Lesson 42: The Book of Job

Reading Preperation:
  • Job
Lesson Notes:
1. The Book of Job
1.1. Myth or Truth?
Just as Nathanael asked Phillip, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46), many ask a similar question regarding the merits of the book of Job. There are those who consider Job to be nothing more than a mythic folk-hero, while others believe him to have been a real person with real problems.
Ezekiel 14:14
14 Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it [famine], they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, said the Lord GOD.
Ezekiel makes reference to Job’s righteousness, like that of Noah, and Daniel, prophets of the Lord.
James 5:11
11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
James, a brother and later Apostle of Jesus Christ, refers to Job’s quality of patience which allowed him to endure the afflictions that he experienced during his life.
The third witness of the verity of Job is given by the Lord, Jesus Christ himself as He referenced the trials of Job as He addressed the tribulations that Joseph Smith was experiencing.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:10
10 Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.
While there may be those who continue to doubt that Job was a real person who did in fact experience the litany of tragedy and adversity in his life as noted in the book which bears his name, I accept the witnesses who see him as a real person. It is this truth that I believe underlies the very relevance of the book of Job for you and me. The questions that were raised; the severity of the adversity he experienced and his perseverance can give us hope as we face challenges in our own lives. In fact, over the years, they have been many who have gained great benefit from the writings of Job during their times of trial and difficulty deriving increased strength and comfort.
1.2. When did he live?
Victor L. Ludlow states,
Job “lived for 210 years during the age of the patriarchs (about 2000-1800 B.C.) on the eastern edge of Canaan near the desert (modern Jordan)… [It was probably in] 1000 B.C. when the book of Job was written in its present form” (Unlocking the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, 118, 124).
1.3. What was Job like as an individual?
Job 1:1
1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect [righteous, integrity, just] and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed [avoid] evil.
Job 29:14, 17, 21
14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my judgment was as a robe and a diadem.
17 … I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.
21 Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel.
He was a righteous man who reverenced God and kept his commandments. He took action against those who were wicked, and endeavor to assure that they did not benefit from their unrighteousness towards others. He had obtained wisdom and was honored by others.
He shares his other attributes:
Job 29:12-13, 15-16, 25
12 … I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him.
13 The blessing of him what was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for job.
15 I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame.
16 I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.
25 I… sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one that comforteth the mourners.
Job cared for those who were unfortunate and orphaned. He gave time his time to those who were in need, even seeking them out. He cared for and provided assistance to the widowed.
Job 1:2-3
2 And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
3 His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
Job had a family consisting of his wife and seven children and was a prosperous and successful man. Job would appear to exemplify one who had achieved many of the benefits this world has to offer, temporally as well as spiritually. In this regard, Job is not unlike others in this world who have achieved a measure of success in their lives.
Keith H. Meservy notes,
“At that time [of his life], all men, young, aged, princes, nobles alike paid deference to Job. Highly regarded at all levels of society, his counsel was often sought and never superseded. Beloved of all, he was a boon to anyone in need. In such circumstances, Job took great comfort in feeling that he was secure as a root in a well-watered soil. His days ahead would multiply like sand and he would die securely in his nest with his glory round about him, dwelling as a chief among his people” (“Job: Yet Will I Trust In Him” in Sixth Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium. Provo: Brigham Young University Campus, [January 28, 1978], 141-A).
2. Outline of the Book of Job
This Outline was prepared by John S. Tanner.
I. Prologue [prose], chaps. 1-2
II. Dialogue with the Comforters [poetry], chaps.3-37

A. First Cycle of Speeches (chaps. 3-14)

1. Job’s Complaint (chap. 3)
2. Dialogue with Eliphaz (chaps. 4-7)

a. Eliphaz (chaps.4-5)
b. Job (chaps.6-7)
3. Dialogue with Bildad (chaps.8-10)

a. Bildad (chap. 8)
b. Job (chaps.9-10)
4. Dialogue with Zophar (chaps.11-14)

a. Zophar (chap.11)
b. Job (chaps.12-14)
B. Second Cycle of Speeches (chaps.15-21)

