“We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”

art by Jessica Sarah Beach

Joseph F. Smith had a rough life trajectory going.

As a child, he had to peek over the coffin to see his father, Hyrum’s, bullet-ridden body.

Then, his mother died when he was 13, leaving him an orphan.

Joseph described the year and a half after his mother died as “perilous times. . . . I was almost like a comet or fiery meteor, without attraction or gravitation to keep me balanced or guide me within reasonable bounds.” He also said of his early self, “My temper was beyond boiling.”

When his sister was about to be whipped on the hand with a leather strap by the schoolmaster, Joseph “licked [the schoolmaster] good and plenty.” This went “beyond defensive measures” and likely happened more than once. Joseph was expelled.

At 15, he served a mission to the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands.

He struggled with the use of alcohol and nicotine. [He said of the struggle, “finally, after more than twenty years of use, I conquered—and now, when I think of it, I feel ashamed that I was so weak, and strange to say the appetite, though still with me and perhaps as strong as ever, it is at my command.”]

After eight hard years of a hard marriage, he divorced his first wife.

This was a real, living man who had his fair share of moments of both struggles and growth. Through it all, he learned to rely on the Lord. 

And look what he became—the president of the church and had the vision from God that became Doctrine and Covenants 138.

A vision that has brought comfort, truth, and direction to so many.

As Thomas S. Monson said, “We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”

Do you feel adrift?

Are you struggling through “perilous times”?

It’s never too late to adjust your sails.

It won’t be easy.

You may still feel buffeted by the winds of the adversary.

But Christ will lead you.

He will give you the strength to course correct.

He will guide you home—

No matter your original trajectory.

Sources: Before the Beard: Trials of the Young Joseph F Smith by Scott Kenney & Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith

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