Tag: joseph smith first vision

My Experience with Mental Illness in the LDS Church | Part 1

    Some of you–especially if you have seen a few of my youtube videos–may know about my struggles with mental health, while the rest of you probably have no clue. Around the same time I started getting sick with my chronic physical illnesses, I also became afflicted with anxiety and depression. At first it was easiest to deny it, pretend it wasn’t there. Eventually, after one of my first pair attacks in front of my new husband, he was scared and confused. He could see my struggles and I knew I could not hide it from anyone, especially myself, any longer.  I finally said to him, “Something is wrong with me, with my mind. I cannot control it. I need help.”

We spoke about it all night, he stayed home from work the next day, and we made an appointment to speak with our Bishop about reaching out to LDS Family Services for counseling. I started going to therapy for about a year (until I started medication, but I still go to therapy because I work best with help from both.) I got better and was equipped with the tools I needed to help manage my mental state. Regardless, it was still an emotional rollercoaster where I occasionally found myself engulfed in scary and even life-threatening thoughts and situations. I would be fine one moment, then something would happen to upset me and I was rapidly spiraling into darkness. I was eventually hospitalized and I was not allowed to be discharged until I had an appointment with a psychiatrist to receive medication for my condition. I was avoiding medication like the plague. It was another attempt to deny what was going on inside my head, to pretend I did not need help. I also feared a new medication would make my physical ailments worse.

About a month later, I was sitting in the room with my new psychiatrist while I explained my situation. I realized at that moment how lucky I truly was and how God’s hand is really in all things–even when I felt unworthy of His love and help. I told her my stomach was paralyzed (normally much easier that saying I have gastroparesis and then have to explain that my stomach was paralyzed anyway…just easier to skip the name and give the explanation first.) She responded “Oh! I have a few patients with gastroparesis!” *Reminder: I hadn’t said the name of my condition, but she knew what was going on already, something that was very rare for me…even with medical professionals.* She then told me that her patients with gastroparesis normally do well with the specific medication she later prescribed to me. She warned me that it would likely take me a month or two to actually feel the effects of the medication. However, I was one of those very lucky, rare people who felt the effects almost immediately. After about two days after taking the medication, the dark cloud above my head was lifted. My almost uncontrollable, seemingly instinctive pessimisn (abnormal for the real “Alexa”) was gone. It was replaced by my true attitude of positivity, love, and happiness. I was compassionate again. I was truly happy.

Everybody’s experience with mental health is different. Most people’s bodies really do take a few trial months with several different medications until they find what works best for them. Some do not even need medication and need only a few sessions of therapy. However, regardless of the path, mental illness can always get better and be managed with the proper care and help. It is probably one of the most difficult things to go through sometimes, even now with medication. There are some days where I genuinely think to myself, “I will never be happy again,” “Everyone would be better off without me,” “I am a waste of space.” It is one of the most challenging things to overcome, when it feels physically impossible to make myself believe otherwise. The day following one of my worst nights, I wrote

A Letter to Myself, When I am Not Myself

  Last night was the worst I have ever felt up to this point. Because of my illness, I just feel like I wake up, sit in pain and discomfort, then go to sleep, then repeat the next day. Then, last night my feelings were royally hurt at a family get together. (Turns out it was just a simple misunderstanding, but at the time it felt like the world was ending.) I thought for sure that my family members would never want to speak with me again. I literally felt like I had nothing and nobody to live for except my husband. However, I felt like I was just a large burden on him with all my health issues. I was sure that I was going to end my life that night. I do not want to go into much detail, it will only give you (talking to myself) ammonition for later on when you might feel this way again. Dalyn laid in bed with me trying to comfort me, as I stared at the wall, completely numb to anything he could possibly tell me. All the sudden, I caught a glimpse of one of the photos on the wall of he and I at Disneyland. I thought about how much I wished things would be better in my life: my relationships, my illnesses, if I could get pregnant and carry the baby to term without health scares, and raise a healthy baby and take them with my family and friends to Disneyland and have a ‘normal’ life like everyone else. I was not sure how (I am still not completely sure how) I could ever have any of those things. But I was reminded of Heavenly Father’s plan. I felt the Spirit tell me that those things, those blessings, are in store for me. Even if my illness never gets better, I do believe (even though it seemed impossible at the time) that my life will get better in other ways. So as Dalyn sat there, trying to comfort me but still oblivious to the depth of the situation and my plan to end my life, I decided to come clean. It was scary and extremely tough to do. I will never forget the look on his face of pure terror and sadness. It sounds weird but his face reminded me that he did love me, and regardless of how bad I feel about being sick when he does so much, he still wanted me there and to take care of me however necessary. I also told Dalyn about my new plan: to get better, to mend the relationships with family members that I thought were over forever, and to look forward to that vision I saw in my head…of me, Dalyn, my whole family, and our future children, enjoying a vacation at the Happiest Place on Earth. It is a small dream to accomplish, but it will mean the absolute world. It is a representation of a better life.