1. Dialogue with Eliphaz (chaps.15-17)

a. Eliphaz (chap.15)
b. Job (chaps.16-17)
2. Dialogue with Bildad (chaps.18-19)

a. Bildad (chap.18)
b. Job (chap.19)
3. Dialogue with Zophar (chaps.20-21)

a. Zophar (chap.20)
b. Job (chap.21)
C. Third Cycle of Speeches (chaps.22-32)

1. Dialogue with Eliphaz (chaps.22-24)

a. Eliphaz (chap.22)
b. Job (chaps.23-24)
2. Dialogue with Bildad (chaps.25-27)

a. Bildad (chap.25)
b. Job (chaps.26-27)
3. Hymn to Wisdom (chap.28)
4. Job’s Survey of his Case (chaps.29-31)
III. Theophany [poetry], 38:1-42:6)

A. First Exchange (38:1-42:6)

1. The Lord’s Challenge (38:1-40:2)
2. Job’s Response (40:3-5)
B. Second Exchange (40:6-42:6)

1. The Lord’s Challenge (40:6-41:34)
2. Job’s Response (42:1-6)
IV. Epilogue [prose], 42:7-17

A. The Lord Rebukes the Comforters (42:7-9)
B. The Lord Blesses Job (42:10-17)
(“The Book of Job” in Studies in Scripture 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 394-395).
3. The Challenge: Misconception and Truth
Job 1:8-12
8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fearth God, and escheweth evil?
9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in they power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand…
This scripture contains a portion of truth combined with a clear lack of understanding regarding man’s purpose on this earth and the role of Satan’s influence as part of Our Father’s plan.
In the pre-existence, before man came to earth, a plan was presented by the Father to His children. An essential ingredient of the plan was that the agency of man continued on earth. It was therefore necessary that choice be given to man even though that meant that some of Our Father’s children would choose not to follow His plan. When Father presented his plan, it was necessary for a Savior to come to this earth and to pay in full the price that Justice required, so that the blessing of mercy could be extended, for Father knew that all would come short of complete obedience. Jesus Christ offered himself to serve as the Savior, as did Satan or Lucifer. Lucifer’s plan was contrary to the plan presented by the Father as it eliminated the opportunity of choice. He also sought to have the glory of the Father as his reward. His offer was rejected by the Father, however one-third of those present, chose Satan’s plan and lost their opportunity for further progression. Satan and his minions were cast out from Father’s present and came to this earth. The desire of Satan and his followers is to try and tempt the Father’s children to be disobedient and to become one of his followers.
To believe God would bargain with Satan is therefore in error, for the Lord does not bargain with Satan or agree to his evil deeds, however, it is consistent with current revealed doctrine that Satan is permitted by the Father to afflict and torment man until Lucifer’s allotted time on earth is finished.
B/M, 2 Nephi 2:11, 15-18
11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so,… righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness, nor misery, neither good nor bad…
15 And to bring about his [God’s] eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all thing which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.
16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
17 And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, have sought that which was evil before God.
18 And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind…
We therefore understand that Satan tempting Job was part of the Father’s plan for each of us. In fact, one of the purposes for our being upon this earth is that we might be tried and tested to see if we will be faithful in keeping all of God’s commandments. In that sense, God does allow Satan to tempt each of us.
As fate will have it, Job loses all of his material possessions, including his posterity. In this sense, Job is not unique in his circumstances. There have been others, also successful, who have lost all their possessions and family members. Natural disasters and economic downturns, even war, have combined to bring similar circumstances to others. It is not that Job’s circumstances are completely foreign, but the question that follows is how do we now respond to the unfolding of such dramatic circumstances? Job’s submissive response to such a negating blow was a complete as Jesus’.
Job 1:21-22
21 … Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
Richard G. Scott notes,
“When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this now? What have I done to cause this? Will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God” (“Trust in the Lord” in Ensign, November, 1995, 17).
Job’s trials were not over. Combined with the loss of his temporal possessions and the death of his sons, he now experiences physical illness along with his emotional grief. Again, Job’s pain is not foreign to others of today who, along with temporal loss, also experience afflictions to their physical body. While the degree or circumstances may not be the same, there are those who can relate to Job’s afflictions, either personally or otherwise.
Job 2:7
7 … smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.
The Westminster Study Edition of the Holy Bible states,
