What do Church Members Really Think?

One of the more fascinating aspects of my job at Sunstone was meeting the average Joe Mormon and chatting with him or her about the Church. Whether it was someone at the hotel we were booking for the symposium, an advertising rep, or even just someone on a plane on the way to an out-of-state conference, the Church inevitably came up when they learned what Sunstone was. What made it fascinating is what these Church members were willing to share when they started to grasp what it meant that we were “Sunstoners”. They’d reveal, sometimes with apprehension in their voice, sometimes even whispering as though worried someone might hear, their problems with the Church.

No one, so far as I can remember, broke down and confessed to being an Atheist. I have little doubt everyone I spoke with was a believing, faithful member and will probably remain so throughout their lives. On some occasions, the problems were bigger and had larger implications, and I could almost sense some fear as the person I spoke with realized they were looking down a path they didn’t want to travel. But typically, the issues were well-trod bloggernacle topics such as “Church is soooo boring (including General Conference) — why can’t they shorten it or make it more interesting?” and “I don’t know about that whole blacks and the priesthood thing.” These people were free to share their true thoughts and issues — something they could never do in a Church setting, even if the issue is as mundane as “General Conference is boring and they repeat the same stuff over and over again.”

These conversations and many other experiences have led me to wonder, what do Church members really think? When I sit in Sacrament and gaze around at me fellow members, sometimes there’s nothing I’d like more than to be a mind reader. It’s been said that we all have three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life. The public life is pretty self-explanatory — it’s what people see of us at Church, work, social settings, etc. The private life we reserve for our families or close friends only. They might know more about us than we’d ever share in public. The secret life, however, is just for us. No one, not even our spouse, knows this life. (Let me interject, I don’t want to imply that everyone is off having an affair or is secretly a drug dealer; while this is undoubtedly the case for a small minority, most people’s secret life consists of thoughts, emotions, or desires they are too embarrassed, ashamed or unwilling to share with others.)

If we could open up the minds and examine the secret life of those Mormons around us, what would we find? Would someone in the Elders quorum presidency be feeling guilty for looking at porn online the night before? Would the mother to our left be tired of dragging her three young children to Church, thinking she’s only doing this because, “What would my mother think?” Would we find a young father who’s afraid to admit he hates being a parent, since we’re all supposed to love family life in the Church? Would most people be happy to be in Church, or would they be bored? Do they come because they want to, or because they’re supposed to? Would we largely discover doubt or would we largely discover faith? Would we see more dysfunctional homes than we thought, or would we see Mormon families relying on each other, even in tough times? Do Church members feel compelled to believe everything that comes their way from Church leaders, or do they pick and choose, creating a Mormonism inside of themselves that works for them? How many are there because of strong testimonies strengthened by the spirit, and how many are there because they were born Mormon, and if they’d been born into another faith, they’d be down the street at another church?

I can guess at the answers, but I suspect we’ll never be very certain. A lot of these issues above reflect my own perspective and idea of what might be troubling for some; no doubt I’ve missed some issues while inflating others.

Comments

  1. Wow, great post John. Secret thoughts. I have them all the time. I’m always wondering what others are thinking. I think we all have some small doubts, or at least things we’ve put on the shelf. I often wonder, though, if it would promote the faith of another if I confess a doubt.

    On a similar note, there is an amazing site about people’s secrets here.

  2. I’m tempted, cynic that I sometimes am, to respond to the question in your title with “Not much, really.” Don’t mean it, though. That has to do with the public-private split you discuss: in our public life, for a number of reasons, we often pretend not to think. That’s perhaps why the LDS blogs are so useful to many of us.

    The discrepancy between people’s public life and their private beliefs and behaviors is a predictable result of the incentive to appear virtuous. Any social system provides some incentive of this kind (there’s supposedly even honor among thieves, after all). A system that adds worthiness interviews and ties important social criteria like attendance at weddings to maintaining specific public images can only serve to increase this discrepancy.

  3. John,

    I’m sure we would find any number of things if we could examine the mind of the Mormons around us. I’m genuinely confused as to what your point is though. Care to elaborate?

  4. Mathew,

    John is wondering if perhaps tons of other people doubt secretly what he doubts openly. If that were so then it would make his doubts seem more normal. If not, then it makes him look more like an odd man out.

  5. Mathew, Freud, er, Frank McIntyre, has missed my point. I’m not trying to rationalize my own doubts and skepticism by suggesting everyone else has them too.

    Instead, I’m genuinely curious as to where others are coming from and what’s happening in their lives. Perhaps there’s a Hitchcockian voyeurism going on in my life that I ought to see a therapist about :)

    But put simply, my point is Church isn’t exactly a forum where we can say everything we might think about the Church. There’s acceptable and unacceptable behavior and conversation topics. I just wonder who harbors doubts, what those doubts might be, and where they stem from. It might be a tiny percentage, it might be more than we’d ever imagine – I just don’t know.

    The overarching idea is that all human beings pretend, at least on some level, so they can fit into various social groups. No one is 100% honest with who they are in every setting all the time. How then, does this affect members’ behavior, and what kind of tension exists between how people really feel and their desire to fit in? I’d add, this is hardly an issue unique to Mormonism – all humans deal with this. But I think the Mormon need for orthodoxy might add to the already existant cultural conditioning.

  6. John Mansfield says:

    We can all engage in Hitchcockian voyeurism. If the secret thoughts of the saints include doubts that Brother Hatch deals with publicly, then what would his secret thoughts be? They must be truly astonishing, but he can’t tell us them or they wouldn’t be secret!

  7. There was an episode of STNG with this theme…Picard and Dr. Crusher had implants that let them read each other’s minds. They felt very, very intimate. When they couldn’t any longer, because the implants were removed, the intimacy was gone.

    I don’t think I’d want to be able to know about others’ secret lives. While I think it could produce great empathy, I think it could also make us really judgemental. For example, what if all the people I think are shallow and superficial really ARE shallow and superficial? At least now, I know that I’m being unfairly judgemental, and that I’m probably wrong.

  8. D. Fletcher says:

    I’ve already spilled my secret thoughts. Mathew and Rusty are cute! But Steve Evans…

    :)

  9. “I’m not trying to rationalize my own doubts and skepticism by suggesting everyone else has them too.”

    But this is exactly what people say who are secretly trying to rationalize their doubts! Guessing at other’s secret thoughts is turning out to be more fun than I thought!

