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char713

Mental Health and Worthiness

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My little brother entered the MTC today. Incredibly proud of him, not least for the health difficulties he has had to overcome in order to be able to serve. Type 1 Diabetes that he has had since he was 12 would have kept him from serving, and did delay him for almost a year. But we spent some time yesterday talking about one of his friends who is having difficulty getting her mission papers together. She recently found out that she may be excluded from being able serve because of her past struggles with anxiety and depression. 

 

I understand that there are medical restrictions that can make for a difficult mission for some, if the missionary would require regular doctors visits, days of rest, or any other special treatment it can be a problem, and might keep some from serving. But my brother's friend has been in treatment for clinical depression since she was quite young, went through quite a few dark years, but it has been four years since she has been back to "high-functioning" levels. 

 

So, I am wondering what any other reasons might be that depression or other such mental illnesses could keep some (otherwise worthy) young people from being able to serve regular full-time missions? Depression is not something that anyone chooses, or causes for themselves. 

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It's not at all an issue of worthiness. That shouldn't even be a question.

 

It is, like many other health concerns, an issue of ability to serve. For instance, my diabetic nephew was called to a stateside mission not terribly far from home, where he'd have access to good medical care and, if needed, his home support system. He did end up going home because of his illness.

 

Another nephew went stateside with depression and OCD issues. He made it over a year, tried getting treatment where he was, and fought so hard. He was as worthy as anyone to be there. But eventually the stress and strain of tracting and all that comes with a full-time mission was too much, and he was sent home with an honorable release. 

 

So no, it's not worthiness in the least. It's a medical issue.

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My son, while on his mission, was assigned to a companion who had gone home because of depression, but who then came back to the mission field. The Mission President knew that my son and this other elder had been in MTC together and were good friends, so when the depressed elder returned to the mission field, the President made them companions in the hope that being with my son could help him overcome the depression. Unfortunately, that did not succeed. They were together for about three months and my son said that it was the most unproductive time of his mission. Because of his depression my son's companion showed little interest in members or investigators and made little attempt to interact with them. Eventually his companion was medically released before he was due to finish his mission.

 

We had a lovely young sister in our ward about a year ago who put in her mission papers and after waiting for mroe than three months, she finally received a reply that basically said not yet, wait a while and try again later. I believe she had some sort of anxiety issues, but it was hardly noticeable. She waited about 6 months and sent in her papers again. She is now about 6 months into an enjoyable and successful mission. 

 

I know of another person, many years ago, when we were in a different ward, who spent some time in an institution with schizoprenia during his mid teens. In his early 20's he applied to serve a mission but was knocked back. Instead, he was called on a building mission. Sometime after that, he applied again and was again knocked back, but was called to serve a three month mini-mission during which he baptised more people than many of the full time missionaries. Eventually, after putting in his mission application a third time, he was finally called to a full time mission. He completed a successful full time mission, baptised several people, and was honourably released. 

 

I know that responses to applications to serve a mission are inspired and reflect the Lord's will for each applicant. You can be confident that whatever happens in relation to your brother's friend will be the Lords will for her. 

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I guess my confusion lies in the fact that her depression is under control, and has been for quite a prolonged period. I know of several former missionaries who learned that they were in fact clinically depressed while out in the mission field, and often had to wait till they returned home to begin proper treatment but were still able to complete their missions. I know it would be taken on a case-by-case basis, but the decision to not even give someone a chance when they have clearly gone through a lot more maturing and testimony-building life experience than the average worthy missionary.. well it just doesn't make sense to me. I would rather my investigator friends were taught by someone who has really been through a rough time, not of their own choosing, and lived to tell about it, than someone who had a more idyllic youth and haven't been truly tested or purified yet. 

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I guess my confusion lies in the fact that her depression is under control, and has been for quite a prolonged period. I know of several former missionaries who learned that they were in fact clinically depressed while out in the mission field, and often had to wait till they returned home to begin proper treatment but were still able to complete their missions. I know it would be taken on a case-by-case basis, but the decision to not even give someone a chance when they have clearly gone through a lot more maturing and testimony-building life experience than the average worthy missionary.. well it just doesn't make sense to me. I would rather my investigator friends were taught by someone who has really been through a rough time, not of their own choosing, and lived to tell about it, than someone who had a more idyllic youth and haven't been truly tested or purified yet. 

