Sometimes people got along with their mission president and sometimes people didn’t. But a mission president still makes an impact on the missionaries he presides over. Wendy Ulrich, a psychologist who advises the missionary mental health committee, said sometimes clashes between missionaries and mission presidents come about …
Nowadays, we constantly hear about how polarized politics are. The Republicans will agree with Republicans, even if they don’t agree — for the sake of the party. And Democrats will agree with Democrats, even if they don’t agree — for the sake of the party. …
What does it mean to minister? The dictionary definition is “to give aid or service.”
What’s interesting to me is that the LDS Church has a whole section of their Provident Living website devoted to “ministering” — which includes topics on abuse help, addiction, caregivers, early-return missionaries, employment, family finances, marital conflict, overcoming pornography, same-sex attraction, single expectant parents, and spouses of pornography users.
On the homepage of the ministering resources page, there’s a letter from the First Presidency to bishops. It says, “The ministering resources listed below have been created to assist you as you respond to the specific challenges members often face.”
Imagine you are called as a bishop to watch over not only the spiritual needs of a large group of people, but the temporal needs — and these people are also going to come to you with many, many other things that they want you to help them with. And you probably don’t have any formal training with the things they need help with. And that’s probably super overwhelming.
The resources are not meant to teach bishops to act as psychologists, but are meant to help bishops help their ward members. Many of the sections include some sort of suggestion that members seek professional help.
Here are some highlights from the website:
Abuse (Help for the Victim)
Helping the victim feel heard and understood may be just as important as any help you can give.
Abuse (Help for the Offender)
When appropriate, discuss with the member the consequences of abusive behavior on self and family, including the doctrine and church policies related to abuse.
Help the member make a plan to avoid or address situations in which he or she is vulnerable to temptation. Review the plan with the member regularly.
Support for Caregivers
If the caregiver and care receiver feel like they are a burden to the ward, help them understand that they are valued and that many ward members are glad to serve them.
Missionaries Who Return Home Early
Encourage the missionary, his or her family, and ward members to refer to him or her as a “returned missionary” and not an “early-returned” or “early-released missionary.”
Consider inviting the member to pursue opportunities for education, training, or certification.
Help members understand the importance of paying an honest tithing, living within their means, saving for unexpected expenses, and avoiding debt.
Help each spouse recognize that no one can change someone else, but with faith, effort, and the help of God, each person can undergo his or her own mighty change of heart.
When members do not seem to respond to normal attempts by leaders to be helpful, leaders should not be offended by their lack of response. Instead, leaders should seriously consider encouraging the member to get a mental health assessment from a qualified provider.
Expressing love and gratitude to the individual for coming forward is an important step to help the member overcome the problem.
Feeling same-sex attraction or choosing to use a sexual identity label (such as gay, lesbian, or bisexual) is not a sin and does not violate church policy or doctrine.
Single Expectant Parents
Reach out in love to comfort, encourage, and care for the single expectant mother or father. Express your desire to help and thank the individual for his or her willingness to involve you.
Support for Spouses of Pornography Users
Spouses often incorrectly assume the problem is somehow their fault. Help the spouse of the pornography user understand that he or she is not responsible for the user’s behavior.
Is “Mormon culture” a bad thing? Before looking into this subject as something to write on, I pretty much only heard the term “Mormon culture” with a negative connotation. Just ask someone how they feel about Mormon culture, and they’ll probably have some pent up angst …
If you’re the parent of a son or daughter going on a mission, you probably worry about their health when they write home saying something is amiss. And if it’s related to mental health, you might not know what resources are available to them. According …
Coming home from a mission is not as easy as you expect it to be. Sure, you learned how to study and make goals, but missions are extremely structured in a way that life is not.
Psychologist Wendy Ulrich has worked with the LDS Church missionary mental health committee on several projects, such as a booklet called “Adjusting to Missionary Life” and an online program to help missionaries returning home from their missions, called “My Plan.”
Adjusting to missionary life is difficult, but Ulrich said it can be just as hard transitioning back to “normal” life. There are a few reasons for this.
1. You have to make your own plans.
On a mission, you have your schedule laid out for you. You just fill in the gaps with teaching people and various ways of finding people to teach. And often, on missions you were told to not get “trunky” and to not plan for when you go home. “You feel like you surreptitiously have to sneak around and make arrangement for your classes or apartment or a job when you get home,” Ulrich said.
But Ulrich said that is changing. She’s noticed a shift with mission presidents. She said they are now “trying to move from this idea of work till you drop at the end of your mission and don’t even think about anything else” to helping missionaries anticipate the changes. Because when the mission is over, “there’s no mission president waiting for you when you get home to help you with that transition,” she said.
2. Sometimes you face depression or anxiety or maybe just plain confusion
Ulrich said the best thing for return missionaries to do is to seek out resources, like counseling, when they feel like what they’re experiencing is more than they can handle.
But she also said it’s normal to feel a little off. She said that when she talks with groups of missionaries, all the same issues come up.
“I think sometimes the best thing we can do is just open up a little more with other people around us who are dealing with the same issues,” Ulrich said. “When you’re in the middle of it, the feeling is ‘This is just me. What’s the matter with me?’ And when you get talking to people, you start realizing, ‘No, a lot of people are struggling with the same issues I am.'”
3. You’re confusing mission life with “adult spirituality”
If you’re around Mormons for long enough, you’ll probably hear a story about a mission president who told missionaries something he shouldn’t have, which caused the return missionary a lot of grief.
Ulrich said one of the biggest challenges for a mission president is that he will likely do what his own mission president did. So if his mission president said to go home and get married in six months or read the scriptures for an hour every day for the rest of your life, then he is likely to pass that on.
(Now, as we established in a previous blog, mission presidents saying things like “go home and get married in six months” or “read the scriptures for an hour every day for the rest of your life” is opinion, not doctrine. So if someone doesn’t follow that council, it doesn’t mean they are damned or “less.”)
“A mission is more like a boot camp than it is real life,” Ulrich said.
She compared the experience of a mission to learning discipline, which is helpful, but she said it’s not what “adult spirituality” looks like.
“Adult spirituality has a lot more to do with dealing with ambiguity and dealing with paradox and dealing with uncertainty and not knowing all the answers and figuring it out yourself and having to make lots of adjustments,” Ulrich said.
She laughed as she said when you have a kid, getting up at 6 a.m. just doesn’t work. But she said missions teach people to how get comfortable with the scriptures, how to get along with others, and how to testify.
What does it mean to be an adult in the Church?
- “Learning to question and not fall apart over it.”
- “Learning to cut people slack and to realize that your leaders are just human beings like you are, and they don’t have all the answers”
- It can’t be prescribed.
- You have to come up with the rules for yourself that “make spirituality alive in your life.”
Ulrich said the hardest part about coming home from a mission is “there are no clean answers” for a lot of the things people are going to encounter.
I think everyone in the world can agree that life is messy and complicated. And Ulrich pointed out that the early 20s is a time when everyone is having a hard time, so transitioning from a mission to coming home is already harder because of that fact.
So if you’re transitioning from getting home from your mission, just know that it’s normal if you’re having a hard time. Cut yourself some slack and cut some slack for anyone who offended you or imposed their opinion on you.
Did you know it’s a commandment to wear a white shirt while passing the sacrament? And blue shirts evil? It seems that sometimes there are blurred lines between what’s doctrine and what’s policy or culture. For example, it’s a policy that people don’t play brass instruments …