Friday, January 30, 2009

Patience Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

"Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities." A generous dose of humor helps too...and the following commercial is a good example of that.    

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Don't Drink, Don't Smoke...what do you do?

If you know a Mormon, you've probably noticed that we don't drink and we don't smoke.  It's probably one of the first social differences that sets us apart from other people.  As a single woman, I remember saying the words "No, thanks, I don't drink," more times than I can count. These days, I am forever explaining why I don't drink coffee and other caffeinated beverages.

For members of the church, abstinence from tobacco and alcohol stems from a set of guidelines called the Word of Wisdom.  The Word of Wisdom is a law of health revealed by the Lord that promises physical and spiritual benefits for all who follow it.  These promises include wisdom and great treasures of knowledge and the ability to run and not be weary and walk and not faint.

When this law was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the early days of the church, the medical and scientific world was unaware of the harmful effects of these substances.  Only recently, have doctors caught up with the wisdom of the inspired words of this prophet of God.

Recent studies of the health benefits of living a Mormon lifestyle indicates that on average, Latter-day Saints live significantly longer.  An article published in the Ensign magazine last year discusses decreased cancer deaths and the Word of Wisdom.  The author, a doctor, says that the average Mormon male living in Utah lives 7.3 years longer than his non-LDS counterpart.  LDS women live an extra 5.8 years.  (Another study found LDS living 10 years longer.)  You can read the rest of the article here.  

As part of this health code, we also try to eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.  We are to avoid illegal drugs and any substance that is not good for the body.  You can read the full doctrine of the Word of Wisdom here.

I can remember trying to convince a friend of mine in middle school to stop smoking.  I thought that because I didn't smoke I could beat him in a race.  That wasn't the best bet to make, because he totally whipped me and proved me wrong!  For me, the spiritual benefits of living by the Word of Wisdom are subtle, yet significant.

While not every person will be granted the ability to win a foot race, avoid cancer, or live as long as they'd like, everyone who lives by the code of health found in the Word of Wisom will enjoy an increased portion of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  And everyone will have the ability to come closer to our Savior Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mind Your "Dang" Language

I love to see people standing up for virtue in all of its forms.  NPR just did a story about Mckay Hatch, a 15 year-old boy from Pasadena, California, who started a "No Cussing Club" with his friends at school.  He also posted his own rap video on Youtube, has grown his club to 30,000 members through his website, and has a book due out soon.  

Mormons are discouraged from using profanity, which includes irreverent reference to any member of the Godhead.  The standards for language outlined in "For The Strength of Youth" instructs us to, "Use language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others.  Do not insult others or put them down, even in joking.  Speak kindly and positively about others so you can fulfill the Lord's commandment to love one another.  When you use good language, you invite the Spirit to be with you."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What Our Senses Tell Us About Christ

We had a very interesting Family Home Evening tonight that began as a lesson about our senses and become much more.  First of all, Family Home Evening or F.H.E. is our opportunity to spend time and have fun together as a family every Monday night.  It is also a wonderful chance to share the basic truths of the gospel with each other.

My husband Steve planned an activity during which our children (ages 3 years, 20 months, and 3 months) had to use their senses to discover what objects Steve had hidden under a blanket.  They used their ears to hear a tambourine, their hands to feel a soft stuffed animal, and their eyes to see a block.  They used their tongues to distinguish between two small piles of granuals on a plate--learning by tasting that one pile was sugar and the other salt.  

Steve explained to them that the Lord has given us our senses so that we can experience, understand, and discern things in the world around us.  He gave us our senses because he wants us to use them to be happy.  The children absolutely loved this lesson.  It really clicked with them.

Steve then explained to the children that we have been given another sense of feeling that is very special--our hearts.  He told them that we use our hearts and minds to feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost and that this is another important sense that God has given us that we can use to know and understand him.

We paused for a some rice crispie treats and continued on this theme of using our senses to discern things when I chose a scripture out of the Book of Mormon to read to them before they hopped into bed.  I showed them a few pictures of Jesus Christ, and we talked about how they can look at pictures of Christ and that because of the Book of Mormon, we know that many people have actually seen Christ in person.  

