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Nov. 20th, 2013 at 9:40 am
I enjoyed listening to Elder Holland’s “Like a Broken Vessel” talk this conference. He said that when he was a young married man, he suffered from depression. I was glad he confided that about himself. So often we think of our church leaders as invincible and having no problems in their personal lives. We certainly don’t hear about their real life struggles from the pulpit.
Elder Holland’s remarks reminded me of an interesting case in my professional office. I serve a good amount of Amish and Mennonite clients in my homeopathic office. Since they don’t have health insurance as a point of their religious convictions, most Amish/Mennonites are naturally interested in cheaper, less invasive ways to keep healthy. One afternoon I had a woman, her husband and their 3 under school age children in my office. They came because the woman “wasn’t right.” When I asked what her symptoms were, they couldn’t say other than she wasn’t right. I had no idea what they were trying to tell me. I asked my usual battery of questions regarding her sleeping patterns, her digestion, her energy levels. She reported she was tired but that was to be expected since she was the mother of 3 children. I then ran the typical tests that I do for all clients.
After I evaluated the test results, the responses she gave to my questions earlier made sense. I also remembered that most of my Amish and Mennonite clients follow the community tradition of having formal education up to 8th grade and then transitioning to learning a trade for the boys and working at home for the girls. I also recalled that Amish and Mennonites have a religious tenant that forbids them from focusing on the self. They dress alike, keep their homes in within strict boundaries of acceptable decorations and make all improvements to their properties with an eye of function, not fashion. They do not focus on how they feel. It is considered selfish to consider personal goals and desires. True happiness comes from serving your family and community. As a result of this lack of education/self-awareness, this young couple didn’t know the word for depression. All they knew was she “wasn’t right.”
In some ways, I think we as Mormons have the same lack of education and self-awareness. I distinctly remember sitting in a church meeting less than 10 years ago and hearing a speaker say, while pointing to a stack of books next to her, that we have no need to look anywhere else other than the Book of Mormon for answers to our problems. Her presentation bothered me at the time and my irritation about it has only grown over the years. Church members who perpetuate the myth that all of life’s challenges can be met solely within the scriptures and church material are wrong.
Like my Amish clients struggling with a problem they couldn’t define with their limited knowledge, we Mormons have the same tradition of teaching that because we strive to know the will of God, we have no need for earthly support. If you are sad, get busy serving. If you are anxious, relax, trust God and get busy serving. If you can’t get out of bed from exhaustion, keep the Word of Wisdom and get busy serving. Just Do It.
I am very grateful that Elder Holland and others in Church leadership have started breaking the unwritten taboo about acknowledging hard things. I am encouraged that we are finally being honest about life, its struggles and the need we have to cling not only to Heavenly Father but also to each other for help and support. We are not alone in our struggles.