“Without knowing exactly what his disease was, some have suggested it appears that he had elephantiasis. Sore boils, one of the symptoms of this disease had attacked ‘Job’s body, forming large pustules which itched so greatly that a piece of pottery was used to scrape them. Job’s face was so disfigured that his friends could not recognize him. Worms or maggots were bred in the sores (see Job 7:5). His breath became so foul and his body emitted such an odor that ever his friends abhorred him (see Job 10:17), and he sought refuge outside the city on the refuse heap where outcasts and lepers lived. Pain was his constant companion (see Job 30:17, 30) as were also ‘terrifying nightmares'(see Job 7:14)” (Old Testament student manual: 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982, Second Edition, 24).
The loss of his prosperity, property and wealth with its related loss of security was one thing; but the loss of health and strength with pain and misery as daily attendants, was another. It appears that the pain of Job’s trials became too great for his wife to bear.
Job 2:9
9 Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.
It not unusual that afflictions of one spouse also have a detrimental effect upon the other, due to the extra burden that she/he must bear as they care for the needs of their spouse. This burden become especially difficult when the disease lingers for an extended period of time. It is not just the one who is afflicted that is being tested, but also those who love them, including their children. Job’s response to her concern.
Job 2:10
10 But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.
Job understood, even amidst his afflictions, that during our journey upon this earth our experiences consist of both trials and blessings.
4. Meeting with Three Friends and Another
A common misunderstanding at the time of Job, as well as for many individuals today, is that sin is at the root of all adversity. If one is suffering, it because of sin that they have committed. Afflictions are then the direct result of God’s punishment. This doctrine is labeled as “retribution justice” which correlates sin with suffering and righteousness with reward. Stated simply, if Job were righteous, he would not have suffered such terrible afflictions, therefore Job must be sinful. Job has three friends named Eliphaz, Bildad and Zopher. Good friends can often be a source of strength to someone who is experiencing adversity and hardship. Unfortunately for Job, and at times true today, the advice of well meaning friends can miss the mark when it comes to providing relief and comfort for the one who is suffering.
Eliphaz is first to respond to Job’s condition.
Job 4:2, 7-8
2 If we assay [attempt] to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved? but who can withhold himself from speaking?
7 Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? Or where were the righteous cut off?
8 Even as I have seen, thy that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.
It is “as if” Eliphaz is saying to Job: I believe I know why you are suffering. The reason is that you are not innocent or righteous. Suffering is the result of iniquity and wickedness. Your suffering is the result of sin.
Job 4:17
17 Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?
Job 5:17
17 Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the hastening of the Almighty.
Eliphaz does offer some truth in his response to Job. God’s ways and purposes for his children are higher than our ways, and therefore it is not possible for man to discern God’s purposes for us unless he reveals them to us (see Isaiah 55:8-9). It is also true that there are times when God, in his desire to refines us, so that we may become the individuals He knows we can become, uses the adversity of our mortal experience to accomplish His purposes.
Doctrine and Covenants 105:19
19 I have heard their prayers, and will accept their offering; and it is expedient in me that they should be brought thus far for a trial of their faith.
While we do understand and know that adversity and hardship serve to refine us, we also take comfort in the words of Paul to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 10:13
13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Job’s response to Eliphar.
Job 6:8-9, 14
8 Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for!
9 Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off!
14 To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend:…
Eliphaz’s effort to diagnose and treat the cause of Job’s suffering, failed to offer Job the one thing he needed most. Comfort and support from a friend. As a result, Job felt even more hopeless regarding his infirmities.
Job 7:1, 5-6
1 Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? Are not his days also like the days of a hireling?
5 My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome.
6 My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and spent without hope.
Job’s hope is fading. His strength to continue to the battle is waning. How much longer do I have to bear this infirmity? When will I gain relief from my afflictions?
His friend Bildad now speaks to Job.
Job 8:5-6, 20
5 If thou wouldst seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty;
6 If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.
20 Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the ever doers:
Bildad, blinded by his own misunderstanding, it adamant that personal sin is the only cause of Job’s pain! Were he righteous, God would have healed him.
In Job’s reply to Bildad, he does not dispute that sin may be a factor in his trial.
Job 9:20, 28
20 If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall prove me perverse [incorrect].
28 I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent.
