Relief Society Musings

Jana comes to BCC as a special guest representing Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.

What happens when the good, the bad, and the ugly are one and the same?

Yesterday in Relief Society, we had a special visit from two newish missionaries in our ward. The more senior elder opened by thanking us women for our marvelous goodness, which was certainly a sweet thing to say. The trouble, of course, is that he has never even met me. And the more he talked, the less good and charitable I felt. The lowest point was when he praised the new sister missionaries who were sitting in the front row, telling us what wonderful sisters they were, and how committed to the gospel. All very sweet and noble. But as I sat there watching the sister missionaries, their eyes demurely downcast to the floor, I wondered how we had come to this: we had two living, breathing, and reportedly wonderful sister missionaries right there in Relief Society, but they opened not their mouths. Instead, the floor belonged to two younger men who lauded all us sisters sight unseen, placing us on a pedestal so high that I found us utterly unrecognizable.

Contrast this to what happened twenty minutes later, when the RS teacher reached deep into her soul and produced a lesson that was so raw and emotionally powerful that it was actually painful to hear. This young woman has had an annus horribilis for about three years running: major health problems, a car accident, an infertility diagnosis, unemployment and its consequent dire financial straits. It wasn’t one of those tidy lessons where someone who is now on the sunny side of despair offers easy platitudes about how it was tough, but the Lord got her through it. Although the young woman expressed tremendous hope in Christ and faith for the future, she is still very much in the wilderness. Most powerful of all was a community chastisement: through all of these trials, she said, not one home or visiting teacher has ever come to see her. Ouch.

It wasn’t pretty, and it certainly wasn’t nice. It was honest and vulnerable and real. And in the end, I vastly prefer her frankness and authenticity to the overly generous platitudes that the missionary, with all kindness and good intentions, had offered before. I want to see more of my brothers and sisters in Christ have the courage to tell their stories, warts and all. As Sondheim says, “nice is different than good.” Give me good any day of the week, but please, oh please, especially on Sunday.

Comments

  1. I don’t see the good — both sound less than desirable. Certainly, someone recounting personal pain can be spiritual, but not if they use it as a soapbox to bash everyone.

  2. Actually, I’m usually pretty happy when church lessons are connected to a gritty reality I can identify with. It doesn’t mean that the reality has to be horrifyingly negative … just something that is convincingly real that I can identify with somehow.

    Nice post.

  3. Well, good for the elder. If everything were nitty, gritty testimonies from the heart, the people who have a hard time with platitudes wouldn’t have any obstacles to overcome. Not, I suppose, to suggest that either is in short supply.

  4. So, someone has to know your life story to proclaim that you are a good person?

    Damn that missionary for loving you like Christ does.

  5. JamesP, doesn’t Christ know our life story?

  6. He does indeed, but Christ loves us in spite of our shortcomings, whatever they may be. He does not dwell on them.

    In this way, I fail to understand the criticism. I doubt the missionary in question would pretend to truly know any of the sisters in the room if asked as much. Still, as a messenger of God, he wanted the sisters in the room to know that, as children of God, he appreciated them and at the very least, their faithfulness in gathering as a group of saints in God’s name.

    It strikes me as though his larger point (although I was not in the room) was that we – purely and simply as being God’s children – rock the hizzouse, and we should never forget that.

    In other words, what’s the point in getting bent out of shape over a missionary telling a group of LDS sisters that they are good people?

  7. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    Relief Society is made up of real women with real issues and problems. The grittiness that many of us go through (and how we respond or don’t respond to it) connects us as sisters just as much, if not more, than the sweet and nice. While the elders’ comments were kind and well-intentioned, for them to place all the women in the room on a pedestal until they are, as Jana puts it, utterly unrecognizable, is patronizing (and would be whether we were talking elders or sister missionaries). I also prefer when we can share our stories, worries, and vulnerabilities with each other and go beyond simply lauding our inherent sweet spirits.

    Beautiful thoughts, Jana.

  8. Jana:

    I’m not sure what your point is. The missionaries praised the institution of women and expressed love for them because they were willig to come to church. Why were the missionaries in RS, were they asking for referrals or dinner appointments or did they just stop by to say the RS was swell. Why does this bother you? Why does it bother you that the Sister Missionaries were humble and looked down when praised? I mean, the missionaries don’t have to know every individual woman in the room to be grateful that women are going to church and being faithful, which is how I read what they were saying. You didn’t like their gratitude. To you it felt insincere. Ok.

