Is Mormon Culture Depressing Utahns?

Andrewdepression, LDS, Mormon, mormon, Mormons, obedience, Utah 113 Comments

Depression Wall

Ever since I read the MHA study ranking Utah as the #1 most depressed state in the U.S., I’ve been asking my Mormon friends and family why they think Utah has a higher percentage of population reporting depression than any other state.

Usually, the initial response I get is one of surprise. Mormons I talk to are genuinely surprised that Utah, of all states, would have the highest percentage of adults reporting depression. After all, Mormons are repeatedly taught that “happiness is the object and design of our existence,” that “men are they might have joy,” that we are following the “great plan of happiness,” and that those who follow that plan enjoy a “blessed and happy state.”

Moreover, our friends and work colleagues occasionally comment that we Mormons seem to be a happy people. When I was a junior associate at a law firm, one day a senior partner unexpectedly said to me:

What is it about you Mormons that makes you so happy?

He then listed off the names of all the Mormons working at our firm and then observed:

All of you have this peaceful, contented way about you. Why is that?

I was totally caught off guard by the question. I tried to quickly think of an answer, and then rattled off something like this:

I think Mormons make a great effort to live according to their beliefs, and when we are living according to our beliefs, I think it gives us a peace of mind and contentment about our lives.

So over the past several weeks as I have pressed my Mormon friends and family for an explanation of Utah’s depression numbers, I’ve been surprised when almost all of them have said something like this:

Mormon culture is highly-demanding and emphasizes perfection, which leads to feelings of inadequacy and depression when Mormons inevitably fail to meet those high demands perfectly.

I’ve been surprised by this common response because, in a way, it is the same theory I offered to my work colleague to explain why Mormons are so happy, i.e., our strong commitment to righteous living.

But interestingly, when I ask Mormons whether they personally feel they have experienced Mormon-culture-induced depression, the answer is almost always “no.” It seems this concept of Mormon-culture-induced depression is something many Mormons believe in, but at the same time, they almost invariably believe it is something that is experienced by someone else. And that seems to be borne out by Utah’s depression numbers, because even in the “most-depressed” state of Utah, we’re talking about 10% of the population reporting depression, which means 90% of adults and adolescents in Utah are not depressed.

So what’s going on with those 1-in-10 Utahns who do report depression? Is Mormon culture what’s depressing them? Frankly, I have a hard time believing Mormon culture is behind Utah’s depression numbers, and here’s why:

  • Problems that are expressed in terms of rankings can exaggerate the size of a problem because oftentimes the difference between best, average, and worst is small. For example, Hawaii (surprise, surprise!) has the lowest percentage of adults who report having a “major depressive episode,” which is 6.74%. The national average is 8.05%. In Utah, that percentage is 10.14% So when we talk about Utah’s “depression problem,” we’re talking about depression numbers that are about two percentage points above the national average.
  • When we compare Utah to the other “most-depressed” states like Kentucky, Ohio, Okahoma, Rhode Island, etc., that gap is much, much smaller. For example, in Rhode Island, 9.88% of adults report experiencing a major depressive episode. Again, in Utah that number is 10.14%. So there we’re talking about a difference of just .26% between a “Mormon state” like Utah, and a non-Mormon state like Rhode Island.
  • Mormonism’s potential responsibility for Utah’s depression numbers is further weakened by the fact that a very significant percentage of Utah Mormons are inactive, i.e., they are presumably not actively steeped in the supposedly depression-inducing Mormon culture.

So to summarize: to assess Mormonism’s potential responsibility for causing Utahns’ depression, it seems we would need to focus on the delta between the number of adults reporting depression in Utah (10.14%), and the most depressed “non-Mormon” state, Rhode Island (9.88%). In other words, if 9.88% of Rhode Islanders report depression without a strong Mormon presence in that state, then it seems at least 9.88% of Utahns are depressed for exactly the same sorts of reasons as Rhode Islanders. That leaves us with a delta of .26% of Utahns who might be depressed because of Mormonism.

I am also intrigued by arguments that Mormonism is depressing Utahns because, even assuming that Mormons experience more depression than others, it seems there are at least two possible reasons why that would be. Either: (1) the Mormon “plan of happiness” is fundamentally flawed and actually causes depression; or (2) a very small percentage of Mormons misunderstand or don’t implement that “plan of happiness” correctly and drive themselves nuts with unnecessary perfectionism.

If Possibility #1 were true, we would expect a lot more than just 10% of Utahns to be depressed. And we would certainly expect Utah’s depression numbers to be much higher than a mere .26% above a non-Mormon state like Rhode Island. Put another way, if Mormon culture depresses Utahns, isn’t it remarkable that 90% of Utahns report not being depressed?

So for me, Possibility #2, that a very small percentage of Mormons don’t understand or implement the Mormon “plan of happiness” correctly and therefore drive themselves nuts with perfectionism, seems to be the more likely explanation of what effect, if any, Mormon culture has on Utah’s depression numbers. And it seems LDS Church leaders recognize this tendency of some Mormons to miss the mark and become perfectionists, because they specifically caution Mormons against developing the sort of perfectionist attitudes that could cause depression:

When comparing one’s personal performance with the supreme standard of the Lord’s expectation, the reality of imperfection can at times be depressing. My heart goes out to conscientious Saints who, because of their shortcomings, allow feelings of depression to rob them of happiness in life.

We all need to remember: men are that they might have joy—not guilt trips!

(Russell M. Nelson, “Perfection Pending,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 86.)

I seem to have heard this type of statement by General Authorities many times over the years. Which makes me wonder: if a Mormon (or ex-Mormon) blames “the Church” for his depression, might it be more accurate to say that he was depressed in spite of his Church leaders’ counsel (e.g., the Elder Nelson quote above), rather than because of it?

Comments 113

  1. I personally think its not so much the numbers of depressed utahns
    or even LDS’outside of utah
    Its more of to do with the perception that Mormons SHOULDNT be depressed
    We have faith in Heavenly Father
    We have faith in Jesus Christ
    and we have the knowledge of the plan of salvation

    So we try and struggle on and endure to the end
    most often with a smile on our face
    Because we dont want outsiders to think “well if joining the church is making him/her THAT depressed I want no part of it”

    alternatively maybe there are people who are depressed due to a chemical imbalance in the brain and the church is helping with coping with that
    depression isnt about being happy/sad in the context which we all have in our minds

    its deeper than that

    and i dont buy into the idea that some people have of a member saying
    “im supposed to be perfect – im not – arrgghhh”
    thats the whole point of the plan of salvation and Christ attoning for our sins

    I suffer from depression – I dont blame anyone else, its just part of me

  2. I think if it has anything at all to do with Mormonism, it would have to be that most of these depression studies are being reported by prescriptions of anti-depressants. Since Mormons don’t drink or do drugs, it seems like they’d be more likely to ask a doctor for a prescription.

    Also, if depression does have genetic roots, that could also explain a lot as Utahns seem to always have family connections somehow (probably thanks to the beginning of Utah and polygamy).

  3. In my area, Mormons seem less likely to seek medical help for depression. First, it is hard to admit one is depressed, as it would seem to call into question the joy the gospel is supposed to bring. Second, many here seem to rely on naturopaths and chiropractors for their health needs and don’t believe in scientific medicine. I have heard it expressed that if you go to a psychiatrist, they will try to convince you that it is your religion that is the problem. Whether guilt instilled by the church causes the depression, or the depression leads the person into obsessing with guilt, I don’t know. In the long run, I think most people are depressed or not based on their biology, not what happens to them. Bad things happening can trigger depressive episodes, but non-depressed individuals can usually roll with the punches and come back from adversity. Depressed Mormons (especially women) often seem inclined to talk about how far short they fall and wallow in guilt, which probably leads to people thinking the church is causing their depression when it actually is just an outlet for it.

  4. I have been one who has been under the impression that the mormon lifestyle can lead to depression, particularly in women. I appreciate the comments above, though, because they have given me some additional things to think about. Whether or not the church is responsible for any increased depression, I do think there are a number of factors related to mormon culture that are very relevant.

    First of all, would anyone deny that the pressure, whether you think it’s institutional or cultural, to have more children, is a heavy burden to many women? I realize that what constitutes “a lot” of children is not the same as it was a generation ago, even within the church. That said, the church has always encouraged its members to marry young and have children as soon as possible. The church has even said that couples should not put off children until they are financially capable of handling them. This leads not only to marrying at a young and often emotionally immature age, but having children young and often when couples are struggling financially. These are factors that could, and do, undoubtedly contribute to depression. Additionally, many families, and again, women in particular, feel pressure to have additional children, even if they might not personally want more kids or feel that they’re capable of handling them. This is a charge that is likely not properly directed at the church proper, as I can’t imagine anyone in authority would encourage anyone to have children they couldn’t handle. At the same time, anyone familiar with mormon culture recognizes that this is an issue. People with no, or relatively few, children have always been an oddity in the church, and some view these people with disdain.

