Mental Illness and Suicide

Mormon Hereticdeath, depression, LDS, Mormon, violence 24 Comments

My sister recommended that I should listen to John L Lund’s three-talk set called How to Hug a Teenage Porcupine.  This isn’t the normal type of talk that I listen to because these talks often seem simplistic and syrupy.  While there was plenty of syrup, I thought Brother Lund had some interesting insights that I wanted to share, and I think his advice for dealing with toxic relatives was outstanding.  I wanted to share a few of his insights.  In discussing teenagers, he touched on the topic of suicide (relating it to how teens can make bad choices.)

In one of my previous posts, a few commenters seemed to try to condemn a mentally ill man for killing a bishop, but I think we should not be so quick to judge.  In discussing suicide, Lund says that General Authorities have often counseled people that we should not judge the mentally ill.

I have attended several funerals in my lifetime because I’ve worked primarily with the young people of the church where some of them have committed suicide.  On several of those occasions a General Authority has been there to speak.  I was interested as I listened to the funeral sermon how similar their counsel was in every case, because in every case there was a suicide they said, ‘don’t judge the soul’ and do not assume that they will be in the Telestial Kingdom even though they have taken their life.  You have no right to make that judgment.  Only God can make that judgment.’  I’m paraphrasing several actual talks.  We don’t have the right to make that judgment and we don’t know.  We don’t know the state of mind or the spiritual condition or the things that brought that about and only God can make that judgment.

I am uncomfortable in dealing with the mentally ill.  I previously blogged about a man I home teach with some serious mental illness.  While he is friendly with me and seems to be taking his medications, recently he took medication with beer, and ended up in the hospital.  He does seem to share some similarities to the man who killed the bishop in California.  Maybe I’m just paranoid, but he makes me nervous even though we get along well.

What can we do to help the mentally ill effectively?  How can we deal with them effectively without harshly judging them?

Comments 24

  1. MH,

    Great post.

    Just before my mother passed away, she struggled with Alzheimer’s. It is a horrible, life altering disease; especially for the family. Through the trial we experienced as a family the thing I learned more than anything is that the mind is like any other organ – it can break or just not function properly. She did and said things she never would have before the illness. For instance, she started dropping the F bomb all the time and even picked up smoking. She was a completely different person. She was not herself. When she finally passed, it was abundantly clear the trial was for our family, not for our mother. Her mortal probationary period ended when the disease sowed its deleterious roots. It brought us closer as a family. It made us stronger. It made us view others with more compassion. It made us realize what was important in life. It was of God.

  2. I really like John Lund and have several of his books. I have also been to one of his classes and he is a great teacher.

    This topic hits close to home as one of my close friends became mentally ill when we were in school together as teenagers. She has severe mental illness now and it has been hard watching her before and after the illness. To say we cannot judge is an understatement. The friend I knew before the mental illness hit was a person with one of the purest hearts I have ever known. As I have interactions with this friend now, it is obvious that her thinking is off and she is in no position to be fairly judged. At the same time, I know that people who have to live with mentally ill people on a day to day basis become weary and can become resentful. We have to be careful not to judge them either and to try and be supportive as their job is a very difficult one.

    I think if we try to support those who have to care for the mentally ill then we can help substantially. Just knowing that someone cares or is aware of what they are dealing with can make all the difference in how they cope. Even if just one person acts as a support it can help the other person have the strength to keep going. I think this is the best way we can help the mentally ill effectively aside from being a trained counselor and dealing directly with them.

  3. Thanks for this post. The counsel not to judge the mentally ill is wonderful, especially when the illness ends in a suicide. But just as dying for the Savior may seem easier than living for Him, the day-to-day struggles with the mentally ill can be exhausting. I am helped when I remember:

    1. My interaction with this person is temporary. As frustrated as I may be, I wonder how it is sometimes for the mentally ill.

    2. I can show respect (if not love) instead of frustration. Even when an interchange does not go my way, or lasts longer than my comfort wishes it would.

