Elder Holland on Depression

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Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk at the Saturday afternoon session of the October 2013 General Conference that resonated with many struggling with psychiatric and psychological disorders. He specifically addressed Major Depressive Disorder but his words are broadly applicable. As someone with a PhD in clinical psychology, I appreciated his message of hope and love to those who struggle. While my interests and specialties are in understanding and helping those with neurological disorders, I have experience and training in helping people who struggle with depression, anxiety, ADHD, addictions, and other emotional and mental disorders. Thus I can say as a professional that Elder Holland nailed the issue of mental and emotional disorders right on the head.

In the past, many church leaders and members had unflattering views of psychological and psychiatric treatment; frankly, much of it was deserved. Diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders in the past was mediocre to harmful in the past. We have come a long way. Most of this improvement in the fields of psychiatry and psychology has come in the past 30 years, with broader improvements in public understanding over the past 15-20 years.

At any given time in the U.S., 5-15% (varies by state) of adults meet criteria for clinical depression with an overall prevalence around 6.5% (Sources: http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdepression/http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1mdd_adult.shtml). The 6.5% rate is from 2008 and rates have increased since then. 2% of the U.S. adult population suffer from severe depression (actual rate is slightly higher due to under-reporting and under-treatment).

The good news is that psychological and psychiatric treatment for depression and anxiety is highly effective (in general, effectiveness for individuals will vary). Around 70% of individuals will respond well to a combination of medication and “talk therapy”. That is not comforting for those who do not respond but there is always room for hope. You can find out more about depression and validated treatment by reading this information from the National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

If you missed Elder Holland’s talk, you can watch it below. If you didn’t miss it, it is well worth your time to watch it again. I’ll write more on this topic soon. If you have any questions about psychological, psychiatric, or neurological disorders, I’ll be happy to try to answer your questions. If you are struggling with depression or anxiety or some other similar (or more severe) challenge, seek help from a competent professional in conjunction with seeking help from the Lord.

A Loving Kick in the Pants

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When the Savior needs to help someone make a needed behavior change, I imagine He does it much in the same manner as Elder Holland did during the Sunday morning session of General Conference (October 2012). Elder Holland gave a talk I called at the time a loving kick in the pants.

I hold to that description. As always, Elder Holland gave a remarkable talk. He told of the Apostles after Christ’s resurrection returning to fish the solitary sea of Galilee.

Here I ask your indulgence as I take some nonscriptural liberty in my portrayal of this exchange. In effect, Peter said to his associates: “Brethren, it has been a glorious three years. None of us could have imagined such a few short months ago the miracles we have seen and the divinity we have enjoyed. We have talked with, prayed with, and labored with the very Son of God Himself. We have walked with Him and wept with Him, and on the night of that horrible ending, no one wept more bitterly than I. But that is over. He has finished His work, and He has risen from the tomb. He has worked out His salvation and ours. So you ask, ‘What do we do now?’ I don’t know more to tell you than to return to your former life, rejoicing. I intend to ‘go a fishing.’” And at least six of the ten other remaining Apostles said in agreement, “We also go with thee.” John, who was one of them, writes, “They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately.”

So the Apostles were out working without success when the Savior appeared on the seashore, although at first they did not recognize Him. It was not until He asked them to cast their net again into the water did they start to recognize Him. They caught many fish and came to shore to talk with the Resurrected Lord. This is where the chastisement – the loving kick in the pants – started.

Jesus asked Peter three times – “Do you love me?” Peter responded, “Yea Lord, I do.” But the Savior needed to teach Peter a lesson – Peter had not fully grasped the nature of his calling as Apostle (and chief Apostle at that!).

To which Jesus responded (and here again I acknowledge my nonscriptural elaboration), perhaps saying something like: “Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.”

The calling of Apostle is to be a representative of Christ full-time. It is to love Christ and our Father enough to take up a cross and follow the Savior. Jesus chastised Peter for not understanding that after Christ’s resurrection Peter was not to return to fishing, he was to be a full-time fisher of men. The absence of the Savior does not mean the cessation of His work.

Even though the calling of Apostle is special, the rest of us are not off the hook from Elder Holland’s and the Savior’s loving kick in the pants.

My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” And if at such a moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.

“If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back.

