Song of the Week: Witch Hunt
The Disaffected Seminary Experience

Psychological Effects of Mormonism

Free At Last, a poster at the Recovery from Mormonism site, has put up a new web page on the subject of the Psychological Effects of Mormonism.  I recommend it to readers of Equality Time.  It covers much of what I covered in my post "Fear and Loathing in Salt Lake City."  (On the fears engendered by Mormonism, Free At Last has compiled a much longer list than the one I present in my post on the subject.  It can be found here. ) Essentially, Free At Last is arguing from a similar point of view to mine.  That is, the biggest problem with Mormonism is its effect on an individual's mind and soul.  Rather than using healthy methods to motivate its members, the LDS Church uses fear, guilt, shame, and psychological intimidation to foster dependence on and loyalty to the organization, at the expense of the psychological and emotional health of its members.  In my view, a religion ought to uplift, inspire, heal, encourage, enlighten, pacify, strengthen, educate, and equip its members for dealing with life's challenges.  What I see in the LDS Church is a religion that systematically breaks down an individual 's autonomous will, substituting the church's dogma and values for personal conscience.   Free  At Last's web site outlines how the church accomplishes this, and provides resources for further study of this phenomenon.

For a list of psychological symptoms often experienced by members of the LDS Church,  see here.  If you are a member of the church, I encourage you to look at the list and see how many symptoms you recognize in yourself.  A healthy religion, in my opinion, would not generate such thoughts and feelings.

For detailed case studies on the effects that Mormonism's hierarchical authoritarian structure has on individuals, see this site.

Bob McCue has written in a similar vein on how Mormonism uses Belief-Shaping Techniques to command obedience to church authority.  His insightful essay, which I think complements Free At Last's page nicely, can be found at Bob's web site.

President Hinckley has said on occasion that Mormonism makes bad men good and good men better (not sure what he thinks it does for women, whom he relegated at the latest General Conference to the status of "possessions" of their husbands, but I digress).  Richard Packham addresses this question at his web site and finds Mormonism wanting.

Addressing the topic that Hinckley has ignored--the deleterious effects of Mormonism on many women--Dr. Kent Ponder discusses the results of his study of Mormon women and depression over here.

An interesting discussion of the teen suicide rate in Utah, and the role Mormonism might play in it, can be found at the Mormon Stories blog.

Finally, for a long but fascinating exploration of the "pattern of the double bind" in Mormonism, see this book published online. 

If anyone has additional links to sites discussing the psychological effects of Mormonism on the individual, please let me know and I will update this post.  Thanks!

Comments

Starting To Learn

Or you chould check this study:
http://www.adherents.com/largecom/lds_LowSuicideRate.html

or this one:
http://health.utah.gov/opha/publications/hsu/9903suicide.pdf

"While mental illness is a major risk factor for suicide, religious affiliation is often listed as a "preventive" factor against it, according to Cyndi Bemis with the state Department of Health's Violence and Injury Prevention Program.
She said higher levels of religiosity appear to be associated with lower levels of suicide.
Among 15- to 19-year-old males in Utah, less-active LDS youths and those who did not belong to the LDS Church had relative risks of suicide of 3.28 and 3.43, respectively, as compared with active LDS youth at 1.0, according to Gary Mower, injury prevention specialist with the state Department of Health. That means among those who killed themselves, the rate was 3.43 times higher for non Latter-day Saint young men and 3.28 times higher for less-active LDS young men than it was for active LDS teen male"

Equality

Thanks, STL. Yes, I believe that study was referenced and discussed in the Mormon Stories thread that I reference in my post. Did you read that discussion?

mel

Equality, you have to have been tagged with this meme multiple times by now ... but I'm giving you a Thinking Blogger award for this post and for the generally awesome quality of your work.

Enjoy. :)

Mana

The Utah Health Dpt. report quoted by STL is an old one. The most current one on the Utah Gov. website states Utah has one of the highest rates of teenage suicide in the nation, especially amongst males between 15-24, where Utah leads the way.

I am not aware of studies to show a link between religiosity and suicide rates in Utah, however, the high Utah suicide rates have been associated with high numbers of youth diagnosed with a mental illness (depression included).

But here are some potential causes for depression: rape (Utah ranks 14th in the nation), domestic violence (Utah ranks 16th in the nation), bankruptcy (Utah ranks 1st in the nation).
You can find these reports here: http://www.jrsa.org/dvsa-drc/utah/index.shtml
and here:
http://www.bankjr.com/teachers/utah_bankruptcy.jsp

And what is it about Utah society that fosters high rates in those three areas?

