher achievement and a stronger immune system.”
There are many other stumbling blocks that will threaten your future progress, Elder Snow said. “Some you will need to maneuver around or laboriously push from your path. You will avoid many stumbling blocks by living wise, obedient lives and by paying attention to the stepping stones which will build your faith. But the challenges and trials will nonetheless come. When they do, if you have prepared, they will become seasons of learning in your life. Rather than times of setback and loss of faith, these experiences themselves will become stepping stones of spiritual strength for your eternal progression.”
For the full text of Elder Snow’s devotional, visit speeches.byu.edu. The devotional will also be rebroadcast on byutv.org.