Will we be able to answer the Savior when we stand before Him to be judged that we really do love Him, that we loved Him enough that we put Him first in our lives? Did we love Him enough to really love other people? Do we really understand the weight of the responsibility we bear when we are baptized and are confirmed and make sacred covenants to follow the Savior? Do we feel like we can stand before the Savior today with clean hands and a pure heart having done all we can to follow His commandments? If not, what changes need to be made? If not, start making the changes today. I end with Elder Holland’s testimony.

I testify from the bottom of my heart, with the intensity of my soul, to all who can hear my voice that those apostolic keys have been restored to the earth, and they are found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To those who have not yet joined with us in this great final cause of Christ, we say, “Please come.” To those who were once with us but have retreated, preferring to pick and choose a few cultural hors d’oeuvres from the smorgasbord of the Restoration and leave the rest of the feast, I say that I fear you face a lot of long nights and empty nets. The call is to come back, to stay true, to love God, and to lend a hand. I include in that call to fixed faithfulness every returned missionary who ever stood in a baptismal font and with arm to the square said, “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ.” That commission was to have changed your convert forever, but it was surely supposed to have changed you forever as well. To the youth of the Church rising up to missions and temples and marriage, we say: “Love God and remain clean from the blood and sins of this generation. You have a monumental work to do, underscored by that marvelous announcement President Thomas S. Monson made yesterday morning. Your Father in Heaven expects your loyalty and your love at every stage of your life.”

To all within the sound of my voice, the voice of Christ comes ringing down through the halls of time, asking each one of us while there is time, “Do you love me?” And for every one of us, I answer with my honor and my soul, “Yea, Lord, we do love thee.” And having set our “hand to the plough,” we will never look back until this work is finished and love of God and neighbor rules the world. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Those are powerful words from a loving Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ! May they inspire us to be a little better than we were yesterday, to be a little kinder, a little more loving, and a little more faithful.

LDS General Conference 2012 – Two Favorite Talks

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Two of my favorite talks from conference were by Elder Jeffery R. Holland and Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf. I also really enjoyed Sis. Cheryl Esplin’s talk about teaching our children to understand the gospel.

The full text of all the addresses will be posted on Thursday. Here is a summary of what was spoken.

Watch Elder Holland’s talk about the Laborers in the Vineyard below. He talked about being grateful for the blessings we receive and counseled us to not compare ourselves to others. We don’t need to “drink a quart of pickle juice” when others around us are successful. We shouldn’t get so caught up on old grievances – against ourselves, against others, against the Church, or even ones by church members or church leaders. We are all imperfect and cannot measure up to our Perfect Father. God thrills from being merciful. We need forgiveness and need to forgive others. We have never travelled beyond the light of God’s forgiveness. We can overcome our problems and receive forgiveness.

Here is Pres. Uchtdorf’s Sunday morning talk. He counseled us to forgive others, giving us a two word sermon amid the rest of his talk: “Stop it!” We need to stop judging others and forgive and love everyone: “Brothers and sisters, let us put down our stones. Let us be kind. Let us forgive. Let us talk peacefully with each other. Let the love of God fill our hearts. Let us do good unto all men…Let us, as disciples of Jesus Christ, return good for evil. Let us not seek revenge or allow our wrath to overcome us. … As member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wherever we may be, let us be known as a people who have love one to another”.

Video Introduction to the Book of Mormon

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There is a new video on the Mormon Messages YouTube channel introducing the Book of Mormon. It’s a great video to share with friends or family who are not members of the LDS Church. It’s also great to show to children (or anyone else). Elder Holland provides a brief overview of where the Book of Mormon came from and how we can know of its truth. Please view and share this video with others.

Elder Holland’s General Conference Address

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I have a confession to make. I missed almost all of General Conference because I was at a research conference on Saturday and on my way to another research conference on Sunday. So, last week was a conference weekend for me, it just wasn’t Conference weekend. What I am grateful for is the opportunity I have to listen, read, or watch all the talks from General Conference online or on my iPod. I can (and do) listen to Conference talks while walking from my car to my lab. I can use that time to soak in the words of prophets and apostles, thanks to terrific technologies.

In this strain of gratitude, I would like to post the video of Elder Holland’s talk, as well as a few quotations from his talk. Here is the video:

To those in the church who might feel as if their contributions have been small or insignificant, Elder Holland offers these words with all the sincerity of his heart: “And to the near-perfect elderly sister who almost apologetically whispered recently, ‘I have never been a leader of anything in the Church. I guess I’ve only been a helper,’ I say, ‘Dear sister, God bless you and all the ‘helpers’ in the kingdom.’ Some of us who are leaders hope someday to have the standing before God that you have already attained.” (Source).

