Episode #204 - How Do We Know?

November 20, 2023 Damon Socha Season 1 Episode 204
Episode #204 - How Do We Know?
Show Notes Transcript

How do we know if we are on the path to celestial life?

Episode #204 – How Do You Know?  Again I apologize for being late this week.  It seems that my pain and suffering get the best of me once in a while and this particular weekend was one of those weekends.  On a different note, after you have listened today, if you would pass this episode along to another person whom you think might be able to benefit, I would appreciate it and I know they would as well. For about the last six months, I have been listening to audio books before I go to sleep.  I enjoy books but I am not a novel person.  I really don’t listen to novels or fiction.  I generally listen to doctrinal books or at times biographies.  While I enjoy a good biography, especially those of men and women I admire, I struggle with many of them.  I often don’t finish them, especially when they are about general authorities.  I have started many and finished few.  Maybe I am alone in my struggle but I tend to think that I am not.   They make me feel terribly inadequate and somewhat depressed at my own life.  I just finished a book about the President Nelson and got about half way through President Oaks book.  I admire men of that stature but it really reminds me just how weak I really am in comparison.  Yes I know that I should not compare.  I have spoken about that very thing regularly.  I have also noted that our brains are wired to do so.  

When you really want to know what it takes to obtain celestial life, you tend to look for examples of people who you think are probably going to make it.  And while no one person can say for certain, I would assume that the apostles and first presidency are probably a fairly good bet.  So we watch these individuals carefully, we even do it subconsciously.  We want to understand what makes them tick.  Why they do what they do.  What they are thinking and feeling.  Somewhere deep inside us and maybe not so deep we feel that if we can model what they do we might just have a chance at redemption.  Maybe we can do just enough to squeak into the celestial gates.  This probably sounds strange but sometimes I just hope for a small cottage on the wall of Zion and maybe just be a greeter at the city gates.  Not even sure if they have gates, walls or greeters.  They can give me a small garden a couple of animals and hopefully my companion.  I suppose that will be up to her.

The point is that biographies especially those of the Prophet and President Oaks didn’t make me feel all warm a fuzzy about my chances.  I think President Oaks did more good and more work by the time he was 30 years old that I doubt I would have any chance of matching him in my lifetime.  Again not a competition and I know that.  And don’t get me wrong, if I were the Lord I would choose exceptional men and women to lead the church.  So the biographies don’t surprise me.  But they don’t help either.

I suppose in some ways it would be nice to see the biography of someone who I could feel that same level of celestial confidence but who struggled a lifetime with mental and emotional illness.  Or who didn’t quite have the energy and strength to accomplish as much.  I know that we have good examples such as President Kimball and his physical struggles, and George Albert Smith and his bouts of depression.  I have certain read some wonderful things about them and their struggles.  Sometimes I guess I would love to see someone similar to my own weaknesses and struggles speak from that pulpit.  Someone whom I would know understands my personal struggles, my difficulties with depression, bipolar, anxiety and just in general mental health concerns.  I suppose that it is natural to want to see someone like ourselves succeeding in ways we also desire to succeed.  Yes Elder Holland did a wonderful job of speaking to mental health issues and I do cherish his words but his bout of depression was quite limited in scope, time and depth.  

Why do we desire such things?  What is it that makes us feel as though we are not good enough?  Why do biographies of wonderful men and women cause me to feel my own weakness so deeply?  Why do I feel that the Lord would not accept of my offering?  Those biographies and other instances have really caused me to ponder and think about my perception of redemption, salvation and exaltation.

I know that those of us who suffer regularly with episodes small and sometimes not so small, struggle deeply with the idea that someone as weak as we are would be acceptable to the Lord.  And yes the emotional altering nature of our illness does not help us in rectifying those feelings of inadequacy.  I feel it all too regularly.  The feeling really is lonely.  It is as if we are standing on the outside looking into celestial life and between us and Zion stands that beast we can’t ever seem to escape.

I have said it before in my podcasts.  The reality that anything stands between us and celestial life is really a false narrative spun very well by Lucifer and his minions.  I know that nothing stands between myself and celestial life.  I know that the race I run is individual, provided specifically for my good is different than anyone else and comparison is again one of Lucifer’s methods of madness.  And yet I feel those glaring weaknesses and the distance between myself and what I would like to be.

And so here I am between what I know to be true and the lies that Lucifer proliferates around me.  I suppose that the real question is how can anyone know, especially when they suffer with an illness that directly affects their ability to know.  How do you know if you are running the race at the pace and in the direction you need to be running?  Especially when faith is an emotional state that falters regularly with each episode.  How do you circumvent the feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, fear and everything we feel and don’t feel to rise to the level of I have a chance to make it?

