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Friday, April 8, 2011

Mormon Theology no. 26 - Fear, Doubt, and Discouragement

This morning I unexpectedly awoke with anger within my heart.  I yelled at my wife Alicia for no apparent reason.  Deep down, I knew the reason: I had a test I wasn't prepared for (I failed, anyways).  Compounded therewith was the anxiety of knowing I do not have a job, yet I must and still am struggling with school.  What am I to do?  What are these emotions suddenly placed in my head, and how do I dispel them?  In this essay, we will find answers.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, while serving as President of Brigham Young University, once said, "a problem that is universal and that can, at any given hour, strike anywhere . . . is a form of evil. . . . I speak of doubt—especially self-doubt—of discouragement, and of despair" ("For Times of Trouble", BYU Devotional Address, 18 March 1980).  The scriptures speak of hope as an anchor to the soul.  I submit that if hope is an anchor to the soul then doubt and despair and discouragement is an anchor limiting one's progression in this life; none will accomplish anything while despair rages.

I feel impressed to mold the remainder of this essay on a talk given by President Ezra Taft Benson.  It is titled "Do Not Despair" and can be found in the October issue of the 1986 Ensign magazine.  He writes, "To help us from being overcome by the devil’s designs of despair, discouragement, depression, and despondency, the Lord has provided at least a dozen ways which, if followed, will lift our spirits and send us on our way rejoicing."  We will next examine, from both historical accounts and from scripture, some ways to eliminate fear, doubt, despondency, depression, and self-loathing.

God only answers prayers that are sincere; for a prayer to truly be sincere the person praying must have evidently endeavored to right his life, or to repent of his sins.   Moroni 10:22 tells us that despair comes because of iniquity - and only because of iniquity.  Whether that iniquity is an actual sin (such as pornography), or a sin of omission (such as skipping school), despair eventually comes.

Let me illustrate.  According to President Oliver Cowdery in Messenger and Advocate, July 1835, p. 157, when Joseph Smith was walking to the Hill Cumorah, he thought much about the Gold Plates and how they could alleviate his family from abject poverty.

President Cowdery explains that Joseph Smith tried three times to lift the Plates from their burial grounds, but was literally shocked each time.  Joseph Smith then exclaimed "Why cannot I obtain this book?"  The Angel Moroni then appeared and said, "Because you have not kept the commandments of the Lord" (Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1835, 198).  In other words, even Joseph Smith, the Lord's chosen Prophet to the last Dispensation, had need to repent.  Now, the above event described by Oliver Cowdery occurred when Joseph Smith was just 17.  Apparently it took Joseph four more years to fully repent, receive tutoring from the Lord, and prepare himself before he could receive the plates.  We must therefore ask ourselves, as the Apostles did at the Last Supper, "Lord, is it I?"  What must I change in order to more fully gain thy Spirit back?  Truly repentance prevents doubt!

This one is a little more obvious.  The prophet Nephi wrote, 

If ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.  But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will concecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul. (2 Nephi 32:8-9)

When the Savior was burdened with the sins of the world, He prayed and was strengthened by Micheal the Archangel, also known as Adam.  As the Perfect Example, Jesus has truly set down prayer as a means to lift fear.

King Benjamen said in his remarkable address, "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)"  President Lorenzo Snow taught, "When you find yourselves a little gloomy, look around you and find somebody that is in a worse plight than yourself; go to him and find out what the trouble is, then try to remove it with the wisdom which the Lord bestows upon you; and the first thing you know, your gloom is gone, you feel light, the Spirit of the Lord is upon you, and everything seems illuminated. (Conference Report, 6 Apr. 1899, pp. 2–3)"

People volunteer so often because it naturally lifts people to a higher plane of thought and action, making Earth a better place.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said it best.  In the May 1979 issue of The Ensign, he said,

We are here on earth to work—to work long, hard, arduous hours, to work until our backs ache and our tired muscles knot, to work all our days. This mortal probation is one in which we are to eat our bread in the sweat of our faces until we return to the dust from whence we came.  Work is the law of life; it is the ruling principle in the lives of the Saints. We cannot, while physically able, voluntarily shift the burden of our own support to others. Doles abound in evils. Industry, thrift, and self-respect are essential to salvation.