Job has enough self-awareness to know that despite his effort to live an exemplary life, there are areas where he could improve. One area of concern is that due to the depth of his pain, his criticism may have overcome his true feelings. There have been others in their pain who have focused their blame on God, only to realize latter their error.
Job continues.
Job 10:2
2 I will say unto God, Do not condemn me; show me wherefore thou contendest with me.
Job wants to know the reason for his pain. It is “as if” he is saying, “If my suffering is due to my transgression, tell me what I have done, so that I may acknowledge my error and seek forgiveness.” Not to knowing is almost greater than he can bear.
Job 10:15, 19
15 If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head. I am full of confusion; therefore set thou mine affliction;
19 I should have been as though I had not been; I should have been carried from the womb to the grave.
Another, Zophar.
Job 11:7, 13-16
7 Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the almighty unto perfection?
13 If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him;
14 If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacle.
15 For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear.
16 Because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away.
Zophar’s words contain great insight regarding our relationship with God. The reply to his question, “Canst thou by searching find out God?” is a resounding, “Yes.” While it is recognized that the ways of God are greater than man’s simple understanding, it is only as we open up our lives to know God that we can then find the joy and happiness we each seek. It will require preparation on our part as we turn away from our personal wickedness so that we may in purity and humility seek Him. It will require us to be “stedfast” in our determination and not hesitant, but the reward for our efforts will be that we will find meaning in our lives including our suffering. This is the promise of the Father to each of His children.
Job’s reply to Zophar.
Job 13:1-2, 15-16
1 Lo, mine eye hath seen all this, mine ear hath heard and understood it.
2 What ye know, the same do I know also:…
15 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.
16 He also shall be my salvation:…
Job does know that God lives and that he has a personal relationship with Him. If he continues to trust in Him, in spite of all that he had had to bear, he know that eventually he will come into God’s presence.
Job 14:14-15
14 If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
15 Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.
Job knows that this life is not the end of our existence, but that he will live again. Like Job, we all will die, But like Job, we also shall live again.
Job 19:25-27
25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another;…
Paul also taught this truth to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 15:22-23
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order; Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
5. Elihu, the Younger
Having heard from Job’s three friends and another, Zophar, we are now introduced to Elihu.
Job 32: 2-4
2 Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel,… against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God.
3 Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.
4 Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he.
Elihu, though younger than the others, will offer some important truths for Job and the others to consider.
1. “God is greater than man” (Job 33:12)
2. God speaks to man “In a dream, in a vision of the night” (Job 33:15).
3. God chastens “with pain” (Job 33:19).
4. God ransoms all “He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living” (Job 33:28).
5. God “will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment” (Job 34:12).
6. “his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings. There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves” (Job 34:21-22).
7. “the cry of the poor… come unto him, and he heareth the cry of the afflicted” (Job 34:28).
8. To the kings and leaders of the earth “He openeth… their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity. If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity… But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword” (Job 36:10-12).
9. “Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth. He directeth it under the whole heaven, and his lightening unto the ends of the earth” (Job 37:2-3).
10. “Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God” (Job 37:14).
These important gospel truths are important for each of us to consider as we seek to understand the ways of the Lord. God is greater than man in all attributes and thus it is important that we seek his guidance and direction in our lives. God is not a silent participant in our lives, but speaks to us in “dreams and visions” or at other times in our lives through the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost. God in order to get our attention or in order to teach us important truths will do so by the things we suffer. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to serve as our Savior and Redeemer, by rescuing us from the pain of sin and
death. In all things, God acts in righteousness without impartiality. He also is bound by the laws of justice. He sees all that man does and the actions of those who do evil can’t be hid. He rewards those who are righteous and punishes those who are wicked. His power extends throughout the entire universe. When all is considered, His works are “wondrous” to behold.
Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:39
39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
