Latter-day Saint Life

How do we battle depression in a religion centered on a plan of happiness?


Editor’s note: This article was originally published on in January 2019.

Jane Clayson Johnson interviewed some of the most important newsmakers during her time as a broadcast journalist on network news. She left a job many dream of having to pursue her true dream job of being a wife and mother. However, Johnson’s life took an unexpected turn when she was blindsided by clinical depression. In this week’s podcast, Johnson talks about her new book, Silent Souls Weeping, which draws from her personal experience with depression as well as the experiences of more than 150 people she interviewed for the book.

Read an excerpt of Johnson’s interview with All In host Morgan Jones below or listen to the interview here.

MJ: You have a chapter in the book where you talk about how depression often impacts our ability to feel the Spirit. Is that something that you experienced as well?

JCJ: Oh, absolutely. When I was in the depth of my depression, depression not only blocked all feeling for me but it also included blocking feelings of the Spirit, and so I remember for long stretches of time I just didn’t feel God’s love. I just didn’t feel any whisperings of the Spirit, and I was doing everything right. I was praying, I was reading my scriptures, I was going to the temple, but I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t feel anything. I was almost as if this most important part of me had been cut out of me and I didn’t know what to do about it.

I heard this over and over again from people that I interviewed for my book. I remember several women told me how they felt like God must not love them—they felt abandoned by God. I remember one woman told me about a sense of desperation, frantic desperation I think is what she said, that she couldn’t get relief from the darkness of depression. She felt like her prayers were hitting a wall, she felt like maybe it must be because she was unworthy. You know, I remember growing up thinking, ‘If you’re living the gospel, if you’re doing what’s right, if you’re making good choices, then you will be happy. And if you’re making bad choices and you’re not doing what’s right and you’re not keeping the commandments, then you will be unhappy or sad. So I think it’s a very easy line to draw when we say, ‘Oh, I’m unhappy. I’m depressed. What am I doing wrong? What is it in my life that I need to change?’ And I think as members of the Church, we are in a very unique struggle in this area because we try to fit a disease that is manifest through sorrow into a religion that is centered on a plan of happiness. So I think we have to really recognize that this can be a component of depression and that is one of the most important reasons to get help. You know, you wouldn’t sit in a corner and pray your heart disease away, Morgan. You would pray and you would go to the cardiologist. You would pray and you would go to the doctor. So, this is not something that is our fault. It is something for which we need to seek help and guidance and try to get out of it, try to change it.

To listen to this and other episodes of All In, click here.

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