Last Mother's day Mike and I gave our farewell address at the Farmington 8th Ward. This is the talk I gave.
My daughter Maren called me once last year concerned about a scripture in the 64 section of the D&C where the Lord promises that the proud and the wicked shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up…She said that bothered her to think about God like that. What did I think about the concept of burning in the gospel? So, I spent the day in the scriptures reading all I could about fire and burning in the scriptures.
I discovered that there are many scriptures about fire in heaven and hell. Two weeks ago Jean Evans talked about Joseph Smith’s vision of the Father and the Son in the Celestial kingdom and they were surrounded by Fire. Mike Miller talked about Elisha and the Chariots of Fire.
Isaiah said (33:14) Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? Then in verse 15 he goes on to answer: He that walketh righteously and speaketh uprightly...
D&C 137:2-3 I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of the kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire; Also the blazing throne of God whereon was seated the Father and the Son.
I think this scripture in Malach was the defining answer:
Malachi 3:2-3 - But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap; And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
I have a story about a woman watching a silversmith refine silver:
As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says:"He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."
She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully Refined?"
He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it" Alma 5:14 Have ye received his image in your countenances?
So, I believe that these scriptures show that the burning of God is a refining fire. The refiner’s fire can be very painful but I do believe that it is loving in God’s infinite wisdom. He knows what we need to learn and the refiners fire will allow us become our highest and best self.
Carlfred Broderick a renowned family therapist told the following in his book "As Women of Faith". He was the Stake President and had just attended a program on Temple marriage put on by the Young Women. When it was over he was asked if there was anything he would like to add. He said: "Yes, there is," and I don’t think the woman has ever forgiven me. What I said was this, "Girls, this has been a beautiful program. I commend the gospel with all of its auxiliaries and the temple to you, but I do not want you to believe for one minute that if you keep all the commandments and live as close to the Lord as you can and do everything right and fight off the entire priests quorum one by one and wait chastely for your missionary to return and pay your tithing and attend your meetings, accept calls from the bishop, and have a temple marriage, I do not want you to believe that bad things will not happen to you. And when that happens, I do not want you to say that God was not true. Or, to say, ‘They promised me in Primary, they promised me when I was a Mia Maid, they promised me from the pulpit that if I were very, very good, I would be blessed. But the boy I want doesn’t know I exist, or the missionary I’ve waited for and kept chaste so we both could go to the temple turned out to be a flake,’ or far worse things than any of the above. Sad things—children who are sick or developmentally handicapped, husbands who are not faithful, illnesses that can cripple, or violence, betrayals, hurts, deaths, losses—when those things happen, do not say God is not keeping His promises to me. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not insurance against pain. It is resource in event of pain, and when that pain comes (and it will come because we came here on earth to have pain among other things), when it comes, rejoice that you have resource to deal with your pain."
"Now, I do not want to suggest for a moment, nor do I believe, that God visits us with all that pain. I think that may occur in individual cases, but I think we fought a war in heaven for the privilege of coming to a place that was unjust. That was the idea of coming to earth—that it was unjust, that there would be sorrow. As Eve so eloquently said, it is better that we should suffer….I am persuaded that she had rare insight, more than her husband, into the necessity of pain, although none of us welcome it."
I feel there is no greater Refiner’s Fire on this earth than motherhood. My mother made some bad choices in her younger days that put her in a very painful refiners fire. Some fires do come from our choices some come as part of life in a fallen world but we can be refined by both. When I was about 10 years old I saw my mother prayerfully quit smoking so she could go back to church. At this time she was married to an abusive alcoholic. I saw her develop so many amazing humble qualities as she attempted to create a home for her children in a very chaotic atmosphere with the help of the Lord. I saw the Gospel begin to purify her in the fire of her adversity. I wanted to be a part of this gospel that brought some hope and peace to our home life. Her fire was my salvation. She had to go into hiding in fear for her life when she finally left my dad after the children were gone. When she was 64 years old she died of a brain tumor that had caused her to suffer incredible pain for several years. This refined her even more. Carlfred Brodrerick told about the lingering suffering of his dad when he was dying. It made me think of my mother. He said: "…I know he was refined by his pain, by his adversity. He needed to go through that suffering. He could have been embittered, he could have been destroyed. His faith could have soured and left him, but he chose to learn from his pain. I do not want you to think that is was the pain that was good. It was the man that was good and that made the pain work for him, as indeed our Savior did.
This was so true of my mother. She was good and the pain worked for her.
So, I close asking how can we be good enough to endure our refiner’s fires? I have two scripture:
Moroni 7:48 …pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope that we may be purified even as he is pure.
When I pass on I hope to meet Jeremiah. His intense suffering, alone, trying to teach the rebellious Israelites never ceases to give me strength. I love the following scripture because it shows his discouragement but lets me know how he got through.
Jeremiah 20: 7-9 O Lord, thou has decieved me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and has prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me, and a derision daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forebearing, and I could not Stay.
So, are we all going to burn in a lake of fire and brimstone for all of our mistakes and sins? The pain of remorse and regret can be as painful as any fire. Hebrews 4:8 Though He were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. We are here to learn as the Savior did and suffering must certainly be a part of our education. But, He has given us the tools to endure well. What a blessing! In the end we have two choices. Our pain can make us bitter or better. I pray for better.