Are Mormons Stressed Out?

[The following is a guest post written by a friend of Mormonism Research Ministry – a former Mormon who wishes to remain anonymous to keep family peace.]

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Two recent Gallup polls have disclosed an odd disparity in the State of Utah, home of the Mormon Church. One poll reports that the citizens of the Provo-Orem area (home of the Church’s flagship university, BYU) have the best “well-being” in the Nation, while another reports that Utah is one of the four most stressed states in the Nation.  How can this be?

C1657Well, on closer examination it turns out that in the “well-being” poll, the Provo-Orem area scores high on having a non-smoking populace, certainly a benefit of adherence to the Mormon health laws; however, the area does not score that high in other areas of well-being. And Salt Lake City, the Church’s headquarters, does not score high at all.

However, in the “most-stressed” poll, the results are more consistent. In response to the question, “Did you experience [stress] during a lot of the day yesterday?” a total of 44.6 percent of Utahans answered “yes” to the question, ranking Utah behind only West Virginia (47.1 percent), Rhode Island (46.3 percent), and Kentucky (44.8 percent). (Salt Lake Tribune, Tuesday, May 6, 2014.)

Why so much stress in Utah? One possibility: Nothing breeds stress like internal conflict, and Mormons have plenty of that.

Even the Brethren running the Church’s flagship university, BYU, have tied stress among the Mormons to the Church’s intimidation and denial of its own history. The Spring 2014 issue of BYU Magazine warns:

“Latter-day Saints have experienced crises of faith throughout the history of the Church, but the number of those asking hard questions or finding themselves in faith crisis has increased with the advent of the Internet.” (“Keeping the Faith,” p. 22)

Mormons are faced with two mandates from their leaders that are sure to create inner stress. According to two LDS leaders – Apostles Boyd K. Packer and Dallin Oaks – Mormons are required to conceal “advanced” Church history and doctrines, and accommodate a history of lying by Church leaders about Joseph Smith’s polygamy with teenage girls and the wives of other men, as well as new authorized polygamous marriages after the 1890 Manifesto prohibiting such marriages.

Packer, currently President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and next in line to succeed the current Prophet, has in contemporary times continued the practice of concealing “advanced” Church history and doctrines, cautioning members of the Church:

“That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weakness and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith—particularly one within the Church…places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master, and unless he repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities. One who chooses to follow the tenets of his profession [that is, accurately describing Church history], regardless of how they may injure the Church or destroy the faith of those not ready for ‘advanced history,’ is himself in spiritual jeopardy. If that one is a member of the Church, he has broken his covenants and will be accountable.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect,” 1981, BYU Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 259-271; emphasis mine)

PackerOaks2011

LDS Apostles Boyd Packer and Dallin Oaks, 2011

Concealing LDS history and doctrines evidently comes under the heading of “lying for the Lord,” according to Elder Oaks:

“Some have suggested that it is morally permissible to lie to promote a good cause. For example, some Mormons have taught or implied that lying is okay if you are lying for the Lord. As far as concerns our own church and culture, the most common allegations of lying for the Lord swirl around the initiation, practice, and discontinuance of polygamy…” (Apostle Dallin H. Oaks, “Gospel Teachings about Lying,” fireside address to faculty, students, and alumni of BYU on September 12, 1993; emphasis mine)

Elder Oaks discreetly neglects to mention that those responsible for the initiation and continuation of the practice were, and are, LDS Church leaders, from the Prophet Joseph Smith and his apostles to current Church prophets and apostles. Oaks went on to admit that the Prophet Joseph secretly practiced polygamy and lied to church members about it:

“It is clear from the record of history that Joseph Smith [secretly] introduced the doctrine and practice of polygamy to a select few in the 1830s and 1840s, but it [the doctrine of polygamy] was not announced publicly by the Church until the revelation was read aloud at a Church conference in Salt Lake City in 1852 [ten years later].”

Although the doctrine of polygamy was publicly introduced to the Church in 1852, Apostle Oaks’ admission that the Prophet Joseph had secretly practiced it in the 1830s stunned Church members in 1993, and even today the Prophet Joseph’s many wives – including 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball and the wives of other men – are considered “advanced history” and are not to be openly discussed by Mormons. Ironically, in spite of the Church’s efforts to intimidate members and suppress the facts, these facts can now be easily researched by Mormons and others on an objective Internet website, Wikipedia (see here and here.)

