There are 40 thoughts on “Barriers to Belief: Mental Distress and Disaffection from the Church”.

  1. I have seen two family members suffer periods of acute social anxiety about being out in public and in large gatherings, which obviously makes church attendance difficult. It was not something that arose from any lack of faith. It was a handicap to attending school and working as well.

    Many people are still in the mode of thinking that mental and emotional illnesses are not real, like physical ones. One of these family members had to withdraw from BYU at one point, but one of his instructors refused to let him do so without penalizing his grade, because, she said, her uncle was a psychologist who said mental illnesses were just a failure of character and self control. We spoke to the BYU legal department, who got the instructor straightened out, but such ignorance about the reality of mental disabilities beyond our conscious control is still perpetuated among people who think positive thinking and mustering faith can easily remove such obstacles. I think people in that mindset do not appreciate the real nature of turning to the Savior in complete surrender, admitting that we are utterly incapable of saving ourselves, and having faith that he has fully inhabited our own sufferings and overcome them on our behalf. That understanding about the nature of the Atonement is one of the plain and precious things restored through the Book of Mormon.

  2. Is this available in audio or video format somewhere? If not, it needs to be.

    “The spoken word is now as powerful as the written word”.
    – Jordan B. Peterson

  3. I’m thankful for this article. For years I’ve suffered from stress and even panic associated with social anxiety, and it’s only in recent years I discovered therapies and self-talk that works. Sometimes I would be tempted to blame church members and think I was all alone in not being able to fully participate the way I wanted. Sometimes I wanted to ask how it was so easy for them, but so hard for me. But I was too ashamed to admit how stressed I was.When my active, social son confided the same stress to me, I knew it was the same hereditary trait I’d seen in differing ways in my family and realized that the gospel had been a saving factor for both of us and something the others did not have. The gospel told us we were good enough, even when we didn’t feel it from our own thoughts. I am thankful for my faith and my son’s faith, and realize now I can admit it and I’m not alone.

  4. One area where the Church has always lost members is older divorced males. One reason, is that unlike a lot of other Churches, the LDS Church really has no organized program for divorce recovery. These have been shown to speed recovery, and importantly, help them avoid moral problems which is actually a normal response for emotionally damaged persons that have undergone trauma. I often wonder if the Church doesn’t want to talk about divorce because they think that it will somehow increase divorces? Next to the death of a spouse, divorce is the next most traumatic experience, and in the LDS community is often worse because it often involves the dissolution of a temple marriage.

  5. I’m not quite sure what, precisely some of these “Ex-Mormons” expect–that Christ’s church is duty bound to let them tear it apart from the inside, as it were? Yes, the Church welcomes all who want to repent and be converted, and many, many Ex-Mormons who are good people are just fine. But then there are the Sherems, the Korihors, the snakes in the grass, the Simon Magus’ and so forth.

    Why, exactly, should Christ’s church welcome emissaries of Satan? And yes, that is exactly what some Ex Mormons are: emissaries of Satan. The Lord’s prophets have always spoken truth, and put it bluntly. Some wicked take the truth as hard; the Labans and Lemuels–and never forget, they thought they were the righteous ones. So did the Pharisee’s and Sadducees that put our Lord to death: just like many of the virulent Ex-Mormons wish to do to us. We have no call to allow them to do so.

    The Lord’s path is the strait and narrow one; and those people in the great and spacious building should be shunned, for our own salvation’s sake. Do not allow them or their mocking, or even their honeyed words, to distract us, or the least of those among us.

    Again, many leave the Church and go on, and perhaps may well come back some day. Those should be welcomed with open arms.

    And many there be who, like Laman and Lemuel, or like Korihor, leave and seek to destroy the faith of those who remain. Those should be actively resisted. The Lord had words like “whited seplechure” and “hypocrite” for them in His day; and I’m sure they didn’t like hearing it either. The wicked take the truth to be hard, and sometimes things must be said–if only to protect the righteous from being deceived.

  6. Children of LGBT parents have to wait until they’re 18 to get baptized and can only do so after they renounced their parent’s relationship.

    • Yah, Bob. How rare it is to see a church that has the strength and authenticity to take God’s commandments and principles seriously, but at the same time to consider so carefully the welfare of people.

      Thinking a little further, the ‘why’ of the mentioned policy becomes clear: If children of same-sex couples were babtized into the Faith, there would be potential for poignant emotional-psychological conflict for all, and certainty especially for the child. It is actually a selfless, thoughtful policy. It protects and blesses, not punishes.

      God bless you, brother of yearn and concern, of bountiful assertion, of strong song, sure sound, watchman with word, dog with excellent bark!

    • I am not sure what this comment has to do in context with the article?

      ‘Renouncing’ the parents ‘relationship’ (the relationship, not parents as children of God) is from a ‘doctrinal’ standpoint, which makes perfect sense if they wish to be part of a faith that teaches this practice is sinful.

      There has been much commentary from the leaders of the Church around the reasoning for this policy, yet the out of context sound bites keep being repeated.

  7. Children of LGBT parents have to wait until they’re 18 to get baptized and can only do so after they renounced their parent’s relationship.

    • Yah, Bob. How rare it is to see a church that has the strength and authenticity to take God’s commandments and principles seriously, but at the same time to consider so carefully the welfare of people.

      Thinking a little further, the ‘why’ of the mentioned policy becomes clear: If children of same-sex couples were babtized into the Faith, there would be potential for poignant emotional-psychological conflict for all, and certainty especially for the child. It is actually a selfless, thoughtful policy. It protects and blesses, not punishes.

