Faith, Joy, Iniquity, and Despair (Moroni 10:22 and 9:25)

I’m going a little bit out of order, but it works…

In Moroni 10, we read:

“And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.” – Moroni 10:22

This is kind of depressing. I mean, who likes thinking about despair. No one. BUT, we still need to think about it! How else can we protect ourselves against this if we don’t study it and understand how it can come into our lives???

Here, we learn that a lack of hope leads to despair. And despair comes because of iniquity.

I want to be careful as I write this. I know that there are other reasons people feel hopeless. I know that despair can come of depression and other chemical problems in the body. So, I don’t want to seem insensitive. I don’t think that despair only comes through iniquity.

However, iniquity will only ever result in despair. There is no other consequence of iniquity.

Additionally, I have experienced despair in my life. I have seen a therapist during a particularly dark time in my life. I learned to look at my own life with a sort of detachment – to look at the facts of the events in my life, rather than the emotion that was laced with those facts. And I learned how to change what I was doing (that was unhealthy), so that I could pull myself up out of despair and into hope.

I had despair, but mine was not a chemical issue. My doctor would have prescribed medication. Medications, however, are riddled with side-effects, and there is more than one way to “skin a cat.”

Since then, I have learned to apply the same techniques. This is where meditation comes in handy. And when I’m experiencing hopelessness or despair, often the Lord will teach me how I can change. I may not be out robbing banks, doing drugs, or prostituting myself – I’m not iniquitous, but there is a disconnect between me and the Spirit of God. And the connection is the same no matter how great or small the sin.

We learn in the chapter before:

“My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.” – Moroni 9:25

It is through Christ that we can be lifted up. Sometimes we are best able to access Christ and His atonement through therapeutic practices. When I saw my doctor, she explained that the practices and “homework” she was giving me – processing the experiences I had in my life that caused trauma and bad patterns – would help to liberate me so that the Atonement could have an effect in my life.

In other words – therapy was a blessing of the Atonement. Christ suffered and has given men and women the wisdom to help each other! Going to therapy was a gift of Christ’s suffering. The gifts of the Atonement don’t only come through abstract prayer sessions. (Of course, I believe prayer is important!) Sometimes the answers to these prayers come through other, more practical forms of work.

In any case – the result is the same. When we are able to access the power of the atonement (whether it is during our prayers, with the assistance of a therapist, or with the assistance of medications), once we can access that power, our souls are filled with hope of His glory. We begin to feel the promise of the joy of rest.

Anyway – there is so much more I could write about this. I can’t even begin to pretend that this blog post is the beginning and end of this subject. But I hope that it scratched a surface for you. If you are feeling despair, think of how you might be disconnected from God and Christ. Perhaps your despair is caused by your own sin. Perhaps this despair is caused by the sin of another. Maybe your despair is caused by the malfunction of a mortal body or brain. Any of these scenarios can be healed through the Atonement of Christ. Pray to the Lord in Christ’s name. Listen to the advice he gives you. Maybe you’ll be guided to read a scripture. Maybe you’ll find you need to repent and change. Maybe your’e answer will come as a prompting to get more professional help for scars and wounds that need more than a proverbial band-aid and antibiotic cream.

No matter what, I know that the Lord will help us.

I know this because I know that the Lord wants us to have joy. He promises us joy, peace, and rest. He wants us to experience all of His greatest blessings. Best of all, He doesn’t expect us to be able to have any of these blessings without His help

The Joy of Hope

This is just one of my favorite scriptures.

“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” – Ether 12:4

This scripture brings me joy.

This scripture was given to us by Ether, but recorded for us by Moroni. Moroni- who had just witnessed the complete extinction of a civilization – his civilization. AND he had just abridged the records of another civilization that went extinct based on their wicked choices.

Ether also witnessed the destruction of his civilization.

These men witnessed an event that most of us will never really see – and yet they tell us – during such hopeless times that if we believe in God, we can have hope.

A belief in God gives us hope for a better world (which means a lot when you just witnessed the end of your civilization!). This hope for a better world anchors our soul to Christ. We understand that He is the author of such a world. Then, our hearts are turned to Him and filled with His love. We do good works for others because of the Love of God that we have obtained.

Is this not joyful?!

It’s possible to have joy in any circumstance when we have the perspective and hope of God.

Humility as the Answer to Race Relations and Violence (Mosiah 21:6-15)

In Mosiah 21, the people of Limhi (Nephites) are living under Lamanite rule – according to an arrangement that had been made between the king of the Lamanites and Limhi.

