Yesterday, on my last-day walk, I went to a beautiful church called St. Peter in Gallicantu. Below the church is a place that was, according to tradition, the prison pit below the home of Caiaphas, where Christ was kept between trials. And as I stood in the prison pit, I remembered the Lord's words to Joseph Smith, as he languished in the miserable pit of Liberty Jail,
"And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good" (Doc. & Cov. 122:7).
When we quote this scripture, we often stop with this verse. But the Savior didn't stop there. He continued, "The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?" (v. 8)
I had never before realized that the Lord was being completely literal when He spoke these words of comfort to His prophet. Christ had been cast into a pit, and into the hands of murderers, and had the sentence of death passed upon Him. He had contended with fierce winds and the billowing deep. The very jaws of Hell had gaped open wide after Him. In speaking these words He wasn't referring to His vicarious experience of others' trials made possible through His Atonement--He was referring to actual events that He had bodily suffered. Truly He could say with perfect empathy, "The Son of Man hath descended below them all."
We can turn to Christ in our deepest agony, because He has walked the hardest road. We can bring our pains before His throne, for He has been acutely pained. We can come to Him with our terrible wounds and festering sores and find healing balm, because He has overcome all our foes and prepared a remedy. We can cry to Him from the depths of our lonely hearts, for He has known loneliness, deserted by all His mortal friends and, at last, forsaken by God. Because His suffering was infinite, His love is beyond measure.
How grateful I am to know that I can confide in and trust in the promises of a being who has known indescribable suffering and has developed indescribable, perfect love! He who descended below them all counseled, "Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood [i.e. the power of God] shall remain with thee...for God shall be with you forever and ever" (Doc. & Cov 122:9).
I know He will be. Forever and ever.