Monday, June 23, 2008

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

I swear I must have a split personality.

We went to our new ward on Sunday. I felt really happy when we walked in. It's such a comfort to go anywhere in the world and have a ready-made family to go to when you arrive. You know that the three men sitting on the stand are the Bishop and his counselors; that Gospel Doctrine will probably be held in the chapel; that the Relief Society room is the one with the comfortable chairs. You know the Elders Quorum president can help you out if you need some heavy lifting done for your move. You'll be within one SS lesson of where you left off in your old ward. All those things were so nice. After Sacrament Meeting it turned out that the family who sat in front of us lived in the same subdivision we will be moving in to. They have a nine-year-old daughter. To find out if they would be in the same Primary class, my LDS-savvy nine-year-old daughter asked her when her birthday was. The child replied by giving the exact same date my daughter was born!

I felt completely at home in the ward. I answered a question in RS with a standard Mormon reply and I really believed what I was saying. I was invited to a book club group and promised to attend. I was deeply immersed in my Mormon brain, and everything was perfectly OK.

I don't know what to say. I want to get along here. I don't want to be the odd duck. I want to have validity in the ward. I want to be a nice Mormon mommy. I feel happy, I feel the Spirit when I spout the Mormon line. I know I can project a version of myself which will be welcomed and accepted here. So why do these things bother me:

  • The bishop gave a sacrament meeting talk on the importance of "the family."

  • The Gospel Doctrine teacher mentioned 3 times during the lesson that he was the former Bishop. In spite of this, he taught some very disturbing views of Alma 5, including the necessity for members to "forgive themselves," and that we are saved by "all that we can do."

  • The RS lesson was a talk by a GA which was given to a group of priesthood holders. Little was changed, except to note that as women, we could "apply it to ourselves," and a question was inserted in the middle somewhere about how could we encourage the brethren to magnify the priesthood.

  • The sisters meet monthly for a Deseret Book club.

Is it just the natural man which prompts me to dissect and criticize these aspects of my ward experience? I'm truly a kinder and a better person when I live the Mormon gospel. Why can't I excize the strange liberal being who doesn't want to eat red jello, live in a subdivision, vote Republican, or drive a mini-van? Why is there such a huge separation between the two of me? It seems that others on the Bloggernacle have somehow fused their diversity and their Mormon-ness, but not me. It's like I'm either completely Molly-fied or flaming radical. I'm standing on a barbed-wire fence longing to throw myself over to one side or the other. Instead, I painfully perch on the barbs, facing this way one day and that way the next.

Ouch.

32 comments:

Lucy said...

Isn't it odd though that in every ward there are "those people". The people from UT living on the East Coast who KNOW all of the answers and how to run the church and tell the "mission field" wards/branches what they are doing wrong....etc. I've had to learn that we are all just plugging along. Some people just HAVE to make themselves known and have that validation. Annoying though as it is, it is exactly the same in every single ward. I need to write a book about all I have seen in wards and branches and stakes. I wish I'd had a blog 50 years Make that 40. I'm not ancient! Yet.

Ann said...

Not sure what to tell you, except that if you really believe the standard Mormon answer to what you are saying, you are in really good shape on the belief side of things.
It used to be that the cultural stuff just drove me batshit insane (can I say that on your blog?) but any more the cultural differences are minimal compared to the belief differences.

You, my friend, can fit in without receding; you can belong without merging with the borg. You have a LOT to offer and I think a synthesis of your "selves" would be a welcome asset to any ward.

One of the things that I think we get really wrong is the idea that we have to behave a certain way to be acceptable. You are so smart and vivacious that I don't think you have to behave in any way other than how you feel comfortable in order to fit in. You are who you are. Buy a "Mormons for Obama" t-shirt and wear it to that book group. Do what you want. Don't do what you don't want (or recommend a different book - The Red Tent? Guns, Germs and Steel? - for your book group). Join the choir.

Reread Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's "Lusterware" if you need a reality check about what a ward is supposed to be like. Even when what they say drives YOU bat$h!t insane, you can remember that this is where you can practice the attributes of mercy and love unfeigned. If anybody can do that, you can.

