Look Up, My Soul: The Divine Promise of Hope (Hardcover)
Faith, Hope, and Charity are known as the three great Christian virtues. And while we may feel as though we know how to exercise faith or extend charity, too many of us are overlooking hope — even though it is exactly what we are seeking.
Hope is more than an attitude of good cheer or a generalized faith in God. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf defined hope as “the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to us.” In Look Up, My Soul, Elder Gerald N. Lund leads us through a discussion of the doctrine of hope in such depth and detail, and with such love, that we may be surprised at this unexpected and under-appreciated power that is available to us.
Elder Lund talks about the realities of life in our day, the reasons many of us lack hope, and the need for hope in our time. He shares his insights on such questions as:
Included in the book are inspirational and enlightening stories — from Church history, the scriptures, Elder Lund's own life, and the lives of others who were willing to share their stories of hope — that invite us to look up and to find joy in the promises the Lord has made to us.
Hope is more than just a wish that things will get better; it is a power that makes things better. It is a spiritual gift from God, and with His help, we can make hope a vital and vibrant part of our everyday life and of our eternal spiritual survival.
- Size: 6 x 9
- Pages: 378
- Published: 03/2012
- Book on CD: Unabridged
- Number of Discs: 9
- Run Time: Approx. 11 hrs.
About the Author
Elder Gerald N. Lund received his B.A. and M.S. degrees in sociology from Brigham Young University. He served for thirty-five years in the Church Educational System, and he served as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy from 2002 to 2008. He is a prolific and bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction and is best known for his historical novels, including The Work and the Glory series, Fire of the Covenant, The Kingdom and the Crown series, and The Undaunted. He and his late wife, Lynn, are the parents of seven children.
“Look Up, My Soul”
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson
Elizabeth Horrocks was born in Cheshire, England, the oldest of eleven children. At fifteen, she was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Seven years later, she married Aaron Jackson. Over the next six years they had three children. On May 22, 1856, the Jackson family joined other Latter-day Saints at Liverpool, England, and embarked on the Horizon as members of the Edward Martin Handcart Company going to Utah.
Due to their late departure and numerous delays, they did not leave Iowa City until July 15, long past the recommended time for starting a journey across the plains. Three months later, on October 19, the company reached the last crossing of the Platte River (present-day Casper, Wyoming). By then, the company was on reduced rations, and Aaron had contracted mountain fever and was very weak. The weather had turned bitterly cold, and a major winter storm was threatening. The river was wide, the current strong, the water cold and nearly chest-deep in some places.
As the family came up to the river, Elizabeth tied up her skirts and started across with the children. Aaron followed, but made it only a short distance before he collapsed on a sandbar, too exhausted to go farther. Finally a man on horseback helped him get across. As the family reached the far side, the blasts of the first winter storm of the season burst upon them. The next day they walked for ten miles in deepening snow before stopping at a place called Red Buttes. There they camped for several days, so utterly exhausted they could go no farther. Elizabeth describes what happened while they were there:
My husband had for several days previous been much worse. He was still sinking, and his condition now became more serious. As soon as possible after reaching camp I prepared a little of such scant articles of food as we then had. He tried to eat but failed. He had not the strength to swallow. I put him to bed as quickly as I could. He seemed to rest easy and fell asleep. About nine o’clock I retired. Bedding had become very scarce, so I did not disrobe. I slept until, as it appeared to me, about midnight. I was extremely cold. The weather was bitter. I listened to hear if my husband breathed—he lay so still. I could not hear. I became alarmed. I put my hand on his body, when to my horror I discovered that my worst fears were confirmed. My husband was dead. He was cold and stiff—rigid in the arms of death… . I called for help to the other inmates of the tent. They could render me no aid; and there was no alternative but to remain alone by the side of the corpse till morning.
One can hardly imagine the horror and sorrow and anxiety that came upon her in those long hours of the night. Terrible enough that he should die, but to have to lie there beside his corpse for the rest of the night? Who can fathom such mental anguish?
When daylight came, some of the male part of the company prepared the body for burial. And oh, such a burial and funeral service. They did not remove his clothing—he had but little. They wrapped him in a blanket and placed him in a pile with thirteen others who had died, and then covered him up in snow. The ground was frozen so hard that they could not dig a grave.1
Ellen (Nellie) Pucell Unthank
Ellen Pucell, who everyone called Nellie, was the youngest of thirteen children. Her family was among the first group of converts when Heber C. Kimball came to England in 1837. Nineteen years later, Nellie’s father and mother and her older sister, Maggie, traveled to Liverpool. There, along with many others, including the Aaron Jackson family, the Pucells joined the Edward Martin Handcart Company and came to America.
