Holy sacrifices: A deeper look at Sariah’s trials of faith

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Photo credit: Ellie Perkins

In a general conference address, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.”

There is no progression or growth without adversity. No one knows this better than the Savior, Jesus Christ. The intense suffering He endured can neither be compared nor understood, but He did it because He loves us.

Because of His sacrifice, we do not have to go through our trials alone. We can depend on Him and trust that our weaknesses can be turned into strengths. Christ’s Atonement spans all eternity and blesses even those who lived before His birth.

Sariah lived 600 years before Christ was born but still received peace and strength from Christ during her trials. She sacrificed so much to follow the Lord and stood with her husband, Lehi, through all the difficulties they faced together.

The wickedness of Jerusalem

Sariah, Lehi and their children lived in Jerusalem during a time in which people had completely lost touch with the divine, and wickedness thrived.

The prophet Jeremiah, who also lived there at that time, wrote about the people of Jerusalem. He said, “They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.”

Jeremiah described the heartache and anguish of the wives whose husbands, “assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses,” and “were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbour’s wife.”

Truth had lost all value, and people lived in lies and deceit.

In Jeremiah 9: 2-4, he wrote, “And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the Lord … Every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders.”

Their wickedness didn’t stop with adultery and deceit. They became an idolatrous people, burning their children alive as sacrifices to man-made, stone gods.

Even when prophets boldly called people out on their wicked acts, they had no desire to change or hold themselves accountable.

In Jeremiah 6:15, he wrote, “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? (N)ay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush.”

The wife of a prophet

Sariah’s husband, Lehi, had a vision after praying and pleading with the Lord for his people. In that vision, God made it known to him that Jerusalem was a wicked city and would be destroyed.

He went into the city and boldly warned people of their wickedness and prophesied of Jerusalem’s destruction, but they only mocked him. His words angered them, and, “As with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; they also sought his life, that they might take it away.”

As a wife, I can’t imagine the fear Sariah must have felt as people threatened to kill her husband, but I also believe she was proud of him. In a society of prophet-killers, Lehi didn’t hesitate to testify of Christ and call people to repentance, knowing it could result in his death.

Later, in a dream, God commanded Lehi to leave Jerusalem with his family and go into the wilderness. This required great sacrifices from each family member. In the Book of Mormon, we learn that they were likely well-off financially. However, they abandoned everything to follow God’s call.

1 Nephi 2:4 says, “He left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.”

Sariah must have had friends, a social status, hobbies and responsibilities, but she left it all behind.

The scriptures don’t teach us specifically about Sariah’s conversion before her trials in the wilderness. As a religious woman, I’m sure she recognized the wickedness that was so prevalent in Jerusalem. She didn’t have a heavenly vision from God or a detailed dream telling her to leave Jerusalem, but she loved and trusted her husband and had faith in God.

We don’t know if she had the faith to move mountains, but she certainly had the faith to step into the unknown and put God’s will above her own to protect her family.

Trials of faith in the wilderness

Leaving possessions behind wasn’t the only sacrifice Lehi’s family made. In the wilderness, they faced intense weather conditions, food shortages and the danger of the unknown.

A mother’s first instinct is to love and protect her children, so it must have been burdensome, and even painful, for Sariah to bring her children away from what previously had been safe to the harsh conditions of the wilderness.

But it wasn’t the wilderness itself that caused a rift within the family — it was contention, pride and fear. The oldest sons, Laman and Lemuel, were angry at their father. They didn’t believe God was guiding them and that Jerusalem would be destroyed.

Their anger surpassed a mere annoyance. It was a deep rage that triggered a threat of violence. In 1 Nephi 2:12, Nephi (the youngest son at the time) wrote, “They were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father.”

Growing up, I sometimes felt an annoyance toward my parents for certain rules or restrictions they put in place (though I realize now they were right most of the time), but I can easily admit that I never wanted to kill them.

Sariah, struggling with the journey herself, must have felt an enormous amount of pressure to keep the peace and be there for both her husband and children. I’m sure the lack of unity took a big toll on her wellbeing.

She loved her children deeply. In fact, amidst all of the difficulties she faced, there is no record of her complaining or doubting, until she fears for her children’s lives. Her four sons, Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi, traveled back to Jerusalem to retrieve the brass plates, containing important records and genealogy, after God commanded Lehi to do so in a dream.

Sariah showed an incredible amount of faith as she watched them walk away, knowing the risks involved. How difficult it must have been for her to see them go back to the wicked place where people had threatened to kill her husband. The people of Jerusalem, however, weren’t the only danger. Laban, a man who shared an ancestral background with Lehi, possessed the plates. He was a wealthy, wicked man with a position of power in Jerusalem.

Laban refused to simply hand the plates over to her sons, and they were gone for longer than she could bear. She “mourned” for them, thinking they had died.

Prior to this, she had endured the loss of her home, her possessions and the lurking threat of death in the wilderness without complaint. But the thought of losing her sons pushed her past her breaking point.

In complete anguish, she called her husband “a visionary man” and said, “Thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.”

I do not see this cry in the wilderness as a sign of weakness; we have already seen what she was willing to give up for the Lord. This was a trial of faith for a grieving mother, and her cry reflects her humanity.

Personally, I find myself complaining far too often about things carrying little significance. Sariah’s long-suffering and patience inspire me, and I hope to be more like her.

Photo credit: Ellie Perkins

As she struggled, Lehi didn’t criticize her or become angry. He comforted her in her heartbreak and bore his testimony.

He said, “I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren … I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban.”

A strong marriage doesn’t require two perfect people; often, a husband and wife take turns being strong while the other is struggling. It should be them against the world, not them against each other. Sariah and Lehi are examples of this. Their trials in the wilderness brought them closer together and into God’s loving arms.

When their four sons returned with the plates of brass, both Lehi and Sariah rejoiced. This trial of faith strengthened Sariah’s testimony and helped her connect more with the Lord.

In 1 Nephi 5:8, she said, “Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them.”

Sometimes, when we are weighed down by doubts or fear, we may need to lean on the testimony of someone close to us. Growing up, my parents’ testimonies bore me up when I was at my lowest. Now, when I have hard days, my husband is always there for me with open arms, and I am strengthened by his faith and love.

Sariah’s troubles didn’t end after her sons returned with the plates. Her family faced many challenges along the way, including murmuring and violence from Laman and Lemuel, a lack of food, sickness, childbirth, the construction of a boat and overseas travel. However, God provided a way; and through it all, Sariah and Lehi remained faithful to God and loved their children until the end.

Finding peace during adversity

Like Sariah, we may need to abandon things in our lives to put God first. However, even if we falter, God will never abandon us.

In order to grow and progress, we will need to pass through adversity. During those difficult moments, it can be easy for us to lose sight of hope and light. This is because we may not see the big picture, but God can.

In a conference address, Richard G. Scott, a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, compared trials to a pebble. When held directly in front of the eye, the pebble appears to be an enormous obstacle. However, when set on the ground, a more accurate perspective can be seen.

He described that, if we are not careful, “(Trials) can easily overtake our vision, absorb our energy, and deprive us of the joy and beauty the Lord intends us to receive here on earth.”

Because God has an eternal perspective, He can be the source of peace we need during times of anguish or uncertainty. He understands our suffering, but He also sees who we can become and the strength that comes from difficult trials.

In a general conference address, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Don’t give up … Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead … You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”