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Mormon Culture and Mental Illness Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
February 25, 2021 8:13 pm

Mormon Culture and Mental Illness Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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Viewpoint on Mormonism, the program that examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a Biblical perspective. Viewpoint on Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry. Since 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism. So glad you could be with us for this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry.

With me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. In yesterday's show, we started off by asking the question, does Mormon culture influence mental illness trends among members? And I wasn't just making that question up arbitrarily, I got it from the title of an article that was in the BYU Daily Universe newspaper published online on February 5th, 2018. And I want to preface this program by again saying that I know when you talk about the subject of mental illness, this is a very sensitive subject. Some Mormons might be thinking that maybe we're gloating in the fact that there are a lot of suffering Latter-day Saints that struggle with depression.

That is certainly not the case. It grieves us that anyone has to be pained in such a way. But what causes us to be interested in this article is it seems to confirm some of the thoughts that we have held for years, and that is the high standards of the Mormon Church seem to lead a lot of its members in this particular direction. And so in this piece, it is citing various people. One, it starts off by citing a Latter-day Saint by the name of September DeSoto, who experienced a panic attack when she was 16 and seems to still be suffering from panic disorders and depression as an active member of the LDS Church. But yesterday we introduced another person in this article, and he is a practicing psychologist in Provo, Utah, which is in Utah County.

His name is Dallas Jensen, and he has some interesting things to say on this subject that I think confirms some of the suspicions that we've long had about depression and the Mormon culture. And yesterday we cited some of the things that he was saying, and he admits that he can't directly point to the church as being responsible for these types of statistics, and the statistics are the ones we quoted yesterday showing that in Utah, it doesn't look good on a national level as to where Utah falls in this area of mental health. In fact, we read yesterday, according to a 2017 survey by Mental Health America, Utah ranks dead last in the nation when it comes to adults with serious thoughts of suicide and prevalence of mental illness and access to health care. Utah also rates 40th for adults with any mental illness reporting unmet needs.

So that's not a real positive statement for the state, and I think you would agree with that. And it should concern us as Bible-believing Christians, especially those of us who live in this state of Utah, to know that there are so many that we live among that are hurting in this way. Dallas Jensen's going to go on in some of his conclusions regarding his, I guess you would say, personal encounters with his patients and what they are obviously telling him regarding why they think they may face depression as members of the LDS Church. The article continues, and it says Jensen said perfectionism, the damaging belief that one's worth is inherently attached to always doing or being their absolute best, is often a factor that negatively affects his patients' mental health. Well, let me stop you there, Eric, because when he says the damaging belief that one's worth is inherently attached to always doing or being their absolute best, when you read church manuals and you hear church leaders telling you that you're saved by grace after all you can do, would you not agree that that phrase alone from 2 Nephi 25-23, which is found in church manuals, which is proclaimed over the pulpits in general conference and in the writings of various church leaders, would you not say that that seems to go right along with this idea of members always doing or being their absolute best? After all you can do, doesn't that sound like that's marching orders for always doing your absolute best? And if you don't, the grace that forgives you of your sins is not going to be applied to you, and you need that in order for the exaltation that the individual Latter-day Saint is obviously seeking. A leader like 12th President Spencer W. Kimball very clearly said on page 164 and then 165 of his book, The Miracle of Forgiveness, to try is weak, to do the best you can is not strong.

You must always do better than you can. And I think that is at the heart of the issue for a Latter-day Saint who understands that no matter how hard he works, he's not going to be able to do what is required to be done, and it leaves him in a lurch. How do I ever get this assurance of salvation? And that is something that Latter-day Saints are not able to have because of the religion. And what's so tragic about that is they can try and emulate their evangelical counterparts in saying, well, we're saved by grace, but they don't really believe that because that grace that they need doesn't apply to them, as we've said, till after they do all these things.

I think one of the greatest benefits of the Christian faith, one that I have cherished ever since becoming a believer, is the fact that because Jesus paid the total debt for my sins, taking care of everything that I personally need in order to receive the salvation that I seek, that gives me that peace that passes all understanding. Now, as we've talked about in past shows, a Mormon could easily say, you just like that because it gives you a license to sin. What a horrible conclusion to say about an evangelical Christian, that we're just looking for a way to sin. That doesn't speak very well, I think, of the Latter-day Saints who make such an accusation. And of course, it wouldn't speak very well of the professing Christian who might even believe that. And I would hope that there's not too many that do. I think a person who truly understands what the New Testament gospel has to say would know that just because we're saved by grace, that does not give us a license to go out in sin and do everything that we know would bring shame to our Savior that graciously saved us by his sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. Well, the article goes on to quote Jensen. Dr. Jensen says, I see people stuck in erroneous beliefs that negative feelings must mean that they are less righteous or being punished by God or deeply flawed.