We are all important members of God’s family and are loved by Him and by so many others. Elder Holland said, “In whatever country you live, however young or inadequate you feel, or however aged or limited you see yourself as being, I testify you are individually loved of God, you are central to the meaning of His work, and you are cherished and prayed for by the presiding officers of His Church. The personal value, the sacred splendor of every one of you, is the very reason there is a plan for salvation and exaltation.”

I hope that we might all read, watch, listen to, re-read, re-watch, or listen again to Elder Holland’s message. His message was more than a jaunty pep-talk or a bit of positive psychological prose, Elder Holland spoke of and exhibited the pure love Christ. God loves each of us, in spite of our many imperfections. This does not mean that we are free to sin without consequence but God does love each of us.

Mormon Messages: Good Things to Come

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A new Mormon Messages video shares one of my favorite stories ever shared in General Conference. In October 1999, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland related a story about his car breaking down just outside Kanarraville, UT as he was a young man headed across the country to attend graduate school. Here is the Mormon Messages video of the story:

Here is the text of Elder Holland’s story from his talk An High Priest of Good Things to Come:

“Forgive me for a personal conclusion, which does not represent the terrible burdens so many of you carry but it is meant to be encouraging. Thirty years ago last month, a little family set out to cross the United States to attend graduate school–no money, an old car, every earthly possession they owned packed into less than half the space of the smallest U-Haul trailer available. Bidding their apprehensive parents farewell, they drove exactly 34 miles up the highway, at which point their beleaguered car erupted.

“Pulling off the freeway onto a frontage road, the young father surveyed the steam, matched it with his own, then left his trusting wife and two innocent children–the youngest just three months old–to wait in the car while he walked the three miles or so to the southern Utah metropolis of Kanarraville, population then, I suppose, 65. Some water was secured at the edge of town, and a very kind citizen offered a drive back to the stranded family. The car was attended to and slowly–very slowly–driven back to St. George for inspection–U-Haul trailer and all.

“After more than two hours of checking and rechecking, no immediate problem could be detected, so once again the journey was begun. In exactly the same amount of elapsed time at exactly the same location on that highway with exactly the same pyrotechnics from under the hood, the car exploded again. It could not have been 15 feet from the earlier collapse, probably not 5 feet from it! Obviously the most precise laws of automotive physics were at work.

“Now feeling more foolish than angry, the chagrined young father once more left his trusting loved ones and started the long walk for help once again. This time the man providing the water said, ‘Either you or that fellow who looks just like you ought to get a new radiator for that car.’ For the second time a kind neighbor offered a lift back to the same automobile and its anxious little occupants. He didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the plight of this young family.

“‘How far have you come?’ he said. ‘Thirty-four miles,’ I answered. ‘How much farther do you have to go?’ ‘Twenty-six hundred miles,’ I said. ‘Well, you might make that trip, and your wife and those two little kiddies might make that trip, but none of you are going to make it in that car.’ He proved to be prophetic on all counts.

“Just two weeks ago this weekend, I drove by that exact spot where the freeway turnoff leads to a frontage road, just three miles or so west of Kanarraville, Utah. That same beautiful and loyal wife, my dearest friend and greatest supporter for all these years, was curled up asleep in the seat beside me. The two children in the story, and the little brother who later joined them, have long since grown up and served missions, married perfectly, and are now raising children of their own. The automobile we were driving this time was modest but very pleasant and very safe. In fact, except for me and my lovely Pat situated so peacefully at my side, nothing of that moment two weeks ago was even remotely like the distressing circumstances of three decades earlier.

“Yet in my mind’s eye, for just an instant, I thought perhaps I saw on that side road an old car with a devoted young wife and two little children making the best of a bad situation there. Just ahead of them I imagined that I saw a young fellow walking toward Kanarraville, with plenty of distance still ahead of him. His shoulders seemed to be slumping a little, the weight of a young father’s fear evident in his pace. In the scriptural phrase his hands did seem to ‘hang down.’ In that imaginary instant, I couldn’t help calling out to him: ‘Don’t give up, boy. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead–a lot of it–30 years of it now, and still counting. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.'”