      God bless you, brother of yearn and concern, of bountiful assertion, of strong song, sure sound, watchman with word, dog with excellent bark!

  8. Thank you for your call to recognize the reality of mental illness and to charitably reach out to those grappling with mental illness. Where I once had a rather simplistic view of both mental illness and disaffection with the Church, life has taught me some intense lessons about the realities and complexities of both issues.

    It’s easy to write off people that make us uncomfortable, as do some with mental illness and as do some who leave the Church we find so fulfilling. But when you dearly love some of these people, they’re not so easy to casually dismiss.

    At any rate, Christlike charity is always the right approach, even when those we love don’t change their behavior to what we believe is best for them. As noted in the article, our exercise of charity can include many personal and ecclesiastical efforts, but it can also involve professional help. We should always follow the Savior’s pattern in seeking to heal, even as he healed many who turned from him thereafter. We do this because it’s the right thing to do, not because it produces the short-term desired result.

    What people do in this life matters in the eternal scheme. But the Lord’s timeline far exceeds the bounds of this life and judgment belongs to him. Only he knows the inner demons that accompany some of his children. His judgment of these souls will be both just and merciful.

    • Scott its good to see your simplistic view of mental illness has changed over the years. This is the case for the entire, at least western, world. Its important to distinguish the difference between the cultural attitudes of mortals and church teaching and doctrine, as these often get confused to be one and the same.

      I would call for great love and compassion for all people, those with mental illness/poor mental health (definition here is important) and those suffering from the many other challenges life brings. We all need to be gentle with each other – and hopefully this extends to those not of our faith (or not longer) towards us too.

  9. Thank you for your call to recognize the reality of mental illness and to charitably reach out to those grappling with mental illness. Where I once had a rather simplistic view of both mental illness and disaffection with the Church, life has taught me some intense lessons about the realities and complexities of both issues.

    It’s easy to write off people that make us uncomfortable, as do some with mental illness and as do some who leave the Church we find so fulfilling. But when you dearly love some of these people, they’re not so easy to casually dismiss.

    At any rate, Christlike charity is always the right approach, even when those we love don’t change their behavior to what we believe is best for them. As noted in the article, our exercise of charity can include many personal and ecclesiastical efforts, but it can also involve professional help. We should always follow the Savior’s pattern in seeking to heal, even as he healed many who turned from him thereafter. We do this because it’s the right thing to do, not because it produces the short-term desired result.

    What people do in this life matters in the eternal scheme. But the Lord’s timeline far exceeds the bounds of this life and judgment belongs to him. Only he knows the inner demons that accompany some of his children. His judgment of these souls will be both just and merciful.

    • Scott its good to see your simplistic view of mental illness has changed over the years. This is the case for the entire, at least western, world. Its important to distinguish the difference between the cultural attitudes of mortals and church teaching and doctrine, as these often get confused to be one and the same.

      I would call for great love and compassion for all people, those with mental illness/poor mental health (definition here is important) and those suffering from the many other challenges life brings. We all need to be gentle with each other – and hopefully this extends to those not of our faith (or not longer) towards us too.

  10. Many of the people leaving the church, are in fact people, that have been given the message that the church doesn’t want you. I’m speaking specifically of the families of LGBT members. When forced to choose between church and family, most choose to stay with family. It’s not a mental illness, sinning, loss of the spirit, it’s just finally getting the message that you are not wanted here.

    • Please provide an example of where the church teaches that it doesn’t want a person or that families of LGBT members have to choose between church and family?

      I don’t find this a fair statement.

  11. Many of the people leaving the church, are in fact people, that have been given the message that the church doesn’t want you. I’m speaking specifically of the families of LGBT members. When forced to choose between church and family, most choose to stay with family. It’s not a mental illness, sinning, loss of the spirit, it’s just finally getting the message that you are not wanted here.

    • Please provide an example of where the church teaches that it doesn’t want a person or that families of LGBT members have to choose between church and family?

      I don’t find this a fair statement.

  12. Examining exMormons alongside mental illness establishes a caste system among part-member families where those who “stay in the boat” are the supremacy and the lowest caste consists of those who chose a different path. As an exMormon, I take umbrage with this Mormon supremacy-caste system, which features so prominently in LDS discourse of late (see Elder Renlund’s recent boat fireside, Elder Corbridge’s devotional yesterday, and now this post).

    ExMormons’ faith transition should not be studied with regards to mental illness (or worse, as playing Elder Renlund’s game of whack-a-mole), any more than active Mormons should be considered alongside mental illness for believing in angels, gold Bibles, or a polyandrous prophet. This juxtaposition of mental illness and belief/doubting demonizes former Mormons, just as Elder Renlund and other recent talks implicitly demonized exMormons while ostensibly seeking to strengthen doubters. This article also conveniently hints at a plausible reason for Mormonism’s embarrassingly high suicide rates: faithlessness.

    I won’t be listing my reasons for leaving Mormonism here, but will suffice by saying: mental illness had nothing to do with it, and neither did “doubts.” I was an active temple-worthy stake seminary teacher the day I resigned my LDS membership. I’m a returned missionary, I taught at the MTC, and I’m a former BYU-Idaho religion faculty and Interpreter editor. So you can trust me when I say: almost all of the exMormons I know are very mentally healthy. I hang out with 108,000+ of them almost daily on the exMormon subreddit, and we have very robust and delightful discussions. We minister to one another. I find more support for women there than I ever did in my own LDS branches.

