TALLAHASSEE, Florida — The southern end of the U.S. Atlantic coast has been on the business end of the adversity over the past several weeks.
First came Hurricane Florence, inundating the Carolinas with rain and overflowing inland rivers. Then Hurricane Michael arrived on the Florida Panhandle with historic, violent winds that turned tourist towns into rubble.
But adversity didn’t originate with the recent storms. Difficulties have been around since the beginning of time — and everyone will be battered by life’s blows at some point in their lives, said President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He and other church leaders spoke at a Saturday evening devotional at the Florida Tallahassee Stake Center for storm-weary church members and their friends.
Some deal with hurricanes and other random acts of nature. Others, perhaps, find themselves battered by depression or perhaps a sick or rebellious child or loved one.
“Affliction and obstacles are the reality of mortal life,” said President Oaks.
But afflictions, he assured, need not be suffered in vain. God desires to “consecrate” such suffering for the benefit of his children.
“If we are faithful and prayerful, the Lord will help us get through them and he will consecrate (our afflictions) — which means set apart —for our gain, our blessing and our growth.”
The Saturday evening gathering could have almost be called “General Conference East.” Besides President Oaks, speakers at the standing-room only event included a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder David A. Bednar; the President of the Relief Society general presidency, Sister Jean B. Bingham; a member of the Presiding Bishopric, Bishop W. Christopher Waddell; and a member of the Seventy, Elder Shayne M. Bowen.
Each of the visiting authorities were accompanied by their spouses, who also shared brief remarks. The visiting authorities have spent the past couple of days touring communities in North and South Carolina heavily affected by Hurricane Florence. They will split up on Sunday to visit with Latter-day Saints hit hard by Hurricane Michael.
Even Florida Governor Rick Scott, who is in the final days of his campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate, participated Saturday. The governor offered brief comments before the beginning of the religious gathering. He thanked members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for coming to the aid of their fellow Floridians.
“Whenever there has been a disaster, you have always shown up,” he said.
In his concluding remarks, President Oaks spoke of his own widowed mother, who endured afflictions with faith and, in doing so, became a blessing in the lives of her children and many others.
Afflictions can even be endured with gratitude.
“Be grateful for the faith the Lord has in you,” he said. “Be grateful for what He has given you — the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Be grateful for a Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Elder Bednar acknowledged that when hurricanes or other afflictions arrive, it’s natural to ask: “Why do really bad things happen to really good people?”
But disciples of Christ must follow the challenging path the Lord marked, he said. It won’t be easy — but Christ’s gospel offers direction and eternal perspectives.
“The perspective of the gospel allows us to learn lessons that prepare us for eternity through the adversity of mortality,” said Elder Bednar.
Without such perspective, life would seem hopeless, unfair and cruel.
Sister Bingham thanked the Latter-day Saint volunteers from across the U.S. Southeast for offering relief to their “eternal brothers and sisters.”
The Helping Hands volunteers “just glow” in their recognizable yellow t-shirts. “Your Christ-like service gives you a radiance that others can see and feel,” she said.