My dear Illia,
Congratulations on your mission call to Denver North!
First, let me just say, I love you so so so much. Second, woohoo! Denver! And third, you know that I sometimes have a hard time expressing myself when so much passion fuels my words. So I am writing this. (Also, I am more eloquent writing than when I stutter.)
Illia, I am so incredibly proud of you and your decision to serve a mission. I just want to let you know that I love this Gospel so much. We've never really sat down a lot to talk about it, (at least, I don't remember telling you) but I want to tell you about a spiritual experience I had this past winter/spring.
Back before Easter, I experienced the horrid unfeelingness, yet perpetual sadness, of depression. After some pivotal news, I was pushed from being relatively normal to depressed, I forced an emotional barrier to surround myself. Nothing was getting through and I was not going to let petty emotions get to me. And it worked for a little bit. But when it came crumbling down, and it broke a couple times, several people witnessed many emotions at once from me. What they got mainly, though, was my sadness and a subtle anger. I hated everything and I disliked everyone.
One Sunday, my Relief Society president came up to me and asked me how I was doing. I hate public crying, but I did it. I burst into tears in front of several people, one who literally took a step back and said, "Whoa." My RS president took me to the bathroom and held me as I cried and as I told her everything. In the midst of it, she asked me if I had faith. I said that I thought I did. She told me that I needed to have faith that Heavenly Father had a plan. I scoffed internally. I wanted things fixed now. I didn't want to go through this.
But I was feeling crummy, so I took her advice and I asked for a Priesthood blessing from my home teachers. And it was...nice. (This is in no way a reflection of my home teachers at that time, but I think more of a push for more faith on my part because I am a lazy person.) But I didn't feel "fixed" and so I continued to feel the darkness of depression.
Then, a good friend came in town. That was the most beautiful Easter ever, Illia. He offered me a priesthood blessing. And at first, I said no. I thought that I already got a blessing. It just needed the time to settle in, or whatever. But the more I thought about it, the more something inside nagged at me to ask for one. I needed to exercise my faith and ask for another blessing.
And it was incredible, Illia. As I was sitting in that chair, I couldn't feel where his hands met my head. The clouds of depression were thick in my mind, my head was throbbing from the darkness. But as the blessing began and continued, I saw a literal ray of sunshine pierce through the clouds. And I felt again! I felt God's love, I felt at peace, and although I was still sad about the situation surrounding me, I felt an eternal happiness. In the blessing, my friend talked a lot about faith, which I am still working on. Faith that God knows what is best for everyone. My friend, with the power and authority of the Priesthood, told me to let light and hope and peace come back into my life, and I let it come in at that moment. I was so tired of being in the dark, and suddenly, I was released from the cold, suffocating fingers of depression. I was free and I was in the light again.
My favorite scriptures is Micah 7:7-8.
"Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me."
And the Lord is still a light.
Illia, I know this Church is true. I know it with all my heart. He died for me, for you and for all our brothers and for all of our sisters. His Church is restored in this dispensation and Joseph Smith was the prophet who restored it. The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion and I have a testimony of the truths written on its pages. You sent me an email during my depression about the importance of the Book of Mormon. I needed that. And I knew then that I didn't need to be worried about you. Illia, you are a great example to me. And I love you for serving the Lord.
I love you so much, Illia, and Denver is so lucky to have you.
With all my heart,