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Group2Summary: Living a righteous life does not mean that you won’t have significant struggles. A common misbelief is that if we live good lives, nothing bad will happen to us. But the truth is, hard times come to the best of people. God may not take away our problems, and he certainly will not shield us from all pain, but he will provide us perspective and strength to bear up under them.

When faced with adversity and challenges in life, it is helpful to keep a proper perspective. This section explains the purpose, origins, and benefits of adversity, then gives suggestions on how to successfully deal with our struggles.

Why There Must Be Adversity

In this world, there is opposition. There must be wickedness to understand the good, there must be misery to appreciate happiness, and there must be suffering to enjoy good health. But simply understanding that adversity will come does not make it easy to face.

Righteous Living Does Not Guarantee an Easy Life

Living a righteous life does not mean that bad things will not happen to you. A common misbelief that if we strive with all our might to live good lives, nothing bad will happen to us. H. Burke Peterson explained, “We must remember that all rewards for doing good do not come in this life. All penalties for doing wrong are not meted out in this life either.” (Peterson, 1996, p. 54),

Lowell Bennion wrote, “The gospel of Christ is not an escape from the hard realities of life. . . . Both the person who follows Christ and the person who mocks Him live in the world among the same men and where the same laws of nature operate. Many things happen alike to saint and sinner. Cancer takes over in the human body with no regard for a person’s spiritual or moral worth. . . . Innocent children suffer from it, and some of the most wonderful Christians we have known are not spared its merciless attack. Death itself . . . appears to be without discrimination. Clean-living Christian boys fall on the battlefield with those who curse God. A young and beloved husband and father is taken while a mean and feared husband and father is left to curse his wife and children. On the highway, death takes the careless, the sleepy, and the innocent victims alike with no regard for their church attendance, tithing records, or love of neighbor that we can observe. The wicked prosper as well as the righteous, and sometimes more quickly. Individual prosperity is no proof of Christian discipleship; neither is poverty. . . . Living the gospel of Jesus Christ does not necessarily bring with it physical health, freedom from accident and misfortune, freedom from pain and suffering, prosperity and long life. As a matter of fact, some who have lived it best with great devotion have shortened their lives and brought considerable suffering upon themselves.” (Teachings of the New Testament, Deseret Sunday School Union Board, Salt Lake City, 1953, pp. 178–80.)

The Savior came to heal broken hearts, not to prevent them from being broken. Living the gospel will not shield us from pain, but it is a resource to help us deal with pain. Robert L. Millet wrote, “The Savior may not take away our problems, and he certainly will not shield us from all pain, but he will provide us perspective and strength to bear up under them.” (When a Child WandersDeseret Book, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1996, p. 58.)

Tragedy Is Not Always a Punishment For Sin

“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:1-3). Tragedy does not always come as a punishment for sin. Of course there are times when we do cause sorrow in our lives and we ought to take responsibility for it. But there are also many misfortunes that come through no fault of our own for which we have no right to blame ourselves. If we do, not only are we victims of the injury or unfortunate circumstance, but we make a bad situation worse by seeing ourselves as bad people who had it coming to us. When things go wrong, it is tempting to assume that if we had been more worthy, or had made a different choice, things would have turned out like we wanted them to. In his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Harold Kushner wrote, “A sense of our inadequacies and failings, a recognition that we could be better people than we usually are, is one of the forces for moral growth and improvement in our society. An appropriate sense of guilt makes people try to be better. But an excessive sense of guilt, a tendency to blame ourselves for things which are clearly not our fault, robs us of our self-esteem and perhaps of our capacity to grow and to act.” (When Bad Things Happen to Good PeopleAvon Books, New York, 1981, p. 94.) Therefore, we should take responsibility for things that are the direct result of mistakes or sin but not believe that every misfortune is our fault or is a punishment for wrongdoing.

