Hypothetically

Franz and Gretel are converts of a few years. They have a few of children, and are doing their best to institute all the changes the Gospel brought to their lives, but sometimes they fall short. They also have tremendous extended family pressures against the Church. It has caused rifts in personal relationships, including with their mothers.

Gretel has been a member for two years longer than Franz, and is having some faith issues. Once she felt very strong, and able to hear the Spirit and on track, but she is currently having a hard time balancing the pressures put on her with what the Church requires of her. She knows enough to recall the good, strong feelings she had when the Spirit was strong, and she clings to those, hoping this is just a down phase for her.

Franz is having a hard time. His work is very difficult, and he has had to lay-off some of his crew right before Christmas, on orders from higher-ups. He is struggling with deep family issues and unresolved things from the past. He is a good father and husband, but the stress is starting to effect his little family. He has struggled with the Word of Wisdom, but obediently gave up all coffee and alcohol, and smoking was never an issue. Recently, when the stress was really high, he imbibed in a mild barley beverage. He was honest about this with Gretel, and she chose not to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Gretel and Franz both hold callings in their ward, and both have been in good standing. Things are hard though, and Gretel sometimes thinks they are too hard. Sometimes, she thinks they are falling so short, they may as well give up. She knows this is not rational.

They have not been to the Temple yet, despite being, up until now, worthy to do so. Gretel wonders if some of the problems they’re having has to do with them dragging their feet on getting to the Temple. Franz does not want to go; he says it frightens him. Their entire ward is constantly asking, in jest and in seriousness, when they will be going. They find themselves not knowing what to say. Gretel wants to go, but Franz is barely hanging on, and she suspects this wouldn’t be wise at this time.

There is love in the Franz/Gretel house aplenty, but all is not well spiritually. If you knew them what would you tell them? What would your advice be to this wonderful, but struggling, family?

Comments

  1. My advice would come from my own family experience.

    First, I think the pressures can get immense. It might mean they need to take a weekend vacation just to get away from all the build up (hard to do in Christmas time of course). The other option is to see a councillor (psychological not bishop’s if it is leading to emotional problems).

    Secondly, I would suggest that the temple will not be THE solution if Franz is uncomfortable with the idea. I do agree that avoiding it is not helpful either.

    In these cases I usually suggest focusing on little things. Reading the nativity, and 3rd Nephi can bring a spirituality. As well I found it really spiritually and emotionally uplifting being a secret santa for some one (twelve days of christmas type of thing) it allows you to step away from other daily pressures. Plus it is not a heavy “pray more” kind of seminary answer.

    In my own life usually when stress gets this high it means that a major change or blessing is on the way. It was not fun to live through (such as getting fired last year two months before Christmas) but yet I found things just continue to progress even if they are not perfect.

    That is my suggestion anyway.

  2. Here are three potential perspectives on this issue:

    First, I can imagine a more conservative priesthood leader counseling that Franz should not go to the temple until he is ready to keep the covenants that he will make there. From that perspective, it would be better not to make those covenants at all until he is sure he can keep them.

    Second, I can imagine tender-hearted priesthood leader counseling Gretel and Franz to get to the temple as soon as possible, so that the spirit and blessing of the temple ordinances will buoy them up and give them an extra measure of strength and protection from the trials they are facing.

    Lastly, I can see a more practical priesthood leader counseling Gretel and Franz that if they don’t feel ready to take the next step by going to the temple, they shouldn’t sweat it. Don’t worry what other people think . . . wait for a while and go when you are ready. There is a lot to learn and a lot of changes to make when you join the church, and there is no reason to “run faster than you are able.”

    My advice would be along the lines of the third option above.

  3. The best thing they could say when ward members ask about when they are going to the temple might be just “we’ll go when we feel that the time is right for us”.

  4. Why does Franz not want to go to the temple? Is he afraid of being asked to do more after going, afraid of what is there, doubtful that it really matters?

    I can’t speak on the family tension caused by their joining the Church. I’ve never experienced that but it always seems like such an enormous hurdle or burden.

  5. In addition to what CE has said, I would suggest they check out some of the faith-affirming but stress-admitting blogs in the Bloggernacle – specifically so they can see that they are not alone or weird or wrong or anything else in their struggles.