    In addition to the issue of children, the church asks an incredible amount of time and effort of its members. That is not a judgment, it is merely a fact. In addition to Sunday meetings, there are callings, usually for both parents in a family, ancillary meetings, obligations throughout the week, service obligations, etc. I wouldn’t necessary argue that these things are independently negative, but when you combine these expectations with the idea taught by the church that no member should ever turn down a calling, it can be unbelievably stressful. Active members in the church are taught that they should do whatever is asked of them, and that god will buoy them up and help them accomplish their tasks. The results of this are two-fold. 1) It causes people to take on more than they should, often times. 2) Probably more damaging, this has serious psychological and emotional consequences. Because they are taught that god will give them the strength if they are righteous, when they find that they are overwhelmed or feel incapable, they inevitably feel that they are unworthy or bad because obviously any problems they are having are due to their own unrighteousness or insufficient faith. I have experienced this in my own life, and have seen it many times in the lives of others. Additionally, there is often accute guilt for parents who find themselves neglecting their children and family responsibilities in favor of church obligations, but they don’t feel they can turn down callings or refuse other requirements of the church. This is a perpetual cycle in mormon life.

    Do these factors prove that the church causes depression, or that the church is responsible for the numbers in the study cited above? Obviously not. I would argue, though, that there are certain aspects of mormon culture that are very likely to exacerbate, if not cause, depression.

  5. “In other words, if 9.88% of Rhode Islanders report depression without a strong Mormon presence in that state, then it seems at least 9.88% of Utahns are depressed for exactly the same sorts of reasons as Rhode Islanders. That leaves us with a delta of .26% of Utahns who might be depressed because of Mormonism.”

    That’s one way to look at the numbers, but it’s a pretty big leap to say that we can only deal in the difference between the two numbers. My Rhode Island friends will quickly tell you that life in RI is a lot different than life in Utah Valley. Living in Colorado was a lot different than living in Utah Valley. Since we’re talking societal influences, we can’t ignore the fact that society in these other states is considerably different. Breaking people down to percentages, addition and subtraction, gives a nice general picture to look at, maybe points us in a direction, but does not tell us about individual experiences. But gathering that kind of information for everyone is expensive and tedious, so we try to infer what we can on general numbers. I would have liked to see more detail in this study than just state-by-state epidemiology. Four the purposes of this discussion and many others, it would have been fantastic to see if there was a correlation with religion. Who knows, maybe it’s primarily the people in Utah who aren’t LDS that are depressed. Not my guess, but possible.

    While we can’t say conclusively that Mormon culture drives people to depression, we can’t say conclusively that it doesn’t.

    Michelle points out an important point though: these numbers are based on prescription rates of anti-depressant medications. I imagine if everyone in the country was screened for depression we might see different numbers. But, then, we’ll never know unless we do. My point is that there are a lot people who think that the idea that Mormon culture depresses people is ridiculous. There are a lot of other things that they can point to. But I say that we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the possibility that we might be missing something in our lovely Deseret, something that can seriously affect our emotional well-being. Pressures are unique for Mormons in Utah, and should not be taken lightly.

  6. My wife is clinically depressed. She’ll cheerfully tell you that it has nothing to do with the “heavy burden” of being a woman in the LDS Church, but instead is physiological (and probably genetic, since two of her daughters from her first marriage struggle with depression as well). She’d love to be off of Prozac, but when she starts to reduce her dosage, she can track a corresponding rise in symptoms of depression, almost on a day-by-day basis. Note that we have no kids at home, we live in Colorado in a beautiful setting, and her burdensome calling is…ward music director! Also, I work at home and do all the cooking, as well as a fair share of the laundry.

    Andrew pretty much tackles the potential flaws in the reported statistics. A meaningful study would compare rates of depression among active LDS, inactive/former LDS, and non-LDS adults across the US and Canada, with controls for socio-economic level and ethnicity. Without that, trying to draw conclusions about LDS rates of depression, much less the “impact of Mormon culture” from the MHA study is junk science, pure and simple. ..bruce..

  7. I can think of a few additional demographic factors:
    – higher birth rate. Post-partum depression is often treated with medication and more likely to be diagnosed due to being under the care of a doctor.
    – lower median age in the state; teen depression is easier to diagnose because of parents, teachers, and care providers who routinely monitor teen behavior.
    – less self-medication (drugs & alcohol) due to availability, stigma, and religious beliefs. LDS don’t stigmatize prescription meds the way alcohol and drugs are stigmatized.
    – doctors more willing to prescribe meds in UT? Just a guess.
    – inversion/lake effect. There is a direct correlation between lack of sunlight and depression.

  8. It’s the inversions and grey low hanging clouds around 1/2 the year. It’s like living in Scotland but with Jell-o. ::shudder::

  9. Hey, I’m an active LDS RM Temple Recommend Holding married father of two… who does NOT want to ever live in Utah again. Too many Mormons. I found it depressing. I LOVE living in the so called “mission field” as you Utah Mormons seem to enjoy calling it, where as a Mormon I am in the minority. I have never been able to put my finger on why Utah leaves such a bad taste in my mouth (lived there for seven years), but it has something to do with the phony nature of the pervasive group-think Mormon culture. Icky.

    I think any Mormon that is depressed and is living in Utah should move to the mid-west. Problem solved 🙂

  10. Most depression is caused by a chemical imbalance. I find it difficult to accept that an external, i.e. the church, is the cause. I think, though I’m not a statistician that a study would have to be constructed examining different belief systems, degree of involvement, and depression to show a correlation.

  11. What’s all this about lack of sunlight and cloudy days? Really? My over-arching memory of Utah is bright, crisp, blue sunny days. In fact the weather was one of the only two reasons I was SAD to leave Utah. (Mountains being the other).

  12. C.Biden, depression isn’t necessarily caused by a chemical imbalance, it’s more of a strong correlation between the two, so strong that neither can be ignored. But it’s a chicken-or-egg thing. It’s foolish for any doctor to prescribe pills without looking for other possible factors. Drugs help. Really, they do. Medicine has done wonderful things for millions of people around the world. I’ve been on both sides. But an honest look at all the available research simply won’t yield any conclusive answers about one causing the other. ‘Cause’ is a very strong word in this field. It can’t be any single factor, and since Mormon culture is unique to Utah, which also happens to be highest-ranked state for depression, I think it stands to reason that Mormon culture could have an effect.

  13. Bryan – in general, I think you are right that Utah is bright and clear, but during the winter, there are often multi-week time periods of “inversion” where the cloud cover is like a lid on the valley, lower than the mountains. I don’t know if depression spikes during that time, but I’ve read that in Seattle, people suffer from depression that is caused by “sun deprivation.”

  14. – less self-medication (drugs & alcohol) due to availability, stigma, and religious beliefs. LDS don’t stigmatize prescription meds the way alcohol and drugs are stigmatized.

    Amen. A difference in the self-medication patterns among LDS and non-LDS people has always seemed like a no-brainer explanation to this question. Perhaps I am missing some great other explanation, but it sure seems a lot like we see a four-legged animal that bucks and whinnies in our pasture, and we’re trying to convince ourselves that it’s a zebra, instead of the (far more) obvious alternative.

  15. As an alternative to my own opinion (in 17., that Mormons are no more depressed than anyone else), I would offer that it may be a simple problem of definition. The Mormon way of thinking has all kinds of quirky elements, and it doesn’t seem entirely implausible to me that Mormons simply define “happy” and “sad” differently. This, in combination with the horrendous tendency among Mormons to gaze horizontally at the neighbors rather than upward toward God, could easily produce a thought process like this:

    1. My neighbor (who is trying hard to look happy for the neighbors) looks really happy.
    2. I should try to look that happy, because I don’t want my neighbor to think I’m unhappy.
    3. But I’m not that happy, so now I’m just acting.
    4. Because my happiness is partially fake, I must actually be unhappy.
    5. I am depressed.
    6. Where’s that bowl of jell-o?

  16. Scott, this is a great point. Mormons describe themselves as happy, because the definition of happiness within the gospel is “obedience to the laws of god.” Thus, even if many things are going wrong in his or her life temporally, that person will first look to whether they are obeying god’s commandments as they see it. Many mormons will not see themselves as unhappy, merely in a period of being tested, etc. If anyone cares to dispute that this is the definition of happiness in the church, I would be happy to listen to an alternate explanation as to why mormons feel completely justified in telling another human being that they may think they are happy, but they’re really not. Mormon definition of happiness is not subjective, and has nothing to do really with how a person feels. It is an objective, measurable (somewhat) standard based on whether you are obedient or not. Thus, even if a person feels sad or anxious, that does not mean they are unhappy, just as a non-member or even moreso an ex-member may feel pleasure or contentedness, but mormons know for a fact that is not happiness or peace, but just satan’s counterfeit and fleeing version of those things.

  17. brjones, I would quibble only a little with that. I would say that many members have what I would call a “happy foundation” – an underlying satisfaction and contentment that allows them to “feel” sad or upset or even overwhelmed but still “be” happy in their own minds.

