Pass out Chocolate Cookies
Today I made each of you one of my favorite treats. They are double chocolate cookies. I love chocolate and it makes me happy. I go to it when I am stressed or feeling overwhelmed. Maybe that isn’t a great habit but sometimes a little chocolate makes the world seem a little more manageable.
Still there are some days when I am so upset, or hurt, or down that I feel like there just isn’t enough chocolate in the world to make me better. Today I want to discuss the power by which we can become “better” when our spirits have been injured and we are hurting. I specifically want to focus on those “spiritual” injuries we receive through no fault of our own. So we are not talking about the spiritual injuries that result from our own sins.
These spiritual injuries are those that come as a consequence of living in the spiritual war zone of mortality. No one leaves this life without them. Everyone of us has her own “war story” with wounds or scars that have come to us without cause. I want you to think about YOUR story, and your wounds as we discuss today.
I understand that many of these wounds are intensely sensitive to you and incredibly private. Some you may not have shared with anyone at all. I don’t expect you to feel the need to share about these private wounds. I just know enough to know everyone has them, and if they don’t, they will get them.
Let’s put some examples up on the board here of things other people do that hurt us.
Here is my list: Death of a loved one, Sin of a loved one, abandonment, lies, mean or rude behavior, gossiping, false imprisonment, frivolous or malicious law suits, abuse in any form, crimes in which you were the victim, depression, mental illness, neglect, witnessing a crime, divorce, neglect ... the class came up with a few others I am forgetting.
Most of you know that I suffered the intensely painful spiritual injury of losing a child. I certainly have other injuries that are far less publically known. But because losing Camille was such a public injury I may refer to my experience with that one throughout this lesson to illustrate what I am talking about. But the principles we will discuss are equally applicable to all these different spiritual injuries we have named.
Losing Camille was not my first major spiritual injury but it certainly was my most life threatening. After her passing, I dove into a study of how to be healed of the spiritual wounds that seemed to be nearly killing me. I found answers through my own experience day by day and through scriptures I had found previously on the subject.
Recently I read a talk by Elder Bednar on the subject that added to and further defined my thoughts on the subject. His talk was entitled The Atonment and the Journey of Mortality. In it he talks about how the Atonement provides a cleansing power to make bad men or women good and an enabling and strengthening power to make good men and women better. In the context of my narrow focus today of I’d like to think of his “better” as “more well or healed or whole” spiritually. As I have learned through scriptures we will examine combined with this talk by Elder Bednar, the enabling and strengthening power of the atonement can heal the pure in heart just as the cleansing power of the atonement can wipe away sin. Together these two powers of the Atonement help us overcome Spiritual Death … after all we can do.
With the cleansing power of the Atonement we are taught Steps we can take to put us on the road to repentance so we can receive the power of the atonement. Through my study and experience, I have found that there are also steps we can take to receive the enabling and strengthening power of the Atonement. Today I’d love to share what I have learned.
Let’s look at a few scriptures: First in Jacob chapters 2 and 3. This is where the prophet Jacob is calling the Nephite men to repentance for not being faithful to their wives. He expresses how much he hates to have to even talk to them about this especially in the presence of their innocent wives and children. At the end of chapter 2 in the last verse he notes the broken hearts of the wives and how the sobbings of their hearts have ascended to God. He even says that many of their hearts DIED being pierced with deep wounds.
We certainly do not want that.
Then in the first two verses of Chapter 3 he speaks to those innocently injured by the sins of these men. Lets read it:
1 But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and apray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will bconsole you in your cafflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down djustice upon those who seek your destruction.
2 O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his alove; for ye may, if your bminds are cfirm, forever.
These verses have given me direction and things to ponder for years as I have studied this issue of healing a broken heart. What steps do you find in them?
1 – Be Pure in Heart
2 – Look to God with a firmness of mind
3- Pray in Faith
4 – Lift your head – trust and believe and have hope
4 - RECEIVE the pleasing word of God and FEAST on his LOVE
5 – Keep mind firm
The part of this that has been a subject of much study for me to better understand has been what it means to have a “firm mind.”