BYU Speeches – Elder Holland

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I’ve been enjoying listening to the New BYU Speeches podcast (link opens in iTunes). As soon as I subscribed, I downloaded two of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talks. The most recent was a BYU Devotional given in January 2009. It’s called Remember Lot’s Wife. It is one of the best speeches/talks I’ve heard in a long time (and all of Elder Holland’s are wonderful). I’ve listened to it 3 times in the past 2 days.

The whole talk is great but here are a few quotes I think are particularly important (although that’s a bit like saying we’ll just focus on the eyes of the Mona Lisa while ignoring the whole painting).

“There is something in us, at least in too many of us, that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life—either mistakes we ourselves have made or the mistakes of others. That is not good. It is not Christian. It stands in terrible opposition to the grandeur and majesty of the Atonement of Christ. To be tied to earlier mistakes—our own or other people’s—is the worst kind of wallowing in the past from which we are called to cease and desist….”

“When something is over and done with, when it has been repented of as fully as it can be repented of, when life has moved on as it should and a lot of other wonderfully good things have happened since then, it is not right to go back and open up some ancient wound that the Son of God Himself died trying to heal…” (emphasis added).

“Faith is for the future. Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there. Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us and that Christ truly is the ‘high priest of good things to come.'”

He also threw in one good joke: “Now, as a passing comment, I don’t know whether Lot’s wife, like Miniver, was a drinker, but if she was, she certainly ended up with plenty of salt for her pretzels.”

Again, I think this talk is one of the best I’ve heard (it reminds me a bit of Elder Holland’s talk An High Priest of Good Things to Come, which was given during the October 1999 General Conference). It’s available in the New BYU Speeches podcast I linked to earlier. It’s also available on the BYU Speeches website with a free PDF, free html, and a free MP3 of the talk.

Impressions of Conference

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I recently finished listening to all the talks from General Conference again (other than the Priesthood Session but I’ve started re-reading those). I am struck by how wonderful all the talks are. Conference is always good but sometimes there are some talks that aren’t quite so interesting or full of impact. That might just reveal something about myself though. However, this Conference was amazing. Every talk was worth listening to again and again. Normally I listen to all the talks again once, then just listen to the talks by the apostles again (or maybe a particularly good talk by one of the Seventy or general officers). However, I really want to listen to every talk again. I already started.

The other thing I was struck by is how much Elder Holland’s talk about the Savior touched so many people. All I heard from other church members after Conference were things like, “What did you think of Elder Holland’s talk?” or “Wasn’t Elder Holland’s talk amazing?” It was; it is. It’s an instant classic. Elder Holland has always been one of my favorite speakers; there are a few of his talks I’ve listened to and re-read many times. I love his talk As Doves to Our Windows he gave in April 2000. I also really enjoy his talk Broken Things to Mend. A talk I particularly love is his talk An High Priest of Good Things To Come, which he gave in October 1999. I think I’ve listened to that talk at least 10 times, maybe 20. While his talks are frequently encouraging to those who suffer or who are sad or who feel lost, that talk is particularly comforting. In it he tells the story of a young father setting across the country with his young family to attend school. I’ll reprint the story here.

“Forgive me for a personal conclusion, which does not represent the terrible burdens so many of you carry but it is meant to be encouraging. Thirty years ago last month, a little family set out to cross the United States to attend graduate school–no money, an old car, every earthly possession they owned packed into less than half the space of the smallest U-Haul trailer available. Bidding their apprehensive parents farewell, they drove exactly 34 miles up the highway, at which point their beleaguered car erupted.

“Pulling off the freeway onto a frontage road, the young father surveyed the steam, matched it with his own, then left his trusting wife and two innocent children–the youngest just three months old–to wait in the car while he walked the three miles or so to the southern Utah metropolis of Kanarraville, population then, I suppose, 65. Some water was secured at the edge of town, and a very kind citizen offered a drive back to the stranded family. The car was attended to and slowly–very slowly–driven back to St. George for inspection–U-Haul trailer and all.

“After more than two hours of checking and rechecking, no immediate problem could be detected, so once again the journey was begun. In exactly the same amount of elapsed time at exactly the same location on that highway with exactly the same pyrotechnics from under the hood, the car exploded again. It could not have been 15 feet from the earlier collapse, probably not 5 feet from it! Obviously the most precise laws of automotive physics were at work.

“Now feeling more foolish than angry, the chagrined young father once more left his trusting loved ones and started the long walk for help once again. This time the man providing the water said, ‘Either you or that fellow who looks just like you ought to get a new radiator for that car.’ For the second time a kind neighbor offered a lift back to the same automobile and its anxious little occupants. He didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the plight of this young family.

