Why do I share the gospel of Christ?

For the second time in two days, an apostle and prophet of God has expressed a concept that I have been deeply pondering of late, in a more effective way than I feel I could have expressed on my own. I have embedded the video below, but first I will address my own thoughts, and hope that they are sufficient to explain themselves.

I don’t often talk publicly about my religious beliefs, unless explicitly asked to do so. This is because I recognize that my beliefs are not always welcome or comforting to those who do not agree with them. However, these beliefs are still extremely important to me, not only because I believe them to be true, but because I hope them to be so. They have lifted me out of depression, apathy, and self-hatred, and given my life direction and purpose. They have brought light into darkness, and lifted me from the pit, and helped me to realize that my trials can be the refiner’s fire, if I allow them to work their refinement on me. I don’t know where, who, or what I would be without the Gospel of Christ in my life, but as a natural pessimist, I have a tendency to assume I couldn’t have gotten far on my own. The grace of God has helped me to both identify and refine my imperfections, and has given me the assurance that the rest of me is still good enough to be worth the effort of refinement.

I’m a perfectionist, but God has promised me—and us all—two things: that we will not be given a trial or temptation that we could not endure (1 Corinthians 10:13), and that we will not be given a commandment that we could not fulfill (1 Nephi 3:7). This means that every trial can be surpassed, and that inherent in every command is a guarantee that it can be achieved. When God commanded us to be perfect, he was simultaneously informing us that we are capable of perfection.

I have often recalled the words of the prophet Alma, which perfectly express my feelings: “O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.” (Alma 29:1-2)

Repentance does not simply mean giving up sin. We are not in the business of forcing people to do things, even good things. True repentance requires a change of heart, a turning away from sin and towards everything that stands in opposition to sin. “Repentance goes beyond feeling to express distinct purposes of turning from sin to righteousness; the Bible word most often translated repentance means a change of mental and spiritual attitude towards sin.” (Online Etymology Dictionary; Century Dictionary)

My first goal in life is to remove all sin and sorrow from myself. My second—which must of course be addressed simultaneously, as the first cannot be achieved within my earthly lifetime—is to remove sorrow from all the face of the earth.

Finally, I add to the witness of millions my statement that the Lord Jesus Christ lives and loves us. I believe it to be true, I hope it to be true, and sometimes, when optimism strikes, I even know it to be true.

Amen.

For those interested, here is the full (15-minute) version of the video: http://youtu.be/eBzKAFF4Sdc

O Death

The following is a personal essay I wrote for myself, as a therapeutic measure to help me find optimism in my depression. I am sharing it because I think it represents an important side of depression that should be talked about, but the anecdotes it retells do not represent my usual thoughts. Though true, they are intentionally extreme examples.

When I was born, I have little doubt that my parents thought I was perfect. I suspect they don’t think so anymore, but then again it would be dishonest of them if they did. While it’s unlikely that I’d had the chance to make any noteworthy mistakes by the time I reached five minutes of age, I’ve more than made up for it since.

Until I was eight or nine years old, I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t perfect anymore. That’s childhood arrogance for you, or perhaps just childhood lack of interpersonal awareness. The problem is, this epiphany about my lack of perfection occurred nearly simultaneously with my realization that I wanted to be perfect.

It was a volatile mix.

By the time the reaction reached its peak, I had spent a dozen years being told that God wanted me to be perfect someday. Of course, the same people who said that also told me that God would help me become perfect, but my pubescent, hormone-addled brain hadn’t written down that part. I just knew that everyone else was more quantifiably perfect than I was, and I was never going to get anywhere.

It’s not that I ever wanted to get nowhere. It’s that I didn’t think I could do any better. It took me a very long time before I realized that even though I wasn’t perfect, I still wasn’t worthless either.

The funny part is, you always think you’re getting better, and then something else comes along to remind you once again how your brain still thinks you’re worthless. That’s the thing about brains. They are so set in their ways, they never seem to get the memos you try to send them.

Do you know what it’s like to believe that you’d be happier dead? Not wishing that you were dead, just wondering if it would be better.

Have you ever stood next to a busy intersection and wondered what would happen if you just jumped right in?

Have you ever leaned against a fifth-story window and imagined what all your friends and family would do if they found you, with a broken neck and a puddle of blood, on the pavement below?

In all those wonderings, it never occurred to me what would happen in my end of the aftermath. Would I have floated along to the world hereafter only to have the Lord Almighty look me in the eye and say, “What the hell were you thinking? You weren’t supposed to be back for eight more decades! I had so many great things lined up for you to do!”

Life is a series of choices, bringing us from point A to B to Z and onward. Sometimes that means choosing to keep going, even if every fiber of your being save one won’t see the point. The Lord would have saved Sodom for the sake of ten honest people. I’m not nearly so depraved or defiled, so perhaps the tenacious will of one fiber can make up for the overwhelming apathy of the remaining spirit.

If I’m strong, true, and maybe a bit lucky, someday I will be able to look the Devil in the eye and say, “O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?” Such is the fall of Death and Hell. My God is not gone, the Devil cannot take hold, and the Lord still has mercy on my soul.

I had my chance to not be born. I came here anyway, and dammit if I’m not going to make the best of it.

Important Note: I am not, nor have I ever been, suicidal. I have never attempted nor wished to kill myself, or to die. This piece of nonfiction creative writing simply attempts to express the feeling of apathy that occurs when one is caught between wanting to live and not caring one way or the other.