How to Discourage Discouragement
Adapted from a September 2000 LDS Business College devotional address.
If you want to be happy most of the time, do the things that bring happiness. Here’s how.
Elder Gene R. Cook reminds us that the Lord loves all of us. In the beliefs of Mormonism, God truly is a loving Heavenly Father who cares for our welfare. Christ died for us so that we might repent and follow Him. The path to happiness, in Mormons’ beliefs, is the path of righteousness . . . of caring for others, of living clean, of testifying of Christ and knowing His gospel.
I hope you are not really down on yourself or think you are not worth very much. That is the devil speaking. He is the one who keeps pounding away to make you feel that you are not worth much. That is not the Lord speaking.
Discouragement is a pretty common ailment. We all struggle with that to some degree, but I want to tell you how to remove discouragement.
In Moroni, the Lord says, “If ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair” (Moro. 10:22). Or in other words, you must be discouraged. If you have little hope about something, you are in despair and discouragement.
And then comes this great conclusion in that same verse: “despair [or discouragement] cometh because of iniquity.” In other words, we have not yet learned to have the Spirit of the Lord with us in such abundance that we are able to be like Christ and shun discouraging feelings all the time.
So, how are we going to fix it? Well, you have to have more of the Spirit of the Lord.
In Helaman chapter five, Nephi and Lehi are in a prison. There is a dark cloud hanging over the Lamanites and they are asking, “How do we get rid of this dark cloud?” Discouragement is like a dark cloud when it is hanging over you. How do you get rid of it?
The simple answer in Helaman 5:41 [Hel. 5:41] is, “You must repent, and cry unto the voice [meaning unto the Lord, to pray], even until ye shall have faith in Christ, … and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.”
The Lord is teaching here that the reason we are down is that we have sinned. And if we will repent and humbly ask the Lord to forgive us, in faith, His sweet Spirit will come back. So here are some specifics on how to do that.
You need to pray. If you really want to not be discouraged, one of the best solutions I know of is to pray. Have a prayer in your heart always. To the degree you will learn to pray your way through a day, you will find that Satan and his evil influence will leave, the Spirit of the Lord will come, and you will be on top and be able to go through the trials that come your way.
Read in the scriptures prayerfully every day. Do not set aside your scripture study or you will be inviting in the devil, who will try to discourage you. There is great power in reading the words of the Lord every day. You may have some times when all you can read is five or ten minutes. That’s better than nothing. Just don’t skip it. If you will trust in Him and let the words of the Lord come into your heart to humble your heart, you will open the door to the Spirit of the Lord.
Be especially careful to keep yourself clean. One thing that can surely discourage you very quickly is to get involved in some kind of sin. Be very careful, because the devil is really anxious to get hold of someone about your age. He knows if he can corrupt you when you are young, that it will have great impact on you later when you are a husband or wife, and upon your children.
Be careful when you are dating to not be alone with a member of the opposite sex. Stay more in groups. Be in settings where you’re not totally alone because the devil will go to work on you if you are. Be careful if you find yourself in any setting where it is starting to heat up. You know what I mean by that. Maybe those around you are starting to drink or smoke or swear, or somebody puts on a bad video. What ought you to do? Run! Leave immediately. Don’t sit there and debate in your mind about it because the devil will win.
Guard yourselves by keeping the Word of Wisdom 100 percent.
Avoid pornography 100 percent. Pornography is a destroyer. Please, young men, just trust us. Pornography is every bit as bad as drinking alcohol, and worse. It will become an addiction that will pull you down, down, down, until the devil will take you. Your only safety is not to get into it.
Some of you may be struggling with that right now, and you know what discouragement is, because that is what pornography will bring with great severity. If any of you are involved in any of those kinds of things, go to your bishop right now—immediately. Honestly talk it through with him. Don’t be embarrassed about it. Remember, the devil loves to keep things in secret.
Sisters, dress modestly. You know what the Brethren have taught about that. You are beautiful young women. The Lord made your bodies such that they are attractive to men. It is supposed to be that way. That attraction is not wrong; it is right. A woman is supposed to be attractive to a man. That is what will cause you to be married later. What a great blessing.
But be careful, sisters, that you dress modestly. Don’t attract some young man to your body. You want to attract him to your soul, to your spirit, so he falls in love with the real you, not just with your body.
Be very careful, young men, of pairing off too early with one young woman, especially before your mission. After your mission it is different because you are trying to get married.
Avoid petting 100 percent. It is totally against the commandments.
I’ve just given you a pretty long list of what can really bring you down. Your answer to that must be, “I will not do any of those.” And if you will be true to that, you will not need to worry about being discouraged.
Look for opportunities to bear your testimony. If you want to chase discouragement away, find some nonmembers and bear your testimony to them, or maybe just to a friend who’s a little disheartened today. You don’t have to say, “I’m going to bear my testimony, Susie.” That would not work too well. But you could say: “You know, Susie, let me tell you something I was reading yesterday in the scriptures. I was really touched by something. May I share it with you?”
That is bearing your testimony, which will bring the Lord into Susie’s life, as well as your life.
Use the hymns of the Church. This is a great way to stay above discouragement. I used to think when I was younger that I would sing when I got discouraged. To me, that is a good way to get free of discouragement, but it’s a little late. A better way is to sing all the time. And if you will do that, you won’t go down into one of those troughs. Get in the habit of singing hymns every day. Sing in the shower. You will sound better there.
Beware the music of the world, too. Make sure you have some good music to listen to, and it will carry you through some of those tougher days.
6. Love and gratitude
Express love and gratitude to God and men. You can truly express your love to someone and have the Spirit of the Lord come right now, and discouragement will leave. If you are feeling down, go find someone to cheer up. If you are down, go and tell someone how much you love them. I’m thinking of some of your dads and moms who need that from you. Go throw your arms around them.
Remember, too, that if you don’t like the way you are feeling, you need to correct the way you are thinking. When you first have a bad thought come, or a discouraging thought such as, “I’m not worth much,” or “I’m going to flunk this test,” or “People won’t like me,” cast it out immediately.
7. Share spiritual experiences
If you are down, go tell someone about something positive that happened to you yesterday. Share a spiritual experience, and the Spirit will come right away.
The Lord is in all of His creations, and especially in you. If you will watch carefully, you will have plenty of experiences to share.
8. Priesthood blessings
If you are really struggling with discouragement of some depth, seek a priesthood blessing now. Ask your dad to give it to you, or the bishop, or someone close to you. Be humble enough to ask.
A priesthood blessing has great power in keeping Satan away and gives you strength to turn him away when he does come.
I bear witness to you that if you will adopt a pattern similar to this, it will take the dips out of your lives. I testify that a man can be happy most of his days, most every hour of every day. The key to it is to have the Spirit of the Lord with you, to love people, to give your heart to others, to seek to build them up, to lift and strengthen them. This will bring true happiness and true peace. I testify that there is no other way to receive that happiness and peace except by keeping the commandments of the Lord.
Gene R. Cook, “How to Discourage Discouragement,” New Era, Jan. 2003, 44.