What must have seemed like a grand adventure turned tragic when the terrible winter storm caught the company at the last crossing of the Platte. Many people perished, including Nellie and Maggie’s parents, who died within five days of each other. The newly orphaned Nellie celebrated her tenth birthday near Red Buttes. Maggie was fourteen. Too weary to go any farther, the company stayed at Red Buttes until the rescue party from Salt Lake found them. With bitter cold still dogging them, the company moved farther west to what became known as Martin’s Cove, and waited for the weather to break. By this time, several more people had died, and many others—including Maggie and Nellie—had severe frostbite on their hands, feet, and ears. Nellie’s feet were especially bad.
By the time the rescue wagons brought Nellie and Maggie back to Salt Lake City a few weeks later, it was too late to do anything for Nellie’s feet. She had been rescued from death, but not from suffering. In a brief biography of Nellie’s life, we read the following:
When they took off her shoes and stockings the skin with pieces of flesh came off too. The doctor said her feet must be taken off to save her life. They strapped her to a board and without an anesthetic the surgery was performed. With a butcher knife and a carpenter’s saw they sawed the blackened limbs off. It was poor surgery, too, for the flesh was not brought over to cushion the ends. The bones stuck out through the ends of her stumps.2
The two Pucell sisters traveled with other handcart families to live in Cedar City in Southern Utah. There both sisters eventually married. Nellie became a plural wife of William Unthank, being sealed to him for time and eternity.
The story continues:
Those stumps were festering running sores as long as she lived. She never knew a moment of freedom from pain. To her, pain and suffering was the normal condition and freedom from it was the rare moments of forgetfulness. Dr. Geo. W. Widdleton offered to trim her legs up by cutting the bones off farther up and bringing the flesh down over the ends so they would heal and enable her to wear artificial limbs, but the horrors of that first amputation were so vivid in her memory that she could never consent to another operation.3
Instead, William Unthank hollowed out two pieces of aspen logs and filled them with wool for his wife. This helped dull the pain and gave her a little more mobility as she plodded about in doing her duties.4
And so Nellie Unthank waddled through life on her knees. In poverty and pain she reared a family of six children nor [ever] asked for favors of pity or charity because of her tragic handicap. William was a poor man and unable to provide fully for his family; so Nellie did all she could for herself. She took in washing. Kneeling by a tub on the floor she scrubbed the clothes to whiteness on the washboard. She knit stockings to sell, carded wool and crocheted table pieces. She seldom accepted gifts or charity from friends or neighbors.5
A Legacy of Sacrifice and Suffering
It became a tradition in the Church for a time that the last verse of “Come, Come, Ye Saints” was sung with lowered voices and hushed reverence:
And should we die before our journey’s through,
Happy day! All is well!
We know from some of the pioneer journals that such emotion was not the case for the pioneers. They sang that verse full throated and with heads high. And why not? There were times on the trek when it seemed like those who passed away were the lucky ones. They were in a state of peace and rest. They were “free from toil and sorrow too.”
That last verse is a wonderful expression of faith and courage, but to me, the second verse is equally impressive.
Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
’Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?6
Why should they think their lot was hard? Because it was! Incredibly so! All those who came across the plains to Utah had to sacrifice and endure much. Many suffered almost beyond our comprehension.
President Gordon B. Hinckley once said of the pioneers:
It is good to look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future. It is good to look upon the virtues of those who have gone before, to gain strength for whatever lies ahead. It is good to reflect upon the work of those who labored so hard and gained so little in this world, but out of whose dreams and early plans, so well nurtured, has come a great harvest of which we are the beneficiaries. Their tremendous example can become a compelling motivation for us all.7
I have spent a good deal of time studying the lives of the pioneers. I have read their journals, studied their history, walked a good portion of the trails they traversed. The inspiration of their example has always been strong for me personally. I can testify of President Hinckley’s promise. The lives of those pioneers have become a compelling motivation for me, especially when times have gotten a little rough in my life or the lives of my family.
But recently I have begun to notice something I had overlooked before. There is something more going on with these people besides faith and testimony and courage. They don’t emphasize it much, but if you look for it, it’s all through their histories. In addition to faith and testimony and courage, there was hope. And that hope became a motivating and sustaining power as they endured the trials of coming to Utah. Let me illustrate.
