Therapy for Spiritual Death, Part 1 [DBT, Tolerating Distress]

Never_despairAs I consider the methods used to treat those at risk of physical death due to self-injury, it seems that many of these same therapies can be useful to those wishing to escape spiritual “death.”

There are two kinds of spiritual death. One is when an individual becomes overwhelmed to the point that they “allow despair to overcome [their] spirit.” In this first case, the sufferor wishes to overcome their pain.

The second form of spiritual death is when an individual has allowed their love for God to diminish to the point that they no longer believe in that which was precious to them (or their ancestors) in the past. In this second case, the afflicted person may not even wish to overcome their alienation, seeing themselves instead as having overcome the superstitions of the past. 1

The four therapeutic skill sets used to treat those in emotional pain are:

  • Learning to tolerate distress
  • Learning to regulate emotions
  • Learning to live in the present (versus obsessing about the past or angsting about the future), and
  • Learning to be effective in interpersonal interactions.

Whether concerned with our own possible spiritual death or attempting to cope with the spiritual death of a loved one, these same skills can help us as we move forward. Continue reading


  1. In this I am influenced by Notre Dame’s recent National Study of Youth and Religion, indicating a majority of those who leave their youthful faith tradition for unbelief are raised in homes where the parents are casual in their belief, homes where the young people themselves report that they have not had significant spiritual experiences. This is also influenced by the Pew Research findings that Mormons who leave their faith tradition are unusually likely to abandon religious belief entirely.

War Room: Prayer as a “Weapon”

Elizabeth Jordan (Priscilla Shirer) with her daughter, Danielle (Alena Pitts)WR_W5_F-74Photo credit: David Whitlow, courtesy of AFFIRM Films/Provident Films

Christian-themed film War Room is a surprise box office success in the slow summer week before the Labor Day holiday, grossing $11M during opening weekend. Predictably, has been panned by traditional reviewers, as represented by an 18% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

The title of the film led me to presume that this was actually a war film, and I likely would have skipped this film had not a good friend been thrilled to see it. War Room is the fifth movie written and produced by Alex and Stephen Kendrick of Kendrick Brothers Productions. Their previous movies include Flywheel (2003), Facing the Giants (2006), Fireproof (2008), and Courageous (2011).

War Room marks the first time the Kendricks feature a cast that is predominantly Black, bringing both great strength and some weakness to the film. The film tells how prayer transforms a family on the verge of collapse. Continue reading

Counsel of Prophets and Hot Coals

A recent post on Wheat and Tares has got me thinking. The post is titled, “Blaming Parents vs. Mourning with Those Who Mourn.”

I know people whose children have left the Church, who did “everything right.” They had scripture study, gospel conversation, family home evening, bore regular testimony, and did all this with love — and despite that, their children left the Church. I also know parents who did not do all of these things — that is, I know for a fact that they did not have family home evening, regular scripture study, and gospel topics were rarely discussed in the home except perhaps over Sunday dinner. And some of their children have also left the Church.

If I were the teacher of the fifth Sunday lesson, here’s what I would want to say. I certainly would follow the Spirit with a prayer in my heart, and I’m sure that, in the moment and facing brothers and sisters who are clearly hurting, I would probably speak these things in gentler ways than I do here, where I am at a distance and in a blog post.
Continue reading

Families Can Be Together Forever

imageThe other day I was in Charlottesville with my husband, celebrating our wedding anniversary. We had good food, had fun shopping, and then we ran into the perfect people.


Amid evening twinkle lights, street musicians, and folks dining al fresco, these enthusiastic folks were having a gerat time, giving out free lemonade and telling people that Families can be Forever.

Last night I had a chance to sit in on a lecture about how we use DNA to discover whether or not we are right when we are forming out family tree. As my friend talked about the research that led them to confirm two individuals were brother, and then to determine that their ancestor, Evey, was the daughter of a family that had somehow failed to document her (insufficient 1800 census and mother who wasn’t at home when she gave birth to that daughter), I was caught up in the excitement of trying to determine the answer. And I felt an echo of the excitement my friend must have felt after all the hundreds of hours of research, seemingly confirmed by DNA, when finally a letter was found, where some chatty relative had taken the time to list what had happened to all the siblings – and this one document, of all the extensive research on this 1800s family, finally listed Evey as the second child in the family and told of her marriage and children. Continue reading

Zina Diantha Huntington Young: Exploring a Confusing Legacy

Zina Huntington 1840After book group this Tuesday, one of my friends mentioned she’d been reading about the various presidents of Relief Society. Knowing of my interest in early Mormon polygamy, my friend said she wanted to talk with me sometime about Zina Diantha Huntington [Jacobs Smith Young], who served as General Relief Society President after the death of Eliza R. Snow.

Zina was one of the first women to covenant with Joseph Smith, one of the few who was told Joseph had only acted because an angel threatened him with a sword. According to other accounts, the angel had appeared to Joseph repeatedly since 1834, but it would only be in 1841 that the angel implied lethal force might occur if obedience to the commandment was not forthcoming.

Following the 1844 death of Joseph Smith, Zina would undergo a uniquely unusual marital shift, leaving the ostensibly faithful/believing father of her children to become the conjugal wife of Brigham Young.

Here is my explanation for why a married and pregnant Zina entered into a covenant marriage with Joseph Smith, and why after Joseph’s death she abandoned her believing husband to become one of the many conjugal wives of Brigham Young. Continue reading