Episode 73: Incorporating spiritual strategies to forge emotional resilience, with David T. Morgan

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke in October 2013 general conference on acknowledging and confronting mental illness. “Though we may feel we are 'like a broken vessel, … we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter,’” said Elder Holland.

This episode of the Church News podcast features a licensed psychologist and Latter-day Saint who has spent his career helping individuals struggling with anxiety and mental illness. David T. Morgan, a counselor, author and motivational speaker, uses gospel insights and real-life applications to explore strategies — secular and spiritual — to forge emotional resilience

This podcast continues the previous Church News podcast conversations about mental health, which include “Church News Podcast Episode 37: Sister Aburto on mental, emotional health and the power of turning to the Savior for comfort,” and “Church News Podcast Episode 16: Anxiety and a Church resource for Life Help.”

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David T. Morgan: One of the things we understand now about mental health issues is that the causes of them are multifaceted. And sometimes there’s this belief in Church culture that if we keep the commandments and do everything right, that we will have this kind of carefree burdenless life. I can’t find anything in scripture to support that. And every major character that’s mentioned in scripture that’s righteous had a burden to bear, and a significant burden — I mean, Jesus Christ being the primary example of that, never sinned once and yet carried the greatest burden of all. It’s the burden that gives us the spiritual traction, like Elder [David A.] Bednar, to move forward.

Sarah Jane Weaver: I'm Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News — welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In October 2013, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke in general conference about confronting mental illness. In his talk, Elder Holland said, “Though we may feel we are ‘like a broken vessel,’ we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter.” Today on the Church News podcast, we are joined by a member of the Church and a licensed psychologist who has spent his career helping individuals struggling with anxiety and mental illness. Dr. David T. Morgan is a counselor, author and motivational speaker who strongly believes that each of us has the ability and responsibility to address our personal difficulties. Welcome, Dr. Morgan to the Church News podcast.

David T. Morgan: Thank you so much, Sarah.

Sarah Jane Weaver: I really appreciate you joining us today, especially during this time when mental health issues seem to be on the rise in the United States. Can you talk about why we're talking so much about mental health right now?


David T. Morgan: Well, part of it, I think, is because we’re just seeing it more in ourselves and in those that we love; we’re noticing it more. But also, the research suggests that it is on the rise, and COVID-19 has done us no favors, unfortunately, with mental health. I read a study the other day, it was a study of over 80,000 youth globally, and it said that the incidence of anxiety and depression had doubled since the pandemic. And if any of you out there, any listeners, have youth, you might have noticed that in your own youth. So this is something that I don’t think we can longer afford to ignore or to treat like it’s just going to go away. It’s something that’s here to stay, and we need to start talking about it and dealing with it.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, as the mother of a teenager, I have certainly noticed that. Because as youth have become more isolated, as activities in schools have been limited, then she's home on social media, which, I'm not sure, but I have read research that says that the more time you spend on social media, the more they might deal with issues of depression or anxiety.


David T. Morgan: Yeah, and I’m sure that varies from youth to youth in terms of how they react to that. But I think what’s been the most challenging is just the disruption that we’ve experienced. We’ve had, especially our youth, they’ve had 14, 15 years of predictable behavior, knowing what happens on the first day of school, knowing what happens in the middle of school. And then, all of a sudden, I’m sure you remember, in March 2020, it was insane. My wife jumped in a truck with her sister and drove to Provo [Utah] and Rexburg [Idaho] to pick up two of our children and bring them home. And I remember — we have six children, two were at home at the time — I remember sitting at the dining room table and just trying to figure out: “What do we do? Do we go out and talk to people? Can we visit with people?” School was canceled for weeks at a time, and then that two weeks to flatten the curve, which we had here in Washington, has now become two years, right? And we’re still dealing with the effects of the pandemic. And so as time has gone on, it’s just been difficult for people to deal with that type of significant disruption that I don’t think anyone in the world has probably experienced at a global level like this. 