  10. Frank, do you have a point, or are you just trying to be a weenie? Maybe I’m being sensitive or missing the humor…

  11. middle child says:

    I have been lurking on this site for months, and have found an enormous sense of “Oh my! there are others who THINK about things, instead of just going along with them!” Now, this initial thought resulted in a bittersweet feeling of faced guilt…”to be a faithful latter day saint, don’t I just need to follow the counsel, and not question it?” But, how can we take advantage of our greatest gift in this earthly voyage…choice…free agency….if we do not question things.

    This year, I have questioned myself, I have questioned heaven, I have questioned church doctrine. I have questioned my marriage, my role as a mother and my value as a person. I have questioned whether or not there is a place for me in this church, and I question that every Sunday, still. I have stopped trying to find the perfect paragraph in the Proclamation, the one that explains why my life has turned out the way it has, and that Heavenly Father still loves me, even though I don’t bake and quilt and listen to Primary CDs in my car.

    I am the CEO of a multi-million dollar company, I work full time, travel a lot for business…I am the breadwinner and I have 5 children. I go to church, I keep my temple covenants and I do my very best. I do not go to Enrichment nights, I do not go to Ward socials, unless they are for the whole family. I wear shorts to the gym that don’t go to my knees and I am addicted Rock Star energy drinks. I struggle with reading my scriptures every day and having personal prayer. I work hard at my marriage but I struggle with that a lot, too. I struggle with motherhood…because things have happened in life to take me away from home…things out of my control…and I have found my career to be very gratifying. I feel judged at church…and I judge others for judging me.

    My conclusion after a whole lot of gut-wrenching soul searching and truth-excavating is…the Gospel of Jesus Christ is truth in it’s purest form, it is beautiful, fertile, forgiving, safe and joyful. The manmade culture of our church in many cases is quite the opposite. In order to survive, I have to continually remind myself that MORMON CULTURE is not always truth…and is not the GOSPEL….it is traditions, assumptions and just a sub-culture of humanity. IF we can stick to trying to become like Christ, and relying on Christ, and studying His gospel and His church, then life can be so healing. When we get sucked into expectations and stereotypes…then being a Mormon can be a miserable experience.

    So, now you know what the mysterious woman on the 3rd to the last row who comes to church without her husband and with her 5 kids is thinking.

    thanks for the opportunity to spill.

  12. D. Fletcher says:

    Aren’t “secret” doubts just part of the process of building faith? Can someone truly say they have never doubted? After Joseph’s demise, I think ALL the apostles in the Church expressed some real doubts.

  13. John,

    “Maybe I’m being sensitive or missing the humor…”

    Yes.

    “do you have a point?”

    I suppose the point is that deriving other people’s secret thoughts easily becomes a game of conspiracy theory. You can, as I did, fit the known facts to fit whatever predetermined theory you have. Thus what you say about what you think other people’s secret thoughts are is probably telling me more about you than about other people.

  14. “Maybe I’m being sensitive or missing the humor…”

    “Yes.”

    Fair enough, my apologies.

    I entirely acknowledged the things I tossed out are going to be reflective of what I think – some issues may not be issues at all, others might be left off entirely.

    But I don’t think it makes the conversation completely useless, as you seem to imply.

  15. “No one is 100% honest with who they are in every setting all the time.” No guff, Chet. Living among people would be intolerable otherwise.

    I for one am grateful that our meetings are not sessions resembling the secret unloading that is apparently done on adjacent Sunstone editors during air travel. Let the secret carping be confined within the covers of that journal where I, like most Mormons, have no occasion to come upon it.

  16. I like this post. But I think wondering about other peoples’ secret thoughts can be applied to most situations. Sometimes I sit in a meeting at work and wonder whether or not anyone else is paying attention and what they are really thinking about. Probably sex.

    But to the broader point, I wish that we had more of an opportunity to share our innermost secrets and feelings with our fellow church goers. Sometimes testimony meeting borders on TMI, but I find that Mormons tend to want to express emotions in certain structured ways and gloss over conflicts and contradictions, instead of deeply bonding over difficulties and crises of faith. We are encouraged not to share our struggles with past transgressions, which is probably a good rule, but I think prevents people from building bridges and arriving at a greater understanding of our brothers and sisters.

  17. quandmeme says:

    I attended a addiction recovery group where we did talk about secret thoughts and doubts and fears, and am here to report on the secret thoughts of members (without trespassing on confidences):

    Without facades I am free to talk about miracles, and power, and coming to meet deity in the most intimate way. You may wonder what doubts are secretly harbored, but I have discovered the testimonies that are secreted away. They are too personal, too sacred to come out in the aseptic forum of elder’s quorum. “It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

    I carpooled to meetings with my ward clerk and we made it our goal to bring the power and humility of our recovery meeting to Sunday testimony and quorum meetings. It was easier with two of us and since I moved to the Wasatch-front bubble I tend not to go against the flow in meetings. Nevertheless, I appreciate the home-teaching setting, where the blending-in isn’t appropriate and we talk about the intersection of faith and culture, ideals and weaknesses, as we really feel them.

    My goal is to in the spirit of Moroni 6:9 (without forgetting 7) and D&C 59:12 to start my expressing MY secret thoughts, in the hopes that it gives others permission to do likewise.

  18. “Oh my! there are others who THINK about things, instead of just going along with them!”

    “to be a faithful latter day saint, don’t I just need to follow the counsel, and not question it?”

    I copied these two lines, and then realized that I should have just copied the whole comment, as I agreed with pretty much everything being said.

    I also had an “Ah-ha/Ureka!” moment when I discovered this and (forgive me) other LDS blogs a couple of months ago. It was a refreshing relief to discover a place to discuss issues that have been in my head for years that previously had no outlet.

    It was just prior to discovering these blogs that something had occured to me for the first time that echos middle childs comment “Mormon culture is not the Gospel”. I had known that for years, but I had never been able to put it into words. It was the root of why I felt differently about certain things than my parents, why I believed differently, why I interpreted stories about early church history and scriptures differently, etc., etc.

    My questions (which until finding these discussion boards I thought were soley my own) have all been discussed in one form or another in an open and unthreatening way that I have yearned for for a long time.

    Why can’t/don’t women hold some form of the priesthood? What is the deal with polygamy in the early church? What was the deal with blacks and the priesthood? Why is church so boring/repetitive? Why are missionary discussions structured the way they are? Why do we live the word of wisdom as we presently do when it was not so in the early church? Why did women in the early church have the authority to give healing blessings until the early 1900′s, but no longer? Why does the Proclamation assume that all males (and especially females)will be happy by fitting into their asigned rolls? Why do many of the women called into the General Presidency of the Relief Society/Primary have post-graduate educations and extensive work histories, when the Proclamation calls for stay at home moms? When does asking questions border on disobedience?

