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Dave asks, “Is there an accepted or acceptable Mormon model of psychology?” Acceptable to whom? To you, to the church, or to the church general membership?

I think there certainly is a Mormon model of psychology, but I wouldn’t say anything of it here. Expressed in the brevity of a single comment, it would be highly polemic. I would instead direct those interested in the subject here, an article which isn’t an all-encompassing treatise on the matter, but I think provides us with the prefect place to start thinking about it.

I've read recently that evolution scientists now argue that evolution happens much more quickly than evolution psychologists believe. So that our minds should have changed quite a lot since hunter-gatherer days. For what it's worth...

By the way, there is a brand of Mormon who believes there's a Mormon model of psychology. That model features extreme free will. Nothing's determined by anything but choice. So mental illness is a bad choice...

Out of curiosity, have you been reading Mixing Memory and his frequent criticisms of EP?

I don't have a good handle on evolutionary psychology. I do know that it is controversial--even committed atheist scientists have problems with EP. If I understand correctly, I think their beef is that the ideas behind EP can be hard to actually test.

There is a book by Elder Morrison, called Valley of Sorrow.

Also, another link on the site that Eric references that I've found very helpful is Dr. Rick Hawks' BYU Education Week 2005 Talks, including Mental Illness: How Latter-Day-Saints Shoot Their Wounded.

You should read through Mixing Memory. He loves to attack EPs like Pinker (all of whose books I've read). The criticisms are actually pretty good. It goes well beyond the lack of empirical evidence. (And in many ways EP reminds me of ID now that I've read more into it.) Anyway, I think Mixing Memory is by far my favorite blog just because his posts are always so informative. Further when you ask questions he is amazingly helpful - especially in reading. The reading club we're having has been tremendously informative as well, even though most of us disagree with the thesis of the author.


There is also a line of pop psychology that says that any emotional issue is a mental disorder.

I think this is part of the problem with the talk that sarebear links to above. I agree, technically, with the points he makes, but he places them all together to draw a false conclusion that we are not at all responsible for our own emotions. This, I believe, is a more dangerous idea than the one he’s confronting.

Clearly, Mormons, just as non-Mormons, have different opinions on the matter.

I believe he is speaking of the mentally ill, especially the more serious brain disorders. Such as my bipolar (while I am not completely responsible for my emotions, and for how I act on them at times, I accept and take FULL responsibility for my actions, as soon as I return to a mental and emotional state where I am capable of doing so). Some might not see the distinction between accepting that the disease affects or even causes certain actions, and my being able to take responsibility for it, but I do. I repent for everything I do wrong, with no consideration of oh he should go lighter on me because I'm ill, or I wasn't in charge of myself.

In reality though, these illnesses cause PHYSICAL changes in the brain, and the brain affects and causes our emotions and behavior. It is frustrating to be at the mercy of the illnesses, but I am doing what I can.

The author of those talks is a psychologist, and many of the quotes he uses are from general authorities. The mentally ill do not have complete control over their emotions; that is a fundamental fact of their condition.

He is speaking about the ill, not the general population. But I did not see what he said as absolving me of responsibility for my emotions either, although of course there is a degree to which mine are affected and caused by my conditions.

In the end, I repent of sin like everyone else, and try to conduct myself as best I can within the values and principles I hold important, although the illnesses make that difficult to impossible sometimes. I try anyway, and strive for that standard. And beat myself up emotionally too much for not meeting it lol.

sarebear, I don't know who Dr. Rick is, but I liked his slide presentation that you linked to. Sounds like the kind of informed common sense on this issue that is well-suited to an LDS audience. Thanks for the link.

Eric, I think it can be worthwhile to remember that the autonomy implied by the concept of free agency is an ideal and isn't really met during mortality. For Paul's expression of this idea, see Romans 7:14-25. While we're mortal, we're going to have options foreclosed on us due to physical constraints. We're going to make some decisions that we don't want to make, and we'll find ourselves unable to make other decisions that we wish we could make. The question of exactly which decisions are the result of mortal constraints and which are the result of free choice is obviously both important and open. But the scriptures and modern science speak as one voice in clarifying that at least sometimes we are strongly constrained by our bodies.

Eric, that notion of "pop psychology" is actually quite old. It goes back at least to the Stoics, who in certain ways started psychology.

We may be limited in the control we have over our bodies, but we always have control over our hearts. We can always choose to be humble, to have a broken heart and contrite spirit, to forgive and love another, to let go of any grudges or resentment towards others, to let go of any anger towards others, to let go of hurt feelings of any kind. And it’s here that agency is important, because it’s what we choose to do with our hearts that dictates our inner peace.

Not that pragmatists are indifferent to truth, but the bias is against metaphysical questions and in favor of those that have practical consequences.

Dave, this is something that has struck me about Mormonism - we tend to be pragmatic folk. As much as we quote Joseph Smith's statement about correct preiciples, we usually don't start with first principles and argue from there. We are pretty comfortable with the idea that what works is probably what's best.

Actually the pragmatist position is, unlike the positivists, that metaphysical considerations do have practical consequences.

By the way, on a brief return to the original topic of evolutionary psychology, there's some recent discussion in the news of evidence that our brains have evolved substantially during the period associated with "modern humanity." See, for instance, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050909/ap_on_sc/brain_evolution

That our brains have changed in important ways over the last few thousand years might seem like a strange detail. But it speaks directly to evolutionary psychology by suggesting that our brains might in some ways be better suited for a modern environment than for the African sahara.

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