    Mormon Mommy Wars and Mormon Momma come to mind immediately for Gretel (and Franz, frankly), and I’m sure you can suggest two or three more that would be appropriate for Franz. I also would add a loving suggestion to stick at first to the ones that you suggest.

    Finally, I would reiterate the needs to cling firmly to daily study and prayer – and, if possible, to help the missionaries in any way possible, since those experiences tend to be automatic Spirit-inducers.

  6. This only applies to the temple piece…

    What has their preparation for the temple been? I think the preparation is key, and too often we fail at preparing people to go.

    If they haven’t had any preparation, than I would start there and re-evaluate in 1-2 months.

    If they have been prepared, I would consel them to go, consequences be darned. Too often I find myself lacking faith in the ability of the temple ordinances to bestow blessings and gifts of a spiritual nature. Last year, for example, I found myself not wanting to attend the sealing of a family member due to some faith issues I was having. I went, and ended up having one of the most spiritually moving experiences of my life. It would have been a major mistake to not go, and I mean that in the larger picture.

  7. Thomas Parkin says:

    All I have to say is that we will all be tried right up to the limits of what we are capable of dealing with. I’ve had the toughest year – much tougher than I think could be seen from the outside. I’ve made commitments – and reaped the promised spiritual blessings – and now I’m being given the chance to prove myself – maybe to myself. I have had more sleepless nights, more day to day stress and worry. I have sometimes felt that some kind of protective shield has been removed so that I am forced to see some of the ugliness in the world and in myself. And all the while trying to stay sane, also trying to keep my family’s head above water, and to be the kind of man that can ease and make rich the life of my wife and kids. And it is a LOT, somehow much much more than what I’m used to dealing with.

    But I can dimly see the man that I can be coming through this. I can see that I’m being squezzed – and that while the possiblity of me failing and falling back into my old worldy, lusty, selfish self is there – what can happen is a men that is kinder, more understanding, gentler, seeing deeper with a mind more like Jesus, more patient, and the rest.

    My very best to your hypothetical couple, Tracy. They are going trhough something that is very very common, even while it is exquisitely personal and singular to themselves.

    ~

  8. Re:4- Can you recommend any bulletin boards? As I new convert (2.5 years) I too have questions and struggles at times that I’d like to discuss with others similarly situated but I don’t know where to turn. Blogs this one are great but the com is just one way, i.e., a person can only resopond to to blog writer’s threads.

    Thanks!

  9. First, I’m deeply sorry for this hypothetical couple. I know that they are very good people (hypothetically). I think John F.’s response is spot on.

  10. Tony, I assume you were asking me. Honestly, I don’t frequent the bulletin boards. Anyone else have any suggestions for Tony?

  11. Amen, to John F. I missed it while typing #5.

  12. Steve Evans says:

    The most important thing for the couple is to keep the relationship strong and healthy. No point going to the temple to be sealed if the process of temple preparation will rip the couple apart!

    I can understand some of Franz’ fears. Part of it (for me, anyhow) is not feeling up to par, having perfect view of my own shortcomings. All I could say to him is that things are not that bad! HE is not that bad. A little glimpse into how his Heavenly Father feels about him (perhaps via a blessing) might give Franz a little insight into his true worth.

  13. The temple will happen when the time is right. No need to feel rushed.

    This hypothetical couple doesn’t sound so hypothetical to me, since I identify very strongly with their situation. I found that some of my hypothetical friends were very willing to bear part of the hypothetical burden.

  14. How about going to the temple to do baptisms for the dead? And then, if that works out ok, go get their endowments taken out, and see how it goes? I would have a hard time telling someone to take their time going to the temple, because it seems to me that they could use the extra strength that does come from going.

  15. Yes, I think # 12 makes a good point — I would add that it is possible that Franz is being more critical of himself than is really warranted and that a reminder that God understands his struggles and imperfections very well might be a great help.

  16. When Nigel, a hypothetical friend of mine, had similar church burn-out issues, he took one Sunday a month off. Things improved considerably.