Timeline: How the Church has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic

Sarah Jane Weaver: Yeah, I remember that same period, we did the same thing. We brought both of our kids home from BYU, and then we were in close quarters, fighting over limited internet bandwidth, and it just took a long time to adjust. And I think all of us thought, “Well, we’ll adjust and then in three weeks, we’ll go back to normal.” And certainly, we’re moving forward to a new normal. I think we should all be very grateful that as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have some doctrine and some resources that can actually help us as we try and manage mental health issues, so I’m hoping you can just start today and tell us what we can learn about mental health from the gospel.


David T. Morgan: Well, I think that one of the most important things to remember — and in your introduction, you mentioned Elder Holland’s talk in 2013, “Like a Broken Vessel,” which was amazing, and it’s really the first time that I remember mental health being addressed that specifically in general conference, and Elder Holland just handled it masterfully. Since then, there have been a couple of others. In 2019, I remember Sister [Reyna I.] Aburto [of the Relief Society general presidency] talking about her father’s suicide and how she dealt with that. And then just recently, in October 2021, we had Elder [Erich W.] Kopischke talk about addressing mental health and some of the issues that his son went through, and there’s such good advice there. On the Church’s website, under Life Help, there is a mental health section that has excellent, excellent material. And I tell you, I look at this material with a critical eye because I’ve been a licensed psychologist for 20 years. It’s my core competency, and the materials and counsel that the Church has on their website is excellent. It’s top-notch, and it’s things that we can follow without any worry of “Is this peer reviewed? Is this good science?” It’s good stuff.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. We had Sister Aburto on a past Church News podcast talking about mental health and what she had learned about it from the scriptures, and what she had learned as she had tried to help her own family members, and one of the things that came out in that discussion was this idea that we, as Latter-day Saints, are always striving to do our best, to be our best. Let’s start and discuss how we find balance between accepting our weaknesses and striving to do what we know we can and must become.

Church News podcast, Episode 37: Sister Aburto on mental, emotional health and the power of turning to the Savior for comfort


David T. Morgan: Right. So one of my favorite scriptures — and my seminary teachers will be very happy that I remember my scripture mastery from back in the day, this is, we’re talking 1980s here, so I don’t have them memorized still, but they come to mind — and this is King Benjamin, in his just amazing discourse, and in Mosiah 4:27: “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.” And to my understanding, there’s two parts in that scripture. 

First, he says it's not important or not necessary that we run faster than we have strength. So that suggests knowing our limits: OK, what can I do and what can't I do? And there's just some days when the best you can do is just to move forward two steps. Other days, maybe your best is 20 steps or 2 miles or whatever it is, but knowing what our abilities are, and then doing our best. 

And that's the second part of the scripture: It says “it is expedient that we should be diligent, thereby we might win the prize.” So I think he's saying, know your limits and then do what you can every day up to those limits. The expectations of other people, I think, are probably not as important. We know ourselves, and Heavenly Father knows us, and we need to be doing what He expects of us, and we can get that information from Him. He'll tell us, through the Holy Ghost every day. “Today's a two-step day,” or “today's a 20-step day, and here's what I'd like to have you do.”

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m so glad we can talk about this. Recently, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland did give a classic address at BYU, and the talk was on faith, but it was also on challenges and on adversity, and he actually said that all of us in our path of life are going to experience hard things. We’re going to have some form of burdens that hit us. 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addresses BYU students in the BYU Marriott Center on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. | BYU Photo


