DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR & ANXIETY - LIVING AS A LATTER-DAY SAINT, LDS

Episode #196 - The Origins of Peace

September 24, 2023 Damon Socha Season 1 Episode 196
DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR & ANXIETY - LIVING AS A LATTER-DAY SAINT, LDS
Episode #196 - The Origins of Peace
Show Notes Transcript

So often in this world we are told where peace is to be found.  However, there is only once source of true peace.

Episode #196 – The Origins of Peace.  I am your host Damon Socha.  Today I would like to extend an invitation to anyone who feels they have a story to tell about their personal experiences with mental illness and living the gospel.  The story does not have to be long or detailed.  I would be happy to help you tell that story.  I realize the stigma that still surrounds mental health and so your story can be kept anonymous, making sure to obscure details and names.  We can also have a one on one interview talking about your experiences.  We can actually tell the story in any way you feel is best for you and or the audience.  If you are interested you can email me at dtsocha@gmail.com.  If you feel so inspired I hope that you will contact me.

Today I am going to move out of the New Testament to the Book of Mormon to discuss how we find the origins of true peace and joy.  I am going to start with a story that is probably familiar to most members of the church.  The story isn’t by itself very long but it is remarkable and introduces some key doctrines surrounding the principles of peace.  The story is about a man we refer to as Alma the Senior, who when we meet him is a priest of the unrighteous King Noah.  That is really all we know about his origin story.  He was one of the priests that Abinadi the prophet warned during his final admonition to King Noah before being burned at the stake.  Alma defended Abinadi when the prophet stood before the king and the priests.  This does give us some understanding about Alma.  He was at a point in his life that he knew he needed to make changes.  We don’t know how or why but his heart was open to the message that day.  Meaning that the Lord had been preparing him for those brief hours with Abinadi.  His defense of Abinadi earned him a stiff rebuke from the King and a warrant on his head.  He naturally abandoned his previous life.  Sometime after his conversion and repentance, he began teaching the gospel to individuals under the reign of King Noah without arising any suspicion.  This eventually led to Alma and his followers being exiled under King Noah’s reign.

So Alma and his group of followers headed out into the wilderness to find somewhere out of the reach of King Noah where they could live the gospel.  Once Alma and his followers leave the story we don’t catch up to them until they are found by a lost contingent of Lamanites looking for home.  This is where the story turns far more interesting from a doctrinal perspective.  Rather than fight, Alma and his followers become subject to the Lamanite King, while under false pretenses.  Originally the Lamanites just wanted to know the direction back to their home, stating that they would leave Alma and his followers to themselves.  However, against their own word they kept Alma and his followers subject to the Lamanite King.  We quickly gain some understanding as to why they refused to keep their word, when we are introduced to a new leadership figure by the name of Amulon.  Amulon was also one of King Noah’s priests.

Amulon unlike Alma had not changed his ways in the slightest.  His hunger and determination for power was still ever present and his desire to be a King was obvious when the Lamanites broke their word and made Amulon leader over Alma’s people.  Alma and his people were now under the rule of a terrible master, that intended to make his power and authority completely unbearable.  Alma and those who followed him became in essence slaves of Amulon and the Lamanites. They were tasked with burdens and caused to work in harsh conditions.  Because of this difficult trial, they began to appeal to the Lord for help and relief.  Amulon in his obsession with power and influence caused that individuals appealing openly in prayer would be killed.  This stopped the vocal and visible prayers but did not stop those emotional cries from deep within the soul.  It is here where this story become very meaningful to those of us who suffer with mental health challenges.

What is so relevant about this story to a situation such as mental and emotional illness is how the Lord allowed for the severe trial.  He also allowed for the trial to remain after Alma’s people asked for relief.  The Lord did not remove the burdens, or the power hungry Amulon.  The Lord even allowed for outward symbols of belief and faith to be revoked under the ruling authority.  But in so doing provided some of the most clear and unmistakable doctrine regarding peace.  What he taught is incredibly relevant to what we pass through with our trials.  Mental illness is not unlike Amulon and his dictatorial oppression.  We did not ask for it as a trial and yet it can dominate our lives like a cruel master.  Here is what the Lord said about such problems in our lives. Mosiah 23

21 Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to achasten his people; yea, he trieth their bpatience and their faith.

22 Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his atrust in him the same shall be blifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people.