Elder Oaks further admitted during the fireside that senior Church leaders had continued to secretly authorize polygamous weddings long after the 1890 Official Manifesto that formally outlawed the practice, notwithstanding their public denials at the time.

“It is also clear that polygamy did not end suddenly with the 1890 Manifesto. … The performance of polygamous marriages also continued for a time outside the United States… It appears that polygamous marriages also continued for about a decade in some other areas among leaders and members…” (emphasis mine)

Here, too, the truth is now available on the Internet for all to see, denials from Mormons notwithstanding, and again from an objective source. 
Those post-1890 Manifesto polygamous marriages authorized by the most senior Church apostles are also considered to be “advanced history” and are not to be openly discussed among Mormons. In other words, Mormons are expected to “lie for the Lord” (without calling it that) and deny it ever happened, lest they fall under condemnation by Elder Packer.

Or, as Apostle Russell M. Nelson more politely warned in 1986:

“Indeed, in some instances, the merciful companion to truth is silence. Some truths are best left unsaid… Any who are tempted to rake through the annals of history… to dig up ‘facts’… should hearken to this warning of scripture.” (Russell M. Nelson, “Truth–and More,” Ensign, Jan. 1986, p. 69)

He then quoted Romans 1:17-18 — a threat to the ungodly to beware the wrath of God.

Is it any wonder Mormons are stressed out?

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

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18 Responses to Are Mormons Stressed Out?

  1. Tom says:

    Milk before meat. Advanced history. Line upon line. Don’t disclose everything (as a proselytizing missionary in Germany) lest you overwhelm your investigators. If you give them more than they can handle, they will be condemned by what they now know but cannot deal with. It is okay, therefore, to obfuscate, to lie, in order to protect them, the Church, and yourself. This lying for the Lord is so systemic within Mormonism that it becomes second nature. No, FIRST nature. Since coming out of Mormonism after 45+ years as an active, endowed, REM, married-in-the-temple, covenant keeping, blah, blah, blah Mormon, I am reminded almost daily the extent to which and the ease with which I am a liar. Can the fact that I am such a liar be placed solely at the feet of Mormonism? No, of course not. But Mormonism provided the fertilizer and soil that nurtured and matured my lying spirit, of this I am convinced. Mormonism isn’t merely of the Devil; it is the Devil.

  2. falcon says:

    This is not a healthy religious sect. The LDS church has totally flipped honesty and integrity with lying and deceit. That’s a characteristic of a sick organization. But, as has been pointed out, it becomes the norm. So lying and deceit aren’t seen for what they are but actually become acceptable and moral.
    It’s good to keep truth from people because if they knew the truth then they wouldn’t join the church or if they are members might leave. This would them cast them into spiritual jeopardy. WHAT?
    Yea that’s right. The LDS church is “true” even if it takes obfuscation, out right lying, and creative story telling to design the “truth”. It’s a created reality.
    Well since it’s a created reality, let’s just consider the penalty for not accepting and/or rejecting the creation, to be null and void.
    It’s Alice Through the Looking Glass with appearances by Snow White and her friends the Seven Dwarfs.
    No wonder these LDS folks are stressed out. It takes a lot of effort to keep the ruse going.

  3. MJP says:

    I read Oakes’ address to BYU back in 1993. Its a fascinating piece of legal mental gymnastics. The logic goes something like this:

    Lying bad, but there are times when lying is OK to help someone understand. Lying still bad, but one is not required to tell the whole truth and is allowed to withhold information. Withholding information when there is a duty to disclose is bad, but there is no talk of when a Mormon has a duty to disclose.

    Now, one might infer, therefore, that withholding truths about LDS history or doctrine is always appropriate given that sometimes these truths can get in the way of one’s understanding of LDS history and doctrine. Oakes did not discuss when there is a duty to reveal these things. He does say that disclosure is required when it is relevant to the discussion, but when is that, according to the Mormon? That is left unanswered.

    He really provided nothing of use to the discussion or telling the truth in Mormonism. Sure, he said they have to tell the truth, but he never tells us when they have to tell the truth.

    Relating this to the article, I can appreciate how holding back on the truth can be stressful, especially when asked directly to reveal it.

