My Faith

When I was in first grade, my teacher gave each of us a red marker. She was having us correct each others' papers. "3+5=8," she would say. "4+2=6," as we checked our neighbor's paper. I was so excited to use the red marker, but to my total dismay, the owner of the paper I was correcting was good at addition. At least I got to write "100%" at the top of the assignment.

I used to think of my Heavenly Father in a similar way. "Here are my commandments," He says to us in the scriptures. "Study them, know them, and do them." And then for a good part of my life, I imagined him poised and ready to correct us with his red marker whenever we slipped. And I would just do my very best not to slip. And I was pretty good at it.

I also used to think my Heavenly Father was pretty stern. He used some pretty strong language towards the wicked in the scriptures. I could go dig up some examples, but you know what I'm talking about. Fire, hell, condemnation, wrath. I always knew that I wanted to be on His good side, because none of that sounded very pleasant.

I also believed somehow through all of that that He was a loving Father.

Depression, marriage, motherhood, Sunday worship, personal study, and the joys and storms of life in general have created a clearer and I believe a much more authentic picture for me.

God loves us so much. All the best feelings we experience, love, joy, compassion, are reflections of Him inside of us because we are His children.

We are here on this Earth to progress under his watchful care. He has a plan for each of us.

The plan? JOY.

It's really that simple. God wants you to experience pure joy.

Not only that, but He wants you back in His presence to experience it with Him.

Agency is a gift He's given us that is key to that plan. He tells us exactly how to use our agency to obtain that joy. It's what separates us from and elevates us above the rest of his creations, as grand and majestic as they are. Best case scenario is that we will use this agency to make good choices motivated by our love for our Heavenly Father.

But with agency comes the possibility that it will be used incorrectly at times. With our human nature comes certainty that it will. When we use our agency other than for good, we hurt ourselves and we can hurt other people.

Insert Satan into the picture who entices us to use our agency for harm by appealing to our human nature and the picture quickly gets ugly, for each of us as individuals and collectively as the human race. Using our agency contrary to the ways God has asked is sin. The more we sin, the more of our freedom and happiness we relinquish as we become slaves to our sins.

Plus, mortality is hard. We get sick. We get hurt. We get old.

You've seen it. You live here. The earth is full of sinful, suffering, and hurt people, many who don't even know they have a Heavenly Father who has a plan for their happiness. Satan looks over these conditions and is pretty pleased with himself.

Having foreseen this, our Father in Heaven who loves us sent His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ willingly accepted the call to be our Savior. I don't fully understand the how part, but I do know that through His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, He felt all of the suffering you have and ever will feel in this life. So that when you stand before Heavenly Father, you will have the Savior by your side. He will know what it is like to live in this fallen world. He will know what it was like to walk it from your perspective. He will know what it's like to carry the burdens you have carried. Your Heavenly Father wants you to have that going for you. Not only that, but Jesus can help you carry them right now so you can have happiness before that day even comes.

 God really did love the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son so that if we believe in Him, we don't have to die, but can have eternal life.

That simply doesn't sound to me like the kind of God that sits poised waiting to ding us every time we make mistakes. Or a stern father who puts up with His inferior children.

No, it sounds like a God who wants us back. Who has provided a way back when we become sidetracked. Because heading down the wrong path is not the end. He says, "as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me." He gets that we will mess up over and over again. In fact, making mistakes is part of the plan. He hopes that we will learn from them. And He wants us to get up again and keep trying. Our very best. Every day.

In fact, do you know who He's talking to when He uses words like indignation and weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth? To the children of Israel in the Bible who know of His goodness and openly reject it for idol worship and immorality. Wickedness is to have goodness in front of you and to shun it. He will not force His children into Heaven. He is lamenting what they are choosing instead. And He tells them, "My hands are outstretched still."

To the rest, He beckons, "Come." He is a God who understands that at times or most of the time we feel burdened down and wants to provide us divine assistance through His grace. He is a God who can take the hard things that have happened to us and consecrate them for our good. A God who gives us commandments not so He can ding us, but so He can keep us close to Him. A God who feels after us.

I have heard it said that we are nothing compared to God, but that we are everything to Him.

And it's sinking in deeper all the time.

More On My Faith:
I have friends of many different faiths and I love them. I love that they love God, and I know God loves them. We really are all in this together! My faith is based in my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

If I could tell you one unique thing to my faith that I would love you to know, it is that we have a book of scripture that complements the Bible. It is another testament of Jesus Christ saved by God to come forth in this day. It is called The Book of Mormon and is a record of things that happened in the Americas before, during, and after the life of Jesus Christ, including appearances by Christ in the Americas after His resurrection. {request a free copy here}

Depression, Suicide, and How it Relates to My Faith:
The greatest truth my faith has to offer in response to depression and suicide is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Depression tends to isolate its sufferers in their despair. I do not know to what extent I will deal with depression throughout my life, but take great comfort in these words spoken to Joseph Smith the prophet by Jesus Christ in March, 1839:

"...if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. 

The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?"

Whatever I experience, I know the Savior has been there first and He will succor me. I also know that He is the only Being who understands the innermost struggles of every individual who ever lived. How truly awesome it is that our God and this Being are one in the same.  

Here are teachings offered by leaders of the Latter-Day Saint faith on the topics of depression and suicide. 

Like a Broken Vessel by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not by M. Russel Ballard

Sitting on the Bench: Thoughts on Suicide Prevention  Mormon Messages