23 For behold, I will show unto you that they were brought into abondage, and none could deliver them but the Lord their God, yea, even the God of Abraham and Isaac and of Jacob.

 

The Lord explained to Alma that he tries the patience and the faith of his people.  The question is why.  The answer is not difficult to understand but sometimes difficult to live.  Untested faith isn’t much faith at all.  You will never know if, where and how much the roof leaks until it rains.  And so the Lord places us under conditions of stress and it quickly reveals our level of faith and where the water is leaking in.  Logically this makes sense.  If we want deep faith and a true testimony then it must be tested, not simply so that the Lord can measure our faith.  He already knows the level of our faith.  The test is for us to understand our level and quality of faith.  Through trials the Lord exposes our depth of faith, patience and trust in him.  We find out how solid the roof is when the rains pour and the winds howl.  The purpose of this personal discovery process is to allow us to evaluate our faith and then deepen our trust in the Lord and his atonement.  We go up on the roof and fix the leaks. 

What is interesting about the Lord’s method is that he doesn’t stop the rain for us to fix the leaks.  So often our trial of faith remains with all its hellish wind and rain and we are standing on the roof just trying to hold on and patch the holes.  The Lord’s methodology rarely is to expose the leaks and then give us plentiful time to fix them before the next storm arrives.  He causes us to feel storm after storm.  Often we question why?  Why not give some respite to allow for the patching?

Actually Alma’s people give us the answer to that question. Mosiah 24

12 And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their ahearts to him; and he did know the bthoughts of their hearts.

13 And it acame to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

14 And I will also ease the aburdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as bwitnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their cafflictions.

15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did astrengthen them that they could bear up their bburdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with cpatience to all the will of the Lord.

16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.

 

You see the Lord wants more than just to fix the leaks.  He wants to replace the roof, strengthen the rafters and reinforce the walls.  He doesn’t want just a patch job but a remodel.  He doesn’t want us to simply patch a few holes for the roof to continue to deteriorate and we end up patching more and more holes.  We have really fixed nothing if we remain as we were.  The point of all of this is to create necessary change and that type of change rarely comes during moments of respite and comfort.  Now the Lord does not leave us to ourselves to fight through the storm and work out our own salvation while he stands on the sidelines shouting instructions.  He might still communicate instructions, but as we submit to his will as did Alma and his people did, we find that not only does he provide instruction but he provides the strength and ability to accomplish it.

What is unique about the process of submitting to the Lord’s will is we gain access to the grace clause of the atonement.  Alma’s people submitted fully to the Lord’s will and he strengthened them that they could bear up their burdens.  When we submit to the Lord, we invoke the grace clause of the atonement contract.  The Lord can then bring to bear the powers of the atonement in our behalf.  The question then arises does it mean to submit fully to the Lord’s will? 

It means that despite our trials and troubles and the multitude of pain and suffering, we allow the Lord to determine the timing of our ultimate healing and we bear our burdens understanding that the Lord knows what he is doing.  We fully trust the Lord and that he hears every prayer, even when it doesn’t feel that way.  We avoid complaining to the Lord, because complaints are simply portions of our soul we have not fully given to the Lord.  It is as if we hold back a portion from him and then whine about how difficult it is to bear.  I admit fully committing ourselves to the Lord’s will is not an easy thing to accomplish.  Saying “Thy will be done” and truly meaning it are two very different things.  Yet as we hold back our will we cause two major issues.  The first is that when we hold back a portion from the Lord, he can only offer us a portion of grace, not the entire package afforded to us by the atonement.  The second is we cannot fully experience the peace we desire.  Peace comes in proportion to our willingness to give all to the Lord.  When we hold back a portion, we are holding back a portion of the peace we could have.

When we submit fully to the Lord, we are doing two things.  We are allowing him to fully direct our lives in the sense of personal revelation.  And in so doing we leave nothing on the table placing our entire life upon the alter.  If the Lord desires that we move to another part of the country, we do so.  If he asks us to comfort another person, then we take the time to accomplish it.  We give up what we desire to do for what the Lord desires we do.  This doesn’t mean that we can’t pursue worthy goals, or find time to have hobbies or do those things we love to do.  It simply means that the Lord is always the priority not anything else including family, friends, parents, work, career or even a terrible trial.  It means that if the Lord desires that we continue to suffer through our mental health challenges to aid ourselves and others in learning, patience, compassion, love, tolerance, and so many other divine qualities, then we allow it to occur.  This does not mean we can’t ask for healing and relief.  It means when we do we accept what the Lord gives us and we don’t complain about what we are not receiving.  When we do this and fully accept the Lord’s will for us, the strengthening will come and we will have the same deep witness as the people of Alma, that the Lord provides strength, endurance and power to those who suffer through difficult moments.

