Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Burden or Joy of Church Membership?

One critic, allegedly an ex-Mormon, had this to say person offered this criticism of the Church on my recent post about rejecting modern prophets:
Whatever the scriptures say, there can be no doubt that the church is extremely works oriented. By their fruits we know them. The average Mormon has to worry about home teaching or visiting teaching, temple attendance, ward activities, giving talks, giving lessons, service projects, 3 or more hours of meetings each Sunday, meetings during the week, feeding the missionaries, referring friends to the missionaries, paying tithing, generous fast offerings, daily scripture study, personal prayer, family prayer, family home evening, writing in journals, genealogy, getting your boys' eagle project done, etc. And if a good Mormon buckles down and does everything he's supposed to for one month, the very next month he's back to square one. On top of all this, after a Mormon completes his self-financed mission, he's supposed to not delay getting married and having children while attending school and earning enough money to support his large family. I know, there's no scripture telling him when to get married and how many kids to have, so where does the pressure come from? Does it matter? The pressure is real. Then there's the extra meetings and duties associated with higher priesthood or relief society callings. Mormons are strongly encouraged (i.e. pressured) regularly to do missionary *work*, and few of them ever see someone join the church through their efforts. So that monkey's always on their backs. A Mormon can obey the word of wisdom, keep the law of chastity, be honest, etc., but if they don't keep up on their monthly checklists, they don't measure up to the spiritual giants who saw God and angels. No wonder most Mormons I know are dogged by feelings of guilt and inadequacy. When I attended PEC or ward council, the bishop or his councilors would always talk about how we (themselves included) should do more to serve others. The self-flagellation never ceases.
I'm shocked that he left out the need to floss daily, to pay our taxes, to take out the garbage, to show up to work every day, to remember birthdays, to exercise, to shower daily, and to cut down on unhealthy snacks. What a chore life can be!

Actually, what a joy life can be. Yes, there's work to be done, but flossing and all the other things that are good for our bodies, our souls, our relationships with others, and even our 401(k) are things that bless us and make our lives better and magnify the joy we can have (well, scrap the part about the 401(k)).

I'm not ashamed to say that the Church offers numerous opportunities for us to grow, to learn, to serve and to sacrifice. For those who really want to serve the Lord with all their heart, might, mind, and strength, as the scriptures encourage, this Church has opportunities to match the time and talents you can bring to serve the Lord. But the checklist mentality expressed by the critic doesn't fit my experience.

When I was bishop, yes, it was overwhelming and I truly did not get enough sleep. But what rich years those were, years when I know I was sustained and helped along in spite of my flaws and whining by the kind hand of the Lord. I was needed and played a role in helping people - hopefully more than I hurt - and was able to be there when truly needed on many occasions. I wouldn't give that up, though I would do some things differently if I went back in time. My two years on a mission were some of the most precious years of my life and gave me far more education than any other two-year period in school ever did. I saw people's lives change for good, witnessed miracles, felt and experienced the joy that the Restored Gospel brings. Wonderful friendships, experiences, adventures - what a privilege and blessing it was to go and serve. And compared to the daily routine of academic studies or work, it was a pleasure and a vacation of sorts (well, it was Switzerland), although we worked very hard.

It's all about quality of life. We work hard and sacrifice for the future. We do this in school, looking forward to a job, and then when we experience the disappointment of a real job, we work hard looking forward to retirement, and then when we experience the disappointment of age, well, I guess we look forward to the next life. But in serving the Lord daily and monthly, we don't have to always be looking forward - we can experience joy and meaning right now. The work we do in visiting and helping others really matters. It makes our lives of higher quality right then and there. I know of no better way to make a difference and feel joy in life than in living the teachings of the Gospel and serving the Lord with all our heart, whereas the path of selfishness consistently brings disappointment and sorrow.

So yes, I'm going to keep striving to floss, exercise, pay taxes, go to Church meetings, share the message of the Gospel to those who are interested, visit a few people here and there, and maybe even do something with my genealogy some day. Pressure? I feel far more pressure from work and the IRS than I do from my kind and patient bishop. Maybe some leaders are pressurizers, but the leaders I've had have generally encouraged us to do what we can and not run faster than we have strength. The real religious pressure is not from my church leaders, but from the Lord, who tells us to serve Him with all our might, to keep His commandments, and to be perfect like Heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48). That's an imposing checklist, I admit, but it's all there to bless us and bring us joy, now and for eternity.

