In these verses the theme is brought home: finding meaning in suffering. Once again, “so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God”; they “did pour out their hearts to him.” The Lord encouraged them: “Lift up your heads and be of good comfort… . I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders.”
The great lesson they learned? “The voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions.” And he gave them this comforting assurance and promise: “I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.” In turn, the people “did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.” Our greatest spiritual growth often comes during times of trial and affliction, and we should express our gratitude for our life-changing trials and their accompanying lessons. “They poured out their thanks to God … [and] lifted their voices in the praises of their God.”
Following is a remarkable account of learning lessons from suffering and affliction in modern Church history. President David O. McKay spoke of a Sunday School class late in the nineteenth century that was discussing the Willie and Martin handcart companies: “Some sharp criticism of the Church and its leaders was being indulged in for permitting any company of converts to venture across the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart caravan afforded.
“An old man [Francis Webster] in the corner sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it, then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget. His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.
“In substance [he] said, ‘I ask you to stop this criticism… . Mistake to send the handcart company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it… . We suffered beyond anything you can imagine, and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? … Every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives, for we became acquainted with him in our extremities
“‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin handcart company.’” 41
That modern pioneering experience parallels the trials Alma and his people endured, along with the accompanying lesson: The Lord, instead of removing the burdens, strengthens his people’s backs to bear the burdens that are placed on them. As is taught in the film The Other Side of Heaven, “sometimes he calms the storm, and sometimes he calms the sailor.”