    Folks writing about exMormons take note: Footnotes affixed to ad hominem attacks do not transfigure them into credible assertions. I invite active Mormons to become acquainted with exMormons without any agenda (we can smell those a mile away—most of us are RMs, remember!) and without any desire to debate or reconvert us. We don’t want to be studied, labeled, or ministered to. Don’t research and write articles about us as if we were objects—try looking at us as people. We are dealing with a lot of loss after loved ones scorned or even disowned us for our faith transitions, for example.

    Well might exMormons say as did Shylock in the Merchant of Venice:

    Hath not [an ExMormon] eyes? hath not [an ExMormon] hands, organs,
    dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
    the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
    to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
    warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
    a [Mormon] is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
    if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
    us, do we not die?
    –Act 3, Scene I

    • Respectfully, Jenny, I simply cannot take you seriously when you say “I hang out with 108,000+ of [ex-Mormons] almost daily on the exMormon subreddit, and we have very robust and delightful discussions.”

      I, too, have observed the ex-Mormon subreddit. For a while now. And I simply cannot for the life of me imagine how you can seriously call the kind of things that go down there “robust and delightful.”

      I have personally been on the receiving end of attack threads on that subreddit. Threads that have personally attacked me, have questioned my honesty and mental health, and have speculated about my personal life (including my sexuality and my family life).

      I have read threads of ex-Mormons there consulting on how to best deceive spouses, family, bishops, and others whom they hold in the worst kind of contempt and often demeaningly dismiss as “TBMs” and other spiteful epithets.

      I have read threads of ex-Mormons viciously mocking “TBM” Church members during fast and testimony meeting or other Church meetings, or mocking “TBM” co-workers, or “TBM” family, or “TBM” classmates.

      I have read threads of ex-Mormons boasting about profaning the temple with antics like sneaking booze into the temple and taking pictures of themselves in the bathroom drinking such. I have read threads celebrating Mike Norton, who has made it his personal crusade to violate the sanctity of the temple and worshipers’ privacy by secretly recording the Endowment ceremony and other private religious acts.

      I have read threads of ex-Mormons mocking “apologists” as either witless dupes who are too stupid to realize they are being taken for a ride, or conspiring mercenaries who are in it for the money and the personal gain.

      And then let’s talk about the kinds of calumnies the denizens of the ex-Mormon subreddit heaps on the heads of Church leaders: racist, bigoted, sexist, homophobic, greedy, uncaring, opportunistic, elitist, leaders of a cult, responsible for brainwashing, abusers, conspirators, etc., etc.

      So if your plea to humanize ex-Mormons includes an appeal to the ex-Mormon subreddit as an example of the virtues of being an ex-Mormon on said subreddit, then I simply cannot take your plea seriously at all.

      I’m sorry for any emotional or mental anguish you may have experienced in leaving the Church. But that anguish does not justify the utterly reprehensible behavior I see coming from the ex-Mormon subreddit. If you and other ex-Mormons want remaining Church members to afford you the goodwill and humanity you are calling for, the first step is to be morally consistent and renounce the worst of everything about being an ex-Mormon that the ex-Mormon subreddit has come to represent.

      • “People leave the Church for a variety of reasons.“

        “We have come to understand that many factors contribute to disaffection from the Church”

        “Unfortunately, believers can sometimes dismiss the doubter’s pain. ”

        “Along with social, historical, doctrinal, spiritual, and intellectual factors…”

        “It can come as a surprise to those who have assumed that people leave only because they were sinning to hear all variety of reasons why people have left. ”

        The article actually seems to be painting ExMormons in general in a much different light than you claim.

      • How do you even find inspiration in joining any society, discussion, etc. that elevates disaffection as a virtue and denigrates honest believers? Faith is a choice, testimony is a gift; if you have neither, why would you choose to celebrate that fact and mock others who hold them dear? Find some healthy and productive outlet for your skills and talents; find another group with things to share that are uplifting. These sites do not ‘help’ anyone although they claim to be support for others who lose their faith; they only create more ‘shared’ bad feelings and resentments.

    • Jenny, I think the tone of the article is a little confusing (see my previous post – e.g. there is no definition of what ‘mental distress’ is) and perhaps it has confused you too.

      I don’t believe the article suggests that a person like yourself ‘must’ have left the church because of mental ‘distress’. Clearly that is not the case for many, many people. (I expect that the exmormon mental ‘distress’ levels are not materially different to any other group of people).

      I believe the authors intent was to create a discussion on how mental ‘distress’ can impact some peoples engagement with their faith (surely you can at least accept the possibilities of this concept?) – but it could also rightly be extended to exploring the impact mental distress can have on a persons employment, family life, engagement within their community etc. All these are reasonable concepts to explore. Yet, because this website is focused on things of a religious nature, the emphasis is on the impact of faith – at least with this paper.

      I find the authors approach and intent genuine, yet the execution probably missed the mark. I agree with you there are at times negative attitudes from LDS towards those that leave the faith (who, I agree, leave for a myriad of reasons) and there is no place for this and such behavior is not taught by the Church.

      This behavior is human nature, unfortunately, and this is evidenced by the fact that it is also common from some that leave the church to attack those that chose to remain in the faith, which is equally inappropriate. We can have a debate without mocking a persons decision to leave a faith, and also without mocking (deliberately out of context) the particulars of a faith (i.e I reject your comment re Elder Renlund and the Mormonism suicide rate comment, which seems to be isolated to a specific region within a specific country – not the global church.)