I made up with my family members later that night, it was really not as big of a deal as I had made it out to be in my head. Then I decided to write this letter only 24 hours later. Life is still hard, but I already feel a million, zillion times better. Things would still be better even if I wasn’t able to mend the fight with my family members. It would have been better because I remembered my Heavenly Father. I am very grateful to have mended the wounds with my family though.

What I ask and plead of you (myself, or you…reading this…) is this: just give it another 24 hours and then see how you feel, just talk to somebody, spend time with the people you love, give it one more shot. This too shall pass and you will win this fight and live the BEST GOSH DANG life Heavenly Father has to offer! Just give it one more shot, I promise you will feel better. Pray, even when you feel so focused on your plan, feeling so low that you really don’t want to talk to God.   

I wrote this letter only a few weeks before I started taking medication, which made a world of a difference, as mentioned before. I also would receive the revelation to write 1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith only about a week or so after writing this letter as well. Looking back, yes, things today ARE SO MUCH BETTER ALREADY. Yes, I still struggle with mental health. Yes, I still struggle with physical health. No, I still haven’t been able to have children yet. However, I have my amazing and thrilling career now. I have built new and/or stronger relationships with my friends and family. If my life would have ended then, I would have never had these experiences. I know it is just the beginning. Heavenly Father still has great things in store for me to experience and blessings left for me to receive. His plan would not be complete if I decided to end my life on my own terms.

I have a lot more to say on this matter, which I will continue in the next blog or two. For now, I wanted to focus mostly on the fact that is does get better. REALLY! I swear it. If necessary, try writing a letter to yourself when you’re not yourself…or you can use mine ( seriously, that’s why I decided to post it in the first place.) Create a safety plan and practice it and know it by heart, like a school student knows what to do during a fire drill. As soon as you notice the triggers, take action before the spiral. Communicate to those you love about what is going through your mind. Speak with a therapist, psychiatrist, or even a Bishop. You can fight and win. My battle, like yours and everyone else’s, is not yet won. However, with God’s help and the help of others, I can summon the strength that I never knew I had before to overthrow my mental illness…and win in the war. 

 

1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith

I have had a deep emotional connection to the Prophet Joseph Smith
ever since I was a little girl. The first time I read about his martyrdom, when
I was eight years old, I bawled my eyes out! Whenever we spoke about him
in church or seminary, I felt exceptionally interested and invested. My two
favorite scriptures of all time are about him. The first time I visited places like
the Sacred Grove, his home, the Kirtland Temple, Nauvoo, and other Church
history locations saved both my life and my testimony. I was diagnosed with
idiopathic gastroparesis at twenty years old; it was devastating. My dreams
of graduating from college and becoming a registered nurse were shattered.
Then I found a new passion: writing fact books. My first book is called Disney
Till You’re Dizzy: 1,001 Facts, Rumors, and Myths about the Disneyland Resort.
Only a short while after it was published, the Lord told me that it was time to
write a new fact book. This time, Heavenly Father wanted me to write a fact
book for Him, about the Prophet Joseph Smith. I was nervous and shocked.
I was accustomed to writing theme park books. I never thought I would have
to write about something so serious, important, and even controversial. But I
knew that if God commanded me to do it, He would help me through it. I was
right. God helped me every step of the way.

This book was definitely the most difficult one

I have written to date, but it was my favorite!