Welcome home, my sister. I've missed you more than I can say.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Personally, I think maybe I've found my home right in the middle of that fence. I will never be Molly Mormon and though I may have some "flaming radical" tendencies, I don't feel I quite fit in with that group either. Sometimes I feel like I am a part of the new generation of post-1978 spiritual fencesitters. Since we now know it wasn't the blacks, maybe it's actually us liberal-minded Mormons. :)

I think Ann is right when she says that it's wrong to think we have to behave a certain way in order to be acceptable. This past week I ordered my first piece of political merchandise ever and dang it, it's an Obama shirt! :)

Tim said...

In the words of Susanne Sugarbaker "You think to much"--she said that to Charlene--it was a funny episode of Designing Women.
I don't always agree with everything said by local leaders. We had a Stake leader once that said charity begins outside the home and then we learn to be charitable to those we love. Hmm. I thought you would learn charity at home and then go out into the world and practice it--but what do I know since I'm not sitting on the stand.
Laurie is in UT right now and she went to Church with her parents. The SS teacher kept saying "When you all go on your missions" and her Dad said that the HP teacher asked for a show of hands of how many had been Mission Presidents! Granted her parents Ward has a high number of former Bishops, Stake Presidents and Mission Leaders--but sill. Laurie's Dad is a former Bishop and Branch President and Superior Court judge--but he doesn't brag about it and most people don't know it.
I know there are plenty of times that I smile, shake hands, listen and tell the teacher what a great job--but deep inside I just want to go home and be done with the whole day.
Just be you. Smile when you have to. Blog when you need to.

Bookslinger said...

How long did you guys live in Vernal? You've lived outside of the Intermountain West before, right?

I think you'll find it refreshing to be on the East Coast.

Just make sure you have your 72-hour kits, and all other emergency preparations. You've moved pretty close to Hurricane Alley. (You said Charleston SC, right?) It's possible you'll need to evacuate 100 miles or more inland with little notice.

And once an evacuation order is issued for a hurricane, don't delay, because the roads get clogged with traffic. You can't say "The storm is 4 hours away, so we have 2-1/2 hours before we have to leave." The evacuation routes get bogged down very quickly.

Bookslinger said...

And that thing about people needing to forgive themselves... That is a very logical thing for a bishop or former bishop to say.

One of the problems that bishops deal with is people confessing (or bringing up, or rehashing) the same thing over and over, because they haven't forgiven themselves. I don't know how common it is, but I've heard the same thing.

Sometimes bishops tell people that they need to forgive themselves because the Lord has already forgiven them, but they are holding onto the guilt.

The topic was treated by Spencer Kimball in "Miracle of Forgiveness" and he wrote basically the same thing. Once the proper church authority has given the person clearance to move on, the person needs to consider the matter closed.

Also, did you really hear "by all we can do" or "after all we can do" ? Nephi said "after", didn't he? And I've also heard that the "after" is not a time-relationship, but more combined with the subsequent word making the phrase "after all" more descriptive of the relative effect. That the effect of what we can do is nothing compared to the grace by which we are saved. [insert standard grace-and-repentance-and-commandment-keeping treatise here.]

Maybe you just had an uncharitable take on his words. The "doing" that is required on our part for forgiveness is repentence, no?

E said...

I hope this isn't too obnoxious, but I truly do not understand why it is so important that no one ever say anything or believe anything different than you do at church.

I constantly see similar laments on the bloggernacle and I just don't get it. So what if the GD teacher interprets some passage of scripture differently, or even unorthodoxly? Or if he seems to dwell on his past calling too much? So what if some of the women in the ward have literary tastes that you consider uninteresting or too limited or whatever? What is wrong with someone giving a sermon on families? Are you so intolerant that you can't abide worshiping with people who are more politically conservative than you are?

I understand that it can be hard when you feel you do not fit in, but really, is it possible you're projecting something onto these people that makes you think they are going to judge you so harshly? Maybe if you decide to like and accept them just the way they are, you'll realize that's how they feel about you too.

ixoj said...

good point, e.

Ann said...