    A young Woman got up and shared her problems, and mentioned she had not been home or visit taught for four months. How does this indict the intire ward?

    Is you point just that it is better to be sincere than insincere? If so, I agree. The catch is deciding what is and isn’t sincere. I have heard the council often repeated that we need to err on the side of mercy, and it is better to be taken for a ride than to judge someone a lier who is not.

  9. Thomas Parkin says:

    I always mis-recall Kahlil Gibran, who says something to this effect: your suffering hollows out your soul so that it can later contain joy. The _young_ Elders, just this side of children, often raised in exceptionally benificent circumstances, will get theirs, too. Since who the Lord loves he chastens. I used to think my two sisters’ biggest problem was that they didn’t have any problems. But, in time, they’ve seen their share. The fact alone that we strive to live beyond the Telestial world that surrounds us causes suffering. Even Christ “learned obedience” through the “things he suffered.” We might feel that the young Elders feelings do not run deep enough – but give it time.

    ~

  10. JamesP: “we – purely and simply as being God’s children – rock the hizzouse, and we should never forget that.”

    Actually, we really should forget that. Not just because of the circa 2003 Snoop Dogg language you use, either, but because such back-patting sets us up on divisive rameumptoms we should actively avoid. Last time I checked, we were all God’s children, which is what we really shouldn’t forget.

    Jana’s post is poignant and pertinent because of the wonderful contrast between the ineffectual, empty praise given by one in authority and the keen, vital vulnerability given by one of the least among us. I guess I don’t understand those that don’t understand it.

  11. Steve:

    post-poignant-pertinent?
    ineffectual-empty?
    vital-vulnerability?

    Alliterate much?

  12. alliterate-a lot

    But I tend to agree. My degree of irritation would have been tempered by their sincerity or lack thereof.

  13. critiquing crappy concepts keeps commenters crazy, Matt.

    What, so now we’re angry that I’m both right and stylish??

  14. p.s. ineffectual/empty = alliteration? I must have missed that day at school.

  15. It’s the balance that is necessary. I too am appreciative of the raw experiences of others as opposed to sappy insincere sentiments being regurgitated over and over again. But then again, there are those who do nothing but spill their entire life’s sufferings and relish the attention it affords them. Yes, so moderation. I wondered this past Sunday, if it was heartless of me to be annoyed as questions were posed such as, “What does God’s love feel like to you?” with ample responses full of warm fuzzies, and it completes me.

    It comes down to different personalities needing different methods of education and inspiration. But some of us who yield disdain for the permenant positive and seemingly insincere attitude bite our tongue for fear that we are the only ones who will appreciate our blunt and dare I say realistic perspective. And so, we go unheard, unexpressed, and let the warm fuzzies take the floor.

    It’s the balance we crave and moderation that is often missing from RS. Or that’s my take anyhow.

  16. Thanks, Jana. This really resonated — I’ve been in that room. At its best, RS is a place for women to share warmth, hopes, hurts, and even rawness. Relief inside and out.

  17. Well, I don’t know, but I wonder if what was going on inside Jana’s mind and heart during the RS episode wasn’t at bottom a healthy anger about the stereotyping of Mormon women. I wonder if she, like many of us, is just sick and tired of the false doctrine that women are inherently more righteous than men.

    I say false doctrine because obviously if God gives free agency to all alike, women are just as capable of evil as men. To say they aren’t is to disempower them, and that ought to piss anybody off.

    I wonder too whether she enjoyed the “gritty testimony” because the sister giving it was admitting that she was sad and angry that her needs were not being met — thereby giving tacit permission for all of us women to be sad and angry when our needs are not being met.

    That’s a relief because we feel pressured to “be nice,” which amounts to pretending that things don’t hurt when they do. It’s a time of change — women don’t want to be the emotional managers and shock absorbers for the culture any more. They want to get mad, and I think that’s okay.

    And I believe that men, at least some of them, are getting sick and tired of being denied their right to the tender emotions. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ experience the whole spectrum, and that’s our destiny.

    Thanks, Jana, for feeling and admitting it. Emotional literacy increases in Mormondom!

  18. Proud Daughter of Eve says:

    Matt W.;
    I see your point but I think Jana has something of a point as well. If she feels that the glowing words with which the missionaries painted the Relief Society were too glowing, to the point where she couldn’t believe or accept them, then that’s how she felt. It doesn’t matter if she “shouldn’t” have felt that way. People have different reactions to things and her reaction is just as valid as yours.