    I had a severely autistic child in my class at church from the time I was 9 or 10. Going to church with this boy for years taught me compassion in a way I never would have learned it otherwise. When my own son was diagnosed with a form of autism, I was devastated, but at least knew some of what he and my family were facing. Fortunately for my son, his borderline symptoms responded well to social skills training. He is not without issues today, but that compassion I learned as a boy has served me well. (I should point out that it does not always serve me well — I need to seek it consciously rather than have it just appear.)

  4. Having a wife and teen daughter at home with mental illnesses all I can say is you have to love them and not judge them for what they do. Sometimes they have very little or no control. Only Heavenly Father knows how deeply they are affected at any one time and He is the only one that can make any judgment for or against them.

    Patience, as mentioned above, is a very good virtue to have in cases like these.

  5. All great comments. I’m not an expert on mental illness, but I get the impression that society is becoming increasingly prone to medicalize things that were once considered simply behavior or character traits. That is, a person isn’t just a terminal jerk; he has narcissistic personality disorder. I’m not a person with too little self-control not to waste too much time on the Internet; I’m an “addict.” Etc., etc. Add well-meaning legislation-turned-lawyers’-full-employment-act like the ADA and Unruh Act into the mix, and pretty soon we’ll all be classified as mentally ill in some way or another.

    There is mental illness, and there is mental illness. I agree re: being slow to judge people who can’t appreciate the nature of their actions, or whose perception of the world is fundamentally askew. But the law doesn’t generally recognize a plea of “not guilty by reason of mental illness”; otherwise, since you can slap a diagnosis on just about anyone but the proverbial Reasonable Man (who doesn’t actually exist anywhere in nature), you’d never convict anybody — and then what would the prison guards’ union do?

    Like Lund, I don’t judge a mentally ill person for killing herself. But if I’m going to be judged as some kind of horrible person for holding some impolite belief or other, I’m not going to completely rule out judging a man who, though mentally ill, still ought to know that you don’t go killing random Mormon bishops.

    Final judgment is reserved of course to God, but we can’t help being involved in the retail judgment business if any clear moral thinking’s ever going to get done.

  6. The accountability of those who are mentally ill or incapacitated for some reason or another has been debated in court with some interesting results. Recently the APA has even campaigned for less severe sentences for adolescents on the grounds that their undeveloped brains are more or less incapable of the types of thought processes that adults possess.

    One of the reasons that there’s so much debate on the accountability of those who have mental disorders is because there is no clear distinction between those who do and those who do not have mental disorders. The current diagnosis manual categorically defines mental disorders which hides this fact to some degree (the new DSM is most likely to use continuums instead of categories), but two people who qualify for a diagnosis of Schizophrenia (for example) may present with NONE of the same symptoms.

    The original question is complicated. How we treat someone who has a mental disorder depends entirely on the type of mental disorder that person has. Disorders are as varied and complicated as personalities (and are sometimes tightly tied to it, as in the case of personality disorders). I would suggest then that we treat a person with a mental disorder in much the same way we should treat most people, by listening carefully to them and being a steady friend. More than anything else, the number one predictor of therapeutic success is the friendship developed between a patient and his therapist. This isn’t to say that we should assume the role of therapist, only that friendships are essential, especially for the mentally disadvantaged.

  7. Post

    Thomas, I too share some skepticism when lawyers seem to abuse mental illness to get their clients off. But I guess I see someone that commits suicide, or suicide by cop, or the guy that killed the bishop as having some serious medical problems. I am impressed that someone like Mark Hacking didn’t use the mental illness excuse when he killed his wife. He took responsibility, Good for him.

    I have an aunt that commit suicide more than 50 years ago. Her actions have affected my father his whole life. I have a grandmother that suffered from Alzheimers, though her symptoms weren’t as bad as Will’s mother. I have a cousin that suffered severe brain damage from a heart attack earlier this summer. He went from being an engineer to not recognizing me or immediate family members in the hospital. He is literally a shell of his former self.

