I lost a hard fought election in 2006. My business suffered from my time campaigning and then from the Great Recession in 2008-09. I was representing some construction companies that owed me a lot of money. My (then) wife decided she was done in early 2009. I moved back to Utah in late 2010 for a law practice opportunity that did not work out and I was left trying to start my own practice living alone most of the year, in a community where I had no reputation and no business connections. My house in Washington went into foreclosure and we lost it. I moved in with my parents into my childhood bedroom at age 44.
During the last few years in Washington when I was in financial trouble, I didn't pay my taxes, thinking I could pay them from the equity when we sold the house. (I chose to make the house payments instead of paying my taxes--huge mistake.) So, on top of everything else I had a mountain of debt to deal with. I once calculated the overall financial losses related to my divorce at about a quarter million dollars.
In four years I went from a young man with a promising political career, a beautiful family, and a relatively successful business that I started from scratch to a middle-aged man without a home, a family, or an income, and losing all my savings and replacing it with debt. I lost everything Job (in the Old Testament) lost except my health. Job lost his children and his wealth in a single day. That felt eerily familiar to me. I know many of you in this audience have lost everything just as I did, and feel like you have been cast into the pit of despair with no lifeline and no hope.
From January 2009 when I gave up on my marriage to the end of 2012, I was in a very deep depression. I had basically given up on life. Unless you have been there, you have no idea how soul-sucking that can be. Some people commit suicide when they feel they have nothing left to lose, and the thought crossed my mind more than once. Maybe that's what Job's wife was encouraging him to do when she said, "curse God and die." (Job 2:9.)
For the four years of that deep depression, I told my hard luck story, in more detail than I have in this essay, to anyone who would listen. I dated when I could to ease the loneliness, but resisted getting into a relationship because of my dire financial situation. It was a lonely life and I felt like I had no one--which wasn't true but felt true. Have you felt this way? Have you felt overwhelmed, like the trial you were facing was way too big for you? Have you felt abandoned by God?
At the end of 2011, again around new Years, after a frightening experience being stranded with my kids with no money, I made a vow that I would never be in this situation again. But I lived most of the next year in poverty of wallet and spirit. I was deeply disappointed when I got to the end of 2012 and my life was not much different. I spent considerable time around that new year in prayer asking God why I was so stuck. The answer that kept coming to me was, "You are not meant to hide your light under a bushel. You are meant to shine brightly."
I started to take stock of the things the world could not take from me, like my education, my experience in life and in my profession, my bright mind, my love for people, and whatever thoughts I could choose to adopt as my own. Most importantly, the world could not take away the divine gift of being a child of God, anointed to become a king. I created a vision board, which was really a prayer. Within a week of creating it, I was dating a beautiful girl that looked like the woman on my vision board. Within a couple of weeks I made a bold Facebook post about my expertise in certain areas, which led to a new career opportunity.
My oldest son and I moved to Texas for a 3-year adventure. I got rid of my old clunker and was able to get a nice car. I never drove that car without feeling grateful. Every time I got behind the wheel I would think about how wonderful it was to have a reliable car that was fun to drive. I felt that way about many of the blessings that came to me after that. In Texas, I found my feet again, and my life energy started to replenish. I was not done experiencing trials. But I was done wallowing.
In early 2015 I sent my oldest son on a mission. He had to come home after the MTC for five months because of anxiety issues. (He returned and completed two years of service.) I remarried in 2015 and lost my corporate job to due mass layoffs 4 months later. The car I had been so grateful for started to fail. After a tumultuous 6-month marriage, I made the painful decision to move on two months after losing my job. I moved back to Utah again and started over from scratch . . . again . . . but this time, it was different. I had plenty of anxiety but I was not depressed. (I got some help for the anxiety, which was also life-changing.) I was grateful for my 3 years in Texas and all it had given me. I was grateful for the revelation that I needed to let my light shine and not hide it under a bushel. I met Cathy 3 months after returning to Utah. In 5 years, by the grace of God, I have been able to build a pretty good business. You all know that I have married the love of my life and doubled my number of children by so doing.
The turning point in all of this was the new year in 2013, when Our Father in Heaven revealed to me that I was not meant to hide my light under a bushel, but was meant to shine. It was similar to when Alma was told, "lift up thy head and rejoice" (Alma 8:15) and it changed everything for him. I began to lift up my head and live in gratitude and see the world for its possibilities instead of its trials.
The way we think determines the way we feel. The way we feel determines the life energy we can bring to any endeavor. That life energy determines our outcomes.
I counsel you to "lift up thy head and rejoice." If you can shift your thinking from darkness to light, things will start to get better in your life pretty much immediately. I'm not suggesting that your circumstances will change all at once. That usually takes some time. But your attitude can change in a moment, and that is the beginning of happiness. It is also the beginning of action.
A few words of counsel:
1. Focus on the things you can change. You can't force someone to hire you or buy your product. You CAN decide to apply for a certain number of jobs or offer your product in three new ways. Focusing on things you can change is empowering. Focusing on the odds stacked against you is disempowering. Choosing which thoughts to keep and which to discard is always within your own control. Choose wisely.
2. Let go of the past. No matter how much you continue replaying that movie in your head, it always ends the same way. The past is one of those things you cannot change. But the gospel we believe in is one of redemption. Focus on that instead.
3. Be grateful. You can only enjoy anything to the extent that you appreciate it. So gratitude is the key to joy. Start experiencing more joy and your light and energy will return.
4. Be patient. In moments of faith, you will plant seeds, just like in Alma 32. It is a waste of energy to stand over your plants and yell at them to grow faster. Nurture and water them and weed around them, and life will change faster than you think.
5. Shine. Don't hide your light under a bushel. Recognize the divine gifts you have been given and believe that the world needs what you have to offer.
6. Hope and persist. No matter how bad life gets, it has a way of getting better if you are patient and yet anxiously engaged.. I believe teens commit suicide at a much higher rate than adults because they have not lived long enough to experience this.
7. Seek God. As I look back at the trauma and trials I have experienced, it was a moment of revelation that changed everything for me.