    The secret questions of in my head go on and on. Stock answers such as “pray more” and “be more obedient” and “concentrate on whats important” and “you will be blessed for following the council of the Brethren, even when they are wrong”, do little to provide comfort.

    The Church is supposed to be about finding peace and happiness by finding truth. And yet I do not feel there is an open forum to speak ones mind in the search for truth. So kudos to LDS blogs everywhere for providing us “question mongers” with a home.

  19. alamojag says:

    I think it was Elder Eyring who said something to the effect that most people are dealing with a great pain. I think that is true, whether it is doubts, disappointments, or loss. While I believe most people are doing the best they can, most people also worry that they really are doing enough in dealing with that pain. Some reach out, some lash out, and some suffer silently.

    I know I have shared some of my disappointments on the bloggernacle, maybe too many. I, like Tess, wish there a better way to bond over crises of faith.

  20. alamojag says:

    ..”wish there were a better way…”

  21. Christina says:

    John,
    Thanks for the great post. I join with you in thinking we would be an improved church if we would more freely share our thoughts – doubts, criticisms, joys – with each other. It seems to me that the reason we worship together every Sunday rather than alone on a mountaintop is so that we can support and strengthen ourselves as a body. It is hard to do that when we repeat trite, practiced phrases rather than discuss the concerns of our heart. What a loss that is.

  22. I wish we could pick and choose the people we worshipped with. Because I’ve met very few people in the Church as interesting and thoughtful as many of the bloggernacle participants here. People feel very uncomfortable talking honestly with each other at Church (or most Church-sponsored activities)- I agree with Christina – it’s a huge shame.

    I also liked Middle Child’s comment – thanks for sharing your experience.

  23. middle child says:

    I also think this is a great post and I wish that LDS people everywhere knew how to find this kind of honest dialogue.

    My husband and I have recently started having very honest dialogue like this…early in my marriage, I was afraid for my husband to know that I questioned things that were so sacred to him, but that I simply did not understand or could not come to terms with “doctrine” that was being presented to me.

    So, after we all die, and we are sitting with our eternal companions, and, we are being judged, and our thoughts are being made known….will our companions feel ripped off and decieved because we have not been honest with them about our doubts and concerns and perhaps gaps in our testimony?

    These are frightening, vulnerable conversations to have with the person whose eternal salvation partly rides on yours.

    What do you think? Should our spouses know about what we are trying to work through?

  24. Tom Manney says:

    Recently, I have been having the biggest crisis of faith of my life. I have experienced powerful spiritual experiences over the course of my life, and I feel like I must be a terrible aberration to suddenly start having serious second thoughts now, after all that I’ve seen and felt. The fact is that I don’t really doubt the Gospel (although it’s getting easier to doubt the Church), I just don’t want it to be true. Faith and desire are pretty closely linked, after all.

    I would be happy to go less active if my wife would go along with me. But she won’t, and I don’t want to fail her. She made a commitment to me, and I made one to her. She would feel robbed, I think, if she discovered she was married to someone who wants to be inactive, and I don’t want her to feel that way. I’m already a professional failure, and since I’m the only breadwinner, we are already under a great deal of pressure from my shortcomings.

    I will end with a little story, though. In the midst of this crisis, my wife and I went to the temple recently. It had been over a year for me, and I went in prayerfully acknowledging my crisis of faith and asking God for a little help. I felt an outpouring of the spirit while I was there, but it was in the context of praying on behalf of others in need of help. I don’t really know what the strange and sudden outpouring meant, but I came away feeling as if, whatever my problems are, they are not between God and me, and I find that quite reassuring.

  25. “So, after we all die, and we are sitting with our eternal companions, and, we are being judged, and our thoughts are being made known….will our companions feel ripped off and decieved because we have not been honest with them about our doubts and concerns and perhaps gaps in our testimony?”

    To me this is another example of things I have been taught throughout my life that I do not believe has any basis in gospel fact. A fictional room showing a movie of my life to all who want to watch. I expect a one on one reconing, and my wife can wait her turn in the hall.

    The moral of the story is to be good/faithful/obedient, because how would your parents feel if they knew what you really thought, how disapointed would your spouse be if they knew you had doubts/concerns, your ancestors are watching you so don’t disappoint them, etc., etc.

    This is well intentioned I know, but over many years it begins to feel like a form of coersion, ie. don’t just be obedient because it makes you feel good, do it because of what others in the Mormon culture/society will think of you if you don’t tow the line.

    It is stories like this that keep us from asking questions, and yet questions are the basis of the gospel. Joseph Smith had a question, and he asked for an aswer. Abraham’s questions about the universe resulted in marvelous revelations about the cosmos. And a miriad other scripture references that say we should ask, seek, and knock, and it will be opened unto us.

    But who has the courage to ask insightful (uncomfortable?) questions at Church. I have been in classes where people asked questions, real genuine questions (not the UFO kind), that made me cheer inside to hear them asked, while at the same time there were audible gasps from other class members indicating their disaproval of the question content. The effect was to stifle debate and learning in order to maintain the status quo.

    But enough rambling. Middle child if you are like me you don’t need your spouse to answer your questions, or offer advice, you just need them to listen to you express yourself. If you have an open relationship you should be able to say anything to your spouse and they will still love and appreciate you for you. For all you know your spouse feels the same way, or felt that way at some point in their life.

  26. I find that I get something every time I go to church, if only a small reminder that I could be more compassionate, or more something.
    Sometimes there is a larger spiritual insight when I take the sacrament or hear a particular comment. Nevertheless, going to church geverally gives me pain: I don’t know why: is it that other people’s expressions of knowledge and faith remind me of the enormous doubt and uncertainty that I experience? At church there is the raging boredom and even worse, the intolerance that reminds me of how short we fall of our goals as a people, as well as the well-meaning kindness that reminds me that many of us are at least trying. But there is something else–all that faith touches a primal nerve for me, as if to provide a tension-creating counterpoint to the fact that children in Rwanda or India, or here, or adults anywhere, don’t seem that protected/comforted/watched over. So why does everyone at church profess such faith in a God who is going to protect them?