The Origins of Adversity

Adversity vs. Sin

When a bad thing happens in life, we often ask ourselves what we could have done to prevent it. We tend to blame ourselves and search for answers. “If only I could have been more careful.” “If only I could have made a different decision.” Some things are the result of our actions and others simply happen because of the world we live in.

Bruce Hafen wrote, “We might think of the degree of our personal fault for the bad things that happen in our lives as a continuum ranging from sin to adversity, with the degree of our fault dropping from high at one end of the spectrum to zero at the other. At the ‘sin’ end of the continuum, we bear grave responsibility, for we bring the bitter fruits of sin fully upon ourselves. But at the other end of the spectrum, marked by ‘adversity,’ we may bear no responsibility at all. The bitterness of adversity may come to us, as it did to Job in the Old Testament, regardless of our actual, conscious fault.” (“Beauty for Ashes: The Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 1990, p. 10.)

It is important that we distinguish between the things that are our fault and those that are not because it is important that we accept responsibility for things that are our fault. On the other hand, it is unfair that we carry the burden of guilt for things that are not our fault. At times, this may be difficult to judge because between the poles we find such things as unwise choices and hasty judgments. In these cases, it may be difficult to determine how much personal responsibility we bear for the pain we feel or cause others to feel.

Problems Because of Sin

Much of the suffering in the world is the direct result of sin. M. Russell Ballard said, “Much adversity is man-made. Men’s hearts turn cold, and the spirit of Satan controls their actions. In foreseeing the day of suffering in our time, the Savior said, “The love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:27). Violence, immorality, and other evils run rampant on the earth and much adversity has its origin in the principle of agency.” (“Answers to Life’s Questions,” Ensign, May 1995, p. 23.) He then explained, “The plan of happiness is available to all of his children. If the world would embrace and live it, peace, joy, and plenty would abound on the earth. Much of the suffering we know today would be eliminated if people throughout the world would understand and live the gospel.” (Ballard, 1995, p. 23)

Problems Because of Nature

Many of the problems we face in life are a natural result of the world we live in. M. Russell Ballard said, “God has put his plan in motion. It proceeds through natural laws that are, in fact, God’s laws. Since they are his, he is bound by them, as are we. I recognize that for purposes we mortals may not understand, the Lord can control the elements. For the most part, however, he does not cause but he allows nature to run its course. In this imperfect world, bad things sometimes happen. The earth’s rocky underpinnings occasionally shift and move, resulting in earthquakes. Certain weather patterns cause hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and drought.” (Ballard, 1995, p. 23.)

Jesus’s Atonement Heals All Suffering

We often think of Jesus’s Atonement only in terms of relief from sin and guilt. But His Atonement is more. Christ suffered pains and afflictions and temptations of every kindand even deathso he could understand our problems and know how to support us in our trials. Regardless of the source of suffering, Jesus’s Atonement can heal the effects of all pain. When suffering is our fault, we can be cleansed through repentance, and after we’ve done all we can do, it can compensate for the consequences of our sins. Christ’s Atonement can also compensate for the harmful effects of our ignorance or neglect and also for the pain and suffering caused by the willful actions of others.

The Benefits of Adversity

If a tree grows with much water but little wind, it develops shallow roots, and when the winds come it will topple over. People can also be shallow. Adversity can help you develop strong roots. You came to this earth knowing there would be trials and adversity and that they would refine you and help you develop character and strength.

No pain and trial is wasted, because it gives us experience and teaches us to develop qualities such as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. When we endure suffering patiently, it builds our characters, purifies our hearts, and makes us more tender and charitable. Thus we become the sons and daughters of God.

How to Deal With Adversity

Since adversity will come to us all, consider the following ideas that can help us deal with adversity.

Recognize That God Loves You

God knows you personally. He knows your needs and he loves you more than you have the capacity to understand. You can face adversity much easier when you understand who you are and who God is. He is your Father. He loves you. He allowed you to come to an unjust world where you would suffer, learn and grow. Christ died to atone for your sins. Although Christ died for all of us, He died for each one of us individually. He would have died for you if you had been the only one. He would have suffered in the garden for your sins if yours had been the only ones.

