Abandoned

Abandoned...: I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, outside the small village of Bainbridge on a country lane called Locust Grove. We lived atop a hill surrounded by corn fields. The Conoy Indians used to live there [1] nestled between the banks of the Susquehanna and the Conoy Creek. We sometimes found arrow heads in the corn fields or shards of pottery by the banks of the creek, the only remnants of a population that vanished a couple hundred years before we lived there.

Up the lane, there was the foundation of a distillery from the 1800s.  Stone steps led up to a plateau that used to be the distillery floor but was now just covered with tree trunks and dead leaves. There were no walls; it was easy to miss it. Across a small bridge was the Haldeman Mansion. Although the mansion only dates to 1811, parts of the estate date to the early 1700s. Dr. Samuel Haldeman who was born and lived there was a scientist and naturalist who was influential on Charles Darwin as he wrote Origin of Species. Darwin corresponded with him and considered him authoritative. Some of the floors in the mansion had warped floors like a roller coaster thanks to the high humidity in Pennsylvania. Although we entered the property from the lane, old photographs show the original grand entrance faced the river and train tracks.

Walking up the train tracks behind my house I often went to the abandoned stone quarry. It’s now a dive site, teaching scuba in the frigid 400 foot depths. Hurricane Agnes blew some buildings from the quarry into the water in 1972 where they have remained, rusting underwater ever since. A small jetty divides the shallow side of the quarry (only about 100 feet deep) from the deeper side. A two story building is immersed about 15 feet below the surface of the clear green water on the shallow side of the jetty. I used to like to walk down to look at it because it terrified me. Braver kids would jump off the quarry rocks and swim there. Some would swim into the building.

The abandoned Château de la Forêt in the Arrondissement of Ath, Belgium.: Between the train tracks and the river was an abandoned canal. To get to the river bank, we had to walk down through the grassy gully and back up the other side, then amble down a small rocky cliff. Canals like this were a main form of transportation in the 1800s. A complex set of canals was built starting in 1826. These had long been out of use by the time we lived there, closing in 1900, and there was no longer any sign that they had been filled with water. They were just a very deep grassy ravine that made getting to the Susquehanna River more difficult.

“The present is built on the past just as the past was built on the times that went before it.” Adolf Loos

Maybe this is why I’ve been fascinated by history and the traces of the past, the things we leave behind and why. I’ve been collecting pictures of abandoned places on Pinterest. So many people comment things like “Why would someone leave all this beauty behind?” This is particularly true when the place left behind was particularly grand. From history we know that there are many reasons people abandon places.

  • Something tragic happens. A murder. A war. A natural disaster. The Great Depression. A nuclear disaster. Genocide.
  • Resources become scarce. The source of water dries up. There is a drought or famine. Transportation routes and methods change. A mine runs out of its mineral. A cash crop loses popularity. Another city siphons off resources, making this former location untenable or isolating it. [2]
  • Upkeep is too expensive. This is often the case with abandoned castles. The wealth that was poured into the building lasts for a while, but eventually, nobility is left with its titles and little else. “New money” comes in the form of trade while aristocracy begins to decay, sometimes clinging to its irrelevant past, its glory days.

What happens to an abandoned place is invariably the same. Nature creeps in and reclaims it. Sometimes this new elegiac beauty surpasses the original elegance. Decay is its own form of grandeur.

Theater.: E. Holland recently implored young people at a devotional in Tempe, saying, “Don’t you dare bail. I am so furious with people who leave this church. I don’t know whether ‘furious’ is a good apostolic word. But I am.” This is the type of frustration people feel when a community reaches that inflection point, when it is past its heyday and sliding into decline. We know it has grandeur and has been a thing of beauty, providing for the needs of a society of people for generations. It was built by sacrifice and love with sweat and tears. Abandoning it seems heartless and unthinkable. We can only contemplate abandonment when there is no viable alternative or when the place has become toxic through war, contamination, abuse or danger, or a realization that progress is only possible through relocation. Even Nauvoo, the beautiful city, was abandoned for the wilderness of the west out of necessity, but it caused the largest schism our church has ever experienced.