Let me interject here in response to the "let's blame BiV" rhetoric. I don't doubt for one minute that she heard "by" rather than "after." I also don't think it's unusual for someone as thoughtful and articulate and wide-thinking as our BiV to feel a little out of place in an LDS ward. Seekers after the divine feminine aren't exactly commonplace among the saints, after all.

Part of what makes church such a crapshoot is how things are locally. You haven't really been there long enough yet to determine how things are locally. I think you can absolutely set the tone for your future in this ward by just being yourself. I repeat: you will be an asset to this ward. You are an asset everywhere.

Anonymous said...

It is nothing other than sad that anyone ever feels that what and who they are and what the sincere conclusions of their hearts and minds are should divide them from the communion of Christ.

This is not a world of people who are the same. I don't think it was ever intended to be by HF or the world would lose a wealth of talents and possibilities. The insistence on sameness and equating appearances with goodness is just the full flowering of the tyranny of the weakest and the lowest common denominator.

How could anyone ever doubt the gifts of intelligence and courage you've been given or the truth of your striving to be a good and true Mormon and a good and true woman? How could anyone ever ask you or anyone to be less that what they are?

anonymous alice

PS Welcome back to the US and the bloggernacle. Hope the long trip wasn't too grueling.

CatherineWO said...

I love the image of sitting on the barbed wire fence. I have often felt that way myself.
We moved into a new area seven years ago, at a time when I was emotionally fragile due to a major illness (my own) and a death in the family (my mother's). I didn't have the strength to do anything but go along with the crowd. I just really didn't open my mouth very much for that first year. Then, as I recovered myself and started to speak up and really join the community (both the LDS and the non), people were surprised and not all were accepting.
I really think it would have been easier if I had been what I am now from the very beginning. But then, we are all a work in progress, aren't we?

Bored in Vernal said...

Thanks for all the comments! About the SS teacher, perhaps I am a bit uncharitable. It really is something I need to work on. But believe me, there was some false doctrine going on. I'm thinking that perhaps because we are in the South, with a lot of "born-again" Christians, the Mormons here may be trying to emphasize works to distinguish themselves from those who believe that grace only is necessary for salvation. But if the pendulum swings too far, you get into murky waters. As for the "forgiving yourself," I have heard this before, and violently disagree with the rhetoric. Doctrinally, one CANNOT forgive oneself. Only Christ can forgive our sins. The former Bishop might more effectively use a phrase such as "trusting or having faith that Christ has atoned for the sin."

Now as for my "being myself," I know it is hard for some members to understand my position. I have been very close to those who have been excommunicated for much less than what I write on my blog. I value my membership. I also value being able to hold callings and to give talks and be influential in the ward. If you go in to a ward as a flaming radical feminist, you and your entire family can be immediately sidelined.

Additionally, I'm not always really sure where I stand, or who I am. As I said, when I put on my Mormon face, I believe what I am saying. I can live as if everything is literally true. I feel happy and peaceful. I don't know why I have my moments of rebellion. This is when I can clearly see the ambiguities that exist and all of the problems come to the fore. Maybe I do overanalyze or "think too much." Is that really "me," or is it just the "natural man" and I should be ignoring it and trying to stay sweet and Mormony?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you have seen that happen to friends. I never knew any of those women. I only knew of them and their courage.

Somehow I thought you were much younger.

Again, I'm sorry for that pain. But I can't help wondering what's wrong with an organization that makes people feel they must be something else to be "Mormony".

Not saying what you should or shouldn't do or say. Just saying what seems like a nagging alarm going off to me.

anonymous alice

anonymous alice

Bookslinger said...

As for the "forgiving yourself," I have heard this before, and violently disagree with the rhetoric. Doctrinally, one CANNOT forgive oneself. Only Christ can forgive our sins.

Here's the misunderstanding: You're adding an either-or quality to his statement that was likely not intended by him. When the former bishop was talking about "forgiving yourself", he didn't mean _instead_ of Christ forgiving you, he likely meant _in addition to_ Christ forgiving you.

Some people, after they have received Christ's forgiveness ("cancellation of sin" if you will) still cling to the guilt and refuse to give it up.

Forgiving oneself does not mean one is canceling their own sin.