 

There's this mistaken assumption that the only mission is the full-time mission.  "Everyday a missionary" is for all of us to serve missions wherever we are.  If your friend's application for a full-time mission did not get accepted at this time, she can get with the Ward Mission Leader or her Bishop and ask to be put to work with the Ward Missionary program.

 

But, to serve a mission, one must have Faith.  And with that comes Faith in the authority of the Priesthood that approves mission applications.  If we can't even have faith in that process, how can we exercise faith in the Missionary Program that one is going to be serving in?

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I know it would be taken on a case-by-case basis, but the decision to not even give someone a chance when they have clearly gone through a lot more maturing and testimony-building life experience than the average worthy missionary.. well it just doesn't make sense to me. 

I really believe it has to do with the strain it puts on the companions and mission office. Serving is difficult without the strain of caring for someone in the event the person has issues. A young adult can't be expected to know how to recognize issues and seek treatment for a companion. It is also disruptive to the "flow" of missionary placement. 

 

My son was excluded from serving due to physical disability and it was crushing to him emotionally. The fact is, there is do dishonor in being excused. If you are in charge of teaching youth, the concept of honorably being excused should be introduced early. Our son wasn't told he wouldn't be allowed until he was about ready to submit his papers, yet in hindsight, he could have been told years earlier.

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I would rather my investigator friends were taught by someone who has really been through a rough time, not of their own choosing, and lived to tell about it, than someone who had a more idyllic youth and haven't been truly tested or purified yet. 

 

Char, is there something stopping this guy from sharing the gospel with his friends and neighbors?  You make it sound like only missionaries get to talk to people about the church.

 

In other words, both my wife and I have been through rough times not of our choosing and lived to tell about it.  And both of us are often able to share things with folks from that perspective.  You're right - that sort of background helps in a lot of situations.  But neither of us went on a mission, and that's really ok.

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4.5.3

Physical, Mental, and Emotional Challenges

Missionary work is demanding. Members who have physical, mental, or emotional challenges that would prevent them from serving effectively are not called to missionary service. Experience indicates that those who, for example, suffer from serious emotional instability, are severely impaired visually, require a wheelchair or crutches, or are dependent on others to perform normal daily tasks should not be recommended for missionary service.

Missionary candidates who have previously had significant emotional challenges must be stabilized and confirmed to be fully functional before being recommended. A candidate who is dependent on medication for emotional stability must have demonstrated that he or she can fully function in the demanding environment of a mission with the medication before being recommended. The candidate must also commit to continue taking the medications unless otherwise authorized by a professional health care provider. The bishop includes in the recommendation forms a list of medications the person is taking.

Young missionaries who are significantly overweight experience difficulties dealing with the rigorous physical demands of a mission. These difficulties also affect their companions. Bishops and stake presidents should be sensitive and wise in considering whether individuals should be recommended for missions when their weight will adversely affect their service. If prospective missionaries are significantly overweight, local leaders should counsel with them about reducing their weight before the missionary recommendation forms are submitted. For weight guidelines, the bishop or stake president may contact the Missionary Department or the assigned administrative office.

If the bishop and stake president are unsure about recommending a member who has any of these challenges, they may consult with the Missionary Department (1-801-240-2179 or 1-800-453-3860, extension 2-2179). They should not recommend exceptions that are unwarranted or that they do not endorse without reservation.

If a member who has serious challenges strongly desires to serve a mission but does not qualify, the bishop and stake president express love and gratitude for the member’s willingness to serve and explain that because of the circumstances, the member is honorably excused from missionary service for his or her own benefit and to avoid placing undue demands on mission leaders and companions.

These members should be encouraged to pursue such important endeavors as education, career development, temple preparation, and temple marriage. For those who have a strong desire to serve, the bishop may counsel with the stake president to identify local opportunities for Church or community service. See 4.12 for information about Church-service missionaries.

 4.5.4

Medical Limitations

A prospective missionary who has a serious medical limitation, including any due to injury or illness, can be considered only with the recommendation of a competent medical authority. Before submitting the recommendation forms, the stake president should consult with the Missionary Department (1-801-240-2179 or 1-800-453-3860, extension 2-2179).