Recognize That Others Love You

Family and friends also love you. Rely on them. There are also angles in heaven ready to give you their help.

Trust That God is in Control

Richard G. Scott said, “This life is an experience in profound trust—trust in Jesus Christ, trust in His teachings, trust in our capacity as led by the Holy Spirit to obey those teachings for happiness now and for a purposeful, supremely happy eternal existence. To trust means to obey willingly without knowing the end from the beginning (see Proverbs 3:5–7). To produce fruit, your trust in the Lord must be more powerful and enduring than your confidence in your own personal feelings and experience. To exercise faith is to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing with you and that He can accomplish it for your eternal good even though you cannot understand how He can possibly do it.” (“Trust in the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 1995,  p. 16.)

Camille Fronk observed, “No one can tell you just how your life will evolve, nor how to avoid misfortune. You can design your most hoped-for life and painstakingly work to achieve it. But I would dare say that fortunately for you and me, it may not unwind as we have planned. There will be surprising turns that we never could have anticipated. The Lord is in control. He is the Potter. And as a result, we have richer, more meaningful lives. As you look at your own past, you can recognize the obvious guidance of the Lord. . . . Why should we question that he will continue to direct us in the future?” (“Lessons from the Potter and the Clay,” Devotional Address at Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, 7 Mar. 1995, pp. 8–9.)

God loves you perfectly. He doesn’t want you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love. “The Lord is intent on your personal growth and development. That progress is accelerated when you willingly allow Him to lead you through every growth experience you encounter, whether initially it be to your individual liking or not. When you trust in the Lord, when you are willing to let your heart and your mind be centered in His will, when you ask to be led by the Spirit to do His will, you are assured of the greatest happiness along the way and the most fulfilling attainment from this mortal experience. If you question everything you are asked to do, or dig in your heels at every unpleasant challenge, you make it harder for the Lord to bless you.” (Scott, 1995, p. 17)

Accept that life is difficult

M. Scott Peck begins his book The Road Less Traveled with the following insight: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy.” (The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual GrowthSimon & Schuster, New York, 1978, p. 15.)

Dr. Peck explains that “it is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually.” (Peck, 1978, p. 16)

Remember That Everyone Has Challenges

When we consider the challenges that other people have, ours may not seem so difficult. I know a man who was just a few months old when he lost sight in both eyes. He could have let his disability ruin his life, but instead empowered his hearing and became a concert pianist. He has developed the ability to recreate on the piano any music he hears. Since he can’t read the scriptures, he could have become spiritually dormant. But instead, he developed a spiritual sensitivity by listening incessantly to the scriptures on tape.

A colleague of mine has a disabled child who needs total care. They must lift her out of bed, feed her, and change her diaper. She is now seventeen years old and has grown so large that her mother cannot lift her, but has to wait until her husband comes home to move her. Their daughter requires physical therapy, special chairs, and daily medication. As my friend goes about his daily work, I seldom think about the extra emotional energy he gives at home to deal with his daughter’s special situation. He is sometimes fatigued by the late nights and the financial pressures, but somehow finds the strength to go on. He does it because he loves her. And he doesn’t regret the inconvenience or the extra money it requires, money he could otherwise spend on his other children or on things for himself. I am not sure that my trials with same-sex attraction feelings are any more emotionally taxing than the trials he goes through. When I talk with parents of disabled children, they always say that their capacity to love has been increased and they have been blessed in many ways. They often seem to be the ones who have been able to develop strong character traits of sensitivity, integrity, and endurance that perhaps they would not have been able to develop without the trials. We all need to take the trials we have and use them to our advantage.