    It’s not objective; it’s fully subjective. All paradoxes are subjective – and Mormons are not some monolithic group who all experience happiness in the same way, any more than any other group of people does.

  18. re 19.

    I essentially agree with this. I don’t mean to imply that mormons are a group of zombie’s who don’t experience emotions like normal human beings. I just mean that they view the concept of “happiness” on a very broad and overarching scale. Whereas a non-member, or non-religious person might define happiness based on a balance of good and bad events and circumstances in their lives, and how they feel, mormons are taught to look beyond temporal aspects, including to a large degree, feelings, to determine what true happiness is. This is what allows mormons to feel that they are happy regardless of unhappy circumstances,and maybe, as you’re implying, they actually feel that happiness. I think the unfortunate side effect to this belief structure is that because happiness as defined by god or the church is equated with strict obedience, it allows them to judge other people’s happiness, which I think most people on the outside find highly offensive. Frankly, even if you think you have a higher understanding of true happiness, I think it’s bad form to tell someone to their face that not only are they not happy, but that they don’t know what happiness is.

    But I digress a bit. I actually intended to concede the point to a degree.

  19. I think the unfortunate side effect to this belief structure is that because happiness as defined by god or the church is equated with strict obedience, it allows them to judge other people’s happiness, which I think most people on the outside find highly offensive. Frankly, even if you think you have a higher understanding of true happiness, I think it’s bad form to tell someone to their face that not only are they not happy, but that they don’t know what happiness is.

    We agree 100% on that point.

  20. If these numbers are derived from the people on anti-depressant medication, then it should be NO WONDER that Utahns top the list.

    Consider that Utahns are very “official” people. Instead of downloading and pirating porn undetected from the interwebs, they pay for it through legitimate channels. So, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see if Utahns are more “legitimate” about other things.

  21. I know this has been mentioned above but I think the fact that LDS people don’t drink alcohol has a lot to do with higher rates of depression being reported here. Several of my non-LDS friends and family members come home from work and drink a glass of wine or beer everyday. I think depression can be more easily masked by self medicating in this way. Also, I don’t think you can mix some prescription drugs (for depression) with alcohol without negative effects, so if one has to choose between the two they might be picking alcohol over medication.

    Another possibility is many LDS parents have high hopes and dreams for their children. I think part of those hopes and dreams don’t just include their children finding a good person to marry who loves them, but a good person to marry who loves them, is an active latter-day saint, morally clean, a returned missionary, wants to marry in the temple, etc. A lot of things are attached to the fulfillment of those hopes and dreams that may not be for other parents and when one or more of those things don’t happen for their children it can be a great let down and lead to depression for some. I have seen it in my own family.

  22. How about a logical approach?

    The only thing that really differentiates Utah from all the other states is the high percentage of mormons.

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the church has an influence on depression. Further, isn’t the church supposed to make people happier? Even if Utah was dead even with all other states in the union, it would still be disappointing to me. But the fact is, Utah is the MOST depressed. This should bother members. It’s not just about lumping Utah in with other states, Utah should be a happier place. That is, if the church is true.

    That said, of course there are reasons the study could be flawed. But the weather? Please. I could name 15 states with worse weather and more clouds and yet Utah is number 1 on the list. And as far as whether depression is under reported or over reported in Utah, there are strong arguments both ways, so I think it is a wash. I know plenty of members who would not want anyone to know they seek therapy or anti-depressants. So many do it secretly, and many don’t do it at all.

    The fact is, Utah leads the nation or is merely average in a host of things: on-line porn consumption (number 1), anti-depression medication, bankruptcy (is this a rumor or is it true, this is what I’ve heard). Additionally, studies show that pre-marital sex rates are no different for mormons than non-members and the divorce rate is also the same. By your fruits ye shall know them? I thought mormons were a peculiar people? What’s going on?

  23. Scottie-

    What about LDS people being targeted in a more “front line” approach by the adversary and his followers? Could this be a possibility? Is it possible that those who are striving to live in a “righteous” manner are also targeted more because of the light and knowledge they have?

    As far as on-line porn consumption, is it possible that Utah has fewer adults only clubs, rental stores, etc. compared to other places where men and women might be more likely to physically go instead of seeking it online? And with the anti-depression meds, remember the fact that LDS people don’t self medicate with alcohol as many others do.

    I’d like to see the numbers on the pre-marital sex rates and divorce rates for LDS and non-LDS.

  24. But the fact is, Utah is the MOST depressed.

    Scottie, the study doesn’t make that claim, and that claim is not supported by the study.

    Also, your divorce and pre-marital sex claims are contradicted by every study I’ve ever seen, unless you explicitly remove temple marriages for those who remain active – and that simply would be sloppy statistics. Please provide links to sources.

  25. One possibility for the high anti-depressant usage in Utah, and presumably, correlating high incidence of depression, could have something to do with the diet of church members.

    Think about it, Utah is number one in Jell-o consumption is it not? Sugar is hard on our systems, so is a diet high in refined carbs of any sort. Could this focus be contributing to imbalances?

    I know that I have a tendency to depression, partly from an abusive childhood. But I did find that I am much happier and even less anxious when I eat more complex carbs and take certain minerals, especially when combined with calcium.

    Whether or not the problem is actually diet, my point is that there are other possible factors that contribute to depression than psychological. We are complex beings and it is short-sighted to limit our search for the solution to such problems.

  26. In Scottie’s defense, the Utah Department of Health and Vital Statistics for 2006 shows Utah’s divorce rate at 3.8 divorces per 1,000 adults. The national average for that year was 3.6 divorces. Looking over the history of the last 65 years, Utah has had more divorces almost every year. In the years they didn’t, the state only tied the national average, never beat it.

    The state’s LDS population percentage has decreased steadily over the last 65 years. According to LDS (dot) org, in 2007 there were 1.8 million members of the church in Utah or in other words, approximately 69% of the population. (The state’s population for 2006 was estimated at 2.6 million) Although I couldn’t find an actual statistic from 1940, by the church’s own admission the percentage of Mormons in Utah has declined steadily over that time. It’s probably fair to assume the LDS population in Utah in 1940 was over 85%. I think the fact that the state has nearly always exceeded the national average for divorces and that rate hasn’t changed much (in relation to the national average)over those years, it’s fair to infer that church membership doesn’t provide you a better chance of achieving a successful marriage. (See

    I don’t know that the church has ever published the number of temple marriages performed each year, so I’ll have to make an educated guess an assume that just as Utah has approximately a 40% activity rate and close to 30% of the total are tithing faithful, it’s not that big of a leap to assume 20 to 25% of the marriage performed in Utah were temple marriages in 2006. That percentage would be higher in 1940 where the state’s population was much higher in LDS members. With that large of a percentage in the mix, a significant difference in temple married folks not getting divorced should have lowered Utah’s divorce rate well below the national average. The fact that the divorce rate is higher than the national average is good evidence for temple marriages not doing better statistically.

    If my assumptions are incorrect, it would serve the church well to release statistics of temple marriages performed each year and the number of civil divorces of its temple married saints. The fact that they don’t, (and never have) is evidence in and of itself that the rate isn’t that flattering. I know some of you would like to believe that temple marriage increases your chances of success; I just don’t think the assumption holds up under scrutiny.

    I could go through the same analysis for birth rates of unwed mothers in Utah and show about the same trends. Therefore Ray, I think the ball is now in your court to find some unbiased data that would show the divorce rates and premarital sex estimates are not just as problematic for Mormons as they are for everyone else. You’ve continually claimed that your studies show something different, I think it’s time for you produce something a little more concrete for the readers here. Are you up for the challenge?

  27. Doug,

    Educated guesses of educated guesses of educated guesses leads to impossible to defend conclusions.

    If you check out this post at Grace for Grace, it says the Mormon temple marriage divorce rate is 6%. I keep hearing the US divorce rate is around 50%. 3.8 per 1000, would seemingly correspond to a 0.38% divorce rate. Perhaps we’re talking apples and oranges, but I need more information. The report loaded really slowly for me–I’ll have to check the report at work on a faster computer (it’s 64 pages).

    I did notice an interesting caveat from the report however. “Final data for the US are not available after 1990 and in 1996 detailed data on marriages and divorces were not collected from the states participating in the Vital States Cooperative Program.” This seems to make the numbers more difficult to compare due to a potentially significant amount of missing data. Can you provide page numbers for what you are looking at?

  28. Allie, thanks for making me smile, I needed it 🙂

    Momma, I’m confused at what you’re meaning to say when you say: “Whether or not the problem is actually diet, my point is that there are other possible factors that contribute to depression than psychological.” Depression is officially a psychological condition, with varying degrees and modifiers; are you saying that these other things (maybe diet?) are influential to one’s psychological condition, or are you saying something else? From what I have found throughout a number of years studying psychology, I would suggest that depression is very much psychological, but is affected/influenced/worsened by a wide range of things, from chemical balances to spirituality to sexuality to pets to, as you point out, diet, and beyond.

