Daniel K. Judd

Daniel K Judd, “Introduction,” in Religion, Mental Health, and the Latter-day Saints, ed. Daniel K. Judd (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1999) xi—xvi.

The relationship between religion and mental health has long been an issue among social scientists and lay people alike. Individuals, families, and entire communities have debated and discussed the merits of living the religious life. Though many have argued for the positive influence of religion, others have argued the opposite. Sigmund Freud (1953) described religion as “the universal compulsive neurosis of humanity,” while the American philosopher and psychologist William James (1902) defended man’s relationship with God when he stated, “We and God have business with each other; and in opening ourselves to His influence our deepest destiny is fulfilled. The universe, and those parts of it which our personal being constitutes, takes a turn genuinely for the worse or the better in proportion as each one of us fulfills or evades God’s commands” (pp. 516–17).

The academic debate concerning the veracity of the religious life and its relationship to mental health has continued well into the twentieth century and appears to be gaining momentum as we approach the twenty-first (Larson et al, 1992). Not only has the debate addressed the mental health of the religious life in general, but specific denominations have been studied as well. Among the specific religious faiths that have been examined in some detail is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [1] My intentions in preparing this book are to familiarize the reader with an overview of the research that has been conducted with Latter-day Saint samples and to discuss some of the implications this research might have in the lives of the Latter-day Saints and those with whom they have relationships.

The conflict between the assertions represented by the statements of Freud, James, and others (see Ellis, 1980; Skinner, 1948) has invited many to examine these statements in light of their own experience as well as through various research methodologies. The author of the first chapter in this volume, Allen E. Bergin, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, is considered by most to be one of the leaders in this field of inquiry. Dr. Bergin has done much to legitimize the academic study of religion and mental health and to advance the idea that religion can be a powerful, positive influence in the lives of individuals, families, and communities. It was Professor Bergin who first introduced me to the academic study of religiosity and mental health when I was a student of his in the early 1980s. Since that time, both Dr. Bergin and I have published separate literature reviews (Bergin, 1983; Judd, 1986) concerning the relationship of religiosity and mental health through 1979 and 1985, respectively. While our reviews offered considerable evidence refuting the alleged negative relationship between religiosity and mental health in general, they did not focus on specific religious denominations.

In 1994, Dr. Bergin and his research associates published a literature review (Bergin, Payne, Jenkins, & Cornwall, 1994) in which they identified twenty-four studies that focused specifically on Latter-day Saint samples. In a more recent review (Judd, 1997), I reported fifty-five studies in which various investigators examined specific dimensions of Latter-day Saint religiosity (i.e., affiliation, belief, and behavior) in relation to different dimensions of mental health (i.e., depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc.). In the time since this initial review, I have identified and added three additional studies (Williams, 1993; Smith & Roberts, 1996; & McClure and Loden, 1982) to the growing body of research. Appendix A in this volume is a summary of these fifty-eight studies.

While my research over the years has also produced many anecdotal reports and essays, only these fifty-eight research studies were judged to be consistent with pre-established criteria reflecting sound research methodology. [2] For the sake of brevity, I have included only the name of the first author of each study in Appendix A. The full reference citation for each of these studies is also provided.

An analysis of these fifty-eight studies revealed that of the seventy-eight outcomes reviewed (some studies had more than one outcome), 71 percent of the outcomes indicated a positive relationship between religiosity and mental health variables, 4 percent negative, and 24 percent neutral (1 percent was curvilinear). While much of the anecdotal writing concerning the mental health of the Latter-day Saints has been negative (see R. H. Burgoyne & R. W. Burgoyne, 1977; Degn, 1979; Payne, 1980), the majority of the research (95 percent of the outcomes) clearly refutes these negative assertions. The research evidence clearly indicates that Latter-day Saints who live their religion report better mental health than those who are less committed to the faith.

