Let me just mention a few things before I give a brief recap on the panels at Anxiety Disorders and Mormonism. First of all, thank you all for your kind comments and support regarding my last blog post. Most meaningful to me were the comments from my sisters, not just my “sisters” in a womanly way, but my actual two sisters who both reached out. I am grateful for their words and their understanding!
MormonLeaks and #mormonmetoo
Speaking of women and the Church, there has been a great upheaval and much discussion, anger, and confusion this week regarding the Joseph Bishop interview and allegations. Many Mormon women are obviously angered and dismayed at what has been happening, though not entirely or universally surprised. I have been following this story, having my own #metoo experience in my current ward with inappropriate remarks and attention from an elderly man in the ward. As Relief Society President, I took my concerns and the concerns of other women to our bishop and together we attempted to resolve or at least address the issue. It was difficult and discouraging.
From this experience and having discussed it with other affected women or those willing to speak out against this individual, I learned that local Church leadership in general doesn’t know how to deal with this kind of information and, in many cases, simply doesn’t want to deal with it. Too often they want to ignore it, place blame or responsibility on the women or individuals bringing the allegations, excuse or rationalize the behavior (the man is “old” or that’s just his “personality”), or “wait it out.”
But women need to be believed. Children and youth need to be believed—and protected. We all do. The Church should not be harboring or allowing predatory men to wander the hallways or serve in positions of trust and responsibility. I have seen the “innocent until proven guilty” phrase thrown around regarding this issue, and I have to say, in my own opinion, that this is not okay. If a person has sexual abuse or harassment allegations against them, they ought to be taken out of positions of responsibility where they could still be targeting and abusing others. Do not allow any potential abuse to continue just because “you aren’t sure” if they are really doing it or not.
According to the Church’s response to the Joseph Bishop allegations, they said that Joseph Bishop “denied the allegations,” and “unable to verify the allegations, they did not impose any formal Church disciple on Mr. Bishop at that time.”
Now a recorded interview with him has revealed that he does admit wrong doing and a sordid past, and we wonder if anything could or should have been done to stop him earlier. It seems fairly obvious that if someone in such a position as Joseph Bishop, who was MTC president, was willing to engage in that kind of awful behavior and abuse, he probably wouldn’t feel too badly lying about it when questioned.
The Church has serious work to do when it comes to trauma, abuse, and the way it too often shelters abusers and blames or denigrates victims.
Anyway, I felt that I needed to address that issue a little bit before moving on to ADAM Conf, so thanks for allowing that digression.
ADAM CONF Panels
At Anxiety Disorders and Mormonism, we had three panels over the course of the day.
First of all, “Types of Treatment for Anxiety Disorders” featured therapists/counselors Jessica Flynn, Annabella Hagen, Brian Coombs, and Paul Peterson with Carol Lundemo as moderator. They discussed various types of therapy used to treat anxiety, including DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), ACT (acceptance commitment therapy), CBT (cognitive behavior therapy), and ERP (exposure response prevention). They also fielded questions from the audience about therapy and recent studies and advancements in professional treatment.
Next, “Training Church Leaders to Support Anxiety Sufferers” was lead by LeadingLDS founder Kurt Francom and included Karen Redd (who recently returned from a full time mission as Area Mental Health adviser to 19 missions), Bryan Young (school psychologist and former member of a Bishopric and other presidencies), Rychen Jones (anxiety and depression sufferer and former EQ president), Travis Isaacson (recently released Bishop with OCD), and me, Kari Ferguson.
Some of us discussed how our mental illnesses affected and aided our Church leadership and why members often turn to Church leaders with emotional and mental health problems. Karen Redd addressed many questions about missionary service, including what types of medications missionaries are “allowed” to be on to serve in various locations. It was a great discussion and hopefully helped Church leaders in the audience understand a little bit more of what members deal with and how they can appropriately help them.
Lastly, “Living with Anxiety” featured Kearis Jensen, Cholena Soden, Tinesha Zandamela, Kassie Boothe, and Beth Farmer. These women discussed their experiences in living with anxiety, OCD, and/or PTSD, including how they had to adjust expectations, allow themselves more time to finish their education, or how their relationships (including with Heavenly Father) have been affected by having a mental illness. Brian Coombs served as the moderator.
I really enjoyed the panels, especially the Q+A section at the end with participation from the audience. I’m so grateful to all of those who participated as panel members and moderators and hope they also had a positive experience.
We are planning to hold ADAM Conf once again (in addition to ADAM Teen, which is scheduled for August 25 in Provo). Based on feedback, we have changed the name to “Anxiety Depression and Mormonism,” and we plan to hold it on May 4, most likely in Provo. Stay tuned for updates!