Thursday, January 05, 2012


This week I read a couple of interesting articles on seemingly different topics but somehow reading them in sequence made them make even more sense than if I had read them separately.

The first is Jeff Lindsay's recent blog post about miracles on his blog, Mormanity.

The second is By Common Consent's article on Mental Illness and George Albert Smith, but more specifically the article linked to within the post—a wonderful piece by Mary Jane Woodger called "Cheat the Asylum of a Victim": George Albert Smith's 1909–1912 Breakdown.

George Albert Smith suffered from "nervous frustration" and "nervous problems" his entire life. I think that's pretty important to note—there are some problems that simply never go away. You have to battle them for as long as you live.

George Albert Smith's uncle once wrote to him and said, "No class of diseases resist so stubbornly the effects of the physician as nervous diseases. In fact there is but little hope after they reach a certain stage. Their manifestations cover a wide range—from slight nervous instability to insanity...and let me whisper a very significan fact in your ear: it is only a step from nervous frustration to insanity." It was right after this that he asked Smith to "cheat the asylum of a victim" by taking it easy for a while. He heeded his uncle's advice, taking nearly three years of what was more or less bed rest in an attempt to stabilize his nerves.

What's important to note, at least for me, is that his problem never left him entirely. He never did manage to "come out" of depression—there were no antidepressants back then, let alone much psychology or psychiatry at all. Prayer and meditation and rest were the only things prescribed to him (besides a tonic ale from Britain that his father, a General Authority, procured for him, along with a message from the prophet saying that he'd excuse him for breaking the Word of Wisdom if he chose to try the tonic).

Eventually George Albert Smith prayed to essentially ask the Lord to either heal him or kill him. Since he didn't die he took it to mean that he should live.

The article then kind of tanks saying, "Although more months of slow recovery followed, George Albert's hopelessness and depression were alleviated." Basically, he got better! Except that, "for the remainder of his life, he was never robust.... During the 1930s, three stressful situations were so upsetting that he had to seek bed rest." So, it seems he didn't entirely get better...

It seems he actually continued to suffer from "nerves" and various other maladies for the rest of his life. And that's okay because sometimes we don't get the miracle we want. Sometimes we aren't healed. Sometimes the trial is ours to keep forever.

However, when that's the case, as it seems to have been for George Albert Smith, I think the Lord gives us the ability to handle the trial. In Mosiah 24:15 it says, "And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord."

This happened because they had faith to "pour their hearts unto" God while in bondage and under threat of death. Instead of releasing being released from bondage, the miracle they got was to be able to be strong enough to bear their burdens.

In 1913, George Albert Smith gave a conference address (which Woodger quotes in her article) where he pleaded, "May the lessons that we learn [from] . . . commotion in this world, from time to time, be lessons that shall turn our hearts heavenward." If we will turn our hearts heavenward and pour our hearts out to God I believe that we will be blessed with miracles, whether the miracles come in big, dazzling packages or whether they are in simple, dull packages is irrelevant. A miracle is still a miracle.


  1. As I've read my Joseph Smith History book I have been astonished at the immensity of their trials, and how every tender mercy is like a miracle to them. Whereas, from my viewpoint, I think, "Gosh, i wouldn't have been happy until the mobs disappeared entirely!" But, it's like you pulled from that scripture, sometimes the miracle is just the ability to adapt to the challenge and handle and control it.

  2. I love you for posting this. And I hate that some things are ours forever. HATE. THAT.