Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Personal Deliverance and Faith in Christ

Found a good passage on personal deliverance from despair in the 1991 Sperry Symposium on the Book of Mormon. M. Catherine Thomas in "types and Shadows of Deliverance in the Book of Mormon" (p. 182 ff.) writes:
The Book of Mormon offers help from personal trouble. Nephi, angry and in despair, gave us a good description of depression [note: I'm sure she doesn't mean clinical depression or any other illness here - perhaps "sorrow and frustration" would be a better word today]: "O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins" (2 Ne. 4:17-19).

But as his heart turned to many evidences in his own life of the Lord's love and intervention, he rebuked himself for his despair, because he remembered the principle of deliverance. Nephi's is perhaps the most sublime expression in scripture of faith in the Savior's power to deliver:

"Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

"Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

"Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
"O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin? . . .

"Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God" (2 Ne. 4:28-31, 35).

Moroni taught that despair comes of iniquity (Moro. 10:22). By iniquity he seems to mean lack of faith in the deliverance offered by the Savior. He stated, "Christ truly said . . . : If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me" (Moro. 10:23). That is, because there is a Savior, there are solutions to seemingly insolvable problems.

The life of Alma the Younger demonstrates several examples of individual deliverance. He declared that he was "supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; . . . and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me" (Alma 36:27). Alma gave the benefit of his belief and experience to his son: "I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day" (Alma 38:5). Although in the following passage he did not use the word deliverance, he clearly described a release from his own personal hell:

"For three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.

" . . . I was thus racked with torment. . . .

" . . . I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

"And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

"And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!" (Alma 36:16-20).
(p.190-191)

Faith in Christ, even a spark of faith, leads us to turn away from our sins as we let Him remove them from our lives. This process can bring rapid change and deliverance from our despair and guilt as we begin or journey of following Him.

Like Nephi, we all have cause to look at our own weaknesses and sins and exclaim, "Oh wretched person that I am." But when we ponder what the Lord has done and how much He offers us through the grace of Jesus Christ, we have great cause to rejoice, and as we turn more fully to Him, we may find great jy waits, in spite of the grief that mortality brings.

2 comments:

SlalomHO said...

while i agree wholeheartedly that prayer and the atonement have the capacity to deliver us from our personal trials, as someone who has battled cycles of clinical depression for much of my life I feel it is important to comment that Thomas gives an inaccurate and misleading description of depression based on Nephi's self-rebuke (which strikes me as somewhat unhealthy and hyper-critical...probably just part of Nephi's personality).

Depression is an illness that has nothing to do with personal iniquity, temptation or sin, and it is unhealthy to make that errant correlation or cause and effect relationship because it leads to confusion, self-criticism, false guilt and despair as one searches in vain for the source of iniquity/sin that is allegedly causing the depression.

Having said that, prayer and the atonement are indispensable sources of strength in the battle against depression.

RickLDS said...

Jeff,

I never tire of reading this passage:

"Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

"Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

"Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
"O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin? . . .

"Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God" (2 Ne. 4:28-31, 35).


It touches and inspires me every time. Thank you for the unexpected lift in my day.