From these fifty-eight investigations, twelve studies, which have been judged to be representative of the greater body of traditional research, have been selected for inclusion in this volume. Also included are two chapters, 10 and 14, that are representative of nontraditional approaches to the study of religiosity and mental health. Chapter 10, by Drs. A. Dean Byrd and Mark D. Chamberlain, is a study concerning the understanding and treatment of same-sex attraction from a qualitative (as opposed to quantitative) perspective. In chapter 14, Professors Richard N. Williams and James E. Faulconer call into question the modernist assumptions on which most of the current research is based and offer a hermeneutical alternative that they propose takes human agency and morality more seriously than do the more traditional methods of inquiry.

With the exception of chapter 3 by Professor Marleen K. Williams and chapter 8 by Professors Brent L. Top, Bruce A. Chadwick, and research associate Janice Garrett, each of the studies presented in this book has been previously published.

In addition to my intent to familiarize the reader concerning the relationship of religiosity and mental health of the Latter-day Saints, it is also my desire to invite the reader to understand that living one’s religion can be a powerful force for good. While this volume focuses specifically on the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the great majority of research suggests that a positive relationship exists between the religious life and mental health for sincere disciples of all faiths.


Bergin, A. E. (1983). Religiosity and mental health: A critical reevaluation and meta-analysis. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 14 (2), 170–184.

Bergin, A. E., Payne, I. R., Jenkins, P. H., & Cornwall, M. (1994). Religion and mental health: Mormons and other groups. In M. Cornwall, T. B. Heaton, & L. A. Young (Eds.), Contemporary Mormonism: Social Science Perspectives (pp. 138–158). Urbana: University of Chicago Press.

Burgoyne, R. H., & Burgoyne, R. W. (1977). Conflict secondary to overt paradoxes in belief systems: The Mormon woman example. Journal of Operational Psychiatry, 8 (2), 39–45.

Degn, L. (Producer) (1979, February 17). Mormon women and depression. [Documentary]. (Available from KSL-TV, Salt Lake City and Sunstone, 4 (2), 16–26.)

Ellis, A. (1980). Psychotherapy and atheistic values: A response to A. E. Bergin’s psychotherapy and religious values. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 48 (5), 635–639.

Freud, S. (1953). The Future of an Illusion. (W. D. Robinson trans.). New York: Doubleday Press.

James, W. (1902). The varieties of religious experience. New York: The Modern Library.

Judd, D. K. (1986). Religious affiliation and mental health. See chapter 13 in this volume.

Judd, D. K. (1997). Religiosity, Mental Health, and the Latter-day Saints: A Preliminary Review of Literature (1923–1995). In J. T. Duke (Ed.), Latter-day Saint Social Life: Social Research on the LDS Church and its Members (pp. 473–497). Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center.

Larson, D. B., Sherill, K. A., Lyons, J. S., Craigie, F. C, Jr., Thielman, S. B., Greenwold, M. A., & Larson, S. S. (1992). Associations between dimensions of religious commitment and mental health reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry and the Archives of General Psychiatry: 1978–1989. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149 (4), 557–559.

McClure, R. F., & Loden, M. (1982). Religious activities, denomination membership and life satisfaction. Psychology, A Quarterly Journal of Human Behavior, 19(1), 12–17.

Payne, M. (1980). The obsessive-compulsive Mormon. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 13 (2), 116–122.

Skinner, B. F. (1948). Walden Two. New York: Macmillan.

Smith, T. B., & Roberts, R. N. (1996). Prejudice and racial identity among white Latter-day Saint college students: An exploratory study. Psychological Reports, 79, 1025–1026.

Williams, M. K. (1993). Family Attitudes and Perfectionism As Related to Depression in Latter-day Saint and Protestant Women. See chapter 3 in this volume.


[1] “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is the official name of the Church. Other unofficial designations include “Mormon” and the initials “LDS.”

[2] For the study to have been accepted in my review, it had to include specific measures of religiosity and mental health. While mental health was defined in terms of scores on differing measures of health/illness, religiosity was defined in terms of religious affiliation, activity, belief, and/or attitude. See Judd (1997) for details concerning the criteria for inclusion.