      Perhaps things are a little more difficult for those that leave the Church in places like Utah and Idaho (again, talking cultural, not Church doctrine or teaching), yet my church experience in Australia is nothing like you describe. Most of my friends are not members of the church, and my relationships with those few I know that have left the church over the years remains as it always has – one of mutual love and respect.

      All the best.

  13. Examining exMormons alongside mental illness establishes a caste system among part-member families where those who “stay in the boat” are the supremacy and the lowest caste consists of those who chose a different path. As an exMormon, I take umbrage with this Mormon supremacy-caste system, which features so prominently in LDS discourse of late (see Elder Renlund’s recent boat fireside, Elder Corbridge’s devotional yesterday, and now this post).

    ExMormons’ faith transition should not be studied with regards to mental illness (or worse, as playing Elder Renlund’s game of whack-a-mole), any more than active Mormons should be considered alongside mental illness for believing in angels, gold Bibles, or a polyandrous prophet. This juxtaposition of mental illness and belief/doubting demonizes former Mormons, just as Elder Renlund and other recent talks implicitly demonized exMormons while ostensibly seeking to strengthen doubters. This article also conveniently hints at a plausible reason for Mormonism’s embarrassingly high suicide rates: faithlessness.

    I won’t be listing my reasons for leaving Mormonism here, but will suffice by saying: mental illness had nothing to do with it, and neither did “doubts.” I was an active temple-worthy stake seminary teacher the day I resigned my LDS membership. I’m a returned missionary, I taught at the MTC, and I’m a former BYU-Idaho religion faculty and Interpreter editor. So you can trust me when I say: almost all of the exMormons I know are very mentally healthy. I hang out with 108,000+ of them almost daily on the exMormon subreddit, and we have very robust and delightful discussions. We minister to one another. I find more support for women there than I ever did in my own LDS branches.

    Folks writing about exMormons take note: Footnotes affixed to ad hominem attacks do not transfigure them into credible assertions. I invite active Mormons to become acquainted with exMormons without any agenda (we can smell those a mile away—most of us are RMs, remember!) and without any desire to debate or reconvert us. We don’t want to be studied, labeled, or ministered to. Don’t research and write articles about us as if we were objects—try looking at us as people. We are dealing with a lot of loss after loved ones scorned or even disowned us for our faith transitions, for example.

    Well might exMormons say as did Shylock in the Merchant of Venice:

    Hath not [an ExMormon] eyes? hath not [an ExMormon] hands, organs,
    dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
    the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
    to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
    warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
    a [Mormon] is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
    if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
    us, do we not die?
    –Act 3, Scene I

    • Respectfully, Jenny, I simply cannot take you seriously when you say “I hang out with 108,000+ of [ex-Mormons] almost daily on the exMormon subreddit, and we have very robust and delightful discussions.”

      I, too, have observed the ex-Mormon subreddit. For a while now. And I simply cannot for the life of me imagine how you can seriously call the kind of things that go down there “robust and delightful.”

      I have personally been on the receiving end of attack threads on that subreddit. Threads that have personally attacked me, have questioned my honesty and mental health, and have speculated about my personal life (including my sexuality and my family life).

      I have read threads of ex-Mormons there consulting on how to best deceive spouses, family, bishops, and others whom they hold in the worst kind of contempt and often demeaningly dismiss as “TBMs” and other spiteful epithets.

      I have read threads of ex-Mormons viciously mocking “TBM” Church members during fast and testimony meeting or other Church meetings, or mocking “TBM” co-workers, or “TBM” family, or “TBM” classmates.

      I have read threads of ex-Mormons boasting about profaning the temple with antics like sneaking booze into the temple and taking pictures of themselves in the bathroom drinking such. I have read threads celebrating Mike Norton, who has made it his personal crusade to violate the sanctity of the temple and worshipers’ privacy by secretly recording the Endowment ceremony and other private religious acts.

      I have read threads of ex-Mormons mocking “apologists” as either witless dupes who are too stupid to realize they are being taken for a ride, or conspiring mercenaries who are in it for the money and the personal gain.

      And then let’s talk about the kinds of calumnies the denizens of the ex-Mormon subreddit heaps on the heads of Church leaders: racist, bigoted, sexist, homophobic, greedy, uncaring, opportunistic, elitist, leaders of a cult, responsible for brainwashing, abusers, conspirators, etc., etc.

      So if your plea to humanize ex-Mormons includes an appeal to the ex-Mormon subreddit as an example of the virtues of being an ex-Mormon on said subreddit, then I simply cannot take your plea seriously at all.

      I’m sorry for any emotional or mental anguish you may have experienced in leaving the Church. But that anguish does not justify the utterly reprehensible behavior I see coming from the ex-Mormon subreddit. If you and other ex-Mormons want remaining Church members to afford you the goodwill and humanity you are calling for, the first step is to be morally consistent and renounce the worst of everything about being an ex-Mormon that the ex-Mormon subreddit has come to represent.

      • “People leave the Church for a variety of reasons.“

        “We have come to understand that many factors contribute to disaffection from the Church”

        “Unfortunately, believers can sometimes dismiss the doubter’s pain. ”

        “Along with social, historical, doctrinal, spiritual, and intellectual factors…”

        “It can come as a surprise to those who have assumed that people leave only because they were sinning to hear all variety of reasons why people have left. ”

        The article actually seems to be painting ExMormons in general in a much different light than you claim.

    • Jenny, I think the tone of the article is a little confusing (see my previous post – e.g. there is no definition of what ‘mental distress’ is) and perhaps it has confused you too.