Because of this record, we know that many people not only saw him, but they heard him speak, and they felt the wounds in his hands and feet.  And we know that someday, we too will see his face and we will have the opportunity to do likewise, allowing all of our senses to confirm what we know now and feel in our hearts is true, that Christ lives.  

Monday, January 26, 2009

It's a ME WORLD Afterall...

When I am in the company of friends, I often joke about how vain I am.  This helps me to keep my weakness in check and provides for a good laugh at my expense.  It's much easier to be the one delivering the punchline when I am the subject of the joke!  As a result, I end up thinking about Vanity a lot, and its older, more commanding cousin Selfishness.

The late Apostle Neil A. Maxwell spoke eloquently about every man's battle with selfishness and putting off what we call the natural man--or the natural self-centered tendencies of man.  He said that selfishness is the detonator that leads to the breaking of every commandment and that if left unchecked "selfishness...stubbornly blocks the way for developing all of the divine qualities:  love, mercy, patience, long-suffering, kindness, graciousness, goodness, and gentleness."

While I was in the temple this weekend, I spent time contemplating how well I am shedding selfishness and what behaviors I need to do away with in order to cultivate more Christ-like actions in my life.

Even as Jesus Christ placed everything on the altar in his sacrifice for all Mankind, so must each of us place all that we have--our weaknesses, most especially--on the altar to be given away for more noble attributes, if we are ever to become like Him.

Elder Maxwell made the following comparisions between men and women of Christ and men and women who give in to their natural tendencies.  He said that men and women of Christ are quick to praise others, but are also able to practice restraint.  For instance, they know that sometimes "the biting of the tongue can be as important as the gift of tongues."

Furthermore, he says, men and women of Christ are the "same in private as in public," and like Christ, they never brush aside people who need their help because they have more important things to do.

Maxwell also says that whereas the natural man vents his anger, men and women of Christ are not easily provoked and are not as concerned with riches or with the praise of men.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we Mormons attend the temple in order to learn more about Christ, to further understand His teachings, to contemplate our relationship with Him, and to contemplate how well we are doing at implementing his example in our daily lives.  

Now that I am back in the world, where everything is about focusing on self, the choice is before me to focus on unselfishness.  Wish me luck...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Friends At First, Are Friends At Last


“One of the most pleasing scenes that can occur on earth, when a sin has been committed by one person against another, is, to forgive that sin; and then according to the sublime and perfect pattern of the Savior, pray to our Father in heaven to forgive [the sinner] also.”4

-The Prophet Joseph Smith

I too believe that an act of forgiveness is one of the most pleasing scenes played out in this life.  Whether you are on the giving or receiving end, both parties benefit from such a transaction.  Because of this, the Prophet Joseph Smith also counsels us to, “Ever keep in exercise the principle of mercy, and be ready to forgive our brother on the first intimations of repentance, and asking forgiveness; and should we even forgive our brother, or even our enemy, before he repent or ask forgiveness, our heavenly Father would be equally as merciful unto us.”5

Joseph Smith continues, “Suppose that Jesus Christ and holy angels should object to us on frivolous things, what would become of us? We must be merciful to one another, and overlook small things.”8

Joseph Smith showed us by example that sometimes forgiveness takes persistance and work and determination.  On January 1, 1836, the Prophet said the following about his efforts to resolve [a] difficulty in his family: “...my heart is pained within me, because of the difficulty that exists in my father’s family. … I am determined that nothing on my part shall be lacking to adjust and amicably dispose of and settle all family difficulties on this day, that the ensuing year and years, be they few or many, may be spent in righteousness before God. …"

But one of the best lines I have read that captures the sweetness and beauty of forgiveness was written by Joseph in a letter to a friend.  Joseph wrote, "Come on, dear brother, since the war is past, For friends at first, are friends again at last."

Forgiveness is poetic, powerful, and possible for all of us to extend to others.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Day Away From It All

I'm going to the temple tomorrow with a few friends.  It will be a nice, peaceful, well-needed break from daily life.  (That is why I am sending this virtual kiss to my faithful husband for taking care of our three babies while I am gone!  The real kisses come later!)  

