I called a friend recently; the tone of her voice told me she was really down. I encouraged her to tell me what was going on, and she proceeded to give me a list of her very real concerns, such as the impact on her health from toxic fumes from a refinery as well as an incinerator near her home (completely out of her control) and learning how many products and chemical pollutants common in society had contributed to her extreme health challenges. She was feeling victimized and her anxiety level was causing her heart to race. If this was your friend and you cared deeply about her health and well-being, what would you say to help calm her fears? This article is a summary of our conversation that day, which she challenged me to make into an article.
Gaining Perspective of Current Concerns through the Scriptures
I doubt one of us would say that we just don’t want certain prophecies to be fulfilled. But what if those fulfilled prophecies cause us personal heartache, loss, extreme inconvenience, or poor health?
D&C 89:4 “Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation.”
Could there be a more prophetic phrase in regard to these days than “evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men”? On a daily basis information is now available on the Internet, and often in mainstream media, uncovering the sad facts that many conspiring men are making huge profits on products that are undermining the health and well-being of an entire population. When such things affect us personally, when they clearly have a negative impact on us and on our families, what should we do about it?
In a powerful passage in Mormon 8:31 telling the condition of the earth when the record of the Nephites and Lamanites would come forth, we read, “Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth . . . there shall be lying and deceivings . . .”
What kind of pollutions are we experiencing? Certainly pollutions of the air, including automobile emissions, toxic fumes from factories and refineries, damaging effects of wireless transmission, microwave, etc. Pollutions in our water supplies are common. Pollutions in our food supply may be less known, but very real: chemical additives, over processing, deletion of nutrients in refining grains and sugars, to name just a few. The lyings and deceivings include falsifying reports of big corporations in regard to practices that increase air and water pollution, false advertising that glamorizes addictive foods and drinks, promising strength, happiness, and well-being from the very products that can rob our health and happiness. How should we respond? Will our chosen response increase or decrease the negative impact they have on us?
Application to the Saints
If I were Satan and I was frustrated because diligent people were keeping me from thwarting the work of the Lord, what would I do? I just might put it in the hearts of conspiring men to taint and pollute the general food, air, and water supplies for profit. I would know that the Saints would be adversely affected without their consent. I would especially make food products appealing that weaken the body, create cravings, and make moderation unlikely. Why?
Poor health not only curtails our enjoyment of life, but also our ability to serve and be instruments in the hand of the Lord. Satan has been remarkably effective, addicting millions to unhealthy foods and drinks that are making billions of dollars for conspiring men, but contributing to a literal tsunami of health problems for the general population. As we become more and more aware of what is happening we can easily fall into victim mode because we have had no control over it. We have not consciously made bad choices, yet have been very adversely affected. What are we to do?
Application of the Serenity Prayer
To begin with, we can attempt to apply the principles so well stated in the AA Serenity Prayer: God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
What can we change? We CAN become more informed so our choices of food and drink are as good as possible. We CAN try to live not only the Don’ts of the Word of Wisdom, but the Do’s by avoiding processed and refined foods, sugar and caffeine-laced drinks, and eating more wholesome [organic where possible] fruits, vegetables and [non-GMO] whole grains (unless we are gluten intolerant). We CAN take responsibility for our own health and pursue many avenues of help by obtaining the services of others who are least likely to be among the “conspiring men.”
Doing what we CAN do may also mean joining an advocacy group or donating to a group that has shown effective effort in fighting for clean water, clean air, honesty in labeling, etc.
Another thing we CAN do is avoid a negative focus on all that is wrong. Here’s the irony: anxiety, anger, outrage, unforgiveness of those responsible, hyper-vigilance about food and harmful substances, and over-concern are likely to harm our health even more than the things we are outraged about! All those mental states put us into stress response, which automatically shuts down the self-repair mechanisms of the body. (See Lissa Rankin’s book Mind Over Medicine.)
We CAN choose what we focus our minds and hearts on. D&C 101:37 challenges us, “Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul.” Surely, this doesn’t mean to ignore our bodies or not take care of them, but it directs us to put a higher priority on things of the soul; it counsels us to keep most of our thoughts on things of eternal significance. These mortal bodies are inevitably going to die, but death of the body is insignificant in comparison with the spiritual death which can occur if we distance ourselves from God.