Other places in the scriptures we are told that the stripling warriors were of a firm mind. They followed a similar pattern as the one prescribed by Jacob to prevent their own “War Injuries.” In Alma 57: 26-27 we are told that in a great battle where many died, all of them survived. They were ALL injured but they all survived.
Their survival was a MIRACLE just as our spiritual survival despite our spiritual injuries is and will continue to be a miracle. This miracle came because the strippling warriors:
1) had exceeding faith – that is in our list of steps
2) firm minds – also in our list of steps
3) trusted god - this is why I expanded the lift your head section.
I believe they had guardian angels watching over and protecting and aiding them. And I believe we are privy to the same help if we follow the steps. In Moroni 7:30 we find that angels minister according to the Lord’s command to those of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.
What do you think it means to have a “Firm Mind?”
Firm mind I have come to believe means unyielding to outside influences (satans whispers of doubt and self loathing and anger and jealousy and revenge.)
Elder Bednar highlighted some other scripture stories to illustrate the enabling or strengthening power of the Atonement. He talked about Nephi and his handling of the complex and hurtful family relationships he dealt with. When his brothers had tied him up he prayed for strength to burst the bands with which he was bound.
He did not pray to have his circumstances changed. Often our spiritual injuries come from circumstances that we either cannot or should not change. We can never change another person.
Elder Bednar suggests that he believes Nephi worked at those bands over time to loose them. It wasn’t easy but he did all he could to improve the situation. We similarly can follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost to do what we can to improve situations or relationships we are in that are hurtful. This is part of how we receive the word of god and the Love of the Savior. This may be counseling or journal writing or doing service or temple worship.
We can often build a cocoon around ourselves even when we can’t escape the pain or the situation. After Camille died I did all I could to surround myself with love and gentleness. I couldn’t have the TV on and it was so hard to be around people who spoke unkindly to others.
A woman serving as a missionary in Croatia wrote to me and shared her experience of going through a difficult time. She wrote about building her cocoon through pouring herself into her calling and going to the temple two or three times a week. She was at a stage of life where she could do that and it helped her stay protected in that cocoon of the spirit as her spirit healed and dealt with the circumstances causing her injury.
Elder Bednar examines another thing we can do to stay pure in heart as found in the example of the people of Alma when they were in bondage to the Lamanites. They couldn’t change their circumstances but they changed themselves. In Mosiah 3:19 we are told
For the anatural bman is an cenemy to God, and has been from the dfall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he eyields to the enticings of the Holy fSpirit, and gputteth off the hnatural man and becometh a isaint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a jchild, ksubmissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
In Mosiah 24:15 we see the result when as the people of Alma did this …
15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did astrengthen them that they could bear up their bburdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with cpatience to all the will of the Lord.
I found in my own experience that it was only when I did purify my heart and be meek and humble and submissive – that I could feel the love of the Lord for me and the feel the effects of the Atonement working to heal my heart.
One specific thing I prayed for a long time was that the healing power of the atonement would take effect in my soul. Please Lord, apply the healing power of the atonement to my heart and help make it whole again. I think that helped. Pray in faith with hope of healing and it can come. I am a witness of that. Pray for a change in your nature and it can come. His Atonement can make good men and women “better” even as it can make bad men good.
It was still a slow and long process. But the miracle of getting “better” and healing has come and continues to come.
ALMA 7:11-12 The Lord has suffered our pains, sicknesses and inFIRMities that HE could have mercy on us and know how to succor us according to our infirmities.
He can firm us up where we have been weak and bind up the broken heart. He can help us as we go forward to KEEP FIRM as we follow the plan and look to him.
Even after you have done these steps and feel you have gotten “better,” Satan will still be working to reinjure you. For me this comes at every anniversary or milestone Camille would have reached. But I have to redirect my mind and stay firm and RECEIVE. Let go of the hurt. Do not hold on. Let go so you can RECEIVE - for ye may if your minds are firm.
I know God lives and that the Savior suffered so that he might aid us to do that which we cannot do alone – be cleansed from our sins AND be HEALED from our spiritual injuries. May we look with hope and firmness of mind to Him who is mighty to heal and receive the love and angelic help he is willing to send us.