I genuinely believe that any decent person who seriously studies the
Prophet’s life through credible primary sources—including the writings of
Joseph himself—cannot honestly say that Joseph Smith was anything but a
truthful, virtuous, and incredible man, even if that person does not believe he
was truly a prophet of God. One of the main goals of this book is to tell the
real story, while making it simple to read and understand. 1,001 Facts about
the Prophet Joseph Smith is a history book for this generation. The entire book
can be read in one sitting, or readers can jump around to different moments
in the Prophet’s life and learn about their favorite and the most fascinating

events. I wrote it using only primary accounts to make it as accurate as pos-
sible. This book is not meant to portray Joseph Smith as a perfect man.

This book is meant to show Joseph Smith as the man he really
was—as accurately as possible—based on primary sources. This book contains
the real story.

A Pillar of Light

This week has been one of the most difficult of my life. One of those weeks where, just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get worse…it does! Something amazing happened this morning though. Things GOT BETTER for the first time this WHOLE WEEK. Ah! It happened right when I was about to give up, right when I almost lost hope.

When young 14-year-old Joseph Smith prayed in the sacred grove, something happened that made it extremely difficult. Years later he wrote about it saying, “immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction…I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound.” If you don’t know the rest of the story, it’s pretty cool! You can find the rest of it on lds.org or mormon.org, type in the search bar “Joseph Smith first vision.”

Anyway, I am sitting here on my couch just thinking about the craziness that was this past week. I thought about how I, like Joseph Smith, was about to give up. How I, like Joseph, was “ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction.” But then all the sudden I, like Joseph, looked up to see light. I looked up to see God. Although I, unlike Joseph, saw God figuratively…God was there, and His light broke through the thick darkness that surrounded me this week.

Sometimes our hardest trials last only a few days, but others can last months, years, or our entire lives. However, I learned today that sometimes—even though God is supporting us the whole time—He will allow our trials to send us to our breaking point (maybe even passed what we THOUGHT was our breaking point) before He allows the trial to end, to teach us something—both about ourselves and about God. I am so grateful for this gospel, for the Prophet Joseph Smith and every Prophet before/after him, for my Savior Jesus Christ, and my Heavenly Father. And EVERYTHING they have blessed me with…good AND bad. 💙

Joseph Smith shot at before the First Vision | Author’s Notes

Hi! So I am starting a new segment on this blog called “Author’s Notes.” It is honestly the reason I wanted to start a blog in the first place. While I was writing this book, 1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith, there were several times (and I mean SEVERAL times) when I would be typing a fact and I would want sooo badly to add my own opinion, commentary, or “two cents.” However, my opinion is not fact (even though it is, let’s be honest(;..). So, I censored myself a lot and tried only including the facts. I decided that I would add my commentary to a blog instead, called “Author’s Notes.” I am so excited. I hope you all like it! Today I am going to share a fact from my book, and also share my thoughts on that fact specifically.

 93. Just a few months before his visitation from Heavenly Father

and Jesus Christ, fourteen year old Joseph
was out on an errand for his parents. He was just about to reach the house on his way
home when he heard a gun being fired in his direction two times. Somebody was trying
to shoot him. He was frightened and quickly ran inside. The family went outside later to
try finding the shooter, but failed.
94. They did find the tracks in the snow where the shooter hid under a wagon. The next
morning, they found two balls in the head and neck of a cow nearby, which the shooter
hit instead of Joseph. They never found the shooter and never learned why they tried to
randomly kill the fourteen-year- old farm boy. This was before Joseph received
persecution for the first vision because it hadn’t even happened yet.

To the Smith family, the motive of the attempted
murderer was a total mystery.

     It is important to remember here that Joseph Smith was only fourteen, and had not experienced the visitation from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ yet, therefore had no reason to be persecuted at that time. While Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet’s mother and source for this fact, never explained this outright…I made my own assumptions as to why she found this important enough to include just a few paragraphs before recounting the story of Joseph Smith’s First Vision in her biography.

We know that the adversary can make us believe and listen to things that are illogical, dark, and evil. There is evidence even today of men, women, and children losing control of themselves and committing horrible crimes. Yes, most of these people suffer from mental illness. I am not at all trying to downplay that. I do believe, however, that Satan is the author and father of mental illness. Not only that, but he always seems to find ways to make mental illness worse. That is not the point here, though. The adversary is smart…smarter than I think we even realize. He can manipulate our minds and hearts into doing basically anything, if we let him influence us. Have you ever done something a little messed up, and not even had a real reason or understanding why you did it? Or have you ever done something a little messed up, and felt totally justified in doing so? Satan feeds us those reasons, and sometimes he succeeds in getting us to do things without reason.

