I haven’t got a really well thought out post ready to go this morning, so I’m just going to start writing and see where it goes. I’m going to start with short reflections on dementia, then talk about memory, then get to a Mo app in the last couple of paragraphs. Have you watched a friend or relative slowly sink into dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease? I have. It can be a slow-motion heartbreak, spread over several years of decline.
Memory. Here is my non-specialist observation: the whole sad process of dementia progression shows me how important, how integral, simple memory is to other aspects of life we take for granted: rationality, identity, even casual conversation. The stereotypical early manifestations are that an afflicted person can’t remember a word for this or that common object or the name of a familiar person. But before too long short-term memory loss intrudes on everyday conversation. The same stories re-told several times during a visit. Worse, an afflicted person has difficulty following the thread of even a simple conversation because they can’t recall what was said two or three sentences ago. Difficulty watching TV because one can’t follow the plot from scene to scene — the show doesn’t make sense. Difficulty reading because one can’t remember the flow of the discussion from page to page. Everything becomes disconnected.
Anxiety and Discomfort. Less obvious is the emotional confusion an afflicted person faces even in their own home, surrounded by what should be the familiar and comforting items in a living room or kitchen or bedroom. Here’s the thing: when you as a normal person walk into your living room, you don’t just see generic furniture, a chair and a couch, or a bookshelf of random books, or nice pictures of a family, somebody’s family, on the wall. You see a chair you bought five years ago at a particular store, a shelf of books each of which you have read or maybe plan to read, pictures on the wall of your family from a reunion or a vacation or some special event. It’s home: every object, even the little stuff, carries a load of memories and feelings. That’s what makes it home. Someone else’s living room has similar objects, but no memories or associations for you. A hotel room is even more bland. Here’s the rub. An afflicted person loses those associations. In their own home it’s like they are sitting in someone else’s living room, struggling to make some sort of connection with the items around them. It just doesn’t feel right anymore. It’s not home sweet home anymore. Even in their own living room, they cannot relax because they are just not comfortable in what has become, to them, a strange environment.
Pseudo-memories. It’s not just your memories of lived events and actual persons you meet and know that give you your rich sense of identify and context and life continuity. You learn all kinds of facts about the world and history that get poured into your mental worldview. You weren’t there for the Civil War and you didn’t meet George Washington and you didn’t accompany Pilgrims and Puritans settling New England in the early 17th century, but those and a thousand other facts are up there in your head, extending your personal memories to give you a larger sense of who you are and what your place is in the world. I’ll call them pseudo-memories. Beware, they are fallible. Most people have a somewhat flawed view of historical timelines and events. Some people have a grossly flawed view of the world.
Call it folk history if you want. You can probably recall reading something in a history or science book and going, “Wow, I missed that in school. I had no idea.” I’d even go so far as guessing with some confidence you had that reaction a time or two when reading LDS history, except you didn’t miss it in Sunday School or seminary, it just wasn’t taught there.
Alienation. Here’s where I’m going with this. Some Mormons, average or even super-dedicated members of the Church, find the right book or article or website or conversation with a no-longer-active friend and hit a few “Wow, I didn’t know that” reactions. For some, a certain sense of alienation sets in (a gentler word than betrayal or “I was lied to”) as this or that LDS narrative you grew up with gets rewritten inside your head. It’s like updating those faulty pseudo-memories about history or science that you somehow grew up with. But it’s not just a random or even mildly relevant fact or event that gets updated, it’s religion and belief and participation and commitment. As reality updating goes, updating your religious facts and beliefs has a much deeper effect. Some become, in a sense, an alien in their own church, which suddenly seems like a different church. I don’t particularly feel that way, but from reading many sincere online accounts, some people do.