 4.5.5

Review by the Area Medical Adviser

Outside the United States and Canada, missionary recommendation forms are submitted through the Area Presidency. Under their direction, the area medical adviser reviews all recommendation forms and identifies any unresolved medical and dental conditions or immunization issues that could affect the candidate’s ability to serve or the nature of the assignment.

If the area medical adviser feels that treatment is needed before a person is able to serve, he reviews the situation with the Area Presidency. They may return the missionary recommendation forms to the stake president, who ensures that the necessary treatment is arranged for. When the medical condition is resolved, the stake president may resubmit the forms.

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It is a "cultural" expectation enforced thoughout the raising of our youth. It is heartbreaking for a young man or woman who wants to go, deserves to go, who worked to be eligible to go only to be told 'no'. The expectation should be set early on that not everyone 'can' go, or 'should' go, or even is 'required' to go.

 

All the recommendations of serving some other way do not help the person who feels a faliure in their society for not meeting cultural expectations.

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It is a "cultural" expectation enforced thoughout the raising of our youth. It is heartbreaking for a young man or woman who wants to go, deserves to go, who worked to be eligible to go only to be told 'no'. The expectation should be set early on that not everyone 'can' go, or 'should' go, or even is 'required' to go.

 

All the recommendations of serving some other way do not help the person who feels a faliure in their society for not meeting cultural expectations.

 

 

I disagree....  We teach and we set the expectation for the 99....  Then when the 1 that we lose comes around we are instructed to go after them and bring them back with special care and consideration.

 

We don't teach to the 1 because then we have to go hunting for the 99 that we lose.

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It is a "cultural" expectation enforced thoughout the raising of our youth. It is heartbreaking for a young man or woman who wants to go, deserves to go, who worked to be eligible to go only to be told 'no'. The expectation should be set early on that not everyone 'can' go, or 'should' go, or even is 'required' to go.

 

All the recommendations of serving some other way do not help the person who feels a faliure in their society for not meeting cultural expectations.

 

I think there's a lot of merit in what you say--with some caveats.

 

First, formal missionary service is a (priesthood) obligation for all who are eligible and able; full stop.

 

Second, formal missionary service/the ability to claim any perceived social perks that go with the status of being an "RM" is not an entitlement.  Full-time missionaries are supposed to further the Church's mission, and if any would-be missionary's health or other issues will hamper that effort the Church is well within its rights to suggest an alternate form of service for that individual.  (To put it more harshly, as the captain in Ben Hur warned his galley slaves:  "We keep you alive to serve this ship. Row well, and live.")

 

We can--and should--talk about how to alleviate the inevitable discomfort and sense of loss that will come with being told one is ineligible to serve; but those efforts need not include soft-pedaling the Lord's commands to us or suggesting that the missionary effort is a CCC-style "make-work" program that should be supported by, rather than support, the institutional Church.

Edited by Just_A_Guy

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I am infertile, and three seperate teams of doctors have not been able to tell me why I cannot concieve. The hardest part of the past six years have been all of the cultural and emotional ramifications of this non-diagnosis. So, as much as I would enjoy serving in YW at some point, I don't think I ever really could. I do not think I could trust myself to keep my mouth shut during all of the lessons about their future motherhood. The reality is, 1 out of 8 women will have trouble conceiving or carrying a pregnancy. Statistically, thats three girls out of our ward's current YW group who will struggle to get the chance to fulfill that role. I am certain that I would be much better off right now if I had never participated in the YW program. There was no way for anyone to tell what my future life would look like, so of course no one is to blame, but I was built up over 6+ years to expect and depend on my ability to bear children. The higher the expectations, the harder the crash and deeper the disappointment. I'm not saying we should devote entire lessons to infertility, or do away with lessons about motherhood, but there really ought to be a better balance between the two. Because while the church is kind to childless women, the people and culture of the church absolutely are not. Same goes for the expectations for "all worthy young men" to serve full time missions. Big expectations, preparing your whole life for an event, then when it can't happen you are supposed to just be okay with it. I think of this as a child who has to watch all of their siblings get everything they want for Christmas, but they recieve nothing, and are told that because they have no new toys to busy themselves with.. they can clean up the kitchen. 