The work and effort of the Godhead [The Father, Son and Holy Ghost} is directed toward bringing all of His children who desire back into His presence so that they may live with Him forever.
6. The Lord speaks to Job
Job 38:4, 7
4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding.
7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
God knows where Job was when the Father presented His plan and the earth was created as a habitat for man. Job, and each of us, was present as pre-mortal spirits. When the opportunity of going to earth to live which also included trial and adversity, the majority of the spirits in heaven rejoiced in their opportunity. Job knew at that time that there were going to be challenges associated with earth life, but he accepted them.
Job 40:2-4
2 Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.
3 Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
4 Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.
Based upon the words of the Lord to Job, through the trials that Job has experienced, one area of weakness was that he sought to give counsel to the Lord, rather than to receive and accept his direction! It was Elihu who noted that “he [Job] justified himself rather than God” (Job 32:2). It is not uncommon that we discount any benefit that trials and adversity can bring into our lives. When they occur, we often feel that we are being cursed by God, rather than viewing these events as providing us with greater opportunity for personal growth and development. In this regard, we like Job, seek to counsel the Lord as to what experiences that we believe will promote our progress rather than accepting and trusting the will of the Lord in our lives.
7. Job responds to the Lord
Job 42:1-2, 5-6
1 Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
2 I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.
5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.
6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
Job does not seek to justify himself before the Lord. He acknowledges his transgression and begins the process of repentance or change. His humility before the Lord has been restored as seeks to put his life in order.
Job 42:7, 9
7 … the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me that thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.
9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the LORD commanded them: the LORD also accepted Job.
In this instance, the Lord held Job’s three friends accountable regarding their actions toward Job. It may be that Elihu was correct in his anger toward Job’s friends, “because they had found no answer [or given him incorrect information] and yet had condemned Job” (Job 32:3).
Job 42:10, 12
10 And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends:…
12 So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning:…
8. Why did Job Suffer? Why do We?
The reasons for Job’s suffering, like for each of us, is multifaceted. As I understand one of the lessons of the book of Job, Job’s suffering was not due solely to his unrighteousness as his friends had concluded. With the exception of major wickedness, this is also probably true for each of us. When we judge others as being righteous when they have obtained the temporal wealth of the world or unrighteous when either they do not obtain worldly possessions or in Jobs case, lost them, including members of his family and his physical health, we, like Jobs friends, are in danger of rebuke. Job’s error was that he sought to counsel the Lord, rather than receive counsel from him, for which he was reprimanded (see Job 40:2-4, 6). Job did acknowledge his error (see Job 42:6) for which he was forgiven. Sometimes we, like Job, think that we, rather than the Lord, know what is best for us. Rather than patiently waiting upon the Lord, we act based upon our own misguided impulses.
Richard L. Evans noted,
“In stubbornness, in brash short-sightedness, we sometimes think we know better than we know or better than HE knows, even than our Eternal Father knows, and we make mistakes and realize regret. “Pride ruled my will,” the cherished hymn says. But life disciplines and mellows and matures us, an brings a measure of wisdom, and humility and understanding. And we come to know that HE knows us better than we know ourselves, and is patient and does not expect of us the impossible or the unreasonable, but only love and confidence and earnest effort, and we come to know the wisdom of keeping HIS counsel” (“Thoughts of a Son” from Music and the Spoken Word. Mormon Tabernacle Choir Broadcast, 1961-1964).
I believe this is the error that Job was guilty of and for which he was forgiven. It is an error that many of us today are also guilty.
We will now explore possible reasons as to why we may suffer:
8.1. Unrepentant sins
As we have learned from our reading in the scriptures, when “the people are ripe in iniquity” meaning that they have reached the point where their heart is hardened to the voice of the Lord, death and destruction follow. I believe this is true for individuals as well as for nations. The cleansing of the earth by the Flood at the time of Noah; the death of the first born of the children of Egypt including the Pharaoh’s child, as the Israelites departed from Egypt; the destruction of the Northern tribes by the Assyrians and the Southern tribes by the Babylonians exemplify widespread wickedness. Examples of more specific death due to individual wickedness would include the death of Samson, the death of David and Bathsheba’s child, and the death of Ahab prophesied by Elijah to name just a few.