      I don’t believe the article suggests that a person like yourself ‘must’ have left the church because of mental ‘distress’. Clearly that is not the case for many, many people. (I expect that the exmormon mental ‘distress’ levels are not materially different to any other group of people).

      I believe the authors intent was to create a discussion on how mental ‘distress’ can impact some peoples engagement with their faith (surely you can at least accept the possibilities of this concept?) – but it could also rightly be extended to exploring the impact mental distress can have on a persons employment, family life, engagement within their community etc. All these are reasonable concepts to explore. Yet, because this website is focused on things of a religious nature, the emphasis is on the impact of faith – at least with this paper.

      I find the authors approach and intent genuine, yet the execution probably missed the mark. I agree with you there are at times negative attitudes from LDS towards those that leave the faith (who, I agree, leave for a myriad of reasons) and there is no place for this and such behavior is not taught by the Church.

      This behavior is human nature, unfortunately, and this is evidenced by the fact that it is also common from some that leave the church to attack those that chose to remain in the faith, which is equally inappropriate. We can have a debate without mocking a persons decision to leave a faith, and also without mocking (deliberately out of context) the particulars of a faith (i.e I reject your comment re Elder Renlund and the Mormonism suicide rate comment, which seems to be isolated to a specific region within a specific country – not the global church.)

      Perhaps things are a little more difficult for those that leave the Church in places like Utah and Idaho (again, talking cultural, not Church doctrine or teaching), yet my church experience in Australia is nothing like you describe. Most of my friends are not members of the church, and my relationships with those few I know that have left the church over the years remains as it always has – one of mutual love and respect.

      All the best.

  14. Believe in Holy Spirit and must build strong Spiritual relationships with God. The church as the body of Christ made up of believers in Jesus Christ, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

  15. Believe in Holy Spirit and must build strong Spiritual relationships with God. The church as the body of Christ made up of believers in Jesus Christ, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

  16. It occurred to me that if we are discussing mental illness and the gospel then I would like to know how to tell the difference between a mental issue and someone being possessed by an evil spirit that needs casting out. Seems possession has essentially disappeared as a doctrine lately.

  17. It occurred to me that if we are discussing mental illness and the gospel then I would like to know how to tell the difference between a mental issue and someone being possessed by an evil spirit that needs casting out. Seems possession has essentially disappeared as a doctrine lately.

  18. It occurred to me that if we are discussing mental illness and the gospel then I would like to know how to tell the difference between a mental issue and someone being possessed by an evil spirit that needs casting out. Seems possession has essentially disappeared as a doctrine lately.

  19. Xander, I just loved your post. I also suffer from similar conditions that you do. I take a depression med. I survived a violent childhood, (maybe). But your beautifully true and clear words about our truer problem, the root cause of separation from God, is incisive and refreshing.

    I have a difficult relation with scholarship. I dislike the tendency to use tsunamis of wordplay that may not illuminate at all, but may make one wonder what was the point of the treatise. This article makes me wonder, as one other commenter mentioned, what is the apex thought here? There was, I think, a mention of the Church at the very end; is that a blurred finger-pointing? I don’t favor word-soaked narrative that seeks to impress rather than to bless. David Belasco said, “If you can’t write your idea on the back of my business card, you don’t have a clear idea.” Sometimes less is more.

    I am going to stop commenting; I think I’ve overstayed welcome here.

  20. Xander, I just loved your post. I also suffer from similar conditions that you do. I take a depression med. I survived a violent childhood, (maybe). But your beautifully true and clear words about our truer problem, the root cause of separation from God, is incisive and refreshing.

    I have a difficult relation with scholarship. I dislike the tendency to use tsunamis of wordplay that may not illuminate at all, but may make one wonder what was the point of the treatise. This article makes me wonder, as one other commenter mentioned, what is the apex thought here? There was, I think, a mention of the Church at the very end; is that a blurred finger-pointing? I don’t favor word-soaked narrative that seeks to impress rather than to bless. David Belasco said, “If you can’t write your idea on the back of my business card, you don’t have a clear idea.” Sometimes less is more.

    I am going to stop commenting; I think I’ve overstayed welcome here.

  21. Xander, I just loved your post. I also suffer from similar conditions that you do. I take a depression med. I survived a violent childhood, (maybe). But your beautifully true and clear words about our truer problem, the root cause of separation from God, is incisive and refreshing.

    I have a difficult relation with scholarship. I dislike the tendency to use tsunamis of wordplay that may not illuminate at all, but may make one wonder what was the point of the treatise. This article makes me wonder, as one other commenter mentioned, what is the apex thought here? There was, I think, a mention of the Church at the very end; is that a blurred finger-pointing? I don’t favor word-soaked narrative that seeks to impress rather than to bless. David Belasco said, “If you can’t write your idea on the back of my business card, you don’t have a clear idea.” Sometimes less is more.

    I am going to stop commenting; I think I’ve overstayed welcome here.

  22. This articles draws on a modern day populist message of shifting accountability of agency to those things ‘outside of our control.’

    The discussion around metal health is certainly welcome and necessary. I would have liked to see the authors define the difference between mental illness and mental health (mental distress), as these are often incorrectly used synonymously. A person can have a mental illness and have good mental health through appropriate treatment. Likewise, a person can have no mental illness yet have poor mental health (for ‘divers’ reasons).
    Similarly, the reality is that there are many causes to mental distress. Sometimes ‘mental distress’ is actually because of sin – although certainly not always. Sometimes it is also perhaps driven by a misunderstanding to church teaching and a understanding of the doctrine of Grace.