Anyway, the church's website has a page that answers a lot of questions about temples.  
To check it out, click here.

"Let's become a temple-attending and temple-loving people. I bear testimony that the temple is about families. I also testify that everything in the temple testifies of Jesus Christ. His example of love and service is felt there. The temple is His holy house. I know that He is the Son of God, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Mediator, and our Advocate with the Father. He loves us and wants our families to be happy and to be together forever. He wants all of us to be active in His temple." - Richard Winkel, Nov. 2006

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hold Fast To That Which Is Good: Our Families

"Parents and children should realize that strong opposition will always come against the work and will of the Lord. Because the work (and glory) of God is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life as a family, it logically follows that the work of the adversary will strike directly at the heart of the home—the family. Relentlessly Lucifer attacks the sanctity of life and the joy of parenthood.

"Because the evil one is ever at work, our vigilance cannot be relaxed—not even for a moment.  Night and day, at home or away, we must shun sin and 'hold fast that which is good.' " - Russell M. Nelson"Set in Order Thy House," Ensign, Nov. 2001, 71

How do we hold fast to the best things in order to safeguard our families? In addition to following the commandments, here are some ideas from the Family section of For The Strength of Youth:  

“Be cheerful, helpful, and considerate of others. … Concern yourself with the needs of other family members. …

“Honor your parents by showing love and respect for them and by being obedient. … Participate in family activities and traditions, including family prayer, family home evenings, and family scripture reading. These traditions strengthen and unify families. …

“Strengthen your relationships with your brothers and sisters. They can become your closest friends”

And from the Family Proclamation:  "Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. "

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Functional Family

The February 2009 Ensign magazine is not online yet, but it has a wonderful article in it called "The Functional Family" that offers wisdom as we seek to strengthen our families.  I will share a few points points from the article here with you.

The writer of this article, James D. MacArthur is a professional family and couples counselor and he offers this advice:

"People seem to think that family members in functional families get along perfectly and solve problems together perfectly.  Of course, the reality is that calling a family "functional" does not mean the family is perfect.  All families face challenges in dealing with the unique personalities of family members.  However, in a family that functions well, family members recognize that they have weaknesses, and they work to improve their relationships despite their weaknesses."

1.  In the functional family, parents focus their energy on teaching their children correct principles and allowing them to exercise their agency.

2.  In the functional family, parents intentionally strengthen their families:  This includes regularly pondering the needs of family members so that "circumstances, other people, or old habits" do not end up "dictating how you respond to a given situation".  He says that regularly considering your family's needs will give you 'time to consider the changes you and your family may need to make'".

3.  In the functional family, relationships are of supreme importance:  The author writes, "It's a good idea to regularly examine the condition of each relationship in the family....Of course, that raises a question:  when you realize that someone in your family needs some help either in a relationship with you or with someone else, how do you help things improve?  One thing I've learned is that relationship usually don't get better accidentally; rather, they improve when we make that result a priority."

4.  In the functional family, parents are active teachers:  

5.  In the functional family, parents lead by example:  The author says, "Children are always watching and observing our behavior, whether we know it or not.  In my role as a father, I regularly take stock of my behavior by asking myself, 'Can I recommend to my children that they follow my example both publicly and privately?'  If the answer is no, I make corrections where needed."

6.  Finally, in the functional family, parents teach their children faith in our Heavenly Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ:  

"Remember to be patient with yourself and your family members.  Relationships usually improve in stages, not overnight.  Strengthening them requires time and effort.  However, as you strive to have a functional family based on the teachings of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His restored gospel, you will provide your family the best opportunity to grow closer together and to face challenges with a greater sense of harmony and happiness." 

To read the rest of this article, check back here around Feb 1st.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Never, Never, Never, Never, Never Give Up.

Family is forever.  
This life is not.  
That is why we must never, never, never, never, never give up on each other.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Change Is Gonna Do Me Good

Some say that insanity is doing the same things over and over again expecting different results.  When I was younger I never understood why a phrase like that even existed.  It seemed like common sense.  But now I see the simple wisdom in these words.

