What’s the last really good story you watched, heard or read? Why did you love it so much? Was it because of the solid characters or a captivating setting? Were strong box office reviews or best seller lists the convincing factor? Perhaps. But most likely it was because of the exciting outcome and the powerful, resolved ending. Stories of heroes or heroines capture our deepest sense of intrigue and create connection as we live vicariously through their story and identify ourselves in their tales.
A key component in almost any story is an element of conflict. In fact, there are few stories without conflict. It is the mode that can bring about experience and change in a powerful and often permanent way. The resolution of conflict may be the telling tale of a successful story and the road to a happy ending. Without question, that ending is as different as an ending might be from the initial starting point of the story. The greatest difference is made as the characters in the story conquer the conflict and make more of their story than it was before.
In the New Testament, Paul tells the people that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Romans 8:37).
More than conquerors implies that we can not only triumph in our own story, but that we can thrive through it and be blessed with better outcomes than we had envisioned for ourselves. Each one of us has a story. We know the beginning and we have hope for a happy ending, but we may currently feel as if we are in the messy middle chapters with an unknown conclusion.
Elder Patrick Kearon addressed this in a recent talk in general conference, April 2022. He asked, “Will you ever be rescued; will you make it through your own survival story? The answer is yes. You can survive. You have in fact already been rescued; you have already been saved—by the One who has suffered the very torment you are suffering and endured the very agony you are enduring. Jesus has overcome the abuses of this world to give you power to not only survive but one day, through Him, to overcome and even conquer—to completely rise above the pain, the misery, the anguish, and see them replaced by peace” (Patrick Kearon, “He is Risen with Healing in His Wings,” Liahona, May 2022).
The assurance that the Saviour will lend power and authorship to our story can bring peace and hope as we figuratively turn the “pen” over to Him. As He weaves the tale of a conquering hero despite pain and anguish, we can have courage to play the leading role and we can trust that the outcome will eventually be a heavenly box office success. Time may be needed to see that happen but we can be assured that “all things shall work together for [our] good” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:24).
In the spring of 2017, our daughter, Sara, was playing basketball on her high school team and tore her ACL during a heated game. She had enjoyed success in basketball and was strongly considering playing basketball at the post-secondary level. This injury seemed devastating and unfair to all her friends and family, but especially to her. After surgery, additional injury, two more surgeries and many tears shed, it was obvious that she would not be playing basketball again. She felt as though her story had been abruptly stopped and that she, as the devastated heroine, was destined for a very unhappy ending.
In the Book of Mormon, one of the heroes, Nephi, must have temporarily felt the same when after two unsuccessful attempts, he and his brothers were unable to retrieve the brass plates from Laban. He must have felt like his story was destined for failure, especially as his brothers ridiculed and beat him. But Nephi resolved to try again, to implement a different method, and to “go up again” (1 Nephi 4:1-2). He cited Moses as his mentor and pressed forward.
Our daughter likewise did not give up but explored other options and methods to bring about goodness in her life. It required searching, pondering and leaning on the Lord, and His plan. Gradually, she was able to recognize how things were working for her good. Her path took her to a completely different post-secondary school than she had ever considered, led her to meet people who became key characters in her story, and helped her find a vocation that was nothing like she had ever imagined. Her story is still continuing, but the authorship is incredible, and a compelling positive ending is to come.
Being “more than conquerors” is possible and more certain as we turn our story over to the Saviour to allow Him to be part of it. Even if we don’t know the ending now, the assurance that “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world,” or for each of us individually, is certain (2 Nephi 26:24). Those messy middle chapters will have a resolution and the eventual conclusion will be of a conquering hero with our Saviour at our side.