Update: OK, some Church leaders have turned up the pressure on the Saints. For example, the early Christian fathers repeatedly urge believers to keep the commandments, to serve God diligently, and be zealous of good works. Here's one of many passages I could cite, this one coming from the text known as First Clement, one of the earliest Christian writings outside the New Testament. The quotes are from sections 2 and 34:
Moreover, you were all humble and free from arrogance, submitting rather than demanding submission, more glad to give than to receive, and content with the provisions that God supplies. And giving heed to his words, you stored them up diligently in your hearts, and kept his sufferings before your eyes. Thus a profound and rich peace was given to all, together with an insatiable desire to do good, and an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit fell upon everyone as well. Being full of holy counsel, with excellent zeal and a devout confidence you stretched out your hands to almighty God, imploring him to be merciful if you had inadvertently committed any sin. You struggled day and night on behalf of all the family of believers, that through fear and conscientiousness the number of his elect might be saved. You were sincere and innocent and free from malice one toward another. Every faction and every schism was abominable to you. You mourned for the transgressions of your neighbors: you considered their shortcomings to be your own. You never once regretted doing good, but were ready for every good work. Being adorned with a virtuous and honorable manner of life, you performed all your duties in the fear of him. The commandments and the ordinances of the Lord were written on the tablets of your hearts. . . .


The good worker receives the bread of his labor confidently, but the lazy and careless dares not look his employer in the face. It is therefore, necessary that we should be zealous to do good, for all things come from him. For he forewarns us, “behold the Lord comes, and his reward is with him, to pay each one according to his work.” He exhorts us, therefore, who believe in him with our whole heart, not to be careless about any good work. (The Apostolic Fathers, ed. Michael W. Holmes, 2nd ed., Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1989, pp. 29, 46-47, emphasis mine.)
High expectations and even a sense of pressure from such expectations are not a new phenomenon, but are part of ancient Christianity (and ancient Judaism). If that really bothers you, you'll need to take it up with the Lord. There's a lot to do in this life. We're not here for constant vacation and games. Like Paul, we need to "press for the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14) and in this course, we must "not be weary in well doing" (Gal. 6:9). It's not self-flagellation, but seeking joy for ourselves and those around us as we serve the Lord with all our hearts.

37 comments:

Pops said...

I gained a new perspective on service after reading "Choosing Glory" by Lili Anderson - I highly recommend the book. [See lilianderson.com]

The insight is that there are three kinds of service: telestial service, terrestrial service, and celestial service.

Telestial service is usually self-serving, even sometimes in odd ways. Suffering an abusive spouse in silence is telestial, for example.

Terrestrial service is more like housekeeping and administrative stuff, perhaps making life easier for others in some ways. The Savior admonished Martha for being too focused on terrestrial service.

Celestial service moves people forward in their spiritual progression. It usually involves doing things for others that they are unable to do for themselves. It blesses their lives in a manner similar to how God would bless them.

Sometimes it seems like we become too focused on doing terrestrial things. We can't become more like God, and thus closer to the celestial kingdom, by doing more and harder terrestrial service. That just burns us out. [Note to jackg - I'm not saying that our works save us. Only Christ saves.] Or, to state it another way, the lives of others aren't blessed by our terrestrial service. Sometimes we should ditch the frills and get about the work of helping others come to Christ.

In other words, don't get caught up in the thick of thin things, even if they're Church-related.

Mitch said...

I do see some Mormons living with a lot of guilt. Much of that guilt comes from the expectation to do all and be all.

I also see some Mormons dealing with depression. Again, that depression comes from the expectation to have everything in order.

Does the gospel bring joy? Yes. Why then the guilt and depression? Some comes from our own false expectation to be like the perfect church leaders. President Monson never looked at Sister Diaz's bottom for more than two seconds. He always had his heart locked with purity. Always.

Some of it comes from the false expectation from our leaders. They tell us to attend the temple aften, but don't tell us how many times in one year is enough.

