644: Mormon Missionary Faith Crises and Early Return Pt. 2: Sage Dalton and Depression, Faith Crisis, Suicidality

13932313_10153909708643247_1386823770_oSage Dalton was a graduate of Dartmouth University and a regular listener to Mormon Stories podcast when she decided to serve an LDS mission in 2012. Towards the latter half of her mission Sage began to 13978277_10153909694758247_1687515961_oexperience depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation, along with doubts she began to experience as a missionary (primarily around LGBT and historical issues).

Listen here for more of Sage’s story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

comments

25 comments for “644: Mormon Missionary Faith Crises and Early Return Pt. 2: Sage Dalton and Depression, Faith Crisis, Suicidality

  1. Jason
    August 8, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Sage, Your a smart, strong, brave woman. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Sage
      August 11, 2016 at 8:27 pm

      Thank you Jason – both for listening and for such a nice compliment.

  2. Amy
    August 9, 2016 at 1:52 am

    Sage – I have only been listening to MStories about 6 months as I am just now in the process of learning and transitioning out of the church. In fact, less than a month ago, I asked and was released as my ward Primary President (have not been back since!) I just listened to your story, and although I am in my mid forties, I have decided I would like to grow up to be like you!

    You are wise beyond your years. You are thoughtful, authentic, motivating, unassuming, relateable, refreshing… I could go on and on! Even though I have heard at least half of these podcasts, this is the first time I have left a response on MStories. Thank you for sharing so openly about your struggles with LDS doctrine, its culture, your mission, your efforts to “make it work”, your depression/guilt/shame, etc. as well as your desire to be forgiving, not easily offended, charitable, honest, and just plain REAL!

    I wish you the very best in your future with your new found freedoms, your exciting career, and your relationships (fiancΓ© in particular!) Even though leaving the church is a courageous act, I am finding it to be lonely, too. You give me hope that others like you may be out there, and together we can create new connections based in reality, purpose, inclusion, respect, love, compassion, and joy!

    • Brittany
      August 10, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      Amy. I have never left a comment on here before either. Your comment pushes me to do so. And of course Sage pushes me to. What a beautiful and honest woman. I love hearing stories of women who have left! They are different and uplifting. The men are just informative. Lol just joking, but I do love listening to other women’s stories.
      And Amy, I don’t know how a woman who just left sounds so loving and genuine. I’m afraid to ever say anything genuine ever again.
      I also began this discovery 6 months ago. Just asked to be released from teaching the Young women about a month ago too! So I really understand what you are saying in your comment.
      I miss the people so much, especially the young women. Just to show how dedicated I was in this church, I was beehive president, miamaid first counselor, and laurel president as a youth, then assistant camp director when I could no longer be in young women’s. I was then put in the young women presidency when I moved out and was married to my returned missionary, that I waited for, who later started listening to John Dehlin and left. πŸ˜› …but I doubled down at that point and was put into the stake young women presidency! There I proudly met the general young women’s presidency and spoke at a worldwide training meeting with them. When we moved into our 2nd home I was back in as a young women advisor!
      My reasons for leaving were unlike my husbands reasons. Like Sage, my stubbornness kicked in and I found what I thought were the answers to his debilitating questions. For me it began with just consent scripture reading to try and get through the despair of “losing” my husband spiritually. Which felt worse than I thought losing him physically would. I started to come across bible verses that had me question some things. Like what Christ teaches about marriage and families in the Bible. And exalting oneself. And also Baptism, since my son was set to get baptized this year I was looking more into what Christ taught on that. Me and that sweet kid even sang at the Great to be 8 program in December. Now I suddenly feel it’s Great to be informed!
      When I started to discover some inconsistencies in Christs teachings, I decided that I could open myself up to learning the history better and even listening to these podcasts without an all night arguement following with my awesome husband.
      I’m now, but haven’t always been, grateful for the stories that change lives on this podcast. First I felt strangers were ruining my life for their own selfish pride. Then ironically once I was freed from my selffish pride, these strangers through their selfless love are building me back up again. Even in the comment section. πŸ™‚ Thank you

      • Sage
        August 11, 2016 at 8:28 pm

        Amy & Brittany – thank you so much for listening and for your very kind words. I wish you the very best on your journeys. May you continue to find peace, happiness and light πŸ™‚

  3. Roger
    August 9, 2016 at 7:41 am

    I wonder if the church’s policy on limiting mental health therapy to three sessions is not because the General Authorities feel that three hours of therapy is sufficient to treat mental health problems, but because three hours is sufficient to make the decision about whether the missionary should be allowed to remain in the mission field.

