Saturday, October 05, 2013

Elders Uchtdorf and Holland on doubt and mental illness

Excerpts of Uchtdorf urges questioning Mormons to return by Peggy Fletcher Stake, Salt Lake Tribune
It is wrong to assume that Mormons who leave the faith "have been offended or lazy or sinful," a top leader told members Saturday during the LDS Church's 183rd Semiannual General Conference.

"It is not that simple," said Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the LDS Church's governing First Presidency.

Some struggle with "unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past," Uchtdorf explained. "We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of church history — along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable and divine events — there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question."

"To be perfectly frank," Uchtdorf said, "there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles or doctrine."

God is perfect and his doctrine is pure, he said, but human beings — including LDS leaders — are not.

In the afternoon, LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland tackled a difficult issue: "major depressive disorder," commonly called depression.

"I am not speaking of bad hair days, tax deadlines or other discouraging moments we all have," Holland said. "I am speaking of something more serious, of an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person's ability to function fully, a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively."

The apostle acknowledged that he suffered from depression himself as a young father.

"When financial fears collided with staggering fatigue, I took a psychic blow that was as unanticipated as it was real," Holland said. "With the grace of God and the love of my family, I kept functioning and kept working, but even after all these years, I continue to feel a deep sympathy for others more chronically or more deeply afflicted with such gloom than I was."

He mentioned George Albert Smith, who suffered from recurring depression for years as an apostle.

Holland encouraged members with depression to get professional help.

" ... If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So, too, with emotional disorders," he said. "Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts he has provided in this glorious dispensation."

The rest of us, he said, "can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental and kind."

In a morning speech, Carole M. Stephens, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, said LDS men and women are equally endowed with God's power during Mormon temple ceremonies and both have a divine destiny. But, she added, they have "different gifts and different strengths."

Men exercise the priesthood and receive the power and blessings of the priesthood, said Stephens, who became the second woman to pray in an LDS General Conference in April, while women "receive the power and blessings of the priesthood."

In closing his sermon, Uchtdorf, dubbed by several Mormon commenters as "our Pope Francis," urged those who have left the LDS faith to come back, even with their doubts.

"It's natural to have questions — the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding," he said. "There are few members of the church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions."

Other may feel like misfits in the Mormon community.

"If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose," Uchtdorf said. "You might be surprised to find that we have yearnings and struggles and hopes similar to yours. Your background or upbringing may seem different from what you perceive in many Latter-day Saints, but that could be a blessing. ... We need your unique talents and perspectives."

Regardless of one's circumstances, personal history or strength of faith, he said, "there is room for you in this church."

Carol F. McConkie, first counselor in the Young Women's general presidency, offered the benediction Saturday afternoon, becoming the third woman to pray at LDS General Conference. The first two female conference prayers were given at the April gathering.