Over the past few days, I've been attempting to reconcile some ideas that, while not completely contradictory, are not wholly amicable in their exchange. I believe that we each enter into this world with certain deprivations, predilections, and weaknesses. One may be predisposed to drug abuse, while another - who has no affinity toward drug use - is predisposed to cheating. Some of these tendencies may be more intense than others, some more difficult to overcome, some more serious in consequence. Whatever the predisposition, we each have things that, if we are to return to God, must be confronted and overcome. Some people are able to overcome their deprivations or weaknesses in this life through what may be a passing (though difficult) trial. Others, like Paul, are unable to extinguish these predilections and must live with their "thorn[s] in the flesh." Their lot is to endure through the constant reminders of weakness and imperfection, through the incessant bombardment of temptation.
We have been taught that the Lord "will be merciful unto [our] weakness," (D&C 38:14) that "such mortal allotments will be changed in the world to come," (Neal Maxwell) and that all we lack will be made up to us in the world to come. My question is, to what extent do these promises hold true? Is it only to faithful members that such promises are extended? Is faith prerequisite to having all things made up to us hereafter?
I firmly believe in the Atonement's power to facilitate change, to enable, to provide mercy, and to fill us with what we lack - to make up for what we cannot ourselves do. The Atonement has power to help us confront both our fleeting trials and our thorns in the flesh. Through the Atonement we can be made whole, perfect, sanctified. The injunction is to come unto Christ to receive that perfection, which brings me to faith. Faith is the first principle of the gospel, and to access the Atonement we must have faith, right? As Moroni tells us, we need to "come unto Christ, and be be perfected in him, and deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness; and if [w]e shall deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness, and love God with all [our] might, mind and strength, then is His grace sufficient for [us], that by his grace [w]e may be perfect in Christ."
My concern is for those who lack that faith - those for whom having faith is their thorn in the flesh. I know many people who have exerted their souls to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In many ways, I believe that they have poured more effort into obtaining this belief and faith than I. Yet, in the end, they have decided that they are unable to believe. I have seen and heard of people who have wept, truly wept, because they have tried desperately to believe and cannot. They want to believe yet they cannot. I have wondered lately where these people stand. Is this sort of deprivation something that will be made up to them? Will they be able to have this gift hereafter? Or, because faith is so necessary to everything else, because it is the foundation for all of the gospel, will they have missed the opportunity to pursue actions that stem from faith? Ordinances that are necessary for salvation require faith, and we are told that this life is the time to make those choices. This life, after all, is the time for our probation, and we should not delay in seeking God. I want to believe that they will have the opportunity to find that faith even though they haven't been able to overcome that deprivation in this life.
I believe that just because I cannot explain something, does not mean that it cannot be explained (Neal Maxwell). Elder Maxwell said, "Meekly borne, however, deprivations such as these can end up being like excavations that make room for greatly enlarged souls. Some undergo searing developments that cut suddenly into mortality’s status quo. Some have trials to pass through, while still others have allotments they are to live with... Suffice it to say, such mortal allotments will be changed in the world to come." Joseph Fielding Smith said, "The Lord will judge you according to the desires of your hearts when blessings are withheld in this life." I do believe these things. I just don't know how to reconcile.