I can see both sides of burden and joy.

Jared said...

Thanks for your post. I've never found church service to be a burden. Yes, it is inconveniencing at times but not burdensome. I've found that the more I "have" to do for church, the happier I am. Without church, mutual, choir practice, home teaching, taking the sacrament to the elderly, studying, reading scriptures, teaching, and so forth, I don't know what I'd do with my time! Certainly nothing as meaningful or important.

Very few of us returned missionaries ever see our missions as a big sacrifice. I know some do but they are a minority. The same is true for other callings we might have. In the end, the Church is what matters. It matters because it is so inextricably tied to family. The church and family go hand in hand. Church service is family service, even if it takes us away from our families at times.

I've thought about this topic a lot recently, I even wrote a post recently on my gospel blog about a similar topic.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I'm predisposed to anxiety (read: I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder) and it's very easy for me to look at church service this way: One long todo list, a list of things that, once done, will guarantee me the love and appreciation of others.

Naturally there's not much room for a relationship with God in that picture. I struggle with this every day, so I really feel for your "critic."

Many members of the church have similar struggles. The important thing is: That way of looking at things is not the gospel, and never has been. Some people realize that, many don't.

You mention taking things up with God almost flippantly, but seriously, that communication through the Holy Ghost is absolutely needed; it helps us separate the truths about all from the truths about self.

John said...

And, being involved in the community and civic affairs. That, too, is required by this gospel. Fast offerings were mentioned, but how about the fast, itself? That is required, as well.

"Let us all press on . . ."

Paul said...

Three comments:

1. Jeff, thanks again for these thoughts. As I read, I thought of yet unanswered questions I posed to one of your ex-Mormon readers about works. He maintained, as I recall, that he didn't oppose works, but suggesting that works precede grace; instead the works should grow out of our faith. As I thought about my own experience (and I'm guessing most of the previous commentors to this post), the "works" are NOT a burden precisely because they grow out of our faith and our desire to please God.

2. When we come away from church feeling guilty, I think there are two possible reasons: First, perhaps we have sinned and have something to feel guilty for (Alma taught his son Corianton that guilt is good if it motivates us to repent, and after repentence the guilt serves no purpose anymore); Second, because we lack faith. Now I'm not encouraging people to feel guilty for not having enough faith, but suggesting that if we as a church want to uplift people as it relates to the "burdens" of membership, then we need to take steps to build faith, so that their "works" can, in fact, grow out of their faith, and the two can be mutually sustaining.

3. Mitch, I would posit that depression is distinct from guilt. Depression is generally related to brain chemistry, and "snapping out it" is often not possible for one who so suffers. Overcoming depression may well need to include some repentance (see #2), but it may also require other therapies.

Jeff, thanks again for the thought starters.

P

Paul said...

Sorry, I wrote poorly in my first of three comments. To be clearer, my recollection is that the reader did not oppose works per se, but what he opposed was the suggestion that works precede grace.

Sorry not to have been clearer.

Anonymous said...

Jeff,

You honor me with your response, but nobody alleges that I'm an ex-Mormon.

Could you please explain what you mean by the "checklist mentality?" You use checklists now and did so especially when you were a missionary and a bishop. How does one use checklists without somehow internalizing them? How have you avoided that in your experience? Checklists are inevitable when a bureaucracy quantifies things, even spiritual things, apparently.

Do you think that I'm exaggerating about the prevalence of feelings of guilt and inadequacy among the members of the Church? Is it all their own fault? Is it a fruit of the Spirit?

Zealously serving God and keeping his commandments is a fine thing, but the issues I raised have to do with quantifying service to God after surrogating it with a list of prescribed expressions. Pops hit the nail on the head by comparing it to telestial service. Members of the church often conflate it with celestial service, and you didn't exactly disentangle the two in your post.

Your right about life being full of quotidian chores. You appear to justify the proliferation of church checklists by juxtaposing them with the mundane. Some people would seek a respite from the mundane in the spiritual. What did Jesus mean when he said come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden...for my yoke is easy and my burden is light?

Paul said...

Jared,

You've never found church service to be a burden. I'm impressed. I have served faithfully for many years on a lot of ways, and I've generally served happily and often at considerable personal sacrifice.