  17. Julie M. Smith says:

    One thing that helps when I get overwhelmed is to pray about The One Thing. Meaning: The One Thing that God would have me do at this point. (It might be to be nicer to my kids, or spend more time with dh, or do better on family scripture reading, or vting, or whatever.) When you know what The One Thing is, it is easier to put everything else on the backburner and still feel that you are making some spiritual progress. It is also easier to ignore nosy people in your ward and your own nagging voice of self doubt.

  18. This situation is all too familiar to me. I love attending the temple, in fact, I was married in the temple and went with my husband the first year of our marriage.

    After that (for various reasons) he stopped going. Recently, I’ve been asking him to go back with me, his excuse or what he tells me is that he has never felt comfortable at the temple.

    How do you deal with that?

  19. Having seen many similar examples I can make a few assumptions that are usually accurate:

    1. Personal prayer is not happening as it should.
    2. Praying together is not happening on a regular basis.
    3. Personal scripture study is not happening.
    4. Reading the scriptures together is not happening often enough.

    I would encourage them to have personal prayer and pray together every day and have them report back to me in a week. Once they are able to go a week praying together and having their own meaningful personal prayer (upon knees and using their voice) I would then start encouraging them to have a daily scripture reading. This can be as short as a single verse.

    When couples pray together and read scriptures together wonderful things happen. Miracles happen.

    If they do all this and are still struggling I would invite them to start marriage counseling – with a professional.

  20. A poignant reminder that life is not all beer and skittles. Thank you. My first advice if it were asked for, as it was at the end of this post, concerning spirituality would be to make sure that prayer, fasting, and time with scriptures are not neglected. Those devotions are not the whole solution to every problem, but if they are missing, then other measures can’t do much; the base to build on would be missing.

  21. I think it would make a lot of sense for Gretel and Franz to be very upfront and open with their priesthood leaders about all of this. The cliched “inspiration works on information” comes to mind–perhaps it’s time for different callings or more support in one form or another. Temple preparation, worthiness, and timing are excellent things to counsel with the bishop over. I think often we are much harder on ourselves than anyone else is–even the Lord.

    The suggestion to do baptisms for the dead is excellent, and if that’s even a little much, this is a great time of year to just go visit the temple grounds. If Franz and Gretel hypothetically live near one of the larger temples, there will surely be concerts, programs, and Christmas tree-lighting ceremonies at the visitors’ center or on the temple grounds. Just being familiar with the temple atmosphere can help dispel a lot of fear.

    When the time does come that they go to the temple, I would definitely suggest going back very soon after the first experience–within a few days. The first temple session is a somewhat stressful event simply because it’s new, and because we do build it up so much. So it’s great when people can go back again and experience it without all of the pressure. I know I went a bunch of times before my mission with just my mom–I wanted to be able to enjoy it without the pressure of my extended family, ward family, and so on. Once it became more routine, then I was comfortable going to ward temple night, and so on. But just going once isn’t going to necessarily provide that confidence. It’s like riding a bike–if you stop the first time your bike so much as wobbles, you’ll never get it, but once you figure it out, you never lose it.

  22. I have found losing and finding my balance in the church as I strive to live the gospel to be a constant process. It has been my experience that the demands and pressures of the church can overwhelm me if I don’t perform regular boundary maintenance. For me this consists of being open, honest and non-apologetic (and non-confrontational) about what I believe, think and do.

    When I matter-of-factly explained that after four years of marriage Gigi and I still weren’t sealed because we wanted to feel properly prepared to make those important covenants I was never met with more than an occasional raised eye-brow. In most cases people expressed support for our careful approach. In many cases people said in retrospect they said they wished they had done something similar.

    As a member I find when I am not honest about where I am at the joy of the gospel is displaced by a misplaced sense of failure. As a bishop I appreciate members who are frank about their decision-making process. The demands of my current calling and the sense that I have obligations to be more circumspect about my personal opinions have made finding the right balance difficult–so in a sense I’m a doctor who now finds it difficult to take his own medicine, but it has worked very well for me in the past. And at the end of the day I do take comfort in the conviction that God will guide me where I need to be.