Like it or not, we live life by trial and error a lot of the time.  Learning from our mistakes and changing our behavior requires humility and courage.  It also requires the Atonement of Jesus Christ to forgive, forget, and truly Change ourselves from the inside.  (The following graphic illustrates how change must originate from the individual and radiate to the world around us, not the other way around.)


One of our church leaders has said, "...realize that it’s okay to make a mistake—even [a painful one]. One of Satan’s greatest lies is that trial and error learning is wrong. It’s true that it hurts, but much of our mortal experience is composed of trial and error learning. Repentance wouldn’t even be possible if our Father hadn’t known before we started that mistakes would be a part of our learning process."

So, don't get down on yourself (or others) if you have made errors in judgment on the road of life.  Just commit to CHANGE!  I know that I have!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

React Better.

I LOVE mantras.  They motivate me and keep me moving in the right direction.  One of my favorite books, called Magic Words, is a fun read that is all about compiling your own key phrases that work like magic to get you through difficult situations.  Today in church, I picked up a fantastic new set of magic words:  React better.

Our speaker told us how her mother always responded to her siblings' squabbles by saying simply "React better."  She said that we have countless opportunities every day to choose how we will react to situations and to other people.  

The speaker then quoted Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, who said, "The way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy or successful we can be in life.  Have you ever seen an angry driver who, when someone else makes a mistake, reacts as though that person has insulted his honor, his family, his dog, and his ancestors all the way back to Adam?  There is an antedote for times such as these: learn to laugh."

Of course, there are more serious altercations in life than traffic faux pas that are a bit harder to simply shrug off--but shrug we must if we want to turn the potential thunderstorms of life into mere passing rainclouds.  Remember that, no matter how intense the offense, the scriptures tell us that God expects us to "forgive all men."

Quoting Elder Lionel Kendrick, our speaker said, "In this life...even if personal freedoms are restricted or taken away, [we] can choose how to feel and how to react."  The choice is always ours.

This wonderful speaker continued, "Of course with the freedom of our agency comes risks and the inevitable mistakes we will make on our path through life.  That is why agency is intertwined with the Atonement--Through the Atonement [of Jesus Christ] we can be cleansed from sin."  --allowing us to learn from our missteps and choose to react better next time.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Our Hearts Knit As One


I love this picture of my family.  I love my siblings.  I love my parents and grandparents.  For the majority of my life it has been easy for me to feel peace and happiness in the presence of my family.  We have fun together.  Living under the same roof often requires that you at least try to understand one another.  But what happens when time and distance separate a family?  When communication breaks down, misunderstandings arise.  

Every family travels rough roads from time to time.  It is how we handle these bumps that determines whether we will become more united or further estranged.  I believe that Satan has it out for families.  He knows that we can experience the most joy and better meet our spiritual aspirations within a happy united family unit.  His relentless attacks on family ties can affect even the most solid relationships.  If we allow him to feed on our weaknesses and pride he will succeed in dividing us.  That is why staying close to the Spirit and living by the counsel of modern prophets is so important for us today.  

Looking for a little guidance on how I might become better at strengthening my own family relationships, I listened to a talk called "Our Hearts Knit As One" given by the Apostle Henry B. Eyring in the last General Conference of the church.  I think his words apply equally to family units although he was referring to unity within the church.

He suggested that to be united, we must seek personal revelation, remain humble, and avoid pride, speak well of each other, keep the commandments, and be a peacemaker.  He said that to be a peacemaker, we must help others recognize the common ground we share as children of God.  

I am happiest when I am living in harmony with the people I hold most dear.  So, I hope that I can take this advice to heart and try harder to strengthen my family near and far and to sew seeds of unity.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Sanctity of Life:

Elder Russell M. Nelson has said, "As sons and daughters of God, we cherish life as a gift from Him. His eternal plan provides opportunities for His children to obtain physical bodies, to gain earthly experiences, and to realize their divine destinies as heirs of eternal life.1

With that understanding and reverence for life, we deplore the loss of life associated with warfare. The data are appalling. In World War I, more than 8 million military fatalities occurred. In World War II, more than 22 million servicemen and women died.2 Together, these two wars, covering portions of 14 years, cost the lives of at least 30 million soldiers worldwide. That figure does not include the millions of civilian casualties.