    As for the RS teacher and how her experiences indicted the ward, Jana reported that this poor woman has had three years (not four months) of suffering and struggling and that not once in that time has she seen a VT or an HT. In three years. I don’t know about her ward but my ward has shuffled the VT teaching lists around at least three times in the last three years I’ve been here. That’s a lot of no-show VTs.

    (Incidentally, in the time I’ve been here, I’ve seen two VTs. I had a pretty good HT but he’s gone now and I don’t know who will replace him. So it’s not just Jana’s ward.)

  19. cj douglass says:

    jana,
    It would be helpful to know why the elders were there in the first place. As a missionary, I don’t remember ever setting foot in RS (for reasons now obvious to us all). They were doomed before they opened their mouths.

  20. cj, every week the missionaries come into the RS room, interrupting the leson at whatever time they can make it, to give us a “missionary moment.” This consists of reading us a scripture or giving us some words of advice on one thing or another. I love the Missionaries and appreciate them, but the interruptions in RS are annoying, and I would prefer not to have them come in. I assumed Jana was involved in a “missionary moment.”

  21. If this was the case, meems, I can better understand where Jana is coming from.

  22. PDOE, I’m not disagreeing with you, I’m just saying People have different Actions as well as Different Reactions and the missionaries actions are just as Valid as Her Reactions.

    I hope I didn’t come across as being judgmental, as that would invalidate my whole point!

    Matt W. = Hypocrite?

  23. It seems we have a bit of a gender divide here! All of the women understood the main points of my post. Some of the men did as well. Others might want to go back and read what the women said about their experiences.

    I appreciate all the comments, though, particularly as they’ve prompted me to think more deeply about this. (And BTW, I am new in this ward and don’t know how often the missionaries usually speak in RS. Maybe quarterly, based on my old ward. Though I’d guess that’s about four times as often as the sister missionaries get to invite themselves to speak at priesthood meetings.)

    The core problem is one of routinized voicelessness for women. Two sister missionaries are sitting right there, so why can’t they speak to the RS if we indeed need to have a missionary moment? They’re the ones we’d be going out on splits with, after all.

    You all made some really good points about sincerity. I certainly want to give this missionary the benefit of the doubt. He has been raised in a subculture that uses a lot of rhetoric about women’s innate goodness, so he probably considers it respectful, rather than subtly patronizing, to praise women even when they are strangers to him. He seems like a nice enough guy.

    But as I said, all of the platitudes and generalizations feel like so much plastic to me. The contrast with the experiences of the actual flesh-and-blood woman who taught the lesson were just too striking to ignore. And BTW, I want to clarify that she was not on a soapbox or “bashing” anyone. It was a very direct way of addressing a neglect that was probably just an oversight but felt to her, over the span of several years, like a festering sore. Such directness is emotionally healthy: when there is a problem, we must first identify it and then work as a community to correct it. Churches, like all organizations, do not function properly when people quietly sweep their problems under the rug.

  24. The core problem is one of routinized voicelessness for women. Two sister missionaries are sitting right there, so why can’t they speak to the RS if we indeed need to have a missionary moment? They’re the ones we’d be going out on splits with, after all.

    Do you think Jana, you may be making just a little leap here? The fact that two sister missionaries didn’t say anything doesn’t necessarily equate with “routinized voicelessness for women” does it? Perhaps it was much less sinister, i.e., maybe it was the Elders’ turn to do whatever it is the missionaries do in that ward. By your own admission you are new to this ward, and don’t know much about why the missionaries speak in R.S. Why not give them the benefit of the doubt?

    I don’t understand why you are so critical of the missionaries here. You conclude:

    You all made some really good points about sincerity. I certainly want to give this missionary the benefit of the doubt. He has been raised in a subculture that uses a lot of rhetoric about women’s innate goodness, so he probably considers it respectful, rather than subtly patronizing, to praise women even when they are strangers to him. He seems like a nice enough guy.

    How do you know what subculture he was raised in? How do you know how he was raised at all? By your own admission

    The trouble, of course, is that he has never even met me.

    And, because he doesn’t know you, you criticize him for saying something nice about you and the others present.

    I’m assuming you likewise don’t know him or anything about him at all–yet you are free to conclude he was raised in a preconceived subculture in your mind. Seems just a tad judgmental to me.