  4. falcon says:

    Funny what a little google search for “mormon women stress” will lead you to. I learned a lot from my little search.

    Things Mormon women can do to reduce stress
    By Sharon Haddock, For the Deseret News

    “The over-scheduled, over-involved and over-whelmed Mormon woman
    needs to do two things to de-stress, said two speakers at the recent
    Women’s Conference at BYU: simply life and ask for God’s help.
    (Sarah) Westerberg said strategies that work for her include getting organized,
    exercising, reducing and simplifying, giving herself a break, looking at
    things realistically and resisting the tendency to compare herself to
    others.She also stressed asking for a priesthood blessing as needed, making
    peace with the Lord’s will, praying constantly and serving others.”

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705378045/Things-Mormon-women-can-do-to-reduce-stress.html?pg=all

    And then we find a term that I’d never heard; “correlated Mormon”. What in the world is that? And what is an “uncorrelated Mormon? It seems being uncorrelated is less stressful than being correlated. What is this some sort of mental/emotional circumcision or un-circumcision?

    “There is a relationship between accepting and incorporating the correlated Mormon system and personal stress. The stress of having to be innately superior (and humble) at all times is difficult. Those persons who buy into the system the most and work the hardest to become shining examples of what it means tend to become stressed out, overwhelmed and feel that their efforts are never good enough. This can lead to illness, depression and other health problems. This seems to be true for men and women.”
    “There is another myth in correlated Mormonism. It is almost always unspoken but nevertheless present and real. This is that it is possible for one to become “God-like”. If the correlated Mormon system is the only true system, if correlated Mormons (especially males) are innately superior, if they know and understand everything (within the system), and if they can be totally logical, rational and objective, then they can be God – at least, the way the correlated Mormon system defines God. Being a deity is not easy though. In fact, it can be difficult for superior-feeling correlated Mormons to deny their own humanity and fallibility. The desire to control others (even if out of “love”) and to be perfect yourself (overworked) can cause stress and strain. Correlated Mormons who finally achieve such high stature in their own minds can suffer from health issues. In the end, “godhood” can cause unnecessary suffering.”

    http://questions4mormons.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/why-mormons-can-feel-so-overwhelmed-and-stressed-out/

  5. falcon says:

    I never gave much thought to the idea that perhaps some Mormons are under stress because they know they aren’t being truthful and honest with people regarding Mormon beliefs.
    But here’s the thing. My guess is that there are a lot of different types of Mormons out there some who are totally in the dark about Mormon history and doctrine. I just watched a video, actually a program Earl Erskine does, and the man said that it wasn’t until he came home from his mission and started studying Mormonism in earnest that he learned about the god-maker doctrine.
    That sort of blew me away. I couldn’t imagine someone growing up in the LDS church, serving a mission and not knowing this. I guess he hadn’t drank enough milk and hadn’t been ready for meat. Interestingly, I believe he found this out on his own.
    So I’m sure there is a lot of sources of potential stress for LDS members. Trying to be perfect and always striving to achieve some seeming unattainable level of religious success would certainly be a stress producer.
    God’s grace is not a stress producer. It’s a stress eliminator. One of the most difficult things for a Mormon to come to grips with is that as Christians we are saved by grace for works that God has planned for us. The works don’t save us. The works are the result of our new life in Christ. It’s the things we do because we have been born again by the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus. Our life changes. Works are the result. They don’t gain us anything. There is nothing to earn. Salvation is a free gift God offers us through His grace and which we receive by faith.

  6. Kate says:

    I personally don’t know a Mormon who is stressed out over lying for The Lord or troubling history. Not that there aren’t any secretly struggling with this that I’m not aware of. Most LDS that I know personally are extremely brainwashed and indoctrinated (I was one of these).

    My friend’s non LDS teenage daughter started dating a LDS boy who is about to leave on his mission. He kept pushing the BoM on her, she asked me what to do and I told her to have him compare the 1830 edition with the current edition, 1st Nephi chapter 11 for starters, then ask him which one is the truth. He got angry with her and wouldn’t compare the two, claiming they are exactly the same.