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    I liked CE’s menu of reactions, and I too agree with the third, pragmatic choice. And I liked the advice of Ronan’s friend Nigel. The demands of this Church can be overwhelming at times, and knowing when to take the occasional judicious break can be a good safety valve. Occasionally I’ll blow off the third hour, the last two hours, or church altogether, and just decompress. To survive in this church you occasionally have to have the guts to say “no” to things.

    If they do go to the temple, the ward temple preparation class is inadequate. They should find some really good friends who are temple goers and invite them over for dinner, and have a frank, private conversation about the practical nuts and bolts of the temple experience. The temple is not like going to Church, and the basic class doesn’t do a good job of preparing people for those practical differences. The last thing anyone needs is for Franz to be taken by surprise at something and freak out over it. If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.

  24. Kevin’s right about taking time out from church; I often spend one or two of the hours reading a devotional book quietly in a secret place.

    A friend of mine went through the same feelings, and found it important to reconnect to spiritual matters outside of the scope of the church. So rather than spirituality being a church thing, church became a way of augmenting the spirituality he found himself.

    Steve is right about finding the good in one’s self, and couples, I think, can play an important role in sincerely affirming each others’ strengths.

    I also like Kevin’s suggestion about talking to a trusted couple about the temple. Otherwise, no pressure.

    And I would say to Gretel, it’s just a phase. You’re doing the right thing. Your handling of the mild barley beverage shows your wisdom and goodness. Your spiritual instincts are right on.

  25. Gretel and Franz do live near a Temple- actually in the same ward as a Temple- hence the pressure.

    Also, Gretel and Franz have a strong, committed marriage- that part isn’t in trouble.

    Is the mild barley beverage a problem that needs a Bishop? What to do if the Bishop just changed, and they had a deep and personal relationship with the last Bishop, the same Bishop who saw them both through their baptisms, but the new Bishop doesn’t know them from a hole in the wall?

    What advice would you give Gretel and Franz about confiding in someone new who doesn’t know them or their story? Is a Bishop a Bishop a Bishop?

  26. I would say this:

    Pray. Pray for specific, concrete things. Don’t pray for general things out of desperation or fear. Pray with faith that HF will give you what you need. Faith that HF knows what you need more than you do.

    Consider setting a date to attend the temple. Something far off, if Franz isn’t comfortable with something soon. And work towards that date. Best if you pray over the date, and then ask that all your concerns will be cleared up by that date.

  27. Is the mild barley beverage a problem that needs a Bishop?

    Nope.

  28. Most peoples spirituality and commitment to the many programs of the church ebbs and flows thru their lives.

    They are in a lull right now. I would gently encourage them to:

    read the scriptures more
    pray
    sing hymns regularly
    sit in the back of primary and sing along

    (add any spirit inducing activity at will)

    Temple baptisms would be a good idea. I would not be to concerned about fairly recent converts occassional lingering WOW issues. As he does the activities that bring the spirit into his life again the WOW concerns will gradually sort themselves out

  29. One time mild barley drink – Nope. Everyone makes mistakes, and a non-habitual WofW mistake does not need “confession” to a Bishop.

  30. Kevin Barney says:

    The sin would be to waste a poor bishop’s time–at tithing settlement time, no less–with an isolated mild barley drink.

    But speaking of tithing settlement, since this couple doesn’t have an established relationship with the new bishop, this would actually be a good time to go in and talk to him, for the parties to get to know each other better (but leave the mild barley drink out of the conversation).

    Having actual personal relationships with their bishop and other local church leaders will grease the skids should they decide to do baptisms (an excellent idea) or whenever they decide to take the full temple plunge.

  31. Jonathan K says:

    #14 – I agree completely. Ask them if they are willing to go to the FH Library during Sunday School. Then assign a young, intelligent person to help them prepare several family names to take to the Temple to do Baptisms. This would most likely be a very special experience for them and ease any uncomfortableness with going to the Temple to be sealed.

    Another option could be a Temple prep class during Sunday School.

    Either way, my advice would be to go to the House of the Lord, especially if all is not well spiritually for them. Obviously you don’t want to push too hard, but not pushing at all can be just as bad. There is a higher probability that they will stay strong spiritually if they go to the Temple, in my opinion.

  32. Franz and Gretel have been expressly forbidden to take any family names to the Temple by living family members.

    Aside from the pain of that fact, can they do other names?