    Exercising patience is hard. Dr Lund has a great saying that I think is hard to do: “Take your frustrations to the Lord, and your love to your family.” I still think mental illness is poorly understood by experts. I don’t think current medications are very effective, though they are better than nothing. I really don’t think there are practical solutions to the questions I posed above. I guess I have some experience with mental illness in my extended family, but I feel highly unequipped to deal with it.

  8. I appreciate the compassion of those of you who want to be understanding of people with mental illness. My oldest child, a son, has struggled with mental illness for many years. As his parents, we were really ill-equiped to deal with his problems. We were lucky to find a good doctor and have an understanding bishop. Thirteen years later, with the help of a cocktail of psych meds and ongoing counseling, he is a very functioning adult with a wife and child and a good job. Still, life is not easy. Like any chronic illness, it has its ups and downs and we (his parents) will always have to help with his considerable medical expenses.
    As someone else has said, there are many different variations of mental illness, so it is hard to make general suggestions that would apply to all, but here are a few I would proffer:
    –treat the person with love and respect, as you would any “normal” person.
    –realize that a relatively low percentage of mentally ill people are violent or dangerous. Most are quite the opposite.
    –try to see the real person, separate from the illness, just as you would a person with diabetes or MS.
    –don’t be afraid to talk to the person about their illness, just as you would someone with diabetes, etc., but don’t make that the only thing you ever talk about.
    –understand that mental illness doesn’t erase all the other normal needs that a person has, like friendship, community and opportunities for service.
    As for families of people with mental illness, just be understanding and lend a listening ear when appropriate. Like any chronic illness, mental illness can be very tiring on the person and her/his family. Even if you feel uncomfortable, just be a friend.

  9. #8 Catherine — you raise an excellent point: One of the things we must do to be “helpful” is to understand what is helpful. It is not helpful to try to talk someone “out” of their mental illness, for instance. But it may be helpful to continue to enforce consequences so that even our children with mental illness will learn that consequences exist. Those of us with family members who are afflicted with mental illness will learn what is appropriate for their flavor of MI, but what applies to one may not apply to another.

    We know, for instance, that it is not helpful to give a diabetic a sugary soft drink, even if he is thirsty and asks for it. Denying the soft drink, though it does not help his thirst (or even his want for a sugary drink) may still be an act of love. When we shield an addict from the consequences of his addiction, we do not help him. As a result, allowing a child to go homeless while in active addiction may be more loving and more helpful than paying his rent enabling to use his rent money to buy more drugs. But, on the other hand, telling a sufferer of clinical depression to “get over it” is not as helpful as providing proper counseling and drug therapy to restore brain chemicals to proper balance and to allow the clinically depressed to keep moving forward.

    That said, I agree with Thomas that mental illness is not by itself a free pass for bad behavior, and in any event we can determine that a specific action (like killing a bishop) is wrong no matter who performs the act. That there may be issues of accountability does not make a wrong action right.

  10. In discussing suicide, Lund says that General Authorities have often counseled people that we should not judge the mentally ill.

    How about we just not judge ANYONE, then we don’t even have to make the determination as to their mental, spiritual, emotional, or physical capacities!

    Seriously though, MH, I like the overall message your post is trying to send. I’m going to give an analogy, and hope it will be taken in the spirit I intend it – of understanding and love.

    If you saw someone who had a broken leg, was on crutches, and was trying to walk into a building, what would you do? Would you stand there impatiently waiting for them to just open the door? Would you expect them to open the door and walk in yourself? I think most of us would try to help the person, perhaps open the door for them.

    Likewise, expecting those facing depression, bi-polar disorder, or any number of other problems to think the same way you do is unrealistic (in reality this applies to everyone in life, not just those with mental illnesses) and, IMHO, is the source of most of these judgments/opinions about those struggling with mental illness. Rather, what we ought to do is listen to understand them, and try to “open the door” for them.

  11. “We know, for instance, that it is not helpful to give a diabetic a sugary soft drink”

    Quick comment on this — as a Type 1 diabetic. If my sugar levels are low, I need that drink. As in, it feels like I’ve been fasting for 30 days NEED (I got diabetes at 19, so I do remember what fasting feels like. This is worse. Way worse.). And, a symptom of low blood sugar can be showing confusion, slow thinking, even appearing as if I were drunk. I may not be able to fully explain why I need it. So, when you know my sugars are fine, yes try to stop the soda. But when the sugars are low, or even you just don’t know — give me the drink. Low blood sugar will immediately kill me. A temporary high blood sugar won’t.