And some days it has been a burden.

On those days, however, I have often felt the love of the Savior lifting me up and strengthening me, filling in the gaps, as it were.

It is sometimes when we go to the very edge of what we think we're capable of that we then finally see the hand of the Lord in our lives in a way we otherwise might have missed.

P

Anonymous said...

Speaking of checklists, is there one for apologetics? It would say something like 1) Impeach the witness ("allegedly an ex-Mormon"), 2) establish plausibility through parallels (church assignments:eternal life::flossing:life), and 3) appeal to early church fathers. As far as number 3 goes, what would Marcion have to say on this subject? "You don't like all the pressure? Take it up with the demiurge!"

Paul said...

Anonymous,

Did it ever occur to you that if you are not an ex-Mormon, maybe you're not the one he had in mind?

Anonymous said...

No, Paul. That didn't occur to me. When Jeff quoted my post, I assumed he was referring to me.

Clean Cut said...

The burden or joy of Church membership? I personally have felt and currently feel both. Thus, I can relate both. However, the good and the joy FAR outweighs the burdens I feel.

Jeremy said...

Throughout my years, I have realized that I have been the most happy when I was seemingly "burdened" with Church-related tasks.

I was blessed to teach early morning seminary for two years while in law school and simultaneously home teach a VERY needy individual who I drove everywhere and visited practically every day. As I look back, though, the Lord blessed me with peace of mind and joy. I would gladly be likewise "burdened" with Church assignments again if asked to do so.

Mormanity said...

Anon, sorry, it's hard for me to keep track of the identify of all the anonymous posters. Sorry I confused you for an ex-Mormon anonymous poster. I'll correct that, using strike-out to show the correction to reduce confusion.

The "checklist mentality" term described the idea that our service is something that is just a monthly checklist in which all past efforts count for nothing once a new month comes along. That's way beyond my experience. There are things that need repeated attention, home teaching and weekly meetings being obvious examples, but the sense of your words is just quite foreign to my experience in the Church.

As for the burden of helping our sons become Eagle scouts, first, that's not one of those monthly projects that is continually reset to zero. We've done it four times with our four boys - the last one was a close call, but it worked out. There was not an ounce of true pressure from the Church to do that, in my opinion, even though it's a great goal that the Church endorses. We had tremendous support from fellow Church members and the ward who helped our sons with their goals, but the boys and their parents would have been loved and accepted just as much if they had not made it to Eagle.

So many of the things you list are things that are or should be easy, valuable and even joyous, and clearly worth the effort to do, just like flossing. My reference to flossing is not nearly as trivial and flippant as some of you think. It's a vitally needed health habit that many overlook. I think it would be a good area to add a little pressure to people's lives, just as good dentists do to their patients.

When you walk out of the dentist's office or doctor's office, most people had better be feeling a little guilty and feeling a little pressure to add some more discipline to their daily routine - and that guilt and pressure is the kind they should keep paying for and renewing and accepting as healthy and vitally needed for their own happiness and health. It should not be taken s evidence that something is wrong with the dentist or doctor and that they shouldn't go back. See the analogy to the Church? It's a clinic for the spiritually ill. We get instruction and guidance to bless our lives. Since we may be falling short in some important areas, we feel a need to improve. That is very healthy if we act on it and strive to serve more, to overcome the sin in our lives, and to draw closer to the Lord.

"When I attended PEC or ward council, the bishop or his councilors would always talk about how we (themselves included) should do more to serve others. The self-flagellation never ceases." Recognizing the need to serve more is self-flagellation? A self-evident negative?

I think this is where I confused you for an ex-Mormon poster - my mistake, but at first glance it just didn't sound like a "current LDS" thing to say, at least in my cursory reading. The goal to follow Christ is one that will always leave us short and striving to improve, but to acknowledge the loftiness of the goal and our own shortcomings is not self-flagellation. I want to be in a Church whose service-oriented, self-sacrificing leaders, behind closed doors, share their private concerns about not serving enough, about not doing enough good, and set goals to follow Christ even more fully. That's exactly what I think should be happening behind closed doors in the Church of Jesus Christ--not politics or money grubbing. May every PEC and ward council be so afflicted!