  33. 31: other names? like names of non-relatives (like I do) or names of long-dead relatives (i.e. no permission required)? I’m not sure which you mean.

  34. Tracy, sure they can. I don’t know that I’ve ever done any of my family names.

  35. 32 – Tracy M, are they close to a larger temple or a smaller one? I live by the Newport Beach temple, where we usually are told to bring names, but when I used to go to the LA temple, they always had extra names for us to do. Chances are that if you go to a bigger temple, you won’t have to bring any names.

  36. Tracy M,

    A few of quick thoughts:

    1. I think Kevin’s suggestion about meeting with another couple before going to the temple is a great idea. Also, if Franz and Gretel have friends on the internet that they might feel comfortable talking about things with over the phone, that might be a good idea in terms of general getting ready to go to the temple.

    2. I think I’d be a combination of pragmatic number 3 approach and the number 2 approach above: The temple is a wonderful place, and I think going there and participating in the ordinances has the potential of being a great experience (particularly the sealing ordinances which may help in solidifying Franz and Gretel’s relationship, spiritually), not to be discounted, however, that the wonder and importance of the experience shouldn’t provide pressure on Franz and Gretel. That is, it’s good to go to the temple and participate there, and it should be a goal, but it shouldn’t be a pressure point in anybody’s relationship with anybody else, whether between Franz and Gretel themselves, or between Franz and Gretel and their ward members, or, most importantly, between Franz and Gretel and Heavenly Father. Guilt, societal pressure, etc. shouldn’t be the motivators for going. Desiring the blessings should be. This might be a place where Kevin’s type of conversation would be helpful, even before deciding definitively to go to the temple. Discussing frankly the importance and meaning of these things with another couple could be a good place from which to make the decision on whether or not to go.

    3. I wouldn’t discount the help of the old bishop in this case. He’s not Franz and Gretel’s ecclesiastical leader, but he is a wise man, from the sound of it, and so I think he would be able to provide sound, good counsel to Franz and Gretel as they go through these times.

    4. Sometimes, she thinks they are falling so short, they may as well give up. Man. I hate that feeling. It happens to me all the time. There are lots of conference talks about this issue, and books, and other things, but the key thing to remember is that Heavenly Father only expects us to be as good as we’re capable of; that’s the whole point of the Atonement. We’re never going to be perfect, and Jesus is there as our savior to help make up the difference.

    5. After Franz and Gretel go through the temple for themselves, they can return and perform the ordinances there by proxy for other people. Each temple has a huge file of names that they give to patrons which don’t have their own family names. I don’t think I’ve ever done my own family names, though I have done others’. (Most of my family’s work has already been done.)

    6. This post is entirely too wordy, for which I apologize. I have a large case of bumbling logorrhea lately.

    7. Ooooh, yeah, one last thing. I think going to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead would also be a great warm-up to perhaps entering to receive the other temple ordinances. Going together as a couple, Franz and Gretel can perform baptisms for other people (once again from the list of names provided by the temple). It’s a nice way to spend some time in the temple without having to commit to going for the Endowment and Sealing ordinances. Any baptized member over 12 can go and perform baptisms, so if Franz and Gretel have kids over 12, it might make a nice family time for them to go together and perform baptisms.

  37. Lots of people have already made great suggestions so I won’t attempt any further, but I think I’d just like to echo what Mark IV said awhile back about Franz and Gretel hopefully not being alone in their predicament and having some hypothetical friends who can help bear their burden and with whom they can talk frankly without fear of judgment or dismissal.

    This post really moved me, Tracy, not because I have Franz and Gretel’s problems at all–but because I have problems of my own. Posts like this make me wish I could invite Franz and Gretel over for some dinner and mutually supportive conversation. I appreciate your scenario for making me think a little harder about who might be the Franz and Gretel sitting in the pew behind me.

    Things are hard though, and Gretel sometimes thinks they are too hard. Sometimes, she thinks they are falling so short, they may as well give up.

    I just have to say FWIW that I sincerely doubt there’s a member of the church who’s never felt this way. I’m a lifelong member, and I’ve spent at least half of my adult life struggling with what sometimes seems like my own constant and perpetual failure to live the gospel, in large ways and in small.