When it comes to leaving the church, who is abandoned? Do some individuals feel the church has abandoned them and not the other way around? A recent guest post on Wheat & Tares talked about the feeling that individuals often have that they were the ones who were rejected, not that they rejected the church:

I look at the youth program with new eyes and I am unhappy with what I see. As a youth leader, I noticed that by age 11 or 12, we started to have a slow attrition of young people.

Kids who had always been active would suddenly not be attending primary. As the children grow up and transition into the youth program, I noticed that the children who came from broken homes, part members homes, children with socioeconomic disadvantages, neurological differences, or were simply fat or less physically appealing were not as included socially by their LDS peers and the leaders.

By the time the youth are 16 or 17, the youth that are left are very similar in socioeconomic status and family backgrounds. They are usually a very tight social group. Parents spend Fast and Testimony meetings talking about the wonderful youth of the church. With tears in their eyes, they talk of their children and the wonderful friends that their children have at church.  It is easy to look at the youth that are left and be pleased with the tight bonds that they have. But instead .. take a step back and look at who was lost along the way.

In an excellent Maxwell Institute podcast, Elizabeth Drescher talks about three exit paths of individuals who disaffiliate from their religion. The third path she talks about is one that belonged primarily to the Catholics she interviewed; they felt they had been wounded and rejected by their faith, possibly damaged by an abusive experience, or simply ostracized for being different. Rather than feeling like they had abandoned their faith, they felt their faith had abandoned them. Some felt they had no place because they were divorced or gay or didn’t like the church’s narrative for women. Some had been given disastrous advice when they sought support. They didn’t fit the mold, and the mold didn’t fit them. We reject what has rejected us. When we try to make something that doesn’t fit work, I am reminded of Steve Martin’s story Cruel Shoes. [3]

“If you have abandoned one faith, do not abandon all faith. There is always an alternative to the faith we lose. Or is it the same faith under another mask?” Graham Greene

“It’s very difficult to determine whether this is the fault of the world that has abandoned the Church, or the Church that does not know how to relate to the world.” Angelo Scola

We look at abandoned buildings because we enjoy imagining what these places were like when they were vital. Why were they built? And why did people leave? It’s the missing human story that we are trying to find, sorting through the clues left behind. If we are told the story, it’s likely only part of the story anyway.

#abandoned and they left the bed and linens..:

whispers line the walls of this long forgotten home
the family moved out, they took their things and the kids have long since grown
this house was abandoned like so many others lining the streets in town
i pray for any soul in georgia who thinks they can stick around

there’s forgiveness in the floorboards yet the ceiling’s seen the sins
that happened just before the darkness took the family in
blood seeps through the cracks and taints the homes’ once strong foundation
evil has stolen the innocence from each person in this nation

this house was once a home now it’ll be left all alone
for all its days it stays in the shadows of our sinful ways
while the darkness takes what it’ll take

Any woman who has given birth is herself an abandoned home. Our physical separation into our own person is a permanent change that can never be undone. We outgrow the womb; we require more than it can provide, and even if the leaving is painful, we must go; we wound in our wounding.

“At the moment of childbirth, every woman has the same aura of isolation, as though she were abandoned, alone.” Boris Pasternak

“The abandoned infant’s cry is rage, not fear.” Robert Anton Wilson

We are constantly in a state of abandoning the past for the present. We abandon who we were to become who we are. We alter our memories to fit our current self-perception.

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Leonardo da Vinci

Abandoned farmhouse: Whether we long for the things we’ve left behind or not, they exist. Part of what we abandon is carried with us, just as we leave our traces behind us.

Abandoning Memories by Beryl Dov (the Smartass Rabbi)

Perhaps the greatest unspoken misfortune of divorce or any breakup
is that even your fondest memories of the time must be abandoned
because they’re wedded to someone you now loathe.
So what are we left with? Giant voids in the middle of our lives,
a lifeless desert in the mist of an old growth forest.

