My daughter had to return to college after the Thanksgiving break, and, given the timing of her available ride, I thought I might not be able to attend the branch I normally visited each fourth Sunday. At the last minute, she told me that her friend who would be driving wasn't going to be ready until after our ward's meetings were over (completely unexpectedly) - so I had time to visit the branch and make it back in time to take her to her friend's house.
When I arrived at the branch, the counselor who was conducting told me that one of the speakers probably wouldn't be able to make it - so he asked if I would be willing to speak, if necessary. I agreed - and told him to put me last so I could take whatever time was left.
The topic for the day was "happiness" - so I started thinking about it as soon as I sat down, which was about five minutes before the meeting was to start. I immediately had a thought that I suppressed, since it just didn't seem like something someone normally would say in Sacrament Meeting - especially with the Stake President visiting and sitting on the stand. You see, it was, in a nutshell:
"Not everyone can be happy just by keeping the commandments, praying, attending church and reading the scriptures."
Instead, I looked through the scriptures and started crafting a more traditional talk.
As the first speaker began, I realized she was giving a good but quite predictable talk about happiness - and focusing on the benefits of the things I mentioned above. It really was a very well-organized, thoughtful talk. The second speaker spoke similarly - with different verses and different focal areas, but also stressing the things I mentioned above. It also really was a very good talk. In the middle of both talks, the same basic thought hit me - each time progressively stronger. So, I changed focus and looked for a way to teach the idea that hit me and still make it inspiring and not dismissive in any way of the other talks.
I started by mentioning my struggle to accept my first impression, then I read Psalms 46:10 and focused on the injunction, "Be still, and know that I am God." I mentioned that having a mother with schizophrenia had taught me a lot about happiness. I said that my father did two things for her to help her be happy: 1) He sought professional help and found medication that controlled her schizophrenia; 2) He shouldered ALL the responsibilities for the family in order to shield her from worry and anxiety. I said that my father's example was an extreme one due to my mother's condition, but I stressed that the same basic approach was important for many people.
I then mentioned that I had really enjoyed the previous two talks and that their advice was excellent for the vast majority of us - but that there are some members who struggle with depression or bi-polar disorder or other issues who feel crushing weight when they translate what someone says about happiness as:
"If you only tried harder, you wouldn't be unhappy. It's all your fault. You're useless and hopeless."
I mentioned that I believe those people must: 1) find out if there are medicines and/or coping mechanisms that can help control their debilitating tendencies; 2) find a way to "Be still, and know that I am God." They need to understand and accept the idea that the Atonement redeems us from things that we didn't choose, like the chemical imbalances that cause depression and other issues - that they are not "guilty" of those feelings and the attendant struggles they cause.
I then quoted Matthew 11:28-30 and focused on the part that says, "Take my yoke upon you, and I shall give you rest." I said that many people are so busy in their everyday lives that they fail to find time simply to pray, contemplate, meditate, ponder and rest. I asked everyone in the congregation to try to find ways to "be still" and "receive rest" - so that they could have time and energy to "count their blessings" and "see what God has done" in their lives. I finished by explaining how my wife has kept a blessings list (through her blog) each weekend and what that has done to her daily perspective over the last three years.
Now, to address the title of this post:
A woman came up to the stand after the meeting and told me that she had woken up that morning and almost decided not to come to church. She said she has been battling depression for a long time and that it has been worse the past few months since her father died. She told me the Branch President has been very supportive and "wonderful", but that she almost stayed home. She said she felt a strong impression to go anyway - at least to Sacrament Meeting. She then said that the moment I started speaking (before I had even addressed the issue of depression), she had felt an incredible peace flow through her and the thought entered her mind:
"See, someone understands what you are going through. I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING THROUGH. It's OK; I love you just as you are."
I don't know the mechanics of inspiration, and I have no idea why things like this happen for some and not for others. I just know I really do believe in inspiration - and that there is someone out there who really does know us as individuals.