How great, how glorious, how complete,
Redemption's grand design,
Where justice, love, and mercy meet
In harmony divine!
Eliza Roxey Snow is one of my favorite women (not only because of her middle name). She loved the arts and had a flare for fashion, though she was known to make the point that substance should always come before fashion. She wrote beautiful poetry that led her to considerable fame and interaction with a long list of celebrities such as Queen Victoria , Charles Dickens, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Susan B. Anthony, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Victor Hugo, and Abraham Lincoln. She was the General Relief Society President for over 21 years. But few of her hopes as a woman were realized in this life. She was married to Joseph Smith shortly before he was murdered. Brigham Young married her soon after but she never had children. Though she was known as a happy woman, her life motto became, “the righteous, like gold, must be seven times purified”.
I’ve been thinking about this phrase in my own life on this rainy day in Washington, DC. What does it mean to be purified? Is it just about going through difficult things? And why?? Why must we go through such difficult experiences? And what about the losses incurred?
In my life I think purification happens when I am forced to turn to the Lord as my only true way through. And in the process of making my way to the closeness with him needed for overcoming, I change and thus gain a capacity for greater happiness. I love C.S. Lewis’s explanation in the Problem of Pain. He says that our idea of love, as humans, is to take away the difficulties of our loved ones. And that’s good, it’s what we’re asked to do within certain boundaries. God has a higher idea of what love is though, his love is a transcendent love, we go through (not around) our trials to enable greater happiness. He loves us enough not to allow us to sit in a state of suffering forever (even if we're unaware that there is something better to be had). He helps us to get rid of the many impurities plaguing us from the inside. His love means not allowing us to live in any degree of suffering when greater happiness can be had.
But it is uncomfortable and when I’m in the purification process I feel lost at sea, tempest tossed, afraid that I will be left alone in my imperfections. This is the point where there is nothing else I can do but turn to the Savior. It’s when I fully turn to God for the miracles of perspective and change that peace and direction come. And it eventually passes.
That said, despite the many virtues of trial, this is a gospel of happiness and I don't believe we should inflict ourselves with suffering. We're commanded to embrace all the happiness and love we can. Don’t worry, we won’t miss the trials. And ultimately all promises of the Plan of Happiness will be ours.
If you’re interested in reading more about Eliza R. Snow I would recommend reading her poetry as well as the articles Eliza R. Snow, First Lady of the Pioneers and Eliza R. Snow: Poet, Leader and Activist. And this one is for you Heather: My First View of a Western Prairie. Seems like Eliza Snow shared your feelings. Have a wonderful Sabbath! xo