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If Thou Endure It Well

Doug Sorensen - Sept 2023
Audio of "If Thou Endure It Well"
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Good morning, brothers and sisters. I am grateful and humbled for the opportunity to be with you today and pray that the Holy Ghost will be with each of us.

Joseph Smith has said, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence, and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it.”[1]

This morning, I’d like to speak to you about how trials, adversity, and disappointments in our everyday lives may turn out to be blessings for us if we keep focused on Jesus Christ. In 2 Nephi 2:11, it says, “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.”[2]

Opposition and hardships seem to pop up in our lives and interfere with our plans for happiness all the time. Yet despite discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to find a way of learning from their difficulties. They become stronger, wiser, and happier as a result of the trials they endured. Much like lifting weights, the more resistance we face, the stronger we become and, therefore, the better equipped we are at handling situations we may face in the future.

I’d like to tell a historical story that I feel we could learn some great lessons about dealing with adversity from.

During the dark days of World War II, England and Germany were in a bitter struggle. At that time, Germany was about to launch one of the greatest ships the world had ever known, the battleship Bismarck. Germany’s goal was to introduce Bismarck and her companion ship into the North Atlantic in search of enemy supply convoys. Their goal was to cut off England’s supply lines from the west to force England to surrender.

England knew of Bismarck’s existence and was very concerned about the amount of destruction this new ship would cause. England’s answer to the Bismark was to send a couple of their own battleships, HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales, to intercept Bismark. The Hood had served England long and well and had ruled the seas for over twenty years. It was thought to be invincible.

On the 24th of May 1941, as the Bismarck emerged from the Denmark Straights, the British Navy was waiting with the HMS Hood, the Battleship Prince of Wales. As they approached each other, the Hood unleashed its 15-inch main guns. Hood and Bismarck exchanged fire for four minutes before the Bismarck found its target. Just before the Hood could strike a fatal blow to Bismarck, a huge armor-piercing shell fired from the Bismarck ripped through the top deck of the Hood and exploded its ammunition magazine, literally blowing the great ship in half. Instantly, the Hood was sunk and, with it, much of the optimism and hope of the British Navy.

The Bismarck was also damaged. She was taking on water and leaking oil, so she was immediately ordered to set out for their closest base in German-occupied France for repairs. After an exhaustive search, the British Navy found Bismarck again. This time a British aircraft carrier launched torpedo planes against what they thought was Bismarck, but because of foul weather, the British torpedo planes made a horrible mistake and misidentified a British Destroyer as the Bismarck and dropped torpedoes against their own ship. Fortunately for the British, their new and untested magnetic detonators malfunctioned and detonated prematurely, leaving the Destroyer undamaged.

The mishap, a blessing in disguise, gave the British Navy a chance to replace the faulty detonators on the next round of torpedoes to be used against Bismarck. However, valuable hours were wasted. Just before dark, that evening fifteen torpedo planes were once again launched against Bismarck.

As the planes approached Bismarck, they were heavily fired upon by the ship’s anti-aircraft guns; however, a torpedo managed to strike Bismarck near the rear of the ship. As luck would have it for the British, the torpedo struck just as the Bismarck was making an evasive turn, jamming the rudder fifteen degrees to port, dooming the mighty ship to steam in an endless lefthand circle at a speed no greater than seven knots. The crew of the Bismarck did everything they could think of to try to free the rudder, but it was no use.

Overnight, the British Navy repositioned other battleships for a final engagement, which they began at daybreak. Bismarck may have been disabled, but the big guns that sank the mighty Hood in just four minutes were still in full working order. British battleships moved in head-on at flank speed against Bismarck, closing to just 3,000 yards before turning to bring their full broadside guns to bear. Bismarck began to take hits on her superstructure, igniting deck fires and slowly disabling each of her big guns. She continued to take hits for almost two hours before finally going under the waves for good at 10:40 that morning.

I tell you this story because I believe there are learning opportunities from both Bismarck and the British Navy, who both suffered great losses while fighting for what they believed in.

The British Navy is a great example of perseverance through times of trial. Although everything seemed to be going wrong for them, their unwillingness to accept defeat allowed them to keep focused on the task at hand and to eventually accomplish their goal. Great disappointments, hardships, and sacrifices were required for this to happen. They lost their battleship Hood, but they did not give up. They dropped torpedoes on one of their own ships, but they learned from their mistakes rather than becoming discouraged and allowing self-doubt to creep in. Each unsuccessful mission ended up being a learning opportunity.

