What Does It Mean to Be “Long-Suffering?”

The word “longsuffering” (without a hyphen) appears 17 times in the King James Version of the Bible. The word “long-suffering” (with a hyphen: the modern spelling of the word) appears 17 times in the Book of Mormon. What does it mean?

In the Old Testament, it is a translation of the phrase erek appayim (אֶ֥רֶךְ אַפַּ֖יִם), which means “slow to anger.” In the New Testament, it is a translation of the word makrothumia (μακροθυμία), which comes from the words makros, meaning “long,” and thumos, meaning “passion” or “intense emotion.” (See the topic “Longsuffering” on biblehub.com.) So to be longsuffering is to have your emotions in check, to be able to restrain your anger for a long time.

The Book of Mormon teaches at least three principles about this attribute:

1. God is long-suffering.

Jesus Christ was scourged, smitten, and spit upon. But He endured it willingly “because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9). Mormon urged his son Moroni to let the “sufferings and death” of Christ and His “mercy and long-suffering…rest in [his] mind forever” (Moroni 9:25). And Alma pleaded with his son Corianton to “let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in [his] heart” (Alma 42:30).

After Alma was cast out of the city of Ammonihah, an angel told him to go back and preach again. So Alma spoke from experience when he told the people that the Savior is “full of patience, mercy, and long-suffering, quick to hear the cries of his people and to answer their prayers” (Alma 9:26).

2. God’s representatives are long-suffering.

After Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah were converted to the gospel, they worked hard to repair the damage they had done previously. This work included “exhorting [church members] with long-suffering and much travail to keep the commandments of God” (Mosiah 27:33). And when the sons of Mosiah began their missionary service among their enemies, the Lamanites, God promised to make them instruments in His hands if they were “patient in long-suffering and afflictions” (Alma 17:11).

Alma later praised his son Shiblon for his “diligence,” “patience,” and “long-suffering” during his missionary service among the Zoramites (Alma 38:3-4).

3. We should be long-suffering.

After teaching the people of Gideon about the extraordinary suffering that the Savior would voluntarily endure on our behalf, Alma urged them to “be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering” (Alma 7:23). Shortly afterward, he promised the people of Ammonihah that, if they would humble themselves and pray continually, the Spirit of the Lord would help them to become “humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering” (Alma 13:28).

Alma encouraged the poor among the Zoramites not to give up on their quest for faith, telling them that they would eventually “reap the rewards” of their faith, diligence, patience, and long-suffering (Alma 32:43).

Today, I will remember and be grateful that God is long-suffering. I will strive to emulate that attribute in my church service and in my personal relationships.

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