And forgiving someone who has sinned against us does not mean we are cancelling their sin before the Lord. We are to forgive the other person even if they don't repent. Yet, our forgiveness of them doesn't relieve them of their obligation to repent before the Lord, and obtain His forgiveness.

So therefore, one human's forgiveness of another (or of oneself) is not necessarily tied to whether the Lord has forgiven.

Just as we often hold a grudge against others even after they fully repent, sometimes we hold a grudge against ourselves, even after we fully repent.

It is within a bishop's calling as a "judge in Israel" to receive revelation as to whether the Lord has forgiven someone. (I'm not saying he always knows, but just that he might know.) So a bishop could be in a position to know when someone is still holding a grudge against themself even after Christ has forgiven them.

I've heard bishops talk about this before. Assuming your SS teacher meant it in the way the other bishops meant it, then your take on it was not the way he intended. Ask him in private if this doesn't satisfy the apparent false doctrine that you perceived.

I also point you to the commandment were we are to forgive each other, so there is another example that Christ is not the only one who forgives. And, if we are to forgive each other our sins, then it is logically possible to forgive ourselves.

The former Bishop might more effectively use a phrase such as "trusting or having faith that Christ has atoned for the sin."

That sort of goes unsaid as being part and parcel of the faith-in-Christ/repentance process. But "atoning for" and "forgiving" are two separate things. The Atonement part was an act that was completed. Forgiveness from the Lord comes after sincere repentance. (Which is not to say that repentance purchases forgiveness or merits forgiveness, etc, etc, insert standard faith-grace-works discussion here.)

I'm pretty confident your bishop did not mean that forgiving oneself equates to atoning for oneself.

SilverRain said...

Well, I was going to explain a possible interpretation of the forgiveness comment, but Bookslinger did it more eloquently than I could have, so . . . ditto that.

ut I can't help wondering what's wrong with an organization that makes people feel they must be something else to be "Mormony".
Struggling with feeling unincluded myself, I do think this is more a result of the individual than the organization. When I have managed to forgive myself my faults and just participate as who I am, I have been a part of the ward, even the ward I'm now in.

When I first came here, I said things that sidelined me and my family right from the get-go. Needless to say, we were not well accepted. However, as time went on, the very conservative ward has learned to accept me and love me for who I am, even to value my contributions. Were it not for this sort of learning, there would be little need for church.

Perhaps you shouldn't slap them across the face with everything right away, but so long as you pretend to be other than what you are, you are denying them learning experiences and yourself peace. Try to become more in tune with the Spirit, and speak up against what is being said only when you feel the Spirit to do so. I have found that the Spirit rarely inspires me through righteous indignation, but always through a feeling of love and peace for everyone. I have said some pretty against-the-grain things at church, but some of the comments I was most afraid of insulting someone were the ones I was later thanked for. You never can tell.

The Lord put you in that ward for a reason, perhaps to help you find unity in self.

Ann said...

One of the things about being yourself while remaining a member is that the church HAS made some "bright lines" about what is and is not acceptable. Your ideas about the divine feminine and Heavenly mother ARE extra-doctrinal, and the lines about discussing or embracing Her ARE pretty clear. But you aren't a "one trick pony," you have dimensions and layers and feminism has many, many aspects. Not all of them are "off limits," and you can (and should) feel free to ask questions, knowing where the bright lines are.

I'm personally a big fan of "when in Rome," but I also think you can conduct yourself appropriately for your audience without submerging your unique and wonderful "BiV-ness" into a persona that's a mask. Yes, it's a tough balance. When you figure it out, let me know how you did it. :)

Kalola said...

BiV ~ I do not believe you "overanalyze" or "think too much." You ask: "Is that really 'me,' or is it just the 'natural man' and I should be ignoring it and trying to stay sweet and Mormony?" What you feel, believe, think, do and say IS the "real you." If feeling, believing, thinking, doing and saying gives the appearance of the "natural man," than you have lots of company. Please do not ignore who you truly are. Please do not deny your true essence. Besides, being "sweet and Mormony" could lead to spiritual obesity.

Anonymous said...

"Spiritual obesity"! Now there's a concept! ;>

anonymous alice

Bored in Vernal said...

OK Bookslinger, you've convinced me.

