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Troy and Deedra Russell could be considered modern-day examples of Job, the sorely tested figure of the Bible.
One of their sons died after Troy accidentally backed his pickup truck over him six years ago, and Deedra has been hospitalized since September after a collision of intense horror. In the middle of the night on I-15 in northwest Arizona, a pickup truck apparently steered by a drunk driver appeared in front of her going the wrong way and crushed her sedan in a terrible collision.
Yet they now love God and trust more than ever.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland shared their story Tuesday during a BYU devotional that echoed some of his previous teachings about the nature of God.
God allows what Hamlet described as mortality’s “sea of troubles,” Elder Holland said Tuesday, but he does not cause them.
“God does not now, nor will he ever do to you a destructive, malicious, unfair thing, ever.” — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
“Now, ‘allowing something’ is a different matter,” he said. “God can and will do that if it is ultimately for our good. I am going to say it again. God does not now, nor will he ever do to you a destructive, malicious, unfair thing, ever. It is not in what Peter calls ‘the divine nature’ to even be able to do so. By definition and in fact, God is perfectly and thoroughly, always and forever, good, and everything he does is for our good. I promise you that God does not lie awake nights trying to figure out ways to disappoint us or harm us, or crush our dreams or our faith.”
In fact, he said, keeping God’s commandments is a way to take care of one another in a gospel that asks his children to love their neighbors as themselves.
“Without listing again the crushing costs borne by the victim and the perpetrator of this accident, we ought to acknowledge the tears of a Heavenly Father who asks us to take care of one another, to be careful rather than reckless with the well-being of our sisters and our brothers. Childlike obedience to his parental calls and his divine warnings will spare us and others agony in the end.”
Elder Holland then included himself on the list of people who have erred in ways that beg for a loving, forgiving Heavenly Father.
“There is not one of us anywhere on this campus who has not needed forgiveness for some mistake made somewhere, sometime,” he said. “Our deed may not have been as severe as the kind we are recounting today, but we have all made mistakes, and some of them were serious mistakes. I include myself in that list. Whatever the event, we all thank God for being a Father of forgiveness and for the gifts of mercy and relief that he offers us, all of it ultimately coming to us through the majestic Atonement of his Only Begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to join in and participate in that offering.”
God is perfectly good.
God is a Father of forgiveness.
Those statements echoed Elder Holland’s 2003 general conference talk, “The grandeur of God,” in which he said Latter-day Saints would be thrilled if others embraced the view of the Father described in one of their books of scripture, the Pearl of Great Price.
In it, Enoch is found to be stunned at the sight of God the Father weeping as he views the blessings and challenges of human life. Enoch asks the most powerful being in the universe, “How is it thou canst weep?”
Looking out on the events of almost any day, God replies: “Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands. … I gave unto them … (a) commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood. … Wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?”
Elder Holland said then that many in the world view Jesus Christ as more embraceable, but he taught that, “In his life and especially in his death, Christ was declaring, ‘This is God’s compassion I am showing you, as well as that of my own.’”
Latter-day Saints theology, then, holds that God is loving and forgiving and weeps alongside us when we suffer. He is a God of refuge.
“We don’t know why all of the things that happen to us in life happen, when sometimes we are spared tragedy and sometimes we are not,” Elder Holland said Tuesday. “But that is where faith must truly mean something, or it is not faith at all, ... And, as sweet Sister Holland always tells the missionaries, faith isn’t really faith if you have anything else to hang on to.”
Watch Elder Holland’s entire devotional here.
Contribute to a GoFundMe collection for the Russells here.
My recent stories
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: How 2 car accidents demonstrate the power of forgiveness, faith (Jan. 18)
President Russell M. Nelson honors Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘Abandon attitudes and actions of prejudice’ (Jan. 17)
‘Guilty, your honor’: Man who dressed as Captain Moroni for Jan. 6 Capitol breach makes plea deal (Jan. 14)
2 apostles, 3 major American writers to speak at BYU this semester (Jan. 14)
Man who dressed as Captain Moroni in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach expected to make plea deal (Jan. 13)
What I’m reading
President Nelson has issued numerous invitations in his four years as church president. The Church News gathered many of them up across six categories.
Church leaders are urging members to schedule temple appointments far in advance as COVID-19 cases spike nationwide.
Sheri Dew hosted the Church News podcast with BYU athletic directors Tom Holmoe and Liz Darger. They talked about BYU’s outstanding fall sports performances, the Honor Code and gospel principles.
The list of speakers for RootsTech 2022 is rolling out. Actor Matthew Modine and a famous French baker will be among the keynote speakers. So will a favorite Argentine singer.
Remember Kim Peek, the real ‘Rain Man?’ My colleague Christian Sagers has written a perceptive piece about why we neglect his legacy of mystery and marvel at our own risk.
This long piece on the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach is the best one I’ve read from the perspective of the Capitol Hill Police officers.
The Wall Street Journal (paywall) had some fun at the expense of the 13 NFL players who have been tackled by legendary quarterback Tom Brady.
The voting rights debate in Congress and across America is a complex one. As a journalist, I am not taking sides, but while this opinion piece does, I include it here because the first half of it surveys some of the Latter-day Saint history about different aspects of voting rights in various eras.