I know another woman who fought a battle with cancer. Although she endured pains and heartache that few people understood, she remained cheerful and optimistic. She lost her hair from radiation treatments and after spinal surgery had to wear a metal brace around her head and chest to immobilize her head. As embarrassed as she must have felt by her appearance, she still came to church meetings and smiled and tried to cheer up everyone else. She wrote her own obituary which, in part, reads “Today at the young age of 33 I left this mortal existence to a holier sphere. I was born . . . to wonderful parents . . . who taught me to live life well. . . . We have three sweet children who I will miss greatly. At the young age of 29, I was introduced to something called cancer. Cancer was my great adversary but I have learned that in this life our enemies can become our choicest friends; the secret is in learning what to do with the conflict.” She came to earth and suffered, and through it learned a little about her nature. An important mystery of life is to discover who we are, and who God is, and a little about our relationship with Him. It is critical to know in our hearts who we really are.

Let Adversity Strengthen You

Adversity effects people in different ways. For some, it becomes a challenge to overcome, for others an excuse to fail. Harold Kushner observed, “We may not ever understand why we suffer or be able to control the forces that cause our suffering, but we can have a lot to say about what the suffering does to us, and what sort of people we become because of it. Pain makes some people bitter and envious. It makes others sensitive and compassionate. It is the result, not the cause, of pain that makes some experiences of pain meaningful and others empty and destructive.” (When Bad Things Happen to Good PeopleAvon Books, New York, 1981, p. 64.)

When you face challenges, draw closer to God, even if conditions are not resolved as you would want. Dean Conlee said, “We pray earnestly and emotionally for the Lord to strengthen us and lift us, to prepare a way for us to endure, even to remove the bitter cup if it be his will, and then we release those things into his hands and believe within us that our prayers are heard, and the stress of the condition will be transferred to Him. I have a strong testimony that the Lord accepts our stress and blesses us with strength and courage and hope to continue the fight.” (“Endurance,” Devotional Address, Brigham Young University, 16 May 1995, p. 7.)

Since you have to endure adversity, will you bear it through the bondage of bitterness or through the freedom of forgiveness? When hurt happens in your life, you can either keep it inside and become bitter about it or you can choose to grieve, let the emotions surface, feel the pain, then give it to God.

Let God Carry Your Burdens

Sometimes, God does not answer our prayers by removing our trials, but by helping us to bear the burden. God can ease your burdens and make them light. When you turn to God, you will not only find the comfort you seek, but in so doing gain an increased testimony of the reality of the Savior and the atonement.

Don’t Expect Quick Solutions

We live in a day of instant gratification. We want fast food and instant fixes to our problems. If we can’t solve a problem in minutes or days, we become frustrated. We also think that we should be instantly emotionally comfortable. But God expects this life to be a challenge for us. That helps us grow. It is expected that we will suffer some amount of anxiety, depression, disappointment, and even some failure. It is by these struggles that we grow and progress.

Don’t expect perfection in all things right now

While perfection should be our ultimate goal, in this life we can only be perfect in some things. For example, we may be able to avoid illegal drugs perfectly. But when we expect perfection in all aspects of our lives, we ask for frustration. We may feel ignorant when someone talks about a subject we don’t know. We may judge ourselves as too fat, too skinny, too short, or too tall. We need to stop believing that we are failures if we don’t reach 100% all the time. Mistakes are understandable as long as we learn from them and do better the next time. Even the best of us will repeat some mistakes many times. Continue to learn, to grow, and to move toward your goal. People will accept and love you even though you have faults. All people have faults.

Maintain Balance

Learn to keep things in balance. If you are asked to make a cake for a birthday party, you could spend half a day making it to perfection, but you need to evaluate what it is worth, considering all your other responsibilities, and spend the appropriate amount of time on it. When I built a shed in my back yard, I had to evaluate how much time it was worth, then built it to that level of perfection. Learn to balance your time and energies among the many things that are important. If you spend excessive amounts of time with your male friends, for example, you may be ignoring the more important, eternal relationships found in your family.