David T. Morgan: Yeah, absolutely. In April 2014, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a wonderful talk about that. And some of you might remember it. It’s where he talks about the husband and wife, and the husband wants to buy a four-wheel-drive truck. And the wife says, “That seems like a bad idea.” And he says, “No, no, it’s a great idea, because we can get groceries in the snow.” And she says, “Well, we won’t even have money for groceries if we buy a truck.” And eventually, they come to the decision that they’ll buy it. So he takes it up to the mountains to cut wood, and he promptly gets stuck in the snow, and he can’t get out. There’s actually a video that the Church produced about this, which is a great visual representation of it. And so he decides, “Well, I may as well cut wood, since that’s what I came up here to do.” And as he loads the hundreds and maybe even thousands of pounds of wood into the truck, starts up this truck, says a prayer, and with the extra burden that he has in the truck, it’s able to move. And so Elder Bednar compared that to the burdens that we carry in life, and I’ll read to you from that talk. He says: “Sometimes we mistakenly believe that happiness is the absence of a load, but bearing a load is necessary and essential to the plan of happiness. Because our individual load needs to generate spiritual traction, we should be careful not to haul around in our lives so many nice but unnecessary things that we are distracted and diverted from the things that truly matter most.” So sometimes there’s this belief in Church culture that if we keep the commandments and do everything right, that we will have this kind of carefree, burdenless life, and I can’t find anything in scripture to support that. And every major character that’s mentioned in scripture that’s righteous had a burden to bear, and a significant burden — I mean, Jesus Christ being the primary example of that. Never sinned once and yet carried the greatest burden of all. It’s the burden that gives us the spiritual traction, like Elder Bednar said, to move forward.

Sarah Jane Weaver: I think for many of us, we don't really know how to deal with our burdens And we may need some extra help, And I think we can find help both secularly and spiritually. But can you talk about where people can turn and what they need to do when they think, “I might need some intervention here.”


David T. Morgan: Well, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, like we talked about in his October 2013 conference, in his talk, he said: “If things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills and good values. Be honest with them about your history and your struggles. Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel they give and the solutions they prescribe. If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.” And one of the things we understand now about mental health issues is that the causes of them are multifaceted. There's never usually just one thing that we can pinpoint and say, “Oh, this is the reason this person has anxiety.” It's multisystemic. There are biological issues and genetic issues and environmental issues and cognitive issues and spiritual issues, all these things combined, and sometimes when I'll recommend to people that they incorporate a spiritual strategy to addressing their mental health — I'm not saying exclusively spiritual, but adding that to all the other things that are being done — I'll get a little bit of pushback, and they'll say, “Well, you can't just pray away depression.” And I say: “You're right, but why wouldn't you pray about it anyway? Why wouldn't you ask Heavenly Father for help, in addition to meeting with your psychiatrist, and meeting with your counselor, and doing the cognitive work to address the incorrect perceptions that are associated with depression, and getting exercise and improving your diet?” All of these things can help, and so I think that spiritual remedies need to not be discounted as potentially helpful.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, as you’re talking, I’m thinking back to the earliest days of the pandemic, when our sweet Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, asked all of us to pray in a worldwide fast, and he did that twice. But in those invitations, he referenced his background as a medical doctor, and said, “I’m a man of science, and a man of faith, so let’s dig in, let’s leverage the power of all of our collective faith and petition the Lord for what needs to happen with this pandemic.” And then he has never in the entire pandemic dismissed the medical science that we’re dealing with either, and that seems to be a good model for all of us.


A painting by Robert T. Barrett depicting the brother of Jared seeing the finger of the Lord. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

David T. Morgan: Absolutely, and if you think about the way that the Lord intervenes in our lives, when we ask Him for help with something, usually He gives us direction on what to do. You think about the brother of Jared when he said, “Hey, we’ve got no light in these barges, and do you want us to cross this great ocean in darkness?” And He said, “Well, you tell me,” He says, “What do you want to do?” And I’m sure that he was inspired as he thought about it, and then he created the stones and did everything he could, and then he asks the Lord to touch them, which He did, and they provided light. But there was a two-part process in that the brother Jared did what he could, temporarily, secularly, as you would, he probably had to forge the stones out of some sort of material, and he made them, and then he used Heavenly Father’s power to do what he couldn’t do. And so, I think if someone is praying for relief from anxiety or depression, what will probably come to their mind is, “Do this, do that, talk with this person, start this medication, stop this medication,” whatever it is, and the Holy Ghost can direct us. Heavenly Father is going to use the opportunities and the technologies that He’s blessed us with already to help us through this. He’ll just give you a personalized direction on how to do it.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I'm hoping you can help me with something that I struggle with, and that's patience. We talked about the beginning of the pandemic when we thought, “OK, we're gonna flatten the curve and then things are gonna go back to normal,” I think in times of trial or anxiety or heartache, I think, “OK, I've prayed about this, I've sought help, and now I want it to be done.”


