Neal A. Maxwell wrote:
Continuing from a previous post, ‘Lord, Help Thou Mine Unbelief’,
. . . . futility and misery are not only bad, but also are usually unproductive. The Book of Mormon reminds us that Satan “. . . seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 2:27.) Misery can, under certain circumstances, create a climate that facilitates repentance or improved behavior. But there is a difference between the kind of sorrow that “worketh repentance” and the worldly sorrow that “worketh death.” It is, the Book of Mormon reminds us, “the sorrowing of the damned” that describes those who can no longer take pleasure in sin, but who cannot fully repent either; such individuals are caught in a kind of no-man’s land. The gospel is designed to disintegrate this spell of hopelessness.
The Lord told erring Israel anciently that if they truly repented, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow,” and that then, the Lord “will not remember thy sins.” (Isaiah 1:18, 43:25)
Jesus, the great physician, came to heal the spiritually sick—all of us—certainly to heal the most sick among us.
Continuing. . . . If one can accept God as loving, caring, full of forgiveness, full of justice—as perfect in each of these attributes—then it must be remembered that the Lord is the final determiner as to who shall enter into His kingdom; he is the gate keeper, “and employeth no servant there.” (2 Nephi 9:41.) Divine forgiveness is possible even when men do not forgive. If we have the justified assurance that God has forgiven us, we can forgive ourselves and outlast any unforgiving attitudes of those around us.
The triad of faith, hope, and charity in the scriptures is more than an accidental juxtaposition of three words. The Book of Mormon states, “How is it that ye can attain unto faith save ye shall have hope? And what is it that ye shall hope for. Behold, I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ . . . .” (Moroni 7:40-41.) Hope as a trust or expectation of necessity relates to faith and love. A failure of hope can mean a failure of faith—in one’s self, of God—“For we are saved by hope,” as Paul preached. Believing in, or loving one’s self is a key to believing in, or loving God, life and others.
In allowing for individual differences which are aggravated by sin, it is important that we not minimize the gravity of sin or give gushy casual reassurances too quickly. However, if one who is beset with the feeling of hopelessness reflects on his situation, it should be clear that the earliest he can ever begin to change is now, and the only place from which it is possible ever to begin is here. However long the road back may seem, taking the first step is always necessary to begin any long journey.
But sometimes we let our moods maul our faith, and a mood of hopelessness can ensnare us and prevent one from starting the journey back to full fellowship with God. One can certainly be entrapped by the adversary in dramatic ways, but the economy of temptation apparently does not require drama, if minor moods serve the same purpose. Major sin can destroy an individual quickly, but a sustained feeling of hopelessness can cause slow spiritual suicide with the same ultimate result.
The scriptures abound in authentic examples of men and women who were individually different but who fought their way free of chains of circumstances and moods of hopelessness. Each of them had the courage to hope, the courage to change, the faith to be forgiven and to accept forgiveness.
~Neal A. Maxwell, “. . . A More Excellent Way” (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), 64-66