    It seems to me that regardless of mental illness / poor mental health, individual responses remain as unpredictable as any other demography or grouped people. While not dismissing unique challenges of the mind, Alma 62:41 teaches that people can have the same experience (mental health challenges/mental illness certainly included) and respond differently because of the way they ‘choose’ to respond.

    Stephen R Covey made famous the saying “there is a space between stimulus and response, that space is choice.” In any discussion concerning LDS disaffection we cannot ignore agency as a prime factor.

    I sense the article is trying to highlight that there is a need for greater compassion for people with ‘mental distress’ and I agree. However, I believe a blanket call for compassion towards all people is most appropriate. Perhaps there have been members of the church over the years that have taken fundamental approaches to how a person can heal (say your prayers, read your scriptures and all will be well) and have not been the brightest ‘lower lights’ they could have been. I think Elder Hollands General Conference talk “Like a broken vessel” covers this well. The key note I got from his teachings was that even though yes, he had depression, he chose to continue to press forward and not take the opportunity to hobble away from the church on a crutch.

    I feel great compassion for those suffering with mental distress, and also all peoples with all the different challenges in mortality. I find comfort knowing we will not be tested above that which we can manage.

    I reject the premise which to me is ignoring the impacts of sin and the reality of individual agency, by suggesting uncontrollable mental distress causes people to leave the church – as I know of many that have experienced such and stayed the course.

  23. This articles draws on a modern day populist message of shifting accountability of agency to those things ‘outside of our control.’

    The discussion around metal health is certainly welcome and necessary. I would have liked to see the authors define the difference between mental illness and mental health (mental distress), as these are often incorrectly used synonymously. A person can have a mental illness and have good mental health through appropriate treatment. Likewise, a person can have no mental illness yet have poor mental health (for ‘divers’ reasons).
    Similarly, the reality is that there are many causes to mental distress. Sometimes ‘mental distress’ is actually because of sin – although certainly not always. Sometimes it is also perhaps driven by a misunderstanding to church teaching and a understanding of the doctrine of Grace.

    It seems to me that regardless of mental illness / poor mental health, individual responses remain as unpredictable as any other demography or grouped people. While not dismissing unique challenges of the mind, Alma 62:41 teaches that people can have the same experience (mental health challenges/mental illness certainly included) and respond differently because of the way they ‘choose’ to respond.

    Stephen R Covey made famous the saying “there is a space between stimulus and response, that space is choice.” In any discussion concerning LDS disaffection we cannot ignore agency as a prime factor.

    I sense the article is trying to highlight that there is a need for greater compassion for people with ‘mental distress’ and I agree. However, I believe a blanket call for compassion towards all people is most appropriate. Perhaps there have been members of the church over the years that have taken fundamental approaches to how a person can heal (say your prayers, read your scriptures and all will be well) and have not been the brightest ‘lower lights’ they could have been. I think Elder Hollands General Conference talk “Like a broken vessel” covers this well. The key note I got from his teachings was that even though yes, he had depression, he chose to continue to press forward and not take the opportunity to hobble away from the church on a crutch.

    I feel great compassion for those suffering with mental distress, and also all peoples with all the different challenges in mortality. I find comfort knowing we will not be tested above that which we can manage.

    I reject the premise which to me is ignoring the impacts of sin and the reality of individual agency, by suggesting uncontrollable mental distress causes people to leave the church – as I know of many that have experienced such and stayed the course.

  24. Well, at the risk of oversimplifying, but also as one who has had his own share of emotional and mental difficulties, including what my psychiatrists have called a psychotic break and PTSD, and also as one who holds a degree in behavioral science, my observation over the years (now 77) is that departure from the church starts with an act or activity that either quickly or slowly drives the Spirit away from one’s own spirit, and before one is aware, one starts to look for ways to excuse that action, rather than repent. And voila, goodbye church! Pretty simple, really. Thus the Savior’s admonition to “watch and pray always, lest ye enter into temptation.” So far, it has worked for me. So far.

  25. Well, at the risk of oversimplifying, but also as one who has had his own share of emotional and mental difficulties, including what my psychiatrists have called a psychotic break and PTSD, and also as one who holds a degree in behavioral science, my observation over the years (now 77) is that departure from the church starts with an act or activity that either quickly or slowly drives the Spirit away from one’s own spirit, and before one is aware, one starts to look for ways to excuse that action, rather than repent. And voila, goodbye church! Pretty simple, really. Thus the Savior’s admonition to “watch and pray always, lest ye enter into temptation.” So far, it has worked for me. So far.

  26. Well, at the risk of oversimplifying, but also as one who has had his own share of emotional and mental difficulties, including what my psychiatrists have called a psychotic break and PTSD, and also as one who holds a degree in behavioral science, my observation over the years (now 77) is that departure from the church starts with an act or activity that either quickly or slowly drives the Spirit away from one’s own spirit, and before one is aware, one starts to look for ways to excuse that action, rather than repent. And voila, goodbye church! Pretty simple, really. Thus the Savior’s admonition to “watch and pray always, lest ye enter into temptation.” So far, it has worked for me. So far.

  27. I was disappointed in the article. You merely state that there is a possibility that mental illness causes people to leave the church but do not provide any proof whatsoever that this is what is going on, other than your speculation. Of course it is a possibility that mental illness could cause someone to leave any organization, however remote, just like almost anything is a possibility. Where is the research showing that mental illness is the cause? Is it just your review of some stories people have said online? Is that it?