Then for some people the familiar and comforting objects and practices and songs in church on Sunday lose that sense of familiarity. The home-sweet-home feeling many people get in LDS church on Sunday (even a different ward you are visiting) slips away. Instead, the Sunday experience becomes uncomfortable, even disturbing. Just like someone with dementia loses the rich and pleasant associations with the items in their own home, some people lose the pleasant associations with the standard items and practices at church. Familiar lyrics, when examined closely, become problematic. A familiar lesson you’re heard before a time or two is now troubling. Some people move from a sense of alienation to anxiety and discomfort and even anger. What am I doing here? Who are these people?
Again, I don’t really feel that way. I hear questionable stuff in a talk or lesson and I might roll my eyes or even make a correcting comment in class, but I don’t stomp out of the room (well, not very often) or vow never to return. Some can roll with the punches, others just can’t — and I’m not judging either way, just noting that different people react differently to that scenario. It’s similar to the work scenario you have probably experienced. At some point you realize you don’t really like your co-workers or your boss or the work you are doing. Some people soldier on for a year or two or three (good paycheck? tough to find another job? easy commute?) and other people look in the mirror one morning and say, “I can’t work here another day” and that’s it. They quit, that day. Not judging either way. It’s just that different people make different choices.
Conclusions. So what I called reality updating, the process of replacing your fallible pseudo-memories with better ones, can be painful. We don’t like to admit we were misinformed or even bamboozled. Some people refuse to update and instead double down on or even spin fanciful sets of unfounded facts to reinforce their initial but faulty beliefs. The whole American Trump experience shows how deep and pervasive this latter reaction can be. One can’t help but generalize. It’s easy to critique someone else’s conspiracy theory but (uncomfortable thought) we may be blind to our own little versions thereof. Know thyself.
Maybe a better issue for discussion is alienation. How comfortable or uncomfortable or totally agitated are you in LDS church on Sunday? What changed the game for you? Alternatively, how or why did you remain comfortable in the pews or classes after doing some of your own personal LDS/reality updating? Again, I’m not judging either way. It’s like with the work scenario I alluded to earlier. Some people soldier on for years, other people walk out the door one Friday afternoon and never come back (and of course some people are perfectly happy there). In church, are you a “sure, there are some issues but it still feels like church home” kind of person, or are you a “open up the gates of the church and let me out of here” kind of person? Or are you an “I love church on Sunday, what’s your problem?” kind of person?
I can really identify with the “alienation” part of the post. It took me 72 years but it finally came on stronger and stronger as I participated in church. I had done all of the usual mormon things: baptized at 8, Aaronic priesthood at 12, Elder and missionary at 19, temple marriage and all of the usual callings throughout all my life. It felt right. Then it didn’t. I disagreed with the words of the hymns, I hated the regurgitation of Conference talks, none of it felt right to me.
I notified the Bishop that I would not be conducting the music in Sacrament meeting, I would not be Home Teaching nor would I be teaching High Priest group. I continued to attend and pay tithing for about 6 more months and then, finally I was done. No more attendance torture, no more tithing.
What a change it has made for my life. I feel free and have a totally different outlook on life. I am happy with my life and love how my life is now. At last I am free!
I love church on Sunday. It’s not a burden (His burden is light). The Gospel of Jesus Christ is taught. I renew covenants and remember Christ. I strengthen friendships. I sing praises to God. I repent and pray. Church is part of my efforts to keep the sabbath day holy. Some Sundays are better than others at church for a variety of reasons, but church is definitely the place to be on Sundays.
I look at all the knowledge and experiences I’ve gained over the years, much of it with the aid of the Holy Ghost, and at all the stuff that doesn’t quite jive (at least not initially in many cases) with what I was taught originally. Although I am left with a number of questions, I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that what I know motivates me more than what I don’t know. Overall, I find my position quite reasonable.
I’d say I’m blend of the first and third questions. I feel at home at Church, despite the real or apparent problems, but I also grow less judgmental of the former believer as time goes on. Life is complicated. I sometimes wonder if the Lord places nearly the same emphasis on mortal experience in general as He does on obtaining truth. Experience comes in many forms.