In regard to applying the directive to care not for the body but for the soul, I can’t help but think of my recently departed friend Debbie Avila. There was little she could do about the muscular dystrophy that resulted in the progressive loss of function in her body and eventually to her death. But she found much to do in caring for the soul, not only her own, but the souls of so many she touched for good because she could still type on the computer.
We CAN choose how we use our precious minutes on this planet. We CAN choose to focus our thoughts on what is right with our lives, rather than on all of the maddening things in the world we can’t control.
Philippians 4:8 counsels us, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” And of course our own 13th Article of Faith says, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
This truly is “The best of times and the worst of times,” as Dickens so aptly put it, and we can try to keep our focus on what is best. The best of the best is the incredible access we now have through electronic media to the words of Christ. Let’s focus on 2 Nephi 25:26, “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” Surely the things of Christ are the things that have eternal significance.
How to Accept What We Can’t Change
What is the process for coming to the mindset of accepting what we can’t change? Nothing is harder for most of us. I’ve found two effective keys:
1.Remembering that just because we can’t change these things now doesn’t mean they won’t ever be changed. The fact is, we have absolute assurance that the Lord can and will change them. For instance, all the pollutions on the earth will be purified when the earth is prepared for the Millennium. We’ll have a new earth, a paradise, akin to the garden of Eden. The 10th Article of Faith tells us that that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” No greedy, conspiring man will live to see or enjoy that glory when Christ will reign personally, and it’s coming soon!
2.In the meantime, while we wait for the Lord to change things, the second key is focusing on scriptures that point clearly to God’s love and mercy. I challenge myself saying, “Well, do you believe or are you just seeing words that aren’t getting into your heart?” Really believing and really accepting God’s words help me accept the trials I must face now. The truth makes me free and releases me from the bondage of anxiety and anger over what I can’t change.
Consider the following scriptures that are among the most helpful:
“Therefore, let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly, and to the sanctification of the church.” (D&C 100:15)
“Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.” (D&C 98:3) The words, “all things shall work together for good” can be an anchor to the soul, reminding us that God has the infinite power to bring good from even the worst things.
“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment.” (D&C 121:7) The Millennium is coming soon, and even before it comes I may find myself in the spirit world where I will be free of all the cares of this world.
“Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (D&C 122:7) This scripture comforted Joseph Smith when his current situation was full of despicable conditions he could not change. The Lord reminded him that no matter how terrible conditions are, they will give us experience and be for our good.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) Just saying these words over and over comforts me.
“Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.” (D&C 101:16) When we are still, when we remember eternal things, when we have the Spirit with us we can forgive and accept, because the bottom line is that we need to forgive the conspiring men so that our anger and outrage at what they are doing doesn’t harm our spiritual health. I love visualizing our earth and everyone in it literally in God’s hands.
Elder Holland’s book For Times of Trouble is an excellent resource for all of us who are experiencing life’s adversities. Based on comfort from the Psalms, he begins with: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof . . . The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1-3; 9:9)
If I were to quote all the comforting scriptures we’ve been given, I could go on and on and on.
God is in charge. His purposes will not be thwarted, and as we see His purposes fulfilled we can learn to be at peace, even when the fulfillment of those prophecies may cause us distress. Some of us will be challenged when fulfillment of prophecies such as natural calamities and wars may threaten our very lives and homes. No matter how extreme the trial, we pass the test if we continue to depend on God to eventually make all things right. We can remember that His work and His glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. (See Moses 1:39) He does nothing save it be for the good of His children. In the meantime, our goal is to find peace with fulfilled prophecy and remember to “Be still and know that I am God.”
Author note: Do you know someone whose life has been impacted by the suicide of a loved one? The common pattern is to avoid the subject and avoid processing the grief, but there is a better way. Help them find “the peace that surpasses understanding” by pointing them to one of the following: If they are LDS, direct them to After My Son’s Suicide: An LDS Mother Finds Comfort in Christ and Faith to Go On. If they are not LDS, direct them to: Finding Hope while Grieving Suicide: Opening Your Heart to the Healing Only God Can Give. For more information go to my website: www.darlaisackson.com.