Indeed, thus said the Lord to our Father Adam, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Gen. 3:19)"  In the Lord's eyes, work is fundamental to not only care for oneself, one's spouse, and one's children, but also for the preservation of self-respect.  All know that millions ended their own lives in the height of the Great Depression because they were out of work and had no self-respect.  Let us work at working harder, is my prayer.

The Lord gives some specific guidance on health, and how it can counter despondency and depression.  "Cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated. (D&C 88:124)"  When one sleeps either to much or too little, it is harder to find the desire to be up and doing at the start of the day; plus adequate sleep stems off sickness and disease, and therefore, despondency.  Joseph Smith the Prophet was a model of physical health:  he loved physical exercises, like wrestling and pulling sticks.  Because of his physical stature and physical fitness, he was also able to escape his enemies from time to time.  Elder Parley P. Pratt wrote, "President Joseph Smith was in person tall and well built, strong and active; of a light complexion, light hair, blue eyes, very little beard, and of an expression peculiar to himself" (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 45-46).  President Joseph F. Smith said of his uncle the Prophet Joseph that the Prophet had fun "in playing ball, in wrestling with his brothers and scuffling with them, and enjoying himself" ("Joseph, the Prophet,” Salt Lake Herald Church and Farm Supplement, Jan. 12, 1895, 211).  Thus was the Prophet an example of good health to all who knew him.

I love to read.  Whenever I am downcast, I go to a quiet place and open up the Book of Mormon and begin to read.  Each time I do so, although I may not yet be in the mood, the spirit of doubt, fear, depression, and despair leaves and the Spirit of the Lord enters in.  Truly the scriptures are a great healing balm.

I also read histories whenever I can.  It inspires me to learn of the mistakes and foibles of the past so that I might learn from them and ever increase in wisdom and understanding.

When stress enters our lives, we should call upon the powers of Heaven to dispel those evil feelings.  Proper blessings as laid out in the Bible and the Book of Mormon can only be had in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It is well known that worry brings sickness.  When sickness, whether from stress or being stressed therefrom, entombs us in our beds, we do as James the Apostle directs.  Saith he, "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:  And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (James 5:14-15).
Isaiah said it best when he wrote, "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke" (Isaiah 58:6)?  Fasting gave strength to both Moses and the Lord for 40 days and nights.  Fasting causes us to realize that our ultimate blessings come from the Lord, and that we must rely upon Him to give us both our spiritual and temporal foodstuffs.

In the January 1974 Ensign, President Boyd K. Packer stated, "One of the signs of apostasy in the Christian churches today is the willingness of their ministers to compromise and introduce into what had been, theretofore, the most sacred religious meetings the music of the drug and the hard rock culture. Such music has little virtue and it is repellent to the Spirit of God."  I have never read a more true statement than that.  

I will pull a page from my own life as a testimony here.  I used to listen, for a period of about nine months, to Nirvana - and nothing else.  Literally from the rising of the sun until long past its setting did I listen to them.  I emulated Kurt Cobain and the way he wrote music.  Nirvana's music is very depressing.  As such, I went from staunchly believing in God the Father and in His Restored Church into denying His existence.  I was contemplating suicide.  One day, to make a long story short, I was caught in a lie, and all I had left to listen to was LDS religious music.  Worthy music - and only that - is what began my inner change back into The Church of Jesus Christ.  I fell in love with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  I am a witness that worthy music that is soft and reverent uplifts, and that the loud trash people call "music" literally destroys spiritual life!  I know this!  Readers, please listen to worthy music, and not settle for the noises of the world.

I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true - the only true Church on Earth.  I know that Satan is the author of doubt, despair, fear, despondency, and depression.  I know that if we implement into our lives the topics I have spoken of, Christ will more easily enter our lives.  In the Name of Jesus Christ, amen!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting this together.
Doubt has led to discouragement.
Now I need to find a way back.
Thanks for the help.

Jane McBride said...

I wanted to tell you what led me to your post. A good friend of mine-in fact, she was my English teacher in Jr. high-saw today that I was full of self doubt due to a recent incident. So this NON MEMBER friend of mine searched for LDS references to my problem-self doubt, despair, and all those things. This fine non-member Christian lady knew just what I needed to do and she searched out the references that she needed, and she sent this to me. And you are absolutely right, and this did help me today. Thanks!

Clark Herlin said...

Glad I can be of some help.