Know There is a Time For Everything

When I was in high school, my father and I volunteered many hours in community service delivering food to the poor. When I got married and began raising a family, I had to reduce the hours of community service I could volunteer. My father who is retired spends many hours a week visiting people in a nursing home. I look forward to doing that when I am retired, but I can’t do that now. We are usually our own worst judges. Perhaps when all is said and done, God may not beat us with stripes so much for what we did not do, but bless us for what we did do.

Make the Best of Your Situation

People who succeed in life don’t waste time looking for the right circumstances. They make the right circumstances. Take the challenges you have been given, and use them to your advantage. It’s always too soon to quit, but never too late to keep trying. You can choose to complain and drown in your problems or you can make the best of the situation and choose to grow through your problems.

Recognize That Happiness Comes From Within

We generate our own happiness and we generate our own unhappiness. Many people say things like, “Everything would be fine if I just didn’t have to work such long hours,” “If my boss would get off my case. . . ,” or “If my children would show me more respect. . . .” We tend to blame unhappiness on someone or something else. The truth is that unhappiness is generated internally. Although life can be brutal, relationships can fail, and families can go through crises, it is still you who decides how to react. This doesn’t mean that you should be happy in the face of a crisis, because there is legitimate unhappiness at times. But there is a time to say “enough” and get on with life. That is what repentance is all about. Focus on what can be changed and not how bad things are. We all think we have it worse than someone else. But if everyone could take all their troubles and put them in a bag and place them on a table, and we could choose any bag we wanted, we would probably pick our own again.

Acknowledge There is More Good Than Bad

God has created a world where there are many more good things than bad. Harold Kushner explained, “We find life’s disasters upsetting not only because they are painful but because they are exceptional. Most people wake up on most days feeling good. Most illnesses are curable. Most airplanes take off and land safely. Most of the time, when we send our children out to play, they come home safely. The accident, the robbery, the inoperable tumor are life-shattering exceptions, but they are very rare exceptions. When you have been hurt by life, it may be hard to keep that in mind. When you are standing very close to a large object, all you can see is the object. Only by stepping back from it can you also see the rest of its setting around it. When we are stunned by some tragedy, we can only see and feel the tragedy. Only with time and distance can we see the tragedy in the context of a whole life and a whole world.” (When Bad Things Happen to Good PeopleAvon Books, New York, 1981, pp. 138–39.)

Serve Others

We heal ourselves of pain when we reach out to help others. Service to others is the great healer. Harold Kushner writes about the old Chinese tale of the woman whose only son died. “In her grief,” he wrote, “she went to the holy man and said, ‘What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?’ Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, ‘Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life.’ The woman set off at once in search of that magical mustard seed. She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, ‘I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me.’ They told her, ‘You’ve certainly come to the wrong place,’ and began to describe all the tragic things that had recently befallen them. The woman said to herself, ‘Who is better able to help these poor unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?’ She stayed to comfort them, then went on in her search for a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hovels and in palaces, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. Ultimately, she became so involved in ministering to other people’s grief that she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had in fact driven the sorrow out of her life.” (Kushner, 1981, pp. 110-11)