Mormanity said...

As for checklists, well, they are a bit foreign to how I live. Maybe I'd be more efficient if I used them more. I live too spontaneously, perhaps (a euphemism for being disorganized), and prefer to focus on big projects while jumping as moved between all the other things that need to get done on the side. But I do have daily habits on top of all that where I strive to have family scripture study, prayer, etc., and weekly habits like a date with my wife and other things - all of which make my life better, not more tedious. Ditto for fasting, fast offerings (I'm grateful to have this system in the Church - it is not a burden but a blessing), feeding people, having friends over, and going to the temple when we can. These are great things to make my life richer and I'm glad the Lord reminds of them and encourages us to do them. Just as I'm grateful to one of my favorite professionals in Appleton, a man who has put more pressure and guilt on me than any bishop ever has--my dentist. And he, like my bishop, has made my life better for it. I'm so grateful I took his advice. yielded to his pressure and let the guilt trips take me somewhere better.

And again, the idea that a virtuous spiritual life doesn't count for anything if a monthly checklist isn't met just doesn't fit the Church I am in. I must be reading you completely wrong because it is foreign and bizarre to me. But you said, "A Mormon can obey the word of wisdom, keep the law of chastity, be honest, etc., but if they don't keep up on their monthly checklists, they don't measure up to the spiritual giants who saw God and angels." I just can't fathom that. It's the kind of thing that rings in my ears like accusations from people remote from the Church I love. Spiritual giants in the Church do not fade away because they miss home teaching for a month. Honest, charity, and kindness are what shape the character of human souls, not the latest monthly checklist. Maybe you've grown up in a petty or dysfunctional ward, but whatever gave you that impression is truly foreign to what I see and live in the Church. I'm sorry if I just don't get it.

On the other hand, a lifetime of good exercise, flossing, and healthy living can be wiped out by one night of indulgence with drugs or perhaps a semester of binge drinking, or one stupid mistake with a power tool, so there are areas where we just can't afford to let our guard down. Our spiritual lives seem to be a little more forgiving, but there are still risks. The lists of things to do or not to do are there for our benefit and blessing. That's the key, IMO.

ando49 said...

Hey anonymous. Are you an exmo or not? you didn't deny it, you just criticised Jeff for assuming so. Or are you a wanna be exmo?

If you are saying there are some really unenlightened leaders in the church who use the guilt trip method of motivating, then I have to agree that I've seen them, but fortunately they are becoming fewer and farther between. the brethren are aware of it and I have noted a conscious effort on their part to address it in training sessions. i made a conscious effort myself, in raising my children, not to put unrighteous pressure on them regarding church matters and i certainly don't use it in my church callings. i relate this to a recent anti-Mormon campaign that was mentioned in the FAIR monthly e-mail, in which evangelicals are putting up posters in Idaho appealing to young LDS women who may feel a lot like you. I think we Mormons are kidding ourselves if we think there aren't leaders and parents in the church who use unrighteous dominion to exercise control on their stewardship. I'm not sure if any of the readers on this site have studied the paper linking high Prozac use to Utah women, especially LDS women. when i read it, i vowed to lift my game with my attitude to women in and outside the church. there were some home truths in there that we thick skulled brethren need to acknowledge. anyway, i think there's room for spontaneous good works in the church and they are just as important as the checklist type, as long as the latter are done with the right attitude and not just to make the numbers.

Mormanity said...

Maybe we just have a more realistic approach to life out here in Zion 2.0, Wisconsin, where we want to do our best but know we can't try to run faster than we have strength. Experiences vary, but if your attendance at Church just makes you feel overwhelmed instead of excited at the prospects to grow, pause and consider how the Lord wants you to grow one step at a time. Don't shrink away from Him, but let Him take oyu by the hand and help you grow. It's a journey of many steps: see 2 Peter 1.

Anonymous said...

Ando49,

I'm not an exmormon or an exmormon wannabe. My criticism was that the use of the preface "allegedly an ex-Mormon" seemed like an attempt to poison the well. If not, then my mistake.

Jeff,

I'm actually glad that your experience is foreign to what I described. I like it when people find happiness in this or any church. Hopefully they don't find it in an oscillatory way through cycles of guilt and self-satisfaction, which is a house built upon sand.