    The stress I see comes from 6-10 kids, church callings, many families where I live have full time jobs and full time farms, bills, grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking, cleaning, add in sports for every kid, school activities, ballet lessons, piano lessons, karate, etc. every kid must be involved in absolutely everything! Add in dental appointments, unexpected injuries and illnesses with that added financial burden and who wouldn’t be stressed out???? Mormons are supposed to be happy and upbeat always, so just medicate it and move on, because somehow it’s your own fault if you can’t hack it! You need a blessing to help you, pray more, study the scriptures more, you aren’t doing it right! I’m so glad I am off the hamster wheel!

    Being a Christian hasn’t changed the demands of everyday life for me. My kids are now grown and that brings a different kind of stress. We have a special needs son who’s medical problems are still part of everyday life, we still have stress, but the difference is, I rest in Jesus. He doesn’t add to my burden, when I pray He comforts, He doesn’t tell me I must do more or I’m not doing it right. I love 1 Peter 5:7 that tells me to ” cast my cares”. There really is freedom in Him.

  7. MJP says:

    I imagine on a practical level you guys are correct that the stress comes from every day life and all the demands on families, coupled with high expectations.

    From this, none are really immune. However, as Christians we have a peace in all we do. Stress gets to us, too, but God gives us a peace about our lives that may be absent in Mormonism. I don’t know for sure, but it seems the LDS church wants them moving about…

  8. Kate says:

    MJP,
    I think the difference in stress level comes from having church callings and 6-10 kids. Most LDS have large families, it’s their duty to bring as many kids into the world as they can. I only have 3 kids and life has been stressful enough, I can’t imagine 6-10, I’d be a basket case lol! When you are trying to help all of those kids with homework every night, getting them to and from activities and ball games, it’s got to be hectic. Cooking for a small army day in and day out would be stressful and laundry for 8-12 people would do me in! A lot of LDS women have jobs to help make ends meet so poor mom has a huge responsibility after work, especially if dad is in a church calling where he is gone several nights a week. Dad can be the one with the responsibility if mom is in a church calling and is gone several nights a week. For a church that focuses on families it sure puts a strain on those families with callings that keep parents busy.

  9. MJP says:

    I’m busy enough with two, and my wife has more of the brunt of the responsibilities.

    I know an LDS family with 7 kids, mom finishing her teaching degree and dad starting his 3rd year of law school. Our kids go to the same school, a charter school which is notorious for the amount of homework.

    Insane.

  10. johnnyboy says:

    @tom

    I totally forgot the “they will be condemned if you give them too much info”!

    Such classic mormon control techniques. Man, SO glad I got out before my kids got deeper into this line of brainwashing.

    Cheers to you for getting out!

  11. falcon says:

    Perhaps one of our former Mormon posters could expand on this idea that certain types of LDS are more inclined to stress as a result of their commitment to the LDS sect.
    I don’t know if lying is a stresser for the truly committed LDS. Lying is justified and even an honored practice for TBMs. The stress for the TBM is constantly chasing their tail and wondering if they are doing enough to earn godhood.
    But there are a lot of different types of Mormons and there are geographic culture differences. I’ve always wondered what kind of pressure local ward leaders can put on people who are just not that into the Mormon program? If a member is passive-aggressive about all the leaders can do is try to guilt them into being more committed.
    I’ve heard that “inactive” members are a real problem for those in ward leadership. So obviously, those who are “inactive”, aren’t under a lot of stress because they don’t care.

  12. merrick says:

    Falcon,

    The issue about “being more inclined to stress as a result of their commitment to the LDS sect,” is based, in my opinion, on the duty to please men rather than God. You constantly have to prove your worthiness in bishop’s interviews like tithing settlement, not to mention you feel like you are constantly being watched by the leadership. I honestly believed growing up that a member of the twelve could see right into my soul and know everything. I was a very active, temple recommend holding member too. There is such PRESSURE to follow the leadership because we honestly believed that they were the conduit for God’s revelation for us, even down to the local authorities.

    An example of this in my own life – just 3 years ago when I was still LDS, I met with my bishop to ask his guidance and help because my husband of 20 years was very ill and in a hospital suffering from a severe mental illness. He had been there for a few months, but prior to that time, he was the amazing husband and father I adored. What was his counsel and comforting advice? It was to divorce him because he didn’t think he would ever get better and it was time for me to move on. I sat there sobbing and trying to explain to him that this was my beloved spouse, and I didn’t want to give up on him, but to no avail.