“‘How far have you come?’ he said. ‘Thirty-four miles,’ I answered. ‘How much farther do you have to go?’ ‘Twenty-six hundred miles,’ I said. ‘Well, you might make that trip, and your wife and those two little kiddies might make that trip, but none of you are going to make it in that car.’ He proved to be prophetic on all counts.

“Just two weeks ago this weekend, I drove by that exact spot where the freeway turnoff leads to a frontage road, just three miles or so west of Kanarraville, Utah. That same beautiful and loyal wife, my dearest friend and greatest supporter for all these years, was curled up asleep in the seat beside me. The two children in the story, and the little brother who later joined them, have long since grown up and served missions, married perfectly, and are now raising children of their own. The automobile we were driving this time was modest but very pleasant and very safe. In fact, except for me and my lovely Pat situated so peacefully at my side, nothing of that moment two weeks ago was even remotely like the distressing circumstances of three decades earlier.

“Yet in my mind’s eye, for just an instant, I thought perhaps I saw on that side road an old car with a devoted young wife and two little children making the best of a bad situation there. Just ahead of them I imagined that I saw a young fellow walking toward Kanarraville, with plenty of distance still ahead of him. His shoulders seemed to be slumping a little, the weight of a young father’s fear evident in his pace. In the scriptural phrase his hands did seem to hang down.’ In that imaginary instant, I couldn’t help calling out to him: ‘Don’t give up, boy. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead–a lot of it–30 years of it now, and still counting. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.'”

As with any of his talks, as wonderful as they are to read, they are even better when listened to. Here is the link to the audio of that talk (I believe it requires Windows Media Player or something that can play the format).

The Divine Role of Motherhood – Part 5

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When the days seem tough and the nights even worse, young (and old) mothers can find solace and encouragement in the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:

“In speaking of mothers generally, I especially wish to praise and encourage young mothers. The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work. The young years are often those when either husband or wife—or both—may still be in school or in those earliest and leanest stages of developing the husband’s breadwinning capacities. Finances fluctuate daily between low and nonexistent. The apartment is usually decorated in one of two smart designs—Deseret Industries provincial or early Mother Hubbard. The car, if there is one, runs on smooth tires and an empty tank. But with night feedings and night teethings, often the greatest challenge of all for a young mother is simply fatigue. Through these years, mothers go longer on less sleep and give more to others with less personal renewal for themselves than any other group I know at any other time in life. It is not surprising when the shadows under their eyes sometimes vaguely resemble the state of Rhode Island.

“Yours is the grand tradition of Eve [and so many other wonderful mothers]…. We thank all of you…and tell you there is nothing more important in this world than participating so directly in the work and glory of God, in bringing to pass the mortality and earthly life of His daughters and sons, so that immortality and eternal life can come in those celestial realms on high” (Ensign, May 1997, p. 35).

In closing, I’d like to paraphrase the words of Elder Ballard: “We need [mothers] who can hear and will respond to the voice of the Lord, [mothers] who at all costs will defend and protect the family[,…but] above all, we need [mothers] who will stand up for truth and righteousness and decry evil at every turn, [mothers] who will simply say, ‘Lord, here am I, send me'” (When Thou Art Converted, p. 179).

Sin, Sorrow, and Suffering – Part 4

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Suffering is an integral part of life. Once we understand this we no longer need to be upset when we suffer; rather we can seek to find the meaning in our suffering. We can choose our attitude toward our suffering; we can choose how we will bear our crosses when they invariably come. The Savior, who lived a perfect life, suffered more than any other person. Through His suffering He brought salvation to humankind: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9). Christ provided the way to overcome suffering. Christ learned obedience through His suffering and through His suffering He became the Way to eternal life and salvation. In and through Christ we find strength and power to overcome suffering in this life. John the Revelator told of the comfort the Lord gives unto those who follow Him and endure unto the end: “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17). In this life and the next, the Lord is there to mourn with us when we mourn and to wipe away our tears.

The apostle Paul wrote much on suffering and the solace the Savior provides. “Blessed be God…who comforteth us in all tribulation…. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation” (2 Cor. 1:3-6).

For those struggling, Elder Holland gave these words of encouragement: “Don’t give up…. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead…. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.” (Holland, Ensign, Nov. 1999). There is an end to the suffering; there is hope. That end and hope comes in and through the Savior.