Thursday, January 2, 2014

Struggles with a Joy-Focused Church: The Plan of Salvation vs. The Plan of Happiness

I wondered a long time ago if people who have some sort of disorder (like depression of any kind, bi-polar disorder, social anxiety, etc.) are more prone to difficulty in a church that teaches, "Men are that they might have joy," and is such a social, "life-style" religion. I have come to believe that they do, and, to paraphrase Jesus, those who do NOT face those sort of things probably are the "whole" who need not a physician - and who struggle to be a physician in practical terms. 

As an additional note, this is another reason I don't want people who struggle in some way because they are different to leave the Church. Many of them are the very people who could serve the sick who need a physician - and educate the whole about minimizing their contributions to worsening the sickness of others.

In that light, I have noticed a movement over the last few years to replace "The Plan of Salvation" with "The Plan of Happiness".  I understand and appreciate the reasoning behind that new focus, but I also understand that such a change constitutes a two-edged sword.  For those who are inclined to be able to feel happiness more readily than others - or those for whom the concept of a salvation doesn't resonate all that deeply, due to the relative goodness of their lives - the idea of God granting them happiness if they pursue it can be a powerful motivation and an empowering goal.  For those who are prone to depression, lack of self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, tendencies toward feeling overwhelmed, destructive perfectionism, etc., however, happiness can seem elusive (and, in too many cases, even guilt-inducing and burdensome) - while the concept of being saved from grief, pain, sorrow, struggle, etc. can be powerful and empowering. 

I like each phrasing, in a proper setting and with proper application, so I prefer the use of both descriptions rather than exclusive reliance on either one.  I think there is even greater power and empowerment in combining the two and emphasizing both when talking publicly, and I believe doing so can help those who naturally would gravitate to one over the other appreciate and gain strength occasionally from the one that does not resonate most naturally for them. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I realize this is an older post, but I just wanted to say, this is VERY true. I have dealt with social anxiety and depression at least since my mission, nearly 15 years now. Although I am active, it is a constant struggle. Just going to church every week is hard enough: one is expected to be outgoing, to volunteer, to be cheerful. I can't count the number of times that I have been told by well-meaning people things like "You need to smile more!" And then there are the other things we are expected to do: ward socials (ugh!), home teaching (awkward!), missionary work (yeah right!). If I were called to teach a class in my ward or write a book for the Church, that would be easy (I am an academic): it doesn't require small-talk. But instead I get either NO calling (because I am perceived as unwilling to help), which was the case for a long time, or I get called to be a @#$%^ usher (the worst possible calling for me), apparently the bishop's attempt to get me to be "smile more." I just wish your average extroverted member would read you post and gain some small understanding of how hard it is for those of us with such issues.