Mental and Spiritual Health Conference Challenge
Twice a year we have the wonderful privilege of hearing from our leaders to receive spiritual guidance and counsel. Each year the messages of these amazing men and women seems to have a greater impact on my life. Maybe you're like me and sometimes feel they prepared their message specifically for you. Conference is a spiritual feast that nourishes your soul when so many other responsibilities and life tax your soul.
However, if you are like me and many others, conference can also be anxiety provoking and overwhelming. There are times a leader’s message doesn't seem to align with scriptural or spiritual guidance received in the course of seeking answers to prayers. Other times, the feelings of anxiety become overwhelming as you have spent the last weeks, months and even years doing all you can to be met with a message of "do more." Sometimes a speaker doesn't seem to understand the complexities of life with their overly simplified solutions, which then elicits the guilty, self-reflective, self-punishing idea that maybe you don't have enough faith.
Elder Holland warned about this risk;
"My brothers and sisters, except for Jesus, there have been no flawless performances on this earthly journey we are pursuing, so while in mortality let’s strive for steady improvement without obsessing over what behavioral scientists call “toxic perfectionism.” We should avoid that latter excessive expectation of ourselves and of others and, I might add, of those who are called to serve in the Church—which for Latter-day Saints means everyone, for we are all called to serve somewhere." Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually
Although I think most don't believe our leaders are infallible, this is this cultural assumption—that ALL things spoken in conference are "right", "true", "doctrine", or "scripture" and are meant as an infallible guide for your personal life. Unfortunately, this cultural belief feeds the toxic perfectionism spoken of by Elder Holland. Therefore, this conference I encourage you to get the most out of every message by taking the mental and spiritual health conference challenge. Here it is:
1. Verbally remind yourself that God is working though imperfect people with their own perceptions, bias, family culture and predispositions.
2. Verbally remind yourself that not everything—in fact most things—spoken in conference are NOT doctrine, but rather personal experiences of imperfect people making sense of an infinite and eternal gospel.
3. Verbally remind yourself to conscientiously check in with your Father in Heaven if the message is meant for you and is something you should prioritize in your life.
4. Verbally acknowledge that even leaders say things that are confusing, unclear and even wrong. Trust your ongoing relationship with God and allow clarity to come from HIM.
5. Verbally acknowledge if you come away from conference with the idea that you need to do more, be better, work harder, read more scriptures, sacrifice more. Most likely it’s the influence of toxic perfectionism and not the spirit of Christ.
6. Verbally promise yourself that you will not assume a speaker’s words are more important or correct than your personal relationship and revelation from God.
7. Verbally acknowledge that emotions are NOT the same as spiritual confirmation or revelation.
8. Verbally remind yourself to be present, feeling and thinking about your own experience during conference.
The gospel is joyous. We should be rejoicing and feeling God’s love and learning how to emulate that love. His love is healing, not hurtful or depressing.