As parents, we see the traces of our children in our houses as they leave us, sometimes coming back then abandoning us again. To them, we are the abandoned house where they keep boxes of memories. To us, they are the traces left behind, the disappearing fingerprints on our walls, a remembrance of a time when we were needed, when the blissfully quiet house was vibrant with laughter, shouting, and tears.

“There’s something melancholy about professors because they’re chronically abandoned. They form these lovely relationships with students, and then the students leave and the professors stay the same. It’s like they’re chronically abandoned.” Josh Radnor

Because our lives are temporal, we are in a constant state of abandonment. When something remains in use, the new story overwrites the old one. As to the victor, the spoils, to the surviving culture, the storytelling. The past may become part of the story, but it’s a dead thing now, a symbol, a piece of whatever we think the puzzle is today. It can no longer be what it was. We have built over the top of it. Like a whelk taking over a discarded shell, we have repurposed what we found and made it into our lives.

____________________________________________________________

[1] I just can’t bring myself to call them the Conoy Creek Native Americans; that’s not what we called them.

[2] Blockbuster Haiku by Beryl Dov

Abandoned Blockbuster
Teens vandalize the store
Grafitti: ‘Netflix’.

[3]  Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin

Anna knew she had to have some new shoes today, and Carlo had helped her try on every pair in the store. Carlo spoke wearily, “Well, that’s every pair of shoes in the place.”

“Oh, you must have one more pair…”

“No, not one more pair… Well, we have the cruel shoes, but no one would want…”

Anna interrupted, “Oh yes, let me see the cruel shoes!”

Carlo looked incredulous. “No Anna, you don’t understand, you see the cruel shoes are…”

“Get them!”

Carlo disappeared into the back room for a moment, then returned with an ordinary shoe box. He opened the lid and removed a hideous pair of black and white pumps. But these were not an ordinary pair of black and white pumps; both were left feet, one had aright angle turn with separate compartments that pointed the toes in impossible directions. The other shoe was six inches long and was curved inward like a rocking chair with a vise and razor blades to hold the foot in place.

Carlo spoke hesitantly, “… Now you see why… they’re not fit for humans…”

“Put them on me.”

“But…”

“Put them on me!”

Carlo knew all arguments were useless. He knelt down before her and forced the feet into the shoes.

The screams were incredible.

Anna crawled over to the mirror and held her bloody feet up where she could see.

“I like them.”

She paid Carlo and crawled out of the store into the street.

Later that day, Carlo was overheard saying to a new customer, “Well, that’s every shoe in the place. Unless, of course, you’d like to try the cruel shoes.”

Comments

  1. Alf O'Mega says:

    Haunting images. They put me in mind of the first This American Life episode I heard (#199): “House on Loon Lake.” Abandonment is haunting: sudden abandonment doubly so.

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/199/house-on-loon-lake

  2. Thank you for this, Angela. It is very poignant. It is also personally ironic for me, as I am reading this in a massive Victorian manor house in Lincolnshire that was abandoned after World War One because the entire society changed and made it impossible to support, staff, and maintain 100 room single-family dwellings.

    Thousands of these manor houses were bulldozed in the 20th century to make room for other things. But not this one. After a long period of painful transition, Harlaxton Manor has been transformed into a college campus specializing in study abroad experiences–something completely unforseen by its original designers, but, in its own way, no less wonderful.

    As you so eloquently conclude, there are many such examples of abandoned places and things having surprising second lives. Faith, I believe, can be one of these things too.

  3. “The third path she talks about is one that belonged primarily to the Catholics she interviewed; they felt they had been wounded and rejected by their faith, possibly damaged by an abusive experience, or simply ostracized for being different. Rather than feeling like they had abandoned their faith, they felt their faith had abandoned them. Some felt they had no place because they were divorced or gay or didn’t like the church’s narrative for women. Some had been given disastrous advice when they sought support. They didn’t fit the mold, and the mold didn’t fit them. We reject what has rejected us.”