David T. Morgan: Right. Well, that’s a great question, and I think the answer is we have to trust the Lord. Isaiah chapter 55 talks about how the Lord’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and that His ways are not our ways. And we are here to become like Him, and I think that He institutes patterns that can help us grow and become better. So, if you’re praying to him and saying, “Heavenly Father, I’m done waiting, I have all the patience that I need,” I think you might have to defer to Him and say: “Well, do I have all the patience I need? Do I need to do this for a little bit longer?” The one thing I’m convinced of, is that everything that He does — and Elder Holland talked about this in the devotional that you just referenced, he said: “He never does anything that’s bad. He never does anything that in its end it’s going to harm us. It’s all going to be for our good.” But I believe that sometimes we don’t know exactly what He’s going for, and so we might do something upfront and say: “Well, this is ridiculous. This is not helping me,” And He says, “Trust me, this is going to help you be patient.” And I think at the end of it, we will look back and be very grateful for what He permitted to happen.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Yeah, and it feels like the phrase we read so often in the scriptures is, “Be still.”


David T. Morgan: 100%. I think He’s asking us just to trust Him. In fact, I think the rest of the scripture says, “Be still and know that I am God.” So it’s not just a matter of being still, but it’s a matter of being still and then trusting that He is in charge and that He has our best interests at heart. I think of the example of the Savior on the boat. As the winds come up, and there’s these huge waves, and He’s asleep through this whole thing. The apostles at that point are thinking they’re going to die. They’re bailing water, doing everything they can, and the Savior is still sleeping, and they awaken Him, and I just would have been so embarrassed whoever asked the question, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Because, do they have any idea who they’re talking to? Of course He cares if they perish. Everything in His life was to prevent them from perishing, but yet they asked Him that question, and He just gets up and immediately calms the seas with the understanding, saying: “If you’re sailing with me, nothing is going to happen; it’s going to be fine, and there may be winds and waves and tempest, and it may look like this whole thing is going to go down any second. But if I am on the boat with you, nothing bad is going to ultimately happen.” And that’s the faith and trust we have to have in our Heavenly Father. I think that’s why President Nelson has been teaching us to hear Him and to follow Him and to let God prevail. He’s saying, “Let Him be the author of your story,” like President [Camille N.] Johnson talked about, “let Him dictate what’s going on in your life. Just trust Him, sail with Him, and then no matter what comes, it’s going to be OK.”

Sarah Jane Weaver: And so as we each develop our own faith and trust in the Lord, it sounds like that will give us some emotional resilience as well.


David T. Morgan: Absolutely, and emotional resilience is a critical topic. For 2022, for the 21st century, the Church has produced a self-reliance course on emotional resilience. I wrote a book that was just recently published on emotional resilience called “Enduring the Refiner’s Fire.” And emotional resilience is the ability to withstand and bounce back from trials, and we all need that, because difficulty is going to come our way every single day, and we need to learn how to cope with it, and then how to become stronger as a result of it. That’s the whole point of trials, in my opinion. Whether they’re physical or emotional, or whatever, is that we use them, we leverage them to become more like the Savior, and that’s where that partnership between our efforts and the Savior’s efforts, with the Savior’s grace, His enabling power, the two of those work together in order to move us to places in higher spheres and become more like Him.

Read more: What is emotional resilience and how can I develop it? Learn about the Church’s new resource

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I did have the opportunity to pilot one of those emotional resilience courses in my own stake, and one of the things that was so powerful for me about that experience was the support we can draw from one another as we deal with life's challenges.