These data, however, are dwarfed by the toll of another war that claims more casualties annually than did World War I and World War II combined. Worldwide reports indicate that more than 40 million abortions are performed per year.3

This war called abortion is a war on the defenseless and the voiceless. It is a war on the unborn. This war is being waged globally. Ironically, civilized societies that have generally placed safeguards on human life have now passed laws that sanction this practice."  

Our civilized society is on the verge of enacting laws (The Freedom of Choice Act) that would do away with many restrictions on abortion.  I have written before about how I feel about the "choice" argument.  Elder Nelson says, "When the controversies about abortion are debated, “individual right of choice” is invoked as though it were the one supreme virtue. That could only be true if but one person were involved. The rights of any one individual do not allow the rights of another individual to be abused. In or out of marriage, abortion is not solely an individual matter. Terminating the life of a developing baby involves two individuals with separate bodies, brains, and hearts. A woman’s choice for her own body does not include the right to deprive her baby of life—and a lifetime of choices that her child would make.  As Latter-day Saints, we should stand up for choice—the right choice—not simply for choice as a method."

To learn more about the "Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA) go to this website.

To read the rest of this article by Russell M. Nelson, click here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Key to Eternal Family Ties: Temples

Most people believe or hope that there is some sort of existence after this life.  And most of us envision ourselves meeting up with loved ones when we pass from this life to the next.  For those people who hope to be with their family in the eternities, I have this precious truth to share:  Families are sealed together as an eternal unit in the Temples of the LDS church.  These sealing (marriage) ordinances, performed in temples all over the world, are available to all who are willing to seek after them by preparing and living according to God's commands.

I realize that this concept might be difficult to fully comprehend and will most likely require more explanation and personal exploration.  But for anyone wondering what happens inside our temples, this is one purpose of the important work we do there.

In the January 2009 Ensign Magazine, church leader Henry B. Eyring said to the members of the church, "...at some moment in the world to come, everyone you met in this life will know what you know now. They will know that the only way to live forever in association with our families and in the presence of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, is to choose to enter into the gate by baptism at the hands of those with authority from God. They will know that the only way families can be together forever is to accept and keep sacred covenants offered in the temples of God on this earth. They will know that you knew. And they will remember whether you offered them what someone had offered you."

So, I am offering you what has been offered to me:  further enlightenment about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes the ability for families to live happily on earth and to live together in peace and happiness for Eternity.  If you would like to learn more about Eternal families, Temple covenants, and how these blessings are extended to Everyone who ever lived, just follow the links in this post.  Temples are key to a true eternal "happily ever after".

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

For the Strength of Families


On September 23, 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley, the 15th President of the Church, read the following proclamation in a general Relief Society meeting. This inspired proclamation, titled "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," has become the Church's definitive statement on the family:

"We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

"All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

"In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.

"The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

"We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God's eternal plan.

"Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. 'Children are an heritage of the Lord' (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

"The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.

"We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

"We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society" (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nothing Beyond His Healing Touch

From time to time, each of us will feel darkness and even depression crowding in around us.  Most of us are lucky enough to snap out of it, but for those suffering from a mental illness, this darkness is difficult to outrun, try as they may.  It is difficult to diagnose and even harder to understand.  So, as I ponder the many ways that we can choose happiness in our lives, I must also consider those who struggle with all of their being to find this state of peace that many of us take for granted.

I read an article recently, written by someone who has a mental illness.  It was published in the January 2009 edition of the church's Ensign Magazine.  I will share the entire article below.

I found this section particularly compelling:

The gospel teaches us about perfection and the joy that comes with it, but some of us expect perfection of ourselves instead of seeking to be perfected in Christ. I struggled with the large gap between perfection and where I perceived I stood, made even more obvious by my illness. I regained hope when I realized that although sin is an imperfection, not all imperfection is sin.

