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Matters of the Mind- Latter-day Saint Helps for Mental Health


Lamanite

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Anyone here know brother Livingstone? He currently serves as associate chair of the department of church history and doctrine at BYU.

The book he co-authored with Marleen Williams and W. Dean Belnap is amazing. Wondering if he has a public e-mail address or if he knows someone who does firesides on the subject of mental illness and spirituality.

One of the things the authors address is the subject of fluctuating spirituality. Often times a depressive episode can lead to no feelings of spirituality, while a hyper/hypo manic episode may increase feelings of spirituality. For the individual with mental illness it may be impossible to discern what is "real."

For the normal person(sake of conversation) , the implication is that spiritual feelings are a bi-product of brain chemicals that have been triggered in response to certain stimuli. Simply put, spirituality is more brain chemistry than theophany. That is of course unless God operates through brain chemistry. That would be fine. Except that it would then relegate those with chemical imbalances to both a rapid cycling of moods and a rapid cycling of spirituality. If chemicals are the medium used to deliver divine communication then what happens to those people whose brain chemicals are not functioning according to their divine design.

"If the brain is damaged or diseased the Spirit may not be able to command it to work properly." pg.46

Thoughts?

Big UP!

Lamanite

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Anyone here know brother Livingstone?

I know him very well. He lives just a few blocks from me, and is the president of the singles stake in which, until last Sunday, I've been serving as, first, a high councilor and then, for the past several years, as a bishop.

A good man. And very helpful in difficult counseling cases.

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I know him very well. He lives just a few blocks from me, and is the president of the singles stake in which, until last Sunday, I've been serving as, first, a high councilor and then, for the past several years, as a bishop.

A good man. And very helpful in difficult counseling cases.

When I read his bio it mentioned his work in the singles Stake and I wondered if he knew you or vice versa. I'm wondering if his public ministry includes firesides or Church functions? Or perhaps his book is the extent of his public involvement with this subject?

PM me if you think he's would receive and respond to an e-mail.

Thoughts on the OP???

Big UP!

Lamanite

edit to add: International database of LDS Counselors and Prescribers.

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One of the things the authors address is the subject of fluctuating spirituality. Often times a depressive episode can lead to no feelings of spirituality, while a hyper/hypo manic episode may increase feelings of spirituality. For the individual with mental illness it may be impossible to discern what is "real."

"If the brain is damaged or diseased the Spirit may not be able to command it to work properly." pg.46

Thoughts?

Big UP!

Lamanite

It's all about the brain, the first organ to connect with the spirit through electro-magnetic impulses. Defective brains produce all sorts of disparities, including spiritual ones.

Chemical imbalances can also cause fluctuating spirituality. Pay attention to Christ's behavior prior to his death on the cross. At one point He thought that the Father had abandoned Him. It's been said that the Father had to withdraw His Spirit completely. True? Or... depressive physical and mental agony after hours on the cross?

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For the normal person(sake of conversation) , the implication is that spiritual feelings are a bi-product of brain chemicals that have been triggered in response to certain stimuli. Simply put, spirituality is more brain chemistry than theophany. That is of course unless God operates through brain chemistry. That would be fine. Except that it would then relegate those with chemical imbalances to both a rapid cycling of moods and a rapid cycling of spirituality. If chemicals are the medium used to deliver divine communication then what happens to those people whose brain chemicals are not functioning according to their divine design.

"If the brain is damaged or diseased the Spirit may not be able to command it to work properly." pg.46

I suggest that God operates through brain chemistry by providing "real" stimuli (see Alma 32). This produces that which is correctly sent and received as spiritual and from God. However, "spirituality" is misidentified / mislabeled as such by those suffering with malfunctioning responses to "real" or "counterfeit" stimuli, whether it be the result of their own disobedience or a weakness of the flesh that has been imposed upon them. In either case, we only know what they appear to be expressing, not what they are really experiencing or thinking they are communicating.

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whether it be the result of their own disobedience or a weakness of the flesh that has been imposed upon them.

This is addressed thoroughly in the book. And the author's state unequivocally that mental illness is not a result of disobedience or sin. This of course is only the professional opinion of 3 Dr.'s (that's not meant to be snarky. It really is their opinion.)

Why do you think that mental illness can be brought about through disobedience or weakness?

Big UP!

Lamanite

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This is addressed thoroughly in the book. And the author's state unequivocally that mental illness is not a result of disobedience or sin. This of course is only the professional opinion of 3 Dr.'s (that's not meant to be snarky. It really is their opinion.)

Why do you think that mental illness can be brought about through disobedience or weakness?

By disobedience: for example, if you start out "normal" and lie to yourself enough, or abuse substances enough, hold onto anger, hate, and other negative emotions and attitudes long enough, otherwise revel in the fallen condition or refuse to address a guilty conscience and repent, mental illness can often result.