    MH, I think the ~50% number is actually the number of marriages at any given time that will end in divorce. In that light, the other percentages make a little more sense, but you’re right that there still is some disparity. I actually found some information about 9 months ago suggesting that that “divorce rate” has lowered to as low as 40% in recent years, though there was data to suggest a current trend upward again. As seems to be my continual luck these days, I can’t seem to find it again, so take it with a grain of salt.

  29. Re 25:

    so Scottie, continuing on your most logical approach, Utah is number 1 because it is most Mormon…and Rhode Island is number 2 because it is second most Mormon?

    wait wut?

    I would continue on, but I have to cringe at Jen’s comment in 26. I have heard people seriously argue that gay people are/were actually the MOST righteous people (especially in the premortal existence), so Satan gives them such a great temptation appropriately. I guess while I like gay people being looked at in a somewhat positive (er…) light, I don’t think this is quite the right direction.

  30. Every site agrees that the overall Mormon divorce rate is roughly 20%-24%, which is dead average (above Catholics and Lutherans and atheists, but below all other Christian denominations). Many sites mention the roughly 40% rate for Mormon/non-Mormon marriage. The only sources that have an actual estimate for temple marriages estimate around 6%-10% for those who remain active for at least 5 years and 13%-20% for those who don’t – which would be consistent with what would be needed to drop the 40% interfaith marriage rate to the overall 24% Mormon rate, since only about 33%-40% of Mormon marriages are temple-marriages. With such a high interfaith rate, anything over about 15% for ALL temple marriages would push the overall rate significantly higher.

    The hardest factor is determining temple marriages without temple divorces, but the general research question doesn’t ask for that distinction; it merely asks whether someone has been divorced or not. Such a question actually should inflate the Mormon temple marriage divorce number, since nearly all who have had a civil divorce will answer, “Yes” – as will nearly all converts who divorced prior to joining the Church and later married in the temple.

    Here are some of the most basic sources I’ve found in a quick search for obvious content: – an older source, but one that combines LOTS of demographic information

    Terryl Givens: The Latter Day Experience in America – Bruce Chadwick (BYU professor of sociology) study summary [Interesting result: Divorce rates level off after the age of 21, and the average Mormon marriage age is 23 (men) and 21.5 (women).] – A fascinating SHIELDS analysis of Utah divorce rates by Malin Jacobs, which breaks down divorce rates by county and US region – showing that the higher the non-LDS population in a Utah county, the higher the divorce rate is in that county.

    I found a site previously that combined a bunch of studies and had one easy-to-read chart for the various groupings within the LDS Church, but I can’t find the group blog post where I linked it. I’ll keep looking.

  31. Andrew S.

    Just for the record I never said anything about the pre-mortal existence, nor gay people. The argument you have heard in relation to gay people being the most righteous before this life is not one I have ever heard before. I don’t know what happened in the pre-existence and my comments are referring to those alive today on the earth.

    I think, LDS or not,when a person is trying to live in a Christlike manner they will face more opposition. If you don’t believe in the adversary and his followers there really is no point in discussing it.

  32. Andrew

    Your comment baffles me. Utah is 70% or nearly 70% mormon. Obviously, this is statistically significant. Rhode Island has very few mormons. Mormonism has nothing to do with Rhode Island. This is why only studies about Utah really say anything about mormons, and even then, they can be misleading. But stats about any other state can’t really be attributed to the presence or lack of mormons at all.

    Mormon Heretic,

    .38% per year could add up to much higher over the life of the marriage. That means the divorces per year. Obviously it is going to be low. But it doesn’t tell you what percentage of marriages end in divorce.


    I don’t think it’s fair to say that mormons are more depressed because satan targets mormons. If the attacks of satan bring you down more than the gospel brings you up then what is the point of being involved. And wouldn’t that imply that satan is beating god in this struggle? I hope no one here believes that.

    A thank you to Doug G for finding stats to support my comments. I tried to be pretty open to the fact that I was stating things I had heard, so I don’t think I should be ripped for making my comment. I never claimed I had performed studies on all of these issues.

    But I still don’t understand why no one seems to be bothered by the fact that the church members don’t seem to be happier, or less inclined to look at porn, or less inclined to get divorced, etc. This is relatively anonymous. You can say it annoys you. I won’t tell your bishop. When I was 100% active in the church, it bothered me that there didn’t seem to be a difference in happiness for those who lived it. I think it should bother faithful members. For all their efforts to do what is right, I think they deserve comfort and peace.

  33. I read the post but time doesn’t permit reading the comments.

    I’ve wondered about this issue and have thought if the answer can be found in the scriptures.

    1. The Lord has warned those who make covenants that they are not to be trifled with or else we can be exposed to satan in ways that others are not. Being turned over to the buffetings of satan would be depressing (D&C 104:9).

    2. The parable of the sower (Mark 4:14-20) talks about a variety of issues that would certainly contribute to depression.

    3. The parable of the ten Virgins contains the awful arithmetic that 50% of active members haven’t lived so as to acquire the gift of the Holy Ghost. Could this add to the numbers who report depression?

    4. How about the increasing ranks of those who call themselves NOM (new order mormons)

    5. Consider the message the Savior gave us about repentance in D&C 19:15.

    6. Those members who build there faith and testimony on sand (Helaman 5:12 vs Matt 7:26-27) may experience depression as a result.

  34. Scottie-

    To clarify, my comment was ACTUALLY a response to this question you posed:

    “By your fruits ye shall know them? I thought mormons were a peculiar people? What’s going on?”

    I DIDN’T say that Mormons are more depressed because satan targets Mormons….that was an assumption you made. I was responding to your question more specifically about porn use. I was throwing out possible reasons in response to your “What’s going on?” and I wasn’t referring to depression. Sorry for not being more specific in my response.

  35. Jared,

    Now I know why everyone prefers the brother of Jared.

    Just kidding. Your points, though, are a perfect example of being closed-minded, in my opinion. This is a forum for open discussion, and you are unwilling to even read the comments made by others and your comment is based on a 110% belief that the scriptures answer every question out there. If I thought all my questions could be answered by scriptures I would not be on this site. I think this type of thinking: if you feel depressed it is your fault because you are doing something wrong, as your scriptures suggest, leads to happiness. I think it leads to more depression.

    Jared, you are basically saying those who are depressed are sinners. Stop sinning and you won’t be depressed. I find this ignorant, irrational, insulting, and grossly inaccurate. [said in Jackie Chile’s voice, the lawyer on Seinfeld].

    How about some compassion? How about some sympathy? I think the scriptures have some of that stuff as well as the messages you shared.

    Jen, I totally understand your post now. Thanks for clarifying, and I’m sorry I misinterpreted. 🙂

  36. Error in my last post: it should say, “I don’t think this type of thinking: if you feel depressed, it is your fault because you are doing something wrong, as your scriptures suggest, leads to happiness.”

  37. #41 Scottie—sounds like you have a challenge of some sort. Maybe being more kind would help. I suggest before you accuse you might ask a question for clarification.

    I was thinking in terms of the total number and wondered if what I said is part of the equation for such a high number for Utah.

    After rereading my comment I should have said, some members may be suffering as a result of those things I listed. Certainly not all. I know of many members who take medication, including general authorities, for depression. What I have observed with most of them is that they receive help as promised in the following scripture:

    …for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions…(Book of Mormon | Alma 36:3)

    Yes, I look for solutions to life challenges in the scripture. That is why the Lord gave them to those who follow His Son.

  38. Andrew S. (23)

    I would just like to personally thank you for bringing all of this back to porn (25, 26, 38, 40). After the pornucopia over at BCC last week ended, I was just feeling a little empty inside. I’m grateful that, at the end of the day, all things can be related to porn. 🙂

  39. re 37:

    yes, I know you did not make that particular argument, but your argument reminded me in the sense that in both, people attribute perplexing and disturbing things to the adversary ramping up his efforts to overcome the righteous. And such an argument seems kinda defeatist and evasive. When in doubt, attribute things to an entity whose actions you have no control over.

    It’s probably an irreconciliable difference of worldviews. I would like to HOPE that even if you believe in an adversary, that this is not the point of no reconciliation — I would like to hope that people, even if they believe in an adversary, at least CONSIDER that issues present in the material or social world have material or social causes and effects…instead of just defaulting these things to mysterious spiritual forces. But I guess that hope would be blind and unreliable faith.

    Re 38:

    Scottie, I guess the feeling is mutual in light of further knowledge that was presented *in the opening remarks*. Regardless of Utah’s overwhelming Mormonness, its 10.14% report of depression is just BARELY above the next highest state, Rhode Island, that has 9.88%. The national average is just 8.05%.

    So really, you’ve got nothing to suggest that the OVERWHELMING Mormonness of Utah leads to an overwhelmingly higher difference in depression. Otherwise, you’d have to expect that other states would have less than they actually do or that Utah has more than it actually does.

    The alternative is to suggest that Utah’s depression is for different reasons than for Rhode Island’s, but you have no data with which to make the suggestion and the null hypothesis wouldn’t support such an idea (it’s more likely that everyone’s depressed for a similar reason than Utah is depressed for an exceptional reason that just happens to not be the same reason RI is depressed for).

