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It takes a strong person to change. We’re all given a set of circumstances at birth that can define us. If those situations become toxic, most people stay chained to the circumstances because they don’t know how to get free. However, there are amazing people who have broken away from tremendously difficult challenges and have shifted the balance of their future along with that of their family’s.
A Revelatory Experience
Recently, a friend who told me a wonderful experience she had 22 years ago that helped her see meaning in her nearly unbearable life. Her childhood had been very painful because of tremendous abuse and neglect of her parents and others, causing her to develop many addictions and negative behaviors over her teen and adult years.
At some point, she made the colossal effort to begin digging out of her pit. Because of this epic undertaking, she felt she needed extra insights and assistance, and asked for a blessing from her Stake President. His words gave her much to ponder. She said:
“When he laid has hands on my head he said that in the pre-earth life I was there with friends and those I loved. When the difficult assignments were being spoken of, I heard what my friends and those I loved would have to go through in this life. Because of my love and compassion for them; I did not want them to go through these very difficult things and I volunteered to take them on to help them so that they would not have to suffer the pain and agony of those life experiences. I offered to bear those burdens and not pass them on through my family and to break the chains to cleanse and purify my family lineage.”
She happened to see this inspired Stake President 20 years later after he had just returned home from being a mission president. He remembered that blessing all those years later.
“When I met with this Stake President 20 years later he reminded me of the blessing he had given me, and told me he had given thousands of blessings since that time but he had never forgotten mine. He remembered it with great clarity and said that he had never understood before that people could be “saviors” for others by taking on there trials so that they would not have to suffer and go through them.”
This blessing gave my friend hope. She has since worked with many other people in addiction and recovery and helped them break chains of darkness. She can see the blessing being fulfilled.
Why Did God Give Me such a Terrible Childhood?
Dr. Carlfred Broderick, former president of the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists wrote of a similar experience:
“I had a woman who came to me—the victim of a terrible family. Her mother was neurotic and stayed in bed all the time to get her daughter to do all the work. The daughter had been abused in about every way there was to be, [by her parents]—psychologically, physically, sexually. Besides that she had to do all the housework.”
She wasn’t a member of the Church at that time. In high school she met a gentle and kind young man who was a Latter-day Saint. She joined the Church, and they were married. He was patient and long-suffering with her and loved her.
Brother Broderick continues:
“Despite this, she had recurring bouts of depression and very negative feelings about herself because she had been taught by the people most important in her early life what a rotten person she was. It was hard for her to overcome that self-image. I worked with her to try to build her self- image.”
“One day she said to me, “You’re a stake president…” You explain to me the justice of it.” She said, “I go to church, and I can hardly stand it…When I see little girls being hugged and kissed and taken to church and appropriately loved by their fathers and mothers, I just have to get up and leave. I say, ‘Heavenly Father, what was so terrible about me that, when I was that age, I didn’t get any of that? What did that little girl do in the pre- mortal existence that I didn’t do so she is loved, so she is safe? Her daddy gives her priesthood blessings when she’s sick. Her mother loves her and supports her and teaches her. What did I do?’ Can you tell me that God is just if he sends that little girl to that family and me to my family?”
“I would not have known how to answer her in my own capacity because that is manifestly unjust. Where, here or in eternity, is the justice in an innocent child’s suffering that way? But the Lord inspired me to tell her, and I believe with all my heart that it applies to many in the kingdom, that she was a valiant, Christ-like spirit who volunteered to come to earth and suffer innocently to purify a lineage. She had volunteered to absorb the poisoning of sin, anger, anguish, and violence, to take it into herself and not to pass it on; to purify a lineage so that downstream from her it ran pure and clean, full of love and the Spirit of the Lord and self-worth. I believed truly that her calling was to be a savior on Mount Zion: that is, to be Savior-like, like the Savior to suffer innocently that others might not suffer. She voluntarily took such a task with the promise she would not be left alone and abandoned, but he would send one to take her by the hand and be her companion out into the light. I viewed that woman in a different way also, again realizing I was in the presence of one of the great ones.”
Who Would They Be?
The question I asked myself after thinking of these noble souls was, “Who would these people have been without the Gospel coming into their lives?” Only the love and nurturing one-ness of Christ and a spiritual support group could have helped them overcome and then triumph with those overwhelming odds.
Climbing up to Mount Zion: A Light To Generations
As Elder Richard G. Scott observed: “Changing a profoundly embedded pattern of life can be very difficult. . . . Persistent faith in the Savior and obedience will see you through such hardships to greater blessings. The scriptures illustrate how conviction and faith can overcome traditions in conflict with God’s plan, bringing blessings to individuals, and even generations of people.” (Richard G. Scott (1998, May), Removing barriers to happiness, Ensign, 28(5), 86).
Once these people climb out of their dark places onto Mount Zion, and become beings of light, they can lift and “save” others by bringing them into recovery and healing.
Carlfred Broderick shares more light on this topic:
“God actively intervenes in some destructive lineages, assigning a valiant spirit to break the chain of destructiveness in such families.” Although these children may suffer innocently as victims of violence, neglect, and exploitation, through the grace of God some find the strength to “metabolize” the poison within themselves, refusing to pass it on to future generations. Before them were generations of destructive pain; after them the line flows clear and pure.”
“Their children and children’s children will call them blessed. In suffering innocently that others might not suffer, such persons, in some degree, become as “saviors on Mount Zion” by helping to bring salvation to a lineage.”(Carlfred Broderick, Ensign, August, 1986, “I Have a Question”).
The Alcoholic I Never Became
I am the product of family members who generations ago decided to give up habits and join the Church. One day I had a profound experience where I “saw” the person I WOULD have been without the benefit of the “chain-free” Gospel that my progenitors had fought so hard to achieve. It became known to me, that if I hadn’t been a member of the Church, I would have chosen a very different path. I would have been an alcoholic, and my life would have been in a shambles, BUT because I adhered to the Word of Wisdom and had NEVER TAKEN A DROP of alcohol to drink, the “chains” had NO hold. My forbearers were my “saviors” and I was blessed to continue in their culture.
We Can All be “saviors”
How can we be a “savior?” We all know that temple work allows us to help people on the “other side” to change. It’s a magnificent and profound work, but it isn’t the only one. When we live the gospel, and support others in living it, we’re breaking the potential chain of addiction, abuse and darkness of soul before it forms, and can become “saviors” on THIS side of the veil.
If you encounter someone who is struggling with addiction, self-esteem or any other darkness – look into their eyes, and their soul. Know that they may be one of God’s finest spirits. Ask the Lord how you can help them. It could be that your support and help could help them break free from chains that bind, allowing them to then be Savior-like to others.
I love this quote by Yahuda Berg:
“Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns get passed on, generation after generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.” (Yehuda Berg, international speaker and author. PassItOn.com)
Ask yourself these important questions. Who would I be without the gospel? Who has “saved” me? Who can I “save”? Are you the one in your family line that is breaking the chains of heartache and suffering? Or are you the one like me, which has benefited from the chains your ancestors have broken? Either way, there are many who need our help. Let’s first climb onto Mount Zion with the aid of Christ’s atonement, and then lift up as many up as we can. We have the power through Him to “save” and “be saved.”
You can CONTACT Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org.