Over the years, I have sometimes read The Book of Mormon with a theme or question in mind. A few months ago, I decided I wanted to learn more about what the Book of Mormon has to say about brain science. This is related to my educational and professional background and work. It’s also relevant to my own personal spiritual journey. I believe our brains and bodies and spirits are so connected, and I have wanted to understand more about how I can engage my brain for a stronger spiritual life.
There are so many facets to brain science and mental health. It has been fun, fascinating, and exciting to discover how much The Book of Mormon can expand my thinking on these things. I used a fresh copy of The Book of Mormon to do this study, and my pages are filled with purple pencil markings and notes. I dare say there is more purple than while on my pages!
While I went in knowing that narratives play a part in our mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual wellness, I wasn’t expecting to see the patterns that have emerged around this topic of narratives. One thing is clear: Our self-narratives can make all the difference between peace and agony, and between trust in God or turning away from him — even between societal peace or war, and definitely in family relationships, even across generations. One of the most stunning patterns that has shown up consistently is that violence (verbal and physical, to self and others) is connected to false beliefs in a sobering way.
Perhaps it was my personal study that made me all the more interested to read a recent post at ChurchofJesusChrist.org about a woman’s experience with coming awake to her narratives. (“Do You Need to Rewrite Your Life’s Story?”) The author, named Angela Ahn, suffered heartbreakingly difficult traumatic events at a young age. I felt great sympathy for her pain as I read. (We are supposed to mourn with those that mourn.) But she also had a friend who helped her consider that maybe the stories she had built around her mourning were causing her unnecessary pain. That was a brave friend who spoke up and invited her to consider her ways.
Angela bravely took her friend’s advice. And in this post, she shares her wisdom in being able to use a variety of tools to help her find a new lens on her life is inspiring to read. By reframing her story, she found healing in her relationship with God, and more ability to experience joy and peace in her life.
I love the definition of repentance in the Latter-day Saint Bible Dictionary that takes from the Greek word which “denotes a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.” This is not about peppy positive psychology, but about soul-searching to consider and hold space for the possibility that where we have suffered pain and sorrow (or even wrongs at the hands of another), with God, we can be enabled to see things with a lens that makes more space for our Heavenly Parents and Their love, for Jesus and His loving sacrifice and for the big picture of God’s plan and promises that all that we experience will be turned for good, because He is good. (See Romans 8:28; Doctrine and Covenants 122:7)
God is always at work for our good, but the lens we have on life can impact whether or not we can see and trust in that. It’s like the old adage, “Which wolf will you feed?”
I think many times we need God’s help to clear out our life lenses, just like Jesus helped the blind man see by inviting him to wash the earth-mud from his eyes. Simply being mortal means we have mud in our eyes, and traumas and trials can increase our blindness if we aren’t careful. We are veiled from seeing all that God is doing and all He is. But with faith, He can help us find His light and love in our lives, even in the hard times.
Again, the author of the post I read includes a variety of tools — from writing to therapy to daily exercise to daily scripture study, and more — that can be of benefit when we could use help rewriting our stories to include a more eternal perspective. I invite you to read her story and consider the list of tools she shares.
All of this also reminds me of a talk given by Camille Johnson, who is the worldwide president of the Primary organization in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Frankly, few of us would probably write into our stories the trials that refine us. But don’t we love the glorious culmination of a story we read when the protagonist overcomes the struggle? Trials are the elements of the plot that make our favorite stories compelling, timeless, faith promoting, and worthy of telling. The beautiful struggles written into our stories are what draw us closer to the Savior and refine us, making us more like Him.
For David to overcome Goliath, the boy had to take on the giant. The comfortable narrative for David would have been a return to tending sheep. But instead he reflected upon his experience saving lambs from a lion and a bear. And building on those heroic feats, he mustered the faith and courage to let God write his story, declaring, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.”3 With a desire to let God prevail, with an ear to the Holy Ghost and a willingness to let the Savior be the author and finisher of his story, the boy David defeated Goliath and saved his people.
What’s your story? What are stories you tell yourself when things feel hard? Are there ways you can invite Christ to help author your story? Are there friends and professionals who could help? Do you have a practice of daily spiritual study, writing, and physical self care?
The story is never over, so we can always keep improving how we write our story, and with whom (Whom). I’m grateful for Angela’s story that helped me recommit to working on how I write my own.