By weakness: mental illness is not necessarily a result of disobedience or sin; you can be born with it like any other handicap, it can be imposed upon you through abuse by others, or by a horrible environment, accident or other trauma.

You can eventually have mental illness to the extent that disobedience and sin are no longer factors in exercising agency to in getting worse or better.

In any case, as far as spirituality is concerned, someone with mental illness can misread or mis-communicate spiritual truth, and all we can do is treat them with charity, whether we ourselves know the difference or not.

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Lamanite, can you provide some more details on that book please? It sounds like one that I have to get hold of whatever it costs.

It appears to be this one.

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Lamanite, can you provide some more details on that book please? It sounds like one that I have to get hold of whatever it costs.

The link that not hagoth provided is accurate. I only know about it because Belnap (one of the authors) was my FIL mission president.

I have family members with mental illness and it is a wonderful insight. Plus I'm pretty sure I'm crazy too!

Big UP!

Lamanite

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In any case, as far as spirituality is concerned, someone with mental illness can misread or mis-communicate spiritual truth, and all we can do is treat them with charity, whether we ourselves know the difference or not.

So what about the member who has chronic depression? Then he/she takes some celexa and feels better. She begins "feeling the spirit" again. Should we assume that the new spiritual feelings he is receiving are suspect and perhaps unreliable?

This could also be more fuel for the anti Mormon who could say that our spiritual feelings are manifestations of brain chemistry and not God.

Big UP!

Lamanite

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So what about the member who has chronic depression? Then he/she takes some celexa and feels better. She begins "feeling the spirit" again. Should we assume that the new spiritual feelings he is receiving are suspect and perhaps unreliable?

This could also be more fuel for the anti Mormon who could say that our spiritual feelings are manifestations of brain chemistry and not God.

For sinner and saint alike, VD is caused by a germ. Likewise, mental illness is caused by imbalanced brain chemistry. Inasmuch as the cause of exposure to the germ, or the imbalance of the chemistry is a consequence of the exercise of agency, that agency may have been exercised in either sin or innocence. And inasmuch as the cause of exposure to the germ, or the imbalance of the chemistry is not caused by the exercise of agency, that event may have been imposed by sin or accident. Which permutation will the anti-Mormon use to exploit a person with mental illness for the purpose of arguing against the Church?

We've already established that God works through "means" (physical and temporal laws and mechanisms) to convey and bring about His spiritual purposes (Alma 37:7). Last night Elder Oaks spoke of a similar principle, that the ill seek the resources at hand and exercise faith and prayer before relying solely on priesthood blessings. If a pill can correct a chemical imbalance, go for it!

Will a person who is diagnosed as mentally ill still continue to suffer the effects of the mental illness if they are successfully treated of their illness? I do not think so; at worst it is akin to a patient diagnosed with cancer enjoying a period of remission, and at best, long term maintenance of full functionality. Regardless of the label, and how the condition warranting the label came about (sin or imposition), if the apparatus is functioning, authentic spiritual benefit can be experienced by the faithful.

Spiritual feelings are so subjective it is hard to tell whether that which another person is feeling, thinking, or experiencing is authentic (Moroni 7:18)--yet there are a few basic principles we can rely on: faithfulness, righteousness, judgment in Israel, means through which the Lord operates, and our bodies' perfect physical apparatus in the resurrection.

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CV75:

A few misconceptions I'd like to clean up.

1. We don't know the cause of mental illness. There are many factors that contribute. Chemical imbalance MAY be a factor in some types of Schizophrenia. But for the others there is no known cause.

2. Taking the appropriate medications at the appropriate time is vital in controlling some types of mental illness.

3. We do have a good track record of controlling the symptoms, though not perfect, of mental illness through talk therapy when combined with drug therapies.

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CV75:

A few misconceptions I'd like to clean up.

1. We don't know the cause of mental illness. There are many factors that contribute. Chemical imbalance MAY be a factor in some types of Schizophrenia. But for the others there is no known cause.

2. Taking the appropriate medications at the appropriate time is vital in controlling some types of mental illness.

3. We do have a good track record of controlling the symptoms, though not perfect, of mental illness through talk therapy when combined with drug therapies.

My remarks use very limited illustrations to answer the OP and the scenario used in reply to my post. They are not to be taken as attempts to address mental illness and its causes, but only to consider the relationship between a spiritual experience (real, claimed or imagined) and mental illness.

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My remarks use very limited illustrations to answer the OP and the scenario used in reply to my post. They are not to be taken as attempts to address mental illness and its causes, but only to consider the relationship between a spiritual experience (real, claimed or imagined) and mental illness.

If someone does have a chemical imbalance, can we be certain then that their ability to effectively communicate with God will destabilize in direct relation to how severe the imbalance is?

