Latter-day Saint Life

Prophets and Apostles Share Their Personal Experience with Mental Illness


One in five adults in the United States will battle mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness. Whether it's now or in our future, chances are many of us will come face to face with mental illness, through our personal experience or through a close loved one.

A broadcast published by the Mormon Channel in 2015 discusses three examples of when modern apostles and prophets have felt the pain and heartache of mental illness in their own lives. These profound and deeply personal stories bring light to this growing concern and illustrate that everyone, even prophets, experience mental and emotional struggles. No matter who we are or how righteous we are, we will all experience spiritual, physical, and mental challenges in this life that will shatter, stretch, and even hurt us. But, through the love of the Savior and His infinite Atonement, we can find light and hope even in the middle of our darkest trials.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Shortly after Elder Dallin H. Oaks lost his father to tuberculosis, he and his siblings went to live with his grandparents while his mother moved to New York for school. About this experience, Elder Oaks said:

The death of my father and my mother's going away so soon were difficult experiences for me. When I was about 9 years old, I remember thinking there was nobody in the world as unhappy as I was.
For my mother, the loss of her husband and then the separation from her three children within a two month period were too much, and mother suffered a nervous breakdown. She was told she would never recover. But through the blessings of the Lord, she did recover and she was stronger than ever.

It's so comforting to learn that many can receive healing from their mental illnesses or disorders through the Lord's tender mercies. But, there are also many who bear these burdens their entire life. It is also important to note that, regardless of your pain and challenges, your Heavenly Father loves you with an infinite love and depression has no bearing on your worthiness. His love and the Savior's Atonement can bring peace and lessen the burdens of your troubles. They can provide a deeper spiritual healing that will bring you the strength needed to endure your trials.

President George Albert Smith

A 2008 manual published by the Mormon History association suggests that President George Albert Smith probably suffered from an anxiety disorder and depression.

One of his grandchildren, George Albert Smith the fifth, said that his grandfather "struggled with depression, feeling incompetent, and being overwhelmed. There were times when 'he just could not pull it all together.'"

We all suffer with feelings of inadequacy and depression. But for those who experience these debilitating feelings chronically, it is comforting to know that, as Jeffrey Holland says, "one of the most gentle and Christlike men of our dispensation" also battled such problems. The Lord can take us, weaknesses, inadequacies and all, and use our lives as a way to bless thousands of others.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

In his October 2013 general conference talk, "Like a Broken Vessel," Elder Jeffrey R. Holland shared:

At one point in our married life when financial fears collided with staggering fatigue, I took a psychic blow that was as unanticipated as it was real. With the grace of God and the love of my family, I kept functioning and kept working, but even after all these years I continue to feel a deep sympathy for others more chronically or more deeply afflicted with such gloom than I was. In any case we have all taken courage from those who, in the words of the Prophet Joseph, “search[ed] … and contemplate[d] the darkest abyss” and persevered through it—not the least of whom were Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Elder George Albert Smith, the latter being one of the most gentle and Christlike men of our dispensation, who battled recurring depression for some years before later becoming the universally beloved eighth prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend. As President Monson said to the Relief Society sisters so movingly last Saturday evening: “That love never changes. … It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve [it]. It is simply always there.”

Do you feel despair and hopelessness even when you are doing the things that used to bring you joy? Instead of feeling the familiar comfort of the Spirit when you pray, does it seem as if your prayers are hitting a lead ceiling that is covering your head? In Reaching for Hope: An LDS Perspective on Recovering from Depression, you will learn how to recognize depression in yourself or a loved one and how to begin healing and finding hope to move forward—one step at a time.

This inspiring guide portrays the experience of the Vandagriff family, which struggled under depression for more than 25 years before relief came through the grace of Jesus Christ. Yet in the midst of great strife, the family saw the hand of God revealed in the form of inspired physicians, effective medications, and, most importantly, the direct influence of the Spirit. Written in turns by mother, son, and father, this poignant and uplifting account shows how to rely on the Spirit during times of adversity and draw on the Savior's blessings of peace, hope, and healing.

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