Deseret News even published an article about Utah's Utah violence rates against women being 21% higher than the national average in 2003.

If it's not the predominant religion in Utah, what is it then that's causing these odd depression triggers?

johnny

I am also in your camp. In fact if I am pressed to give my reasons for leaving to a true believer I usually rely on these psychological issues. I have my multitude of reasons for leaving, but the fact that it produced such an unhealthy self-understanding was reason enough.

Juggler Vain

All religions have odd doctrinal issues and most have embarassing episodes in their history. The LDS Church deals with these issues in a way that negatively impacts the psychological well being of its members (the "one true church" claim being the most problematic, imo). This is a threshold issue for me in deciding how I engage the Church; the stakes are too high to simply give the Church a free pass and just try to cope.

This is a very tough issue for disaffected members to raise with believers (or even cultural mormons) because it substantially undercuts any reasonable basis for concluding that the Church is good, which is usually the easiest compromise to reach between believers and nonbelievers. Once you've eliminated the "good" from the dialogue, how do you get along?

Equality

JV,

I think the determination of "good" can be subjectively determined on a case-by-case basis. That's what I think our friend John Dehlin is trying to do at Mormon Stories--find a way to make the church "work" in a positive way for him and his family. And I do not doubt that there may be many people for whom the church does "work" for them, meeting their social/emotional/spiritual needs. The problem I have is that, looking at the big picture, the church can also be incredibly damaging to many individuals. So, the question is, do I want to align myself with such an organization? Do I want to take the chance that my daughters will be able to survive the psychological manipulation and cultural conditioning and arrive at adulthood with healthy attitudes about themselves, their capabilities, their place in the world? Just because some individual women seem happy in the role that the church assigns them, and other women are able to rise above the church's cultural conditioning, is it a risk worth taking? The fact that there is some good in the organization is, I think, uncontroversial. But the bad in the church, in my opinion, is so bad that I don't know if I can continue to lend my name to the organization.

Juggler Vain

A person who concludes that the LDS Church is, overall, a toxic psychological environment does not have much of a reason to conclude that it is a good place to spend time (even if there is some good in it). Once you no longer see the Church as a good thing, you have lost a key basis for cooperating with the believers (or even cultural mormons) in your life who want you to stay connected to the Church. That was my point above.

Kullervo

I think it's weird that Richard Pachkam lumps "the Buddhists" in with Scientology, the Moonies, the JWs, the Christian Scientists, and Eckankar.

Equality

Kullervo,

That is amusing. I hadn't noticed that. For a long time, I would not link to Packham's site as I thought it was alittle over the top in many respects. But he does have some good pages. The Buddhist comment is a little odd, though.

Kenna

Okay....inflicting guilt shame and fear...maybe, just MAYBE these are induced because the people themselves feel guilty because they know they havent done there best, and actually feel remorse for their sins. Huh?

If any of agree with the truth and reality of Heavenly Father, and the Holy Ghost, and Jesus Christ, therefore you must agree that they are the one more perfect source of authority.

They were once as we were, and figured out how to conquer everything we experience here on earth, every doubt, every desire, every yearning to be right, to be accepted, to be justified, to be loved, to be accomplished, every yearning of the human heart.

Therefore, their commandments were given to us because by following those, we will be made happy and have all of our yearnings and hopes satisified. When people turn to alcholism and drugs, and spending money, and promiscuous sexual activity, and other self-esteem destroying activities, they are more likely to be depressed, to be unhappy, to be unsuccessful. This has been proved by psychological reports.

Because Heavenly Father is the true source of joy and happiness, when we dont do right, we are guilty, fearful, ashamed, and depressed. Recognize when we bring those things upon ourselves.

This Church is not easy, but it is true. Nothing can cause, spiritually, mentally, or physically, a burning witness of the SPirit. If we sincerely pray about the truth of this gospel, you will feel it. And psychology and science have, can, and never will be able to prove that this is false. They've tried, and they cant.

Equality

Kenna,

Thanks for commenting. I hope you enjoy my blog. On your last point, may I recommend that you pick up a copy of a book I reference in the left-hand column, called Why God Won't Go Away. It explores, from a scientific perspective, the neurological and physiological elements of spiritual experience.

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