    So if Utah is 70% Mormon (statistically significant), but it is only .26% ‘more depressed’ than a non-Mormon state like Rhode Island, it seems that without any more data, it would be safer to believe that the Mormonness is a red herring in all of this.

  40. Andrew:

    I agree about satan.

    In regards to depression, you did not, nor did anyone else address why Utah isn’t less depressed than any other state if 70% of its residents have the restored gospel? I don’t care that Utah is barely more depressed than Rhode Island. I do care that Utah isn’t any less depressed than any other state.

  41. Without being too critical, I don’t think it’s a particularly helpful contribution to a discussion about the possible causes for depression, particularly as relates to mormons, to suggest that the answer is to just look in the scriptures. I understand that’s not exactly what you were saying, Jared, but that suggestion presupposes so many facts that it’s relatively useless. Sure IF god exists and IF he gave us the scriptures and IF every word of the scriptures is true, then all our problems can be solved by an appeal to that source, and there wouldn’t be any point in having this discussion. I think implicit in the very fact that we’re having this discussion is the understanding that some of us don’t totally subscribe to that black and white view of things.

  42. Andrew S,

    “So if Utah is 70% Mormon (statistically significant), but it is only .26% ‘more depressed’ than a non-Mormon state like Rhode Island, it seems that without any more data, it would be safer to believe that the Mormonness is a red herring in all of this.”

    Well said.

  43. Does anyone have any statistics regarding suicide rates per state? I think that would be a much better method to explain which state is really more depressed, vs which state might seek more clinical help for depression.

  44. Jared,

    What is my challenge o wise one?

    I should be more kind?

    I’m not the one who told everyone who is depressed that the reason they are depressed is because they are not as spiritual as Jared.

    And why should I have asked you a question seeking clarification? I know your views already. You made them perfectly clear. Everything bad is a result of sin. Really interesting stuff, man.

  45. Andrew S.

    It is quite assumptive on your part to assume that I don’t consider material and social causes and effects, in addition to the “mysterious” spiritual forces (as you call them) for good and evil. This is an interesting statement as well “When in doubt, attribute things to an entity whose actions you have no control over.” I never said one doesn’t have control over the choices they make. My point was the adversary’s influence can and is felt and is obvious in many ways…..AND if one is already choosing to do things that are destroying their well-being it’s a no-brainer that he will be focusing on those who are trying to protect themselves. If that seems defeatist and evasive to you so be it, but to me it is simple and to the point.

  46. Brjones–you stated your opinion, and I respect your position. I don’t agree with it entirely.

    My experience with the Lord is that He fulfills His promises as taught in the scriptures. The Lord is my friend and has helped me in combat (viet nam), to overcome sin, health problems, find work when I was down to my last few dollars, given me dreams to show me His will, sent ministering angels (unseen) to open doors to a career and marriage. This is a very short list. I am a witness to the fact that promises in the scriptures are true.

    Now I realize many don’t like it when I share my experience. I am trying to understand why this is the case.

    I hope you and any others who take issue with my position will extend to me the same respect I do you.

  47. re 46: My argument isn’t to say that the restored gospel makes people less depressed. It’s just to point out that as it is now, it doesn’t explicitly make people more depressed. It seems to be irrelevant…unrelated…a red herring…the the entire question, but everyone somehow just latched on to it because Utah is overwhelmingly Mormon.

    It would be as if we had an overwhelming color worn by citizens of a state…like say, blue. Asking why a ‘blue’ wearing state isn’t significantly less or more depressed than any other state is silly, because color is (hypothetically) irrelevant to the entire calculation.

    If I’m going to show my hand, I think we have a compatible point. I understand what you’re trying to say — something that claims to be/have the restored truth *should* manifest that in various statistics. But even this is murky, because we have to ask: even if 70% of utahns have the restored gospel, 1) are they living it and understanding it correctly? Stats would point that no, even Mormons aren’t flawless (or anywhere near there). So, PERHAPS, MAYBE your conclusion could be that the church needs to do a better job at inspiring compliance and obedience. But that’s a far cry from being able to make any claims about the truth, falsity, goodness, or badness of Mormonism as an ideal. 2) Does the restored gospel have jurisdiction over this area? This is kinda where I was going with Jen to an extent — you have to take for granted certain spiritual claims for this to even be an issue (righteous people should be happier, less depressed or righteous people may be more at risk from satan). But if you don’t take for granted these spiritual claims (I think that the jurisdiction of depression is more in mental histories, genetics, families, etc.,) then other conclusions don’t make sense.

    re 49:

    highly unscientific googled results
    Utah is 7th out of 51 for suicides (they actually put it backwards on the site, going from least to most, so under that, Utah is 45th.)

  48. re 51:

    That’s why I don’t assume. Regardless, bringing up mysteries doesn’t make me feel any better.

    what I mean by attributing things to those who (you) can’t control their action…I’m not speaking of people, I’m speaking of the adversary (unless you suggest we can control him, in which case I *was* being much too assumptive).

    I admit that my assumption in my posts was that…when you attribute things to mysterious spiritual causes, the idea is that you don’t control these spiritual causes. You don’t control the Lord and you don’t control the adversary. So, by including these in your calculations, you partially abdicate some control. Blaming it on the adversary’s influence means that’s influence you don’t have any motivation on fixing…because the adversary is going to be there influencing (if you believe in him) no matter what. It’s like the difference between anthropogenic global warming vs. solar global warming. If it’s the sun, well…we can’t really do anything about that. It changes the course of action completely. Sure, it might be “simple” and a “no-brainer” to look at the sun and say, “Obviously, that causes more warming than little ole us,” but without finding out FOR SURE whether or not we are responsible, that’s why I say such reasoning is evasive and defeatist.

    (this isn’t a global warming topic, but I think the analogy is apt.)

  49. Something interesting I learned in college many years ago in relation to suicide is that severely depressed people may not have the energy to come up with a suicide plan and follow through with it. It is when they start “feeling better”, whether it be by taking medication or some other means, that some actually go through it because they now have the energy and ability to plan and follow through with a suicide.

    Also, I think the attack on Jared is silly. I read his comments and didn’t find his considerations all inclusive. Of course there are many reasons for depression, genetics being one of them. He is stating what some of the reasons could be for depression….big deal. It is common knowledge that depression can be biologically based, but not all depression is and that is what I think he was asking us to consider. If you can’t consider all aspects of it without resorting to ridiculous commentary then why should anyone consider what you have to say?

  50. Jared, I hope it didn’t appear as if I was attacking you. I have complete respect for your experiences and positions, and hope you will continue to share them. I honestly didn’t even intend to imply that it was inappropriate for you or anyone else to suggest that strictly spiritual concerns were legitimate. What I was trying to say was that according to church teachings, any problem of any kind or magnitude can be solved to our complete satisfaction through strict obedience to church teachings such as reading scriptures, prayers, attending church, etc. I think we’re all aware of those concepts, and we’re trying to explore other alternatives, to the extent that some of us don’t accept those concepts, find them ineffectual or perhaps difficult to follow completely. In any event, I think it’s appropriate to discuss those things as equally viable considerations, and I apolgize if I misinterpreted your comments.

  51. Andrew S,

    Thanks for the link. Now here’s some really interesting things to compare Rhode Island with Utah. RI has the 5th fewest suicides per 100,000 people at 7.5, while Utah has the 7th most at 17.1.

    Alaska, with probably the worst weather has the worst rate at 23.1. I have to say I was surprised that Washington and Oregon were better than Utah with 13.2 and 14.9, respectively. I always found Seattle depressing with all the rain. 🙁

    The USA Today site had 2 lists, and I’m not sure why Utah was ranked worst on the “Seriousness” list. Isn’t suicide the most serious problem with depression? SD and Hawaii, couldn’t be more different with weather, and were ranked 1 and 2 with least serious depression. So, I guess we can’t really blame this on the weather….

  52. #44 – Just need to say thanks for the laugh. Classic comment that should be archived and trotted out occasionally to remind that it really is all about porn.

  53. Andrew S.-

    I have been trying to respond but my computer hasn’t allowed me to type any comments…..I think it is the adversary….HA HA JK

    I feel like our discussion is a good one but doesn’t really relate to depression. I hope that it can continue on another post that is more relevant. Until then…try not to get too depressed. 🙂

  54. Andrew– I don’t know the answer to the question yous raise. However, I think you bring up some interesting points. The Rhode Island numbers are useful for the point you make.

    Years ago, I believe in the 70’s or 80’s, there was a statistical back and forth between the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News on almost a weekly basis. Does anyone else remember this?

    As I recall the Tribune would publish some statistics on Utah that were somewhat unflattering. And of course that reflected on the large LDS population. Before long the Deseret News would counter by showing statistics that were flattering for Utah. It was interesting to follow. I wish I would have kept some of the papers from that era.

    Thanks for your post.

  55. “so Scottie, continuing on your most logical approach, Utah is number 1 because it is most Mormon…and Rhode Island is number 2 because it is second most Mormon?”

