Q&A Does Depression Go With Us After This Life?

QUESTION

There are two scriptures that have long troubled me that I would appreciate your perspective on. The scriptures are:  Alma 34:34 and Mormon 9:14.

Alma 34:34: Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

Moroni 9:14: And then cometh the judgment of the Holy One upon them; and then cometh the time that he that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life.  I keep them at bay because I am intelligent and rational.  I consistently do all those things that I know will promote good mental and spiritual health.  I have many friends, a wonderful husband and 5 great children.  I would have to say though, that I never completely break out of that depression and anxiety box; I stay at the top when I’m on top of things, but cruise in the middle too often.  I have found that the older I get (I’m now in my mid-fifties) the harder it is to stay on top. My struggle is not situational; I have the usual life challenges but not more or less than the average LDS woman.  I see trends of similar weaknesses in both of my brothers.  Our father (deceased) was an alcoholic who probably self-medicated.

I often wonder how we are to tell the difference between weaknesses that we should view as “thorns in the side” or biological inheritances that we are meant mostly to manage in this life, and weaknesses that, through Christ and the Atonement, we are capable of conquering in this life.  I have contemplated, analyzed fasted and prayed over this weakness for over 40 years, and it still lingers, especially the anxiety.

I understand that Alma 34:34 is talking about sin, but knowing that our same spirit will rise with us, and that unhappiness will follow us is a haunting prospect for someone with depression and anxiety.

What are your thoughts about how issues like depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns are resolved as we crossover from this life to the next?

ANSWER

I am so sorry to hear of your concerns. In my opinion, you don’t have to worry at all about depression continuing into the hereafter.

Let’s consider another scriptural promise about the hereafter.

Revelation 20:4 (emphasis added): And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

So the question becomes, about whom is God talking in each of the scriptures cited?

Looking at the scriptures as a body of work that teaches about the Plan of Salvation, I think it’s safe to say the following—and you did ask for my perspective 🙂 :

  1. In Alma 34, God is speaking of repentance. Thus, those who have a repentant spirit will repent here in their probationary estate and be in pretty good shape to complete the process during the millennium. Those who do not have a repentant spirit may think they can procrastinate the day of their repentance (see verses 33 and 35, just before and after this one) but will find they have the same unrepentant spirit in the spirit world as they do here. It will be “everlastingly too late” (Helaman 13:38) for them.
  2. The verse in Moroni 9 also needs to be taken in context. God is talking about judgment and making two basic divisions, labeling them in different ways, but it’s not 4 groups he’s talking about, it’s 2. God often divides people in two broad categories: righteous and unrighteous, clean and unclean, sheep and goats, wheat and tares, happy and unhappy. I personally believe that he’s talking about the kind of happiness that comes with joining the ranks of the Savior (as in “We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er, happy are we. . . .”, Hymns #250).
  3. While righteous living certainly does not always correspond in this life with happiness (e.g. see the lives of the prophets ancient and modern), those who qualify for being righteous, clean, sheep, and wheat will also be in the group that is happy—filled with joy—forever (see Rev 20:4 above). If doing all that we can to live the gospel in this life still could leave us feeling depressed or anxious forever, personally, I don’t think I would have signed up for that plan. But I don’t believe that’s even an option. I think, if we choose Christ, happiness and a fullness of joy are our eternal promise.

If I understand correctly, you are also asking if depression and anxiety are weaknesses that we need to conquer through Christ’s atonement in this life or the “thorn in the flesh” weaknesses that we just need to manage and endure. In my opinion, we don’t need to distinguish between those things because I think the only difference is in timing and that is not ours to know. What I mean is that, as the Lord teaches us in Ether 12:27, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” I think all weaknesses create a challenge that is like a “thorn in the flesh” that needs to be managed until through Christ, those weaknesses are healed and made strong. Sometimes that happens in mortality and some will be finished up during the Millennium. I think we may underestimate how many mortal challenges will be resolved in that thousand-year period. The Millennium is still part of the Second Estate, a probationary period, and I agree with a friend of mine who once told me that she thought one reason the Millennium was going to be 1000 years long was that it would take that much family therapy for anyone to be fit for the kingdom. (My husband, Chris, and I used to think that we might need to change professions and become teachers or farmers in the Millennium, but looks like job security right up till Final Judgment.) Joking aside, I really do believe that the Millennium will be a healing time, a completion time, a generous part of the Plan that allows for God’s promise to be fulfilled “that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life” (Alma 29:4) including the desire to be happy and at peace.

Let me also mention that while, at this time of your life, you may not feel your life is any more stressful than “average,” it may be that there are some unresolved hurts or challenges from earlier in life that have never been fully addressed. And anxiety is pretty much always associated with the need to be in control and generally grows out of difficult times when we felt/feel out of control. I recognize that some individuals seem to be more genetically predisposed to depression and anxiety than others but more often than not, there are ways to minimize depression and anxiety with good quality counseling support.

