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|When You Just Can’t Do it|
Jan. 28th, 2012 at 8:40 pm
As I read Annegb’s recent article about rethinking President George Albert Smith’s health situation, I did the Mormon thing and likened it unto myself. I thought about my health issues of the last few years (mysterious severe anemia without identified cause) and can tell you exactly how my physical illness has affected my energy and spirituality.
Unlike Pres. Smith, I haven’t been always been able to rise above my physical symptoms of exhaustion to fulfill church responsibilities. I requested releases from callings and stopped volunteering for extra duties. The Relief Society Pres. questioned my need to be released because “…lots of people have health issues and manage to keep their callings.” (I took secret delight in calling her first every time I ended up in the hospital.)
I stopped pressuring myself and my family about reading scriptures, family prayer, etc. I just didn’t have the energy to care. At times I wondered if I was depressed because I didn’t want to be around people. I also didn’t think dying would be a terrible thing. I wasn’t diagnosed with depression and never took medication for it.
When I feel physically good I have the ability to think about spiritual things and enjoy it. When my iron levels drop dangerously low, I couldn’t care less about most things.
Recently our Bishop was released after serving our ward intensely for five years. He wasn’t a touchy-feely personality and many families in the ward didn’t care for his formal style. I just accepted that he was good at organizational stuff and didn’t expect help with anything emotionally deeper than the ward cleaning schedule.
The last few months of his service he missed a lot of church meetings due to his employment. He looked exhausted and seemed even more emotionally detached than normal, which was saying a lot. A couple of months after his release, he and his family disappeared from church. The word leaked out that they have left the church. They changed their phone number, deleted ward members from their Facebook pages. Their daughter came home from an LDS college and broke off her temple engagement to a returned missionary. The rumor is his wife was offended by something someone said and the Bishop is standing by her.
I didn’t know them well enough to talk to them about it. They were not an easy couple to get to know. What I do know, based on my own struggles, is that when I am physically exhausted I do not have the energy to do anything that is difficult. I can easily see how serving as Bishop would suck the life right out of a person. I am not condemning this family for their choice. Hopefully, with some time and space, they will find the ability to come back.
I wonder how many people are like me or my old Bishop. How many people have left the church not because they had a crisis of faith, but because they physically couldn’t do it? How many of us continue in the church, limping along, feeling guilty because we aren’t doing a myriad of gospel things and condemning ourselves for our faithlessness? Maybe faith has nothing to do with it. Maybe it is as simple as you have severe anemia or sleep apnea or chronic migraines or whatever physical weakness pulls you down.
I am learning to appreciate those who manage to serve at high levels in spite of physical ills, like Pres. George Albert Smith. I am also learning not to condemn those who can’t.