And yet, I mention question three because I do often give in to the temptation of thinking “If only they had experienced what I have.” The reality is none of us will experience exactly the same thing as another, with the exception of the Savior. There is some frustration in that, but it ultimately ends up making me a little less judgmental towards my brothers and sisters.
Cleaning up a nasty diet – too many simple carbs, too much red meat, Diet Coke , I.e. the usual Mormon dietary sins, WoW notwithstanding – and 2-3 good bouts of cardio & resistance exercise weekly will do wonders for a clear head and good memory. I’d also advise consumption of organic black coffee & green tea but, you know …
I listened to two “Faith Matters” podcast recently (with Patrick Mason, with Brian McLaren). Both touched on the progression of faith from simplicity to complexity to perplexity to harmony (I couldn’t recommend these podcasts enough– they are fantastic). I know there are several variations of this “progression of faith” out there. Patrick Mason was asked about how he dealt with (at church) members who are at different stages of their faith journeys. For example, you are in sacrament meeting, and someone gives a talk based on very simplistic, binary perspective: someone who is deep in perplexity will probably not get a whole lot out of it (or may struggle with it). Likewise when it is the other way around. But we can take people where they are, love them for where they are in their journey, possible be a catalyst and a mentor when progress beckons people forward. My wife has a friend in our ward, an older, very traditional and orthodox woman, stuck at simplicity after 75 years. Yesterday my wife (you would likely call her a progressive Mormon) was talking to this woman on the phone, and somehow a discussion of women’s issues (female ordination, the exodus from the church of young women, etc.) came up, and my wife expressed ideas that to this women were at first radical and scary to her. But they ended up having a wonderful conversation, as they are loving, longtime friends with much trust between them. My wife said to me this morning that she thinks her friend is “thinking about what they talked about.” That is progress. We all need each other, no matter what stage of faith we are in. That, to me, is what the Church is for.
I feel at home when I enter the church. I still love the hymns. I love the primary music. I sometimes wish a few of the words could be changed.
Some Sundays I am uncomfortable with the topics of the talks, or how they are addressed. I love a good discussion in classes and I often speak up to present or support a wider variety of views. I love being part of a community.
I do get tired of the conference talks. It helps me alot to give myself permission to be me rather than submitting to authority. If I don’t feel comfortable with any talk in sacrament or conference talk, I read other things on my phone, or if I am at home I turn it off or leave. I have found if I don’t do that my situation of feeling bad can be aggravated or extended. I choose not to allow that.
I give myself permission to try again another time. I no longer tell my children what to think or do. I listen and respect their thoughts and individual plans.
I make sure my children and other people in my life know that I have my own views separate from the true or false narrative you often hear at church. I want other people to know they are free to think and believe what they want and that they can share their thoughts with me and feel safe to do so.
In some ways church is very different for me than it used to be. But in other ways I have simply broadened my understanding and I choose to love and include those who think more simplistically.
I have little tolerance for people throwing their authority around. This is a trauma response. It does change my memories and comfort level at church. I avoid contact with authority. I call leaders by their first names in my mind and sometimes in person.
Picturing them as they were as children sometimes helps me remember they are just imperfect people. This helps my trauma response. I choose not to think if them as in authority over me. Instead I turn to God and my own personal authority for answers and direction when I need it. I don’t let their authority get between me and God.
To answer one of your questions: yes, I am uncomfortable in any COJCOLDS setting and therefore I avoid those settings. Even our “neighborhood” parties and socials are run by ward leaders even though everyone is invited. This is one of the advantages/disadvantages of living in Utah.
I really try to practice what I preach by accepting others with respect to their religious beliefs. So now that I no longer believe in the truth claims of the COJCOLDS, the challenge for me is to not judge those who do. After all, I used to be a very reliable TBM so it would be utterly hypocritical of me to go after others for believing what I once believed not that long ago. If I don’t want my TBM friends judging me for leaving, I can’t really judge them for staying.
But I admit there is one thing that really bothers me living in Utah: temples, temples, temples. You can’t miss them if you live anywhere in Utah County or SL County. Living in Sandy, I can literally see two from my back deck and I can see 5 or 6 in a day without trying if I drive anywhere near I-15 or 215.
Members of the COJCOLDS have a right to build their houses of worship like everyone else in America. But here in Utah it’s just in your face everywhere you go. And for those of us no longer affiliated with the religion, it’s a constant reminder of many negative things (which I won’t get into here).
Again, I may no longer be comfortable in church on Sunday and that is why I don’t attend. And I can respectfully cohabitate with members of the dominate faith. But with these buildings all over the place I can hardly be accused of “leaving the Church but not leaving it alone”. I’d love to, really.
I continue to attend Sacrament meeting so my DIL and grandkids don’t sit alone.
On the one hand, I think it would be nice to stay home, but on the other hand it might feel really weird. I don’t really have a testimony of the church. Our meetings seem more centered around the institution rather than focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rare is the talk or lesson about Jesus’ s teachings and example. My view of the church began to change when, in an effort to learn why one of my neighbors was telling her son our church was a cult, I went to our local library to see if there might be anti-Mormon books there. What I found was a book about Emma Smith— “Mormon Enigma.” Not a anti- Mormon book, but I learned a lot.
The Prop 8 campaign propaganda taught in our Stake was the last nail in the coffin for my husband’s involvement with the church, (in addition to building an upscale shopping mall and apt/ condos). The ward he grew up in started the damage— treating his family as 2nd class because his dad was not a member..
One of my children was alienated from the church while attending college due to the judgmental attitudes of leadership and some members. (He had the nerve to date and bring a nonmember to church activities).
Another one of my children just couldn’t relate/ experience claims of spiritual experiences and revelation.
Too often the church preaches/ teaches one thing but does another. It more resembles a multilevel marketing business. Too narrow, too judgmental etc etc.
One more thing….
My father died from dementia 20 yrs ago. Living on the east coast, I only got to see him a couple of times/year. He became non- verbal so I couldn’t even talk on the phone to him. He didn’t remember me. But I do remember whenever he heard church hymns he would perk up and try to sing along.
I had a relatively gradual faith transition in my college/mission days and have chosen to continue to actively participate in the Church even though my beliefs don’t align with Church teachings in many areas. I am accustomed to hearing talks and lessons with parts that I don’t agree with–I can kind of roll my eyes and “go with the flow”. Even so, I am frustrated that ultra-orthodox viewpoints are tolerated in Church services while more liberal or questioning ideas are not. In the last year, I can immediately think of three instances of this in 2nd hour lessons:
1. In a lesson on eternal marriage, a member of the ward went on a five minute rant justifying why it was the right thing for him to choose not to attend his lesbian sister’s gay wedding and suggesting that the rest of the ward should do the same thing in that situation. (I don’t think that the Church has asked members not to attend gay weddings recently–yes, I’m aware of some of Oaks’ past comments, but those were awhile ago and haven’t been repeated to my knowledge.)
2. I can’t even remember what the lesson was supposed to be on, but a ward member decided to share her thoughts on why God doesn’t want women working outside the home. (Top Church leaders haven’t actively taught this in decades, and we now have some wives of the Q15 that have had real careers.)
3. We had a Sunday School teacher who would repeatedly (every lesson he gave) present one or two ideas as fact, even though they are kind of fringe or shaky apologetic arguments. I actually stayed awake during his lessons because I wanted to hear what crazy thing he was going to say that week. I actually wouldn’t have a big problem with it if he would preface these ideas with “Well, here’s some idea I found from XXX source. It’s not official Church doctrine, so take it with a grain of salt…”, but he never did that. He always just came out with them as though they were facts. I know that many ward members consider him to be a great “scriptorian” due to all of these special “gospel truths” that only he knows about. One example is that he explained that the temple endowment is actually contained within the Bible and/or Book of Mormon because there were prophets who received the endowment through an “embrace” with God or Jesus described in the scriptures which he claimed was the exact same ritual embrace in the Mormon temple endowment. This, of course, clears up the mystery about how the endowment is a required ordinance for salvation, yet it appears nowhere in the Book of Mormon or the Bible (because, according to him, the endowment actually is in the Book of Mormon and/or Bible with these “embraces”). That’s just one example of the types of things he teaches–there’s always at least something very questionable taught every week. I personally find them interesting–at least it’s not the vanilla Come Follow Me lesson–but I am troubled that he isn’t letting people know that these are kind of his own thoughts and ideas that aren’t official Church beliefs.
These are three examples from the last 12 months from 2nd hour lessons where members were able to express beliefs that are more orthodox than the Church’s official stances. I guess I have no way to be certain of this (other than the teacher in #3 continues to teach the same types of things), but I seriously doubt any of these people faced any repercussions for making such comments. Let me give you 3 examples of comments of my actual beliefs that I could potentially make in 2nd hour lessons that I suspect could easily land me in the bishop’s office:
1. I don’t believe the Church has things right on LGBTQ issues yet. I have two people very close to me who are gay who have been deeply hurt by Church policies. I pray daily that the Church will change its policies/doctrines to allow LGBTQ people to participate equally in the Church. Despite what Oaks said awhile ago, I think family members should attend their relatives’ (and friends’) gay weddings to show their love and support for them.
2. I think that it’s great that women in the Church can now feel free to prayerfully decide whether or not to pursue a career. Remember when Uctdorf said, “To be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes.” I think that Church leaders railing against working women in the 80s and 90s was an example of how sometimes Church leaders are wrong just like Uctdorf said.
3. The temple endowment is something I really struggle with personally. The lack of any evidence for its existence in the Bible/Book of Mormon is one of the reasons for this struggle.
In other words, comments in Church that go beyond Church teachings/doctrine are tolerated as long as they support Church teachings/doctrine, but comments in Church that express any questioning or doubt towards Church doctrine/policies are likely not going to be tolerated for very long (not in my ward, anyway). This reality is frustrating to me and makes me feel uncomfortable and out of place in Church.
Good post. I watched my father and my grandmother slowly fade away as a result of dementia. I assume I will eventually suffer the same fate, which terrifies me. As someone who is far more comfortable in my own head with my memories and imagination than I am in the exterior world, I imagine slowly losing touch with my most comfortable place (i.e. within myself) will be a particularly daunting challenge.
As far as my comfort level with church, these days, it’s not bad. I’ve essentially realized that most church teachings/church versions of history are lies/”faith-promoting” stories. Far from being troubling, I’ve actually found letting go of all of that crap really relaxing. I feel really badly for the people at church who are clearly clinging to the ridiculous stories because that’s all they’ve known and they would have no idea what to do if they lost the “truth” of those stories. I don’t feel sorry for people who are clearly zealous true believers. I don’t judge anyone for where they are on their faith journey, but after my letting things go, I find super zealous people a bit annoying. Especially when they tell definitively debunked stories of Mormon “history” as a way to promote the faith of others. Fake stories don’t lead to truth and never have. And I can’t really embrace anything about fundamental Mormon theology these days because of its misogynistic, anti-LGBTQ elements and because the B of M is (of course among many other things, some of which aren’t terrible) both racist and fiction (i.e., not “true” in the way that the church claims).
I have read the post and the comments and want to share a few thoughts. I have seen the Faith Matters podcasts that Faith over Fear talked about and got the same thoughts that he shared. I have read Brian McClaren’s book “Faith After Doubt” a few years ago in which he details his faith journey and describes the four stages discussed in those Podcasts and I saw something in me that I needed to learn and that was to accept people in their own faith journeys. I would probably fall into the perplexity group. I have also learned the value of the saying that “Discretion is the better part of valor” in dealing with the ward members who tend to be in the simplicity stage and aren’t afraid to remind others that their view is the only correct one and could get into a good argument with them but that would no good purpose so I don’t.
People! You are the best. These discussions just keep getting better. That is all.
Testimony Meeting is quite agitating for me – we have a gal aged 50+ who literally stands up there for 10 minutes and also a pre-teen girl who has been well trained (brainwashed?) at home. Both are frequent fliers so it’s my cue to go to the bathroom. My priesthood attendance is based on advance knowledge of the conference talk up for discussion that day.
Are the bishops of today pulling people into their offices when they find out they are offering their sincere opinions about certain church policies or doctrines? What does the bishop say? Does it happen a lot? Does he just try to help the member better understand where the church stands on things, or what the official policy or doctrine is?
@bwbarnett: “Are the bishops of today pulling people into their offices when they find out they are offering their sincere opinions about certain church policies or doctrines?” Yes. I can think of one example off the top of my head. A few years ago (a little bit before the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage), a family in my ward had a teenage son come out as gay. As the family was starting to figure out how to handle this, the mother posted a brief message on Facebook indicating the she personally felt that gay marriage should be legal. I saw this message myself, and there was no mention of the Church *at all*–she just indicated that she felt gay marriage should be legal. Some ward members took it upon themselves to report this Facebook post to the bishop. This mother and father were subsequently called into the bishop’s office and when they wouldn’t back down from their belief that gay marriage should be legalized, the bishop released them both from their callings and pulled their temple recommends (I don’t think they were disfellowshipped, but not sure). I know this is what happened because the bishop went through the whole story with the ward council the following Sunday, and I was in that meeting (this is the bishop’s side of the story–so much for ecclesiastical privacy). The bishop made it clear in ward council that he disciplined them because they believed that gay marriage should be legalized–not because of any other issues they had with the Church (for example, they weren’t advocating that gay people should be allowed to be sealed in the temple–they weren’t advocating for the Church to change at all). Ironically, the GA over our area made an announcement a few months later stating that it was perfectly fine for members of the Church to support the legalization of gay marriage, and our bishop had to hurry over and return this couple’s temple recommends (although he complained in ward council how “none of this would have happened had the couple been more humble and submitted to their priesthood leaders”.). This couple and their family continued to attend Church for awhile, but they eventually just stopped coming within 12 months of being disciplined by the bishop. I don’t want to demonize this bishop. He actually had quite a few good character traits. However, he totally did the wrong thing in this case.
“What does the bishop say?” I think this depends on who your bishop is–it’s bishop’s roulette. Some bishops might just talk it over and maybe ask the member to keep their ideas to themselves to not become a distraction to others while more orthodox bishops might discipline the member.
“Does it happen a lot?” I am aware of a fair number of cases of social media policing by members. I can’t think off the top of my head of a case of this happening in an actual church class, but then again, when do you actually hear people express any sincere, but unorthodox, opinions in Church lessons? I think everybody (at least here in the Mormon Corridor) simply knows that is a big no-no, so they don’t do it. I’m quite confident that if I were to make some comments about LGBTQ issues, women working, or the temple endowment like I listed in my comment above, that the same tattletales that reported the Facebook post of the woman whose son came out as gay to the bishop would report my comments to the bishop as well. I’m also confident that some members of my ward would shun me for making such comments. Since that’s the case, I just keep by mouth shut! As I mentioned above, though, it doesn’t feel fair that I have to remain silent while the very conservative members of the ward are allowed to freely express all of their opinions that go well beyond actual Church doctrine/beliefs–the guy who advocates not attending a family member’s gay weddings can rant all he wants against LGBTQ people without fear of repercussions while I must remain silent. Some religions (I understand some Jewish congregations are like this, for example) allow for more lively discussions in their meetings where people can be free to express their beliefs without fear of being shunned or disciplined, but Mormonism definitely isn’t one of them.
“Does he just try to help the member better understand where the church stands on things, or what the official policy or doctrine is?” It’s just bishop roulette. If you are unlucky and have the wrong bishop, you may lose your calling or temple recommend, be disfellowshipped, or worse.
If your beliefs line up with the Church’s teachings, then Sunday lessons are just fine, but if you have questions or doubts, it’s probably best to just keep your mouth shut if you want to stay out of the bishop’s office and avoid being shunned by fellow ward members. It’s really not the greatest feeling to have to keep everything in all of the time, thus my participation on blogs like W&T. You’ll notice that I, and many others here, keep our identities hidden on W&T so that fellow ward members–and the SCMC–won’t find out what we really think.
The only way to change this in your ward is for more liberal people like yourself to speak up. Likely there are others in your ward that have the same concerns you do. If you were to speak up it might give them permission to say something another time. You could also be prepared to point out that certain facts aren’t in the lesson and ask for the teacher’s source. Be prepared to offer your own scriptural sources supporting your comments.
If this is too uncomfortable maybe you could mention to the Sunday school president that you want to make comments in class but feel concerned that different points of view aren’t tolerated. Everyone needs to feel welcome at church regardless of their politics and views. Ask them to make room for you and you may help make room for others. Your silence can only perpetuate the situation
Well-written and thought-provoking post, Dave B. ‘Alienation’ is a different way of labeling the process of your feelings changing. I especially liked the way you described feeling like a stranger in contexts where you used to feel at home. That certainly describes how bizarre and terrifying it was to go to the temple – I remember leaving a session in tears once, and this was after years of wonderful temple experiences.
are you an “I love church on Sunday, what’s your problem?”
This was me for most of my life, up until my 40s. I had Church friends and felt energized (most weeks) to be at Church. This was especially true when I had very young children and was a SAHM; Church was my best place for meaningful adult conversation about non-kid topics. I still remember the shock it was to get called to the nursery when my life was already nothing but tiny children. I prayed about it and accepted the calling, lasting a year before I had a complete breakdown about being the nursery and then not holding a calling at all for a couple of years. My dedication to being obedient pushed me past my limits. I should have turned down that calling.
“sure, there are some issues but it still feels like church home” kind of person. I got to this place when moving into the ward I’m in now. I went from a ward full of single moms and other non-ideal families to being the only (active) single mom in the ward again. I went from a ward stalwart to the ward service project and that was really hard.
or are you a “open up the gates of the church and let me out of here” kind of person?
Being a ward where I didn’t fit socially was where I reached the tipping point. Again, I was in my 40s and still trying to come to terms with my self-worth if I wasn’t married and didn’t even want to be married. I wanted to be married so I could fit in and be respectable, but I already knew I couldn’t tolerate actually being married. The idealization of wifehood caused me anxiety. I always wanted to be a good example, and like with the nursery calling, my desire to do everything I was supposed to do twisted my righteous desires into anxiety attacks and self-esteem problems. I kept trying to tell myself that this was a pride issue. I shouldn’t need to be one of the blessed and fortunate (married) Church members in order to feel good at Church, but I couldn’t make it work. I wanted acceptance and respect, regardless of my family situation. I had that in my previous ward where there were lots of divorced women. It was the pity that got to me. “Oh, that’s so sad you’re you; maybe God will fix you after you’re dead and you can join someone else’s marriage as a service project!” I struggled so much with my self-esteem anyway that being in an environment that agreed that I was pitiable was a bad idea. I was okay as long as I could have faith that I would meet The One sometime soon, but accepting that I wasn’t going to marry again, and feeling good about it, became incompatible with Church attendance.
@lws329: I’m not a person who is afraid to speak out in general. There’s been a big push for book banning in our local school district, and I have spoken openly at our school board meetings against banning these books. There was even a super politically conservative member of my ward (a QAnon believer, anti-vaxxer, Trump/MAGA fanatic) at the same school board meeting to speak in favor of book banning, and I was aware that they were going to be very unhappy with my viewpoint (and yes, afterwards, I did receive confirmation of their displeasure directly from them, and I am very proud of myself for responding in a very Christlike manner in this instance).
When it comes to my local ward, though, I’m not sure I want to go down the path of openly “opposing the brethren” in church (or social media). The 3 examples I gave were all in opposition to “the brethren”:
1. I don’t agree with the Church’s current position on LGBTQ issues.
2. Church leaders were wrong in the past to tell women to not have careers.
3. I have doubts about the endowment and don’t find Church leaders claims that the endowment is ancient to be convincing at all (Nelson has made this claim multiple times.)
