Mormonism and Depression

Listen to a 2-part Viewpoint on Mormonism podcast series that originally aired in October 2011 by clicking on the following links:  Part 1  Part 2 

By Sharon Lindbloom

Utah has the unfortunate reputation of being “the runaway leader in antidepressant use.” In February of 2002 the Los Angeles Times reported the findings of a study which showed how “antidepressant drugs are prescribed in Utah more often than in any other state, at a rate nearly twice the national average.” Utah’s high usage was cited by one of the study’s authors as the most surprising finding to emerge from the data. The study was released last summer and updated in January.

Other states with high antidepressant use were Maine and Oregon. Utah’s rate of antidepressant use was twice the rate of California and nearly three times the rates in New York and New Jersey, the study showed. (Julie Cart, “Study Finds Utah Leads Nation in Antidepressant Use,” February 20, 2002, page A6)

While this is old news, last weekend Deseret News resurrected the topic when it reported on a Brigham Young University professor’s research into why there is such high antidepressant use in Utah. According to Professor Daniel K. Judd, the LDS Church is not to blame. He said,

“Perhaps one of the reasons the residents of Utah lead the nation in the use of antidepressants is that since they are generally more educated and aware of the symptoms and treatments of depression, they are more likely than the residents of other states to seek medical treatment.”

Dr. Judd also suggests

Utah’s LDS population also might more readily turn to the medical profession for help because the church advises members not to use alcohol and tobacco. Research indicates Latter-day Saints in Utah and elsewhere are less likely to self-medicate, Judd said, with those drugs or illegal drugs.

In truth, Dr. Judd doesn’t know why Utah leads the nation in antidepressant use; he seems to be merely offering a pretext in which the Mormon Church is exonerated from the charges brought against it by critics.

Dr. Judd did acknowledge that the Mormon culture sometimes leads people toward an attitude of perfectionism. However, he said,

“It’s not our theology that’s at fault. It’s our culture, at times. The doctrine isn’t, ‘Come unto me, all ye heavy laden, and I’ll give you more to do.’ “

With all due respect, that is exactly what Mormon doctrine is.

The first thing a new member receives after baptism and confirmation in the LDS Church is a “calling.” Each member is told that God Himself has called the person to a specific job/position in the Church; a job they are expected to perform without complaint or question. So practically speaking, those who “come unto Christ” through the LDS Church are given more to do.

Furthermore, the doctrines presented in LDS Scriptures state:

  • In order to obtain God’s grace, you must be perfect in your morals and in your service toward God. (Moroni 10:32)
  • You are saved by grace after all you can do. (2 Nephi 25:23)
  • God never commands something that is not within your ability to accomplish. (1 Nephi 3:7)
  • You must keep the commandments in order to be forgiven of sin. (Doctrine and Covenants 1:31-33)
  • You must give heed to all the words and commandments that come from the LDS prophet. (Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-5)
  • You must endure to the end in sinlessness to be qualified to inherit the kingdom of heaven. (Alma 11:37; 2 Nephi 27:16-22)

LDS Apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin taught in General Conference,

You can keep [God’s] commandments by continually striving to do so. Does that mean all of God’s commandments?” you might ask. Yes! All of them! (Ensign, November 1999, page 40)

Placing this unbelievable burden on people–requiring them to keep every commandment perfectly as they endure to the end–is most definitely giving them “more to do.” Keith Walker from Evidence Ministries calls this “The Impossible Gospel”; and so it is. No wonder Utah, seventy percent Mormon, leads the nation in antidepressant use.

This invitation from Jesus is truly a more excellent way:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;
for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and ye shall find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
– Matthew 11:28-30

Utah has the unfortunate reputation of being “the runaway leader in antidepressant use.” In February of 2002 the Los Angeles Times reported the findings of a study which showed
Antidepressant drugs are prescribed in Utah more often than in any other state, at a rate nearly twice the national average.
Utah’s high usage was cited by one of the study’s authors as the most surprising finding to emerge from the data. The study was released last summer and updated in January.
Other states with high antidepressant use were Maine and Oregon. Utah’s rate of antidepressant use was twice the rate of California and nearly three times the rates in New York and New Jersey, the study showed. (Julie Cart, “Study Finds Utah Leads Nation in Antidepressant Use,” February 20, 2002, page A6)
While this is old news, last weekend Deseret News resurrected the topic when it reported on a Brigham Young University professor’s research into why there is such high antidepressant use in Utah. According to Professor Daniel K. Judd, the LDS Church is not to blame. He said,
“Perhaps one of the reasons the residents of Utah lead the nation in the use of antidepressants is that since they are generally more educated and aware of the symptoms and treatments of depression, they are more likely than the residents of other states to seek medical treatment.”
Dr. Judd also suggests
Utah’s LDS population also might more readily turn to the medical profession for help because the church advises members not to use alcohol and tobacco. Research indicates Latter-day Saints in Utah and elsewhere are less likely to self-medicate, Judd said, with those drugs or illegal drugs.
In truth, Dr. Judd doesn’t know why Utah leads the nation in antidepressant use; he seems to be merely offering a pretext in which the Mormon Church is exonerated from the charges brought against it by critics.
Dr. Judd did acknowledge that the Mormon culture sometimes leads people toward an attitude of perfectionism. However, he said,
“It’s not our theology that’s at fault. It’s our culture, at times. The doctrine isn’t, ‘Come unto me, all ye heavy laden, and I’ll give you more to do.’ “
With all due respect, that is exactly what Mormon doctrine is.
The first thing a new member receives after baptism and confirmation in the LDS Church is a “calling.” Each member is told that God Himself has called the person to a specific job/position in the Church; a job they are expected to perform without complaint or question. So practically speaking, those who “come unto Christ” through the LDS Church are given more to do.
Furthermore, the doctrines presented in LDS Scriptures state:
In order to obtain God’s grace, you must be perfect in your morals and in your service toward God. (Moroni 10:32)
You are saved by grace after all you can do. (2 Nephi 25:23)
God never commands something that is not within your ability to accomplish. (1 Nephi 3:7)
You must keep the commandments in order to be forgiven of sin. (Doctrine and Covenants 1:31-33)
You must give heed to all the words and commandments that come from the LDS prophet. (Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-5)
You must endure to the end in sinlessness to be qualified to inherit the kingdom of heaven. (Alma 11:37; 2 Nephi 27:16-22)
LDS Apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin taught in General Conference,
You can keep [God’s] commandments by continually striving to do so.
“Does that mean all of God’s commandments?” you might ask. Yes! All of them! (Ensign, November 1999, page 40)
Placing this unbelievable burden on people–requiring them to keep every commandment perfectly as they endure to the end–is most definitely giving them “more to do.” Keith Walker from Evidence Ministries calls this “The Impossible Gospel”; and so it is. No wonder Utah, seventy percent Mormon, leads the nation in antidepressant use.
This invitation from Jesus is truly a more excellent way:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;
for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and ye shall find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
-Matthew 11:28-30