    This isn’t just the Catholic problem, this is dead on a Mormon problem too. The church routinely spouts hate towards minorities, whether through official or unofficial channels.

    The ugly ghosts of segregation, interracial marriage bans, and bans on black people still haunt the church to this day. The new ghost of anti-LGBT hatred is haunting the church and driving so many people away.

    My entire family of eight left the church because of anti-LGBT hate. Most of my youth friends in the church point to this hatred as one of the reasons why they left as well.

    The church has shown its true colors, it is ugly, and we will never return.

  4. pconnornc says:

    I am pondering Angela’s observation about non-mainstream youth being abandoned and Alison’s comments about the church’s true colors….

    I guess my experience in watching youth in multiple wards is a very different “fruit”. Yes, our youth and leaders are not perfect, but I see persistent ministering and fellowship to a wide range of socio-economic/religious/mental health backgrounds. I see youth getting intimately exposed to education, family and social opportunities beyond their own – expanding the paths they might choose to pursue. I see youth extending themselves socially by involving sometimes awkward or disadvantaged kids – and feeling blessed by it. I think it is one of the most wonderful fruits of the church – how we collectively try to lift one another up.

    Even amongst our adults, I am blown away at the breadth, depth and persistence of how we look after one another. And not just the ones in the pews on Sunday – but to those who fall (or even hide) between the cracks.

    No doubt, we will see spoiled fruit – it is our imperfect nature. I am just observe an overwhelming majority of good fruit. I guess the challenge is how do we take the experiences like the ones shared here and learn and grow from them. If we don’t, to Angela’s analogy, then the beautiful house will become abandoned and fall into disrepair.

  5. Angela C says:

    pconnornc: Actually, that was from a guest post on W&T, not my own observation. I was reminded of a few of the youth who fell away when I was growing up, though, and it’s fairly consistent with what that OP said.

    I sometimes think about a particular family, very active in the church, but then one week they just didn’t come to church anymore, and the adults in the ward knew why, but we as the youth didn’t really know. Someone said they were offended. Someone else said they saw the Godmakers and left. Their son was a good friend, and once a few of us ran into him downtown on the weekend. We were really excited to see him, ran up and asked how he had been doing. He said he missed everyone, but he wasn’t allowed to talk to us any more. There was another boy who was active but his parents didn’t attend, and he had behavioral issues, and without support, he eventually also fell away. We tried really hard to make him feel welcome. I gave him my Mad Magazine collection–which was extensive–because he asked for it, and it’s probably one of the few things I regret parting with. Then there was a 14 year old girl who offered one of the YM a blow job during a combined activity. That was a bit awkward, especially since he seriously considered it. She only came to church once in a while, but we did what we could to include her.

    Most of the ones who fell away had difficulties at home that ultimately blew up in one way or another. Even when you are friends with someone as a teen, there will be insecurities, hurt feelings, and so on. Unless the parents are supportive or even forceful in their encouragement, it’s hard for the teens to make it through those bumps and continue to attend. But we did eventually just kind of move on after these kids fell away. Maybe we should have tried harder.

  6. pconnornc says:

    Angela – thanks for the clarification. I am sure you guys tried plenty – sometimes agency takes over, sometimes the socio-economic or behavioral obstacles are too much. There are times when it does work, and then whole generations are transformed. There was a boy w/ severe behavioral problems in our ward who was embraced over the years by many within the ward. He is in an EQP now and you would never have guessed – but without all who reached out he would have been in a much different place.

    Personally I was lifted from an inactive, dysfunctional home in the projects and given a glimpse and a path of who I could become – both spiritually and temporally.

    I hear the pain when we make mistakes, but still marvel at how the “church” or “gospel” has the potential to transform people (for example the perpetual education fund!).

    I would like to think that this is the apostolic anger that Elder Holland expresses. The gospel/church/institution has the power to transform, lift and comfort us – why leave because of frustrations & imperfections. To leave such an institution (without going to something better) can have ramifications for generations.

