Wednesday, May 20, 2009

the gentle, thoughtful rant

I recently encountered a mind set in our church that disturbed me. This is not a mentality that is exclusive to Mormons, and certainly not all or even most Mormons have this mind set. But I seem to run into it now and then and it bothers me wherever I find it, within or without the Church. I'm not going into the specifics of this situation because that wouldn't be appropriate. Anyway, the specifics do not bug me so much. It's the mind set behind this decision that was made, at whatever level it may have been made, that unsettles me.


It's all about safety. It's all about not offending people. It's about avoiding the potential to offend a few people at the cost of something that builds and strengthens many. It's about not trusting people to make good decisions and get along together.


It is eliminating all the risks and the benefits too.


It is the mind set behind the horribly dull playground equipment on school grounds across America.


Am I just a cantankerous New Englander lady? (I must admit another word came to mind in place of 'lady'?)

This is not something that makes me consider leaving the Church or anything, or even being "offended." But every now and then when something like this happens, I step back a little and take stock of my Church experience. It's a good time to recommit, but maybe with a little less emotional investment? Some lower expectations?

For some reason, close friends and family members have confided to me lately about trials they've gone through (I'm talking about big things at a completely different level from what I mention above) that have made them question either their testimony of the Church or their willingness to continue participating in it. I've listened to these stories and wondered if I could have made it through some of these trials without leaving the Church. It seems that everyone in our church has at least one time in their lives that they wonder, Is this the right place for me? Wonderful things happen and that's what I've always talked about on this blog. But a lot of other stuff does too, ranging from annoying to devastating. We are far from being a perfect people. We make mistakes, some of them BIG. And yet many of us persevere. We keep coming back for more. Is it that the great things always make up for the not-so-great? I suppose.

I have ideas about what makes people come back. But first, what do you think?

20 comments:

athena said...

what a wonderful post! i can't wait to hear your thoughts on why you think people keep coming back.

Dina said...

Hmmm, I'm a little lost with your post. I think it's hard to know exactly what you are trying to get at because I don't know the "behind the scenes." So, are you questioning policies that aim at inclusion or helping the "lost lamb?" I see your point about the playground equipment, but I'm lost as to how this applies to the ward. (Now, I could understand if you posted this while you were the activities chair. :) I think all of us in blogland need some kind of made up scenario and then we can give our very informed opinion!

We aren't a perfect people. Yes, there's a lot of people shouting from the great and spacious building. I would think the reason people keep coming back for more is a testimony. They believe in the restored gospel and all of the blessings it brings. You have to judge a religion by the fruit that it bears. Does it help your family along? Is it ultimately good?

celtishbee said...

The Savior taught hard doctrine in the synagogue at Capernaum and as a result many of His disciples "...walked no more with Him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God."

Hard doctrine, imperfect people and, as Elder Maxwell so frequently observed, irony are tools that help ensure the trying, chastening, refining nature of the Plan of Salvation. Sorrow, anger, discouragement, disappointment or any other pain, especially if it is chronic and/or severe can engender that same penetrating question; "Will ye also go away?"

If I know that "Thou hast the words of eternal life. And (I) believe and (am) sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God, then to whom, indeed, should I go?

Besides, the Lord said,

"Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven..." D&C 95:1

also,

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."

Can I ask for more?

Michelle said...

1. Community
2. Habit
3. When testimony is weak, remembering past spiritual experiences and spiritual strength

What were Pres Hinckley's three things that a convert needed? A friend, a calling, and something else. I can't remember. But, social networks and feelings of responsibility make it much harder to stop going to church when a person doesn't feel like it.

k. said...

I totally agree about the safety thing. Overdone. Nothing wrong with some scrapes and bruises, even a broken limb to recognize limits and mortality. But that isn't really what you are posting about. ;-)

I agree with Michelle on what makes people come back to church. Personally, I miss church. I miss the community. I think sometimes that if I have kids I will have to rediscover religion because the kids need a place to learn morals and values and have them reinforced by other adults and peers. But the church and I have some big differences that we can't work out. It wasn't an easy decision for me to leave. Do I stay and try to affect change, or do I jump ship because they shouldn't and wouldn't change? My differences were enough, and so far away from doctine, that I chose to leave. But it was a personal choice, and I believe everyone has different needs. The church and I had differing opinions on that as well. ;-)

Suum cui que.

