In general conference, the seasons are often a metaphor for the natural flow of our lives. It’s a promise that just as winter always gives way to spring, so do periods of trial and sorrow give way to a warmer hope and blessings. True that some winters are mild, and others are full of blinding blizzards and meters of snow, but all winters eventually end for those who have faith in the Lord.
Sometimes the seasons are also used as a metaphor wherein the natural lifespan is one glorious year, with youth being springtime and later age being autumn. Winter is quite neglected in this metaphor; my best guess is that we don’t like to think of old age being as cold and stark as a wintry landscape. We prefer to picture an autumn day; crisp or even cold, but beautiful with leaves ablaze and crunching under foot.
Through the Seasons
“Those of us who have been around a while … have recognized certain patterns in life’s test. There are cycles of good and bad times, ups and downs, periods of joy and sadness, and times of plenty as well as scarcity. When our lives turn in an unanticipated and undesirable direction, sometimes we experience stress and anxiety. One of the challenges of this mortal experience is to not allow the stresses and strains of life to get the better of us—to endure the varied seasons of life while remaining positive, even optimistic. Perhaps when difficulties and challenges strike, we should have these hopeful words of Robert Browning etched in our minds: ‘The best is yet to be’.” —L. Tom Perry, (Let Him Do It with Simplicity)
“Those … who ‘plow in hope’ not only understand the law of the harvest but they also understand what growing seasons are all about. True, those with genuine hope may see their proximate circumstances shaken like a kaleidoscope at times, yet with the ‘eye of faith’ they still see divine design.” —Neal A. Maxwell, (Plow in Hope).
“For me, the Lord has opened the windows of heaven and showered blessings upon my family beyond my ability to express. Yet like everyone else, I have had times in my life when it seemed that the heaviness of my heart might be greater than I could bear. During those times I think back to those tender days of my youth …
“How little I knew then of what awaited me in later years. But whenever my steps led through seasons of sadness and sorrow, my mother’s words often came back to me: ‘Come what may, and love it.’
“How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can’t—at least not in the moment. I don’t think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don’t think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life.
“If we approach adversities wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead toward times of greatest happiness.” —Joseph B. Wirthlin, (Come What May, and Love It)
“Let us be Saints in spring, summer, fall, and winter. Let us be Saints for all seasons.” —Dieter F. Uchtdorf, (Saints for All Seasons)
The season of winter is usually symbolic of a season of hard times, sorrow, or trial.
“I have seen some who have spent a long winter of guilt and spiritual starvation emerge into the morning of forgiveness.” —Boyd K. Packer, (The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness)
“Daily hope is vital, since the ‘Winter Quarters’ of our lives are not immediately adjacent to our promised land either. An arduous trek still awaits, but hope spurs weary disciples on.” —Neal A. Maxwell, (Brightness of Hope)
“We can choose to be grateful, no matter what. This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer.” —Dieter F. Uchtdorf, (Grateful in Any Circumstances)
“Life isn’t always easy. At some point in our journey we may feel much as the pioneers did as they crossed Iowa—up to our knees in mud, forced to bury some of our dreams along the way. We all face rocky ridges, with the wind in our face and winter coming on too soon. Sometimes it seems as though there is no end to the dust that stings our eyes and clouds our vision. Sharp edges of despair and discouragement jut out of the terrain to slow our passage. … Occasionally we reach the top of one summit in life, as the pioneers did, only to see more mountain peaks ahead, higher and more challenging than the one we have just traversed. Tapping unseen reservoirs of faith and endurance, we, as did our forebears, inch ever forward toward that day when our voices can join with those of all pioneers who have endured in faith, singing: ‘All is well! All is well!’” —M. Russell Ballard, (“You Have Nothing to Fear from the Journey”)
Spring is often used as symbolic of the end of a trying period of life. It’s also used to symbolize youth.
