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Dear Gramps,

I have a young adult son who is struggling with bipolar disorder. What do the general authorities say about mental illness? How accountable is my son for the misdeeds and poor choices he makes while mentally ill?

Theresa, from Texas

Dear Theresa,

A mental illness is considered in the same light as any other illness. If the body is affected by some disease, that fact does not impact the worthiness of the sick person. The brain is part of the body. Any malfunctions of the brain that would impair thinking, judgment or action would likewise have no impact on the worthiness of the person.

If a person has a mental illness that renders him unaccountable for his actions, no matter what those actions may be, since he is not responsible, they will not be held against him. The great atoning sacrifice of the Savior has paid the price to the demands of justice for all children who die before reaching the age of accountability, and for all others who are not accountable for their actions.

“Another unconditional aspect of Christ’s mercy applies to young children who are not capable of understanding the difference between good and evil and therefore are not accountable. They cannot sin or be tempted of Satan (D&C 29:47; Moro. 8:8). ‘They are all alive in [Christ] because of his mercy’ (Moro. 8:19; cf. D&C 29:46). LDS doctrine states that all children who die before the age of accountability (age eight) are saved in the Celestial Kingdom (D&C 137:10). Mercy extends also to those who through mental handicaps do not reach the mental age of eight, the level of accountability (D&C 29:50) (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.3, Plan of Salvation, Plan of Redemption).


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