Now something important that I have learned all too often and seems to be one of those things that I find difficulty in remembering.  Just because Alma’s people were strengthened, doesn’t mean that their muscles didn’t ache, that they weren’t tired at the end of the day, that their masters didn’t treat them harshly at times, that they didn’t struggle and toil and still question why once in a while.  It means that overall the Lord provided and they could feel the strength he provided.

I served a mission a couple of decades ago and I have stated rather bluntly that I struggled deeply through that missionary service.  I may even had stated a time or two that I never really felt very effective.  However, I can witness that when you submit to the Lord’s will he does provide.  He provided every day of my mission.  Without this additional grace, fortitude and strength I would have returned home within a few months of service.  Given the state of my illness, I should not have been able to serve a mission.  Yet the Lord allowed me to serve and remain, even when I might not have been the most spectacular missionary.  He could still use me in my weakened state to do good and to provide teaching moments for his children.  If I truly look back, the Lord provided a great deal of strength and help through out my mission.  Yes I had very difficult days and dark moments but I admit that suicide or any serious mental health issue never arose.  That in and of itself is a miracle for which I was very grateful.  And it has always been a witness to me of his ability to provide this strengthening power.

Now I am not saying that individuals who have returned home did not give their whole soul to the Lord and did everything they could to submit to the Lord’s will.  It just happened that the Lord’s will for me was to remain in the mission.  For others, the Lord’s will was that they return home.  There exists no wrong or right path in that sense except that the Lord’s will is accomplished.  Each path will provide necessary learning moments and opportunities for service.  I have never once looked down upon anyone who has returned home from a mission early.  I never consider returning home at any time returning early.  When you return home within the Lord’s will then you didn’t come home early.  You came home when the Lord desired you to come home.  As Elder Bednar once said, a mission is up to 24 months of service.  The key is to submit to the will of the Lord and the pathway he has chosen for you.  When you do this, peace, a true peace, will come deeply into your soul through the atonement of Christ. It is here where we find the answer to true peace.  Submitting our will to the Lord and allowing him to take control of our lives is where our river of peace starts.  The more deeply we commit to the Lord the deeper the peace we will find.  

It is very common for this process to be a lengthy process.  Fully committing our will to the Lord often comes in stages.  It is rare that we accomplish the process in a short timeframe and those who do have been given a gift.  More often giving our will to the Lord works its way deeper and deeper into our soul, until we reach that core emotional wall.  It is also rare that someone gives their will without increasingly difficult storms and trials of life.  So often it is these trials that bring us to those precious moments of willingness.  When we are able to break through the reinforced walls of the natural man or woman and give our will to him.  Now giving our will can sometimes feel that we are losing control of our lives and we our allowing someone else to control who we are and what we do.  Similar to our mental health issues that rob us of our desire and ability.  We already spend a great deal of time being controlled by a terrible master who wields our emotional motivations and desires in deeply troubling ways.  However, we are not giving our will to an authoritarian dictator whose only desire is to rule over us.  We give our will to the Lord because his only desire is to transform our lives in positive and powerful ways.  He desires to make more of us, not rule over us.

When we give our will to the Lord allowing him to transform our lives through our trials.  Three very unique gifts occur through the power of the Atonement.  The first is the transformation of our lives and our nature.  The second is the peace that it brings to our lives.  And third is the witness we obtain. I can witness to you that when I have given my will over to the Lord, my life has changed and I have experienced the witnessing moments, the transformation and the deep feelings of peace.  Yes I had to walk through the storms and biting wind and rain.  But I only did so alone when I chose that path.  When I allowed the Lord to guide my path, my life has always been transformed and I have felt his love and peace.  If I could give one gift to anyone, it would be this feeling of peace and assurance.  And yet I like Alma sin in my wish, as that gift is a personal one that comes directly from a loving Savior who suffered deeply that he might be able to give it to you personally.  I hope that in all of your suffering, trouble, and difficulty you find this peace and assurance.  Until next week, do your part and give your will so that the Lord can most assuredly do his.