    I appreciate how moved you were by the sister who gave the more “real” R.S. lesson. I appreciate how she brought a different set of experiences to the R.S. room and lesson. It is always a plus when we are so moved in a Church meeting. But, did you ever consider that the sister who gave the lesson, the Elders, and the Sister Missionaries, and even you came to that room with a host of different backgrounds, educational levels, spiritual and life experiences?

    I think you ought to cut the Elders and the Sisters just a bit more slack. The fact they don’t measure up to your preconceived notion of how an Elder of a Sister should act or say seems just a bit unfair. Perhaps they were/are doing the best the can with what they have. Maybe that should be a factor that you put into your equation. Maybe it could be used as an opportunity to be a bit more charitable and less judgmental to others.

  25. Space Chick says:

    I think another reason that the effusive praise from the elders was so grating to Jana is because it seems to be rather out of their lane. Exactly how is reassuring the Relief Society as a group that they’re all wonderful women fall within the missionaries’ responsibilities? The missionaries may have been given their mission call from SLC, but that does not make them General Authorities, and their call is not to take charge of the ward. If anyone is going to do that, it should be the RS presidency, or the bishopric. It’s like the Primary presidency walking into Gospel Doctrine class and telling everyone there what great Saints they are. Gee, thanks, but, uh, why are YOU doing this?

    Another reason that excessive praise from someone I don’t know makes me uneasy is, it triggers a very natural question–is all this flattery leading to a request for a favor? If the missionaries were visiting RS to ask the ward members for their help in finding and fellowshipping converts, maybe they thought they needed to grease the skids a little, but that can be overdone. And when it’s that overdone, it seems as if the speaker thinks either a) they can talk you into doing anything for them if they only flatter you enough, or b) you won’t help anyone until and unless you are flattered sufficiently. The first implies you’re a sucker, and the second that you’re unwilling to do your “duty”. Either way, it’s not a pretty picture.

  26. And BTW, I am new in this ward and don’t know how often the missionaries usually speak in RS. Maybe quarterly, based on my old ward. Though I’d guess that’s about four times as often as the sister missionaries get to invite themselves to speak at priesthood meetings

    Well, actually, if the elders get to speak at RS once quarterly and the sisters don’t get a chance to do it in priesthood meetings at all, it would not be that the elders get to do it four times as often as the sisters… four times zero is still zero.

    Thus, the aggravation would not be in the quantitative but in the qualitative realm, that is: Elders would get to talk to the RS, while missionary sisters couldn’t do likewise at priesthood meetings (though apparently they couldn’t do likewise at RS meetings when the elders are around, either).

    Sorry if this makes things look worse, but maths are maths… :-)

  27. Jana, you play the gender card a lot. It bothers me. So you are new in the Ward and so’s the missionary. Worst case scenario, he went in and told you that you were all wonderful strong women because He was attempting to build you up so he could solicit your help. It’s the Johnny Lingo approach to the committment pattern. I’ve done the same thing in my sunday school class where I verbally tell the kids that I love them and am grateful to be teaching them sometimes only to remind myself and in part to remind them who they really are.

    Now I do not know why the Elders spoke in RS and not the Sister Missionaries you so obviously have there. From personal experience, I would guess the Sisters asked them to. I speculate this for two reasons. 1.) Most men I know are deathly afraid of relief society because they feel extremely unwelcomed there. 2.) Many Sister Missionaries I’ve known asked Elders to do things like this all the time.

  28. Sorry about the misquoting in my previous post, it should read like this:

    And BTW, I am new in this ward and don’t know how often the missionaries usually speak in RS. Maybe quarterly, based on my old ward. Though I’d guess that’s about four times as often as the sister missionaries get to invite themselves to speak at priesthood meetings

    Well, actually, if the elders get to speak at RS once quarterly and the sisters don’t get a chance to do it in priesthood meetings at all, it would not be that the elders get to do it four times as often as the sisters… four times zero is still zero.

    Thus, the aggravation would not be in the quantitative but in the qualitative realm, that is: Elders would get to talk to the RS, while missionary sisters couldn’t do likewise at priesthood meetings (though apparently they couldn’t do likewise at RS meetings when the elders are around, either).

    Sorry if this makes things look worse, but maths are maths… :-)

  29. Jana,

    Thanks for your post. I too find heart felt candid sharing of life’s experiences, good and bad, more helpful and strengthening than general conclusory statements.