  7. Will there be an official announcement that BCC is now a post-Mormon blog? Or is this it?

  8. Angela, thank you for so poignantly sharing thoughts on the disaffection experience. Allison is also correct in that the third path does apply to Mormonism as well. I left 12 years ago due to what I perceived was social injustice being done neighbor-against-neighbor across socio-economic lines and also across gender and ethnic lines. The LDS church really needs to get on board with truly embracing equality. However, it is structured as an institution where some are higher than others, and therefore equality does not come naturally to such an institution.

    I agree with pconnornc that religion in general has the potential to transform and help people lead lives of good. I agree that, for some people, the LDS church does result in positive change. However, for others, they feel the stings of segregation and judgment, and it hurts. Badly. But I was able to come around and find a new spiritual tribe for myself. I think many who leave do. And some come back to the LDS religion instead. I think all are valid choices. I think that is to be encourages – finding a practice that makes one happy and helps encourage our moral development. Even if that is secular humanism, as it is for some. The key is sharing our stories and our experiences with each other and trying to uplift and inspire.

  9. Angela C says:

    Jerry B: What a strange thing to suggest. The post was inspired by a Maxwell Institute podcast interview (quoted and linked above). Shouldn’t we as church members try to understand why people leave? That’s part of what we are building as a church community. The restoration itself can be seen as repurposing something that was abandoned and making it new again. We are in a constant state of abandonment and revitalization.

  10. Angela, thank you for your reasoned reply. I fully agree that a faithful LDS blog can and should discuss these things, especially if members wish to understand what is happening in the minds and hearts of those of us who choose a different path of spirituality. The oft-repeated tropes of being lost, being lazy, getting offended, or leaving because we wanted to sin – these things are unhealthy and often incorrect. There are certainly people who stop practicing Mormonism for these reasons, but the overwhelming majority of us leave because we ceased to believe in one or more central tenets of Mormonism. For some, the issues are historical. For some, they are contemporary. The fact is that every ex-Mormon pretty much has their own reasons, and there’s no simple or single explanation that covers most or all of us.

    For me, I initially became inactive due to the gossip culture that I mentioned in my last comment. During my inactivity, I developed a universalist philosophy which led me to believe that all religion has value, truth and beauty, and that people choose a religious choice that works for them at any given time in their life. As a result, I ceased to believe in divine authority. These beliefs and philosophies are incompatible with the tenets of Mormonism possessing divine authority and being “the only true church”. This led me to the logic conclusion that Mormonism is incompatible with my personal beliefs.

    I have since forgiven the people. I have come to a realization that there are a rainbow of attitudes and beliefs among the Mormon faithful. I have found allies in those who want to build bridges and work together to come to understanding and cooperative improvement of society. I’ve found Mormons who shared my concerns at the culture. I’ve found Mormons who believe in social justice. I realize that my beliefs may not be compatible with Mormonism, but that doesn’t stop me from finding allies among Mormons. Thank you for giving me space to share my thoughts.

  11. pconnor says:

    Interestingly enough, because of how the church draws boundaries, the church is extensively desegregated in the mission field. It is one of the more socio-economically diverse places you will find. It is that diversity that helps to collectively lift us all – temporally and spiritually.

    It is my understanding that even in Utah, sometimes they will call or assign families to attend wards well outside their boundaries to help increase the diversity.

    Though not perfect, I believe the church has an approach that I have yet to find another faith that can match.

  12. What a sadly beautiful post. Well done and well written.

    “The gospel/church/institution has the power to transform, lift and comfort us – why leave because of frustrations & imperfections.”

    I think that the above is true for some people (even a lot of people) and that’s wonderful. At the same time, I think we make a mistake when we discount why people actually leave. I look at the abandoned homes and buildings in this post and I don’t see their abandonment happening because of frustrations and imperfections. It’s because of floods, wars, bankruptcies, etc. To discount someone’s spiritual war or flood as a ‘frustration’ is a huge mistake. I read such things (and they are common) and my first response is to feel rejected and condescended to.