Big UP!

Lamanite

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If someone does have a chemical imbalance, can we be certain then that their ability to effectively communicate with God will destabilize in direct relation to how severe the imbalance is?

Forgive me if I'm repeating myself. I don't think we can suppose to take it upon ourselves to judge another person's prayer unless it is given to us of the Lord (if it is within our stewardship and there is a need from the Lord to do so). You really never know what another person is experiencing or communicating spiritually unless the Holy Spirit communicates that same experience and message to you.

But in general, I understand that several things play into the ability of the mentally ill to effectively communicate with God. Their faith and His grace and will trump every other consideration. Aside from that, the area of the brain, the degree (severity) and timing (frequency) and other measures and qualifiers of mental destabilization can and often does affect one's spiritual agency and thus the ability to generate and exhibit faith and to pray. For example, drinking impairs brain functioning and spiritual communication in both directions (Word of Wisdom) but there are cases where the Lord has overcome that for those for whom He will (usually those who don't know any better or upon whom others depend) and they receive a witness or other help that to progress to the point where they embrace and practice the Word of Wisdom.

An inability to have a spiritual experience, whether due to mental illness or not, is not necessarily a condemnation or the result of sin and unworthiness--I beleive in many cases that those who "cannot feel the Spirit", like other so-called handicaps, have been given the challenge "that the works of God should be made manifest in him (John 9: 2 - 3)."

I do not think we can decide or define for the mentally ill what counts as a prayer or acceptable spirituality to God. We can only treat them with charity and if necessary intervene on their behavior if they are a threat to self or others. But this holds true for those who are not mentally ill.

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I'll have to let this information marinate for a minute...

I will have to say I'm surprised this thread hasn't gotten more attention. If this board is a reflection of Mormon/American society then I imagine there are quite a few of you on SSRI's at a minimum. And if what has been said here is true, then your ability to receive revelation and feel the Spirit may have been jeopardized by the illness and or the medications chemical interactions within the brain. Seems like the implications are significant.

Big UP!

Lamanite

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Lamanite:

Yes our mental state can and does have a large impact on our religiosity. However there is no positive correlation between mental illness and religiosity. It is tangential at best.

I'm now speaking specifically of minor cases of anxious/depression. The significant or tangential affect defective brain chemistry may have on our spirituality is up in the air, for me at least. I haven't arrived at the conclusion that these things may be minor in the affect they have on the correlation between spirituality and mental illness.

Marinating...

Thanks for the continued dialogue.

Big UP!

Lamanite

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Lamanite:

Lots depends on how minor it is. Everyone gets "the blues" from time to time. It is just part of the price we pay for living on this planet. I'm just an old retired psychiatric social worker. My abilities only go so far, and am willing to admit that for minor cases a good stiff drink and a friendly barkeep can do almost as much good as the $75/hr I used to charge. Not that I would EVER recommend that. Alcohol and/or self medication often result in more problems than they are worth.

Always a pleasure to talk with you too.

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Thanks for posting, Lamanite. I ordered the book and will be reading it as soon as it arrives. I have "severe clinical depression" (some of which is a function of the way the brain works in addition to chemical imbalances) and so the subject interests me greatly. It is interesting because just this weekend I was thinking and praying about the subject and how does mental illness effect my ability to feel the Spirit, and now this comes up, so maybe this post and book is an answer to a prayer! We'll see. I am still trying to learn if mental illness in my case does effect my ability to communicate with my Father in Heaven. I think it does. I think I have had feelings/emotions in the past that I have experienced that I thought were the Holy Spirit communicating to me when those feelings might have been attributed to mental issues. On the other hand, I have received answers to prayers in the past that have been true that have come to me more easily because of mental issues. Therefore, there are positives and negatives, and I need to learn to discern both.

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I'm now speaking specifically of minor cases of anxious/depression. The significant or tangential affect defective brain chemistry may have on our spirituality is up in the air, for me at least. I haven't arrived at the conclusion that these things may be minor in the affect they have on the correlation between spirituality and mental illness.

"Minor" mental illness is like any other "minor" illness with regards to spirituality. If I have a slight fever, my prayers may be brief and I may not to attend to reading my scriptures. The Lord would accept my best efforts as enough, and in the end I will be blessed; the Lord would not accept my superficial attempts and I will be made all the weaker. If my fever was brought on by something I caught through an adulterous act, all the worse, or perhaps the more fervent would be my efforts. Some people get spiritually sick. There are all kinds of impediments to spirituality, and they rarely occur in isolation (the mind-body-spirit connection; take it a step further and add the environment and relationships).

I have no doubt that someone with "minor" anxiety/depression can obtain much relief in prayer, just as someone who is feeling insecure can obtain some confidence through prayer.

But now I'll be quiet while you marinate!

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