In his new book, The Founder of Our Peace, John Hilton provides an inspiring insight into the Savior’s power to pull us up from the depths of despair, anxiety, and depression. It features thought-provoking lessons about combating mental health issues with the power of Christ’s Atonement. Continue reading for an excerpt from The Founder of Our Peace:
Have you ever struggled with fear, depression, anxiety, or worry? If so, you are not alone. Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, was “greatly afraid and distressed” (Genesis 32:7), and Helaman was “filled with fear” (Alma 58:9). Ammon and his brothers were “depressed [in their hearts]” (Alma 26:27); Nephite soldiers were “depressed in body as well as in spirit” (Alma 56:16). Lehi spoke of “the anxiety of [his] soul” (2 Nephi 1:16); his son Jacob experienced “over anxiety” (Jacob 4:18), and Alma felt “great anxiety even unto pain,” being “troubled in his spirit” because of the poor choices of others (Alma 13:27; Mosiah 26:10). Chief Judge Pahoran “worried” about the political conditions of his day (Alma 61:19), and Alma’s son Corianton was “worried” about the doctrine of the Church (Alma 41:1). You have almost certainly experienced similar debilitating feelings, as have I.
Although finding peace has likely never been easy, it seems increasingly elusive in the latter days. In 1986, President Ezra Taft Benson said, “We live in that time of which the Lord spoke when he said, ‘Peace shall be taken from the earth’ (Doctrine and Covenants 1:35),” and, more than thirty years later, things don’t seem to be improving. Google searches for “anxiety” have increased by more than 50 percent over the past five years. News headlines tell us that worry, stress, and depression are on the rise in America and that one in five college students now suffer from anxiety or depression.
My first memory of feeling fear occurred when I was five years old when a classmate’s older brother threatened to beat me up. This threat, and those from other bullies I subsequently met, made me afraid to walk to school for several years. More recent attacks on my peace have been ones you probably relate with—employment challenges, people who have seriously wronged me, financial concerns, and struggles with family members, to name only a few. In The Founder of our Peace, I share my personal stories, along with several Christ-centered patterns that have helped me on the path toward greater peace.
I worked on this book for many years, but it coalesced between 2017 and 2018 when I taught at Brigham Young University’s Jerusalem Center. I loved visiting the sacred sites of different religions and found deep meaning in listening to others share their faith. One afternoon, I sat in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, venerated by most Christians as the place of Christ’s Resurrection, and talked with Father Fergus, a Catholic priest with whom I had developed a close relationship.
Father Fergus proposed an ancient answer to the question of “Where can I turn for peace?” by quoting Revelation 3:20: “I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.” As Father Fergus and I continued to speak about worry, fear, Jesus Christ, and peace, a phrase from Abinadi echoed in my mind, declaring that our Redeemer is “the founder of peace” (Mosiah 15:18).
In opposition to the Savior, “the evil one” tries to “have place in [our hearts] to destroy [our] peace” (2 Nephi 4:27). Satan has numerous weapons in his arsenal, including busyness, comparison, contention, cultural pressures, daily difficulties, despair, discouragement, distraction, doubt, fear, regret, sin, unmet expectations, and worry. I picture these as “fiery darts of the adversary” intended to attack our peace (see 1 Nephi 15:24). The purpose of this book is to help us build a protective barrier to defend ourselves from these assaults. As indicated in the adjacent image, I visualize this barrier, built on a foundation of Christ, as being constructed by several Christ-centered principles that collectively form a powerful dome that deflects attacks on our peace.
Helaman counseled his sons, saying, “It is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation” (Helaman 5:12; emphasis added). I emphasize the phrase “ye must build” to highlight that “ye” (you and me—nobody can do it for us), “must” (it’s not an option), “build” (this is not a passive activity) a foundation on Christ.
Each chapter in The Founder of our Peace uses scriptures, stories, modern research, or other illustrations to describe attacks on our peace and principles that will deflect them. Because we must build, or act, to have a foundation on Christ, each chapter also provides strategies I refer to as “Patterns of Peace.” You can place these patterns of peace in your mental toolbox to help you combat negative emotions such as anxiety, discouragement, fear, and worry as you strive for greater peace.
My purpose in The Founder of our Peace is to illustrate Christ-centered patterns that will bring peace to those who have mild to moderate struggles with anxiety, fear, discouragement, perfectionism, worry, or similar struggles. It will help us and our loved ones ease the negative emotions we all experience as we work through the daily struggles of life. This is all possible through our Savior, “the Lord of peace” who can “give you peace always by all means” (2 Thessalonians 3:16). I sincerely hope The Founder of our Peace will help you and those you love on the road to greater peace through the teachings of Jesus Christ.