  12. #11 — Fair point Andrew. My apologies for oversimplifying with the example of a diabetic, but you make my point: there is not a one-size-fits-all response to mental illness (nor to diabetes). Learning *how* to help is as important as the desire to help.

  13. Paul — “there is not a one-size-fits-all response to mental illness (nor to diabetes). Learning *how* to help is as important as the desire to help.”

    Absolutely agree with this. My wife and I had a friend in our ward back in Provo who was suicidal, going through a divorce, medication change, and just not (in our opinion) mature enough to have gotten married. Our biggest problem was exactly as you say: we had no idea how to help. So, we just did what we could: tried to be as friendly as possible, and referred her to get the medical help needed when she was feeling suicidal (and acting on it via pretty bad cutting). I hope we were helpful, but I really have no idea.

    And no worries about the diabetic stuff. As you say, education is the key.

  14. there is a big difference between diabetes and mental illness: social stigma. I had a companion with diabetes-he was one of my favorites because he liked to cook. anyway, at the time I was cognizant of what to do about diabetes.

    on the radio, there are commercials on how to handle a stroke-get to the hospital immediately. many of us have cpr training for heart attacks. we know what to do for physical ailments. but when it comes to mental illness, we are utterly ill-equipped to deal with it. love them is good advice, but of limited practical value. I love my diabetic friends but I will feed them sugar or take to emergency room if necessary. when a gulf war vet walks the streets of slc with a loaded weapon, it is evident to me he was looking for suicide by cop (which is what he got). there needs to be more intervention sooner. he served his country, and the army failed to treat his ptsd. I feel sorry for the dead man, but I am grateful to the cops for preventing further loss of life.

  15. in the deseret news this morning, there was an article stating that suicide is more prevalent in high altitude area. they noted that suicides in the mountain west were higher than the rest of the US. Mountainous area of korea also showed higher suicide rates, and they are trying to confirm this in south america as well.

    I know utah has a bad rap for using anti-depressants and high suicide. perhaps it is the altitude that can be blamed. researchers suggest mild hypoxia as a contributing factor to suicide.

  16. in the deseret news this morning, there was an article stating that suicide is more prevalent in high altitude area. they noted that suicides in the mountain west were higher than the rest of the US. Mountainous area of korea also showed higher suicide rates, and they are trying to confirm this in south america as well.

    Wow, I’ve not heard that before. Do you have a link to the article?

  17. I just read the following article—I don’t know to what extent I violate blog etiquette by cutting and pasting it here, so I will also include the link—Since the victim along with others involved are from of our “faith tradition” and the topic is current, perhaps some readers may ponder it for a while. It has bothered me tonight . . .

    The U.S. Soldier Who Killed Herself After Refusing to Take Part in Torture
    Greg Mitchell.Blogger, The Nation, “Media Fix”
    Posted: September 15, 2010 09:39 AM

    With each revelation, or court decision, on U.S. torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo — or the airing this month of The Tillman Story and Lawrence Wright’s My Trip to Al-Qaeda — I am reminded of the chilling story of Alyssa Peterson, who died seven years ago today. Appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what most would call torture, she refused, then killed herself a few days later, on September 15, 2003.

    Of course, we now know from the torture memos and the US Senate committee probe and various press reports, that the “Gitmo-izing” of Iraq was happening just at the time Alyssa got swept up in it.

    Spc. Alyssa Peterson was one of the first female soldiers who died in Iraq. Her death under these circumstances should have drawn wide attention. It’s not exactly the Tillman case, but a cover-up, naturally, followed.

    Peterson, 27, a Flagstaff, Ariz., native, served with C Company, 311th Military Intelligence BN, 101st Airborne. She was a valuable Arabic-speaking interrogator assigned to the prison at our air base in troubled Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq. According to official records, she died on September 15, 2003, from a “non-hostile weapons discharge.”