    • Brenda
      August 19, 2016 at 12:47 pm

      The policy certainly doesn’t seem to be created by somebody capable of empathy.

      I agree 100% with Sage that the church bears responsibility for the mental well being of its missionaries. The discussion about how much therapy for missionaries costs at scale . . . . how about removing the rules and environmental factors that explicitly contribute to mental health issues!

      Just like we’ve moved beyond “boys will be boys” to excuse abusive behavior, it’s time to catalog the explicitly damaging characteristics some religions engage in so we can put pressure on these institutions to change and create healthier/safer environments for participants. I can’t think of a better place to start than the LDS missionary environment.

      • Brenda
        August 19, 2016 at 12:57 pm

        BTW, why do parents follow the mission rules? If my child were serving I would personally check in on them at regular intervals. Why don’t parents demand this, or at least do this on their own?

        Sage, I can completely relate to your mother! I would be so angry. I’m so glad you have a supportive family. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

  4. Jonna
    August 9, 2016 at 11:28 am

    I’ve been an avid listener of mormon stories for about a year and have loved all the podcasts so far, but this one got really personal and truly moved me on a whole other level. Thank you for that! I don’t regret serving my mission at all and even now as an unbelieving semi-active “apostate” I wouldn’t change my decision or trade that experience for anything. However, there were some serious issues in the entire mission structure (and I think for sisters in particular) that I definitely struggled with and hope that those will change for the better in the future. Thank you Sage (and John) for this inspirational and insightful 50 minutes! Time well spent for me :).

    • Sage
      August 11, 2016 at 8:29 pm

      Jonna – thank you for listening and for your kind words. Best wishes on your journey πŸ™‚

  5. Mark
    August 9, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    John, I have a pretty good vocabulary and was surprised by a new term in your description of this post. Perhaps “suicidal ideation” is an academic or professional term and not in the common vernacular? I am guessing that it means “suicidal thoughts” or “thinking about suicide”?

  6. Brenda Nelson
    August 9, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Sage- You are an amazing human being. I was really inspired by your story and your testimony (as it is now). I especially loved how you talked about all that you gained by embracing who you are and what you want. I can totally relate. Thank you so much!

    • Sage
      August 11, 2016 at 8:30 pm

      Brenda – thank you!! best wishes on your journey. May it be full of happiness and authenticity! πŸ™‚

  7. Lily
    August 9, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Another great podcast! Thank you John, and thank you Sage for sharing. The comments about pressure/perfectionism/guilt/shame in the church really hit close to home for me. I did not serve a mission, but have struggled immensely with feelings of shame and inadequacy since a very young age. I definitely feel that church doctrine and policy as well as church culture play a big role in this. And I think the problem is just as bad, if not worse, for men as it is for women. I recall male family members coming home from priesthood meetings so emotionally beaten down and commenting on how they had endured taking after taking telling them they’re not good enough (stop watching porn, do your home teaching, be a better priesthood holder, and so on…) I think this aspect of the church can be damaging to anyone, but especially to those who suffer from a mental illness, and I think it needs to be addressed openly, so once again thank you!

  8. Cindy
    August 10, 2016 at 8:57 am

    What a brave, beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

    At one point you both discussed what we could do to support missionaries out in the field. Since the missionaries will answer requests for visits, could we enlist Mormon Stories/Mormon Spectrum members (if they feel ready) to request visits? We could honestly represent wherever we are in our faith journeys and at the same time offer a loving, safe place for the missionaries to share openly. Just a thought

    • Sage
      August 11, 2016 at 8:32 pm

      I would love yo have struggling missionaries over, I’m just not sure how to find the ones who would need/want this.