Mama Ava said...

The playground safety thing...Americans are so fearful and litigious. We want to live with a sense of security and control that does not exist and when something happens, we are determined to find out why and make sure it doesn't happen again. When we lived in Tanzania, where every system is gone, where every illusion of control is stripped away, for the most part I really didn't feel less safe, unless I thought about those horrible "what ifs". But tree climbing, swimming, etc. were free rein. The kids that grow up there are so confident and have such a "can-do" attitude. Now in Beijing, we're back in the very/overly controlled atmosphere. Ick.

As to why people come back...we believe in an invincible God, but rely heavily on human institutions to learn about Him. Churches are human and are fallable, prone to the same sins we face as people: pride, judgment, envy, etc. I'm always suspicious of those who have never questioned aspects of their faith or become disillusioned with their church. We return because there's something in us that draws us back to the sense of community and spirit, with the knowledge that it can't be the church that fills us, it has to be God Himself. One denomination may be the interpretation you need, but "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God", including churches. We take them for the best that they can give us, and deal with the other aspects, just as we do in other relationships.

Calandria said...

Wow, I love these comments!

Dina, I can't seem to come up with an imaginary scenario. It could really apply to any decision that is made by any leader at a ward, stake, or general level that you don't agree with. And then the reasons given for this decision are: People are not capable of making good choices, people might get offended.

Ave said...

I certainly wasn't expecting to be dropped hard on my butt like I have been this passed month. I honestly felt let down by God. I was really angry. I found myself saying "are you even listening? how could you let this happen when we have been working so hard at doing the right thing?" Then I felt the hollow empty thing when I went to church and knew that I had to make a decision and a change.

We all struggle with weirdo leaders sometimes with weirdo suggestions and policies. However, we are all weirdos. right?

Maybe you will just have to find another way to feel unity. You could start a ward compost group and everyone could learn how to build mounds of layered garbage for the betterment of the soil.

A new passion! Think about it.

Dina said...

Well, I'm still lost. I even had my DH read your post and all the comments and neither one of us can figure out what it is you're trying to get at. Maybe we just haven't had any of these policies happen in our ward? Sorry you are feeling let down and I hope you can find the joy in your community again.

Calandria said...

Dina, I'm sorry. I see that the example I used was poor because it has only served to spark curiousity that I can't satisfy on this public blog. The example wasn't so important. It could have been any dissappointing attitude or mentality:
condescension toward women.
unrighteous judgement.
narrow-mindedness.

It really could have been anything. My question is, if you experience a disenchantment with the Church for whatever reason, what keeps you coming back? It could seem like a glaringly obvious answer, but maybe not. Look at the variety of answers to this question in the comments already.

Gabriela said...

hmmmmm. For me when I have felt uneasy or offended by someone's actions or attitudes what keeps me going back is the combination of the following beliefs:

1. the gospel is perfect, but the people are not.

2.I try to have the attitude that people are trying to do their best.

3. And, that the church has "evolved" over the years and that maybe there will be other changes in this life or the next that will be an improvement over what we have now.

Living the gospel makes me happy-that's why I go. (how cheesy does that sound? but it's true!)

Ballerina Girl said...

so interesting...my views:
I think this applies to any Religion, or at least it includes mine...
why do we come back? I came back...
for the feeling of unconditional love. A love that truly knows no bounds, no interferences, unless we put them there.
I came back to also show my children how to live morally, with a responsibility to others besides themselves.

As for disagreeing...well, maybe I am the wrong person to ask that of....because I truly have a few VERY different opinions with my Church/Religion. I guess I view them as my personal choice, though to some, maybe I am contradicting the teachings in my Religion, but that is how I am. He still loves me...even if I am faulty... I do try my best

Playground equipment is boring...where are the good ol' almost rusty monkey bars that I used to hang off of? :)

BG

Dina said...