I hear people say they are doing everything the Church tells them to do, but they are still unhappy. And then assume it's because they are just bad people. Well, when you think about it though, Eric, aren't we bad people?

That's the point. We are bad people. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. Our actions, our thoughts all too often prove that verse to be true.

That's the interesting irony of Christianity. We can come to the table knowing that we in fact are bad people, especially when compared to the righteousness of Jesus himself and the righteousness of God the Father. But at the same time, we can find pleasure and rejoice in the fact that Christ's righteousness makes that okay. That our badness is not really an issue any longer because our faith in Christ has allowed us to receive that righteousness from Christ himself. As we've talked about many times, that imputation of Christ's righteousness. But what do you do if you're a Mormon and everything's hinged on you doing good things? And you realize, I can't do as many good things as I am told to do.

I keep coming short of that as they will. You can understand why that would have a negative effect on them. They are really not going by grace. They are going by the law and the hammer of the law is coming down on them because they find themselves guilty in not living up to the standard that unfortunately the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has imposed upon its membership.

See, that's not the first time that he has heard this. He hears it continually, obviously, when he says, I hear people say they are doing everything the Church tells them to do, but they are still unhappy. And then they end up pointing to themselves and blaming themselves. And I think that's what the Mormon leaders do at every general conference. They're called kick in the tail talks to get the people to become more righteous, and then you wonder if the men who are delivering those sermons are doing everything that they say that the people are supposed to do. So no wonder there are so many Latter-day Saints with this guilt complex thinking they're bad people. Again, this man is seeing people in his office who are telling him this, and he even says they're doing everything and they're still depressed over it.

It only is natural, Bill. Well, think about it. He says they're doing everything. I have to question that. I think people who say they're doing everything probably, when they're alone by themselves and think through that, realize there could be more that I'm doing.

The fact that I'm sitting here just thinking about it shows me that I probably could be out doing something more. And this is why they have these guilty feelings. Mormonism, I think, brings that upon them.

It primes the pump for that kind of guilt. In this article, it goes back to referring to September DeSoto, who's the female member who suffered from the panic attack that was mentioned at the beginning of the article. She makes an interesting comment in the next paragraph. DeSoto said the aspect of the LDS Church that has helped her mental health the most is the knowledge of the atonement of Jesus Christ. She said it changes everything.

How does that change everything? And does that imply that those who are suffering depression and are members of the LDS Church perhaps don't have this knowledge of the atonement of Jesus Christ that Ms. DeSoto is claiming to have? Now, what I mean by that is she's saying it's the atonement of Jesus Christ that, I guess, gives her some kind of peace. But yet, there are other Latter-day Saints who also believe in the Mormon version of the atonement, and apparently they're not having that kind of peace. According to Mormonism, you only get the full blessings of the atonement when you're doing everything you're supposed to be doing. Well, isn't that kind of the foundation of the problem here?

They realize they're probably not doing everything they're supposed to be doing, and that's why they feel depressed. And that comes back to 2 Nephi 25-23, that a person is saved by grace, but only after all they can do. There's a quote by James Faust. James Faust was a member of the First Presidency before he passed away, and in a conference message called The Atonement, Our Greatest Hope, found in the November issue of the Ensign magazine, beginning on page 19, November 2001, page 19, the atonement cleanses us of sin on condition of our repentance. Repentance is the condition on which mercy is extended. Notice, you've got to truly repent in order to get the mercy that you seek. After all we can do to pay to the uttermost farthing and make right our wrongs, and Savior's grace is activated in our lives through the atonement, which purifies us and can perfect us.

Do you see, folks, the condition that the Latter-day Saint must meet in order to get the full benefits of this atonement? They have to repent. Now, we have a doctrine of repentance in Christianity, of course, but it's not defined the same. We certainly believe that repentance should cause a person to have a different way of thinking and a turning away from the sin. But in Mormonism, it's implied that you must have a 100% success rate at this.

That can cause you to be depressed, I'm sure, because you know in your heart that you're not going to do that. They are incapable of meeting the Mormon definition of this word. Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding Mormonism Research Ministry, we encourage you to visit our website at, where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism Researched. I hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-21 04:03:29 / 2023-12-21 04:08:46 / 5

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