It’s no secret that there are some very specific myths in Mormon culture. These can range from our family size (15 kids and counting!) to our vocabulary (“oh, my heck!”), and even to our food (green jello, anyone?). While certainly not all (or even most) Mormons embody these stereotypes, most of us can have a good laugh at them from time to time.
Other myths concerning our faith, however, are not as funny or lighthearted, During my years as a clinical therapist, I’ve witnessed how faulty spiritual equations can cause some Latter-day Saints great emotional pain and rob them of happiness and peace. These ideas are often not out in the open, but are instead internalized beliefs that can distort our thought patterns and our emotions. Here are 3 common spiritual myths:
Myth #1: I should be perfect now, and perfect means flawless.
One of the most commonly quoted (and seemingly misinterpreted) scriptures is Christ’s command to “[b]e ye therefore perfect, even as your Father is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). It can be quite daunting to consider this lofty expectation, and it can be extremely frustrating and disheartening when we fall short of it.
Understanding the etymology of the word perfect gives us important insight into this idea. We often interpret perfect to mean flawless, but the literal Greek meaning is telios, which means ripe, whole, and complete. Elder Russell M. Nelson further clarified that we can think of this concept as perfection pending; it’s okay that we’re not fully complete or sinless yet (“Perfection Pending,” Ensign, November 1995, 86). Even the Savior, though sinless, had to grow and develop as he “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). We know that discouragement and feelings of inadequacy are a part of human experience, and President Uchtdorf gently reminded us to be patient with ourselves. Yes, we will make mistakes, sin even, but the Atonement is what makes it possible for us to become perfected through Christ.
Myth #2: Asking For Emotional Help Means I’m Weak
In my clinical practice, I’ve had the honor of listening to and knowing the depth of the heavy burdens my clients carry. In working with them, I’ve noticed that many are more than willing to reach out to others for help meeting certain physical needs, but are often reluctant to ask for help when dealing with emotional pain.
We know in the gospel that we are to bear one another’s burdens; we’ve been commanded to help each other! While we have been counseled to be self-reliant, one of the purposes of our church organization, and more specifically of the Relief Society, is to provide to each other just that: relief. Remember that in Gethsemane, Christ asked Peter, James, and John to “tarry ye here and watch” (Mark 14:38). The Savior asked for emotional support, and it’s perfectly acceptable for us to do the same.
Myth #3: If I’m experiencing pain in my life, it must be because I’ve sinned.
We all go through hardships and trials, but some unfortunately compound their own suffering by needlessly blaming themselves. Many clients I’ve worked with have expressed that the emotional pain they feel must be the result of some sin they have committed. They then end up hurting even more from what they perceive to be their own guilt.
While some of the pain mortals experience is rooted in their own wrongdoing, the scriptures and church history are replete with accounts of individuals who suffered through no fault of their own. For just one example, Joseph Smith, the man whom the Lord trusted to commence the tremendously important work of the Restoration, buried six of his own children. Recall the account of the Savior being questioned whether the man who was blind from birth was suffering because of his own sins or the sins of his parents. Jesus answered that neither had sinned, then explained that this was an opportunity to demonstrate the power of God by healing him (John 9:1-3). We can apply this principle to understand that our pain can help us witness the healing power of the Atonement in our own lives.
Untangling cultural myths from doctrinal truth enables us to experience greater emotional freedom. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:22). This freedom includes freedom from unproductive and unwarranted guilt, self-blame, and a sense of disconnection.
Learn more about Julie’s book The Burnout Cure: An emotional survival guide for overwhelmed women visit http://www.juliehanks.com