Early Returned Honor

Doctrine and Covenants 124:49

Light and Darkness

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A year ago yesterday, I hit absolute rock bottom when I felt that I could not go on any more. A year ago today, light came rushing back into my life.

My Experience

As you may know from reading my story or some of the other posts, I went through a long period of darkness after I came home from my mission. I got to the point where I hit rock bottom. I saw no possibility of hope. I was completely broken. A friend texted me to ask how I was doing, and I told him that I needed a blessing. I went over to his house after I was done with school, and he gave me a blessing. I don’t remember anything that was said. That night, however, I started to feel like I needed to move to Provo. I thought, “Okay, I’ll save up and move in August for next semester.” I couldn’t sleep that night. I felt like I was being told, “No, you need to move now.”

So I dropped everything and was moved out a few days later. I moved into a place that was exactly where I needed to be with exactly the right people I needed to help me. But more importantly, light came back into my life because for the first time in what felt like months, I felt that Heavenly Father was aware of me. I could almost hear him saying, “Okay, I know that this has been hard for you. Now let me show you how to be okay again.”

Things weren’t immediately perfect. It took a lot of time to heal. But there was an immediate difference as I got a very strong reassurance that Heavenly Father loved me. I learned to apply the Atonement in my life, and the pain was taken away from me.

Alma the Younger

A few weeks ago, I went to institute with a friend. Part of the speaker’s talk was about Alma the Younger. The speaker talked about how Alma the Younger was hurting. His people had been in bondage because of his dad’s religion, and he’d had it pretty rough. We all know the story of what happened to him. The speaker pointed out that Alma was unconscious, so his behavior could not change during that time. His beliefs had to change.

In Alma 36, Alma shares his experience with his son, Helaman. He talks about how he doesn’t want to exist anymore–he wants to become extinct–so that he doesn’t have to stand in the presence of God. The speaker asked what we have to feel to not want to exist anymore: hopeless and worthless. I I had never been able to identify very well with Alma the Younger. Now, Alma was my favorite scripture hero. Because I had been there too. I had been in a position where I felt hopeless and worthless, and I did not want to exist. Alma and I had both felt broken. And both of us prayed for the mercy of God to save us, and our prayers were answered. I feel like I could have written verse 20 of that chapter: “And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as my pain!”. It took some time for me to get there, but I also experience the power of the Atonement to take away my pain and replace it with joy. As the speaker was talking, I cried because of how powerfully it related to my life. Alma, of course, went on to be a great prophet and to influence many for good. I wanted to do the same thing in my life.

The Man at the Bus Stop

The next day I was feeling ill at school so I went home earlier than I usually do. While I was waiting at the bus stop, a man a few years older than I am came up and started to talk to me. At one point he asked if I was a Mormon. I told him that I was. He said, “I’m not sure that I am anymore.” We started talking, and he told me that he’d recently gotten out of jail and he wasn’t sure that he would be accepted back in the Church, or that he could even do it anymore. Remembering the institute lesson from the day before, I talked to him about Alma the Younger and about my experience. We both cried at the bus stop as I promised him that I knew that even though we had experienced darkness for different reasons, I knew what it was like to be in darkness. I promised him that I knew the Atonement was real and that it worked because I had felt it. It changed my life. I went from being in darkness to being happy again. I promised him that someday, he could be like Alma the Younger or others who had been in a dark place and then later were able to help pull someone else out of darkness.

After I thought about my experience talking to this man, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. In my life, there had been so many people who had helped me when I was struggling. I thought it was such a blessing to have the opportunity to talk to this man. I was so grateful that I had felt sick and been at the bus stop right when I needed to be, and that I’d gone to institute with that friend the night before! Mostly, I was grateful to know a God that cares about us enough to fix broken people and then give them opportunities to help other broken people.

Light Is Possible

I don’t know where you are in your life. Maybe you just got home from your mission. Maybe you just found out that your son or daughter will be coming home early. Maybe you’ve been home for years now. Maybe you’re getting ready to go on a mission. Maybe you’re not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Maybe you feel like your life is full of darkness, or maybe you feel like life is pretty good right now. Wherever you are in life, I do want to share this one thing with you: light is possible! It is real! Jesus Christ is there for us! Sometimes we need to go through darkness for whatever reason, but no matter how far away you might feel or dark things might be, light is always possible. To quote President Ucthdorf:

There may be some among you who feel darkness encroaching upon you. You may feel burdened by worry, fear, or doubt. To you and to all of us, I repeat a wonderful and certain truth: God’s light is real. It is available to all! It gives life to all things. It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound. It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn.

One of my favorite scriptures is Nephi quoting Isaiah in 1 Nephi 20:14-17. He says:

But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me–but he will show that he hath not. For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel. Behold, I have graven thee upon the psalms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

I know that you are not forgotten, because He did not forget me. I can promise that light is available to you. It may not come when you want it or when you feel that you deserve it. But it is always there. To echo President Ucthdorf again “Brothers and sisters, even after the darkest night, the Savior of the world will lead you to a gradual, sweet, and bright dawn that will assuredly rise within you.” I know that because I experienced it. And so did Alma the Younger.

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