    A “non-hostile weapons discharge” leading to death is not unusual in Iraq, often quite accidental, so this one apparently raised few eyebrows. The Arizona Republic, three days after her death, reported that Army officials “said that a number of possible scenarios are being considered, including Peterson’s own weapon discharging, the weapon of another soldier discharging, or the accidental shooting of Peterson by an Iraqi civilian.” And that might have ended it right there.

    But in this case, a longtime radio and newspaper reporter named Kevin Elston, not satisfied with the public story, decided to probe deeper in 2005, “just on a hunch,” he told me in late 2006. He made “hundreds of phone calls” to the military and couldn’t get anywhere, so he filed a Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] request. When the documents of the official investigation of her death arrived, they contained bombshell revelations.

    Here’s what the Flagstaff public radio station, KNAU, where Elston worked, reported:

    “Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed.”

    The official probe of her death would later note that earlier she had been “reprimanded” for showing “empathy” for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of the report, in fact, is this: “She said that she did not know how to be two people; she… could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire.”

    She was then assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards, and sent to suicide prevention training. “But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle,” the documents disclose.

    The official report revealed that a notebook she had written in was found next to her body, but blacked out its contents.

    The Army talked to some of Peterson’s colleagues. Asked to summarize their comments, Elston told me: “The reactions to the suicide were that she was having a difficult time separating her personal feelings from her professional duties. That was the consistent point in the testimonies, that she objected to the interrogation techniques, without describing what those techniques were.” In one document, Peterson’s first sergeant recalls: “It was hard for her to be aggressive to prisoners/detainees, as she felt that we were cruel to them.”

    Elston said that the documents also refer to a suicide note found on her body, which suggested that she found it ironic that suicide prevention training had taught her how to commit suicide. He filed another FOIA request for a copy of the actual note. It did not emerge.

    Peterson, a devout Mormon–her mother, Bobbi, claims she always stuck up for “the underdog”–had graduated from Flagstaff High School and earned a psychology degree from Northern Arizona University on a military scholarship. She was trained in interrogation techniques at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, and was sent to the Middle East in 2003, reportedly going in place of another soldier who did not wish to go.

    A report in The Arizona Daily Sun of Flagstaff–three years after Alyssa’s death–revealed that Spc. Peterson’s mother, reached at her home in northern Arizona, said that neither she nor her husband Richard had received any official documents that contained information outlined in Elston’s report.

    In other words: Like the press and the public, even the parents had been kept in the dark.

    Kayla Williams, an Army sergeant who served with Alyssa, told me me that she talked to her about her problems shortly before she killed herself. Williams also was forced to take part in torture interrogations, where she saw detainees punched. Another favorite technique: strip the prisoners and then remove their blindfolds so that the first thing they saw was Kayla Williams.

    She also opted out, but survived, and is haunted years later. She wrote a book about her experience in the military, Love My Rifle More Than You.

    Here’s what Williams told Soledad O’Brien of CNN: “I was asked to assist. And what I saw was that individuals who were doing interrogations had slipped over a line and were really doing things that were inappropriate. There were prisoners that were burned with lit cigarettes.”

    When I wrote a piece about Peterson last year, her brother, Spencer Peterson, left a comment:

    Alyssa is my little sister. I usually don’t comment on boards like this, and I don’t speak for the rest of my family (especially my folks), but I think she probably did kill herself over this. She was extremely sensitive and empathetic to others, and cared a lot more about the welfare and well-being of the people around her than she cared about herself…. Thank you to everyone for your continued support of our troops and our family. Alyssa’s death was a tremendous loss to everyone who knew her, and we miss her sweet and sensitive spirit. No one is happier than I am that (many of) our troops are coming home from Iraq, and I pray that the rest of our brave soldiers return home safely as soon as possible. Support our troops–bring them home!
    Kayla Williams told me me she spoke with Alyssa Peterson about the young woman’s troubles a week before she died–and afterward, attended her memorial service.