David T. Morgan: One of the main tenets of emotional resilience is having secure relationships, and as I’ve explored that, both from a secular and spiritual point of view, we need to have good relationships in our lives with other mortals, and we also need to have good relationships with our Heavenly Father and the Savior. In fact, one of the scriptures that has always interested me is John 17:3, where it’s in the Last Supper and the Savior’s intercessory prayer, and He says, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” And it sounds to me like what the Savior is doing is boiling down eternal life to this simple calculus of knowing God, and knowing His Son, and the Savior was the master of simplifying things, and I wondered that if that’s not one of the primary goals we need to achieve is coming to become reacquainted with our Heavenly Father and our Savior, because we knew Them. We knew Them very, very well before we came here. We’ve since forgotten, but rekindling that relationship — I think that the stronger relationship we have with Them, the more we trust Them, the more we know that They love us, and I think that has implications for all sorts of mental health issues, in terms of our understanding of ourselves, and our identity, and our purpose, and all the things that can help us prevail against trials.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And as we talk about these issues, I think they're issues that we all understand. I think that we, in one place, can spiritually say, “Well, of course, we need to bear our burdens.” It feels a little harder when we're actually in them. Do you have some coping skills or things that we can do when we're actually in the heat of the moment?


David T. Morgan: I think one of the simplest things to do — and when I say simple, I don't mean easy, “simple” and “easy” are not the same thing — one of the simplest things we can do is to try to understand, especially members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as we have understanding of doctrine, is that trials are for our benefit. Because if you view the trial that you're in as something foreign, something wrong, something that is the fault of yours, which sometimes our trials are our own fault, but many times they're not. If we can view those trials as growth experiences, then I think that automatically lifts the weight of that. I'm not saying it changes it entirely, because depression is always hard to deal with, anxiety is always hard to deal with — but if we view those things as opportunities for spiritual growth, then instead of saying, “Why have I been afflicted with this?” We say, “What can I learn from this?” Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was so great at talking about this, and if you remember, he lost his wife, Jeanene, very prematurely, and I think he served for another couple of decades after her death. And he would talk about her fondly, and many times in general conference, but he had an acute understanding of trials and difficulties. And his explanation was always not, “Why me?” But: “What can I learn from this? How can this help me grow and become more like my Savior?” So I know that's a very generic thing, and we kind of have to speak in generalities, because, obviously, there's millions of people suffering, and each intervention is going to be different, but if you can view your struggles as a way to get stronger, and that your Heavenly Father is not absent in that process. He knows what you're going through, and He will help you get through it, through action on your part, that I think that it provides us a little bit of lift in that load that makes it easier to bear.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and how do we know — I mean, all of us are going to face times where we're sad, where we're in the middle of heartache, where we feel like the struggles of the world are weighing us down, but there may be people who face something much bigger. How do we know when our depression or our sadness is just part of our mortal experience, and when we actually need to seek some clinical or medical advice?


David T. Morgan: Yeah, that's a great question. And so, professionally speaking, when professionals diagnose mental health conditions, generally there's a list of symptoms that the person has to meet in order to get the diagnosis, but in probably 98% of diagnoses, there is a caveat in there that says that the symptoms must cause clinically significant impairment in any number of areas, and so that's usually the benchmark. I remember when I was at BYU studying psychology, and I took an abnormal psychology class where you just review all the different diagnoses, and I thought I had everything. I'd walk out of class every day and go: “Oh, I got that. I got that. I got that.” Because I had maybe parts of those symptoms or something, but what I didn't have was clinically significant impairment, because I was still a successful graduate student getting a doctorate at Brigham Young University. So obviously, my life wasn't significantly impaired, because I was able to do something that required enormous effort, but sometimes these issues, whatever it is, anxiety, depression, trauma, they can get to the point where we can't function, where we're having a hard time getting out of bed, or where we can't go into a grocery store because we have a panic attack or something like that. If the regular status of your life, if the things that you want to do on a daily basis, you find that you can't do, then I think that's when it's time to give someone a call and say, “Hey, I need more help with this than I can do on my own.”