Oh, and I just want to say re Deseret Book club--the deal is not their choice of books, but rather the commercialization and the shameful use of Relief Society midweek activities to sell their books.

G said...

just had to jump in to say ditto about the deseret book club deal (a really insidious development, I think).

I second the motion to start your own book club... or break the old book club trend.

good to hear you've settled after the travels, I hope you find a good niche in this new ward. Good luck!

eyquem said...

I feel ya. As I am coming back to church I really just want to fit in and not cause any trouble.

When I went back for the first time in 2 years I felt a similar feeling. I knew what to expect and how it was going to work. The funny thing was that after attending other religious services the most notable difference was the noise of all the squirming kids. I heard all the whining and wiggling and knew I was home.

Sue said...

Oh, I so relate to this post. I loved this post.

In my last ward, for a few years I just didn't say much of anything in RS or SS, because I wasn't sure what I could say that would be authentic (because of my doubts).

I could give an inspiring talk or lesson with the best of them though - because the gospel knowledge is there, the love of the people and the gospel is there, and heck, I've been an active mormon my whole life - it's kind of ingrained.

Still, it felt sort of fraudulent to present myself in that way, because I felt like it wasn't the WHOLE story - a story that included having a lot of doubts and questions and concerns.

One day in RS they were talking about how to help your husband if he is inactive or struggling with his beliefs, and I finally put my hand up. I told them that in my family, I was usually the person that had to be dragged to church kicking and screaming, and I told them all about how my husband had supported me lovingly and kindly and had never judged me for my very real, sincere struggles with what I believe. I told them that I loved the church, I wanted to believe, but sometimes I had a really hard time actually doing it. I told them that I wasn't really sure what I believed, but that I knew God wanted me to be there, and that right at that moment, that was enough for me. You could have heard a pin drop in there, I swear.

After the lesson and for weeks afterward people came up to me and told me how much they appreciated what I'd said, or that they'd had similar feelings in the past, or they just gave me a hug. And from then on, when I would comment about something in a very Molly (but genuine) way, I didn't feel like a fraud, because they already knew about my doubt - so it felt valid for me to chime in on the things I didn't struggle with.

For me, the key things I try to remember are 1) not to judge people for their beliefs (whether they be strong or weak or orthodox or crazy) 2) to be compassionate and give people the benefit of the doubt, and 3) be honest but appropriate - RS isn't a good time to discuss controversy. People don't have to know what your specific struggles/concerns are in order to have compassion for your struggle.

Actually, I don't know why I'm telling you all of this. It's not like I have it figured out. Your post just struck a chord with me. Having other people know I was struggling, and realizing that they would still care about me in spite of it, really helped me to deal with a lot of my angst. I didn't feel like I was pretending every week.

Sue said...

Oh crap, I wrote a NOVEL. I'm sorry. Eeek.

m&m said...

I am reading your post differently than others. I see people wanting to blame your ward for your struggle, and I don't see it that way. I think we all have 'different sides' that we struggle to reconcile. I think your experience describes all of ours in a general way.

My not-perfect-Mormon side may not be a flaming liberal, but she's still someone who wouldn't really be the type who would blend in in RS. But that doesn't change that I know the simplicity to be real. I don't pretend to be that person, but I battle with my self that struggles to really live the simplicity. I don't always have it in me (or think I don't anyway) to let that simplicity take over when I'm struggling with what feels so complicated, hard, heavy to me (life for me often can be HARD).

I think only you can figure out who you really are. I was struck by how you feel when you say things that click at church, when you feel at home. I don't think that should be overlooked. I think too often in the 'nacle those simple things ARE overlooked, even ridiculed. Let the Spirit guide, not people.

My thought is this: The natural man/woman in us is a beast to overcome (that was actually a post I was thinking about writing, because my natural woman is raging today -- mad and sad and weary and grumpy and not really feeling like doing much about it). Tension is part of our existence, and it isn't always easy to discern what to do with those tensions in our lives. Think about it -- that to me is a message from the Adam and Eve story. There wasn't a clear-cut choice; there was a tension, a conflict. They had to weigh it out, figure out what made the most sense against the backdrop of the whole plan. We have to work through tensions, too. It's one reason why the gift of the Holy Ghost is so important, imo.

