Last weekend at conference, Russell M. Nelson gave a lovely talk about joy. The sentiment of his talk is fine. The is a lot about the world and humanity that need fixing, and sometimes it is hard to pull your eyes away from the negative. I don’t mind the reminder that we are “that we might have joy.”
What I do mind, is that these conversations need to come with disclaimers. Every. Time. I know that there have been careful and empowering talks about mental health at conference. But every time they speak of happiness or joy over the pulpit, and imply that joy and righteousness are linked, someone in the congregation sinks into self-loathing.
“My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”
This is just not always true. For some of us, the focus of our lives has very, very little to do with the joy we are capable of feeling. Depression and anxiety don’t care about your life’s circumstances. It is just as likely that there are times you can’t even point to a reason you are struggling as times that you can. And if these mental health issues are something you are dealing with, the circumstances of your life can play a much more dynamic role than they would otherwise.
The message that we are meant for joy needs to come with the disclaimer that if you struggle with depression and/or anxiety, joy and peace will be invasive for you. And that is not your fault.
“As our Savior becomes more and more real to us and as we plead for His joy to be given to us, our joy will increase.”
This is a personal issue to me because of the years I struggled with this rhetoric. I just spent so much time thinking that if I could draw closer to Christ, if I could better understand the Atonement, if I read the scriptures more often, if I prayed more fervently… That if I could just be better I could feel happy. And I was so ashamed for so long that I couldn’t lift the heaviness on my chest or the constant tightness in my breath. I honestly believed I was lazy, and if I weren’t so lazy, I could do what it takes to be happy. Talks like this one drove home the message that I just simply wasn’t worthy of feeling peace. And if you’re in a dark place, you don’t take the time to remember that one other talk two years ago that gave you hope.
“Every day that you and I choose to live celestial laws, every day that we keep our covenants and help others to do the same, joy will be ours.”
If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, please understand that it is not because you’ve failed to live a celestial law. It is not because you’ve failed to do anything. God-willing, we can all find joy, but don’t let this rhetoric make the darkness heavier for you.
I’m fairly certain Elder Nelson doesn’t have the experience of laying awake at night and wondering where the money will come from to pay for basic living. Not a criticism, just an observation that circumstances can indeed dominate our daily living.
Well said, I work in the mental health care here in Utah, I have lived in USA for over 25 years, I am from Europa and I can not believe how what you just said it is so right! Particularly this “church rhetoric way” to “imply gilt” to people as the responsible of their joy if not “following the commandments”, has cause that Utah is at the top of the States in USA with more mental health issues: depression, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, etc… Instead to ” preach” so much about the “WHAT” to do, the “multi-billionary church” should PROBIDE the comprehensive “tools that HEAL”: therapist, medical/ social/economical resources that helps ” individually to those in need. It is easy to “talk” about the “WHAT” (and be paid for it) but why they do not PAY to people that are going to work in the HOW to do it. This is where we need to invest the money of “tithings”of the members of thw church (churches)creating the jobs that we need the human beings, not using the tithings for ” the dead” :Genealogy, temples for the dead,hundres of chapels that are CLOSE 90% of the week while we have the highest rate of youth homeless , dying homeless, etc.we (members of the church) need to start “the profecy on D&C 112 about the he dispensation of times when the Lord is going to start by ” cleaning the corruption” from inside of His church first from the TOP. Interesting that Utah is the first and only state that has created “white collar offenders registry” (like sex offenders), because how many people in Utah has Ben scam with the escuse of being Mormons
I have also noticed that the leaders encourage members to use LDS Family Services, who very often, then share the information with the leaders without the permission of the patient. Very messed up.
Great response, Leah Marie. Especially Elder Ballard’s first statement that you quote, wow. That’s just such baloney. I mean, I’m sure it’s comforting if you’re in a comfortable place to be able to blame other people who have more difficult lives for not having more joy, but that’s just not true that joy has “very little” to do with circumstances.