Sarah Jane Weaver: As we were talking before we actually started recording this podcast, you mentioned something that I thought was really interesting, because if you look back to the earliest days of the Church and the physical struggles that those who pulled handcarts or came west and built cities dealt with, there were so many challenges that hit them physically every day. We don't face so many physical challenges in this day and age, but it doesn't mean our lives are any easier.


David T. Morgan: Right, and I think that those challenges — the challenges are critical. You remember when we just studied this in “Come, Follow Me” when Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, the Lord told Adam that He was going to curse the ground for his sake. He says: “I’m going to do this for you. I’m going to create a hostile environment that’s going to be difficult for you, but that’s for your sake, it’s so that you can learn to prevail against it.” And, really, up until the past maybe 50 to 100 years, day-to-day life was a struggle. If you wanted to read at night, you had to make a candle out of wax that you created so you could have lights, and you had to build homes out of trees you chopped down. And now, just last night, my wife and I were sitting at home and we wanted a treat, and there’s a cookie place that we really like, but it’s like 30 minutes away. But guess what? They deliver. So we put in an order, and an hour later, I had four hot cookies sitting on my doorstep. So we don’t have those same physical trials that our forebears did, but the Lord knows the value of trials, and so I think that the increase in mental health issues, I really believe that it’s intentional on part of our Heavenly Father. I think he’s saying: “You guys need a handcart, you guys need something difficult to pull. And I’m not going to send you back to 1800s, I’m not going to make you go from Nauvoo to Salt Lake again, but I am going to let you have a similar emotional experience.” And while you can still have cookies delivered, and Amazon Prime and things like that.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And, you know, there is a flipside of that. We do live in a world where technology brings us a front row seat to a lot of suffering, to a lot of heartache. Just recently, we're watching Tonga deal with the effects of a volcano and a tsunami and an ash-covered nation that is actually closed right now to public aid because of the pandemic. How do we emotionally deal with seeing the struggles and challenges of other people?

Scene from Malau Media of destruction in Tonga following volcano and tsunami on Jan. 15, 2022. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


David T. Morgan: Yeah, I think there's a tendency to sometimes think, well, especially if you live in a privileged part of the world, to say: “Well, other people have it so much worse, therefore I shouldn't experience any suffering. The things that I'm going through are small compared to what other people are going through.” And I would say to that, I don't know that we can necessarily make that judgment. It's so individual. Elder Holland has talked one time, and I don't know the reference, but he talked about that the race is not against each other, but it's against sin, and that Heavenly Father cheers on every runner. And what I got from that, is it said that our lives are these individual experiences, and this cross comparison doesn't do us any good on one side or the other, either if we say, “Oh, my life is so much worse than these people who seem to have it all together,” or, “My life is so much better than these people who have it so much worse, therefore I shouldn't be suffering.” I think it's OK to acknowledge that we're struggling with things and it's OK to say: “Today, for me, was a bad day. I had a hard time today.” And that's OK to say that. Just because someone else is suffering more, or someone else's suffering less, doesn't change the nature of our suffering — although, as we've talked about before, President Nelson inviting us to be grateful and to reflect on the things we do have, that can help alleviate that. But we need to give ourselves permission and say it's OK to have bad days, it's OK to have mental health issues, but that's not the end of it. That's the beginning of it, and where we go from there is, “And what do I need to do to make that better in my life?”

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I'm so glad you acknowledge that. I think if you ask any of our neighbors, they would say my family on any given day is a mess. We're so grateful, when our kids were little, if we could get everyone out the door with a lunch and socks on their feet. And we have one neighbor, who for years, would call us at 11 o'clock and say, “You forgot to put the garage door down, again.” And I think, “Why is this so hard for us?” And so, at some point, we do have to acknowledge that as a people, we are more than our limitations, that there are things that hit us — and is it possible that we're too hard on ourselves?