One answer is that we will not always be able to feel it.  I don’t think that is a secret.  Our illness by its very nature takes that away from us. You will not be able to circumvent it.  You will feel worthless, incomplete and unable to achieve celestial life.  We are living in a strange new world.  One in which we have never experienced.  Physical bodies and the chemistry of life was part of the test.  The Lord could have designed mortality any way he desired and yet what we experience is what he provided.  Given that he is omniscient and has the history of eternities at his disposal, I would have to assume that what we have in mortality is perfect.  Perfect in the sense that it provides the absolute ideal laboratory in which to refine a celestial life.  The life that you have been given has been individually tailored in that mortal laboratory to your premortal experiences, weaknesses, strengths and individuality.  Nothing in our life is random or of no value, unless of course we walk away from the protection of the Lord, then naturally we can walk into things that may not possess or provide value.  When we work with the Lord our lives are woven into the fabric we created in our premortal life.

We are refined and tutored by our experiences.  How a life with mental health challenges fits into that narrative I don’t always know.  It has certainly expanded my understanding of the gospel in ways that I could have experienced in no other way.  But exactly how my illness pertains to and aids me in my quest for celestial life is for me not always clear.  Would I like it to be far more clear at times?  Of course I would.  But trust and faith are key elements of mortality.  They always have been.  Faith is one of the most important elements of this life and by extension critical to celestial life.  We spend a great deal of time developing, maintaining and working towards greater faith.  A good portion of the written word has been dedicated to faith and through faith the changing of our nature.

While this life is most certainly a test.  It is a test with a significant learning component.  Normally a test would simply be a practical examination of what we already know but in the Lord’s world testing also comes with learning and with learning and expansion of the soul.  We have not been sent to mortality to simply change our behavior.  Behavior modification is not necessarily change.   Behavior modification can come from aligning motivational sources to the behavior we want to see.  The change of nature that we need.  The changing of our core nature requires deep learning and moments where stretching of the soul can occur.  I have learned there is a sacred space where we view our weakness in its entirety.  When we see ourselves for who we really are.  When we reach the end of our rope and our capacity.  When we have come to that point when we feel we can give no more, then the Lord can expand our soul and mold our nature.  When life is good and we are free from trial and difficulty, our souls tend to contract and to get mired in mediocrity.  We see no need for change or any value in its difficult, dark places.  When we feel all is well in zion, we feel that we have no need of repentance or modification.  We can even feel entitled to celestial life in that state of mind.

True change, true repentance as it might be called is found in those Liberty Jail moments, what some have called a prison temple.  Those moments when mortality becomes all too real and the things of this world are stripped away and we seek for more eternal natures.  I admit that I do not enjoy my moments of suffering and pain.  I don’t think than anyone enjoys those moments.  I doubt that we think, this is good for me to be here.  I can learn so much in this place of pain and suffering.  But it is a sacred space and when we are long past into eternal life we will value these moments more than all the beautiful, peaceful moments.  This is our time to learn, to experience, to find understanding and become like our Father.  If those moments provided no significant value, then we would not experience them.  No Father or mother for that matter would place their child in a position of deep pain and suffering without a significant reason to do so.  In fact, as mortal parents we would only allow it under life and death circumstances.  We do not desire that our children suffer and we often suffer right along with them.  I have no doubt that a perfect Father and Mother would feel the same.  When we are trying to live the gospel and maybe even failing, but we are trying then no suffering should be seen as some type of punishment, disregard for our happiness, aloofness or lack of concern for us as our Father’s children.  Every moment we experience difficulty, trial, heartache, pain and the strangeness of mortality that has been given and allowed to be a part of our experience is for our good and ultimately to provide for celestial life.

So often we think of our illness as preventing us from returning to our celestial home, when in reality it is our illness that just might be the difference between a celestial, eternal life and one of a lesser class.  I know that is a tough reality and I am not sure that I have even come to fully accept it.  However, when you consider a loving Father and that his created mortality must be the perfect environment to provide for celestial life, then there can be no other conclusion.  He would not exclude us from his presence but does everything to bring us home.  And so how do we know that we are going to make it, because the Lord in his mercy chooses not to give into the easy path and allow for easy roads that do not lead to salvation.  If we in faith ask that we be healed and the Lord says no, then we should know that we are headed towards celestial life otherwise he would heal us.  If we find ourselves limited emotionally, physically and mentally, and we are trying to live the gospel then it is part of our celestializing process.

I know that it doesn’t always make sense and I suppose that in this life it might not entirely ever make sense to us.  But if an omniscient God with a perfect plan for mortality sees value in mental health challenges then who am I to question his methods.  My answer to the question as to how I know that I am on the path to celestial life is that the Lord continues to tutor me in difficult ways.  My mental health challenges in some strange mortal way is the Lord’s method of telling me that my path is secure and that he is watching over me and cares enough to continue to mentor and tutor me.  I hope that you can see the Lord’s love in his methods even when those methods might be terribly difficult, painful and troubling.  When we get to the end of our rope and we reach out to the Lord, we are in a sacred space.  Until next week, do your part so that the Lord can do his.