This week was stake conference. The general session today was great and focused on gathering Israel through missionary work and temple and family history work. Last night’s adult session was even more in depth and I got more from it. One of the presidency members spoke about Repentance and then the Stake President spoke on Covenants and how, as we keep them, they can carry us through the darkest of times. I want to share a bit from the talk on repentance.
The first thing that stood out to me was a quote from Elder Andersen. “Repentance is not the backup plan; it is the plan. Since our premortal experience, the Lord has known that we would need to repent.” There were many times in my youth when the idea of repentance held a connotation of guilt, shame and dread. I felt the urge to repent from something and put it off for a very long time. Meanwhile the guilt and shame ate at me. I finally decided to clear my conscience with what felt like a lot of courage. The second I turned to the Lord in repentance, I didn’t feel scolded or judged, but instead those feelings of guilt and shame were replaced with unconditional love and forgiveness. It wasn’t God causing the guilt and shame. Who would gain by me feeling too ashamed to turn to my Savior? Satan. He wants us to feel that guilt and shame to the point that we think we are unloveable and unforgivable. But as the scriptures repeat over and over again, “His hand is reached out still.” Repentance is a gift. It brings peace. It brings joy. It brings growth. The greek definition of the word repent means, “a change of mind.” As we choose our thoughts and actions we can choose ones that lead us to God. When I spiral with certain anxiety triggers I quickly stop and use some mental repentance to change the way my thoughts are going. The thoughts that lead to that anxiety aren’t good or of God, so when I think of the counter part to those dark feelings I begin to see the light and am able to repent or turn my thoughts around.
Satan is real and he is clever. I have seen in the scriptures and in my own life times when he uses truths to mislead us and drag us towards a darker alternative. He starts with truths so you feel familiarity, maybe even trust and then he misleads you by showing “how” these truths are wrong. There is a scripture in Isaiah 5:20 that states, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil.” In Matthew 7:16 it states, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” In fact variations of that scripture are found in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon. What does that mean? Are they doing good? Do they make us better people? Do they help build a better world? Look at the consequences of their actions and ask yourself, what are they contributing to our world? We can also use the spirit as a guide. But sometimes our world is in pure chaos. Sometimes it is due to our own choices, but often it is the choices of others or just due to the fact that we live in a fallen state. But regardless, when we are in that state of chaos it is hard to have that still small voice speak to our mind.
I once taught a wonderful lady. She was also taking lessons from another denomination who spent most of their time speaking ill of ours. We finally decided to tell her she needs to choose who she wants to listen to because every time we’d come we’d just spend the whole hour debunking the myths that the other denomination told her. We brought a boom box and turned it from one channel to the next with only a second at each station. Then we asked her, “What was the first station talking about?” She said she didn’t know, “What about the second?” Again, she didn’t know. We urged her to listen to which denomination gave her peace and told her she could call us when she was ready. She was baptized a couple of months later. When our minds are full of chaos, there is no room for the gentle proddings of the spirit. I felt like I was in a dark hole at the beginning of Andy’s second year of residency. It felt never ending, I was having health problems, I had a new born, and I was trying to do much of the home life all by myself because Andy was on Trauma’s 13-14 hour nights. I allowed my thoughts to take me to darker places until I truly reached rock bottom. I suddenly realized I needed to change some things. I began to pray more and with more intent. I continued my scripture study and added in a gratitude journal. I sought council from professionals and began to read about mental health and how to heal. With a lot of persistence, and frankly a lot of pain, I began to climb out of the hole. The pain I refer to is removing the numbing. When you’ve been in chaos so long you kind of just go through the motions and almost lose touch with feeling. I had to go through feeling the pains of some of the things I had suffered and allow forgiveness to heal those pains. I had to face the fact that I had caused some of my darkness and begin to do mental exercises to change what was playing in my mind. The councilor in the stake presidency said, “Don’t be hard on yourself when you fail. We were meant to fail so we could learn. If we came down to this earth and stayed inside a room and never made any mistakes we wouldn’t grow. Repentance isn’t plan B, it IS the plan.” Repentance doesn’t mean you have to confess sins and come back from some evil life, often times it means that you are merely changing the voice you are listening to.
These pictures are a representation of a light at the end of the tunnel. It is amazing to me how much joy I feel and even when my anxiety threatens to creep in, I know now how to combat it.