President Pace teaches how to navigate trials with faith and optimism

Burdens and trials are “an essential part of this mortal experience,” President Mark L. Pace of the Sunday School general presidency said during BYU Women’s Conference

Addressing an audience of women participating from around the world, President Pace said he felt inspired to share fundamental principles about the topic of trials. 

First, he said, the plan of salvation always included the fact that mortal life would include “trials, challenges, sickness, and opposition” to help with individual, spiritual growth. 

Second, as part of the Savior’s Atonement, he “felt and overcame every trial, every challenge, every sickness, and every heartache that we will ever encounter.”

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President Pace read Abraham 3:22, 24-26 and broke down the phrase “we will prove them” to underscore this life as a time of showing “who we really are,” he said. 

“It would not be much of a test without challenges or opposition of some kind,” he said.

President Pace explained that we achieve personal righteousness “as we use our agency to make righteous decisions… Without opposition, that choice is meaningless.” 

Each person in mortality faces unique challenges to provide a truly personal test. President Pace said this means Heavenly Father created “a mortal experience, custom crafted for each of us.” 

Just as the challenges each person faces are unique, so is the Savior’s Atonement, President Pace explained. 

He pointed out three things Jesus Christ took upon Himself and why.

  1. He took upon Himself death in order to “loose the bands of death.”
  2. He took all sins upon Himself so that He could blot them out.
  3. He took upon Himself the “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind.” This includes sicknesses and infirmities, allowing Him to know how to succor individuals as they face challenges. 

President Pace explained that knowing the purpose of the plan can help individuals recognize that adversity does not equate to personal failings. 

“And because we understand the scope of Jesus Christ’s Atonement, we know that we never have to face our trials alone,” he said. 

President Pace introduced his family through photos – showing photos of his wife, Anne Marie, their seven children, and their 21 grandchildren. 

He talked about how each family, like each individual, has unique challenges. 

Family photo shared by President Mark L. Pace as part of his message at BYU Women’s Conference on April 29, 2021.
Family photo shared by President Mark L. Pace as part of his message at BYU Women’s Conference on April 29, 2021. Credit: Screenshot

“There are no exceptions. Their challenges vary widely, but each family has some.” 

Part of his personal challenges, President Pace shared his recent experience having been diagnosed with cancer. 

This has been a challenge faced by him as an individual and his family as a group. 

He talked about calling on his 95-year-old father to give a priesthood blessing. President Pace’s family gathered together, and his four sons joined in giving him that blessing. 

The blessing brought with it a powerful peace.

“From the moment he and my sons took their hands off my head, a feeling of peace settled on me,” he said. “I knew that peaceful feeling came by the influence of the Holy Ghost.” 

President Pace shared his feelings of going through the medical tests and waiting that followed his diagnosis and priesthood blessing. He spoke of the many conversations he had with his wife and the prayers they offered in humility that his “life would be spared.” 

In his case, the cancer has not gone away. President Pace is undergoing treatment, but he said he is “willing to accept the Lord’s will.” 

“Our faith does not necessarily remove our trials,” he said. “But it does give us the power and perspective to navigate those trials successfully.”

Church leaders in the latter-days have provided what President Pace called, “inspired perspective,” on the challenges faced in mortality. 

Elder Orson F. Whitney once said, “All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God.” 

In general conference last October, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Faith means trusting God in good times and bad, even if that includes some suffering until we see His arm revealed in our behalf.”

Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace speaks about navigating life's trials with faith and optimism during his remarks at BYU Women's Conference on April 29, 2021. The conference was live streamed from the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah.
Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace speaks about navigating life’s trials with faith and optimism during his remarks at BYU Women’s Conference on April 29, 2021. The conference was live streamed from the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. Credit: Ryan Campbell, BYU Photo

Finally, President Pace shared a teaching from President Russell M. Nelson, who said of enduring the challenges of life, “You are a son or daughter created in His image, entitled through your worthiness to receive revelation to help with your righteous endeavors.” 

President Pace shared stories of enduring life’s challenges learned by Alma in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith during the early days of the Restoration, and the Savior during His mortal life. 

No one is spared challenges and opportunities for growth in this life. 

“When we face challenges, the Father does not always remove the burden, but when we submit to His will, we can count on Him to give us strength equal to the challenge,” he said. 

As part of President Pace’s concluding testimony of the Savior and His role in helping individuals find peace in personal adversity, he said, “Because He overcame the world, He provides the strength for us to meet every trial the world can give us.”