Mental Health Myths

Religious LDS culture has historically struggled to find a place for matters of mental health and depression as it dovetails with our mortal experience and our theology.

As a result, many members may be unsure of how we as a people stand with respect to issues of depression, anxiety, and other common mental health issues.

Elder Alexander B. Morrison writes: “I assure you that Latter-day Saints are in no way exempt from the burden of mental illness, either as victim, caregiver, family member, or friend. In every ward and stake, there are severely depressed men and women; elderly people with failing memories and reduced intellectual capacities; youth or adults struggling to escape the dark specter of suicide; persons of all ages, both sexes, and every walk of life, who exhibit aberrant, even bizarre behavior.”

Using Elder Morrison’s book “Valley of Sorrows” as a backdrop resource, Brian Murdock, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and LDS Perspectives host Nick Galieti begin their discussion by debunking common myths about mental health issues.

Murdock then addresses the topic of clinical depression: what depression is, and what it isn’t. He offers some insights to consider for people who are currently suffering from depression, as well as to those who are interacting with those experiencing clinical depression. This episode also offers some practical advice for bishops, or other members of the church who want to help those with depression.

This episode is a great introduction and survey of the subject of one of the most common mental health issues we find in our society.

Access mental health resources mentioned in this episode at LDS Perspectives Podcast.

Revisiting the Journal of Discourses

In LDS Perspectives Podcast’s first doubleheader, they present an episode covering the discrepancies between the shorthand versions of speeches of early LDS Church leaders in Utah and their published versions. First, Russell Stevenson interviews Gerrit Dirkmaat about the research he and LaJean Carruth did comparing the shorthand notes of George Watt to some of the speeches in the Journal of Discourses.

Dirkmaat-Gerrit-1

The authors examined hundreds of sermons and sometimes they varied by hundreds of words. Dirkmaat points out that when one is talking about doctrine, words matter. While the essence of these speeches are similar in the shorthand and published versions, the words used vary greatly.

The Journal of Discourses have historical and religious value, but Dirkmaat urges members to be careful quoting specific passages and to realize that in most cases, there is know way to know the specific words used.

LaJean Purcell Carruth has an unusual skill: she can read the shorthand of George Watt, the transcriber of the speeches contained in the Journal of Discourses, his private printing venture. Over the past thirty years, she has learned his distinctive style — the unique upturns and curves he made in his notations. As she transcribed his notes, she noticed that they varied — sometimes greatly — from the printed versions of the same speeches. She wrote a poem about what she noticed:

There was a man named George Watt,

Who could improve Brigham Young, so he thought.

So he took out words here,

And he added words there,

And his accuracy was not what it ought.

LaJean Purcell Carruth©

LaJean expounds on what she has learned about the speaking styles of early religious leaders. They spoke extemporaneously and without notes and were more prone to engage in speculative theology than current leaders.

She emphasizes that Brigham Young was a powerful speaker. He cared about the people, and they knew that he cared about them. When George Watt changed Brigham Young’s words, he changed what Brigham Young said about himself. She feels the real Brigham Young has been lost to us as we view him through his discourses printed in the Journal of Discourses.

In her research, she discovered that the “one drop” phrase attributed to Brigham Young by Wilford Woodruff did not exist in the original shorthand transcription of George Watt and other statements relating to the priesthood and temple ban varied as well.

LaJean shares with Laura Harris Hales what she has learned about Brigham Young from the words left out of the Journal of Discourses and other important speeches.

Be sure and check out the resources mentioned in this podcast at LDS Perspectives Podcast.

Learning from Muslims

Several years ago a group of professors at BYU-Idaho designed an interdisciplinary course called “Global Hotspot: Pakistan at the Crossroad of Conflict.”

Students are asked to learn and analyze issues relating to Pakistan’s history, geography, culture, languages, and religions. But the real purpose of this course is to use Pakistan as a giant case study to help students develop skills and abilities that they can use in understanding people and countries that are quite different.

Those skills include–

  • Recognizing and overcoming stereotypes in their own thinking;
  • Understanding how factors such as history, geography, and religion influence countries and individuals;
  • Identifying and appreciating strengths and weaknesses in other cultures and nations, and
  • Understanding how the nations of the world are connected.

Professor Eaton notes that we all sometimes engage in sloppy analytical thinking by casually accepting stereotypes or the assumptions of others, and we should challenge these notions.

He also thinks that respecting others while holding firm to unique beliefs is a somewhat lost art but a necessary balancing act for members of the Church to engage in. We can respect other believers of God without sacrificing our beliefs.

Join Laura Harris Hales of LDS Perspectives Podcast as she interviews Robert Eaton about understanding Pakistan and our own place in the world.

To access material mentioned in this episode, visit LDS Perspectives Podcast.

An Unexpected Revelation

In episode three of our Revelations in Context Series, host Nick Galieti of LDS Perspectives Podcast interviews Matthew McBride of the Church History Department about his essay entitled “The Vision.”

In 1832 Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon reported receiving a vision at the John Johnson home. Apparently while working on a revision of the New Testament, Joseph had just completed “translating” John 5:29 when the vision commenced.

The early nineteenth century culture was highly religious and most Christian sects believed that the Bible was all sufficient. For Joseph Smith to revise what was already considered to be complete was radical. What he and Sidney saw in vision was even more surprising.

The vision touched on matters dealing with one of the most contentious religious debates of the time: who is saved? Suprisingly, the revelation confirmed the least popular position.

Brigham Young, arguably one of Joseph’s most loyal supporters, struggled with this Universalist position for quite a time. Other members had difficulty accepting this paradigm shift as well.

Matthew McBride uses this historical backdrop to provide a powerful metaphor for modern-day members to use when dealing with doctrine that may be difficult to accept.

This is an episode you won’t want to miss.

The Book of Mormon as a really interesting, well, piece of literature

Grant Hardy became intrigued with world religions, especially those of East Asia, as a young missionary. He has reasearched and written widely on various topics, but his study of the Book of Mormon led him to publish two landmark books that share important insights.

In his brief overview to Understanding the Book of Mormon, Hardy gives us ten observations about the Book of Mormon:

  1. It is a long book.
  2. It is written in a somewhat awkward, repetitious form of English.
  3. It imitates the style of the King James Version.
  4. It claims to be history.
  5. It presents a complicated narrative.
  6. It is a religious text.
  7. It is basically a tragedy.
  8. It is very didactic.
  9. It is a human artifact.
  10. Its basic structure is derived from the three narrators.

It is this last observation that forms the thesis for the majority of his work. Hardy contends that “If you’re not seeing the narrators at every turn, you’re not really reading the Book of Mormon–because that’s how the book is constructed, regardless of who the author(s) may have been.”

The three main narrators (Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni) each had distinct approaches as they presented history and revelation in their writings.

Join Laura Harris Hales of LDS Perspectives Podcast as she has an enjoyable back-and-forth with an outstanding Book of Mormon scholar.

Check out LDS Perspectives for links to materials referenced in this podcast.