8.2. The Trials of mortality
Each of us are here on this earth in order to experience the everyday vicissitudes of mortality. As such we are also subject to the challenges of daily living including accidents, illness, and injury. No one is at fault. They are events that just happen as part of mortal life.
Matthew 5:45
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
In other words, we are here on earth to gain experience. This learning is best accomplished when we are confronted with the normal obstacles and challenges provided by our mortal existence. There will be days when coping with the vicissitudes of life may find us on our knees seeking strength from heaven. It is often during these difficult times that our prayers become more sincere and our ears more in tune for heavenly direction. It is often during these times that we gain either the strength to go forward or we stumble and momentary lose our way. Often we wish their was someone, anyone, who would just make the pain go away. Somehow, we make it through the night, and with the new day, though our suffering is not alleviated, it does seem like our backs have been made stronger and we are better able to bear the burdens that beset our lives. I believe that suffering and adversity are the building blocks of life divinely designed by a kind loving Father. They are given for our benefit, and we are promised great blessings if we endure.
B/M, 1 Nephi 13:37
37 … and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb;…
I believe that in the final analysis we will find that He allowed us to experience just the right amount of suffering and adversity necessary in order to make our journey upon this mortal earth of greatest value to each of us.
8.3. Our Suffering and adversity is to purify us
We are here to develop those qualities within each of us that will make us like our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ.
B/M, Mosiah 3:19
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticing of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
Unfortunately, the elements that often precipitate our becoming humble, patient, full of love, and willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon us, come though those things which we suffer. These may include the death of a loved one, betrayal, financial loss, physical and emotional illness, neglect, abuse, rejection, loss of our senses including the ability to think rationally, loss of limbs, debilitating disabilities, terminal illness and a number of other hardships. We all experience these trials or others that often bring us, like Job, to the brink of unbearable pain. When that occurs, how do find the strength to continue, as did Job?
Let me share two experiences:
Duane S. Crowther records,
“Consider the experience of Niels P.L. Eskildz, a Danish convert to the Church who was seriously crippled and deformed when but ten years of age. The sixteen years which followed were a time of misery and despair for him. However, in the summer of 1862, just prior to his baptism, he received a revelation which helped him to understand man of the unexplained circumstances of his earth life:
‘While engaged preparing his evening meal a glorious vision burst upon his view. If was not a single scene that he beheld, but a series of them… He beheld as with his natural sight, but he realized afterwards that it was with the eye of the spirit that he say what he did. His understanding was appealed to as well as his sight. What was shown him related to his existence in the spirit world, mortal experience and future rewards. He comprehended, as if my intuition, that he had witnessed a somewhat similar scene in his pre-mortal state, and been given the opportunity of choosing the class of reward he would like to attain to. He knew that he had deliberately made his choice. He realized which of the rewards he had selected, and understood that such a reward was only to be gained by mortal suffering—that, in fact, he must be a cripple and endure severe physical pain, privation and ignominy. He was conscious too that he still insisted upon having that reward, and accepted and agreed to the conditions.
‘He emerged from the vision with a settled conviction, that to rebel against or even to repine at his fate, was not only a reproach to an All wise Father whose care had been over him notwithstanding his seeming abandonment, but a base violation of the deliberate promise and agreement he had entered into, and upon the observance of which his future reward depended.
“Footnote 16: Whatever opinion others may entertain concerning the philosophy involved in this theory, is a matter of absolute indifference to Niels. He does not advocate it: he does not seek to apply it to any other case; but he has unshaken faith in it so far as his own case is concerned… He has always felt that the vision was granted to him by the Lord for a wise and merciful purpose—that he might, through a better understanding of his duty, be able to remain steadfast thereto” (Life Everlasting. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1967, [Fifth Printing, 1968], 39-40).