In case you are not familiar, the people of Limhi are Nephites. They are a different race than the Lamanites. The Nephites and Lamanites are all descendents from a common family – the Nephites, but over the years, they separated and they also changed physically. Their skin colors are different. They also often fought with each other – a rivalry started between the brothers (Nephi and Laman) hundreds of years before.

So – the people of Limhi are living subject to Lamanite rule. And racism grows. The Lamanites are annoyed with the people of Limhi, but because of the arrangement made between kings, they can’t kill the Nephites. So, they oppress the Nephites.

This oppression is described as follows:

“Now they durst not slay them, because of the oath which their king had made unto Limhi; but they would smite them on their cheeks, and exercise authority over them; and began to put heavy burdens upon their backs, and drive them as they would a dumb ass—” – Mosiah 21:3

The people of Limhi are getting frustrated with this oppression, and they convince their king that they need to retaliate. So, he agrees.

The Lamanites beat the people of Limhi, did drive them back, and kill many.

This loss results in worse race relations and a great sorrow and mourning among the people of Limhi. The crying of the people grows to a fever pitch – and the people of Limhi decided that they needed to go again to the Lamanites and fight.

The Lamanites, however, beat the people of Limhi again, did drive them back, and kill many.

This next loss results in even worse racer relations, and sorrow and mourning among the people of Limhi. Again, they complain until they approach the king and go up against the Lamanites once again.

And the Lamanites, beat the people of Limhi, did drive them back, and kill many.

This is insane.

This is such a sad and terrible time in the history of both the Lamanites and the People of Limhi. Mourning, anger, and frustration motivate these people. They are proud and wicked. They don’t turn to the Lord. Instead, they try to fight for themselves, and their misery only increases.

It sounds sadly familiar.

Recently, we have seen many divisions in our country. Racial tension and aggression seems to be multiplying. People are rioting and too many people are dying. The solution that seems to prevail is more retaliation, more fighting, and more mourning and anguish.

How do we stop this? Well, the same way that the People of Limhi did. They humbled themselves. In Mosiah, we read:

“And they did humble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God that he would deliver them out of their afflictions.

And now the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries, and began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites that they began to ease their burdens; yet the Lord did not see fit to deliver them out of bondage.” – Mosiah 21:14-15

Finally, the Lord heard their cries, and he softened the hearts of the Lamanites. Though the people of Limhi weren’t yet delivered out of bondage, they were prospered by degrees. Though they were still subject to the Lamanites, they were not dying anymore. They weren’t wailing and howling at the staggering losses of life because they weren’t experiencing these losses anymore.

This resonates with me now. My heart is heavy. Police have killed people. People have killed police. We seem to want to sit and point fingers at one another – while the killing, animosity, and mourning continues. It makes no sense.

These problems we experience today are the results of a wicked and perverse generation. On both sides. But we don’t have to be. We don’t have to embrace sin. We don’t have to be deceived.

Instead, we can learn a lesson from the People of Limhi – who were in bondage. Maybe today we could say, “they had every right to fight.” But what good did that fighting do? It just hurt them even more. We can learn that the most effective way to “fight” for our liberty and for peace is through humility. It is when we humble ourselves to God that we will receive His blessings and then ultimately achieve peace and freedom.

Comfort (2 Nephi 8:3)

Today, I read a really hopeful and comforting scripture.

“For the Lord shall comfort Zion, he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.” – 2 Nephi 8:3

I’m reading the Book of Mormon with an emphasis on joy. And so often we are told that joy and happiness comes with keeping the commandments, covenanting with God, etc.

Yet, we still experience sadness, misery, and pain. No one, not even the righteous, are exempt from illness, injustices, betrayal, and other unfortunate experiences.

It can be tempting to get into “instant-gratification mode” and think that we should have comfortable easy lives if we are keeping the covenants we have made with God.

The truth is, Zion – those who are righteous covenant keepers – will go through difficulty and pain. However, the Lord will comfort her.

We will experience our own waste places, deserts, and rough patches in life.

And though the Lord may not transform these difficult experiences immediately, He will make them like Eden.

I like thinking about this very literally, too. I lived in Arizona. The Desert. Then I moved to Hawai’i. Paradise. What a stark difference!

If we remain faithful, the Lord promises to consecrate our afflictions. We will find joy. Thanksgiving. We will sing a song of praise.

And while we still must live through a vail of tears and difficulty, we can let this hope comfort us now. We can rejoice and give thanks now. We can live with a happy song in our hearts now – because we have the hope of Christ.