We read of the shock, horror, grief, and despair that Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson experienced that night when her husband died just a foot or two away from her. Shock, horror, grief, and despair—yes. But hopelessness? No. Here are her next words:
[Aaron] was left there to sleep in peace until the trump of the Lord shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall awake and come forth in the morning of the first resurrection. We shall then again unite our hearts and lives, and eternity will furnish us with life forever more.
I will not attempt to describe my feelings at finding myself thus left a widow with three children, under such excruciating circumstances. I cannot do it. But I believe the Recording Angel has inscribed in the archives above, and that my sufferings for the Gospel’s sake will be sanctified unto me for my good.8
Considering her circumstances, that is astonishing.
When I read the account of Nellie Pucell Unthank, I found myself filled with awe at what this remarkable woman did, even after losing both legs to frostbite. Did you notice that something was missing from her story, though? Where is her bitterness toward the unfairness of her life? Where is her resentment against God? Where is her despair at how difficult her daily life was?
The person who wrote her story didn’t say anything about hope or faith—at least not specifically—but here is what he did write about Nellie’s life and how she felt about being a faithful Latter-day Saint.
The Bishop and the Relief Society sometimes gave a little assistance which Nellie gratefully accepted, but once a year, to even the score, she took her children and cleaned the meeting house. The boy carried water, the girls washed the windows and Nellie, on her knees, scrubbed the floor… .
In memory I recall her wrinkled forehead, her soft dark eyes that told of toil and pain and suffering, and the deep grooves that encircled the corners of her strong mouth. But in that face there was no trace of bitterness or railing at her fate. There was patience and serenity for in spite of her handicap she had earned her keep and justified her existence. She had given more to family, friends and to the world than she had received.9
Again, in my mind, the word that best describes her is astonishing!
Hope Is to Trust in the Promises of the Lord
In a dozen different places, the scriptures link together three great Christian attributes—faith, hope, and charity (e.g., see 1 Corinthians 13:13; Ether 12:28; Moroni 7:1; D&C 6:19). The frequency of this linkage suggests that these three attributes have great importance to us. In fact, in one place we are told, “If you have not faith, hope, and charity, you can do nothing” (D&C 18:19).
Earlier in my life, it seemed odd to me that hope would be one of the “big three.” The other two are clearly of great significance. Faith in Jesus Christ is the foundational doctrine, the absolute prerequisite to making the plan of salvation a reality in our lives. And charity is the great outcome of faith and belief. When we are truly converted and striving to be a disciple of Christ, we try to love God and our fellow men as Christ does. His pure love is the model for all of our relationships.
Well, of course hope is important, I thought to myself. But is it really up there in importance with faith and charity? What about all the other important doctrines and principles?
Why not faith, obedience, and charity?
Why not faith, repentance, and charity?
Why not faith, service, and charity?
Why not faith, revelation, and charity?
In the past few years, I am finally coming to understand why hope takes precedence over those other doctrines and principles in that triad of virtues. In the October 2008 general conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke on the power that can be found in hope. He compared faith, hope, and charity to a three-legged stool, which can “stabilize our lives regardless of the rough or uneven surfaces we might encounter at the time.” He then gave this powerful definition of hope: “Hope is not knowledge, but rather the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to us. It is confidence that if we live according to God’s laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future.”10
President James E. Faust put it in nearly identical terms: “Hope is trust in God’s promises, faith that if we act now, the desired blessings will be fulfilled in the future.”11
The Need for Hope in Our Time
Most members of the Church today are not faced with the same kinds of challenges, trials, and sacrifices that the pioneers experienced. We are not facing ice-clogged rivers or blizzards raging around our tents. We are not asked to subsist on four ounces of flour per day, to press on pulling our handcart without a husband, or to leave a child buried in a shallow grave along the trail.
But we are facing some pretty serious challenges of our own. Today, many families are caught in difficult financial circumstances. They are unemployed. They’ve seen serious reductions in their retirement funds and life savings. They are losing their homes through foreclosure. A growing number of natural disasters destroy homes, property, and livelihoods and leave loved ones dead or seriously injured. Pornography, selfishness, and infidelity destroy numerous marriages and families. People addicted to alcohol or drugs bring years of sorrow and heartbreak to their family members. And knowing that things in the world are going to get worse before they get better only adds to our sense of hopelessness.