    Needless to say, I called him the next morning and told him that I would not be following his advice and that I was choosing to hold out hope. He at that point was in support of my decision. Fast forward to today and we are a happy, HEALED, family. Only Jesus could have done that. If I had listened to a man – I would be divorced. How sad that so many Mormons feel a greater desire to follow their leaders blindly and not give God Himself a second thought half the time.

  13. falcon says:

    merrick,
    What a hook these guys have into those who follow them. It’s almost like the loyal member is “out-sourcing” their “agency”. We all know what a big deal “agency” is in Mormonism but it would seem that as you explained it, “agency” has its limitations. Members are expected to follow the leaders blindly. This is not free will. It is not healthy. Besides that, these Mormon bishops really don’t have any training to assist people with their personal life challenges.

    LDS are also under the impression that Jesus has appeared to their top leaders. That claim by leadership has been tweaked now days to say not that they have witnessed Jesus but that they have a witness of Jesus. Quite a difference and not all that different from what anyone could claim.

  14. falcon says:

    I would think another avenue of stress among Mormons comes when cracks begin to develop in the belief system and doubts as to the truthfulness of Mormonism start to flow out of the dam.
    We have several posters here who are former Mormons and the stories they tell of the emotional upheaval they went through on the way out of the sect are compelling. I can’t imagine the stress of finding out that everything you’ve been taught, believed in and practiced is a lie. Not only is there spiritual stress but also cultural and social stress. Not a fun process.
    But the good news is the relief that comes when issues begin to be resolved and a new way of thinking develops.
    From the vault of golden oldies is a MC article that addresses the “ah-ha” moments of those in transition. It’s worth the time to read the article and watch the video.

    http://blog.mrm.org/2013/07/cracks-in-the-mormon-dam/comment-page-1/

  15. falcon says:

    One of the things that I’ve learned in reading the post of former Mormons is that their leaving Mormonism/LDS church caused a lot of stress for their families. Some of these posters continue to witness stress in their families as an on-going basis.
    Their parents feel like failures and can’t understand how their child could possible leave the one true church. They can’t understand how they could give up so much that the LDS church is offering them including becoming gods and goddesses and living with their families forever. It’s beyond the parents understanding how anyone could walk away and face Outer Darkness and be a Child of Perdition.
    This causes stress.

  16. Mike R says:

    I think that this issue can help investigators consider a very important point , which is, that
    Mormons are no better than anyone one else , the Mormon system is not the answer . Also , the
    Mormon gospel is not what it claims to be . Autocratic type religious organizations like
    Mormonism put much pressure on members to be worthy by working to ” qualify ” for God’s
    acceptance and receive eternal life with Him above .

    It’s also troubling the way Mormon leaders have not been forthright about aspects of Mormon
    history , and even how they deem their flock unworthy to know how much financial
    earnings they receive as church officials . The Mormon people deserve better treatment .

    I think Kate sums up what Mormon leaders have created as their church system —-
    it ‘s a hamster wheel .

  17. falcon says:

    Well here are a couple of Mormons who I’d guess are under some stress.

    “The New York Times has learned that John Dehlin, host of the Mormon Stories podcast, and Kate Kelly, founder of the Ordain Women organization, have been summoned to church courts in their respective stakes. Kate Kelly, John Dehlin
    Dehlin, in addition to his podcast that sometimes discusses challenging issues, has been outspoken in his support of same-gender marriage and broader inclusion of gays. As Laurie Goodstein, the Times author notes, this is a change of course for the church, which has strived in recent years to project a more inclusive image following intense criticism after the church supported anti-gay (and anti-ERA) initiatives in several states, most prominently in California.”

  18. Kate says:

    Falcon,
    Kate Kelly has been plastered all over our news. I was reading comments on Facebook under the KUTV news article yesterday and I was sad for her. Mormons are yelling “Good! Excommunicate her!” and “It’s about time they excommunicate her! ” Mormons are some of the most hateful people sometimes. Whatever happened to loving your neighbor?

    Honestly I’m surprised John Dehlin hasn’t been called for a court of love before now. It’s sad because he truly has been trying to help members understand why some of us become ex members. He’s been honest and has interviewed people on both sides. I think his support for same gender marriage is just an excuse for the leaders of the church to excommunicate him, what LDS person is going to listen to anyone who has been excommunicated? Discredit the messenger at all costs, we see that from LDS posters here all the time, must be a Mormon thing.

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