    One interesting link between Utah and Rhode Island is that both of them are states with a predominant religious institution–LDS in one and RC in the other, which is an interesting avenue to explore: “What effects are seen in society when 60% plus are nominally adherents of the same religion?”

    One thing I think needs to be explored more deeply when we discuss Mormon influence on life in Utah is the factor of social isolation. At best the 70% LDS Utah figure is overstated and reflects the names on Church rolls with Utah addresses listed next to them, compared against the number of total residents of the state. When people are polled, only 55-60% of Utah residents will self-identify as LDS. That gives you very little idea of the texture of that church influence on day to day life here. The LDS Church has in the past defined active members as those who attend at least one sacrament meeting per month. By that standard, with fifteen houses on my street, that makes a percentage of 65% LDS versus 35% other religions. For the LDS sample, that makes for 35% active, versus 65% inactive. So on my street there are 8 active LDS churchgoers and a few more who attend only youth activities, funerals, and ward dinners. When the state legislature, which is 90% LDS and most of them are churchgoers, make laws for everybody based largely on their convictions of LDS doctrine, that increases the sense of social isolation for most people in my neighborhood, for instance.

    As far as the weather being depressing: As a SLC resident, I increased my number of sunny days by over 3 months per year when I moved away from Seattle. The sun is shining right now, with puffy white clouds after last night’s snow storm. Time to hit the slopes with the Raybans! 🙂

  56. re 64:

    ^now, general religiosity would be a different hypothesis to test, certainly. Or, if it’s the kinds of religions that the LDS church and RC church create (centralized, formal, etc.,) Similar with the point about social isolation.

  57. Sorry to be pedantic, but 10.14% is .26 percentage points higher than than 9.88%, not .26% higher. It’s actually about 2.63% more. (.26/9.88 x 100 = 2.63) This also means that the Utah figure is almost 26% above the national average and over 50% higher than Hawaii’s.

  58. On suicide, I’ve heard that the states with the highest suicide rates tend to be states with high rates of gun ownership. Since the statistics count “successful” suicides rather than attempted suicides, and since guns are highly effective tools for suicide, more guns mean more suicides, even if there aren’t more suicide attempts.

    That could account for Rhode Island having a lot of depression (4th worst) but few suicides (47th worst), while South Dakota has the lowest depression but lots of suicides (12th worst). (per the USA Today link’s numbers)

  59. There’s lots of ways to do the math. I’d be surprised if there is a statistically significant difference between Utah and RI.

    Gun ownership is an interesting confounder.

  60. There doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between Utah and RI, even when not conflating percentage points and percentages — 2.6% isn’t much. OTOH, make the same mistake with Hawaii and the national average, and actual 50% and 26% differences turn into “4%” and “2%” differences. That’s why I mentioned it. That, and it’s kind of a pet peeve of mine.

    If you look at the states around Utah, they’re all pretty close in terms of suicide rates. Having a high percentage of Mormons in a state doesn’t seem to have much effect in any direction. (Of course, it might be possible to tease out a suicide rate for practicing Mormons, the way it’s been done with divorce as Ray noted, but AFAIK, no one’s done that for suicide yet.)

  61. Ray,#60

    “Also, we need to be talking about actual numbers. Utah now is about 60% Mormon, not 70% – and, if decade-long trends continue, that number will be less than 50% by 2030. Statistically, that is a big, important difference.”

    Now here’s the perfect example of why I never can trust your math! I provided you with good stats from reliable sources and you quote some off the wall story and hang your hat on it. The following quote is directly from the website.

    “The net growth in Utah among members of the Church is growing steadily, approaching 1.8 million or 72 percent of the population according to end-of-year 2006 statistics. (News Releases and Stories )“

    I couldn’t find a way to link it here, but if you go to the church’s website, you will find it. I actually think they’re off a little as the state of Utah claims the 2006 midyear population was just over 2.6 million. According to my math, that works out to be 69% of Utah were Mormons in 2006.

    Now, if you want to tell me that the church is doing one of those “correlated facts” with the above numbers and your sources are actually better and more accurate, then I will bow to your point. I mean their history of telling the truth is not very good… Come to think of it, your right Ray, they have lied to me in the past and therefore they’re probably doing it again. Why would I accept anything they have to say as accurate? I concede the point…

    Should you chose to side with the church, you may want to rethink the rest of your assumptions as well. Just a thought…

  62. Follow up-
    Here is the link…

    The story was published on the church’s website on 17 Jan. 2008. With that many members in Utah and 40% plus active in the church, I don’t think it’s fair to try and distance society’s ills from church members. It seems clear that we share all of the same problems as everyone else.

    Mormon Heretic- Given the reliability of the state’s vital statistics database and the fact that the numbers have been very consistent since 1940, I wouldn’t start pocking holes at the data for 1990-1996. To your other point, I think my numbers were VERY conservative considering the church’s claims to show people a better way. If you’re going to say that less than 30% of the membership end up married in the temple, than Mormonism really is a huge failure. I don’t think they would go along with your premise… Hey, perhaps you really are a heretic. 🙂

  63. So, Doug, you now trust the Church’s numbers over everybody else. Miracles truly have not ceased. 🙂

    Take a look at the following. Of the sources I found, three showed the 70% figure; the rest confirmed the sources below. (I stopped after the first two pages of the Google search. This is already using a shotgun at close range on an ant.) (This states that the percent was 70% IN 1982.) (SL County now only 50.6%) (anti-Mormon site puts figure at 60%-70%)

    The Church sited commonly believed but probably incorrect numbers. I cited numbers that appear to be more current and probably are correct – which make them more relevant to this thread, imo. Reality surely is somewhere between the two – and I personally think closer to 60% than 70%. Yawn.

  64. Dank-it Ray, I hate it when you agree with me!

    So the church’s website shows the current membership in Utah at approximately 1.82 million. The state’s population at the end of 2007 was 2.64 million. That’s still 69% my friend, but what do I know. I’ve got to ask, if they’re deliberately over reporting the number of members even today, then how accurate do you thing the 13.1 million is? This is not a “yawn” any more as they’re continuing to do it. Are they afraid to show that church membership is actually starting to decline? If we were to remove baptism numbers from 3rd world countries, would the church membership be in serious decline?

    I know many people in your links want to put the actual membership much lower, and they may be correct, but where would they be getting their numbers from? If you can’t trust the church to accurately report their membership, who would be in a position to tell the truth? Just wondering…

    P.S. That’s not fair editing your post before I could respond… Your “yawn” was directed at the church before.

  65. Doug,

    The Church’s official membership numbers simply reflect how many people it has on its rolls. By that definition, its numbers are probably quite accurate. OTOH, a certain percentage of people whose names are in the membership rolls do not consider themselves LDS. In terms of self-reported religious affiliation, the Church thus over-reports its membership.

  66. Also, the Church’s membership records haven’t been accurate as to where people actually live for a LONG time. Ask any membership clerk or Bishop in any ward or branch. It’s simply impossible for them to be even close to up-to-date. There’s nothing nefarious about it, again, as nearly all clerks and bishops would LOVE to clean them up and move out the records of the people who actually don’t live in the boundaries or don’t consider themselves to be Mormon anymore, but proving it or canceling membership for those who don’t want to be Mormon but don’t want to not be Mormon can drive the sanest person alive batty.

    I have no doubt there are tens of thousands of Utahns on the Church’s records who either no longer live in Utah or are no longer affiliated with the Church – and that’s not the fault of the Church. It really is simply impossible to have accurate records.

    Oh, and the “yawn” was about the whole numbers debate. It came from my years dealing with membership records and statistics. They really do bore me now.

  67. Had to rush away, but . . .

    “Dang-it Ray, I hate it when you agree with me!”

    I know. I do it occasionally just to mess with you. 🙂

  68. Personally I think it’s #3.

    A lot of Mormons expect to be “happy” all the time, and when they are not they label themselves “depressed”.

    Furthermore I resent the way in modern culture, legitimate emotions like sadness, melancholy, and yes depression, have been labeled illnesses instead of part the common and needed experiences of life.

    I was very ill for several years, and none of the doctors could figure out what was wrong with me- and then know-it-all do-gooders at church would worriedly tell me that I seemed depressed, and that I should look into treatment. Well of course I was depressed! Wouldn’t you be depressed? My depression wasn’t an illness- if anything it was evidence of my sanity.

    Now I understand that there are some people who experience an irrational depression, caused by chemical imbalances. I have no objection to the treatment of such depression- but trying to “fix me” by stuffing pills down my throat so that I’m happy about my physical pain and misery does not strike me as helping any. What’s the difference with going down to the bar and getting drunk because you had a bad day at work?

    Life has its hard times, and life has its good times. That’s life. In fact that’s how life is supposed to be! In fact it’s often both at the same time. Compare 2nd Nephi 2:27 and Jacob 7:26 and consider they are talking about the same experiences. One of my favorite songs is “Sunrise, Sunset” from the movie Fiddler On The Roof, the chorus expresses this truth very well.

