On March 26, 2011 we held our first Mormon Stories regional retreat/conference in New York City.  This presentation on the LDS Church and mental health was given by psychologist Dr. David Christian
.  The title of this presentation was, “Utility vs. Validity: A Practical Approach to Faith-Related Psychological Problems.”


  1. Seanmcnight April 23, 2011 at 2:53 am - Reply

    This is a great presentation so far! I definitely can’t wait to go through the rest of it!

  2. BAB April 23, 2011 at 7:31 am - Reply

    Many thanks to Dr Christian. I will listen to this podcast again and again. The concepts that Dr Cristian shared in his presentation are truly liberating. Every once in a while we are given the opportunity to see clearly through the fog. For me listening to this podcast was one of those experiences. This exposition helped me to recognize the damage that occurs when we buy into the absolute thinking that is frequently poured down upon us from the pulpit. I have struggled with depression at various times throughout my life. Trying to understand the sources of this depression is what has led me to dig deeper into the church’s teachings and into the history of the church. I have often felt that the church played a contributing role in this malady of depression, but I have been unable to put my finger on the actual cause. I can now clearly see that it is the “Black or White – All or Nothing” thinking that is promoted by many church authorities, that has contaminated my thinking. This all or nothing thinking carries with it the seeds of intolerance towards everyone and everything that is not embraced by this religion.

    My main motivation for listening to these podcasts is to try understand who I am and to understand if there is a divine guiding force for good that directs, interacts, listens and influences our lives. Many times it feels like religion is nothing more than fodder to feed superstitious beliefs. I really like the way Dr Christian spells things out. It is a scientific approach that makes sense. It is an approach that speaks peace and happiness to my mind. Thanks you for touching my life.

  3. Picadial April 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    I very much enjoyed this presentation. I was especially pleased to hear another Australia Sydney Spanish speaking alum. Although Dr. Christian was there about 7 years before I was there. I can confirm the story of the ASM apostasy. By brother-in-law was there for the fun. And missionaries still paid the price for the aggressive tactics under Dr. Christian’s mission president.
    I enjoyed the discussion on the distinctions he made about pragmatic and verifiable truths. (did I get that right?) Thanks for posting this. I look forward to the MS Salt Lake convention in June.

  4. Jen White April 23, 2011 at 8:53 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this podcast. As a therapist, I appreciated Dr. Christian’s thoughts. I use CBT and am a big fan of Dr. Burns.

  5. Jen White April 23, 2011 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    Here is a link to a Ensign article about the myths many in the church believe about mental illness.

    • BAB April 24, 2011 at 6:38 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the link to the Mental Health article. I remember it was not long ago when hard line leaders were blaming mental health problems on sin. It is good to see that some of them are finally getting educated about these illnesses. My heart goes out to those who were negatively affected by the statements of the leaders in days gone by. Nothing is worse than being in the throes of depression and to hear some general authority, the true representatives from God, tell you that you have brought it on yourself because of your sins or lack of belief.

      • Rbray7 May 9, 2011 at 8:21 pm - Reply

        @johndehlin:disqus @5ae203365ff69144ca99ff9e21837c68:disqus :


        What in the blue blazes ia s hard line leader?

        In 60 years as a Mormon I have never heard any Church leader blame mental illness on sin. Sin can bring unhappiness, but unhappiness as a result of a guilty conscience is not mental illness. That kind of unhappiness is part of the warp and woof of life, in the same way as when one is being oppressed or persecuted by the block bully one becomes unhappy.

        The trend of this thread to seek to pin the blame for mental illness on LDS leaders or doctine is an example of superficial psychobabble. I know non-LDS Christians that try to kill themselves, but no one with any sense puts the blame on Christianity. That would be not only muddled thinking but dangerous thinking and en even more dangerous teaching.

        Can we let some light into this thread, get rid of ome of the heat, and let good sense and science rule rather than make it simplgy another anti-Mormon rant? Innocents reading this might believe it is meant to be taken seriously.