    I don’t see a lot of people openly grappling with similar issues, nor do I do so openly. Pat answers are so valued that the path to such answers is often shortchanged. But what if I could openly discuss these issues? What would happen to the church structurally if people like me could actually express ourselves? Sometimes I wonder if I should just resign myself to anonymity in church and keep dealing with my issues alone, or just give up and go to the Society of Friends with my Book of Mormon in hand to openly deal figure out theology.

  27. Mark N. says:

    One of the most uplifting Sacrament Meetings I’ve been to in the past few months was when one of the couples in our ward (he was being called to the position of Counselor in the Bishopric within a short period of time after going to the temple with his wife, after having been the non-member husband for years that everybody knew was a good man, but that we figured he’d probably never get baptised) was called to speak. The wife was very forthright about the fact that they are not the “perfect Mormon family” and have shortcomings and doubts and struggles, and that they still do stuff like going to the supermarket on Sunday (“some of you know that because we’ve seen you there, too!”) but are still trying to be good people all the same.

    It was so refreshing to hear someone admit to their own imperfections and struggles with certain commandments that it made me feel that it was precisely the kind of thing we should be talking about to each other on Sundays. Instead, most of the time we concentrate so much on teaching the ideal that all of the life gets sucked right out of the discussion, dealing with hypothetical perfect members that don’t really exist. It seems like most of the time, people are afraid to say what they really think because they don’t want to be the one domino that starts all the other dominos to falling over.

    I’ve about come to the decision that the doctrine is secondary, what’s most important is how we treat each other — the old willingness to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light”, “to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” thing that matters most. Life is hard, sometimes, but with each other’s help, we can get through it together.

  28. Tom Manney says:

    Jenna, I really appreciate your comments. I feel very much the same way and am bothered by the same questions. It makes you wonder how many other people are silently going through the same kinds of doubt and struggle. I find myself tempted to defect to the local Episcopalian church. I will always be a Mormon, but I’m not sure the three-hour block is the best environment for me to worship in, nor am I sure other Mormons are the best community for me to worship with.

  29. after burying my doubts and being that guy with the strong testimony that others can lean on, i decided that i needed to be open about my struggles, doubts, and disbeliefs. surprisingly, several of my friends and even close family who opened up about their doubts as well. in some ways, it was very therapeutic to know that i wasn’t alone in this and gave me a desire to sort things out and find a place for myself. wheras before, i was just planning on leaving everything altogether.

  30. Kristine says:

    I’ve often felt frustrated and bored in church, and often longed for more real communion, more baring of souls. For me, this has often taken the form of nostalgia for a couple of wards I’ve attended, in which very skilled teachers and/or a group of particularly articulate and open friends were able to spark discussions that felt meaningful on a regular basis.

    However, as I get older and less idealistic and maybe a little more charitable, I’m starting to think that it’s not fair to expect soul-searching, life-changing conversation every time we meet. Maybe most human beings simply aren’t capable of sustaining that kind of intimacy, the intensity of community that is generated when a discussion in Relief Society really turns into a spiritual feast. We hide ourselves because it’s just too hard to walk around with our nerve endings exposed all the time–connection ultimately heals, but it hurts at first, and we shrink from it.

    There’s a beautiful passage in Andrew Solomon’s book _The Noonday Demon_ where he talks about one woman’s work with terribly depressed women in Cambodia. These women had lost loved ones in the killing fields, sometimes before their eyes, had been raped, tortured, maimed in body and spirit. And of course, there were no medicines to treat their depression, no psychiatrists equipped to deal with grief at that level. So this woman started trying to figure out what would help, and decided they needed work, intimate but nonsexual touch, and then, finally, they needed to tell the stories of what had happened to them. So she had them do various tasks that involved physical labor, and then she had them give each other manicures and pedicures. Solomon’s description of the emotional atmosphere that surrounded that simple act of caring for each other’s physical bodies is so beautiful–I couldn’t help but think of the woman reaching out to touch the hem of Christ’s robe.

    And in a way, I think that’s what we’re doing at church. We’re just polishing each other’s toenails. Our discussions seem trivial, boring, beside the point, but just being there next to each other, fumbling around the edges of our thoughts and feelings, prepares us to endure that moment when we recognize Christ in one of our brothers or sisters, and reach to touch the hem of his garment.

  31. I know from personal experience that there are more people with doubts about the church than there are who talk about them. I also know from personal experience that it’s very hard to predict which people have doubts and which don’t.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the many who have said that expressing our doubts is good. I feel that we should be open to doubters. I’ve been a doubter in the existence and goodness of God in the past; today I’m not. But if I had been given a safe space to express those doubts when I had them, I really think that could only have been a good thing.

    Sometimes I envy the idea of the anonymous confessional, you know?

  32. After I was born my mother had six miscarriages in a row. Finally, following all those years of struggle and sorrow, she had another child, whose arrival was greeted with a tremendous outpouring of joy. Shortly afterward my mother was at a restaurant with the new baby when a stranger came up to her, said, “Treasure your children,” and kissed him on the head. My mom thought, “What right do you have to tell me that, lady? You have no idea what I went through to get this child!”

    “Treaure your children,” the woman said again. “We just found out our 4-year-old son is dying of cancer.”

  33. . . . in a way, I think that’s what we’re doing at church. We’re just polishing each other’s toenails.

    Kris, this is one of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard of what we do at church. You may see it again in a book at some point ;)

  34. I think the emphasis on conformity and the pressure on Mormons to look happy leads to active members hiding up most doubts or criticisms — until they stumble across some sympathetic listener like John the Sunstoner. But I’m not sure how deep those complaints or doubts run.

    As for those who encounter difficult life crises and find little in the go-to-church-on-Sunday routine to assist them, I’m not sure anyone else does either. In tough times, one turns to one’s small circle of “Church friends” for help — possibly in one’s own ward, possibly not. The Bishop might be a source of assistance, but not all bishops are good listeners or good counselors. If you don’t have any “Church friends” to turn to, well that is a problem. I guess there’s always the Bloggernacle.

  35. MegaEagle says:

    I was in a stake conference in Southern California some years back, and a recent convert got up to tell her conversion story. She said she had come to church originally on recommendation from family members, and although she enjoyed attending church, she felt like the atmosphere was way too “Pollyanna,” in her words, and she couldn’t reconcile that feeling with the messiness and complexity she observed in human nature, in her career as a social worker. One Sunday, a Sunday school teacher didn’t show up, and the lesson was left open to the group of people that had gathered for class.

