Contest Winner: “But If Not”

We must have faith that things will work out—but if they don’t work out according to our desires, we need to trust in God and in his timing.

A woman embraces a young man, both bundled up in coats and mittens in the snow, with the quote: "We did not doubt. We did not blame." (by Peggy Clemens Lauritzen)

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During the April 2004 general conference, I listened to a talk by Elder Dennis E. Simmons that literally made me stop in my tracks. It was titled, “But If Not . . .”.

When Elder Simmons was a young boy, he was dismayed over losing a basketball tournament that he was sure his team was going to win. He had faith that they would win—but they didn’t.

Then the real meaning of the talk began to take shape. In the Bible, the three Hebrew children Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had their God challenged by a king when they refused to bow down to a golden image. They challenged the king right back, stating that he could go ahead and cast them into a fiery furnace but God would deliver them.

But if not, they would still not worship the foreign gods.

Elder Simmons continued to use other examples of those who had faith that things would turn out a certain way.

But if not, they would still continue to have confidence in God and trust that his plan and his timing were far better than what they were able to see.

How has this helped me?

Shortly after this talk was given, our son entered deeper and deeper into a lifestyle filled with drugs. I pleaded with the Lord that the desire to change would be planted in my son’s heart so that he would embrace gospel principles.

But it did not happen. I received a call from a physician in a hospital far away that a drug overdose had led to my son’s death. He was only thirty years old.

The Lord did not answer my prayer in the way I wanted. And it was a good prayer, the prayer of a sincere mother who had prayed often with her husband. We wanted our son to live. We wanted him to want to live.

But he did not.

Each year we have different life experiences to draw on, and the same scripture stories we may have read last year could have a different meaning to us this year.

Because of Elder Simmons’s talk five years earlier, my husband and I were able to make it through the most difficult moments of our life. We did not doubt. We did not blame. We had trust and confidence that the Lord had embraced our son in his loving arms.

And we learned that when things seem particularly difficult and we feel like we are being buried under a tremendous load, perhaps we are not being buried at all.

Perhaps we are just being planted.

Read “But If Not . . .” by Elder Dennis E. Simmons.

Source: LDS General Conference
—Peggy Clemens Lauritzen, Mansfield, Ohio

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Find more insights

Watch or read Elder Neil L. Anderson’s talk “Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice.”

Watch a video about having courage when things don’t go according to plan.

Read Elder M. Russell Ballard’s talk about facing the future with faith.

This article was selected as one of three winners in the Winter 2016 submission contest for Mormon Insights. The work is original and is a true story from the life of the author. We are grateful for the contributions we received and encourage interested authors to look for future submission contests.

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  1. Tatiana Hernandez

    I feel like “but if not” faith is so important to maintaining our faith in general. Things rarely turn out exactly the way we want them to. So it’s super important to know that the Lord is looking out for us and cares about our desires, even if it doesn’t seem like it. If things don’t work out, that’s ok. Because Heavenly Father still loves us and he has a plan for us.

  2. I loved this post. Thank you so much for sharing your insights. It can be tough to hold on to faith when things don’t go as planned. but really faith is trusting that god knows what’s going on even when it doesn’t work out. When the future seems uncertain, that’s the best time to turn to God in Faith. Thanks again for your testimony!

  3. Peggy,
    Thank you for sharing this story. I’ve shared this with several people in hopes to help them as they’ve come to me with questions about God not answering prayers and other such things. This story tends to come to my mind somewhat often, and I am therefore often reminded of the goodness of God. Thank you again, and bless you.

  4. My son died too of overdose almost 18 months ago. He was 42; a productive, loving dad, and an excellent provider for his family. He was a drug injured man who fought long and hard. He had faith in Christ. I too have begged God as only a desperate parent can, and understand that His answers may come in unexpected ways, but his promises are sure and eternal. I count on Him, and know this son He gave us is now held in His nurturing arms to be made whole again. I know the rock of our salvation is wide as all eternity and that God continues to reach out to his mortally wounded children in the spirit world.

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