I could have described my PEC experience in a little more detail. The bishop and his counsellors didn't just say repeatedly that we need to serve more; they said that we didn't serve nearly enough. There was an air of self-condemnation accompanying every meeting. That seems like prima facie evidence that they don't feel redeemed by the atonement. "Someday the atonement will apply to me, when I'm finally good enough. When I finally do everything I'm supposed to." Is that notion, whether expressed explicitly or not, also foreign to your experience? Asserting to people with young children that they don't do enough service is inane, to say the least. Parenting is 100% service.

Like most wards in the church, ours had home teaching rates of around 25-35%. So the stake president showed up one Sunday to fix that. He criticized the priesthood holders for 45 minutes. There was an icky feeling in the room that stayed for a few days. I recognize that feeling from my mission when I was confronted by "born again Christians." The high priest group leader who rarely did less than 100% home teaching went home and wept.

The church is in many ways a bureaucracy. On thing that bureaucracies have in common is that they try to expand control over things that they can't control. They do this by exerting even tighter control over the things that they already control. There is something wrong with scolding men who actually attend priesthood meeting.

I know some members of the church who can't function without guilt. It's the only thing that motivates them. I'm glad if that seems foreign to you.

Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 9:16,

Having now served in and thus sampled the conditions in sixteen wards across the western US and abroad, I have to also indicate, like Jeff did, that the conditions you describe are entirely foreign to all of my experiences as well.

However, I have some immediate family members who have certainly experienced things similar to what you describe.

To me, that indicates that the problems you describe are not inherent to the Church as a whole, but rather are each a local phenomenon - arising out of the imperfections of the members and leaders of the church rather than being an inherent consequence of the restored Gospel. As such, the existence of local problems in an imperfect world doesn't surprise me. Can it be challenging? Indeed. It certainly has been for some of my family members. Does it shake their faith in the Savior or their testimony that He is the one leading this, the only true and living church? No, it does not.

Just my .02. You may view it differently.

Creek said...

This topic hits very close to home with me.

I'm a high school teacher in Utah Valley (aka Happy Valley) near the BYU campus. About 90% of my students are LDS.

These kids are under enormous pressure to keep up with the expectations of the church. Many feel inadequate and lost by the time they are 16. Many turn to drugs, alcohol, and premarital sex to deal with the stress. I've counseled and tried to help dozens of kids who felt their lives were permanently scarred before they even graduated high school. Instead of compassion and love, many get lectures and humiliation from their church leaders.

I'm not LDS so please don't take this post as a lecture against all things Mormon. I'm just saying that the LDS kids I see are clearly feeling the expectations of the church. Not everyone wants to be an Eagle Scout!!

Creek said...

I'd like to add that I think the internet is having a huge impact on LDS kids here.

I know kids here whose ancestors came to this area in the 1800s. Their parents, grandparents, etc. grew up in this valley with little exposure to other beliefs. The average LDS kid in Utah Valley has a computer in his room that allows him/her exposure to beliefs taht are very contrary to what their parents grew up believing.

These confusing messages add to the burden these kids are experiencing. They wonder why Baptist kids don't become Eagle Scouts in the same numbers as their LDS friends. They wonder why Catholics are OK with consuming alcohol in moderation. They wonder if all the "works" are really worth it.

Anonymous said...

Church Membership can be both a burden and a joy.

As a 30 year old unmarried LDS male, I can say that the pressure to be married is huge.

When I returned from my mission and was dating a girl for a month, people were already asking, "When are you two going to get married?"

Fast forward to today. I have been on dates where the girl finds out that I'm 30 and asks me, "Why are you single? What's wrong with you?"

*sigh*

I could go on about some of the unnecessary pressures that the the Church, leaders, members put on other people.

However, I think the intent is good and noble because they want people to do the right thing.

I think its the delivery and tone dilutes the good intentions that our leaders and fellow saints have and can drive people away or drive people into making poor choices.

But then again, every faith exerts some kind of pressure on its faithful in some way.

Mormanity said...