    A guy volunteered to lead a discussion based on an article he had with him, and it turned out to be a Sunstone article dealing with blacks and the priesthood. Everybody participated and had a very open, frank discussion, and this lady said that the members’ willingness to discuss such a sensitive issue with that kind of honesty and openness was the thing that made her want to become a member of the Church.

    Incidentally, that was my favorite talk I’ve ever heard in a stake conference. At the same time, though, I’m kind of parroting Kristine’s post when I say that if all we ever did at Church was wrestle with difficult subjects, I would really feel like something was missing. I would like that kind of dialogue to be a part of the churchgoing experience, but I would also like to hear stories of miracles in peoples’ lives, and hear examples of the Gospel solving problems and giving people experiences that transcend the questions and concerns most of us have.

    I love to stir the pot as much as the next guy or girl, but at some point, you gotta eat the stew you’ve been stirring and see if it really is life-sustaining. I have all kinds of doctrinal issues that I would love to see resolved, but I also know that as a member of the Church I have seen things with my own eyes and felt things that I honestly can’t deny, and I know that during those spiritual experiences my concerns haven’t been resolved, but they’ve been made to look very insignificant in comparison, even if just for a short while.

    That said, I’m convinced that if we made an effort to be more open and not be afraid of discussing difficult issues, we would retain members of the Church in much greater numbers, because the Church would feel like a place that more accurately addresses the complex problems in the world around us. The tough thing for a church leader is, it’s just such a thin line sometimes between allowing constructive dialogue, and letting a meeting become a mean-spirited debate or b*tch session that leaves everyone feeling worse than they did when they came.

    As with so many things, I don’t have an easy answer for this… :)

  36. Good question. It’s funny, I’ve often thought the same thing in regards to the Bloggernacle. Though the ‘nacle appears to be a place where everyone speaks their mind freely, I think this is far from true. I think we’re always hesitant to express potentially offensive thoughts and feelings, or thoughts and feelings that disagree with the majority.

  37. I don’t want my toenails polished at church, even metaphorically. I don’t think that we need all three hours of Sunday services to turn into a group therapy session every week, but we need something more than the correlated Sunday School questions which are answered with the pat, memorized Sunday School answers.

    Attending church is utterly boring. I go to take the sacrament and because it’s my duty to attend my meetings. It’s boring because there is a veneer of fakeness on top of everything. I think most people sense it, but nobody does anything about it.

    Nobody wants to admit in church that their life, testimony, attitude, etc., isn’t totally peachy-keen, because if we admit our weaknesses publicly, if we show our vulnerabilities, if we express our doubts, we will be forever labeled as unworthy. I think that this fear, whether justified or not, whether true or not, is a big reason that church has become a public performance of pretend piety, instead of a hospital for sinners.

  38. MegaEagle says:

    JB, that was a pretty bold projection of your attitude onto other people. Let me rewrite your posting for you:

    “I go to Church out of a sense of duty, and I don’t get much out of the experience, and therefore, everyone else who looks like they are actually learning and having good experiences at Church is faking it.”

    I’d like to see the logic diagram for that one…
    I’ve had seasons of my life where I couldn’t wait to go to Church on Sunday and interact with everyone there and learn and contribute, and I’ve had other seasons where I was absolutely thrilled any time I had an excuse to skip out on the 3-hour block. Currently I’m somewhere in between, and I’m trying to do what it takes to love going to Church again, because there was nothing fake about the times I loved attending and contributing.

  39. alamojag says:

    It is interesting to me that the comments in this post seem to be paralleling the comments in the Church Growth: Zero post. I think one of the problems with the three-hour block is that everything is so rushed from one meeting to another, and then everybody is so tired from three straight hours, that Sunday just isn’t a good time for any fellowshipping, or making of friends. If I want to talk to anybody at church, I find myself skippins Sunday School to do so. The three-hour block does meet the stated goal of giving more time with families on Sunday, but at the cost of time with everybody else.

  40. Judging from the comments I read in the bloggernacle, I must be in the minority in finding church highly entertaining and occassionally interesting. When I was a child on a farm in Idaho going to church meant that I would see my best friend. I still view it as a social place. I met Steve Evans in church–what more could you ask for than to sit in a pew next to a guy providing running commentary on both the speaker and the talk.

  41. Steve Evans says:

    Dude, the commentary is the only thing that keeps me going. How else am I supposed to stay awake?

  42. D. Fletcher says:

    THAT’s what good music is for.

  43. MegaEagle, your rewrite puts words into my mouth that I never put there; everything after the “therefore” is your own projection. I admit that I rarely get anything meaningful from church attendance, and I attribute it to the “fake veneer” that exists. I never said anything about what other people may or may not get from the meetings, only that the meetings would be so much better if we could cast off the “perfect” public personas everyone has and actually help each other with real issues. The “fake veneer” I disparage is not the “looking like you are learning from the experience”, it’s the pretending to not have any problems, doubts, or questions, and the judgement that comes from others when one does have them.

    Why is there a temple recommend question about attending meetings? Isn’t a personal testimony much more important to my eternal progression than merely warming a pew? If members could still get a temple recommend and were still considered “worthy” according to their behavior outside of church attendance, and that question was dropped from the TR requirements, weekly attendance would drop drastically.

    The answer is that we go to meetings to help and strengthen our co-religionists, and to receive help from them. If that’s the reason we meet together oft, why even bother if it’s all glossed over with platitudes and Sunday School answers that only answer the correlated questions from the lesson manual?

  44. JB, thanks for your comments. I think we can summarize what people have said here with the idea that the Church could use more honesty rather than people worrying about what others think about their honesty. At the same time, doing so unduly could swing to the opposite extreme and put undue focus on the problems, giving license to others so tempted and not uplifting each other. A group therapy session has its downsides.

    Someone once told me that character is following through with what you’ve felt when you no longer feel it. How easy is it to follow if we are always feeling that burning? Where is the test of the development of our soul then? I often do not feel spiritually motivated either. But sometimes, I do after I’ve gone and done my duties. To paraphrase a poem I once saw, if I’m not getting a signal, its often because either 1) my own radio is out or 2) God wants me to reach a little higher for the signal than I have before or 3) God wants to see what I’ll do on my own, when I’m feeling somewhat lackluster.

    Overall, though, I agree that we could use much more honesty and I appreciate Kristine’s comments. We could also desexualize touch, which is such a critical way of lifting others that the Savior used so often. I’ve resolved today to be more that honest person myself, since admitting my own imperfections often helps others to know that they are not the only ones in need of the refreshing waters of Christ’s wonderful Atonement.