    So what caused Alyssa Peterson to put a bullet in her head in September 2003 after just a few weeks in Iraq? And why were the press and the public not told about it? Because Alyssa’s suicide note and contents from her journal have not been released, we can’t say for certain how to weigh the factors that led to her death.

    Chelsea Russell, who studied Arabic with Peterson at a military facility in Monterrey, California, told me that she found Alyssa to be an especially “sincere and kind person” but she had come to question her Mormon faith a few months before getting shipped to Iraq. “I believe that Alyssa was at a crossroads at the time of her death,” Russell added. ” I don’t know if she had strong emotional support in Iraq. Questioning her own religious beliefs, her military colleagues, and her part in the war may have been too much for her.”

    While Kayla Williams managed to escape the torture machine, she told me that she is still haunted by the experience and wonders if she objected strongly enough.

    Williams and Peterson were both interpreters–but only the latter was in “human intelligence,” that is, trained to take part in interrogations. They met by chance when Williams, who had been on a mission, came back to the base in Tal Afar in September 2003 before heading off again. A civilian interpreter asked her to speak to Peterson, who seemed troubled. Like others, Williams found her to be a “sweet girl.” Williams asked if she wanted to go to dinner, but Peterson was not free–maybe next time, she said, but then time ran out.

    Their one conversation, Williams told me, centered on personal, not military, problems, and it’s hard to tell where it fit in the suicide timeline. According to records of the Army probe, Peterson had protested, and asked out of, interrogations after just two days in what was known as “the cage”–and killed herself shortly after that. This might have all transpired just after her encounter with Williams, or it might have happened before and she did not mention it at that time–they did not really know each other.

    Peterson’s suicide on September 15, 2003–reported to the press and public as death by “non-hostile gunshot,” usually meaning an accident–was the only fatality suffered by the battalion during their entire time in Iraq, Williams reports. At the memorial service, everyone knew the cause of her death.

    Shortly after that, Williams (a three-year Army vet at the time) was sent to the 2nd Brigade’s Support Area in Mosul, and she described what happened next in her book. Brought into the “cage” one day on a special mission, she saw fellow soldiers hitting a naked prisoner in the face. “It’s one thing to make fun of someone and attempt to humiliate him. With words. That’s one thing. But flicking lit cigarettes at somebody–like burning him–that’s illegal,” Williams writes. Soldiers later told her that “the old rules no longer applied because this was a different world. This was a new kind of war.”

    Here’s what she told Soledad O’Brien of CNN:

    “They stripped prisoners naked and then removed their blindfolds so that I was the first thing they saw. And then we were supposed to mock them and degrade their manhood. And it really didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me. I didn’t know if this was standard. But it did not seem to work. And it really made me feel like we were losing that crucial moral higher ground, and we weren’t behaving in the way that Americans are supposed to behave.”
    As soon as that day ended, she told a superior she would never do it again.

    In another CNN interview, on Oct. 8, 2005, she explained: “I sat through it at the time. But after it was over I did approach the non-commissioned officer in charge and told him I think you may be violating the Geneva Conventions…. He said he knew and I said I wouldn’t participate again and he respected that, but I was really, really stunned…”

    So, given all this, what does Williams think pushed Alyssa Peterson to shoot herself one week after their only meeting? The great unknown, of course, is what Peterson was asked to witness or do in interrogations. We do know that she refused to have anything more to do with that after two days–or one day longer than it took for Williams to reach her breaking point.

    Properly, Williams (left) points out that it’s rarely one factor that leads to suicide, and Peterson had some personal problems. “It’s always a bunch of things coming together to the point you feel so overwhelmed that there’s no way out,” Williams says. “I witnessed abuse, I felt uncomfortable with it, but I didn’t kill myself, because I could see the bigger context. I felt a lot of angst about whether I had an obligation to report it, and had any way to report it. Was it classified? Who should I turn to?” Perhaps Alyssa Peterson felt in the same box.

    “It also made me think,” Williams says, “what are we as humans, that we do this to each other? It made me question my humanity and the humanity of all Americans. It was difficult, and to this day I can no longer think I am a really good person and will do the right thing in the right situation.” Such an experience might have been truly shattering to Peterson, a once-devout Mormon.