I guess I've never felt any of those things coming from a leader. Maybe I'm not looking for controversy, so I just don't hear it.

BUT, R and I have gone around this year about church activity for a different reason, so I'll try to answer.

For me, I believe that Joseph Smith saw a vision. He either did or he didn't. Believing that, everything else falls into place for me. Not that it's a perfect church. We've had our issues. In fact, there's one person in our ward who hasn't spoken to me for a year and a half and is constantly causing trouble--a burr in my saddle so to speak. It's been a real difficulty considering we can't change which ward we attend.

I also go because I believe that my children will be better people by going. They will be taught the things I am trying to teach them at home which reinforces.

And, I also go because I have responsibilities. The Lord is wise by giving us callings.

Okay, your turn!

Chocolate on my Cranium said...

The first thing that came to mind reading your post was Elder Bednar's talk And Nothing Shall Offend Them. Not from the stance that we shouldn't be offended but from the stance that the church shouldn't worry about offending others. Does that make sense? "May we dedicate our lives to serving the Lord and not worry about offending the Devil" (Elder Faust)

What keeps people coming back? any number of things from testimony, friends, habit, everything the other commenters have already mentioned.

For myself, when trials come whether they are from dealing with other people or are just things I have to experience (health issues, financial strain, etc) I try to remember that I am not the first person to have these trials, nor will I be the last. It's how I react to them that is key. And it can be, oh, so hard to keep an eternal perspective and endure to the end but it is worth it after the trial is over.

My two favorite scriptures aren't very well known by most but they are my favorites for this very reason. They help me to endure the trials that come.

D&C 123:17 17 "Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed. "

Philipians 4:11 "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."

Yes, they are simplistic but that's why they work. We try to make things harder than they really are.

Brenda said...

Unfortunately sometimes those policy decisions can be made by those whom you might really look up to or wouldn't expect it from. We've been there and had the discussion as a couple wondering if this religion is for us or if we are at a place that we don't want to deal with these things. But we come back because
1)we humble ourselves(not stupidly or apathetically just genuinely willing to give another chance
2)the positives outweigh the negative
3)habit,sense of belonging,strength and understanding of extended family
4)our personal feelings and perspective--sort of takes me back to number 1
Good post, interesting comments,love to think:)

Anonymous said...

Michelle, the 3rd thing is being nurtured by the good word of god. In my opinion, this is where the rubber hits the road.
The other 2, a friend and a responsibility, are part of our cultural experience. They are good and necessary to strengthen us and help us grow. However, it is somewhere inside that we develop the “faith/strength” to keep coming back.
A few months ago, a good friend, one who had attended church regularly and continues to live a moral life, told me to me that she had come to grips with the fact that she never had a testimony. Without discussing the specific case, I asked my Stake President at the time, how is it that someone can be in the church 50 years and not develop a testimony? How does it happen? He said that in the many years of his experience, every time some one has left the church it has been either because they are lacking daily scripture reading or daily sincere prayer or both.

~J

ML said...

I go to this church because I am spoiled for anything else.

ProMom said...

Thanks for the thought provoking post. I strayed at one time and came back and cleaned up my act because there wasn't anything else to go to. I couldn't go back to my old church, or any other, because I knew too much. I had a testimony of the truthfulness of the LDS church. The members aren't perfect no matter what calling they hold. But I know this is Christ's church.

Anonymous said...

I stopped going to church so long ago I can't be totally accurate in describing the reason. Many times I look back and forward and see what I've missed. It really doesn't take long for me to get over it. When I sit myself off and look at this life experience from a third person perspective, I feel 'out of the craddle' and see things in a better light. Now, that will get a big challenge. Wordsmith's are so good at designing comfort and reasurrance with their superior communication skills, it is very contageous.
Today I am a happy man. My sincere wish is that you all find your happiness as well.

Calandria said...

Church is not for everyone--just the sinners.