    I could easily turn this on it’s head and say that mental illness is what causes people to remain in the church despite the evidence. There must be some mentally ill persons that cannot leave, even though they know it isn’t what it claims to be. It is entirely possible that these cannot face the gauntlet of disapproval of family and friends if they choose to leave because the costs will be too high for their unstable mental state to handle effectively. So, they remain. These might very well be the persons in the foyer, facing their demons of separation anxiety, unable to walk out the door out of fear of the repercussions to their marriage or family relations …
    How do I know this? (I am guessing like you are) Additionally, we all know that there is pressure to stay in the boat and certainly there is a possibility that this pressure causes some individuals to experience undo stress and anxiety, essentially forcing these individuals to remain in an organization that they do not think is what it claims to be.

    Why even write this article? What is the point? It seems this article is to provide yet another excuse for the member to use when the member sees yet another person leave. Please add the mental illness possibility to offense and sin. However, do not deal with seer stones, flaming swords or other reasons people no longer buy what the church is selling.

    • Darn it, Exiled, I loved your post until the last paragraph which contains thrown stones! The paragraph implies, I think, that there is a fault line in the Faith, and the Church needs to somehow cop to it. With respect to your reflect, I think those things and most others like it are boogeymen.

      Just an example, which I posted before and you bring up here: the Seer Stone. I don’t know why anyone need be thrown by the stone. Moses was given a burning bush for gosh sakes. What if Joseph Smith was given an ignited tumble weed? What if a talking horse? It’s none of our business, I think, how the Lord chooses to reveal his sacred things. It’s a classic error we make: our ways should be God’s ways; God’s ways must agree with my intellect. But He disagrees, saying in Isaiah 55: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

      I think the denial of this one crucial God-uttered statement by the Roman gods of liberal academia, is what characterizes the basis of the thought disease of progressivism. And you know, we are almost not even allowed to speak of it, for when we do, we are liable to be hand-slapped, moderated, labeled non-inclusive, unloving, not civil, (see Ralph Hancock’s “Love Wins, Charity Loses”).

      Cheers to you, person of thrown stone!

      • Just remember that only the mediocre are always at their best. I enjoyed the article and sre much validity in many of the comments. Looking for a silver bullet to explain behavior best represented as a broad bell shaped curve is a futile search for the correct windmill.

    • Exiled, you apprently both failed to read the article and have never mental health issues, specifically depression and anxiety. I can tell by how your posts describes how potential mental health issues can keep someone in the church. My guess is that there are cases of that, but not in the way you describe. As I stated above, people who are going through faith crises/transitions need to be seeing professional psychiatrists no matter where that journey takes them.

      • I read the article and there aren’t any studies, or anything other than conjecture, showing that people who leave are suffering from mental illness. Perhaps it happens. Utah has a high rate of mental illness so I am sure that there are some who leave and also suffer from mental illness. Also, I am sure that there are those who suffer from mental illness and remain. Perhaps the article should be about merely dealing with those who have mental illness instead of guessing that this is a cause for some to leave?

  28. I was disappointed in the article. You merely state that there is a possibility that mental illness causes people to leave the church but do not provide any proof whatsoever that this is what is going on, other than your speculation. Of course it is a possibility that mental illness could cause someone to leave any organization, however remote, just like almost anything is a possibility. Where is the research showing that mental illness is the cause? Is it just your review of some stories people have said online? Is that it?

    I could easily turn this on it’s head and say that mental illness is what causes people to remain in the church despite the evidence. There must be some mentally ill persons that cannot leave, even though they know it isn’t what it claims to be. It is entirely possible that these cannot face the gauntlet of disapproval of family and friends if they choose to leave because the costs will be too high for their unstable mental state to handle effectively. So, they remain. These might very well be the persons in the foyer, facing their demons of separation anxiety, unable to walk out the door out of fear of the repercussions to their marriage or family relations …
    How do I know this? (I am guessing like you are) Additionally, we all know that there is pressure to stay in the boat and certainly there is a possibility that this pressure causes some individuals to experience undo stress and anxiety, essentially forcing these individuals to remain in an organization that they do not think is what it claims to be.

    Why even write this article? What is the point? It seems this article is to provide yet another excuse for the member to use when the member sees yet another person leave. Please add the mental illness possibility to offense and sin. However, do not deal with seer stones, flaming swords or other reasons people no longer buy what the church is selling.

    • Darn it, Exiled, I loved your post until the last paragraph which contains thrown stones! The paragraph implies, I think, that there is a fault line in the Faith, and the Church needs to somehow cop to it. With respect to your reflect, I think those things and most others like it are boogeymen.

      Just an example, which I posted before and you bring up here: the Seer Stone. I don’t know why anyone need be thrown by the stone. Moses was given a burning bush for gosh sakes. What if Joseph Smith was given an ignited tumble weed? What if a talking horse? It’s none of our business, I think, how the Lord chooses to reveal his sacred things. It’s a classic error we make: our ways should be God’s ways; God’s ways must agree with my intellect. But He disagrees, saying in Isaiah 55: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

      I think the denial of this one crucial God-uttered statement by the Roman gods of liberal academia, is what characterizes the basis of the thought disease of progressivism. And you know, we are almost not even allowed to speak of it, for when we do, we are liable to be hand-slapped, moderated, labeled non-inclusive, unloving, not civil, (see Ralph Hancock’s “Love Wins, Charity Loses”).