  30. Rascal, thanks for correcting my silly math! Not my strong suit. I appreciate it.

  31. Jana, really interesting post. I agree with you, there’s nothing like a personal conversation in Relief Society.

    I have to say I’m surprised at some of the negative reactions to your story. It’s a snapshot of a frustrating aspect of our culture. Either the kids confused patronizing behavior with respectful behavior, or they were going for the commitment pattern. The first option wouldn’t be a surprise given the missionaries’ age, but it’s sad when kids learn this kind of interaction. The second option is just kind of creepy. Why do we send kids out on missions to learn that they should try to manipulate people into accepting, or helping to spread, Christ’s Gospel?

    The gender thing… urgh. If I ever have daughters who want to serve religious missions, then unless things have changed a lot, I’m going to suggest that they investigate alternatives to our church’s program.

  32. I guess I don’t understand those that don’t understand it.

    Of course you don’t, Steve. Of course you don’t.

  33. My “rock the hizzouse” joking aside, my larger point was that it seems interesting to me that Jana is willing to judge the comments of a missionary as (at least implicitly) hypocritical and hollow, but readily accepts, without hesitation, the comments from a fellow RS sister. I see not the distinction between the two. Both can be heartfelt and truthful, both can be hollow or shallow.

    What’s the point in tearing down this missionary’s comments? No more productive than me saying that I’m glad I wasn’t there sitting next to Jana to hear the hollow, unneeded guilt trip heaped upon the room by the RS sister mentioned in the original post.

  34. Wow James, I’m also glad you weren’t there next to Jana, for her sake! You’re a real jerk! See ya.

  35. Sometimes, I think it would be realy fun to see how you all turned out on a personality test… yeesh…

  36. # 27 Matt W.

    I fail to see how Jana is playing the “gender card” other than she is noting that the women seem to agree with what she is saying, and some of the men are quite critical of it.

    Does it bother you that she is referring to gender disparities in the church, or that she is indicating that the female experience in the chuch is different from the male? For the record, there are disparities, and gender experiences are different.

    I too, am concerned that gratuitous platitudes about women or life are unhealthy. It is great when a RS lesson or Ensign article actually deals with reality instead of idealized images. I am really happy with changes that I have seen in the church in the last 5 or so years that have led to a “realler” experience. It allows people to be less ashamed of how they deviate from the ideal.

    I am also concerned with the Victorian era black-white views of women that occur when women are put on a pedestal. For example, it is commonly said that there are many kinds of elders, but only two kinds of sister missionaries [good and bad]–not true: we are as complex as men, neither inherently good nor inherently bad, but free to choose.

  37. Matt W, I don’t need no personality test to tell me we’re all Type A weirdos.

  38. Maybe the problem is that my Wife is totally awesome and deserves being on the pedestal, only it needs to be an even bigger one.

    Seriously, I think there are obviously gender differences in the Church, and my wife assures me that is good, and so I follow her lead. If she had concerns, I would too, but she doesn’t, and like I said, she is the most amazing person I’ve ever met.

    I am totally down with the need to be sincere, but I guess this post just left me feeling cold. Maybe it’s just because I am “in the box” with all things “dialogue” but something about this post just seems sort of whiny and pithy to me.

    How’s that for sounding like a type A weirdo?

  39. Matt, you’re right on track! (grin)

  40. Personally, the gratutitous insults that are so frequently flung by Steve Evans bother me a lot more than anything that is said or done in Relief Society. While “Fast and Therapy” type meetings or lessons may not be to the liking of everyone, they are not usually given with the callous disregard of other’s feelings that many of Steve’s comments seem to be. Had I not been on the receiving end of those comments myself, I might not be tempted to say anything, but in following this blog for little more than a few weeks now, I have been repeatedly struck by the tenor of some of those remarks. They stand out more than anything I have yet read here. Whether in the name of “irony,” “humor,” or just plain mean-spiritness, I see no place for them in a blog that is run by those who profess to be followers of Christ. To me, cheap shots like calling someone a “jerk” and then dismissing them as if they were dirt under your feet, are far more damaging to our church than any of the issues that come up here. This may say more about me than it does about Steve, but I didn’t log on to be hurt by my supposed “brothers and sisters.” I can’t be the only one, now can I?