The second experience is personal, but I share it in hope that others might benefit from the lessons I learned. I had been married for thirty-two and half years to a wonderful wife with whom my life had been most enjoyable. We had two special children and though I had only achieved limited financial success, we were happy as a family. Then came the news. My wife was diagnosed with cancer. The news was devastating to say the least for our family and for me personally. She underwent chemotherapy, but after a year, succumbed to the dreaded disease! How was I going to go on without her? Yes, we had two children, but they each had busy lives of their own and were also just beginning their own families. I had a deep and abiding faith in the Savior, and life after death, but how was I to get through today? It was not easy. Life’s challenges and adversity never are, but I rallied my internal strength and proceeded slowly, one step at a time.
I knew two basic truths. One, I was not alone in my grief. There were others had lost loved ones and survived and somehow I would too. A song by Barry Manilow entitled, “I Made it through the Rain” gave me both comfort and strength. “I made it through the rain. I kept my point of view. I made it through the rain. And found myself respected by the others who got rained on too… ‘Cause when I chased my fears away. That’s when I knew that I could finally say. I made it through the rain” (“I Made it through the Rain” on Ultimate Manilow. Arista Records, 2002).
The second is that I somehow felt that I had accepted this challenge when it was presented to me by a kind and loving Father, as I too desired the blessings that would come to me if I would allow this experience to tutor me. Though I was initially inclined to ask “why me?” and “How could God have let this happen to me?” I intuitively, or spiritually knew, that at a later time, I would know that this horrendous experience would become a blessing not a curse in my life. It has now been eleven years and I still miss her, and yes, I am still trying to complete the remedial lessons I need to learn. I am trying to take it one day at a time.
8.4. Some who are righteous will die as witnesses for truth
Throughout history there have been a number of individuals who have suffered persecution and death for a righteous cause. Their names are numbered among the martyrs for truth. These include the original twelve Apostles; the death of the early Christians, the suffering of the Waldenses in Northern Italy in their desire for religious freedom; John Wycliffe and later William Tyndale who suffered persecution and death in their efforts to make the Bible available to the common man to name just a few. For those interested, I would recommend John Fox’s classic, Fox’s Book of Martyr. Edited by Willian Bryon Forbush, D.D., Zondervan Pusblishing House, 1967).
James D. McCabe Jr. quoting the great Napoleon observed,
“In this conflict,’ the great Napoleon, summing up the triumphs of the religion of Christ, ‘all the kings and all the forces of the earth are arrayed on one side. Upon the other I see no army, but a mysterious energy, individuals scattered here and there, in all parts of the globe, having no other rallying sign than a common faith in the mysteries of the Cross… One the one side we see rage and all the furies of hatred and violence; on the other there is gentleness, moral courage, infinite resignation. For three hundred years the spirit struggled against the brutality of sense, the conscience against despotism, the soul against the body; virtue against all the vices. The blood of Christians flowed in torrents. They died kissing the hand which slew them. The soul alone protested, while the body surrendered itself to all tortures. Everywhere Christians fell, and everywhere they triumphed” (Cross and Crown. Cincinnati, Ohio: National Publishing Company, 1874, [Reset and edited by Gerald E. Greene, geraldegreene@gmail.com, 2014, 7).
As described above, persecution and death has often been the condition of the believer who sought only to worship their God according to the dictates of their own conscience. Why, we might ask has the God of Heaven not intervened in order to prevent such abuse and suffering? I offer as my answer to the above question by citing the following event that involved a group of innocent members of the Church who lived in the Americas in about 82 B.C. as recorded in the Book of Mormon.
Two prophets, Alma and Amulek, had been preaching in the city of Ammonihah against the wickedness of many of the inhabitants. While there were some who believed their words and repented, the “more part of them were desirous that they might destroy Alma and Amulek” (B/M, Alma 14:2). The leaders then brought “all those who believed in the words which had been spoken by Alma and Amulek… and… their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire” (B/M, Alma 14:7-8). Amulek, upon observing the pain of the women and the children in the fire, requested of Alma that by the power of God, they save them. Alma replied:
Alma 14:11
11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto his glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them in the last day.
This incident is an illustration of the truth that there are times when the Lord allows the righteous to be killed in order to stand as a witness against the wicked. In this manner, the innocent may justly claim in the final days that they were unjustly put to death and as a result their time on this earth was cut short. The wicked will at that time be without excuse and will stand condemned by their actions.
Bruce R. McConkie states,
“Truly… [our] world is and will be in commotion, but the Zion of God will be unmoved. The wicked and ungodly shall be swept from the Church, and the little stone [Daniel saw in vision] will continue to grow until it fills the whole earth. The way ahead is dark and dreary and dreadful. There will yet be martyrs; the doors in Carthage [jail/prison?] shall again enclose the innocent. We have not been promised that the trials and evils of the world will entirely pass us by. If we as a people, keep the commandments of God; if we take the side of the Church on all issues, both religious and political; if we take the Holy Spirit for our guide; if we give heed to the words of the apostles and prophets who minister among us—then, from an eternal standpoint, all things will work together for our good. Our view of the future shall be undimmed, and, whether in life or in death, we shall see our blessed Lord return to reign on earth” (“The Coming Tests and Trials and Glory” in Ensign, 1980, 73).
The days of martyrdom are not over. There will be yet be martyrs in our day in response to the persecution that is yet to come. Those who are righteous in the latter days, like those of the past, will also be required to stand as a witness for truth. Some will also be called upon to forfeit their lives for their faith.
9. To Whom can We turn for Comfort and Understanding?
During those times in my life when I felt all alone and that there was no one who really understood my pain, I came to understand that there is someone who does care and who does understand and understands perfectly. This individual is Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He has personally experienced all the pain and suffering that each of us have or will yet experience. Because He has experienced it ALL, He will bless us and strengthen us so that we too can endure our pain and even find benefit from our personal suffering and adversity. We need not stand alone. He is there and will attend to us, making it possible for us to rise above our pain and sorrow. All we have to do is ASK. In accordance with our need and the growth that we may gain, He will be there for us.
George Q. Cannon stated the following regarding the attributes of Jesus Christ in relationship to us,
“No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, he will never desert us. He never has and He never will. He cannot do it. It is not His character to do so. He is an unchangeable being the same yesterday, the same today, and He will be the same throughout the eternal ages to come. We have found that God. We have made Him our friend, by obeying His Gospel; and He will stand by us. We may pass though the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and purer for them, if we only trust in our God and keep His commandments… That bliss which we have a foretaste of here, we shall have a fullness of hereafter” (“Freedom of the Saints” in Collected Discourse 2. Compiled and Edited by Brian H. Stuy. B.H.S. Publishing, 1988, [Second Printing, 1999], 185).
Our challenge, like was also Job, is to hold on to the truths which we know to be true. God the Father lives. We are His spirit children and He loves us. He sent His Son, to show us the way back to his presence. In all that the Son suffered, He did not doubt. He was faithful and He trusted His Father, even when His suffering was also the most excruciating. We too can hold on to Him and we too shall overcome. In the words of Job.
Job 19:25-26
25 For I know that my redeemer liveth,…
26 And thou after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.
Like Job, each of us will live again after this life. Death will be our second birth where we will find peace and rest from all our sorrows and be united with loved ones once again. It is then that we will know for ourselves the truth of the words of Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith when he was unjustly imprisoned in Liberty Jail. Joseph had prayerfully petitioned the Lord for relief from his perils and adversity. He received this answer.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:7, 9
7 … know thou my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
9 … therefore fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.
10. Conclusions
It is important that we understand that each of us will experience trials and adversity during our mortal journey. None are exempt from this learning experience. Our challenge is to rise above our pain and sorrow and to be strengthened in our faith and trust in Our Heavenly Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ. As we turn to them in prayer, we will not be left alone regardless of our circumstances. They know and understand our pain and anguish and will not leave us alone.
John S. Tanner reminds us,
“To our witness that God keeps company with the afflicted must be added the witness of the Spirit that the Lord still keeps company with the aggrieved one, here and now, in his desperation. [As comforters,] we can testify to the truth that the Lord loves and pities his children in the midst of their sharpest sorrows; we can offer scriptural insights about various purposes served by suffering; but [we must remember that] only the Lord can confirm his continuing love through the voice of the only unfailing comforter, his Comforter. Revelation is the essential comfort every Job requires” (“The Book of Job” in Studies in the Scripture 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 402-403).
Hopefully, we have learned from the book of Job that our responsibility, when we see another experiencing periods of trial and difficulty, is to reach out, and to assist them to bear their burdens without judgment or complaint. May we all, like Our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ, seek always to lift and bear up another. As we do so we will learn that while today we are the one giving comfort, tomorrow we will be the one who is in need of comfort. May we each learn to give and receive as the need arises.