Some people are dealing with these trials well, but many others—even including those in the Church—are losing hope. Frustrated that God is not hearing and answering their desperate cries for help, they bitterly turn away from Him and reject the Church with all of its requirements and demands.
Here are some comments and questions I have heard over the past few years:
• A returned missionary in his late twenties: “The Brethren keep encouraging us older men to marry, but why should I date and get serious with a girl? All around me, including in my own family, I see failing marriages. The future is so uncertain. What if I can’t love and care for a family and make them happy?”
• A seminary student after a fireside talk on the Second Coming: “I hope I die. I don’t want to be on the earth if things are going to be so horrible.”
• A recent college graduate: “Why even try to plan for the future, let alone retirement? The world is facing economic collapse and it will all be for nothing.”
• A man in his mid-forties, a fifth-generation Latter-day Saint: “I’ve tried to be faithful my whole life. I served a mission. Married in the temple. Now, my life is a wreck. I’ve prayed. I’ve fasted. I’ve begged the Lord to help me. And nothing has changed. So I’m done with it.”
• A woman to the teacher just before a gospel instruction class was to begin: “Just thought I’d warn you. If you tell me one more thing I’m supposed to be doing to be a better person, I’m going to stand up in the middle of your lecture and scream.”
• A young single adult to her institute instructor after class: “Thank you so much for that lesson, Brother Jones. It was so inspiring, and I’m so depressed.”
• A father who lost his home, his wife, and several children in a devastating earthquake: “Why, God? Why?”
• A single woman in her thirties: “I have decided that God isn’t going to answer my prayers. I have to face the fact that I am going to be alone the rest of my life. And that reality is so depressing and so discouraging that I often cry myself to sleep at night.”
• A stake president: “In addition to the usual concerns about transgression and apathy, I worry about some of our stalwarts. They know the gospel is true. They serve faithfully. But the joy is gone.”
• An elderly couple: “We had always heard people joke about old age not being for sissies, but we never understood it until now. Life grows increasingly difficult as our pains increase and our capacities diminish.”
• The parents of a wayward child: “He’s lied to us, stolen our credit cards, forged checks, cost us tens of thousands of dollars. We’ve spent thousands more on his legal defense, been to jails to bail him out, nursed him through several attempted suicides. He’s been breaking our hearts for nearly twenty years now. But the hardest thing of all is that we can see no end to it, no solutions, no way out.”
• A highly successful entrepreneur in fast and testimony meeting, with tears: “We are moving out of the ward this week. Our house is in foreclosure. I’m looking for a job. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life is try to explain to my sixteen-year-old son why we are moving in with Grandma.”
When Life Weighs Us Down
More and more people describe themselves as being dissatisfied, frustrated, discouraged, desperate, stressed out, dejected, melancholy, gloomy, weary, helpless, and hopeless. They feel disconnected, doubtful, disengaged, disheartened, disillusioned, distressed, and despairing.1 My goodness, the list alone is enough to leave anyone feeling overwhelmed and downhearted. But there is some light out there in what seems to be a growing darkness. First of all, this isn’t the way things should be. Nor is it a natural state of affairs. President George Q. Cannon made this observation:
Whenever darkness fills our minds, we may know that we are not possessed of the Spirit of God, and we must get rid of it. When we are filled with the Spirit of God, we are filled with joy, with peace and with happiness no matter what our circumstances may be; for it is a spirit of cheerfulness and of happiness.12
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland quoted a famous American novelist to make another important point:
I wish to … fortify you, if I am able, against doubt—especially self-doubt—and discouragement and despair… .
I wish at the outset to make a distinction F. Scott Fitzgerald once made, that “trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement—discouragement has a germ of its own, as different from trouble as arthritis is from a stiff joint” (The Crack-Up, 1945). Troubles we all have, but the “germ” of discouragement, to use Fitzgerald’s word, is not in the trouble, it is in us… .
It’s frequently a small germ, hardly worth going to the Health Center for, but it will work and it will grow and it will spread. In fact it can become almost a habit, a way of living and thinking, and there the greatest damage is done. Then it takes an increasingly severe toll on our spirit, for it erodes the deepest religious commitments we can make—those of faith, and hope, and charity.13
I love that concept. Discouragement, depression, and despair may be common companions of adversity and tribulation, but they are not inherent within the nature of life’s challenges.