  41. justme, I am sorry that I have completely ruined your experience at BCC. Apparently I stick in your craw, and have done since your first comments here two weeks ago. You think I am the worst part of BCC< and you’re probably right. Certainly I am not up to snuff as a follower of Christ. Sorry to disappoint you!

  42. Please don’t tell me what I think. You have no idea.

  43. Justme:

    haha, I don’t know how many times I’ve written a comment only to not post it that says “Steve, you are an idiot.” or something to that effect. But It’s his Blog, not mine, and I am trying to be like Jesus and all, so I don’t. Besides, sometimes he’s almost a human being worth having around. Almost….

  44. For heaven’s sake people. Justme, you have been habitually rude. Matt, you can disagree with someone without having to making hypothetical asides about idiocy. That is just not cool and very disappointing.

    Steve fiercely defends those who post at BCC against personal attacks. I am grateful for it. For people brandishing the saber of civility you sure betray yourselves.

  45. J.- Um, I have no response to that. Maybe only, “twas intended in jest.”?

    I guess we should all apologize to Jana in actuality for Threadjacking her post.

  46. cj douglass says:

    justme,
    obsess much?

  47. J., with all due respect, how have I been “habitually rude”? Is it rude to ask someone not to do your thinking for you? Isn’t that what the boggers here champion, to be able to think for themselves? Doesn’t the public nature of this blog extend to people like me—a person who was deeply hurt by Steve’s comments? Is it better that I should suffer in silence? Do I not deserve to voice my opinion as the rest of you do? It is apparent that most of you know each other, so perhaps you are better at taking one another’s comments in stride, but have you ever stopped to think how some of those comments actually affect other people? Do you even care?

  48. No, cj, I don’t obsess much. My “crime” is that I am probably too sensitive. I realize that I have permitted the unkindness of certain Mormons to drive me to inactivity in the church. I am trying very hard to find my way back. I don’t think this is the place. I’m sorry to have bothered you all, and I mean that in all sincerity. You really can’t know how I feel, but it was a mistake to try to explain.

  49. justme, um, why don’t you try and explain?

    I guess I misse dall your other comments, and you aren’t on the “nice guy” blog, I think that’s probably Blogger of Jared. Anyway, what did certain mormons do to offend you enough to avoid Church?

    BTW, I’ve never met any of these people. Though I’d take any of them to lunch if they ever came to San Antonio.

  50. I’ll go to lunch with you Matt. Just please don’t talk about my marvelous goodness.

  51. Matt, for the record, I’m over it so there is no need to explain. It is too personal anyway. Besides, I no longer have any bad feelings for any of the people in question. Really. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, I still wince when people are mean. In a million years, I never would have imagined myself as an inactive member of the Church. It’s interesting, but my kids tell me that they think I am more religious since I stopped going. What they are seeing is someone who is trying desperately to hold it together. I read the Book of Mormon, I pray, and I try to live my life in accordance with Christ’s teachings, but I feel safer at home. For the time being, it is going to have to be between me and Him. That’s all I can say, except, thank you for reaching out. I knew you weren’t trying to be mean when you made the comments that J. alluded to. I guess we all react differently. None of you knows me. How can you really be expected to know why I’m here or what my comments really mean?

  52. Whoops! Dang intraweb just got the better of me.

    Steve Evans:

    Sorry to disappoint you!

    J. Stapley:

    That is just not cool and very disappointing.

    Ain’t no one can say these two don’t exercise their right to display tender emotions!

  53. justme:
    No one here will ever know what you think unless you let it out. I’ll tell you honestly, there have been times when I have loathed almost each person in the atmosphere for various reasons. Why? Because blogging lacks a lot of the normal social propriety that is afforded in the real world. Much of thetime, we are writing things in a fire and forget fashion and not thinking about what we are saying. We don’t think, gee, this phrasing might offend, or gosh, this may come out a bit over the top, we just let it all out.

    I think we have improved over time, in that we have less ad hominem attacks than we used to, where people were pretty much just name calling. I think that’s because we are all pretty much jointly mean to DKL (he deserves it, he likes to eat Spam.)

    My point is there are some people in the “blogernacle” which I disagree with so much, it’s almost like we are members of different churches, but God’s love is big enough to include us both.

    I’m a convert to the church, and I’ve had some of the strangest things happen to me which could have been taken as offensive. For one, I was once told by a missionary that I was an amazing convert because I wasn’t stupid like all the other ones… You have no idea how angry that made me.