        Come on!

      • New2podcasts May 27, 2011 at 8:29 pm - Reply

        True representatives speak the mind and will of God. Either God is a psycho whimsical being or the organization is a hoax. Latter Day history is filled with a wishy washy Elohim and Jehovah of the LDS church. Heart goes out to victims and abused survivors of the scheme.

  6. Lietta April 23, 2011 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    ‘how to be in the church and not of the church ‘ : )

  7. Glen Fullmer April 24, 2011 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Dr Christian and those that made this possible.

    As a psychology major many years ago who got into it my major by reading Watson and Skinner and got out of it by reading Rogers, and a lot of other existential therapists, I found this highly interesting on a number of levels.

    First, it looks like psychology therapy has changed for the better in the last 40 years. Especially the type taught at BYU back then. (mostly behavioristic)

    I am reminded of Dr. Phil’s question in regards to Dr. Christian Utility Premise, “So, how’s that working for ya”?

    Also, in some of the Church’s solution to problems I am reminded of “what is resisted, persists”. Try to not think about an elephant is one of those. It is almost impossible not to think about an elephant when resisting to think about it.

    It looks like a lot of ACT mythology is similar to Eckhart Tolle’s the “Power of Now” especially in the accept, defuse, transcendent and mindful skills. However, he comes to the values and commitment from the “back door” by looking at what you value by what you do after living in the Presence. Also, Tolle, follows some of the CBT concepts when he addresses the fact that you are not your thoughts, and that most of the pain and suffering in the world generally, and in a person specifically are not because of the thoughts themselves but identifying with them.

    The “Use a Matrix to Clarify and Rate Values” slide – reminds me, as a retired professional computer scientist, of the type of decision matrix I used when evaluating computer systems. Migrating from Psychology into Computer Science – I know, weird. ;-)

    The statement “People of different (incompatible) faiths experience wellness and longevity benefits. Not all those faiths can be technically ‘true'” showing Utility power over Validity raises the question: What about those people who have a belief that their tradition is false, but go along with it for Validity reasons, are they better for it?

    I have been accused as a “All or Nothing” thinker and maybe that is because of my training and experience with computers where all digital computers work with 1s and 0s only. However, like computers and the physical world if approached at the right level “All or Nothing” has it merits. If you believe in the validity (excuse the pun) of quantum theory, then you are forced to believe in “All or Nothing” at some level. However, when it comes to Faith, one has to understand the level of their thoughts. There are so many possibilities. For an illustration consider this, does believing in the Book of Mormon necessarily force you logically to believe in the Church?

    CBT reminds me of some NLP beginings of Bandler and Grindler’s teachings in “The Structure of Magic – A Book about Language and Therapy” where they identify some ways we think erroneously by looking at linguistic forms that all of us use to deceive ourselves and others. Which were later classified into four different areas by O’Connor and Seymour in “Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming”:

    Unspecified Noun
    Unspecified Verb
    Judgement – Example: “The Church is False”
    Nominalization – making a verb into a noun
    Kosher: Does the form of the sentence match the parameters?
    Modal Operators of Possibility: Example, “I can’t ..”
    Modal Operators of Necessity: Example, “I have to…”
    Universal Qualifiers: Example, “All True Believing Mormons are naive”. (over generalization)
    Presupposition: Assuming something without investigating it further
    Cause and Effect: Example: “His sin caused him to leave the Church”.
    Mindreading: Example: “She knows….”
    Complex Equivalence: Example: “If you don’t look at me when I am speaking, you are not paying attention”.

    I am always reminded when looking at thought (words) identification:

    “The map is not the territory” – Bandler
    “You are not your thoughts” – Tolle
    “for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – Shakespeare
    “Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right?” – Sixth Patriach Huineng

    Thanks again all for this podcast.

  8. Anonymous April 25, 2011 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    Loved the riff — ‘This is going to be a lot more business for me down the road’ — in relation to the church approaching pornography the way it does.