Overcome Discouragement

Read the following story about the inventor Thomas Edison and note his attitude during a trying time. “Thomas Edison devoted ten years and all of his money to developing the nickel-alkaline storage battery at a time when he was almost penniless. . . . One night the terrifying cry of fire echoed through the film plant. Spontaneous combustion had ignited some chemicals. Within moments all of the packing compounds, celluloids for records, film, and other flammable goods had gone up with a whoosh. Fire companies from eight towns arrived, but the heat was so intense and the water pressure so low that the fire hoses had no effect. Edison was 67 years old—no age to begin anew. His daughter was frantic, wondering if he were safe, if his spirits were broken, how he would handle a crisis such as this at this age. She saw him running toward her. He spoke first. He said, ‘Where’s your mother? Go get her. Tell her to get her friends. They’ll never see another fire like this as long as they live.’ At 5:30 the next morning, with the fire barely under control, he called his employees together and announced, ‘We’re rebuilding.’ One man was told to lease all the machine shops in the area, another to obtain a wrecking crane from the Erie Railroad Company. Then, almost as an afterthought, he added, ‘Oh, by the way, anybody know where we can get some money?’” (Holland, Jeffrey R. “For Times of Trouble,” New Era, Oct. 1980, p. 10.) Virtually everything we now recognize as a Thomas Edison contribution came after that disaster. Some of his most famous inventions include the electric light bulb, the phonograph, motion pictures, the electric voting machine, the stock ticker, and the mimeograph machine. How would the world be different today if Mr. Edison had become discouraged and given up?

Others who have gone before you have experienced discouragement and have overcome it. Noah was discouraged when everyone was against him, but he followed through and built the ark. Moses initially resisted his destiny, saying that he was slow of speech, but gained courage and led the children of Israel out of bondage. Job experienced extraordinary trials. He lost is family, his health, and his wealth, yet he never cursed God. Although Paul suffered much, listen to the positive attitude he expresses in his second epistle to the Corinthians: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9).

When you feel discouraged, admit your weaknesses to God and positively work at solving the problem at hand. The following scriptures may provide encouragement: Joshua 1:9; Proverbs 3:5–6; Romans 5:3–5.

Accept Adversity

Ultimately, you have to come to grips with the fact that there will always be adversity. Remember that you are not left alone. Accept the reality of the atonement and its power to compensate for the effects of injustice. It may come in a quiet room after you have thought, and wondered, and become angry, and prayed, and pleaded, and finally, come to peace with yourself. Remember, something inside you is ancient and wise and knows what needs to be done. It is a combination of the Spirit of God and our own eternal spirit. It is the eternal part of you. Rely on it. You are tougher than you think.

Bear your trials with faith in God and a firm hope that you will one day find rest from all your afflictions. Trust in the greatness of God and believe that these experiences will be for your benefit.

Richard C. Edgley said, “For the faithful, the normal tests and trials of life need not be the enemy of faith. While we don’t necessarily look forward to these obstacles and challenges, we accept them, and we build our lives and faith from them. To the faithful, the very obstacles that we overcome draw us closer to our Heavenly Father by helping us develop a humble, submissive spirit and causing us to be grateful and appreciative of those blessings that flow from a loving Father. In short, these experiences can and often do increase our faith. The faithful do not pray to be spared the trials of life but pray that they may have the strength to rise above them.” (“Keep the Faith,” Ensign, May 1993, p. 11.)


In God, we can find comfort in the face of adversity. Remember that the fruits of righteous living are spiritual, not material. Lowell Bennion wrote that religion “does not enable us to escape tribulation, but it does fortify the spirit of man to accept and face it when it comes. . . . The life founded in the gospel can suffer with patience, can meet adversity with hope, can take malice with forgiveness, can recompense hate with love, and can face death with equanimity. The religious person can find himself in no circumstance . . . in which his religion is not a source of strength to him. In weakness, he knows where to turn for strength; in strength, he remains humble; in poverty he knows whereof his riches consist; in wealth he remembers his brethren in mercy; in health, he is grateful; in illness, he exercises faith.” (Teachings of the New Testament, Deseret Sunday School Union Board, Salt Lake City, 1953, pp. 178–80.)

Each of us has hope because of who we are and who God is and who we are together. Don’t pray that God will make your life free of problems, but pray for hope, strength, and courage to bear them. Adversity can bless our lives if we let it purify us and teach us.

Spencer W. Kimball taught, “Is there not wisdom in His giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we may learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified? If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.” (Faith Precedes the MiracleDeseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, 1972, p. 97.)