I think it's important, though, not to blame the Church or those around us for our struggles, the inner tensions that we all have. I think that we will come to work through tensions more quickly if we spend less time worrying about what others do or say in our lives and around us and focus on what God wants us to do or say, individually. I believe that part of the gospel is to learn to trust God to lead us to find what will bring us the most happiness, growth, and change of heart...in short, what will bring us closest to Christ. And each of our journeys may be a little different because only God knows what the best next step is for each of us...we are each on a different place on the path.

Rambling...there's my post for today, on your blog instead of mine. :)

Bored in Vernal said...

Thank you, everyone, for putting your posts on my blog today!! Always glad to hear from you. Sue, it does my heart good to hear from other conflicted people. M&M, at least for me, this was not about blaming my ward. It's just me moaning (again) about how conflicted I am. I mean, I think it's fascinating how I can feel like one of the RS girls at Church and say all the right things, and when I am saying "I think we should try to show our husbands how much we appreciate it when they honor their priesthood," I really mean it. But then when I go into my spaz mode, I feel like gagging that I ever said such a thing. What is that all about? How can I be two such different people in the same head? You see, it really isn't the ward, the ward is about like any other ward, with people who are real people. I'm not really worrying about what they think of me, but I'm wondering who I am and who I am supposed to be. Am I supposed to fight that liberal woman, or should I embrace her? I never can figure out what it is that God wants. I only wish I could.

m&m said...

M&M, at least for me, this was not about blaming my ward. It's just me moaning (again) about how conflicted I am.

I know. I said that to those who wanted to make this into a post about the culture, which I didn't feel it was. And I was empathizing. I don't think it's so unusual to have this kind of conflict within.

We all know that church members aren't perfect. But that wasn't the point of your post, and I wanted to get back to it because I think it's salient for all of us, or at least most of us. There are probably those few who are able to be consistent without spaz sessions in their lives. :)

For me, I think I know who I should be. The struggle is actually staying consistent being that person. Usually for me, the spaz sessions are not really driven by the Spirit. But sorting through them can help me find answers if I open and soften my heart to the Spirit. Again, for me, the problem is that sometimes I don't. My spaz sessions don't lend themselves to the description of a non-natural person in Mosiah 3:19 and elsewhere. For me, that is kind of the test. And I fail it often.

But I try to hold onto the hope that as I sort through my spaziness, the Lord can somehow turn my weakness (plentiful that it is) into strength. I just need to figure out how to want to humble myself enough to get to that point. I'm downright stubborn sometimes in my spaziness.

Your mileage may differ, but that is where I am on this very day.

Hugs, by the way, and welcome back to the states.

Jo said...

Welcome back to Zion BIV! (snicker)
This was a really, really good post and the comment conversation was amazing!
I don't know what to add, except I feel like you sometimes too. I think the natural man part of me that I need to conquer is my unwillingness at times to give others the benefit of the doubt that they are trying as hard as I am.

Matt Thurston said...

BiV, you always make me smile.

Are you a flaming liberal or a Molly Mormon?

You are neither. You are both. You are more.

Quit trying to reduce yourself to a cardboard cut out. Just embrace your BiVness, and let your many paradoxes spill forth and bless everyone around you!!! :)

Rich said...

I wish there were at least a dozen of you in my Ward!

vespa cat said...

I just wanted to offer my thoughts on your blog, which I found to be rather beautiful in its honesty.

Despite what some would have you believe, and would get confused about themselves, there is no Mormon Culture that we have to fit into beyond what the teachings of the gospel. The jello and the minivans and the casseroles are just traditions that have developed in some areas because of the circumstances and needs of those people. It serves a purpose for some people, but it has nothing to do with spirituality or even the Church.

I myself am a liberal, I don't cook food out of a box, my mom is a homeless drug addict, I don't read Deseret book novels, I wear chuck taylors every day, and on my bed at the moment are my scriptures, a copy of the March Ensign, and Patti Smith's "Horses" CD.

I have studied Bhuddism, Hinduism, Zorastrianism, Islam. I was inactive until I was 22. My parents are fanatically opposed to the Church. And I struggle with my own addictions and shortcomings.