  9. Hermes April 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    I really liked this podcast, to which I have nothing to add off the top of my head except, “Amen!” The credit card analogy explaining catastrophe theory was great!

  10. JackUK April 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    This podcast was outstanding!!! I have heard everyone of the MS podcasts since day one and I reckon this is one of the best. I work in CBT/REBT based programmes working with offenders in the criminal justice system here in the UK. For a long time I’ve thought the ‘All or Nothing’ thinking in the Church is very rigid and damaging to spiritual and emotional growth. Dr Christian’s presentation helped me bring some order to the thoughts and ideas I’d had about it. Many thanks to John and Dr Christian for facilitating this presentation and discussion; just wish I could have been there. Is there a YouTube version?

  11. canadiangirl April 26, 2011 at 3:38 am - Reply

    So helpful!!! Thank you.

  12. Stone April 26, 2011 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    This was very interesting. I enjoyed it. It’s great to get to the heart of real issues. I think I’d like to hear John and Dr. Christian expand on some of these issues in a regular interview podcast.

    Thank you both.

  13. aimeeheff April 26, 2011 at 10:23 pm - Reply

    Great topic. Lots of insightful, concrete information on how to have a healthy approach to religion and life in general. I particularly like the ideas regarding the absolute thinking, “virginity” model, and absence theory. I find when I am living more in the grey I am more comfortable with myself and place in the mormon spectrum. When I get into the absolute thinking I go a little crazy.

  14. Nonny April 27, 2011 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    Agree with JackUK. This is one of the best podcasts in the MS series. Having the slide show on line together with the podcast is quite effective. This scientific / psychological approach to examining faith really makes sense to me. John, thanks for letting us share in the NY conference even though we cannot all be there. We are with you in spirit.

    • Anonymous April 28, 2011 at 5:17 am - Reply

      Thanks ya’ll! So glad you enjoyed!!!

  15. Ozpoof April 29, 2011 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    I was a little conflicted with this one. I am aware that depressed people see the world more accurately than optimists or even “normal” people, so you have to wonder why the depressed people are the ones drugged up. It makes you realize just how the world is if you need to be delusional and in denial all the time to cope.

    When Dr Christian suggested that what someone believes is truth or false doesn’t matter as long as it works for them, I thought that maybe Mormons who are happy in the church should be left alone like the delusional optimists who live a lie but are happy.

    However, optimists don’t really go about trying to change other people to be like they are, and if they won’t change, condemn them. Optimists won’t demonise someone who doesn’t share their view. Optimists don’t treat people who aren’t born like they are so badly that they kill themselves. Optimists don’t threaten eternal separation from family if they aren’t given money. Optimists don’t make other people hate themselves or feel guilty all the time for no reason. Optimists don’t have a list of books and website that contain irrefutable, referenced facts that they won’t allow other people to view.

    So, despite research showing optimists are unable to see reality as it is, and are unable to see bad things that happen in the same way as good things that happen, they are benign and probably useful to humanity. We need optimists to be test pilots and motivators.

    However, the delusion that is Mormonism is not benign. It feeds on pushing those who are not like them down. It controls it’s members through fear, guilt and shame. It takes money from people that need money. It fills lives with time-wasting ritual and bureaucracy.

    No, while some delusions are fine it seems, those who are getting the benefits from Mormonism do so at the expense of many others. Optimists don’t leave a trail of human wreckage and suicides behind them.

    • Glen Fullmer April 29, 2011 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      As my pappy used to say, “I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate”! Let me guess, you are not an Optimist!

      Seriously, however, I sense your anger with Mormonism and shared it at one time.