    And then if someone’s transformational experiences are not happening as part of the church experience (for me they happen outside of the church experience and sometimes in spite of it) and then they are hit with wars and floods and condescension rather than acceptance, then I just don’t see why someone would stay.

  13. “It is that diversity that helps to collectively lift us all – temporally and spiritually.”

    This is interesting and I want to agree with you, but I haven’t actually seen it in practice. What do you mean exactly? What is it about the diversity of the mission field that works? (I wouldn’t say it did much in my mission and there was lots of tension between the native missionaries and the US missionaries, but that was a while ago.)

    What I’ve seen more recently in our area is middleclass, white families being asked to attend ethnic branches in order to take over the leadership. I don’t know that this is really a good example of diversity.

    On the youth programs, it seems like a lot has to do with the youth as individuals. As a teen I was bullied into inactivity by some pretty awful kids. I’ve seen this happen to other kids while teaching seminary, but I’ve also seen some great peer groups that looked out for the youth on the fringes. It just differed year by year based on the personalities/issues of the kids involved. And I should add that in the ward where I was bullied, my brother had a wonderful experience just a few years later.

  14. pconnornc says:

    RT – wards in the mission field tend to cover a broader footprint, bringing in a diversity of neighborhoods and people.

    For our youth, that means (ideally) they get exposed to leaders from this breadth. A youth from a dysfunctional or disadvantaged home should spend time both at church, activities and even in their homes with leaders from a more robust socio-economic background. It is that more intimate association that starts to lift their world view of what they could aspire to, and a roadmap on how to achieve it. Though they may not be perfect, they get insights into mothers and fathers who are striving to magnify their roles in ways that some of these youth do not see in their own homes. They get textbook teaching on Sundays and hopefully in-the-field teaching by example during the week.

    I know this is applies only to our YM, but through home teaching our boys go up and down the spectrum in their visits. I will always be grateful for being able to take my son into the home (2 room, 7 people) of a Guatemalan immigrant and be able to discuss how we blessed them temporally and how their testimonies blessed us spiritually.

    Even from a less “world-changing” aspect, a youth w/ a father who is clueless in fixing a home or car, will get exposed to leaders who have that skill (my son learned welding), a youth whose mother is a traditional stay-at-home, will get exposed to leaders who by choice or necessity are not, or a youth whose parent is not as prioritized with their grooming and hygiene can get exposed leaders who expose them to alternate paths.

    I don’t want to be judgmental or condescending to people’s choices for their lifestyles, etc – but the church environment exposes our youth to alternatives so they can choose, and not just follow what they know. They can choose to go to college or not, rather than not attend because they could not see a path there.

    There is an even broader value to our adults and how we are blessed by serving/lifting and being served and lifted by the breadth. It is interesting that I get much more diversity in political thought at church than I get at work!

    Our world is becoming increasingly homogeneous. We rarely associate with people outside our neighborhood/work spectrum. I have had many conversations with people who see great value in the LDS model of congregations and how it expands our world view.

  15. eponymous says:

    “The mission field” is such an odd, Western Mormon enclave centric term that has always puzzled me. Every Ward, Branch and “Twig” in the Church in the United States is located within the geographic boundaries of a Mission. Only California (20) has more missions within the State’s geography than Utah (10) does. So to the many lovely Mandarin speaking sister missionaries from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan that I’ve encountered over the years in Temple Square, Salt Lake City is the mission field. The New Era acknowledges this strange Mormon colloquialism with a similarly titled section that shares faith inspiring stories from missionaries. Interesting that the vast majority of those stories are from exotic locations though a few come from State-side missions though never West of the Rockie Mountains.