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Our YW president is childless. I had fertility issues. When motherhood comes up, I always teach that things often don't turn out according to plan, and to be prepared for whatever scenario life throws at you (being single, being childless, ill husband, etc.) Our YW president is an example of making the most of whatever life brings. I've heard your sentiment before about the YW program turning out baby machines, and while that might have been true once, I don't think it is anymore. The focus is being good women, good missionaries, prepared for life, and yes, good mothers if and when that comes to it.

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Though I'm not sure what's wrong with baby machines, another name for which is "mothers". If we believe, as I surely do, that one way a woman fills the measure of her creation is through bearing and nurturing children, then we should be the first to celebrate and exalt that role -- perhaps even at the risk of bruising the feelings of those who don't share that blessing. To do otherwise is like refusing to have the Primary children sing "I'm So Glad When Daddy Comes Home" for fear of hurting the feelings of those children whose father is absent.

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I'm confused by this.  Just because a woman is infertile or her husband is, for that matter, doesn't mean she can't be a mother.  There are sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many children needing mothers.  If anything, what we should realize is that being a mother is SOOOO MUCH MORE THAN taking care of the children that came out of your own womb... so motherhood lessons need to be doubled, tripled, quadrupled instead of done away with.

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..We should be the first to celebrate and exalt that role -- perhaps even at the risk of bruising the feelings of those who don't share that blessing. 

 

I'm sorry but this sounds terribly condescending and insensitive. Those who are suffering, every day, ceaselessly, because of a condition (any condition) that they neither chose nor caused in any way, are and should always be the first to deserve our charity, consideration, and respect. As difficult as parenthood can be for some, that difficulty is assuaged many times over by the support that parents receive from the church, government, and society in general. As difficult as a mission can be, it has an end date and the "perks" that come from having served, whether actual or simply perceived, are that person's for a lifetime. Those who are worthy to serve and have worked extra hard to become so, only to be turned away, have to live with the societal and emotional consequences of that for the rest of their lives.. not to mention the perpetual "what if?" questions in their head unless they are able to obtain a firm answer from the Lord at some point. 

 

I'm confused by this.  Just because a woman is infertile or her husband is, for that matter, doesn't mean she can't be a mother.  There are sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many children needing mothers.  If anything, what we should realize is that being a mother is SOOOO MUCH MORE THAN taking care of the children that came out of your own womb... so motherhood lessons need to be doubled, tripled, quadrupled instead of done away with.

 

It is obvious that I have come to the wrong place with this question. Please consider anyone in your acquaintance who may be suffering through grief caused by infertility or child loss, and NEVER say this in their presence. For the sake of your friendship.

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Though I'm not sure what's wrong with baby machines, another name for which is "mothers". If we believe, as I surely do, that one way a woman fills the measure of her creation is through bearing and nurturing children, then we should be the first to celebrate and exalt that role -- perhaps even at the risk of bruising the feelings of those who don't share that blessing. To do otherwise is like refusing to have the Primary children sing "I'm So Glad When Daddy Comes Home" for fear of hurting the feelings of those children whose father is absent.

 

It's not a sentiment I made up. I think what is meant is women who "only" have children and have no other interest, skills, or desire from life. Motherhood is and will be my greatest accomplishment and hardest job in this life, but it's also only during a season in my life, and I need to have other things during and after the raising of my children. And the fact is, there are those who are never blessed with children, and that is a difficult cross to bear if you've been taught that motherhood is your primary worth and function. 

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It is obvious that I have come to the wrong place with this question. Please consider anyone in your acquaintance who may be suffering through grief caused by infertility or child loss, and NEVER say this in their presence. For the sake of your friendship.

 

You mean like my friend who is currently at the hospital getting chemo for the 3rd time for ovarian cancer that she got when she was 19?  She's Catholic, not LDS... yet she has 4 children... none of them came out of her own womb.  She'd be the first one to tell you what I just said.  By the way, out of those 4 children, only 1 is legally adopted.  The others are all children who live with her because their parents work out of the country.  She is their godmother so, in Catholic faith, the godparents teach the children about God when the parents couldn't.  The parents have 5-year contracts, so they don't get to come home for 5 years... and then usually, they stay for 6 months and is gone again for another 5 years.  Such is the life of a Filipino Offshore worker assigned to the Middle East.