  45. Whether sharing negative things (doubts, weaknesses, etc.) is bad or good depends on the context of how one presents them. Examples and emotions are contagious, both negative and positive.

    I think it’s okay to talk about negative things in a group setting if you present it in the context of either asking for the help of the group, or in the context of offering a helpful example to those with similar challenges, and as long as it’s a topic that is germaine to the lesson or meeting.

    It’s also important to state which direction you’re headed, or want to head, or what you consider that example to be. Are you saying “Avoid this problem that I had” or are you trying to justify it and say it’s not a problem?

    If you express a doubt/weakness, are you asking for help in resolving it and to be lifted up? That’s good. Are you expressing a past doubt/weakness and sharing how you overcame it? Good.

    Or are you trying to justfy your doubt/weakness which then infects others with your attitude and brings them down? That’s bad.

    In the last SS lesson on tithing, one brother complained about it being harder for the working-poor to pay tithing, because 10% to a poor person comes out of necessities, while 10% to a rich person comes out of their excess. This brother appeared to be justifying his class envy which he had previously shown me. His comments were not uplifting. He also seemed to forget that someone who makes $100,000 a year also pays 10 times as much, in raw dolars, as someone who makes $10,000 a year. But he was focusing on the fixed 10% comparison. (His way of thinking got us the graduated income tax. ) A dozen hands went up in response to his comment, and the ones the teacher called on gave good insights. But after class, the brother reiterated his complaint to me. He wasn’t looking for insights, or a better viewpoint, he just wanted to complain how hard tithing was for him.

    I believe it’s okay to say “I struggle with such-and-such” as long as you’re trying to overcome it, and are headed in the right direction, and indicate that you are, then it’s a positive example.

    But if you say it with the tone of complaint, or challenge, or with self-justification, that only drags others down.

    We have to be careful. Every time someone hears or reads someone say “Sacrament was boring today” it may be re-inforcing their desire to stay away from church.

    When I mention leaving the church for many years, asking for name-removal, and that I deserved to be ex’ed anyway, I hope it’s in the context of having finally realized where I went wrong, and of being grateful for the Lord for His part in bringing me back, and that if I could make it back, anyone can.

    My story illustrates examples and “what-ifs” from the scriptures. My story proves the scriptures to me.

    I don’t feel the need to give more details of my sins. I try to put my story in the context that the Lord wanted me back, He intervened to get me back. And even though I was dumb and had to learn the hard way, I now realize it’s much better and EASIER to hang on through trials and to repent as you go, than to let go and fight your way back. I now realize (and I hope I can remember this) that repentance, no matter how hard, is still easier than the eventual consequences of unrepented sin.

    Yeah, sacrament speakers can be exceedingly boring, but it appears even more boring when you’ve lost the Spirit yourself.

    I also believe in the “camp cook” rule. “Don’t complain unless you’re willing to be the cook.” So if you think you can give a better sacrament talk, write a talk, give it to the Bishop, and offer to give that talk in Sacrament. Maybe he’ll ask you to.

    If you can’t do better yourself, don’t complain.

    Yeah, some church members can be offensive. And it hurts even more than it should when you’ve lost the Spirit yourself, and don’t have that armor/insullation to help protect you. And DC 42:88-89, and Matthew 18:15 tell us exactly what to do when we are offended.

    Yeah, people at church sometimes act more perfect than they really are, but how should we act at church? Should we be on our good behavior or bad behavior?

    On one hand, sharing too much information about private stuff is inappropriate. But not sharing any can give a false impression. The saying goes, silence about something is not a lie.

    I get frustrated at those who are angry at the Church leaders for not publishing mistakes, failings, and weaknesses of Joseph Smith and other early church leaders and members. Dirty laundry is not required to be aired in public. Silence is not a lie. Omission is not always deception. Enough of his mistakes are published in D&C and official History of the Church to amply show JS still had human weaknesses.

    If we taught converts everything the Anti’s think we should (so that they can make a “more informed decision”) and then taught the answers and explanations to all those points, people would have to investigate for 2 years before baptism.

    JS was a prophet, the church is true, and all the warts and dirty laundry of past individuals, or shortcomings of modern members, home teachers, bishops, RS and EQ presidents doesn’t really matter a hill of beans in comparison. They’re just challenges to be worked out, to try our faith.

    So if you want to talk about shortcomings (yours or the other guys’), talk about how you overcame them. Talk about how you resolved it. Talk about how you got the Spirit back and were able to put things in perspective. Or lay your concern on the table, and humbly ask for help, so you and the lurkers can see some answers.

    About Pollyannas, if someone wants to be a Pollyanna, that’s their right. On the highway of life people can choose to be happy and look at the pretty scenery, and choose not to look or talk about the road-kill.

    If you want to associate with those who will let you see their warts, weaknesses, doubts, etc., associate with those who are moving in the right direction, and striving to overcome them, not the ones who try to justify themselves and drag others down to their level in order to have company.

    On the bloggernacle. Intellectualism is fine and dandy. I like to be around smart people, because maybe I’ll learn somehting. But the scriptures warn about intellectualism without spirituality, about lacking perspective, about assuming we know things when we don’t, about assuming there’s not more out there to learn.

    A major part of my personal apostasy was complaining about leaders, local and at higher levels. Joseph Smith was right about it. Unrepented backbiting leads to apostasy. Page 156 of Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatise, as God lives.” Oops, that was me.

  46. Yes, I’ve often thought that what this religion needs is more “desexualized touching.”

    For crying out loud.

  47. gst — sorry if you took offense at my words. Could you find it in you to give me the benefit of the doubt, though? My meaning was that in a hyper-sexualized society, we often hesitate to put our arm around others or give someone a hug, fearing that it will be interpreted sexually. I know that I do. Yet this is a very real way of giving and receiving love. And it is not sexual, as the Savior demonstrated over and over. I have been the recipient at times of love and fellowship in this way from many men and women in Church — and it was a real boon to me. Can’t you give me the benefit of the doubt? Sheesh. I know there are problems with people who are molesters, adulterers, etc., but that wasn’t what I was referring to. Please extend a little more charity in your reading of others’ comments, and I’ll try to do the same.

  48. A. Gant says:

    Thanks GreenEggz,

    I was happy to find this place at first, but sometimes I wonder why some of you don’t just shut it and get to work. You want frank and open discussion? Then create friendships and relationships with other people and talk about it. Do your home teaching and get to know people in your ward.