    Referring to that day in Mosul, Williams says, “I did protest but only to the person in charge and I did not file a report up the chain of command.” Yet, after recounting her experience there, she asks: “Can that lead to suicide? That’s such an act of desperation, helplessness, it has to be more than that.” She concludes, “In general, interrogation is not fun, even if you follow the rules. And I didn’t see any good intelligence being gained. The other problem is that, in situations like that, you have people that are not terrorists being picked up, and being questioned. And, if you treat an innocent person like that, they walk out a terrorist.”

    Or, maybe in this case, if an innocent person witnesses such a thing, some may walk out as a likely suicide.

  18. IMO, part of the problem with suicide and the LDS response to it is that no one authoritative has repudiated the statements made by early apostles (e.g. Brigham Young). This leads to a “new apostle” vs. “old apostle” set up, and members can feel justified holding whatever belief they do, with authoritative backing. (This issue extends far beyond mental illness, as the only tow doctrines officially repudiated are blacks and the priesthood and the PRACTICE of polygamy.

    The kinder, less judgemental tone of recent statements are appreciated. A repudiation of former statements would be a good next step.

  19. mh, #19 was intended to relate only to suicide, and that the LDS stance on it has softened considerably in the last 10-15 years.

    IN THE PAST, everyone from Brigham Young through J.F. Smith and B.R.McConkie (esp. 1st Ed. Mormon Docrine) have held that suicide is a terrible sin. Most have said it is unforgivable, as it is murder of yourself, and they could hope for nothing better than the telestial kingdom. Endowed suicide victims could not be buried in their temple clothes.

    MORE RECENTLY, as mental illness, chemical imbalances, and other factors have come to be better understood, there’s been much more compassion and non-judgement in statements from Church leaders. Elder Ballard’s “Suicide: Some things we know, some things we don’t” talk in the late 80’s was the turning point, I think. The talk, which contains many of the “old view” statements, can be viewed here:

    I was just saying it would be nice to have a “forget everything we’ve ever said on the matter” like there was for blacks and the priesthood. Hope this makes sense.

  20. thanks clark, that makes much better sense now, and I agree with you. the ‘blacks and priesthood’ comment in your first comment confused me, but I get it now.

    I believe elder morrison (or perhaps someone else) gave a talk on the myths of mental illness. I think that talk should be emphasized over anything elder mcconkie said. it is truly unfortunate that his book is cited so frequently when it has so many errors. we know about the errors on the bloggernacle, but you typical tbm is not aware of them.

  21. Jesus invites us to be “fishers of men” (Mark 1: 16-18). Christ invites all of us after baptism to participate in this work and glory. This invitation is one that follows us our entire lives, encouraging us to spread the good word and invite others to be baptized. Simon and Andrew knew in that moment that the Man inviting them to preach thy gospel was a prophet of God, His only begotten. We receive this similar invitation through callings, missionary work, Institute, etc. and we must have the desire and stamina to act just like Simon and Andrew did. This is such a humbling principle to me because it reminds me that my invitation to be fishers of men is constant and I always need to be looking for opportunities to share/spread the gospel, especially in moments when I feel apprehensive or nervous mentioning it to somebody I know or a complete stranger. Even more encouragement I find is when I think to myself, “hey, Simon and Andrew quit their jobs on the spot and left everything behind to follow the Lord, what am I being asked to do?” This thought process helps remind me that all I usually have to do is overcome my own fear of rejection or making someone feel uncomfortable, not quit my job and leave everything behind like these great men did. This provides me with a lot of encouragement and drive to just open my mouth and preach!

    It’s really true that the gift from our Savior is matchless, no gift will ever equate to it. The best way we can show gratitude for said gift is by exercising it! The invitation to be fishers of men is a lifelong calling that has the potential to create endless blessings. Imagine just one act of missionary work leading to an entire family (and its generations) being baptized and members of this true church, what an endless blessing.

    -Hunter A. Perreira

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