Believing that we should achieve perfection on our own, some of us fill our lives with crippling guilt and an unforgiving attitude toward our inevitable human weakness. We limit our potential for growth through a faithless, unreasonable approach to life. A better approach is to channel our weakness so that instead of filling us with self-loathing, it helps us find humility and strengthen our faith in the Savior. In partnership with Him, we can overcome our weakness as well as our sins. True humility will help us understand our worth despite mental illness—or any other human frailty. It engenders confidence and a realization of the potential each of us has for good.


During the Atonement, Christ suffered not just for our sins, but for every pain, illness, and even heartache that we would feel in this life.  He did this so that he would better know how to succor us (or "run to us") in our hour of need.  I believe this.  I have experienced a tiny but significant bit of his ability to "run to us" when we really need him.  And most fervently, I hope that if you know someone who might suffer from depression or some other mental health issue, that you will help them find help, peace, and understanding.

Here are a few resources followed by the article that I mentioned:


Receiving the diagnosis was devastating. What kind of future would I have?

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a college student, shortly after returning from my mission. Receiving the diagnosis of mood highs and lows was devastating. I was already in a deep depression, and the news sent me reeling. I reevaluated my sense of self-worth and wondered how I was going to reconcile my expectations for my future with this illness. As I learned more about bipolar disorder, I began to question everything in my life. Fortunately, with the passage of time and through the grace of Heavenly Father, I came through this difficult time a stronger person. My faith was renewed and strengthened.

I wish to share some of my experiences with this illness and the lessons I have learned through them. In doing so, I hope to help those with similar challenges and give insight to those with loved ones who struggle with mental illness. I also hope to dispel some misconceptions and increase understanding about people who are mentally ill.

Perfection and Humility

The gospel teaches us about perfection and the joy that comes with it, but some of us expect perfection of ourselves instead of seeking to be perfected in Christ. I struggled with the large gap between perfection and where I perceived I stood, made even more obvious by my illness. I regained hope when I realized that although sin is an imperfection, not all imperfection is sin.

Believing that we should achieve perfection on our own, some of us fill our lives with crippling guilt and an unforgiving attitude toward our inevitable human weakness. We limit our potential for growth through a faithless, unreasonable approach to life. A better approach is to channel our weakness so that instead of filling us with self-loathing, it helps us find humility and strengthen our faith in the Savior. In partnership with Him, we can overcome our weakness as well as our sins. True humility will help us understand our worth despite mental illness—or any other human frailty. It engenders confidence and a realization of the potential each of us has for good.

Hope and Depression

Many people suffer from depression at some time in their lives and know its crippling effects. Undirected guilt, loneliness, despair, and feelings of worthlessness are all distressing symptoms. One can lose the ability to perform daily tasks and cope with life’s various obligations.

It is common to hear a talk in which sin is identified as the cause of depression. Sin certainly can cause us to sink into a deep abyss, but it is not the cause of all feelings of depression. When we are depressed, we must be willing to honestly look at our lives to try to determine the trigger.

If sin is weighing us down, then we must show, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “the faith to try again,” knowing that “spirit sons and daughters of God need not be permanently put down.”1 The Savior’s Atonement can rescue us from the pains of sin and make us clean again. Depression may not be immediately lifted upon complete repentance, but we can still move forward. We can forgive ourselves for the sins for which we have repented rather than allowing sin to harrow our minds and needlessly prolong our suffering. Through Christ we can overcome our sins and look forward in hope and have our happiness restored in the Lord’s time.

In instances when sin is not the cause of depression, it is crucial that we not second-guess ourselves. Feelings of profound guilt are common in people who are depressed. In such circumstances, the guilt is usually not proportional to the trivial mistakes they may have made. Realizing that guilt is unsubstantiated may not eliminate it, but this knowledge can temper the severity of these feelings.

I have learned firsthand that feelings of guilt are difficult and require patience, but I have also learned that in such times, the Lord can strengthen us to enable us to meet the challenge. Happiness will return, and former capacity will be restored. Light will replace darkness, despair will give way to hope, and life will regain its meaning.

