November 7, 2009

Remember the Captivity of Your Fathers

This last summer my family and I went to the Yale University Special Collections Library to sift through boxes and boxes of information they had on one of my ancestors who served in the Civil War. Of the many treasures we found was a letter written to my ancestor James E. Fuller (who at the time was an enlisted soldier in the Union Army) from his father Ebenezer Fuller dated October 24, 1865. It appears that James was going through a great deal of struggles at this time of his life. His father penned these words of inspiration to him with the hopes of lifting his son’s soul that he might be sustained at this great and trying time of his life:

“You are not the first or only noble soul that has met disappointment - no, no. Show that you can master adversity, and turn all things, however disagreeable they may be, to the accomplishment of your own places and purchases. I am thankful for all the adversity and losses I have had, for it has made me richer and wiser and absolutely increased my sense of human happiness. Be encouraged then to never despond, or to look at your own lot in the ‘drama of life’ as any more severe than your greatest happiness and but good, require adversity, benefits, assuredly – forget not Life is but a breath and Eternity our Home. Affectionately, E. Fuller”

Alma in the Book of Mormon was told by the angel of God to remember the captivity of his fathers and to remember the “great things [the Lord had] done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them.” (Mosiah 27:16) As I thought upon my ancestor who at the time was fighting in the bloodiest war the United States has ever fought, and how he in time was delivered from the tribulations of war, I thought of this verse and of my own challenges I am currently facing.

Life is not easy. I don’t know any other way to put it. However, the trials we face have a unique ability to refine us like no other experience in our life. In the words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a modern day apostle “The thermostat on the furnace of affliction will not have been set too high for us—though clearly we may think so at the time. Our God is a refining God who has been tempering soul-steel for a very long time. He knows when the right edge has been put upon our excellence and also when there is more in us than we have yet given. One day we will praise God for taking us near to our limits—as He did His Only Begotten in Gethsemane and Calvary.” (All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, page 46)

In the end I am not sure if I will be able to overcome all the trials I currently face, but as Paul so eloquently stated, I feel to exclaim: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (1 Cor. 4:8-9).

I do not know what the Lord has in store for me or for those who surround me. But this I know, God has, does, and will forever more deliver His people from spiritual and physical captivity. Through the atonement of Christ all mankind can be given power to be freed from all captivity, whatever that may be. Though we know not when the Lord will remove our own thorns in our flesh (see 2 Cor. 12:7), we can know that He not only has the power to do so, but if we will trust in Him and have Faith in Him He will make all things right. In the eternities those who put their faith in Christ will be made whole. Truly as my ancestor said “Life is but a breath and Eternity our Home.”

(Photo of James E. Fuller during Civil War, courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University)

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