It’s been a difficult year with depression and thoughts of suicide. Recently, after confiding in my brother in law, he told me that I am not worthy to enter the temple or have a recommend. What have the General Authorities said about temple worthiness when one is having suicidal thoughts? Am I truly unworthy?
I am very sorry to hear that you have been struggling with depression and suicidal ideation. Someone close to me as experienced that and it is very difficult. Jeremiah, I want you to know that your brother in law was dead wrong. Depression and sucidal thoughts are not a reflection of your worthiness. I suppose some people mistakenly believe that because the scriptures do talk about sin bringing unhappiness. However, there are many other causes of sadness and depression that are unrelated to worthiness.
Did you know that President George Albert Smith suffered with depression? During the time he was an apostle, there was a period from 1909-1912 when he could not do the work to which the Lord had called him. He was in bed much of that time with what we would call today a severe case of depression. He later recovered and went on to become the Prophet and President of the church. Clearly his depression was not a worthiness issue. (For more information there is a link below.) Elder Holland once mentioned this and said, ”
. . . Elder George Albert Smith . . . being one of the most gentle and Christlike men of our dispensation, who battled recurring depression for some years before later becoming the universally beloved eighth prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
When one is depressed, it is so important to have hope to hold on to. For that reason, I encourage you to attend the temple and feel the love that Father has for you. Unless your brother in law is your Bishop, he has no right or stewardship to tell you that you are not worthy to attend the temple or have a recommend. I encourage you to talk to your Bishop. When you sit down with your Bishop in his office, he is acting in the place of the Savior. I have felt the Spirit testify of that to me more than once (with different bishops.) So I encourage you to sit down with him, and allow him to reassure you of God’s love and that depression does NOT make you unworthy. I also strongly encourage you to see professional help. Elder Holland also recommends this. In his talk, Like a Broken Vessel, 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.”
There is much wonderful counsel and comfort in this talk, Like a Broken Vessel, I encourage you to read the whole talk (link below.) Remember Jeremiah, that depression lies. It tells you that you will always feel the pain you have now, but that is not true. Feelings are like waves, they come and they go. Some depression lasts for a long time, but eventually it gives way to better days. Of this Elder Holland said, “Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.”
I’ll close with this video, that a good friend who has suffered from depression told me brought a great deal of comfort to her:
Holland, Jeffrey R., “Like a Broken Vessel.” LDS General Conference October 2013.
Woodger, Mary Jane. “’Cheat the Assylum of a Victim’: George Albert Smith’s 1909-12 Breakdown.” Journal of Mormon History, edited by Anderson, Lavina, Mormon History Association, 2008, pp.113-152