If I were to express these feelings in church, I think you’re right that there are probably a number of other ward members with similar views (although I don’t know which ones), so saying these things could be a relief for them and help them feel more comfortable at church. So, yeah, there is certainly some potential good that could come from doing that. For #1 and #2, I’m not sure scriptural sources exist, at least nothing definitive. For #3, I think it’s probably safe to argue that I don’t see much scriptural evidence for an ancient endowment, but Nelson’s words would trump my opinion for most members. I’m not sure the SS President can do much for me when I complain to him that I don’t feel comfortable expressing my feelings about these 3 things in SS.
As Renlund said last GC, there simply isn’t room in the Church for people to believe things in opposition to the brethren. Yes, it may be brave of me to express my feelings, and it might help others. However, I really suspect that the end result is that a number of ward members would shun me and report me to the bishop. It’s likely that I would no longer be considered for positions in the ward other than nursery and chapel cleaning coordinator (no more teaching, no more working with youth, no speaking in sacrament meeting, some ward members would likely intentionally avoid me, etc.).
The OP asked how comfortable I feel at church. It is true that I don’t enjoy listening to conservative ward members express their viewpoints that go beyond the Church’s official positions while I am unable to express my true feelings, but I’ve learned to deal with this and can mostly just “go with the flow”. I think I may be a whole lot more comfortable in my ward by being silent than I would if I were to express my true feelings. In general, I am not the type of person to be silent when I disagree, but Church is the one big exception to this. I think I feel like I would like to continue to be able to participate in my ward as a “normal” member rather than a heretic/”wolf in sheep’s clothing”, and I just don’t think that would be possible if I were to express my sincere beliefs in classes (or on social media).
Mountainclimber 479 …Makes alot of sense, rather I like it or not…
I cannot understand the decision to remain in a community that is antithetical to one’s most profound values. If Heaven has “lesser” levels it cannot be Heaven but is merely Sauron’s reflection when he could still show a mien that was pleasing to men.
Thank you for the post and commenters.
I’ve been going through a belief transition for a long long time and it’s finally reached a stage where those beliefs are dead and buried and it’s been sad and a big loss really but I am also at peace with it. It’s made a bit easier because we don’t attend church often because the early start is difficult for my spouse but are able to tune in online for sacrament meeting. My spouse who still very much believes may want to try to attend in the new year when the time slot is more workable but I don’t trust myself in second hour to keep my mouth shut. I’m one of those types who finds it hard to leave it alone – I listen to lots of Sunstone history podcasts etc. I often feel angry and embarrassed at what I once believed. I now have such tender thoughts towards my mom, now gone, who was a convert and so taken by the idea of prophets on the earth again etc. She bore it alone with family and friends deriding her as she struggled to raise us with this ‘truth’. It really spoke to her yearnings. My earlier beliefs did help me raise children with good values but I also feel empathy for the struggles some of them must have felt when they dealt with their own disbelief. I like my ward and many of the people there so I will endeavor to keep my mouth shut and hold most of my thoughts to myself. Sometimes I have been outspoken and I know I probably alienated a few people. Polygamy was an evil practice that I’ll never get past, patriarchy and LGBTQ+ polices are the nails in the coffin.
There’s definitely a lot to process when one is open to learning about our church history from a larger perspective than the correlation we get at church.
I don’t think it necessarily needs to be either a “keep-silent” or “let-it-all-spill-out” approach, though.
My tendency was to bring up positive (and true) thoughts in such a way that it just brought a new perspective to the lesson. I tried hard to find ways of saying things that other people could hear, maybe even plant a seed.
Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question book by David Ostler
At Last She Said It podcast
Both have some good ideas, new perspectives.
It helps some people to know that Deseret Book sells the Bridges book.
LDS Living also has a good interview with the author.