In any event, I truly believe that for all of us who desire to please God and manifest that desire day-to-day in sincere efforts to be acceptable to Him, though we fall far short of perfection, complete happiness, and peace in this life, we will be happy, full of joy, and full of peace in the world to come.

Best wishes.

NOTE: I am working on a book about dealing with hurts and anger that discusses depression and healing. I’m not sure when it will be finished (my schedule is a little nuts) but I hope for a release sometime in 2011.

  1. Ronda Watkins says:

    Beautiful and insightful answer to a difficut problem. I always enjoy reading your perspective.
    Thanks, Ronda

  2. Pops says:

    You might be interested in Wendy Ulrich’s book, “Weakness is Not Sin” – it contains interesting discussion of how weaknesses (such as depression and anxiety) can be beneficial depending on our response to them.

    The latest issue of Reader’s Digest has a short but applicable interview with Michael J Fox on the subject of figuring out what we can control and what we can’t, and finding peace by not dwelling on the things we can’t change.

  3. Kristin says:

    This is wonderful, thank you. To the one asking the question, I have struggled with anxiety and depression in one degree or another since age 12. I have found that much of it coincides with hormonal and dietary changes. This may or may not be the case with you. If you notice patterns in your feelings of depression and anxiety, this can be a ray of hope that much of it might in fact be a spiritual response to a physical weakness, which physical weakness, I have hope, will no longer be with us after our resurrection.

    I have a testimony that the Word of Wisdom, aside from the “biggies” (tobacco, alcohol, drugs, etc.), does contain “hidden treasures” of knowledge. You may find relief as you take care of your body in a way that best suits you.

    Good luck!

  4. Rodger says:

    You are both right and wrong about Alma 34:34. It is about repentance, but it also has a literal meaning. The spirit(s) which possess us in this life, both figurative and literal possession (evil/unclean), will literally be the same spirit (righteous or evil) which possesses us, i.e., controls us and makes us do its bidding in the spirit world. If we die in our sins, we become subject to Satan and must do his bidding. In turn, we afflict those still alive with the same problems and weaknesses we possessed while still alive and we will actively work against the plan of God.

    If you read through the Journal of Discourses, you will see many references to this.

    J.D. 2:128
    J.D. 3:229
    J.D. 3:370
    J.D. 3:372
    J.D. 4:2
    J.D. 4:273
    J.D. 6 73-74
    J.D. 7:239
    J.D. 11:84
    J.D. 12:128

    In his book, “Key to the Science of Theology,” Parley P. Pratt stated that “unclean” or “foul” spirits were the disembodied spirits of those who died in their sins. In other words, wicked people who die in their sins become unclean spirits.

    “The more wicked of these are the kind spoken of in Scripture, as “foul spirits,” “unclean spirits,” spirits who afflict persons in the flesh, and engender various diseases in the human system. They will sometimes enter human bodies, and will distract them, throw them into fits, cast them into the water, into the fire, etc. They will trouble them with dreams, nightmare, hysterics, fever, etc. They will also deform them in body and in features, by convulsions, cramps, contortions, etc., and will sometimes compel them to utter blasphemies, horrible curses, and even words of other languages. If permitted, they will often cause death. Some of these spirits are adulterous, and suggest to the mind all manner of lasciviousness, all kinds of evil thoughts and temptations”
    (Key to the Science of Theology, Pg. 76).

    Sounds to me like unclean spirits cause epilepsy, Tourette’s, anxiety, depression, mental confusion, general illnesses, etc. Unfortunately, way too many good, well-meaning Latter-day Saints are taken in by the wisdom of the world. They believe that the scriptures were wrong when the Savior cast out devils and unclean spirits, thereby healing the afflicted person of their illness. These Latter-day Saints believe in science and doctors who say that the writers of the scriptures simply misunderstood that the Savior didn’t actually cast out evil spirits. These illnesses were problems with the brain, body chemistry, addictions, etc.

    I counted up all the scriptural references where the Savior and the apostles performed miracles that involved healing. Not the ones where Christ walked on water, etc. Fully 56% of those miracles involved the casting out of unclean or foul spirits or devils. Taken in context with everything written in the Journal of Discourses, how does that translate to the modern world? Do you think these evils spirits decided to just leave us alone? Not hardly. I’m sorry, but I believe the scriptures over learned men.

    The single cleverest thing Satan has done is to convince people he doesn’t exist or that he isn’t the root cause of all our afflictions. He has convinced people that he has little or no influence in this world and/or that he has no part in the many myriad of illnesses plaguing mankind. There is a paper I recommend that is addressed to counselors by Ron Poulton titled, “Understanding Spiritual Evil in the Context of Psychotherapy.” It can be accessed at:
    http://tamarasbook.blogspot.com.au/2008/12/fascinating-paper-on-evil-spirits.html

    It’s difficult to read, so I recommend that you copy and paste it into MS Word.

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