And I don't ever run into a single problem being a member of the Church. I don't exist on the fringes of the Church, I don't have any questions about the truthfulness of the gospel, I don't have any issues with any of my bishops (I have seen good and bad, even in my own family, only about half of which are members, and most not active) or the general authorities or any of the laws of the gospel. I have studied the Book of Mormon inside and out, spiritually and scholarly. I have much more to learn, but I have heard every argument, read every critique, and there is not a single part of me that questions the truthfulness of that book. Same with the temple.

I have also served a mission. I attend Church every sunday, and I have not missed a Sacrament meeting in over six years--was every meeting spiritually uplifting? No. But do I go to to Church to nitpick the shortcomings of others, or do I go to seek the Spirit that teaches in spite of the shortcomings of the speaker? I attend the temple. I study my scriptures intently and love every word of them. I watch General Conference and read the Conference reports and structure my life around the words of the prophets. I have been through the highest highs and the lowest depths of sorrow and despair, and I absolutely know that God lives and that the gospel has been restored. In it, I find answers.

We are all different people. Some of us are irritating, both within and without the Church. But I try not to focus on that. Whether it's some goober Sunday school teacher (yes, surprise, it happens--being a member of the Church does not remove one's potential to be a goober), or my dislike for Utah fiction novels, my focus is on finding how to love and serve those that might be irritating to me.

Like it or not, not all members of the Church have the strongest grasp on the gospel or on what's important in the Church. Some testimonies are weak and founded on principles of sand. But who am I to judge? How many times have I not lived up to what I would expect others to?

I am not my Patti Smith CD. And the Church is not the questionable comments of a fallible, former bishop. We are all children of God and some of us can be real morons. i know I have fit into that category myself on more than one occasion. But we are not jello or even Deseret book. And those that think they are, I don't judge either, just as I don't like it when I am judged by someone who might only see a small part of me and my crazy life and make assumptions about my character and question my spirituality. It sucks, but it happens, and it's ok. I'm tolerant of the weaknesses in others. It has nothing to do with my testimony of the gospel. So I try not to do the same back to the other goobers that I encounter on occasion.

We do our best to follow the Spirit. Some of us fall short all of the time. All of us fall short some of the time. But we are Saints, imperfect, and seeking to grow and become perfected through the Atonement of Christ. And that is the only label I choose to take on.

Just keep embracing the light, and don't let the weaknesses in others diminish the strengths in yourself. Your progression is not about them. In fact, there should not even be a "them" at all. We are all in this together. 13 million members, there are bound to be some imperfections in there. Just keep pressing forward yourself, and continue to love and serve those who might be of an annoyance. We just can't know where everyone has been. Good luck. :)

vespa cat said...

hmm...that was a long post, and i didn't realize that it may come across as singing my own praises. that is truly not so. my point is that i struggle. like nothing i could even explain here. with deep, painful issues at times that would make any person cringe. and i am so imperfect.

i guess it was hard to make that part clear in my post. my point is that i came from a background of being indoctrinated against the Church by my parents, and always questioning, and yet to this day, I now accept it wholeheartedly. The gospel has truly changed my life. So when I say I am active and whatnot in the church, I'm trying to express that even in all the questioning and struggles and dark places I've been, there I am, looking to some like a regular ol' molly mormon.

so even when you see those who look like the perfect mormon cookie cutter, you should see some of us on our bad days. you should see that we all come from the same place. it shocked me the day i realized that someone thought of me as a perfect little mormon, and was discouraged because she could never be that way. what?? me?

see? she just had no idea.

but my heart has softened much in more recent years. I don't need to fight against any culture or stereotype. I was wrong to ever think that I was any different than my RS sisters, even though they are all usually republicans. Political persuasions do not define us, and even though i don't sew or play piano or sing, i fit in with my sisters because I know we are sisters and we are all trying to grow closer to Christ. That is the only thing that we need to have in common.

etigg said...

It is OK to be Mormon and not be Republican. James E. Faust was, and so can you.

It's also OK to set aside the goofy/mistaken/misunderstood things teachers often say in class - my Valiant 11 kids often have to, and so can you.