    More Mormons need to read 2nd Nephi Chp. 2, and then meditate upon the wisdom of Mother Eve. We say we respect her for her wise choice in the garden, but when we claim that sadness and depression are an illness that we need to eradicate from our lives we are in fact rejecting that wisdom.

  69. ged: “I have heard it expressed that if you go to a psychiatrist, they will try to convince you that it is your religion that is the problem.”

    I can attest to that. I once went through a battery of tests to try and figure out what was wrong with me, and in addition to several physicians I met with a psychiatrist. She told me I had a “rigid moral structure” and seemed to think this was the root of my problem (ie depression and anxiety). Particularly odious was that from other phrases she used it was clear she thought I was sexually repressed, (ie I needed to go get laid).

    I got mad, told her she worked for the devil (which I’m sure she took as evidence that she was right, but it sure shocked her, I don’t think anybody had ever said that to her before). But I mean, come on. I have an illness that causes me constant daily pain, makes it hard to complete my studies or work, and sometimes I fall down and become paralyzed and can’t move or speak. This has been going on for 5 years with out doctors being able to figure anything out as to what’s causing it- and this know-it-all wants to tell me it’s all in my head, caused by having a rigid morality, and that if I just learn to go with the flow instead of obeying God’s commands that suddenly everything will turn up peaches and cream?

  70. I believe, as members of the church, every problem we have has a remedy in Christ. The scriptures attest to this and so do the living prophets. In my experience, the challenge we have as members is to acquire understanding from the scriptures on how the Lord deals with us. Once we have a working knowledge of the Lord’s “dealings”, then we need to apply this understanding and open the channels of communication, through prayer, with Heavenly Father. As a general rule this is not done without sacrifice, diligence,and persistence. I’ve done it, so I know it works, but it takes our best effort and many are not willing to go the distance.

    Many of us get hung up on fact we’re not worthy. My answer is that is of course we’re not worthy! Don’t you think the Lord knows that. If only worthy people could access the Lord then no one would ever accomplish it. The key isn’t keeping all the commandments and thereby being worthy. The key is worthy (righteous) desires, and confessing our unworthiness.

    What does this have to do with depression–everything. And it also applies to every difficulty we encounter as human beings.

    Now I realize that there are those who take their own life in spite of doing what appears to be their best effort to obtain God’s help. I know this because I have been closely associated with four wonderful people in the last 30 years who made the decision to end their life. One just a year ago. Depression was the cause in each case. Two of them were active, and two less active. I’m of the opinion that each of them had reached a point of no return and therefore were not held accountable for their decisions. The scriptures teach that the Savior took “upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” Alma 7:11.

    I further believe that the reason some of them got to the point of no return was due to being less than diligent in their efforts to acquire the companionship of the Holy Ghost at points in their lives when the opportunity was in fully available.

    There is more to be said on this subject but I want to keep this brief.

  71. Andrew, the easiest explanation is that there are liars, damn liars, and statisticians. Then people like Doug try to make up numbers and pick fights. “Dang-it Ray, I hate it when you agree with me!”

  72. Low blow, MH. Doug didn’t make up numbers; he cited numbers used by the Church and made a distorted claim about them lying in doing so.

    I know your comment was a good-natured joke, and Doug’s use of those stats was a back-handed slap at the Church, but still . . . I don’t want anyone taking their ball and going home. 🙂

  73. Doug,

    My comment was supposed to be a good natured ribbing. I was referring to Doug’s comment #30, 3rd paragraph which seems like he is taking quite a liberty with some numbers, and then he says in comment #70, that he can’t trust someone else’s math. Seems a lot like calling the pot kettle black to me.

    But Ray’s right–I’m not trying to tick anybody off, just draw attention to suspect math/statistics.

  74. I’d say it boils down to the fact that statistics expressed in the form of “rankings” don’t mean much when the difference between the comparators is not large to begin with (e.g., for depression, around 6% low, 8% median, 10% high; or for happiness, around 61% low and 69% high).

  75. MH,
    There was nothing wrong with my numbers and I did take a backhanded slap at the church. Has far as Ray is concerned, I’ve taken lots of swipes at him and vice versa. My comment about his math skills was meant as a joke, and I think he took it that way. (Ray, if you thought I was actually being rude to you, I apologize.)

    You on the other hand are a different matter all together Mr. Heretic. This thread is about depression in Utah and whether or not church members are just as or more susceptible to the condition. Agreeing on the actual percentage of LDS members in the state is important to the discussion. It saddens me when people like you read a well referenced piece like getting the total population of Utah from the state’s own website and the total Utah church membership from the church’s own website and yet you still won’t admit you were wrong. On top of that, you know perfectly well that most active married members of the church have been sealed in the temple and that my very conservative estimate of 30% was doing your side a big favor.

    What does all this show me? It tells me you’ll believe what you want to believe no-matter what evidence is placed in front of you. So my question to you is; why do you bother participating on this board? Check back in the posts here and you’ll find that when someone has proven me wrong about something, I’ve been big enough to admit it. I’ve even changed some of my firmly held beliefs in discussions with Ray and Bruce when I’ve seen they were right. Show me when you’ve done something similar. If you check my original post on this thread you will see no backhanded swipes at the church or anyone else. I simply stated my opinion based on what I believed was good data. The slightly more aggressive tone comes in when we can’t even agree with basic facts that shouldn’t be dismissed so easily.

    BTW, in reference to Ray’s explanation of membership clerks and incorrect data. I myself was a membership clerk for quite a while. I think the errors go both ways, there are certainly inactive people moving from the state without letting the church know, but there’s also inactive members moving into the state without letting the church know. I don’t think that type of error would amount to much of a difference in the final numbers and no-way it would equate to a 10% difference…

  76. Fwiw, I left my dueling pistols in MA when I moved to AL – since they weren’t the best weapon against the shotguns preferred there. Right now I prefer to slap Doug with a little sissy white glove – and am glad that’s what he swings at me, as well. 🙂

  77. Doug,

    Just because I disagree with your math ability, doesn’t mean I think your conclusions are right or wrong. I think you’re reading things into my comments that I never said either. As for depression, I am undecided whether the church is to blame or not, but I know bad analysis when I see it. Perhaps the church does bear some responsibility for the high depression rate, but you taking pot shots at the church only weakens your arguments, IMO, and certainly breeds some sarcasm.

    I’ll call for a truce. No hard feelings, ok?

  78. Late to the party, and no time to read the comments…

    My two cents…

    It may not be Mormonism so much, as the natural collateral damage that comes with “community ideals”. Because Utah has a dominant religion, is somewhat isolated from neighboring states, and is still somewhat small (i.e. population), it may be the most “community-minded” state in the nation. One can imagine a “Utah community,” while one cannot imagine a big state like California having a somewhat homogenous community, or even a small state like Delaware.

    Depression is not caused so much by lacking something, but by lacking something when your neighbor has something (tangible or intangible). It’s context. I might have the largest house in the country if I lived in Zimbabwe, but I feel inadequate with the same exact house living in Beverly Hills.

    Utah’s “community ideals” are largely founded on religious ideals, but they affect both believers and non-believers. Non-believers, especially if they were once believers, face social stigma and possible friend/family alienation that could lead to depression, to say nothing of the anxiety and sadness that comes with losing one’s faith.

    So I think there is something to Utah’s depression rate and Mormonism, but I don’t think it has anything specific to do with Mormonism itself… substitute any conservative religious or community ideal for Mormonism and you’d likely have the same results.

  79. “The burning question remains, is the Church responsible for Utahns being simultaneoulsly depressed and happy?” To the disaffected, the church is only responsible for them being depressed. To the affected (I’m making that use of the word up), the church is only responsible for them being happy. 🙂

    Of course, we just made the Freakonomics leap from correlation to causation, which is the underlying premise of articles like the one featuring this study.

  80. MH,

    I’m good with a truce… Thanks

    FWIW, I haven’t got an opinion about whether the church is even remotely accountable for depression rates, divorce rates, premarital sex, or even porn. My whole point on this thread was simply to show how many people in Utah are LDS and thereby show that LDS folks are not immune from society’s ills. To my way of thinking, there is no direct relationship between church membership and those problems. By the same token, it doesn’t appear that the church influence has helped to reduce these ills either. Just my opinion and worth what you’re paying for it…

    God Bless

    Andrew, how’s the popcorn? Kettlecorn I hope!

  81. I know the answer.

    There must be opposition in all things, so in fact, the church IS responsible for all happiness AND depression simultaneously.

    My kettlecorn indeed is delicious, Doug, but I would say again.

    It’s not the church’s duty to simply set up shop in an area (like, say, Utah) and then immediately become this beacon of awesomeness and positivity. So, one shouldn’t expect church influence to reduce these ills. Really, it depends on every person figuring out what they need to do to get themselves in order.