As with the British Navy, trials and adversity seem to enter the life of every individual in many forms and for many reasons. No one is exempt. Adversity, even in the lives of the obedient and faithful, may come in the form of disease, accidental injury, or other life-altering events. We should not allow ourselves to become discouraged. It is important that we look at adversity for what it is: simply an obstacle that we must overcome. How we handle these challenges determines whether they become stumbling blocks or stepping stones. Navigating through the challenges of life helps us become strong and faithful and make progress and development possible.

The sinking of Bismarck was not entirely due to it being outmatched or outgunned. It was because of a jammed rudder and the inability to maneuver. With ships, as with men and women, the lack of maneuverability, or the inability or unwillingness to steer our lives through the hazards of day-to-day challenges can prove disastrous for our progression through this life. For those caught rudderless, they will find themselves bouncing from point to point, letting themselves be defeated with each challenge or like Bismarck, becoming easy prey for the adversary.

In his closing general conference address earlier this month, President Nelson taught us to “Think Celestial” as we face challenges and make life’s decisions. Let’s listen to his words:

When you make choices, I invite you to take the long view—an eternal view. Put Jesus Christ first because your eternal life is dependent upon your faith in Him and in His Atonement. It is also dependent upon your obedience to His laws. Obedience paves the way for a joyful life for you today and a grand, eternal reward tomorrow.

When you are confronted with a dilemma, think celestial! When tested by temptation, think celestial! When life or loved ones let you down, think celestial! When someone dies prematurely, think celestial. When someone lingers with a devastating illness, think celestial. When the pressures of life crowd in upon you, think celestial! As you recover from an accident or injury, as I am doing now, think celestial! As you focus on thinking celestial, expect to encounter opposition.[3]

It is important that we understand that each of us has come to earth to gain a physical body and to be tested. It is part of the eternal plan for each of us to navigate through the hazards of life, learn from our experiences, and develop physical, mental, and spiritual endurance, so we can endure to the end. God gave us the gift of living in mortality so that we could be tested and prepare to receive the greatest of all the gifts of God, which is the gift of eternal life.

Unfortunately, none of us will go through life without sorrow for the loss of loved ones, hardships, trials, or mistakes. We may have to face these trials for many different reasons. Some trials come to us as just part of life’s journey, some may be self-imposed because of our own poor judgment or disobedience, some may be sent directly from our Father in Heaven in the hope that we can grow from the experience and draw closer to him. These trials or tests are part of our learning and development process, and if we learn to navigate through the challenges of life, they will help us grow and develop and become closer to Him. We can be comforted and encouraged in knowing that we have the capacity to deal with these trials if we but turn to the Lord for strength and guidance.

Because of agency, harmful acts can be bestowed on the righteous by others who intend to do evil, so we need to be aware. Just as Bismarck set out to destroy supply ships, there will be influences or situations in our lives that try to push us off course and that could destroy our happiness. As an example, as Lehi’s family was crossing the ocean on the ship Nephi built, Nephi’s own brothers bound him; the ship’s compass, which had been prepared of the Lord, did cease to work; and a great storm was driving the ship back and they feared being drowned in the sea. Nephi wrote, “Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.”[4]

Nephi knew that he could turn to God to get him through tough times. Let us have the faith of Nephi and call upon the Lord in times of hardship and discouragement for the needed strength and guidance.

In his April 2023 conference address, Elder Carl B. Cook said, “The God of heaven and earth will help us overcome discouragement and whatever obstacles we encounter if we look to Him, follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and just keep going—with faith.”[5] Thankfully, when we are weak or incapable, the Lord can strengthen our faith. He can increase our capacity beyond our own.

As I have mentioned, sometimes we must go through great heartache for what may seem to us as unknown reasons. These types of experiences can either test our faith or cause us to call upon the powers of heaven to help us through.

Back in 2012, my wife became pregnant with our fourth child. At twenty-one weeks, we went in for an ultrasound; I could see the expression of the ultrasound technician changed as images started showing up on the screen. Naturally, my three young boys wanted to know if the baby was a boy or a girl, but the ultrasound tech said she was unable to make that determination and quickly ended the session.

Later that afternoon, the doctor called us into his office and explained that the baby was very sick and had a low probability of survival. This devastating news hit us hard. It turned out that the baby was not producing the needed amniotic fluid that is necessary for lung development. Over the next several months, we met with several specialists. Each specialist did their examination and pretty much came to the same conclusion: there was little hope, the fetus would probably die before the next visit, and they recommended terminating the pregnancy to avoid any further complications. Of course, we would not consider terminating the pregnancy and continued to pray for a miracle. Each time we met with a doctor, we expected that there would no longer be a heartbeat, but instead, each ultrasound showed a growing baby with a healthy beating heart.

About three weeks before the due date, we were referred to yet another specialist. After his examination, he revealed to us that the baby was in fact a girl and said he thought in the right circumstances there was hope. He explained that as long as the baby was still in its mother’s womb, she would be fine. The problem was that she couldn’t stay in there forever. He discussed a plan to do a C-section a few days before she was due because it would be less stressful for the baby. They would also have a team of specialists and some very special equipment brought in that would give the baby the best possible chance for life. We left his office feeling very good about the prospects of the baby surviving.

That very night at about 10:30, without any previous indications, my wife started having contractions. Three weeks early, and before the doctor could be ready to deliver the baby, it became obvious that the baby was coming. I put my wife in the car and drove the 20 minutes to the hospital. The baby, which we named Elizabeth Ann, was born shortly after we arrived. The doctor had no time to prepare for the delivery, but he and the nurses started working on the baby and did everything they could.

When she was born, she was a perfect, beautiful baby girl with none of the abnormalities the doctors warned us might exist. She was awake, squirmed around like babies do, cried a little, and even opened her eyes and seemed to be looking around. The doctor told us at the meeting we had earlier that they would give her a sedative so she would sleep and not feel pain and experience the natural panic that the lack of oxygen causes while they worked on her. Which they did.

She looked and acted so normal to me that I was convinced that she was going to be just fine. But after about 45 minutes the nurses brought her to us and explained that there was nothing more they could do and asked if we wanted to hold her until she passed away. Of course, we said yes.

Even though this was one of the most heart-breaking experiences any parent can go through, I’ve never felt such a spirit of love, peace, and comfort as I experienced that evening. Although losing a baby doesn’t seem fair, because of the spiritual experience that both her mother and I had, I’ve always taken comfort in knowing that there is a plan of salvation, and I know that we will all be able to be together as a family one day soon.

Although we may wonder why a loving Heavenly Father allows hardships, sorrows, and disappointments into our lives. Sometimes we need to just appreciate the blessings we have been given. I have a wonderful, lovely wife that has agreed to be my eternal companion. Together we had the opportunity to raise three outstanding boys that I know will go on to do great things. And I, like Nephi, was born of goodly parents. Although we lost my dad a year ago, my mom, at 95, is here today supporting me. I’ve also married into a great family and last month we were thrilled to add a new daughter-in-law to our family. We’ve been blessed.

We’ve been promised that all that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. In His atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ took upon Himself the pains, afflictions, and infirmities of all mankind. Lehi testified to his son Jacob, “Nevertheless, . . . thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”[6]

As we face the challenges of everyday life, our Heavenly Father will help us through these challenges if we are prayerful and follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost. The Lord will strengthen us when we feel weak or incapable if we ask in faith.

When the Prophet Joseph Smith was a prisoner in Liberty, Missouri, he pleaded for understanding and assistance from his Heavenly Father. The message finally came:

My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.[7]

I bear you my testimony that God the Father lives and He has set a course for each of us that will polish and mold us so we can return to live with Him again. If we will but keep His commandments and our covenants, we will be able to endure the trials of this life, and we will be blessed for enduring them well. I know from my own experience that He can and will give us strength to rise through every trial. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 5:134.

[2] 2 Nephi 2:11.

[3] Russell M. Nelson, “Think Celestial!,” Liahona, Nov. 2023.

[4] 1 Nephi 18:16.

[5] Carl B. Cook, “Just Keep Going—With Faith,” Liahona, May 2023.

[6] 2 Nephi 2:2.

[7] Doctrine and Covenants 121:7–8; emphasis added.