When I was in my teens, my Dad was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. I was born in Perth, Western Australia where we lived for many years – a city that has the unfortunate tag of “skin cancer capital of the world”. Melanoma has a high mortality rate if not caught early, but when caught early can usually be easily removed. Fortunately, Dad’s melanoma was caught early, his cancer was completely excised and he’s been fine since.
A few years ago, I noticed a mole I’d had on my arm since my youth had started to grow. My wife had long been telling me to get it checked, but my response was always the same, “I’ve had this mole for years. There’s nothing wrong with it.” But when the mole began to rise, peel off, and rise again, I became concerned and made an appointment with the GP.
When my GP immediately booked me in for a Dermatologist appointment within 2 weeks, I became more concerned, because that meant he was following the NHS cancer protocols. And when the first thing the Dermatologist said to me after seeing the mole was, “Would you mind if I took a picture to share with medical students?”, the concern turned to worry. An appointment was immediately made to remove the mole, and have it tested in the lab.
If you’ve followed much of this blog, you’ll know that I’ve struggled with depression for much of my life, and over the years there have been many times when frankly I would have welcomed death. But as I sat in the car one day as we were headed to one appointment or other, I realised that this time I wanted to live. I also realised that my wife was right, and I should have had the mole tested earlier. By delaying it I had given a potential melanoma the opportunity to grow deeper within my body where it would be much harder to treat.
Through my research over the days of waiting, it became clear that my mole had all the ‘classic’ appearance of melanoma, and my wife and I both came to the conclusion long before the diagnosis came back that it would be positive.
It was during this period of deepening worry and anxiety that we went to the temple. For those not familiar with my faith, we consider temples sacred places where we can get nearer to God than anywhere. We had a wonderful experience in the temple, and as I sat in the celestial room a wave of peace washed over me. In that moment, I knew with a calm assurance that everything would be fine.
Importantly, I didn’t know I would be free of cancer, or that I wouldn’t even die from it. But I did know that whatever happened would be the Lord’s will and would be designed to help my family achieve eternal joy and happiness. In short, He would take care of things, and I need not worry. I said to my wife on the journey home, “Everything will be okay. And even if it’s not okay, that’s still okay.”
That calm reassurance remained with me, and the Dermatologist was very surprised that when she informed us that it was, indeed, malignant melanoma, we showed no worry or concern. Regardless of the diagnosis – regardless of the eventual outcome – things would be okay. In the end, I had surgery to remove the melanoma. Remarkably, it hadn’t gone deep into my skin tissue and it was successfully excised.
That experience has been a powerful lesson to me, and that peaceful assurance that the Lord is in control has remained with me through subsequent challenges – which have continued to be many!
The experience in the temple brought a great many events to mind in which the Lord has delivered me from great difficulties. The prophet Alma taught his son, “I would that ye should do as I have done, in remembering the captivity of our fathers; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it was the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he surely did deliver them in their afflictions.” (Alma 36:2, emphasis added).
I love that phrase, “in their afflictions.” The Lord didn’t always remove their afflictions from them, but sometimes blessed them with the strength to endure and even find joy while they continued in them.
That remembrance brought a peace into my life I had never known before, even while in the midst of a potentially life and death scenario.
In these last days, the deliverance of the Lord’s covenant people has been likened to a highway raised for them – “… for an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep …” (D&C 133:27), and as I have pondered my experiences, I have come to the conclusion that just as our Father in Heaven gives us personalised thistles and thorns through our mortal wilderness journey, so to – at least in one sense – he provides us with personalised highways that make the continued journey through our most painful trials possible, and will see us eventually to eternal peace and happiness (see Isaiah 11:16, 19:23, for example).
That doesn’t diminish the difficulties we face. We live in worrying times. The world is in turmoil like it has never known. Inevitably the impact of current events at home and across the globe will be felt in our own lives. Whether through illness or death of a loved one, economic hardship, emotional or mental stresses and illness, or some combination of these, we are all likely to be affected today and in coming days. It will be painful. And we will have tears and set-backs. But through it all, the Lord will be with us. He will not forget. Indeed, he cannot forget His covenant people. “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands,” he said, “… thy walls are continually before me.” (Isaiah 49:16, emphasis added)
This is crucially important to remember. It is also essential to remember that what we face today is precisely what the prophets throughout history have prophesied would happen in the last days. The Lord not only foresaw of our day the fires and plagues and earthquakes and famines and wars raging both physical and digital, but He showed these to precious individuals who wrote them down so that we might know. Not so that we might wait with fear and trepidation for the prophesied calamities, but so that we might be comforted with the knowledge that nothing happens that isn’t already known to Him, and that even in the difficult days that are with us and which we will yet face, He remains in control. “Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect’s sake,” said the Saviour to His apostles. (JS-M 24:23). Indeed, in the Joseph Smith translation of Matthew chapter 24, Christ says three times that He prophesied of these days, “for the elect’s sake”. (see v 20, 23, 29)
Through prophets and even by the voice of Christ Himself, we have been told of, “… famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes …” (JS-M v 29) specifically so that the elect, “… when they shall see all these things, they shall know that he is near, even at the doors …” (JS-M v39).
The day will come when, “… all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.” (D&C 88:92) Yet we, as His covenant followers are told, “Fear not”.
When we reach the next life and look back upon this, we will see that though it felt like turmoil, disaster, and wickedness reigned without constraint, in fact He did limit the pain and suffering of His children, that He did prevent things from becoming more than we could bear, that He never left His covenant people without power through the Priesthood and angels to attend.
Seeing our day, the prophets declared that they, “… beheld the power of the Lamb of God, and upon the covenant people of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” (1 Nephi 14:14; see also JS-Matthew v 20).
The world is in turmoil, yet our hearts need not be. The world appears constantly on the verge of panic, but we can be comforted. The world is afraid, but we know God is with us, that He will never leave us while we stay true to our covenants. While good people across the world work tirelessly to find a cure and a vaccine for Covid-19 – and even if at times the wicked are in control of mortal affairs – we can feel peace and comfort. When we remember the great things He has done for the righteous throughout history and for us in our own lives, surely our faith will be strengthened in His power to save and we will become filled with love, which love casteth out fear – love for our neighbours, but also a great love for our Father in Heaven and for His magnificent, glorified Son, our Saviour and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
As I look back across my life, I see countless times when the Lord has intervened in my life, giving me blessings and protection I didn’t deserve. There have been many times over the last few years when our family has feared that the darkness would finally overwhelm us and lead to catastrophe. But as we look back upon those times, we can see the hand of the Lord providing blessings in very unexpected ways, in some cases even turning the very trial itself into a means of safety.
We need not fear now, and we need not fear as other prophecies of these last days are fulfilled. They remind us that He is near. Not only that His second coming, this time in glory, draws closer, but that He is near to us individually, if we will be near to Him.
I bear personal witness that our loving Father in Heaven is in control, and that He is pouring down and will pour down upon the righteous His power in great glory. This power may not be visible to the world, but I testify that it is sufficient to give us peace and safety; that we can find comfort in knowing that whatever happens to us is the Lord’s will, and that His plan is for eternal happiness for us and for our families.
Think about it – the creator of the universe and all things therein is our very Father. And He is on our side. He will make sure we are not overcome in tumultuous times. As we keep our covenants with Him, He will bless us with that peace which passes all earthly understanding.
© Copyright, Jeffrey Collyer, 2020