We know that Lucifer was cast out of heaven in the pre-mortal existence. He was never born to earth and the veil was never lifted from him. He knew Joseph Smith in the pre-mortal existence. He knew Joseph Smith was pre-ordained to restore the fullness of Christ’s gospel. He knew the beginning of Joseph Smith’s journey was just about to begin. I think this anonymous shooter was manipulated by the adversary into randomly trying to murder a ‘random’ fourteen year old (or so the shooter probably thinks, but the adversary knows exactly what he is doing). My belief is that this was the adversary’s last-ditch effort (or one of his last-ditch efforts) to stop God’s work from progressing. If the Prophet of the restoration was killed before his First Vision, then maybe Christ’s church would never be restored. However, as Joseph Smith himself once said, “The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

Even though this fact may seem somewhat insignificant, to me this is just further evidence to support the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I know it to be true. I have seen the proof with my own eyes. I have grown to love the Prophet Joseph Smith so deeply, it is hard to put into words. I am grateful for everything he went through to bring the fullness of the gospel to the Earth. It is true what John Taylor said after Joseph’s martyrdom, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.” I cannot wait to help bring some of the stories and facts of his life to you all through this book and more “Author’s Notes” segments.  

 

How Firm A Foundation | “Anti-Mormon” Arguments

     My favorite Hymn of all time is called How Firm a Foundation. Whenever I find out we are singing it in sacrament, I look at my husband with a huge smile on my face and whisper in a giddy voice, “That is my favorite song!” This has happened so many times now that Dalyn always responds by affectionately nodding and saying with a smile, “I know.” The first line of the song goes like this: “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent word.” God has laid a steady, strong, and firm foundation for our faith, through the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

While researching for this book (1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith), I stumbled upon an internet article from a bitter, former member of the Church. The article tried to use certain elements of Joseph Smith’s life to ruin the testimonies of others. I read through their entire argument. As somebody who was in the middle of studying the Prophet’s life intensely, I knew and understood the full story from the original sources before I read this article. There was only misleading and twisted information. This person wrote about specific things in Church history, without including the full story or explanation. I could see how using this–and other articles like it–as the main source of gaining information can easily mislead those who once believed in or are trying to learn about the truth. After further research, I’ve noticed this is often the pattern of modern anti-Mormon arguments regarding Church history. They manipulate the story by only sharing certain portions or their sources come from those who were trying to destroy the early Church and/or even helped kill Joseph Smith. They do not include the details that would possibly discredit their argument. It is not the full story. Every member of the Church is likely to come across these arguments at some point in their lives. Please remember to consider the source. Know they have an agenda and are therefore not telling the truth. There is really no reason to ever entertain them. Of course the Church does not highlight the ‘controversial’ times of its history in sacrament and Sunday School lessons all the time because that is not what church is for. However, real primary source accounts (meaning: journals, letters, etc. from those who were actually there during the historical events) are available online for anyone to see. My favorite resource is josephsmithpapers.org. I strongly encourage those who have doubts or questions to use primary accounts as their main source for historical information. I believe that any decent person who seriously studies the Prophet’s life through credible primary sources–including the writings from the Prophet himself–cannot honestly say that Joseph Smith was anything but a truthful, virtuous, and incredible man even if that person does not believe he was truly a Prophet of God.

     In 1 Nephi chapter 8 of the Book of Mormon, we learn about Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, the iron rod, and the great and spacious building. In verse 26 Nephi says, “And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.” The great and spacious building, which we know is run by the adversary and his followers, floats in the air. It literally has no foundation. We later learn that the great and spacious building randomly crumbles to the earth and all its inhabitants are destroyed. Like the great and spacious building, these opposing arguments literally have no foundation, except lies and fallacies…like floating clouds of hot air with no substance. Like the great and spacious building, the adversary’s arguments look and sound legitimate and can be very enticing. However, like the great and spacious building, they do not hold up; they will fall.  Do not be among those who will fall. One of the final lines of How Firm a Foundation goes, “Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed. For I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand.” If we listen to Him, follow Him, hold to the iron rod, and stay firmly planted on the strong foundation of the gospel He created for us, He will not suffer that we should fall. Stay strong, stay faithful, stay firm. Doubt not, fear not. God is with thee. He is real. Stick with Him.