    It seems like a tangent but I think it is relevant to conversation here. I’ve attended Wards within Utah that were highly diverse – socioeconomically and racially – that were clearly intentionally structured in order to ensure that diversity was accomplished. I don’t know that some form of gerrymandering would help but it does occur to me that our Ward boundary structure and the homogeneous Wards that often result in the West wouldn’t be a bad thing to think about changing. Finding some way to generate a more diverse population within our Wards would not be a bad thing. Perhaps then the “mean” that they regress towards would be something of an entirely different nature as discussed in the W&T post.

  16. Oh, I totally misinterpreted your use of ‘mission field.’ I thought you meant the actual fields of labor by missionaries, not the Utah-centric usage of the term (which I wish we would excise from usage).

    I agree with your analysis in well functioning wards. I live in such a ward and there have been several youth who’ve had / gone on to have experiences that they would never have without the influence of the ward. It’s a lovely thing.

    Then again, the ward I grew up in had to be broken apart because the haves and have-nots were so divided. And I’ve heard the ‘welfare moms’ in our ward complaining about feeling left out because they can’t go on vacations/lunches/outings with the wealthier woman. So I suppose it comes down to individuals again and how they function within the defined group dynamic.

  17. N. W. Clerk says:

    “Every Ward, Branch and ‘Twig’ in the Church in the United States is located within the geographic boundaries of a Mission.”

    When many of his grew up, this wasn’t true. Utah wards weren’t in the boundaries of a mission until 1975. Old habits die hard.

  18. The real sadness of the abandonment that is taking place across all faiths in the US and Europe is that we all feel our own personal stories are what is holy and we look for those who share similar stories. We no longer gather around our scripture stories or the Story of Jesus. Hence there is no way to critique the value of each others stories, in fact to critique is considered hate language.
    This was such a thoughtful posting.

  19. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    Angela,

    Not to suggest the same thing that Jerry B. was suggesting, but the melancholic tone of the post had me wondering if you were leading up to some sort of personal announcement regarding your status under the tent of Mormonism. I am glad that you turned it back away from you personally.

    I think of all the efforts spent in my youth trying to re-activate or take to the next level of activation those in my youth programs. Those efforts were not very effective. We were, for example, coerced to write letters in my Teachers Quorum class to a quorum member we did not know well who was in a youth correctional facility. That was really awkward. Not that we shouldn’t try to re-activate, just that doing it wrong is worse than doing it at all.

    I think of the story of the gift of the pigeon to President Monson, or whoever it was, who flew back to the home of his youth leader repeatedly–giving the youth leader the opportunity to talk to the frequently when he walked to the leader’s home to retrieve it. I live in a ward the size of a county and it is just impossible to drop in to visit all of those who could use a visit all the time–yet, I can send those allegorical ‘pigeons’ out by Facebook, and I do.

    I have a personal journey of abandoning home teaching for the past 2 years. Our home teachers don’t visit us and I only visit one of my families (not with a partner) and don’t give messages any longer. I have enjoyed greatly having the extra time to spend with my family–teaching my children music lessons, working one on one with my son on scouting, staying in touch with my siblings and reaching out to those ward members and friends that the spirit prompts me to contact.

    I try to minister to those who have felt abandoned by our ward leaders. The cancer patient who has never been visited by the Bishopric throughout her treatment. The absence of a release from a calling that requires her to be at church each week feels to her like a sign of her situation not being taken seriously. The leaders feel like it is an open invitation with hope that she will regain her strength and return to doing what she enjoyed. Unfortunately, the abandonment of who she was and the embracing of who she is now has put her in a place where that calling would not be enjoyed. It would be associated with feelings of anxiety and of being scrutinized.

    I would encourage leaders to take the burden of ward callings off of those who are going through life-changing experiences. To anyone–make your ward a welcoming place where people know you care about them–not because you are assigned to do so. If you cannot connect to someone with genuine friendship, simply be courteous to them and let others who have the ability to connect more deeply do so. If you can stay after Prop 8, please do. I may not know you, but I value your point of view.

  20. Lady Didymus says:

    Beautiful comment, Rigel. It really touched me.