      Cheers to you, person of thrown stone!

    • Exiled, you apprently both failed to read the article and have never mental health issues, specifically depression and anxiety. I can tell by how your posts describes how potential mental health issues can keep someone in the church. My guess is that there are cases of that, but not in the way you describe. As I stated above, people who are going through faith crises/transitions need to be seeing professional psychiatrists no matter where that journey takes them.

      • I read the article and there aren’t any studies, or anything other than conjecture, showing that people who leave are suffering from mental illness. Perhaps it happens. Utah has a high rate of mental illness so I am sure that there are some who leave and also suffer from mental illness. Also, I am sure that there are those who suffer from mental illness and remain. Perhaps the article should be about merely dealing with those who have mental illness instead of guessing that this is a cause for some to leave?

  29. As someone who experienced many of the symptoms described while suffering from a chemical imbalance due to a pituitary tumor, I can say that going through a faith crisis while not having 100% mental health is not something I wish on my worst enemy. I can get into specifics if anyone would be interested, but I would strongly recommend that everyone going through a faith crisis go see a professional therapist to get the help they need in diagnosing any mental issues that could be excaberating the pain and leading to unhealthy habits and patterns. Even if you are not suffering from mental health issues, a therapist is still highly valuable during a faith crisis/transformation/transition no matter what ends up being your relationship with the church.

  30. As someone who suffers from social agoraphobia caused by C-PTSD, who has a very hard time going to church and all other social functions and indeed going out in public in genera’; I have to state that I do not consider myself inactive. I live the gospel, my testimony of it has been tried by fire and has come out a very strong and refined thing.

    While I do wish I could partake of the sacrament more often, and have my desire to attend the Temple more overcome my anxiety over it, it has not affected how I believe and exercise my faith. Indeed I find myself agreeing with Vance that people in the faith crisis are likely experiencing the effects of winnowing.

    While I do not doubt that there can be a connection between mental health issues and faith crisis, to me, it would be only part of a march larger picture. I think a lot of people are more likely to use it as an excuse more than it being an actual contributor to their faith crisis. At most I only see it exacerbating other issues, rather than being a root cause.

    While I do believe that mental health is still something society in general, the church included, need to continue to understand and be understanding of; I also think we need to be careful about allowing it to be used as an excuse for apostasy.

    • Great insight, thanks for sharing. Its important to remember that a persons apparent absence from time to time is not an indication of their faithfulness or lack of faith. As the saying goes, “you can be active in the church but inactive with God.”
      Cheers,

  31. Thanks for this wonderful article! I’m a therapist and it was interesting to see the basic and fundamental principles of CBT be discussed in a gospel context. I actually have OCD and have noticed that when I have had my darker spiritual times the OCD was often more intense and pronounced. This is definitely a good area we as a church can be more aware of and more sensitive too.

  32. Excellent article. I find that many of my patients who are in the midst of depression, stress or anxiety often try to change external circumstances hoping that this will make them feel better. They feel bad; they suffer; they don’t “feel right”. So they start changing things – even things that used to bring them joy and they know they really shouldn’t change. They have an affair, they divorce their spouse, they leave their dream job, they move to another state, they change their diet, or their exercise regimen. They get a tattoo. They take out a loan they can’t afford and buy a Harley. They go off on their mother or best friend and tell them how awful they are and give them a laundry list of insults and offenses. And they leave their religion, church and friends. All in an attempt to feel better.

    And, of course, all this just makes it worse. So one of the best things we can do for people who are having depression, etc. is remind them that while they work on their depression or stress, they shouldn’t make any major life changes while they are in the midst of these diseases and problems because it usually isn’t any of these external things that are the problem. And then when they are doing better, they will find joy in their family and church just like they did before their illness/problem.

  33. I think that there is indeed a large number of people leaving the Church and yes, mental issues are likely part of them.

    But the Lord is winnowing His church, and separating the wheat and the tares, too. The first 100 years of the Church, we were a peculiar people, what with the polygamy and gathering and unique doctrines. It took guts to join the Church back then; a step outside of the culture. From WWII to probably the 90’s, the Church was the epitome of mainstream–socially conservative like a very large portion of society. We were more the harmless sect that fundamentally is part of America–a few odd beliefs, perhaps, but who doesn’t have a few odd things, right?

    Now we are rapidly moving out of the mainstream, along with traditional Christianity in general. The collapse of Christianity in general, as the article points out, is remarkable. The Church is resisting better than most, but we still feel it. It’s no longer the default to be a faithful Christian, nor is it admired anymore by society. We are now in Sodom and Gomorrah; and have to decide whether we will be faithful Lot in the middle of it. Many are falling away–the foolish virgins who failed to put oil in their lamp.

    This is definitely not new, of course–Alma had a great apostatizing as well; and King Benjamin’s remarkable efforts did not last long. The Nephites and the Jews notoriously fell away often.

    The good news is that the Spirit of the Lord still works on people, and lots are looking for a Church that offers profound connections with the Savior, and the opportunity to serve Him as a foot soldier. We stand with outstretched arms to welcome those who still seek Him.

    The people with mental issues, like all others, should be treated with compassion.

  34. Pingback: Barriers to Belief: Mental Distress and Disaffection from the Church - Steven T. Densley, Jr. - The Mormonist

  35. Great insight, thanks for sharing. Its important to remember that a persons apparent absence from time to time is not an indication of their faithfulness or lack of faith. As the saying goes, “you can be active in the church but inactive with God.”
    Cheers,

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