18 June 2014

Mental health hero moment: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

In the past, I've written about my frustrations with people who attribute struggles with PPD or any other mental health issue to a lack of faith or any other spiritual failing. Today, I want to talk about someone who is getting it right: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

During the 183rd Semiannual General Conference spanning from October 5-6, 2013, Elder Holland gave a talk titled "Like a Broken Vessel". Elder Holland, THANK YOU!

Elder Holland's talk should be required viewing/listening/reading for all Christians, no matter what church you do or don't go to. If you're not Mormon, ignore the Mormon-specific language. You can still get a lot out of it.

Here's one of of my favorite quotes from his talk:

"However bewildering this all may be, these afflictions are some of the realities of mortal life and there should be no more shame in acknowledging them than acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor."

Here, Elder Holland hits on a point of vital importance: mental illness is an illness. I have no problem posting on Facebook things like "My sinuses are terrible" and "The doctor says I have Pneumonia, time to break out the antibiotics", and should similarly not be afraid to say something like "I'm having a lot of trouble with horrible thoughts popping into my mind unbidden" and "I've just been diagnosed with Postpartum OCD. I'll be starting medication and finding a therapist". I absolutely love that Elder Holland has specifically acknowledge and pointed out that health is health and illness is illness and there should be no shame in acknowledging or seeking help.

I've talked before about how frustrating and non-helpful it is to say things like "Just pray more", "Just have more faith", "Are you sure you've confessed all your sins?", or anything else that insinuates that the person with PPMD (or any other mental health issues) is at fault or is somehow choosing to have PPD etc. The fact of the matter is that PPD etc. is not a spiritual issue, it's a health issue. It's not something that you can automatically just pray away. There are people who say that they prayed and received miraculous healing, and I'm truly happy for them, but that doesn't always work. Sometimes, prayer really isn't enough. You can have all the faith in the world and still have PPD, etc.

Elder Holland is one of my heroes in the Church, for being so willing to be open about his own struggles and for standing up in General Conference and saying "This is real. There shouldn't be any shame". For getting up there and saying that it's ok and good to seek help from professionals. For showing so much love and compassion and understanding. I hope to someday get to meet Elder Holland and tell him exactly how much his words meant to me and to so many others

For anybody out there who's reading this and trying to find their way through their own dark tunnel, especially for my LDS sisters, I leave you with these words from Elder Holland's talk. They are words that give me hope and I pray that they also bring you some measure of comfort.

"I testify of the holy Resurrection, that unspeakable cornerstone gift in the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ! With the Apostle Paul, I testify that that which was sown in corruption will one day be raised in incorruption and that which was sown in weakness will ultimately be raised in power. I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind. What a thrilling moment that will be! I do not know whether we will be happier for ourselves that we have witnessed such a miracle or happier for them that they are fully perfect and finally “free at last.” Until that hour when Christ’s consummate gift is evident to us all, may we live by faith, hold fast to hope, and show “compassion one of another,” I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen".



  1. But that doesn't follow Jesus' mandate to "rejoice with those who rejoice, and throw pithy comments or theologically meaningless mandate to those who weep (or wish they could)." Somehow it got mistranslated to "... and weep with those who weep."

  2. This has been a sore point with me. I had a Bishop a decade ago, who was telling me that depression can't exist, because we can't be tempted above what we can endure. I also have 3 sons with autistic spectrum disorders, and the same Bishop blamed their troubles on my "poor parenting".

    I am glad Elder Holland spoke about this subject, but, for some of us, it comes too late.