  38. StillConfused says:

    Just tell them to chillax. The gospel should be a source of comfort and not a source of stress. They should never feel rushed in their spiritual growth.

  39. I’m at a point which is somewhat similar to Franz’s. I joined the Church a little over a year ago and going to the temple scares me. Mainly because it’s a big unknown. I don’t like going into situations where i have no idea what’s going on. Of course i guess i could Google a lot about the temple but I’m trying to build up my faith, not destroy it.
    One thing my girlfriend is pushing is baptism for the death. That’s far less scary than big secret ceremonies. And during the ward temple trip bringing your own names isn’t needed.
    Also something that might help is for someone to just be a friend. No reason to push Franz but someone who is willing to answer questions over dinner about the temple might help him. (it did for me). Of course then you need to avoid answers like “you’ll find out later”.
    Not sure if there is institute for married couples, but maybe that could help them too. I find reading a lot easier if i have a goal to read for next week rather than just flipping through thinking which page shall i read this time. Maybe they could even sit on on temple preparation classes. Not sure what’s the policy on that. It should like getting the recommend shouldn’t be the problem. So if they can just work to it without having to commit it might take off some of the pressure as well.
    A lot of this has been said by several people before, just my thoughts on it though.

  40. Re: 10- Yes, Ray, I meant to say “re: 5″, not 4… I guess nobody here frequents forums. Too bad, I have so many questions.

    I think most of you are missing the point…this isn’t about going to the temple, this is about two people struggling in general and who likely feel they have no one to talk to. I know that feeling well. It seems that in the rush to get baptized and into the life of the church after about the two year mark one is kind of abandoned, left to their own devices with no one to turn to to ask what might be considered “difficult” questions.

    Re: 32- who cares what family members think? I plan to do work for my deceased parents and other relatives regardless of what my siblings or other relatives say.

  41. I agree with Tony (40) about 32. Unless the ancestors are holocaust survivors and are actual direct ancestors of F&G, family “permission” isn’t needed.

  42. Kevin Barney says:

    Tony, you could try the “Ask the Apologist” feature at the FAIR website, fairlds.org.

  43. Adam Greenwood says:

    Is the mild barley beverage a problem that needs a Bishop?

    Yep. They’ll probably find that its a spiritually strengthening and loving process that won’t require much of anything other than a visit.

  44. Thanks, Kevin; I should have thought of that one. Tony, that’s an excellent starting point – and I’m sure one of the questions you could ask is about bulletin boards elsewhere.

  45. Adam Greenwood, 43: Why does it need a bishop? Note: I have no doubt that it would be a loving process.

  46. The church will take everything you are willing to give it and it will never be enough. You have to take of yourself spiritually, first and foremost. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. What Kevin said.

    There are lots of ways of doing that. Praying and reading scriptures with your spouse is one of them. Sometimes the way we’re advised to do that, it sounds sort of like, “Eat your beets,” or “Finish your liver.” Think of it more as “take ten minutes for a head, neck and shoulder massage.”

    Oh, and what Steve Evans said about a blessing, too. For both of you!

    I went on a silent retreat for a few hours on a Saturday once, just me and 15 other people I didn’t speak with and some focussed readings from the spiritual director of the retreat. It was awesome. Like a dip in a cool pool on a hot Louisiana day.

    Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Cut yourself some slack. Just be.

  47. My dear mother has been through the Temple 4 times in her 65 years. She has always held Stake positions and is very devout. Let’s face it, the Temple can be kinda weird. I don’t much like it myself. After the changes in 1990 I liked it a lot more. Give it a shot. If it is good go back if not don’t, but give it a shot. I doubt the Lord will condemn you for not liking it. It is worth going just to experience it.

  48. Assuming they are in a “normal” ward, they are probably already getting a range of wise and unwise advice from certain people. I would do my best to repent of my own sins so that I don’t bring a negative influence into their lives. I would do my best to become genuine friends with them, but refrain from giving them advice.

  49. The Word of Wisdom speaks approvingly of barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.

    Does that indicate that mild barley beverage are okey?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,786 other followers