    Who the hell told you Sunday school is the time for frank and open discussion of issues you have with Church history? The three-hour block is NOT the open dialogue and group therapy so many of you are wanting. . tough crap.

    What calling do you have? What are you doing to lengthen your stride? What do you contribute to the well being of individual people in your charge? To be honest, the most vocal critics I know are the ones DOING the least about it.

    If someone came to me with some of this I’d tell them to shove it and go help Bro. Johnson load his moving truck on Saturday morning. That’s why I’m not the Bishop.

  49. Steve Evans says:

    Gant, it’s true that a certain amount of effort is required. But don’t discount friendships and relationships made in this and other believing forums! Your quickness to discount the value of any relationships other than with your home teachers is perhaps one more reason you’re not the Bishop.

  50. Aaron Brown says:

    “In the last SS lesson on tithing, one brother complained about it being harder for the working-poor to pay tithing, because 10% to a poor person comes out of necessities, while 10% to a rich person comes out of their excess. This brother appeared to be justifying his class envy which he had previously shown me. His comments were not uplifting.”

    Um … so what? His comments “were not uplifting”? Heavens, what a horrible thing. I wasn’t there, so I can’t be sure how I would have reacted to this, but the fact that a single comment from an audience member is somehow “not uplifting” doesn’t strike me as that tragic. Granted, if an entire class is filled with griping and whining, then you’d probably have a point, but I can imagine this comment could have led to a very productive discussion (whether it actually did or not, I don’t know).

    “He also seemed to forget that someone who makes $100,000 a year also pays 10 times as much, in raw dolars, as someone who makes $10,000 a year.”

    I doubt he “forgot” this. He presumably saw it as irrelevant. Are you trying to suggest that the fact a wealthier member pays 10 times as much, in raw dollars, somehow offsets his point that paying tithing is more difficult for poorer members. There may be a number of appropriate responses one could legitimately make to this gentleman, but this isn’t one of them.

    “But he was focusing on the fixed 10% comparison. (His way of thinking got us the graduated income tax.)”

    Horrors! The reality is, I am probably somewhat sympathetic to your politics here, GreenEggz, but it’s amusing how you take the awfulness of the graduated income tax for granted, as if it is prima facie a terrible thing.

    “A dozen hands went up in response to his comment, and the ones the teacher called on gave good insights. But after class, the brother reiterated his complaint to me. He wasn’t looking for insights, or a better viewpoint, he just wanted to complain how hard tithing was for him.”

    Perhaps you’re right that this brother’s performance was unfortunate for any number of reasons. It’s probably not for me to say. But let’s be clear about one thing:

    It IS harder for working people to pay tithing, at least in the sense that you portray this brother as saying. Tithe-paying DOES cut into poorer people’s necessities, whereas it merely cuts into wealthy people’s luxuries. This is a no-brainer, and should not be controversial. Of course, as a pyschological matter, a wealthy person might experience tithing as more difficult, while a poorer person might find it a joy to pay — it depends on the person. But that doesn’t change the basic point about the diminishing marginal utility of money.

    If you want to argue with the brother, you might say that “tithing is harder for you, while Teaching X is harder for me.” You might acknowledge that various commandments are harder for some, depending on their circumstances in life, while others are hard for others. There’s a number of responses you could make. But I see nothing fundamentally inaccurate about his basic point.

    Aaron B

  51. Aaron Brown says:

    Talk about thread-jacking! :)

    Aaron B

  52. “10% to a poor person comes out of necessities, while 10% to a rich person comes out of their excess”

    It turns out this pernicious “way of thinking” didn’t originate in GreenEgzz’ sunday school class, or even with the adoption of the graduated income tax…it’s much older even than that!

    And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

  53. Phouchg says:

    >I was happy to find this place at first, but sometimes I wonder why some of you don’t just shut it and get to work.

    Church should not be about work – it should be about worship.

    >You want frank and open discussion? Then create friendships and relationships with other people and talk about it.

    Aside from my bride, I have 3 people who I consider very close friends. One is a secular Jew, one is a religious Reform Jew, one is Presbyterian.

    >Do your home teaching and get to know people in your ward.

    In my lastward, my HT list had 5 people listed. Here were the addresses (and as Dave Barry says, I swear I am not making this up):

    1. A Supermarket

    2. A Fire Station

    3. Apartment #29-08 in a complex with only 25 buildings

    and two other addresses which just didn’t exist.

    In my 8 years in the church, I have NEVER had HTs visit. never.

    >Who the hell told you Sunday school is the time for frank and open discussion of issues you have with Church history?

    I agree. Sunday School is about indoctrination. 20 people with the same opinion arguing about who is more right.

    Let’s face it. Church is boring. I’m not saying it isn’t worthwhile for some, but admit that it is for the most part a waste of time. I’m sure you read the “articles of faith” about meetings. In every piece of satire there is truth struggling to get out.

  54. D. Fletcher says:

    It’s a subject for another thread, but does anybody think Home Teaching works? Does anybody do it? I’ve lived in NY for over 20 years, and I’ve seen Home Teachers exactly twice. With a 14 year spread between visits.

  55. D.,

    If my dad is your hometeacher then it works. But then he probably isn’t your home teacher unless you are old and need your walks cleared, your porch fixed or your lawn mowed.

    They assign the able bodied people like Steve.

  56. D. Fletcher says:

    Mmm, I don’t think Steve has ever come as my Home Teacher. And I am old…

  57. danithew says:

    I could say something similar, that hometeaching works if your hometeacher is my Dad. I’m okay at hometeaching but could do better.

  58. I was using it to illustrate my point that “sharing doubts, concerns and weaknesses” is not always a good thing. It depends on how you present them.

    I wasn’t trying to comment on the accurary of the statement that tithing is harder for poor people. I should have emphasized more that he was _complaining_ (whining) about poor people being expected to tithe and was not just making an observation. His implication was either 1)look at the sacrifice I’m making or 2) poor people shouldn’t have to pay a full 10%. He was not extolling the faith of poor people who tithe. He was neither edifying, nor asking to be edified, nor open to being edified. Therefore, he should have kept his comment to himself.

    He is of the type who complains about something, then verbally slaps you down for offering a solution or a counter-point. They neither lift you up, nor allow others to lift them up. So you learn that they are “nattering nabobs of negativism” and learn to avoid thim or just not respond to them. They go on your mental “toxic people” list, and they wonder why they have few friends. That stirs me up because I’ve been on both sides. I’ve been dragged down by some whom I tried to lift up. And I’ve gone through negative periods when I didn’t let others lift me up.

