On Sunday, I get to lead a discussion in Relief Society about the talk, “Three Sisters” given by President Uchtdorf. So, I know that “technically,” since the change in the First Presidency of the Church, it is probably Elder Uchtdorf rather than “President” but people sometimes call former Bishops from their ward “Bishop so and so” even after they are released, so why can’t we do that for Uchtdorf?
President Uchtdorf speaks generally of three sisters in his address. According to him, one was “sad,” another was “mad,” and the last was “glad.” More or less, he seems to be talking about the importance of attitude and taking responsibility for ourselves and our situations. While I understand the generalities used and why he used them, obviously life and our emotional/mental states are far more complicated than just being able to say that someone is either sad/made/glad all the time.
Moving on from that, though, President Uchtdorf came to similar conclusions about why the sad and mad sisters felt how they respectively did. He states in the sad sister analysis, “With this approach to life, she was giving others control over how she felt and behaved. […] Why should you surrender your happiness to someone, or a group of someones, who cares very little about you or your happiness?”
When talking about the mad sister, he similarly says, “she felt that the problems in her life were all caused by someone else.” According to President Uchtdorf, when we tell ourselves that the bad things in life happen because of other people or circumstances outside of our control, we can easily become sad or mad. When we feel powerless to control or change our situation, we lose hope.
He then goes on to talk about how he grew up in Nazi Germany, warning us of the danger of mislabeling and accusing other groups at large of being “evil” or bad. He states, “they silenced those they did not like. They shamed and demonized them. They considered them inferior—even less than human. Once you degrade a group of people, you are more likely to justify words and acts of violence against them.”
This is true not just for religious or racial groups, but also for those who are different from us mentally, socially, or emotionally. Historically, the mentally ill have felt this kind of treatment—being seen and classified as “less than” others. This kind of behavior is simply not acceptable. President Uchtdorf powerfully says that even when we feel like we are acting and standing up for the right, “when we do so with anger or hate in our hearts—when we lash out at others to hurt, shame, or silence them—chances are we are not doing so in righteousness.”
Primarily, the rest of his talk encourages us to “stay on the path,” to “find refuge and strength in our wonderful organizations of the Church,” and to maintain good attitudes, remembering that “it is not so much your abilities but your choices that make the difference in life.”
I believe that’s true. I believe that’s why cognitive behavior therapy is effective for so many mental health challenges, too—it focuses on overcoming and sitting with how we may “feel” in order to make choices that will make us stronger and allow us to overcome the obstacles our mental illnesses put in our path.