Edited by anatess

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It's not a sentiment I made up. I think what is meant is women who "only" have children and have no other interest, skills, or desire from life. Motherhood is and will be my greatest accomplishment and hardest job in this life, but it's also only during a season in my life, and I need to have other things during and after the raising of my children. And the fact is, there are those who are never blessed with children, and that is a difficult cross to bear if you've been taught that motherhood is your primary worth and function. 

 

During this period of my life, (age 27) my education, church callings, and my childbearing and rearing are the only things that are acceptable pursuits in the opinion my ward and the church culture in general. Everything else is selfish and vain. This is not the way it should be, but it is the way it is. When I get past the age of 35 perhaps I will be less hounded about the subject, but in my current state, the questions never cease. 

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It's not a sentiment I made up. I think what is meant is women who "only" have children and have no other interest, skills, or desire from life. Motherhood is and will be my greatest accomplishment and hardest job in this life, but it's also only during a season in my life, and I need to have other things during and after the raising of my children. And the fact is, there are those who are never blessed with children, and that is a difficult cross to bear if you've been taught that motherhood is your primary worth and function. 

 

I've never been to YW nor served in it since I converted as an adult.  But if the teachings in YW program is similar to the Catholic teachings of motherhood, it seems like there is something missing.  Motherhood, of course, is taking care of your own children.  But it goes WELL beyond that.  Teaching and nurturing children - not just your own - is a fundamental part of this important responsibility called motherhood.  So much so that single women does not get a pass on Motherhood just because they are not married yet - there are younger siblings, nieces nephews, etc that need nurture and care.  On the same token, the Elderly Woman doesn't get a "retirement" from motherhood just because her children flew the coop... there are grandchildren, neighbor's children, etc. to take care of.  Even those who couldn't bear their own children are not exempt from Motherhood.  Hence, the Primary Leadership in all levels of the church are run by women - single women, married women without children, women with their own children, elderly women with or without children.... all performing their calling as Mothers.

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You mean like my friend who is currently at the hospital getting chemo for the 3rd time for ovarian cancer that she got when she was 19?  She's Catholic, not LDS... yet she has 4 children... none of them came out of her own womb.  She'd be the first one to tell you what I just said.  By the way, out of those 4 children, only 1 is legally adopted.  The others are all children who live with her because their parents work out of the country.  She is their godmother so, in Catholic faith, the godparents teach the children about God when the parents couldn't.  The parents have 5-year contracts, so they don't get to come home for 5 years... and then usually, they stay for 6 months and is gone again for another 5 years.  Such is the life of a Filipino Offshore worker assigned to the Middle East.

 

I'm not sure what your point is. Your friend is working through her difficulties as best she can. If she tried to tell another woman, as you have, to "just adopt" or "just foster parent" as you have, she would probably get a very similar response to the one I gave you. Search any infertility support group or forum and you will find several articles and posts about some of the most unwelcome, most insensitive responses to a woman struggling to become a mother. The top two universally despised responses are "just adopt" and "maybe it's not God's plan for you."

 

For some parents, adoption might be the answer. But they make that decision, reach that conclusion on their own and through very careful counsel with the Lord. It is not for everyone, and no one is wrong for deciding that it is not the right path for them. Just as no missionary is wrong for being counseled to maybe consider a local or service mission and then deciding to turn it down. It also does not give them any less "right" to grieve the loss of the opportunity they had been raised and taught to expect. 

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Frankly, problems with fertility is one of those few issues where, if you haven't been through it, you don't get to have an opinion.

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My husband would be very strict if he were in charge of selecting missionaries. He hates the idea of sending out people who can't sufficiently deal with their physical or mental issues.

I'm rather inclined to agree somewhat.

I sympathize with those who are turned away, but it's not about the missionary. It's about preaching the gospel. That's it. Not about making missionaries feel special.

As for the suggestion that missionaries who have "suffered" according to whatever standard someone picks are superior, that's a load of crock. the Spirit converts, not the best sob story.

Missions are About serving the Lord. Getting the work done how we can. It's not about who "deserves" to go, or who is "refined" the most. The Lord seeks worthy and capable official missionaries and everyone to do their part.

Edited by Backroads

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