Peace and Support

People dealing with any kind of mental illness will need help weathering the storm; this help might come in the form of a professional counselor, a caring friend, or a loving family member. Seeking professional help can be difficult, but when it is necessary, it can help us cope and find fulfillment. Embarrassment and fear should not prevent our seeking help, robbing us of the good in life. We have a responsibility to ourselves, to the people who love us, and to Heavenly Father to do all we can to overcome our weaknesses and make the most of our lives.

Good friends and loving family members can give support and withhold judgment. I am grateful for the people in my life who know my limitations but still accept and love me. I try to serve them as well; it is important that these relationships do not become unbalanced. Each of us has a responsibility to be a good friend and family member. Everyone needs to serve and be served.

Wherever else we find help, we will need it most from our loving Savior. He has suffered all of our pains and understands us completely (see Alma 7:11; see also Isaiah 53). Through Him we can find peace, be cleansed from sin, and find the strength to endure our trials. The Savior’s loving embrace provides shelter through any trial and love in any circumstance. Likewise, approaching our Heavenly Father in prayer allows us to plead with Him and receive His loving guidance and comfort.

The Priesthood

In times of deep depression I have felt lonely and have been unable to feel the peace and love that often accompany prayer. In these dark times I have wondered if I have offended God and consequently been cut off from His presence completely. These times are especially trying since the reassurance we need feels impossible to receive.

During an especially severe period, I prayed constantly for an answer to a particular problem that was very important to me. After weeks of frustration I was finally humble enough to ask a good friend who was aware of my illness for a priesthood blessing. I did not mention my specific question, only that I was having a difficult time. In the blessing I was given my answer in direct, clear language, and I was filled with a peace that soothed my troubled soul. My friend did not realize he had facilitated the answer to my prayer, but I knew that I was not alone. God knew my needs, and although my depression was not immediately healed, He had given me the gifts I needed most: an answer, peace, and hope.

Since that experience I have developed a great appreciation for the power of the priesthood. I have learned the humility to ask for and accept help. I also have an increased desire to honor my priesthood so I might be able to bless others in their time of need. I am extremely grateful for worthy priesthood holders who can provide blessings when I need them most.

A Search for Truth

Mental illness is unique from other human frailties since it can impair our ability to think, reason, and feel the Spirit. I believe it is for this reason that mental illness is often feared and misunderstood. We live in a wonderful time when the Lord has blessed us with all the marvels of modern science, including improved medication. Where mental illness might once have destroyed lives, many of those who deal with it can now control their illness and live relatively normal lives.

I am extremely grateful for my testimony. As time has passed, it has become clear to me that those precious experiences that formed the foundation of my testimony were not valuable only for the time they were given; they have continued to give me strength later in life when I’ve needed to rely on the reservoir of faith granted to me by Heavenly Father. Despite the additional confusion that mental illness can cause in the search for truth, the Lord will visit us with His tender mercies, blessing us in the hour of our need (see 1 Nephi 1:20).

No matter what our circumstances are, God understands what we need and how best to give it to us. He is “no respecter of persons” (D&C 38:16) and loves mankind (see John 3:16). He will bless each of us how and when we need it. Regardless of our challenges in life, He loves and guides us individually. Our faith in Him is the anchor for our lives. The grace of Christ is sufficient for all (see 2 Corinthians 12:9), and His love can reach us in any trial. We will struggle from time to time, but we can be sustained by faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

When the Savior was asked, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” He answered, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:2–3). Mental illness is not a punishment from God,2 but His works are manifest in each of us when we allow the Atonement to work in our lives. We may not be healed immediately as the blind man was, but no matter what pain we bear, the Savior will heal us. Through His love and sacrifice we can find strength to overcome our trials, since He has already “overcome the world” (D&C 50:41).

Nothing beyond His Healing Touch

“No grief is so great, no pain so profound, no burden so unbearable that it is beyond His healing touch.”

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Special Witnesses of Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 2001, 9.

Helps for Those Suffering from Mental Illness

If you or a loved one is suffering from mental illness, you can find helpful information online at www.ldsfamilyservices.org. Additional information is available at the Disability Resources section of LDS.org under “Home and Family.”