    And it just depends on which side you’re on. Someone might immediately come after me and say that for people to “get themselves in order,” that means they aren’t following Commandments well enough and they need to get to that. But my position is that sometimes, the rigid doctrines of the church *aren’t* best for people (not including what’s often toxic CULTURE). So, really, depression rates or happiness rates or whatever aren’t a sign that the church is necessarily ineffective…we can’t know that from the data. It might be (if we are assuming that depression has no *uncontrollable* causes…which in all likelihood, it does) a sign that instead, INDIVIDUALS are ineffective.)

  82. Doug,

    “To my way of thinking, there is no direct relationship between church membership and those problems.” In the end, it seems we actually do agree.

    Andrew, I think you’re right on the money.

  83. I wrote the following on the BCC thread discussing the “happiness” study (so comment number quotes come from that thread, not this one). This is, ultimately, how I feel about the depression study in question:

    #45 – “If we can pathologize sadness, say ‘I need an SSRI the way diabetics need insulin’ then there’s a way of eliciting some empathy from a community that might otherwise conclude that ‘unhappiness never was righteousness.'”

    #48 – “recognizing that a clinical condition, which often is genetic, might be precluding the potential to experience joy”

    Fwiw, the very first thought I had when I read the study about anti-depressant use in Utah was, literally, “Good. I hope Mormons use anti-depressants more than anyone else, given our doctrinal understanding of the Fall and the Atonement.”

    My second son has diabetes. To function well (and truly to live a normal, productive life) he simply MUST take insulin regularly – and the dosage HAS to be regulated according to his own needs.

    My mother has a rare form of schizophrenia. To function well (and truly to live a normal, productive life) she simply MUST take “sleeping pills” regularly and avoid stress generally – and her medicine HAS to be regulated according to her own needs.

    Many people suffer from various levels of depression. To function well (and truly to live normal, productive lives) they simply MUST take anti-depressants – and their medicine HAS to be regulated according to their own needs.

    Finally, every single one of the conditions I just described can be seen as a “weakness” that is the fault of the individual or, in religious terms, a natural result of the stuff we inherit as a result of The Fall. We aren’t held accountable for those natural results, since we didn’t choose them in the same way we choose to sin, but we are required to try to overcome our natural (wo)man and become more perfect (“complete, whole, fully developed”).

    God help us all if we criticize others for using medicine that we are fortunate to have in order to mitigate the effects of The Fall in their own lives and, in a very real way change themselves from their natural (wo)man and become more like what we all want to be – in this case, truly happier and able to have joy.

  84. I wholeheartedly agree Ray. I think the Lord has given us advances in medicine to help alleviate much suffering and to allow individuals to function more fully than they might be able to otherwise. What an incredible blessing this would have been for so many before us who were just “thrown away” into asylums.

    With the advances in medicine and all the great things that these advances have done to alleviate suffering and pain, it is unfortunate that prescription drug abuse has become so prevalent and is destroying so many lives. There always has to be opposition in all things I suppose.

  85. mormon utahns can be said to seek more clinical help for depression, and that is only because they can’t self medicate like those of many other states, with drugs and alcohol.

  86. Pingback: What all can we do, anyway? at Mormon Matters

  87. Kuri is the ONLY person I saw who even SUGGESTED that the depressed people are non-Mormons. Every single post I’ve read on here (correct me if I’m wrong) has been asking the question, “Why would Mormons be depressed?” The answer is: that’s the wrong question. It’s easy to say Utahans = Mormons, but that’s not exactly the case. If 10% of Utah is depressed, it does not follow that 10% of Mormons are depressed. As a non-Mormon, I can very easily imagine someone like myself living in a world surrounded by Mormons (who are asserting that they are “right,” implying that you are “wrong”) and feeling grossly out of place. Culture in Utah is so defined by Mormonism and in so many ways does it divide the state.

    Mormons have every right to be happy. The people who AREN’T happy are the Catholics, Jews, Lutherans, Atheists, African-Americans (who may be anyone of the aforementioned religions, or even Mormon themselves) because they aren’t normal. I truly believe it has nothing to do with drugs or intra-religious pressure. It has to do with pressure from the Mormon community on everybody else in the state.

  88. Argh!!! Too many numbers and conflicting statistics!
    (I’m not that great at math anyways).

    As a convert who does not live in Utah, I really can’t say from personal experience what I expect the deal to be. However, I do not believe that the Church is the source of all this depression. It is clear (to me at least) that there are many things that have to be taken into consideration before getting an accurate look at this subject.
    Mormons aren’t perfect, and as far as I can tell we sure do not claim to be. Satan is hard at work. Still, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I know the Gospel has been restored and that the Church is true. I hope that we can all work to help alleviate the ills of society on those in Utah, members and non-members alike, as well as all across America in the places we live.

    Just my two cents.

    Oh, and I totally agree about the ice cream.

  89. I moved to Utah County three years ago. The first thing I noticed about this place is how competitive the culture is. I think this tends to alienate (and amuse) people who aren’t from there. I had no idea that that many people in Utah County were depressed enough to get national attention. I guess if you were spending your life trying to live up to a culture’s standards, and not your own, I’d get depressed, too.
    If you were only interviewing LDS people then I could understand the statement that ONLY mormon people are depressed, but in reality, anybody gets depressed. Utah County feels like it exists inside a religious and cultural bubble anyways, so I can understand why people assume that the LDS Church is the cause of just about everything there.

  90. My understanding is that suicide rates tend to be high in the Mountain West generally, and that Utah does not particularly stand out.

    Also that the suicide rate among non-Mormons in Utah is significantly higher than that of Mormons in Utah.

    I wouldn’t read too much significance into this study.

  91. Quote: “when I ask Mormons whether they personally feel they have experienced Mormon-culture-induced depression, the answer is almost always “no.””

    Yeah, such is the nature of depression. Expecting depressed people to volunteer the fact that they are depressed is unrealistic, especially when refuting the hypothesis that they are depressed because of the need to seem perfect.

  92. If you google the most religious states and the states that use the most anti depressants you will see strong correlation. I don’t think this is indicative of the LDS church needing anti depressants. I think it is indicative that humans get depressed and religious people are less likely to self medicate with drugs and alcohol and more likely to ask a Dr. for help.

  93. I truly see the blind leading the blind. Perhaps it’s not the members of the church that are depressed but those who are not members. Because of the culture in UT, if your not with the church your against it. That means jobs are harder to find as well as acceptance from the majority LDS population. It’s easy to see this when your being objective and not subjective, or even defensive. Try to think for yourselves, not the way you were taught to think.

  94. Depression can come from either biological or environmemtal . The church has good standards but sometimes they take it too far.

    Alot of times , people feel more depressed people can think if they mess up then God will not love me anymore or something bad will happen to me.

    We may not go to heaven cause we mess up too much !

  95. Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) are depressed because:
    a) They are dominated and oppressed by the culture.
    b) They are required to pretend they are happy all the time (which is also being dominated.)


  96. I lived in Utah for 2 years. I couldn’t take it any more. I became depressed for the first time in my life in Utah. The culture is clannish. Not just the Mormons, but the clans, of which Mormons are one. No one is free to go see a movie or hang out with or meet new friends. The Mormons are too busy with church and family commitments to be friends. They don’t speak to you if you aren’t in their ward/church. The gays don’t speak to you unless you are one of them. The Muslim community doesn’t you unless you are one of them. Every charity is linked to the Mormon church and doesn’t want volunteers who aren’t. The Mormon and BDSM clans, neither of which I do not belong to, are the only clans that actually talk to people outside their own clan. And when you bring this up, everyone just smiles, nods and agrees it is a problem. I didn’t have family in Utah, and I could go for weeks with no one actually talking to me, other than the grocery checkout clerk. Even where I worked, they didn’t talk unless they HAD to. Men would run up to the door so they would not have to hold it open and actually talk to me. In stores, coffee houses, malls, everywhere, people did not even smile or acknowledge people unless they were in the same clan. I had lived in 12 states, and never, anywhere else, did I ever see this. Taking classes didn’t help. Teaching classes didn’t help. Trying to join hiking clubs or group activities didn’t help. Volunteering didn’t help. Asking for help didn’t help. I can understand the depression. Utah was the most unfriendly, antisocial, incommunicative, unwelcoming society and place I have ever experienced. And before someone says it is me, several people acknowledged this when I mentioned it to coworkers. And, nowhere else have I ever had so much trouble. Utah? Yech. I really looked forward to my new job, and hopefully a nice, peaceful, beautiful community I could settle into, buy a house, and work my last 15 years till I retired, then stay put. Instead, I had to uproot, move, and get over the depression, and now pick a different place for retirement. So now I have lived in 13 states, and will likely move one more time before retirement. And, Utah has a high suicide rate. Sad. It isn’t the Mormons. It is the culture. Clannish, unwelcoming. Interestingly, the clans all hate or dislike each other. There is a huge gay/lesbian clan, a huge leatherman clan, a huge goth clan, a huge BDSM clan (they even have a college there), a huge Mormon clan, a huge Muslim clan, a huge Catholic clan, a huge ex-Mormon clan, a huge New Age clan, a huge spiritualist/mystic clan, a huge military retiree clan, and they do NOT speak to each other. It was very depressing and very sad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *