Mormons and Mental Illness: The Gender of Addiction

There are ghettos in Mormon discourse. There is the ghetto of pornography and addiction where men alone reside and there is the ghetto reserved for the women. Illustratively, talks about addiction are given in the Priesthood Session of General Conference. The women’s quarter is a discourse on self-esteem and depression. Perhaps, these districts are not as disparate as would be suggested by our rhetoric and we might better understand LDS women’s challenges through their relation to addictive behaviours.

This ghettoizing is disturbingly manifest at the Social and Emotional Strength section of articles, for women or written by them. Why is self-esteem/self-worth such a gendered issue in the Church? Is this the dark corner in which female addiction hides? There are signs that the tide is turning in view of Elder Holland’s most recent talk. But for the most part, I think we are missing the boat when we ask if Mormon women are more depressed than other women instead of are they more vulnerable to an addiction to appearing perfect? It makes me wonder if we are hacking at the leaves instead of striking at the root.

While it has been hotly debated since the late 1970’s (1), Mormon women do not have rates of depression higher than that of the general population. According to Andrea Radke who wrote The Place of Mormon Women: Perceptions, Prozac, Polygamy, Priesthood, Patriarchy, and Peace:

…qualitative studies have demonstrated that Mormon women do not suffer from depression on any significantly greater level than their national counterparts. No study has successfully shown that Mormon women have a higher rate of anti-depressant use than other women. Any assessment of life satisfaction needs to reject monolithic representations of Mormon women’s so-called tendency to depression, and instead reflect diverse factors such as age, education, genetics and access to counseling services and support networks.

This is not to say that Mormon women don’t have challenges. In an essay called, “Seeking Improvement, Not Perfection” Lowell Bennion remembers:

One evening at the close of a fireside, a young mother came to me and said: “I am supposed to be a perfect wife, a perfect mother, a perfect neighbor, homemaker and church worker; and I am none of these. What am I to do? I’m frustrated.” I said to her, “Don’t try to be perfect in this life. Be a good mother, a cheerful wife, a reasonably good housekeeper, a conscientious church worker….[A] reason why it is unwise to seek perfection is that we are bound to fail…This leaves us with a sense of guilt, a burden of shame and disappointment. A certain amount of remorse is good for us. It may lead to an admission of wrongdoing and repentance; but too much can enervate and discourage us, as illustrated by the remarks of the young mother at the fireside.

I suspect that it is an addiction to, or more appropriately, an obsession with the relentless pursuit of perfection that lies at the heart of much of the anxiety experienced by Mormon women.

Marleen Williams (1999), assistant clinical professor at the counseling center at Brigham Young University, examined the relationship of religious orientation, traditional family role values, and perfectionism to depression for both a LDS group and a mainline Protestant group of women. No significant differences existed in the level of depression in the LDS or Protestant groups; however, perfectionism was related to depression in both groups. In response to the question, “How do you feel your religion affects your happiness and mental well-being?” subjects offered insight into their feelings. Religious issues appeared to play a more prominent role for Mormon women than for Protestants who are mildly depressed. Notably, areas of effect were support and judgment from others, the ability to set priorities and make decisions when value conflicts exist, the need for approval and to “look good,” self-blame, and in taking responsibility for others’ behavior.

These researchers suggest that the Mormon cultural emphasis on striving for perfection causes women who experience high levels of shame and guilt to feel inadequate and unworthy, which, in turn, may lead to depression. Consequently, while there are characteristics of Mormon women who are depressed that are similar to women who are depressed in the population at large, there is also a unique interaction of these characteristics and the LDS culture.

One mental health organization declares that perfectionism is not a healthy pursuit of excellence. There are big differences between perfectionists and healthy achievers. Perfectionists believe that mistakes must never be made and that the highest standards of performance must always be achieved. Those who strive for excellence in a healthy way take genuine pleasure in trying to meet high standards. Perfectionists on the other hand are full of self-doubts and fears of disapproval, ridicule and rejection. The healthy striver has drive, while the perfectionist is driven. Perfectionists are likely to experience decreased productivity, impaired health, troubled interpersonal relationships, and low self-esteem. Perfectionists are vulnerable to depression, anxiety, obsessiveness, compulsiveness, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, frustration, and anger.

This quest for perfection is possibly the source of the distinct mental health issues experienced by Mormon women. This link between addiction to perfectionism and depression, eating disorders and co-dependency is made most explicitly in He Did Deliver Me From Bondage, an adaptation of the A.A. Twelve Step program using LDS theology and scriptures.

Church discourse is polarized. Men reside in a narrative of addiction while women reside in the area of esteem. While women do not suffer from depression at higher rates than the population in general, perhaps the unique challenges of Mormon women may be assuaged by crossing the boundaries that exist in our discourse.

  1. Bergin, Payne, Jenkins, & Cornwall, 1994; Jensen, Jensen, & Wiederhold, 1993; Johnson, 2004; Spendlove, 1982; Spendlove et al., 1984; Williams, 1999.


  1. I think women can become addicted to much of anything, the same as men, although it may sometimes be for different, not reasons, but begun through a different view than the man beginning such a thing.

    But the pursuit of perfection . . . I suppose that would be an onus on the men as well, to be the provider, upstanding priesthood holder, perfect home teaching stats (I think possibly more pressure on men for this than on women for perfect VT, but I admit I could and probably are completely wrong. LOL.). To be the perfect father and even the perfect producer of numbers of children, sometimes (hope that doesn’t sidetrack the discussion, although women are judged there as well, of course).

    Anyway, I think since men SEEM more stoic, and seem to by nature keep more inside than women, that perhaps we don’t perceive as much their struggles with these pressures.

    Ack. It sound like I’m trying to disagree with you and/or promote the other side as also having the same problems.

    Rather, I’m just kinda thinking “out loud”; thinking as I type. It just kind of ocurred to me to try to see things through a man’s eyes, for a minute, I don’t know why.

    Anyway, the perfectionist pressures that are exerted, consciouly or not, aggressively or passively, by other women, and on women, let alone every one else, are a huge, huge problem. I guess I’m kind of repeating you, there.

    I do wish that addictions of many traditional and non-traditional-seeming kinds would be more recognized among women, and women not treated more . . . shamefully than men for the same “offense”. I think there’s a double standard there as well.

    Well shoot. I don’t know if I really have anything of use to say! But I’ll say it anyway, I guess.

  2. I’m reading The Perfectionist, by Rudolph Chelminski, about Bernard Loiseau, the most famous chef in France, who took his own life in 2003. He apparently had it all, but fell prey to insecurities and sensitivity to criticism and the pressure to maintain almost impossible standards.

  3. I’ve been surprised by the number of adult women in the church who were sexually abused as children. The ones I know are converts. I think any discussion of depression and low self-esteem among women in the church should also include the issue of sexual abuse. Going just by the women I’ve known it seems there is a high correlation between lifelong obesity (not counting obesity that starts later in life) and those who were sexually abused as minors. Show me 10 women who were obese by age 25, and I’ll show you 8 or 9 sexual abuse victims.

    Have any studies been done to see if the church attracts, as converts, a disproportionate number of adult survivors of child abuse?

    [Anon: we would love to see some data for this assertion — BCC editors]

  4. Incidentally, it seems that the Church is starting to talk about sexual addiction much differently, as of late. My last stake president flat-out told the congregation in the adult session of stake conference that there wasn’t any moral difference between a guy oggling certain magazines, and a woman reading a romance novel. He said they’re both porn.

    I happen to know that he received a lot of his direction on that matter from the regional leadership. So I don’t think the dialogue is simply addiction for men, and perfectionism for women.

    Furthermore, that same stake president mentioned that one of the next big issues on “the brethren’s” agenda is eating disorders. So the Church seems to be stepping up to the problem of perfectionism in our young women as well.

    I think too often, that we debate, discuss, and sometimes attack Church trends that are more representative of the 1980s and 90s than of today. I think you’ll find that the Church leadership is one step ahead of us more often than you’d think.

  5. I wonder what consequences this ghettoization has for men. Do men in the church have self esteem problems that are being neglected or maybe even exacerbated by focusing on addiction and not so much on self-worth? It’s an important question because I think low self esteem can manifest itself as a tendency toward addicitive, unhealthy (morally and otherwise) behaviors.

  6. Julie M. Smith says:

    Great post.

    First you should know that as someone who doesn’t struggle with self-esteem issues, I am sick and tired of all of the “You’re doing better than you think!” rhetoric aimed at women. I want to be challenged to do better.

    But–if you knew that the majority of the audience (male or female) was struggling with a certain issue, it is borderline irresponsible to NOT address that issue. So I am, in the final analysis, uncomfortable condemning this gender divide in Church counsel (even though I, personally, don’t like or need the message directed at women) because I recognize that they are called to help those who need it.

  7. He said it in the context of missionary work but Elder Bednar’s remarks last conference on becoming rather than doing could and should be very useful to LDS who are constantly measuring themselves against a to do list and finding themselves behind.

    Here is the link.

  8. Last Lemming says:

    Furthermore, that same stake president mentioned that one of the next big issues on “the brethren’s” agenda is eating disorders.

    This is certainly needed, but I just hope they know how to address it helpfully. If they address it like they have pornography–“Sisters, throwing up after every meal is vile and disgusting. If you’re doing it, just stop.”–it will do more harm than good.

    On the more general topic, I don’t think there is necessarily any difference in the conditions underlying addiction and low self-esteem. It’s just that addicts are self-medicating, which may hide their esteem problems. Whether men are more likely to self-medicate, I can’t say (particularly if you count romance novels as a form of self-medication).

  9. Addictions generally do relate to a lack of self-worth, feelings of isolation, undue concern about the approval of others, and perfectionism.

    I wish the King James translators had selected one of the alternate translations for the Greek word they translated as “perfect”, in the phrase “be ye therefore perfect,” an alternate word such as “whole” or “complete”.

    In my judgment, being a “healthy achiever” is the type of perfection, completeness, wholeness, to which Jesus calls us.

  10. Seth, When your Stake President mentioned eating disorders, he probably wasn’t referring to anorexia and bulimia, or at least he wasn’t limiting the comment to just those.

    The most common eating disorder in the church is over-eating to the point of obesity. Mormons are generally a FAT people. Over-eating for pleasure to the point of morbid obesity is self-abuse, and there is a sexual-related component of eating for pleasure.

    I’ve often heard obese women talk about and drool over chocolate, fudge and other rich foods in a sexual tone of voice much like a hormone-crazed teenage boy talks about and drools over the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. It is disturbingly similar.

    One of the rumors I heard, and the repeater of this rumor claimed it came from The Brethren, is that eventually morbid obesity without a valid medical excuse will keep someone out of the temple.

    Many obese parents, especially mothers, pass along their unhealthy eating habits to their children. The mother’s over-eating may be due to self-esteem issues. But her children’s over-eating is due to the eating habits she inculcates in them. “Sure, honey, have another sasusage patty. Sure, have another glass of whole milk. Sure, have another helping of cake. Anything you want, honey.”

  11. Um…Anon, I don’t disagree that obesity is a problem. However, there are plenty of obese men in and outside the church. Obesity rates in Utah are not near the highest in the nation.

  12. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    One of the rumors I heard, and the repeater of this rumor claimed it came from The Brethren, is that eventually morbid obesity without a valid medical excuse will keep someone out of the temple.

    where did you here this. and that better not be true. my best friends parent’s are obese (not morbidly, but obese). and they go to the temple all the time. they love it. they are the greatest people I know. I can not believe that they are even suggesting that you will be stopped from going into the lords house based on how your body looks. that’s just plain BS. give me your source….

  13. It’s good to get the official BCC position on the matter, I was wondering.

  14. LDS women have their fantasies and addictions, just like LDS men do.
    I think it’s probably difficult for LDS women when they struggle financially after having a bunch of kids on a modest income, and other families in the ward seem to be doing great financially; look at Utah’s debt and bankruptcy crises and it’s clear that people are spending way beyond their means as well. I think this is a compulsive behavior that is certainly not unique to men; I have a lot of friends whose wives have driven them to serious financial difficulty with their spending habits.

    And I’m not sure of the statistics, but anecdotally, I know a remarkable number of LDS women who rely on anti-depressant meds to get through the day, when they might benefit the same way from some exercise or more interaction with other adults – I understand that a lot of people benefit greatly from these prescription drugs, but I personally think that for many of them, there are other things they could do to get into a good frame of mind.
    So I think LDS women have their addictions, but I think some of them may not be related to self-esteem. Some of them probably just need to learn to live a balanced life, and they should understand that it’s okay to say no, even to a lot of Church tasks.

    Of course, all of this is easier said than done…

  15. I had an addiction that I relied on to release the pressure of looking perfect all the time. Eventually my addiction threatened to take over my life and I had to face the fact that I had lost control.

    Now my addiction is gone, and so is my drive to look perfect or act perfect. Want to know what helped? I quit thinking that I had to follow the Brethren’s counsel. They’re nice men, and I’ll consider what they say, but in the end it’s my call what I do. And they’re never going to wholly approve of me again! Oh, the liberation of knowing you’re a disappointment and not caring that they don’t approve!

    See, when I would talk to my bishop about being overwhelmed, he would quote me that Mosiah scripture about not running faster than I had strength. But when I said that the things that were killing me off were activities like prayer, scripture study and temple attendance, he’d backpedal and make it sound like I had to do those things all the time no matter what. So I’d try to keep it up, and it would drive me deeper into my addiction.

    Finally I decided that it was my call on whether I wanted to do all those spiritual activites so God would forgive me for my addiction, or if I wanted to drop the spiritual activities so I didn’t need the addiction to keep me from getting suicidal. I think I’ve achieved equilibrium. I don’t do spiritual things, but I’m not sinning nearly as much either.

    I wish the Church would just throw away the “to-do” list on every level. Even visiting teaching ought to be 100% voluntary without any talks about how you’re letting the sheep starve if you don’t do it.

    I don’t need self-esteem booster talks anymore either because I’m not trying anymore, so I don’t need encouragement.

    And I’m so happy!

    What’s really funny is that I don’t mind being a Mormon nearly so much now that I’m content with being a mediocre Mormon instead of a good Mormon.

  16. No Anon, I don’t think your characterization is correct.

    I’ve lived in Utah for most of my life and while there are obese people there, I don’t think it’s the majority and I don’t think it is necessarily more common than anorexia-bulemia.

    Of course, until we run a survey, we’ll never know I guess.

    But don’t underestimate how common anorexia-bulemia is among Mormon women. It tends to afflict smart, high-acheivers – which describes an awful lot of Utah girls very well.

  17. Another of the biggies for codependent/addictive behaviors is people-pleasing. I would guess that people-pleasing and perfectionism are the two most rampant among women. The reason these behaviors create so many difficulties is that a person can no longer be independently happy like Melinda. A person with such codependant behaviors REQUIRES other people in order to be happy. Such a need naturally creates a very insecure environment. A perfectionist needs observation and comparison, a people-pleaser requires that other people be pleased in order to be happy. Extremely haphazard and extremely common.

    The book mentioned by Kris “He Did Deliver Me From Bondage” is often used by an LDS-based codependent group called Heart-t-Heart ( along with a non-LDS book called “Breaking Free” by Pia Mellody. Mellody’s workbook outlines about 35 codependent behaviors starting with perfectionism and people-pleasing, which after I read them, I stopped about six of the behaviors just by being aware of them.

    This issue is completely pertinent and absolutely what the women in the Church need to hear. I have had several people in leadership approach me for this information.

  18. I wonder how much of the destructive perfectionism and depression in LDS women is related to the current teaching that LDS women should be completely fulfilled by taking care of their families, and should not pursue interests that would take them outside the home.

  19. Re; Anon in #9
    There are very different causes behind the type of obesity you are condemning and other eating disorders like anorexia & bulemia. Anorexia & Bulemia normally stem from mental illnesses and deep self esteem issues. There are a few people with similar mental illnesses that overeat instead of undereat, but they are rare and duely accounted for. The type of overeating you’re condemning sounds like people who over eat just because they lack self control, which *isn’t* an eating disorder by definition.
    Also, witholding a temple recomend from obese people without a valid medical excuse is a set up for disaster. Besides being a PR nightmare, the medical community is so mixed up about what obesity is ‘medically valid’ or not. There was a beautiful woman in my hometown who was ~50 pounds overweight. At her husbands encouragement she took prescription diet pills, which gave her a horrible illness. I don’t know the details, but I do know that she *gained* weight, and continued to gain even after she gave up on the oills. She had gastric bypass surgery, which was useless. After the surgery her condition was diagnosed and she was informed that it was terminal. I only saw her once before she died, She had no neck, not even a double chin. She had ballooned so fast that her skin couldn’t keep up, there was just a straight line from beneath her ears to her shoulders. She died in her early fifties with the knowledge that all of her kids and her husband found her appearance disgusting. For nearly ten years doctors missed the signs of her condition. She would have been considered morbidly obese without a medical excuse. I remember her now especially because I remember her singing “Mary’s Lullaby” every Christmas.
    Just for the record, there is a special extra wide seat in at least one of the endowment rooms in the Mesa Temple. If the church is making accomodations like that, then I don’t see them ever doing anything more than gently suggesting that obesity is against the word of wisdom.

  20. Melinda (#14),
    I kind of know what you mean; I stopped home teaching at one point in my singles ward because I couldn’t see the point to it and it had become a huge burden to me instead of an opportunity.
    I see nothing wrong with taking a time out for a while on these kinds of things, and accepting commitments only as you feel ready to. If that means you can only be happy with no commitments right now, then it’s probably a good thing for you to take a breather like this.
    That said, your spiritual well-being has nothing to do with the Brethren’s real or perceived “acceptance” of you. And if you feel that you’re somehow “unacceptable” in their eyes because you don’t pray or read your scriptures or whatever, that’s not only wrong, but it’s weird. I have thought about the Brethren’s opinion of me exactly zero days in the past year. I think you and probably a lot of other LDS women have a very erroneous way of measuring your spiritual well-being and even your worth as a person; it’s neither healthy nor divinely inspired to measure your self-worth or “acceptability” by the imagined judgments of human males.
    Your goals in spiritual things should not be “to be accepted by men.” It sounds like your cravings for acceptance by the Brethren are pretty similar to your previous need to look perfect all the time to be “accepted by men.”
    Instead of spending your mental and emotional energy thinking about whether we men accept you or not, you would do well to focus on living a fulfilling life: getting education, learning skills, working on a career, etc. and not being preoccupied with male opinions of you.

  21. 14 & 19 Christ says abide in me and I in you. If he does not abide in us we can bear no fruit. It doesn’t matter how much we do, if he isn’t in us we are barren.

    The to do list doesn’t get us anywhere (except perhaps depresed or a headache). The to be list bears fruit.

  22. Elizabeth,

    I wonder that too.

    I also wonder how much of it is due to popular society’s demand that woman be absolutely fulfilled in the workforce.

  23. Just some general comments:

    I can’t help but wonder how much our black and white language contributes to the problem. For example, yesterday in Relief Soceity, our teacher read us this quote from the David O. McKay manual, “Never must there be expressed in a Latter-Day Saint home an oath, a condemnatory term, an expression of anger or jealousy or hatred.” While I can see the problem of taking a wishy-washy approach to the issue ie “Sometimes we will do x, y or z” — I can’t help but think that to a pefectionist who is striving to meet these types of goals, there can only be discouragement resulting in esteem type problems. I’m not sure what the solution is.

  24. Kris,

    I think the solution is to repent of who we are and change.

  25. Interesting Eric,

    Do you see this problem then as a sin and not a disorder?

  26. Perfectionism? A disorder? A disorder over which we have no control?

    If we are going to say that perfectionism is a disorder, I suppose the new question is what isn’t a disorder? Isn’t all aberrant behavior a disorder of some type? What is sin? Is there such a thing as sin at all?

  27. 25. I do think that there are a few cases of organic clinical depression that are truly disorders. I have known one person so afflicted who has had a faithful life and a wonderful testimony.

    But I also believe that huge amounts of our modern “depression” are the result of sin.

  28. Eric Russell, if I am not mistaken, you believe in a robust libertarian free will that is neither emergent nor constrained by physiology. I can accept that you believe that, however I fundementally disagree. I believe our free will is constrained and limited byt the fall or mortality. This is why every human being is not baptized…and why the fullness of the atonement is not manifest untill the resurection.

    It seems that we can dance around specific scenarios, but it always comes back to this fundemental divide, no?

  29. Re:18 & 22 Last May I was full time student who also worked 30 hours a week. My husband and I gradutated, he got a good job, I quit mine we moved and I had a baby in July. Since then I’ve had the feeling that since I am not working outside the home, I am not contributing enough unless I do *everything* in the home. And since doing all of the housework doesn’t make me feel any sense of accomplishment I start to feel like maybe I’m not doing it well enough, or often enough. Or that maybe I should be doing other housewifey things in addition to housework.
    I think it’s a mix of what Seth said, in that our society tells us the only really valuable work is in the workforce, and what Elizabeth said, in that the church tells us our work is valuable and we should feel fulfilled in doing it. So we end up not feeling valuable because society says we aren’t and we ascribe it to our not doing things well enough because we don’t feel valuable when the church says we should.

  30. J. Stapley, I think you’re right about the fundamental issue. But I think there are also epistemological issues in play.

    Supposing that our physiology does restrict our agency to one degree or another, how are we to go about deciding what is and what is not possible? How do we know that we don’t possess more agency than we do?

    We’ve been discussing a number of personal issues lately, and curiously, one characteristic is common among them all. In all of the problems the individual involved believes that the source of his or her problems lies somewhere else – being either biological or environmental constraints. Even “blaming yourself” is a form of eschewing blame: saying, “I’m just a terrible person, that’s just the way I am.” is placing blame outside the inner self.

    My point is not that any such individual is necessarily to blame, but that you have a very interesting puzzle before you when discover that the argument in favor of solving the problem is knocked down with an assumption of what the problem is in the first place. It’s like a giant case of begging the question.

    I believe that the problem itself is the inability to believe that one has control of one’s will. And if that is the problem itself, then certainly someone with this problem is not going to accept the possibility of having control of one’s will as a method of approach towards solving the problem.

    My conclusion: coming to believe that one has control of one’s will is the solution to the problem of not believing that one has control of one’s will. How do we achieve this? I don’t know. But there it is.

  31. I realize that this post is being extremely reductive in saying that perfectionsism is the realm of the woman. Have you considered, though, how many male missionaries suffer from anxiety and depression because the lifestyle and rules of the mission almost demand perfection? Missionaries go home all the time because they cannot handle the often unrealistic demands placed upon them. Living with a man who suffers from this exact type of depression- the kind brought on by expecting perfection, comparing oneself to others (which involves mostly family members) and falling short- I can only draw one conclusion: the reason that this is relegated to the realm of the feminine is that men are more introverted when it comes to their emotions and are less likely to admit depression, be diagnosed, and seek help. It is seen as a huge weakness for them; I’m not sure if it’s more embarassing than admitting sin or not. The women are the ones who more openly go to the doctor and are prescribed anti-depressants and therapy.

    I’m not going to say that there isn’t intense pressure on women to achieve perfectionism. I’m a victim of this myself and will be going back on antidepressants soon, hopefully, after the holidays. I do feel a need to be perfect and I also feel that others are constantly judging me. I know that these things are unfounded in reality, but ultimately I still become so weighed down that I cannot function properly. I am obsessed with my weight and exercise at 6 AM, and when I still fail to reach my goals, I feel that I need to punish myself. (As per #14, exercise can become a part of the problem.)I have chosen to live an extremely involved lifestyle- full time grad student, full time job- and feel guilt for not keeping the house clean because that is my wifely duty. I think that many of those ‘all or nothing’ statements are very harmful. I think that statements coming from both the church and society on a woman’s place can be harmful, because all women are different and are ultimately happy in different places. Our gospel, and our culture, tries to fit all different kinds of women into a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model. And that just doesn’t work.
    I know I’m either going to get ignored or chastised for saying this, but those who have never felt the pains and sorrows of depression simply cannot understand what it is like. It is these attitudes of condemnation that keep many people, men and women alike, from seeking the help that will help them feel joy. That doesn’t always mean anti-depressants, but talk therapy can go a long way in helping people see what their hurtful attitudes are doing to them. (I’m not even going to touch body image or obesity because that is a far too complex topic for a message board like this.)Also, yesterday I had a thought…if depression and feelings of inadequacy are this great with the Holy Ghost- I cannot imagine bearing this burden without it. I thank God for that comfort.

  32. Great post, Kris. When I read this, the first thing that went through my mind was Edna Mode confronting a dejected Helen Parr by hitting her over the head with a newspaper and shouting, “What are you talking about? You are ELASTIGURL!” Helen Parr then travels around the globe (with children in tow) to rescue her husband from his arch-nemesis. Truly the ideal wife! (And she’s quite flexible, too.)

    For my part, I’m quite convinced that “free agency” and “free will” are way over-rated. We don’t, for example, doubt whether the mail will arrive because we believe that the postman may exercise his “free will” and “choose” not to deliver it. We don’t worry when we order food at a restaurant that the chef will use his “free agency” and “choose” to make something else entirely. In fact, nearly everything that we do or expect others to do on a daily basis assumes that others will, automaton-like, simply do what they’re supposed to do. Sadly, this includes mothers and wives, but unlike the postman and the chef, mothers and wives get almost no time off and often receive very little concrete recognition of the value of their work. It just doesn’t seem to me that a pat on the back or a reassurance from the pulpit goes very far to address the real problem.

    Motherhood is damned difficult, and some women take to it more readily than others. Being a wife never quite turns out the way that one expects–guys have an special, inborn skill for disappointing women, and women who have successful marriages must learn to live with this (to my mind, this is best exemplified by Emma Smith). Moreover, the leisure time afforded us by the luxury of modern society also burdens us with the capacity to reflect on the untidiness of our lives. I don’t think that it’s fair to categorize as an addiction the sorrow and unhappiness that results from all of this.

    Elisabeth, I’m not aware that the current teaching indicates that LDS women should be completely fulfilled by taking care of their families. Is that from a recent general conference, correlated materials, or just the prevailing wisdom. I’m curious, because that’s the kind of teaching that I’ll need to prep my daughters for, so that they’d know that it’s false before they even hear it.

  33. DKL:

    “Is that from a recent general conference, correlated materials, or just the prevailing wisdom.”

    I’d say all three.

    1. General Conference talk: This isn’t a General Conference talk, and isn’t very recent but it was spoken by a prophet, and reiterated by General Authorities, and I think many of them would agree with its sentiment (I’ll see if I can find more recent talks to answer your question directly):

    “I beg of you, you who could and should be bearing and rearing a family: Wives, come home from the typewriter, the laundry, the nursing, come home from the factory, the cafe. No career approaches in importance that of wife, homemaker, mother–cooking meals, washing dishes, making beds for one’s precious husband and children. Come home, wives, to your husbands. Make home a heaven for them. Come home, wives, to your children, born and unborn. Wrap the motherly cloak about you and, unembarrassed, help in a major role to create the bodies for the immortal souls who anxiously await.
    When you have fully complemented your husband in home life and borne the children, growing up full of faith, integrity, responsibility, and goodness, then you have achieved your accomplishment supreme, without peer, and you will be the envy [of all] through time and eternity” (Spencer W. Kimball, San Antonio Fireside, Dec. 3, 1977, pp. 11-12).

    2. Correlated materials: “Fathers, Mothers, and Marriage”, by President Faust, Ensign, August 2004. See also “Strengthening Future Mothers”, June 2005, Ensign (including cover picture)

    3. Prevailing wisdom: not that the blogs are reflective of prevailing wisdom, but there are many posts and comments discussing the woman’s role in the home and extracurricular activities including these:
    here, here, and here.

    Also, check out the Proclamation on the Family.

  34. Hi Kris,

    Great post, and nice thoughts in particular on ghettoization. I hadn’t really noticed the divide until you mentioned it, but you’re completely right. Porn lectures for men; self-esteem lectures for women; never the twain shall meet. (I suppose if my porn habit results in low self-esteem, then I’m in real trouble!)

    Hi E.,

    I think you’re partly (perhaps mostly) right on the broader issue that many believe that “LDS women should be completely fulfilled by taking care of their families.” However, I’m not clear on what kind of evidence you’re trying to draw from the blogs you’ve linked. After all, linking to posts by strong and assertive women sort of cuts _against_ your point. Are you indicating that the barometer of prevailing wisdom (however defined) can be found in the comments of those people who disagreed with you and Julie and Melissa? At best, some of the commenters may illustrate one version of the prevailing wisdom; however, those posts also indicate that there is, at the very least, a contrary view espoused by at least some portion of the membership.

    (Of course, you should take this comment with a grain of salt, since it does come from a wishy-washy Mormon Unitarian, and what do I know about prevailing wisdom anyway.)

  35. Eric, I think I get your concern. I believe whole heartedly that we should always be looking to expand egency. If I have a problem that has physiological roots, I want to overcome that. Medication may be part of the effort to expand agency. I agree that we don’t always know what the root causes are, but I do believe that while we can expand our agency, one cannot do so by will alone nor can it be done overnight.

  36. VirtualM,

    You mentioned that you are a full-time student and a full-time employee; I don’t want to sound insensitive here, but that’s a huge load and a severely diminished quality of life that you’ve opted into. I would have a very hard time keeping a positive and happy state of mind if I were in that hard of a grind day after day. I know that body chemistry has everything to do with depression, and knowing that, do you think your commitments might be wearing you down and making it difficult for your body chemistry to be more in balance? If so, I hope you are aware that you have choices here.

    And DKL,

    I can’t speak to the difficulties of motherhood because I’m neither a mother nor female. But if motherhood is that much of a burden, why did you decide to do it? I know that sounds like a strange question, but I have friends who had children before they were prepared and they have really struggled with the burdens of marriage, children, school, etc. when if they had waited just a couple of years, they could have had children with the benefits of an income and much simpler life circumstances.
    As far as mens’ inborn ability to disappoint women- before I got married, I did my best to be as accurate as possible in how I portrayed myself to my fiance. I made sure she knew of all of my struggles, doubts, weaknesses…everything. I wanted her to know exactly who she was marrying, and she loved me even more for my willingness to be vulnerable. She will never be able to say “Wow, he didn’t turn out to be the man I expected.” I made a choice to be completely forthright at the risk of scaring her away, and she made a choice to stay with me, with a realistic picture of flaws and all (including my taking a job in Iraq). And we are very happy, with no secrets or surprises.
    If I had jumped into a marriage without an accurate picture of what I was getting into, I might have been very disappointed, and kids would have only complicated things. Who wants to have kids with a “disappointing” spouse who they’re not crazy about?

    I guess what I’m saying is, I think a good deal of the struggles being voiced here have to do with life choices, timing, etc. I know that has been true of my own life.

  37. Elisabeth, OK, the Spencer Kimball quote had me rolling on the floor in fits of laughter. If Kimball’s thinks that the only appropriate jobs for a woman are “the typewriter, the laundry, the nursing, come home from the factory, the cafe,” then maybe he can be forgiven for failing to see how they can be more fulfilling than motherhood (not to take anything away from people in these professions, but there’s a lot more to having career opportunities than just these options). It’s quaint, and it reminds me of a quote by Kimball that I used once when teaching Elder’s quorum, in which he says that Family Home Evening combats “hoodlumism.”

    I guess my girls are already prepped for this kind of stuff, because they see I take with a grain of salt, like Mark Peterson’s stuff about black people or Bruce McConkie’s and Ezra Benson’s stuff on evolution (or, for that matter, Harry Truman on rent control). And I don’t see statements like Kimball’s to be marginalizing to women any more than the statements against evolution are marginalizing to smart people.

    I looked up the two Ensign articles you reference by Faust and Tanner. I didn’t construe anything that Faust or Tanner said as discouraging women from seeking careers outside of the home.

    Tanner seems to me to be saying that homemaking gets a bad rap, and I think that she’s right. I also agree with her that homemaking skills aren’t taught as well as they used to be, and this is true among both boys and girls. Heck, each year I teach the young men in our ward how to iron shirts and trousers–it’s a Duty to God requirement that they do their own laundry for 30 days. (Any readers who want to improve their ironing skills can read the three page handout, entitled, “A Man’s Guide to Ironing Shirts and Trousers,” that I wrote to accompany my presentation.)

    At any rate, whether or not a woman chooses to persue a career, I don’t see why that choice should be disparaged. For example, my wife stays at home, and her sister runs a very successful business. From those facts alone, it’s impossible to deduce anything at all about what kind of parents they are.

    I don’t want to threadjack this and make it a conversation about the Proclomation on the Family, so I’ll be brief about that. I think that my reading of the Proclamation on the Family is too liberal to make me a good critic of it. I don’t see the notion that men and women play complementary roles in the family entails that women must be completely fulfilled by taking care of their families.

  38. Dan, I’m a guy.

  39. I don’t know for sure how physiology affects everything, but I do know for sure what I experienced as I started a medication this last September. I didn’t feel an increase in will, but I did feel a definite increase in ability/capability/capacity to direct my will, to act up on it, to actively pursue things that I decide upon. An increase in ability to make decisions, form coherent and at least somewhat workable plans, and to proceed with them. An increase in a certain type of focus, although a sharp increase in a great inability to concentrate, as well. It’s difficult to explain what I mean, and how those two can co-exist; a self-directed focus of self, because of an increase in SELFness, in SELFhood. But a very ADD-like lack of what most people think of as focus and concentration. An increase in capacity of cognition, an increase in control of direction. That last is surely going to get some up in arms, if even the previous do not. But I felt what I felt; it is difficult to describe the indescribable, which is in fact how I entitled my post attempting to do just that, here. Please read, if so inclined. I am able to put a bit more in my post here, than I was then, at least a bit more specifically pinning down a few things, because I’ve had a few months’ perspective on it.

    With mental illness, people often forget the impairment of cognitive functions. I’ll have to get into that sometime, with some concrete examples from my experience of specific things I’ve noticed in decrease of various cognitive capability.

    Anyway, I know for SURE of the reality of how some of this affects things, because I KNOW and have FELT the changing capabilities/capacities/potentials. Some of those, not all of those for all things. And so much more than that . . . . which I had never felt before, because at least some of what I have I’ve had my whole life. To learn that all this time there was so much more to BEING. To being a person, to being . . . well anyway, just go read there, if you like.

    It is . . . . well, there’s alot more I could say, but I’ll save that for another time.

  40. Dan,

    Thank you for a comment that had me laughing out loud. That has to be one of the funniest cases of gender misidentity I’ve seen in a while, particularly given David’s lengthy recent statements on masculinity.

    (Or could it be that those comments themselves led to the misidentification? Manilow, ironing, wrapping paper . . . you know, Dan may have a pretty decent defense here!).


    Every once in a while, a few of the very best male bloggers are mistaken for women.

    It’s a badge of honor, really, and it doesn’t change a thing about your masculinity. That’s what I tell myself each morning as I put on my eyeliner and mascara.

  41. LOL 32 and 36. Perhaps the gap between DKL and Miranda isn’t so wide after all!

  42. Hold your tongue, Eric Russell!

  43. DKL,
    Huge oops and apology from the other side of the world.
    From all your talk of motherhood, I really thought you had been pregnant before. Alas, you have only known intellectual pregnancy, like me. You are all welcome to cringe at my latest delivery- it was indeed a weird one.

  44. Dan,
    I know that I have a heavy load and I know that I have choices. I also know that seeds of depression and manifestation of that depression came way before my current situation. I do have a drive to do everything, and a drive to do it well. I honestly figure that this might be my only chance. Medication helps coping whether I’m slammed or whether I’m at home in bed all day, wondering what the point of everything is. I guess the busier I keep myself, the less time I have to be depressed. Besides, several men do this exact same work load, while having a family at the same time, and it is considered admirable. My father was one of them. Granted, this schedule is not my long term plan, and will end in a matter of a few months. I’d be insane to do this forever and would never recommend it as a long-term plan to anyone. I actually went OFF of anti-depressants around the same time that I started my job and I was doing very well, until my emotions got so weird recently that now I often can’t control them. It’s happened in the past, when my life was easy, and will likely happen again in the future, no matter my situation. That being said, choices do make a difference, but they are not the only determining factor.

    Anyway, I think that society does a disservice to men by not recognizing the silence in which many men suffer. I guess that was the point I was trying to make earlier and I was not clear. I’m relieved when I read Ensign articles about depression that use gender-inclusive language. I just think women are more open about it, whereas men see depression and self-worth issues as a weakness. At least pornography has the rap of being a ‘masculine’ trial (but again, it does to some degree affect both genders.)

  45. No worries, Dan. What makes your joke especially funny is the fact that for most of this year I played a woman (viz., Miranda PJ, a feminist from Lewiston, Idaho) on the fake Mormon blog Banner of Heaven. Almost everyone thought that Miranda was real, and absolutely nobody suspected that it was me. I am a conservative Republican, the most reviled participant in the bloggernacle, a staunch critic of various feminist schools of thought and approaches to literary criticism/science/history, and perhaps the most frequent target of derision by the cliquish cadre of bloggernacle feminists. Consequently, your apology is more likely to be an affront to the women who participate in this blog than to me.

    At any rate, until now, I’ve taken it for granted that everyone knew what my initials stand for, because for so long I’d posted using my full name. My apologies to all the disappointed bloggernacle bachelors out there.

  46. Yeah, um, sorry about that. I think in more recent posts I’ve gotten it right. And if it makes you feel better, I confused the gender of Lynn Wardle as well.


  47. DKL (and Kaimi) – I admit my choice of evidence was probably not the most persuasive (although you’ve got to appreciate SWK’s fireside chat calling women home from the typewriter. If the computer counts as well, then I’m in complete agreement with him. Unfortunately, I don’t have any children, and my husband has learned to put his own socks away – so I’m stuck here in my office). But, in spite of my feeble attempts to justify my blanket generalization above, as Kaimi mentioned, the general sentiment of _most_ Mormons is that women should stay at home, and enjoy doing so.

    I have so much more to say on these subjects (gender roles AND the Young Womens’ program – what a holiday treat!), but I’m rushing around trying to get things done before I hop on the plane back to Utah to spend Christmas with my family. So, on that note, I hope you, and whoever else is reading this, have a WONDERFUL Christmas holiday and a happy, happy new year!

    P.S. Thanks to the Admin who fixed my links.

  48. FWIW here is the doctrine on stay at home moms.

  49. DKL, Here are some more convincing quotes found at this collection at the church website.
    From this article by Susan Easton Black:

    “The world gives women little convincing direction for the process of achieving long-lasting happiness in womanhood. There are conflicting worldly advisers on every side, seeming to agree only that old ways are to be rejected and replaced by roles that discount the truths of eternity.”

    From a visiting teaching message President David O. McKay (1873–1970):

    “[The] ability and willingness properly to rear children, the gift to love, and eagerness … to express it in soul development, make motherhood the noblest office or calling in the world. She who can paint a masterpiece or write a book that will influence millions deserves the admiration and the plaudits of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters, whose influence will be felt through generations to come, … deserves the highest honor that man can give, and the choicest blessings of God” (Gospel Ideals [1954], 453–54).

    From this lesson in the Harold B. Lee Manual

    Keep the mother of your home at the “crossroads” of the home. There is a great danger today of homes breaking down because of allurements to entice mothers to neglect their being at home as the family members are coming to or going from the home.

    From this address by Gordon B. Hinckley:

    Nevertheless, I recognize, as he recognized, that there are some women (it has become very many in fact) who have to work to provide for the needs of their families. To you I say, do the very best you can. I hope that if you are employed full-time you are doing it to ensure that basic needs are met and not simply to indulge a taste for an elaborate home, fancy cars, and other luxuries. The greatest job that any mother will ever do will be in nurturing, teaching, lifting, encouraging, and rearing her children in righteousness and truth. None other can adequately take her place.

    It is well-nigh impossible to be a full-time homemaker and a full-time employee. I know how some of you struggle with decisions concerning this matter. I repeat, do the very best you can. You know your circumstances, and I know that you are deeply concerned for the welfare of your children. Each of you has a bishop who will counsel with you and assist you. If you feel you need to speak with an understanding woman, do not hesitate to get in touch with your Relief Society president.

    I realize that many of these don’t say outright “working outside of the home is bad, and you shouldn’t do it if you want to be a good mother,” but when these lessons are given, or talks discussed by members it inevitably becomes a “either or” mentality. “Either you work outside the home, or you are a good mother.”

  50. Thanks for pointing these out. Though the tone has clearly moderated, it seems that the stuff about women staying home is not simply the relic of a bygone era. I guess we sometimes see what we want to see, and I put it in the same bin with the warnings of the evils of “alternative voices” and “organic evolution.”

    Now that I think of it, I actually do know of at least one Relief Society president who refuses to take counsellors who work. This creates a de facto class system within the Relief Society and uses it to define criteria for worthiness outside the framework of inspiration, and so it seems to me that this Relief Society president is guilty of priestcraft.

  51. Haven’t read the whole discussion, but have to comment on anon #3’s statement. All the LDS men and women I know who were sexually or otherwise abused as children (and there are a fair number) were raised in the church. Most of the converts I know well enough to know their background were raised by loving, good parents. Seems to me the negative effects of abuse on faith in God would make it more difficult for a survivor to trust in God’s love and the good news of salvation, not the other way around. Just my thoughts.

  52. cont’d

    I’m sure there are exceptions, but anon’s implication seems to be that the church primarily attracts needy/ formerly abused women as converts. I just don’t like that implication.

  53. VirtualM (#44),

    Keeping yourself busy helps with depression? That seems counterintuitive to me, but you definitely know better than I. I have felt depressed for periods of time before, but never for more than a week or two. I don’t have any personal understanding of sustained depression beyond what I’ve observed in people close to me.
    From a male perspective, I think depression is common among us, but not as common as among women. I think women have a lot more depressive “triggers” than men, and LDS men I know generally have a lot more diversionary pursuits than LDS women.
    For example, that David O. McKay quote in post #49 contains the phrase “she who rears successfully…” and you can see how brutal it would be for a woman to read that when she has done everything she knows how and her kids choose to leave the Church. That would definitely be a trigger for depressive thoughts, tying a woman’s sense of success to the choices of others. I think women internalize these kinds of things a lot more than we men do; a lot of times we don’t dwell on negative feelings because we’re too busy thinking about football or riding our bikes for long distances (that’s my situation).

  54. David O McKay also taught the well-know “no other success can compensate for failure in the home” which was directed at fathers.

  55. “Either you work outside the home, or you are a good mother.”

    It actually goes further than that…”Either you work for filthy lucre, or you are a good mother.” The exception, of course, is earning money in Pampered Chef, scrapbooking supplies, or teaching music.

  56. I think both “Either you work outside the home, or you are a good mother” and “Either you work for filthy lucre, or you are a good mother” are hyperbole. I don’t see these maxims reflected as the prevailing opinion among Mormons of my acquaintance. For example, of the three primary presidents I know, 2 of them work outside the home, and the third (my wife’s) has a majority of career pursuing women in her presidency. My oldest daughter (8 years old) plans to be a museum curator. This will surely change, but my point is that nobody’s filling her head with fantasies about homemaking.

    It is, at worst, a mixed blessing that Mormon culture makes it easy for mothers to stay at home. For example, I’ve known a woman for more than 20 years now. She’s non-Mormon, and she’s enjoyed a tremendously successful career (with a salary greater than senior partners in large law firms). She used to poke fun at women who didn’t work, and when she got pregnant with her first child, she would say stuff to the effect of, “I can’t wait to get this over with and get back to work.” Within 6 months of having her baby, she quit to become a stay-at-home mom, and now she’s pregnant again. She recently told me how difficult it often is to explain her choice to others and how often she gets lectures about preserving time for herself and whatnot, though it’s clearly none of their business.

    I also know of a few marital disputes in which the man complained that his wife was reluctant to get job to help contribute to the financial well-being of the family. And, as LisaB points out, men also get quite a lot of pressure to perform as ideal fathers at home.

    The bottom line is that the sword cuts both ways, because no matter how much we bemoan the bad things aspects, the reality of any situation is that there are always trade-offs.

  57. I think it wouldn’t be such a big deal that women are expected to stay at home, if society actually gave mothers any respect. Today, motherhood really isn’t respected much.

  58. Some of my suggestions on how to be a happy SAHM:
    1. If you decide to be a SAHM, you probably think it is important and worthwhile. Give yourself the respect you deserve. Don’t apologize for it. (I can’t imagine thinking I am not contributing because I don’t earn money-it may take time to adjust your thinking, but adjust!).
    2. Treat your new career like any other career. It has its pros and cons. You plan to get better and better at it. You should educate yourself and work on your skills. You will be clueless at first. If your career goal was to be a partner in a law firm, you wouldn’t expect to do it in one day. You would go to school, you would study, you’d get your first job and work your way up.
    3. Find your own way to be a SAHM. There isn’t just one type. Be yourself.
    4. Taking care of a two month old is not the same as taking care of an 8, 6 & 2 year old. It isn’t mind-numbingly the same. (So maybe the first few months are) but it changes quickly.

  59. I think I was a lot more “sensitive” about being a SAHM during my early years. Now, I am more sure of myself. I know what I have accomplished, and what I am working on right now.
    When I say I’m a SAHM to the non-parent crowd, I no longer feel like I wish I could also say something about my previous job, or education, or IQ….I used to feel the need to give the impression that I’m smart enough to do other things, but have chosen to be a mom. Now, though, I don’t feel that anymore. I’m a SAHM and I don’t care about their opinion about it.

  60. Dave (56):

    You turn LisaB’s simple McKay comment into a lament that (direct quote) “men also get quite a lot of pressure to perform”?

    Projecting a little here, are we?

  61. To follow up on LisaB’s argument, I just noticed this quote from Russell M. Nelson:

    “There are no greater roles in life for a man than those of husband and father. Likewise, there are no greater roles for a woman than those of wife and mother.”

    (See here ).

    I’m in partial agreement with Lisa on this one. Yes, there is an impetus for women to forego secular accomplishment in favor of being good wives and mothers. And yes, the same instruction is given to men.

    The question is how this bifrucated instruction is translated or filtered through the social channels of the church. There are rules, after all, and then there are rules. Too often, based on my own observation, women’s instructions to prioritize home and family are viewed as mandatory, while identical instructions to men are viewed as optional.

    Thus, the answer may not lie in recourse to official instructions — which seem to be more balanced and gender-neutral than the attitudes I sometimes see in the lay membership — but in an examination of the attitudes of members.

  62. LCSW Bloggernacleite says:

    VirtualM’s comment: “I know that these things are unfounded in reality, but ultimately I still become so weighed down that I cannot function properly” really gets to the heart of the problem for many people.

    Often people turn to antidepressants when a form of treatment called ‘cognitive behavioral therapy’ (CBT) is proven to be just as effective in treating minor- to moderate- depression. CBT involves helping people change their thinking, change the way they view their world….help them eliminate distorted thinking (i.e., ideas unfounded in reality). For many people this goes a long way toward reducing depression.

    We need to adjust our way of thinking. I agree with Kaimi’s observation that the official teachings are usually very, very good. Why things get twisted into such depressing perfectionism at the ward level is a mystery to me. Very sad, because it leads to many people becoming inactive or worse.

    I’m a great believer in the Serenity Prayer:

    God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    Wish the Brethren would add it to the D&C!

  63. Wow, I can’t believe I missed this. Very well done, Kris.

    #3, I wonder if women who are abused as children are more prone to perfectionism, so more attracted to Mormonism? Because I think women who are abused tend to abuse themselves, while men tend to be abusers. I’m not positive about that, but I think it’s true. That makes sense to me, in light of this essay.

    Hmmm….my husband is a perfectionist, but he’s not depressed or mean about it. Sort of relentless, though, like Monk. I think sometimes he feels bad because he hasn’t served a mission or our kids aren’t active in the church. But, again, I think with men, depression tends outward, women internalize it.

    Seth, there are romance novels that are not explicit like men’s magazines. It’s a small quibble, but Jane Eyre is intensely romantic.

    Julie, you have no self-esteem issues? You know, my friend doesn’t either, and boy, is she surprised when people get mad at her. She has never felt suicidal. Never. And she is not fat, either.

    #15, Melinda, you rock. I am so going to quit being a bad word about visiting teaching.

    Eric. You do not rock.

    #31: good point

    Dan, DKL, Kaimi, Eric, laughing out loud.

    #53, Dan, actually the book Feeling Good espouses accomplishing something to help lift one. I’ve found that I feel better on the days I get out of bed.

    JKS, where have you been?

    #61, uh, Kaimi, big words. What have I said about that?

    Well, that was better than the sex discussion at Times and Seasons which sort of makes me nauseous,
    but maybe it’s just late.

    I agree, Kris, that there is a gender distinction. I think it’s probably a good thing, though.

    Thanks, guys, for keeping me entertained for 45 minutes in the middle of the night.

  64. I think it’s important to distinguish between “I feel vaguely disatisfied a lot of the time” and a major depressive disorder.

    Having someone tell me to feel better about myself and stop being so negative was never going to keep me from sleeping for 36 hours at a time and wishing I would just die already, because the Telestial Kingdom had to be better than this nightmare, and I don’t care about becoming like God, and come on, I just want it to stop, please. Paxil at least did a decent job on the sleeping part.

    I think the Bretheren focus on saying how important mothers caring for their families is, because most of the rest of the culture is saying it’s not important at all. I also think that minimizing other peoples’ struggles when you’re fortunate enough to have escaped experiencing them yourself is, well, uncharitable. I think the Bretheren are trying to help the majority of the people who are suffering as best they can (that’s about all you can do when you’re writing stuff that’ll be read by millions of people, many of whom won’t find the information applicable to them.) I don’t think that Word of Wisdom issues are particularly gendered in General Conference addresses, but the ones we most focus on are often things people are addicted to. Remembering also that the Bretheren are talking to multiple populations, including a whole host of people whose primary concern when it comes to porn, cigarettes, and eating disorders can be summaried with: “Don’t start, don’t start, and watch out because you’d better not start.” They won’t be served well with the same messages that addicted and depressed members need to hear (that’s why we have bishops and stake presidents, right?)

  65. Paul Wright says:

    Hey, don’t knock a little furtive, hurried masturbation in a seedy back room as an inexpensive way of blowing off a little steam at the end of a rough day.

  66. I’m sure that I’m the only one still thinking about this but some may be interested to read the article by Cecil O. Samuelson in January’s New Era called, “What does it mean to be Perfect”. It defines perfectionism as “a medical condition characterized by severe self-criticism and self doubt, often accompanied by anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive behaviour. It can lead to appetite and sleep disturbances, confusion, problems in relationships, inability to concentrate, procrastination of important tasks, and if left untreated, major depression, anxiety disorders and suicide”.

    Notably, this article was taken from a devotional given at the Provo MTC in 2002.

  67. I know I’m a little late finding this… but in my singles ward a couple of years ago the Bishop prepared a lesson on pornography for the Elder’s Quorum but by odd circumstances ended up giving the lesson to the whole ward… and I heard that to great his surprise this was a catalyst for several sisters coming to him for help with pornography problems. So even though there might be a different tendencies, both men and women can fall prey to both pornography and serious self-esteem/self-worth problems.

  68. Shellsabells says:


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