David T. Morgan: Absolutely, and I think Satan gets us on both sides of that. Either he wants us to be too hard on ourselves or too easy on ourselves, either, “Oh, everything's fine, all is well in Zion,” that sort of thing, or, “Man, you're completely unacceptable, Heavenly Father is so disappointed in you, you'll never amount to anything.” And it just irks me that he is so clever at getting us to believe those things. Because the truth is somewhere in the middle. The truth is, it's OK to leave the garage door open, that's fine, that happens. And also, we should probably make some greater effort so that our houses don't get robbed at night, so that we don't, our lawnmower doesn't get stolen or something like that. But to give ourselves the grace to say: “You know what? That's OK, and I'm moving forward.” I think if we really knew our Heavenly Father, if we are striving to stay on the covenant path, and I don't mean absolutely 100% right in the center of it, never doing anything wrong — I'm saying striving. So, doing your best, repenting when you make mistakes or poor choices. When we are striving to be on that path, I think Heavenly Father is absolutely thrilled with us and just beaming with joy and satisfaction and pride. And when we kneel down at night, and just feel so miserable, and terrible that we've done these things, I think he just wants to scoop us up in his arms and say: “Hey, it's fine. It's fine, you're doing fine. And yeah, today was a bad day, and there were some things you could have done differently, but let me help you. Let me help you have a better day tomorrow.”

Sarah Jane Weaver: And that sort of brings us full circle to where we started. I remember a talk by Elder Gary [E.] Stevenson [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] at a women’s conference a few years ago, where he actually posted a picture that was posted on social media, and then and then it expanded and it showed this messy, messy kitchen. In that same talk, he did a family picture, and then he built up to it and said, “And this is what it took to get to this perfect moment. It was a lot of imperfectness.” And so perfectionism in the Church, especially when so many of us are spending a good portion of every day looking at other people’s lives through the lens of their social media feeds, how can we put that all in perspective?


David T. Morgan: Yeah, I love that women's conference talk from Elder Stevenson, and that family picture, that's such a great story. If you remember, he arrived like an hour late, he forgot about it. And so he shows up; Sister Stevenson is just upset because he's there, and one of the kids had grass stains, and one of the kids had worn white socks instead of dark socks, and so he kind of explained how they carefully covered all this, turned some kids’ shirt inside out so it didn't show the blood stains and the grass stains and all this. And so you look at that, and you say, “Wow, look at the Stevensons, what a remarkable family,” but just five minutes before that it was bedlam. And I think that we need to first recognize that the stuff that we put out there on social media is usually pretty airbrushed and pretty Photoshopped, but that everyone is having some sort of struggle. 

I'm in the bishopric in our ward, and I think it was the day after Christmas, when we just had the one meeting, and it was during the sacrament and being in the bishopric is, I do like being able to look into the faces of people, and that's the best thing about it. And I know — we've been in the same ward for over 20 years, and I know everyone in there, and I looked at a dozen people or more, and I could tell you one specific thing that they were dealing with that was burdensome to them, and I could see them, as they were partaking of the sacrament with their heads down and in prayer, and I knew that they were begging Heavenly Father for help and saying, “Help me with this,” and I knew what they were struggling with. And I think that's what it's important to remember: we're struggling with something, everybody is struggling with something. Nobody has it perfect. And that's OK. I wish we could have a big meeting in the whole Church and just, all at once, just drop our pretenses and just say, “OK, on the count of three, everyone just drop it and let's say what's going on.” And I think it would be the most relief-filled meeting that we ever had, because we'd go: “Oh, really? You have that too? I never knew that. You seem so put together.” And I think we would just feel so much more comfortable, and maybe even motivated to move forward.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, there is something about needing these experiences in our journey for becoming that draw us closer to the Savior, that allow us the opportunity to get to know Him, and that draw us closer to Him and allow us to serve other people through our experiences in His Church. And so these things that we've talked about today are really vital to our mortal experience. Is that correct?