    My overall point is that if you have a problem or concern in the church or with church members do two things: present it in the proper venue, then demonstrate that you’re open to learning the solution or explanation.

    1) Present it in the proper venue. Examples: One-on-one if someone in particular offended you, then go up the chain of authority if you can’t resolve it with the offender. If it’s a question of social aspect of the church, present it to your HT’s or VT’s, or perhaps in the EQ or the RS if you want a group response. Go privately to the Gospel Doctrine teacher or to the Bishopric for doctrinal issues. Maybe cultivate a mentor to go to with questions.

    2) Be open to the solution, and demonstrate it by such things as tone of voice, stating your question/concern humbly and without contention, and perhaps asking outright for advice or opinions.

    Pouchg: you sound like a convert from Protestantism. In the LDS church, church is work. No paid ministry, so we all share the load. If it’s so boring, share your concerns with your EQ pres, and/or the Bishop, and ask for something to do so you don’t get bored.

    If the teaching system in your ward is so messed up, go to your EQ pres and ask what you can do to help. Start with your list, document (write down) the errors, do everything you can to bird-dog those missing members, and get the correct info, and give a hard copy to the EQ pres.

    I remember the joy I had when I found a missing member. Only her name was on the roster, no address or phone number. I started calling every one in town with the same last name. There were 25 entries in the phone book with the same last name. I just called a few every day. I finally found her, and she said “It’s been years since anyone came to see me.” I got someone to give her a ride, and she was in church the next week.

    A couple ladies in the RS already knew her. So next time I’m given a bird-dog assignment, I’m going to go to the RS meeting first, and ask them “Do any of you know So-and-so?”

  59. GreenEggz says:

    D. Fletcher: Home Teaching *should* work, and I think it does work if it’s done properly.

    A bishop whom I greatly respected, who later was a stake president, said that the number one priority in a ward should be the Youth Program. If you don’t raise up and prepare the next generation to take over correctly, the church will die off.

    He said the second priority should be Home Teaching, and that when Home Teaching runs well, the whole ward runs well.

    The challenge is to _want_ to do home teaching, and do it out of love, not do it just because you have to. And if you _want_ to do it, it will eventually show, and make a difference.

  60. Aaron Brown says:

    Fair enough, GreenEggz. Truth be told, my comment was the worst sort of threadjack, focusing on a side issue that was surely tangential to the issues you were trying to raise.

    Aaron B

  61. MegaEagle says:

    Aaron B.,

    I was about to reprimand you for a very misguided and disproportionate response, but you reprimanded yourself! I want to try that sometime.
    GreenEggz, I think you’re right on.
    I deeply wish that we as a church were better about mental health issues. I think so many of us are guilt-ridden and insecure, and have this awful sensation that we can’t measure up. My evangelical friends have none of this cognitive dissonance, because they all believe that they are saved no matter what, so they live happily and serve happily and can’t wait to go to church to hear the good news every week. They are acutely aware of the sins and lifestyles they have been saved from, and they are just so grateful for Jesus and his sacrifice, all the time. I realize not all evangelicals are like that, but my friends are that way, and I have long envied their constant rejoicing when I compare it with my 80%-inadequacy-and-guilt to 20%-rejoicing ratio. Does that make sense? I wonder if that ominous awareness of the conditionality of our salvation has something to do with why so many of us struggle to feel happy, and why so many of our women and men are into Prozac and porn.
    These days, I attend Church in Baghdad. It’s a small group of people, and nobody cares how anybody is dressed (most are in camouflage and packing a lot of firepower…) or whether brother so-and-so just made a ton of money on stocks or whether sister so-and-so sewed all of her children’s outfits for Church that day with one hand while using her other hand to cook dinner for all of the homeless in the city, etc. We don’t have callings that take up very much time at all, and there is no home or visiting teaching going on. Basically, we go there to worship, and you wouldn’t believe how wide the smiles are in sacrament meeting every week. I honestly can’t wait to go there and meet people and interact with them and share our testimonies; it’s a great atmosphere. It has been a pretty amazing reminder to me of how Church can be, and I hope to take this vision with me back to the states and help other people at Church feel this way about showing up every Sunday. When Church is stripped down to its very core, it is definitley somewhere people want to be.

  62. alamojag says:

    I’ve seen home teaching work. I’ve seen visiting teaching work.

    When my mother was first confined to her wheelchair, she refused to leave the house for ANY reason. The person who convinced her to go to church anyway wasn’t my dad, or any family member; it was our home teacher. The last 30+ years of her life, visiting teachers came every week, Tuesday mornings, to visit since she couldn’t go anywhere by herself. The programs work when done in the spirit of love. When they are only done by assignment, everybody had just as well stay home.

  63. OK I’ve only skimmed the last bit of this thread because really, who can read all that? But I’m going to say a few things anyway.

    I’ve been a member for about 16 years and I’ve lived in about 15 wards. I’ve been in some really, really excellent wards. Wards where you feel the Spirit so strongly, you just want to stand up in SM and say, “Doesn’t anyone else feel like Christ is in the chapel right this minute?” Inner city struggling wards, small town rural wards, suburban wards. I’ve been in a ward SO BORING that every Sunday my husband and I would come home and complain to each other about how awful it was. And every Sunday we reached the same conclusion–it’s our fault as much as anyone else’s. We’re part of the ward. If it needs to be more spiritual, we need to help it be so.

    And as far as home teaching and visit teaching–we’ve had some excellent home teachers. We’ve had a home teacher give us a car. I’ve had a home teacher who was relatively new to the church give me a Priesthood blessing and his hands were shaking, he was so nervous. But so willing to serve.

    I’ve had visiting teachers I didn’t feel any personal connection to, just seemed like they came over because they had to, and brought stupid little knick knacks, etc. Women I would not normally associate with, because I have nothing in common with them at all. And when I ended up in a coma in the ICU one day, in and out of consciousness, I was so happy at one point to open my eyes and see them standing there, telling me my home teachers were on the way to give me a blessing.

    I don’t know how they found out I was in the hospital. No one called them to let them know.

    You wanna know the funny thing about the best ward versus the most boring ward? One was full of retirees, almost entirely elderly people. The other was full of smart, middle class/upper-middle class young families. And it was the young ward that was mind-numblingly boring.

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