“Lift Up Your Heads”
Many years ago, while traveling for the Church Educational System (CES), I had an interesting experience in the highlands of Guatemala. We stopped at a turnout at the top of one of the mountain passes to take photos of the spectacular scenery. As we were doing so, we saw a father and a young boy approaching. The father carried a huge load of firewood, using a leather headband instead of ropes. Called a mecapal (meh-CAW-pal) in Spanish, this headband had two woven cords extending back past his ears that were fastened to ropes that held the sack in place. He was bent forward so that the weight of the wood was distributed across his shoulders and back.
It was such a wonderful example of the native culture that we offered to pay him if he would allow us to photograph him. He was quite pleased to be so honored by these gringos and their cameras. He moved over to where the mountain dropped off, and posed with his son. It was a delightful shot, and we all started snapping away. Then one of my colleagues said something about the light not being quite right on his face. He spoke Spanish, so he called out, “Señor, can you please lift your head a little higher?” The man complied immediately, then gave a low cry and stumbled backward, nearly falling before he caught himself. Down came his head again, and the load was stabilized.
“He can’t lift his head,” said our local CES coordinator. “He has to keep his head down to keep the load balanced.”
We apologized for nearly sending the poor man tumbling down the mountain, took some more pictures, and paid him generously.
About a month later, I was reading in the book of Mosiah about the accounts of Limhi and his people and of Alma and his people. Both groups had been captured and put into terrible bondage by the Lamanites, who “put heavy burdens upon their backs, and did drive them as they would a dumb ass” (Mosiah 21:3). That reminded me of the father and son in Guatemala. Did the mecapal or some similar device go that far back in time, I wondered.
As I read on, something else struck me with great force.
And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God… .
And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs. (Mosiah 24:10, 13–14)
Instantly, the image of that father raising his head and nearly stumbling backward off the mountain came to my mind. When someone is carrying a burden like that, you don’t ask them to lift up their head. It will throw them off balance, perhaps even make them fall down. I saw a great lesson in that. To look up to God when life presses in with crushing, relentless pressure may seem counterintuitive—especially if one feels abandoned by God in the first place—but that is exactly what hope asks of us. And the promise is, if we do, our burdens can be removed or lightened, or we can be strengthened so we can bear them successfully.
Hope is the antidote for despair. It may not solve the problem, or immediately remove the burden, but it can buoy us up and give us the strength and courage we need to go on. It was hope that overcame despair in the lives of Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson and Nellie Pucell and so many others who have faced tremendous burdens. They lifted up their heads and looked to God, and in doing so found greater strength, greater help, greater endurance.
In this book we are going to talk about hope. We are going to try to answer some basic questions:
• What is hope?
• How does it work with faith and charity?
• Why is hope so important to our spiritual progress?
• How do we gain, strengthen, and maintain hope, especially in times of despair?
• What are the promises in which we can trust in order to foster hope?
Considering the times in which we now live, finding answers to these questions seems especially relevant.
Part I Epigraph. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Infinite Power of Hope,” Ensign, November 2008, 22.
^1 We should note here that sometimes depression and despair stem from physiological causes or mental illness. These manifestations require professional help, including constant monitoring, prescription medicines, and professional counseling. While I hope this book might provide all readers with hope, this discussion about overcoming depression and despair should not be seen as a substitute for professional help where needed.
^9. Palmer, “Pioneers of Southern Utah,” 155. On August 3, 1991, President Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency dedicated a statue of Nellie Unthank on the campus of Southern Utah University (see “Handcart pioneer memorialized,” Church News, 10 August 1991, 3–4).
^13. Jeffrey R. Holland, “For Times of Trouble,” in 1980 Devotional Speeches of the Year (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1980), 39. Brother Holland was the Commissioner of the Church Educational System at the time he gave this talk.
Worth a reread!
by Sherrie - reviewed on January 29, 2013
A great resource. Gerald Lund teaches with clarity and provides numerous quotes and personal experiences to help us identify the need and role of hope in our lives.
by Customer - reviewed on February 19, 2013
There is so much strength to be found in this book. I am ordering a second for a young adult in our ward who is facing many challenges.
Life changing and life improvement
by Customer - reviewed on August 13, 2013
As someone who suffers from extreme anxiety which fills one with despair, doubt, and fear of everything unknown, this book is essential and has been a great help to me in remembering and re-learning what it means to have hope. Anxiety has almost eliminated that hope that I once had. As I started this book and with some psychological counseling it has really helped me regain what hope really is and why it is so important to watch our thoughts on a daily basis and be filled with hope and not despair or worry of things that we have no control over. Thank you Mr. Lund for writing this book and compiling great stories and doctrine to help me understand hope.