The Challenge Matches the Reward

A Hopeless Dawn 1888 Frank Bramley 1857-1915 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1888

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey.

President Spencer W. Kimball:

You will find so-called Mormonism to be a growing, vibrant, dynamic, and challenging church, indeed a way of life, touching upon every avenue of living, every facet of life.

What an interesting way to describe the church: “challenging.” Other words you could pick include: demanding, exacting, and strict. From the same talk:

Prophets say the same things because we face basically the same problems. Brothers and sisters, the solutions to these problems have not changed. It would be a poor lighthouse that gave off a different signal to guide every ship entering a harbor. It would be a poor mountain guide who, knowing the safe route up a mountainside, took his trusting charges up unpredictable and perilous paths from which no traveler returns.

There are a lot of people who wish that the Church would changes its message on fundamental matters of morality. It’s not going to happen. The challenge, the demand, the exacting expectations are here to stay. Discipleship is difficult by design.

President Monson described how, “for [those] who have loved and lost dear ones, each dawn is hopeless,” this being “the experience of those who regard the grave as the end and immortality as but a dream.”

Against this darkness, President Monson contrasts the reality of a literal resurrection:

This is the knowledge that sustains. This is the truth that comforts. This is the assurance that guides those bowed down with grief out of the shadows and into the light.

There are many who see Christianity—perhaps all religion—as a kind of cosmic bribe. If you are good, then you can have a reward. I understand the misperception, but it is misperception. The deliberate difficulty of the discipleship is not some arbitrary test for which divine blessings are meted out, like a trainer putting a dog through an obedience course.

But there is a symmetry. It is simply not the symmetry of a barter or exchange or tit-of-tat. It is the deeper symmetry or resonance. Discipleship is part of a shaping process that fundamental changes who we are, and prepares us to recognize, receive, and appreciate the blessings God has prepared for His children.

It is less, “If you are good, you can have something nice,” and more “If you strive to become good, you will—with God’s help—become good; and the truly good truly experience joy.”

The apparently transactional nature of the relationships is an illusion, but the symmetry is not. The challenge matches the reward. Much is asked; much is given.

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3 thoughts on “The Challenge Matches the Reward”

  1. Yes. I was struck by the same passage in this talk about “the truth that comforts.” I thought, “with this knowledge, how can we ever really be hopeless about anything?” I guess the closer I am to that knowledge, the more hope I feel. But it doesn’t last forever. I have to keep regaining it. I think that goes with what you said about needing to become good! Not a bribe but a…law. Or truth.

  2. I think we (full-time active members) sometimes criticize those that fall away for being lazy. The church is hard and i think that perhaps we set our autopilot we forget that.

    Shortly after getting out of boot camp I recalled hearing people complain about the honor code and think “that’s not hard try going to boot camp…that is hard.”

    There was other examples where people would complain and inwardly it was kind of hard to relate because of the much more difficult experiences that I had dealt with. Eventually I came to the realization that hardness is kind of relative and but before that ended up kind of doing myself a diservice by denying / recognizing their claims had any reality.

    Later on I would deny myself that my trials were really hard because someone else had it harder than me.

    I addressed a lady in a class I had a few months back when she brought up an example of her sister not being active in the church because she explained how her sister lost activity in the church because she felt that church is boring or something like that. I simply pointed that church is hard because from what I recall she made it sound like if you follow church principles then everything is easier.

    I’d already made my point earlier but to reiterate…we should frequently try to recognize / address the stumbling blocks / obstacles others might encounter that might hinder someone from joining or continued activity in the church rather than finding / producing faults with individuals in efforts to protect the process / church.

    Hopefully my thoughts have some coherency to them. :)

  3. Yeah…looking at my comment…it’s not my finest thought process but..I’ll try again later.

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