  9. Vicki
    August 10, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Sage! Thank you for sharing your story. I, too, served about the time you did and ran into mental health issues on the mission. Maybe we could chat sometime? Respond here for my email. πŸ™‚

    • Sage
      August 11, 2016 at 8:32 pm

      would love to chat!

  10. LH
    August 10, 2016 at 10:27 am

    This was a great podcast. Sage is insightful, intelligent and articulate. I wish her the very best.

    On another note, I could really relate to this. I served a mission from 2003-2005 and began questioning church teachings then (although I didn’t leave for many more years). My mission was extreme. My mission president believed it was important to “go the extra mile”; so we got up at 6 am instead of 6:30, we fasted every Sunday instead of once a month, we were not allowed a dinner break or dinner with members, since the hours of 5-9 were “prime tracting hours.” We were expected to commit people to baptism on the doorstep, a practice I loathed. Numbers were more important than people.

    During the mission I became very sick with some sort of lung issue, leading to major coughing attacks and extreme fatigue. My companion, who was a nurse, became concerned and called the mission president’s wife. They would not let me go to the doctor. Instead, I got a “healing” blessing and suffered with the symptoms the rest of the mission.

    On a preparation day, after being yelled at by an elder the night before for not baptizing enough, I fell apart. I laid on the floor in my garments and cried the whole day. My companion was very compassionate and wrapped me in a towel and rubbed my back. I will always feel grateful to her!! When it came time to go tracting that night, I refused. She didn’t know what to do so she called the mission president. He got on the phone with me and started yelling at me, telling me that I was “wallowing in the hot tub of self-pity” and I needed to stop it and get dressed and get out the door. It worked. I was humiliated and ashamed so I got up and went to work, and never had another incident on my mission. But looking back, I think it’s too bad he had no training to deal with that sort of thing. He resorted to shaming because that’s the only tactic he knew.

    I do think there need to be better resources for missionaries (or better yet, get rid of the missionary program altogether. Missionary zealotry is like American exceptionalism– who are we, really, to tell other people in very different life circumstances and cultures that our way of life is right and true and better?). However, I don’t think access to resources will happen for a long time, if ever. Like John said, it is expensive. But beyond that, until the Church recognizes and accepts psychological/medical/scientific research and findings as valid and important, resources will always be limited. It’s too bad. Every human being deserves access to resources and knowledge so he/she can make informed decisions and find solutions to problems.

    • Marilyn Hadd
      August 11, 2016 at 4:17 pm

      I read this in passing and couldn’t believe the extremism of your mission. That is completely uncharitable. Missing dinner time is unforgivable on the part of your president. I can imagine that your nutrition may have suffered trying to make your food budget stretch. I am just completely appalled at the lack of moderation!!!! Did anyone attempt to yell, “Kings EX!!”?

      • LH
        August 11, 2016 at 7:59 pm

        It was an extreme mission. In rereading my comment, I obviously still have some anger to work through. I didn’t quite mean for that to come across.

        Fortunately I think there are also many mission presidents out there who do care for their missionaries. Both my sisters served missions where this was the case and both had good experiences.

        I just think there needs to be more awareness about abusive practices in missions. Unfortunately I think it is not uncommon.

    • Sage
      August 11, 2016 at 8:34 pm

      I’m so sorry you had such a horrible, abusive experience. I hope that you have found light and happiness since.

  11. Kathy
    August 10, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Sage, as John mentioned, your sunshine is contagious. Who can deny that you’ve found the life that will make you happy. I love this podcast. It’s crucially important to understand the detrimental effects of the Church’s perfectionism, guilt trips, and black-and-white thinking (“If you perform A, B, and C acts of obedience, happiness is set in stone”). When we grow up in the Church, this is our “normal,” and we can’t clearly recognize the damaging effects until a crisis slams us to the pavement. I can recall derogatory, distrustful comments from certain GAs regarding therapy, implications that simple “righteousness” might be preferable. I applaud you for empowering yourself and embracing a life that gives you joy while you’re still young.

    • Sage
      August 11, 2016 at 8:35 pm

      Kathy – thank you! your kind words mean a lot to me.

  12. Mormon Censorship
    August 18, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    She is a brave young woman. Thank you Sage for sharing your story.

Comments are closed.