Episode 93: Depression in the LDS Culture

15 comments on “Episode 93: Depression in the LDS Culture”

  1. MiddleAgedMormonGuy Reply

    It’s really hard to keep a positive attitude about depression when we have high profile General Authorities like Boyd telling us:

    “We seem to be developing an epidemic of “counselitis” which drains spiritual strength from the Church much like the common cold drains more strength out of humanity than any other disease. … Speaking figuratively, many a bishop keeps on the corner of his desk a large stack of order forms for emotional relief.”

    So basically, we have an Apostle telling us we should NOT seek the help of LDS Family services for depression issues, because it might overtax the Church’s resources.

    It begs the question of just how many church members never get help because General (and local) Authorities are sending the message that all is needed is prayer, repentance and self-reliance.

    Well, message received – if I have depression issues, I need shut up, man-up, get over it and get back to being a perfect Mormon! Good job, Boyd.

  2. Swearing Elder Reply

    Thanks for this episode. I became depressed about 10 or so years ago. It took me a long time to finally admit that I needed help. It never occurred to me to talk to someone in the church about it; perhaps I assumed that my depression was related to the church and asking the church to help cure something it might be contributing to might not be so productive. Plus, I couldn’t imagine telling my bishop about this; he seemed utterly unqualified to talk about such issues.

    So, I finally sought out counseling. The psychologist, a non-Mormon (I was in SLC at the time), asked me about some of the basic aspects of my life — sex, religion, and rock-n-roll. She could sense my unease and sense of shame over “getting depression” and told me that she had treated LDS institute faculty, bishops, and a stake president. Of course, you’d never hear this kind of talk in church. These same guys probably walked around stoiclly, giving no indication of their issues.

    This was a refreshingly honest discussion of depression in Mormonism. Thanks!

  3. Wes Cauthers Reply

    This is a great topic. As a mental health counselor, I have many thoughts about it and I am glad to see it being discussed.
    Matthew 5:48 was mentioned and I too grew up in Mormonism being taught that life is about trying to attain perfection and that it is a divine test. However, the Greek word “perfect,” found in this verse is telios, which means “brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness, full-grown, adult, mature.” Here is Matthew 5:48 in The Message, which I think captures the meaning of the original Greek much more accurately:
    “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
    I have heard Mormons try to say that the teaching about being perfect and that life is a divine test are just cultural and not really part of the Mormon gospel, but in actuality it falls right in line with the very clear Mormon doctrine of exaltation and reaching the highest degree of glory because the whole system is hierarchical and merit based. Is it really any wonder why people would get depressed under such a system? The 3rd article of faith says “…all mankind can be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.” 2 Nephi 25:23 says “…it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.” But how does one know when they’ve really done all they can do? How much is enough? The most ironic part to me is that the word gospel actually means “good news” in the original Greek. Maybe it’s just me (and others who have experienced depression as a result of trying to attain perfection), but the Mormon gospel of obedience to laws and ordinances and doing all we can do sounds like very much the opposite of good news and more like a burden. It also seems to contradict the following words from Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30, again taken from The Message:
    “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
    In my mind, it makes sense that there would be direct links between the things people believe, the things they do, and how they experience life. Someone who’s taught that their life is a divine test where they should do all they can do to be perfect in order to earn their way to the highest degree of glory for exaltation to godhood is under a lot of pressure to perform. I have thought about this a lot over the years as I have observed and read different experiences of people in Mormonism and while there are numerous stories out there, I have seen two patterns emerge that seem to predominate.
    The first in a nutshell is basically what this episode of ME is all about. This group knows they are far from perfection and thus feel overwhelmed, inadequate, beat down, depressed, unworthy, shameful, guilty, etc. They live constantly with the burden of always trying harder and yet their efforts are never enough. The second group believes they are getting it right, obeying the laws and ordinances, doing all they can do, etc. and that they are well on their way to exaltation and godhood in the celestial kingdom. I have rarely experienced humility from a person in this group but rather very much the opposite – pride, arrogance, haughtiness, self-righteousness, and condescension. I don’t think either of these outcomes are what Jesus was hoping for.

  4. be ye therefore perfect Reply

    In the podcast you mentioned some slides to go along with the discussion. Are those available?

    • Glenn Reply

      There are some slides. I’ll get them from Adam and pass them along to John for upload onto the site. Give us a couple of days.

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