“I have seen enough ups and downs throughout my life to know that winter will surely give way to the warmth and hope of a new spring. I am optimistic about the future.”—Dieter F. Uchtdorf, (Two Principles for Any Economy)
“In this beautiful time of year, we remember that death has no sting and the grave has no dominion. I testify that after every winter’s season there is the miracle of springtime ahead—in our personal journey through life as well as in nature. These restorations and renewals are a gift from the Lord Jesus Christ, the ultimate ‘man for all seasons.’”—Howard W. Hunter, (The God That Doest Wonders)
“Satan knows that youth is the springtime of life when all things are new and young people are most vulnerable. Youth is the spirit of adventure and awakening. It is a time of physical emerging when the body attains the vigor and good health that may ignore the caution of temperance. Youth is a period of timelessness when the horizons of age seem too distant to be noticed. Thus, the now generation forgets that the present will soon be the past, which one will look back upon either with sorrow and regret or joy and cherished experiences.”—Ezra Taft Benson, (A Message to the Rising Generation)
“In the winter of our doubt there came the hope of spring. We knew it would come. Such was our faith, based on the experiences of earlier years.
“And so it is with matters of the spirit and soul. As each man or woman walks the way of life there come dark seasons of doubt, of discouragement, of disillusionment. In such circumstances, a few see ahead by the light of faith, but many stumble along in the darkness and even become lost.
“My call to you this morning is a call to faith, that faith which is ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’.” —Gordon B. Hinckley, (We Walk by Faith)
The most famous use of summer symbolism is in scriptures about the signs of the second coming; because once the signs of spring are budding, the wise person knows that summer comes next. Occasionally, summer is symbolic of laziness or inattention to duty.
“The Savior has told us that just as when the fig tree puts forth its leaves, we may know that summer is nigh, so it will be with his second coming (see Luke 21:28–30). The foreseen summer of circumstances is now upon us. Let us not, therefore, complain of the heat!” —Neal A. Maxwell, (The Net Gathers of Every Kind)
“The summer patriot and the sunshine saint retreat when the battle wages fiercely around them. Theirs is not the conqueror’s crown. They are overcome by the world.
Members of the Church who have testimonies and who live clean and upright lives, but who are not courageous and valiant, do not gain the celestial kingdom. Theirs is a terrestrial inheritance.” —Bruce R. McConkie, (Be Valiant in the Fight of Faith)
“To come to Zion, it is not enough for you or me to be somewhat less wicked than others. We are to become not only good but holy men and women. Recalling Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s phrase, let us once and for all establish our residence in Zion and give up the summer cottage in Babylon.” —D. Todd Christofferson, (Come to Zion)
“Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, suffered, died, and rose from death in order that He could, like lightning in a summer storm, grasp us as we fall, hold us with His might, and through our obedience to His commandments, lift us to eternal life.” —Jeffrey R. Holland, (Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet)
Interestingly, winter isn’t used much as a metaphor for old age. Autumn claims that honor. I suppose none of us like the thought of our senior years being like winter: icy and frozen; how much more pleasant to think of them as a time of harvest and color!
“No senior missionary finds it convenient to leave. Neither did Joseph or Brigham or John or Wilford. They had children and grandchildren too. They loved their families not one whit less, but they also loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him. Someday we may meet these stalwarts who helped to establish this dispensation. Then will we rejoice that we did not seek the shadows when a call to missionary service came from the prophet, even in the autumn years of our lives.” —Russell M. Nelson, (Senior Missionaries and the Gospel)
“The years pass. The children eventually leave the home, one by one. And the father and the mother are again alone. But they have each other to talk with, to depend on, to nurture, to encourage, and to bless. There comes the autumn of life and a looking back with satisfaction and gladness. Through all of the years there has been loyalty, one to the other. There has been deference and courtesy. Now there is a certain mellowness, a softening, an effect that partakes of a hallowed relationship. They realize that death may come any time, usually to one first with a separation of a season brief or lengthy. But they know also that because their companionship was sealed under the authority of the eternal priesthood and they have lived worthy of the blessings, there will be a reunion sweet and certain.” —Gordon B. Hinckley, (Our Solemn Responsibilities)
“At some period in our mortal mission, there appears the faltering step, the wan smile, the pain of sickness—even the fading of summer, the approach of autumn, the chill of winter, and the experience we call death.
“Every thoughtful person has asked himself the question best phrased by Job of old: ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’… My brothers and sisters, we know that death is not the end. This truth has been taught by living prophets throughout the ages. It is also found in our holy scriptures.” —Thomas S. Monson, (The Race of Life)
Here’s a little Veme I made based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that seems to go with this post.
Image backgrounds from lds.org/media-library & 123RF.com. Memes compiled by Kathryn S. Allen
Would you like to chat online to Mormons about Christianity? Go to mormon.org/chat