To the Anon that I quoted in the original post, thanks for the reply. I hope I better understand where you are coming from. While what you've faced is largely foreign, I have encountered moments and occasional leaders where there was pressure being put on people that I felt was inappropriate. If things were like that all the time, then OUCH. Very sorry if you've had that a lot.

Maybe I've been lucky to have really compassionate, loving leaders most of the time. When I was serving in a bishopric in Atlanta and then as Young Men's President, I felt so new and inadequate in both callings as I realized how big the responsibility was. When I started to stammer and apologize to my seemingly super-human bishop, Devn Cornish, for my shortcomings, he just gave me the most loving, kind smile and said things like, "Brother Jeff, we're so grateful for what you are able to do. The Lord understands all this. Don't run faster than you have strength, stay close to your wife and family, and let the Lord help you with your challenges ...." I don't have the exact words, but that was the spirit of it - acceptance and love and a recognition that this is all volunteer, extra effort and every thing we do is appreciated. Not a guilt trip!

I get that same kind treatment from our Stake President now that I'm a new High Council member. I feel inadequate because it's such an open-ended calling and my time is so taken up with other things (uh, please don't let on that I blog for several minutes a week!!), but he treats all of us inadequate beings with such love and kindness. We hear constant gratitude for the service we are rendering, and only the most gentle and tactful reminders of opportunities to improve. His loving approach inspires me much more than berating ever could.

Mormography said...

Group identification is universal to the human condition. Part of this is defining who is in the group and who is not and why. Mormanity defined Mormon has someone who has had the positive experiences that he has had in the LDS church. Anyone that has not had the positive experiences that he has had must be outside of the group. Members of the group tend to seek validation. So how could a member of the group suddenly choose not to be a member of the group? Suggesting that the group is flawed (doctrine of infallibility?) is anathema; ergo the individual must be flawed and should be treated with hostile sarcasm.

As we mature we become much more self aware. Maturing we develop an understanding of our group tendencies. With this understanding would not the more mature response be that neither our group nor those that leave our group are defective, but rather there exists different unique groups for different unique individuals?

Georgia said...

Because of my doubts about several Mormon concepts and the refusal to follow the herd mentality I feel ostricized from the church.

Great friends who went to my Mormon baptism wouldn't dare call me now because there must be something wrong with me. I must have some terrible sin.

I am happy to say in this ordeal I have come to love Jesus even more. It's been a terrible ride and I don't wish to be mormonized but if through the struggle I came closer to Jesus then it could have been worth it.

One day I may walk into a nearby ward to see how everyone is doing but until then I will keep praying and reading the bible and being the best person I can be.

Mitch said...

Georgia, more power to you, but I find it strange that you don't have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. If one believes in Christ, they will believe in the Book of Mormon.

BTW, I wouldn't live my life to show up others. That would be a shallow life.

Anonymous said...

If you find a calling or anything else burdensome don't accept it. I recently accepted a calling as an Assistant Ward Librarian, and my wife as the ward Librarian. Now those may seem like nothing to you but for me just that little bit is a lot. Over the past few years I have gone to church maybe four times, this was not due to pressure, or sin, or any lack of testimony, rather I have Social Anxiety Disorder and that has prevented me from going. I wanted to go, and prayed often to have the strength to go but rarely was I able to overcome my feelings of anxiety and I felt as if I could contribute nothing because of my handicap. This calling however gives me a reason to be there as well as putting me in a situation where it is mostly just my wife that I have to deal with, yet at the same time helps me to feel as if I can contribute by attending. I feel very strongly that callings if viewed in a proper light and if accepted will never be a drain on the person but will always be a way for them to be uplifted and to learn a lot from it. Just my two cents.

Paul said...

Anonymous (1210am, Feb 7),

Your experience is a great example. Thanks for sharing it. The scriptures teach that we all have different gifts. Further they teach us that there are different seasons in our lives. It is completely acceptable for us to recognize where we are in our lives and what we can do, and to share that view with those who invite us to serve.

When I was in a position to extend callings, it was helpful to me to have a coversation with people about their ability to serve. Sometimes people where embarrassed to decline a calling when doing so would have been in their best interst, and I admired the courage of those who spoke up.

I believe the Lord does not want us to feel burdened by service to Him as so many have said. And a sensitive leader will work hard to understand how to help that happen. That has been my experience.

Anthony said...

@ Anonymous 8:11PM, 2/5/10,

I heard that the movie "Logan's Run" is actually a metaphor for LDS singles wards.

Roxy said...

I testify that God commands us to serve Him and our brothers and sisters. I admit, sometimes I just don't want to do it, especially when it's for someone I can't stand very much, but I must do it anyway. I know that when I serve Him, I am not only helping myself, but the people I am trying to help as well. I personally need a whole lot of work to keep me busy because I can get easily distracted and Satan is always waiting for a chance to get my mind of those things and tempt me. Having a calling also helps me be less selfish and really tests me in many ways. I HATE speaking in public, let alone being seen in public, but gong to church, talking to my brothers and sisters and helping anyone just makes me realize that I CAN do something with His help. I feel good knowing that I did something good or right. And I know that God does too. He knows why I need to have a calling or need to be tested this way better than I do. I do know that it can help me. If it weren't for the missionaries being inspired to knock on my door, I might not have had the oppurtunity to have gotten baptized. If it weren't for all the sacrifice's people in our church make everyday, what would happen to our church? How could we have a chance to be saved? Thank You God for these blessings! I don't deserve them, but I need them :)

Anonymous said...

@ Anothony

"I heard that the movie "Logan's Run" is actually a metaphor for LDS singles wards."

That made me laugh really hard.

When the Bishop asks me to leave the singles ward...maybe I should be a runner. ;)

Strollerblader said...

There is no doubt that good works are a commandment for any Christian. Faith is an action word, and is shown by our works.

HOWEVER, we Mormons are frequently guilty of forgetting that grace is the most important concept and that we need to have faith in the atonement. Grace tempers those ToDo lists. Yes, we are supposed to do those things, but it doesn't matter how well we do those things as long as we accept the atonement, accept Jesus as our Savior, and then just keep enduring to the end. Grace applies *right now* in our lives, not at the end of our lives when we still haven't hit that "perfection" mark. It is in believing Christ and continuing to try to improve our works until the day we die that we are saved (and then for eternity, as we continue our journey to perfection). It's not the results that we produce, so much as the effort we put into them. Jesus' grace makes up the immense difference.

Mormography said...

Mitch,

Do you have any proof for the claim: "If one believes in Christ, they will believe in the Book of Mormon."

To prove the claim wrong one only needs a single counter example. Your claim is essentially calling everyone that declares themselves to believe in Christ, but not the Book of Mormon a liar or confused. Talk about hostility.

To help you understand your claim, imagine someone claiming: If one believes in the New Testament, they will believe in the Gnostic Gospels or the Apocrypha.

Mitch said...

Nice try but it won't work. If anyone believes in Christ they will also believe in the Book of Mormon. If you believe in Christ, but not the Book of Mormon then you don't understand Christ's teachings about the atonement. You might still be a believer in Christ, but clearly off the mark.

There is no hostility here. All you have to do is read the Book of Mormon, study it, ponder it, and then pray for guidance. That promise is a wonderful promise which is not tied to any dark thinking from man.

I don't have a problem with anyone reading the apocrypha and getting some truth out of it because Joseph Smith said that some truth can be found in it.

Mormography said...

Mitch,

What won’t work? Thank you for clarifying your claim for me. If someone believes in Christ, they will believe in the Voree plates as well as the writings of Jevoha Witnesses, and Seventh Day Adventist, etc. If someone believes in Christ they will believe in the Chronicles of Narina, as they contain similar Christian themes. Thanks for clarifying.

Anonymous said...

Mormons HATE it when Evangelicals deny that Mormonism is truly Christian, due to it's "unique" teachings, but I've heard several Mormons make this ridiculous assertion that "if you REALLY believe in Christ, you WILL accept the BOM." Talk about hypocracy! I studied the BOM with an open, sincere heart(although I know your belief system will probably not allow you to believe my sincerity on this point). Putting aside the ridiculousness of things like the Jaredite barges, what disturbed me most was in a chapter all Mormons treasure: 3 Nephi. It projects the vengeful & barbaric Old Testament view of God onto Our Lord. The Jesus of the Gospels would bring healing & forgiveness, not destruction.