      Hypocrisy never was happiness, to paraphrase scripture. Resistance only makes it stronger – what resists persists. I wonder what Mormonism would be like if the Saints were not kicked out of every place they were in during their early history. If accepted, they would probably have as much power as the Amish have today. ;-)

      What is, is, and no amount of anger will change that and I have accepted it. I guess I am an Optimist! If it is God’s Church He will take care of it, if it is not time will. If it is Satan’s Church God will take care of it, if it is not time will. If there is no God or Satan, then time will take care of it as it does all forms both thoughts and things. I don’t identify with Mormonism anymore and have a much more peaceful life as a plain vanilla Christian. All the fruits and none of the baggage.

    • Katie L. May 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm - Reply

      No, while some delusions are fine it seems, those who are getting the
      benefits from Mormonism do so at the expense of many others. Optimists
      don’t leave a trail of human wreckage and suicides behind them.

      I see a considerable amount of “all or
      nothing” thinking in this response. ;-)

  16. JCH April 29, 2011 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    Sorry Ozproof that you seem to have lost faith in not just Mormonism, but in Christianity as a whole or for that matter God.

    You see Christ did try to encourage people to become like him while reaping the blessings by doing so. Christ did condemn those that did not follow his teachings especially those that he called hypocrites. Christ was not like Judas yet Christ still allowed Judas to follow his own path to a suicidal destruction. Christ did tell his disciples that if they wanted to be with him in heaven that they would have to do as He did which would suggest that those of their families that did not follow him would be somewhere else in the afterlife.
    So please do not beat up on LDSs. Beat up on all of Christianity if you want, or on all that believe in a God, but please broaden your scope to include all of the culprits as you see them.

    Best regards for a better life.

  17. Anonymous May 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    Fabulous podcast. He hit the nail right on the head. A few years ago I had to sacrifice the church’s truth claims in order to keep my own sanity, so to have it analyzed this eloquently convinces me that my experience is not uncommon. For a long time I thought that this was just the way I ended up framing it personally. I thought that maybe my way of framing it was abstract and not understandable, so to have it articulated so skillfully is very validating.

  18. Darryl May 5, 2011 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    Thank you very much for this podcast. I was curious about the statement: “Utah is number one in online porn subscription sales.” This is what I found through Google:
    “The most porn-watching ZIP codes in Utah, ‘with unexpectedly high subscriptions relative to their population and broadband usage,’ are 84766 in Sevier County, 84112 in Salt Lake County, 84018 in Morgan County, 84006 in southwest Salt Lake County, and 84536 in San Juan County.”


    • Jim Accord June 13, 2011 at 5:02 pm - Reply

      That is because the anti-Mormons and foyer-Mormons (uncorrelated) are “ free” and on the hunt for pornJ Come on out of the foyer, (sorry but you must give up your porn) help others and live the gospel.

  19. Buffalo May 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Excellent podcast. Minor note – it might be a good idea to get some volunteer to do a little sound editing of these live presentations. For instance, it’d improve the listening experience if the volume of the throat clearing were dropped lower – it’s a little startling through headphones. 

    Anyway, content-wise this was great!

    • Anonymous May 23, 2011 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      Sigh. I agree. Thanks, Buff.

  20. Brian K June 9, 2011 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Who was the General Authority who said “The truth is not always useful?”  Dr. Christian  seems to be validating that idea.

  21. Jim Accord June 13, 2011 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    People that what to be part of a “family” but constantly tear at it and have some vague view of they what that “family”  to become are sad (they are in company of some those on the other side of the partition who similarly spend their dark-negitive-spiritual-energy tearing at those that are on the path.)  They criticize and cast doubt but never build anything that really lasts.  There will always be those that scoff  from the sidelines.

  22. […] a recent Mormon Stories episode, Dr. David Christian shared a mission experience where the mission president tried to convince all […]

  23. Jenni July 1, 2011 at 1:30 am - Reply

    Thank you thank you. This is so good, and just what I needed to hear right now.

  24. Joey Budafucko October 15, 2011 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    Fascinating! Love it!

  25. Irena11 February 1, 2012 at 8:11 am - Reply

    This is definetly a great presentation! Can’t wait to see the rest of it. Thanks!

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