David T. Morgan: Yes. And one of the things that it does is it helps us empathize with other people. We know that in the Savior's Atonement, that one of the aspects of it that we don't talk about quite as much as the enabling power of His Atonement, and that's when he suffered for all of our non-sinful liabilities. We know He paid the price for sin, we know He vanquished death and so we will resurrect again, but He also suffered for our depression and anxiety and being jilted and in a divorce or having a miscarriage, or whatever it is, He suffered for all that as well, so He becomes the perfect individual to succor us in those moments of trial. And I think that as we go through things, we become like Him, just in a smaller way, so that five years from now, so whatever you're going through right now, Sarah, whatever it is in your life that you're struggling with, you will overcome that, and you're going to figure out ways to deal with it. And then some years from now, you're going to cross paths with someone, and that person is going to be going through something very similar to what you went through, and you're going to talk with them and say: “I know how to deal with that. Not because I read books, not because I got a Ph.D. or anything like that, but because I've been through it myself.” And I think that is one of the greatest blessings of going through trials, is that it enables us to empathize and to assist those who are going through that, and so we become these, almost, mini saviors — the scriptures talk about becoming saviors on Mount Zion, and not to compare us, obviously to our Savior Jesus Christ in that way, but we have a part in that redemptive process, in being able to help people through their struggles, just like He helps us through our struggles, and I think that is one of the greatest benefits of these trials.

Sarah Jane Weaver: What a beautiful discussion that has been. In that sentiment, we also have several other podcasts on this issue. One was with Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis [a General Authority Seventy] talking about some of the helps and assistance that the Church provides, and some tools that can be helpful if you deal with these things. Dr. Morgan, you also mentioned both Church helps, the Church’s new emotional resilience, self-reliance course, as well as the need for sometimes to get professional or clinical help; and so is there anything as we conclude and draw this podcast to a close, any advice you have for people who just need some place to start? Things aren’t going their way, what do you do first?

Church News podcast, Episode 16: Anxiety and a Church resource for Life Help


David T. Morgan: I think the first thing to do is to talk with someone, talk with someone you trust, explain your situation, and getting that outside perspective is helpful. That can be a friend, it could be a parent. When we suffer with these things in silence, that's no good, and we're not going to get anywhere by thinking we can do this on our own. We can't do this alone, and we were never designed to do this alone. I think just by our very natures, we're designed to be dependent upon other people and dependent upon the Lord, and so talk with someone first, whoever that is. And if you don't have anyone to talk to there's hotlines you can call. If you Google the mental health hotline, you'll probably find one in your area, and talk with someone about that and say, “This is what I'm going through.” And then as that person acts as a sounding board, then the two of you together can start to determine, “OK, where do we go from there?” I think that's the first place to start, is just talk about it with someone.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And as we conclude, we always end each Church News podcast by having all of our guests answer the same question and share their testimonies of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and tell us what they know now. So, Dr. Morgan, after working in mental health and focusing on this important issue, can you tell us what you know now about managing mental health issues, especially managing them with a gospel perspective?


David T. Morgan: Yes. What I know now is that all of the difficulties that we're going through: mental health, physical, emotional, financial, whatever they are, none of it happens outside of the awareness of our Heavenly Father. He is absolutely 100% riveted on our experience, watches us every day and wants to counsel us through the difficulties. So there were times in the past where I thought, “Well, maybe some of this is just kind of random, and He checks in periodically.” I know that that's not right. He knows us, and He watches us all the time with love and concern. I'm so grateful for that knowledge, and to live at this time of the unfolding Restoration, to know that God lives and Jesus is the Christ, to have the Book of Mormon revealed, to have prophets in the land again. I love what we've talked about today, that what prophets have said. I love President Nelson, I know he's a Prophet, and I'm just so grateful for the example that he has set; and above that, I'm just so thankful for Jesus Christ, and like we talked about earlier, He knows everything we're going through, He has experienced it on our behalf, and He knows how to help us out of it. And so with all the tools that we have available, and I'm suggesting that we use everything that is suitable for our condition, but please, please, please don't forget to utilize your relationship with the Savior to improve that and to ask Him for help, and then to follow what He says.

Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I'm your host, Church News Editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests, to my producer, KellieAnn Halvorsen, and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on

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