    I guess my question for you is why do you feel safer at home? What seems unsafe about going to church? That seems strange to me. I have only heard one other person say that, and it was an abuse issue. If that is your problem, I’d say call the cops, call the stake president, and don’t let people who are wrong run your life.

    But that probably isn’t it. I can’t know unless you are willing to share. And if you aren’t willing to share, that’s ok too.

  54. Oh my goodness, no, there are no abuse issues. I think I misled you with the word “safer.” Quite simply, I don’t feel wanted or needed there. It’s the most awful feeling, losing that sense of belonging when it has been such a focal point in my life. I suppose that’s why Steve’s comments were so hurtful. You probably missed it, but a few weeks ago he told me he didn’t know how I “stumbled in here.” It opened a very deep wound because that’s how I feel when I go to church. It doesn’t feel like “home” anymore, so I stay here where it truly is.

  55. Ok, I see.

    That’s a tough issue. I guess I’ve gone through that a bit, but I’ve never had a situation where I quit going to church, so I can’t honestly say “I know how you feel.” because I probably don’t.

    That being my disclaimer of not really knowing how you feel, or for that matter, whether you are shy, etc, I’d probably just got to the bishop and ask him to give me a calling and tell him why I wanted it and what was going on. On the other hand, maybe you don’t have a good relationship with your Bishop though. I say this because while it may be true that not one person in your ward wants you (I have to admit, I am skeptical on this.) I guarantee the Lord wants you, and I am willing to even go so far as to say the Lord needs you and that the people in your Ward need you.

    Before I joined the church, the first time I met the Bishop I told him I wanted a calling because I was afraid I’d go innactive if I didn’t have one. This was before I was baptised. He laughed, but a week after I was baptised, I was put in charge of bringing bread for sacrament and giving a small spiritual thought to the people blessing and the bread and water. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but for a former Catholic like me, that was the biggest deal in the world. I’ve had a few callings since then, but I will always be grateful for that first one.

    Hmmm. Are you married? I have to admit I am guessing you are female just from your tone. Let me know if I am wrong about that. I am asking because I am wondering how the religiosity of your spouse and kids are? Are they going to church?

  56. Matt, you are very kind and I appreciate what you are trying to do. I really do. It’s just that I am not comfortable discussing this on a public forum. It’s too complicated and, frankly, I don’t feel the need. I should never have made my first post, and because it was not worded well, I was fair game. That’s how these forums seem to work. I am not comfortable here, and now that I am leaving, there will be those who say, “good riddance.” Fine. This is something I have to work out on my own anyway. Please do not worry about me. I know that the Lord loves me. We’ll figure it out somehow, but not here. Stumbling back out now. . .

  57. fair enough. God Bless and good luck.

  58. I have a comment on the original post. . . I don’t see a problem with either (the Elder or the sister’s lesson) and yet can find a problem with both as well. The one thing that I can think about both of them is that we all groew in the church at our own pace. Maybe the Elder was being insincere in his praise, but sincere in his DESIRE to praise. He’s young–he’ll figure it out. Perhaps the sister while being “real and raw” was just what you needed to hear, but made others feel as if she was using the lesson as a platform for personal attention, etc. I think these things go both ways, and as long as there’s no major doctrinal misteps, then just trying to give that person the benefit of the doubt, weather or not it resonates with you personally, is sometimes what is really needed.

    Also–just a sidenote, why is it that for someone to be considered “real” they must divuldge a life of pain and sorrow? Not to say that isn’t real, but really some people have led relatively happy lives and that is their reality every bit as someones life of trial and sorrow.

  59. pls excuse the typos.

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  1. [...] I really don’t mind putting a lot of work into an activity, as long as it has a point. But I simply don’t see how it meets women’s needs to organize hours of what–let’s face it–often amounts to so much fluff and an extravagent lunch for which they will all have to cook something. Really, is anyone going to suffer lasting spiritual malaise if we offer only two workshops and a potato bar? And in a stake as geographically large as ours, isn’t it a lot to ask women in distant branches to drive an hour each way for an all-day activity–activities which, tellingly, they generally have to be guilted into attending? I’ve read Marjorie Condor’s and Jana Reiss’s recent reflections on Relief Society, and Claudia Bushman’s on the lives of Mormon women with great interest. And I have to ask myself of the daunting Relief Society labor I’m currently facing, This is the organization modeled on the priesthood, the power of God on the earth, whose members at one time considered themselves a quorum, charged “not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls”? [...]

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