How to be authentic but not cause a scene

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
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journeygirl
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How to be authentic but not cause a scene

Post by journeygirl » 20 May 2017, 09:48

Hi everyone! It's been a while since I've been here (busy with grad school) but I value your views and was hoping to get some ideas on how to move forward in my situation.

Background/update: I am agnostic with a TBM husband who knows, 2 kids who don't know, and I live near my parents (mother knows, father doesn't). I have had some good conversations with my mother who wants to maintain our relationship more than change my mind, and I recently I have had some better conversations with my husband, although mostly he wants to not think about the issues I bring up.

I am finally going to be leaving Utah! I see this as an opportunity to be more authentic in my participation with the church, since my husband still believes and wants to attend and raise our kids in the church. I've stopped wearing garments, which he seems to accept, and I've told him I plan to attend church with the family but not hold a calling or go visiting teaching. My parents will be moving with us (they are elderly and I take care of them and they take care of kids while I'm in school/working) and will be in our new ward.

I would love to get your views on how to balance holding to my decision of being authentic while also not having everyone at church find out I am not believing. My mom insists it would be better to not talk to my dad directly about my views because he would take it as a personal failure and would never be able to understand me. So I'd rather not have him find out from ward members or have my kids find out until I'm ready to talk to them about it (which I plan to do gradually as they get older). Has anyone had success with avoiding callings but not having it become a huge deal? I will be starting a doctorate program so I'm hoping that might be enough of an excuse for the bishop. Any other ideas?

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SilentDawning
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Re: How to be authentic but not cause a scene

Post by SilentDawning » 20 May 2017, 10:48

You're in the right place Journey Girl!! This is exactly what I've had to do, although I don't have Mormon parents to worry about.

Here are my suggestions.

1. Let your authenticity be found in what you DO in the church, not in what you say. To be authentic, you don't have to disagree with principles, speak up about Doctrine you don't agree with or otherwise broadcast your unorthodox beliefs. But you CAN place boundaries on what you do. Even traditional believers so "no" to things, so just say "no" when there is something you don't want to do that violates your sense of authenticity. Be polite about it though and give innocuous reasons -- not faith/doubt-based ones.

2. When they ask you to take a calling, don't be afraid to "coach" the leader on where you would like to serve. Do a scan of all the ways you could serve in the church, and find some things you can do authentically. For me, it's helping with activities and planning of such, doing a teacher's council, maybe hosting a youth activity, helping when someone has a legitimate need, and attending some meetings. I also don't mind participating when someone asks a good question and I can give practical advice. I also donated a live band to an activity.

I said "no' to five callings before I got one I liked, and I have done it now for almost a year without incident. I actually enjoy it and had spiritual experiences, even though I'm pretty agnostic about a lot of Mormon things and cultural values. You can still feel spiritual while being unorthodox.

3. Don't ever share your doubts directly with anyone. I have a mantra -- I am worn out from my church experiences, and decided to focus my life on the pursuit of happiness. So, I tend to focus on those things that make me happy in the church, and let the Bp know what those are. What are those things for you? I quote that happiness is the object and design of our existence, and justify it that way. That is authentic for me.

4. If asked if you would like to get a temple recommend, express vague hope, "maybe eventually" or something that doesn't exclude you from the pool someday. Who knows if you will have your own Road to Damascus experience like Paul had, or what life might throw at you to change your mind? Apply mobility theory (from chess). Each move is calculated to preserve your cruising range (options) in the future. Make that the goal of any convo with a priesthood leader or traditional believer -- to not cut off your options with statements that can be considered apostate or re-engage at any level you choose in the future.

5. Be authentic here on StayLDS. It's therapeutic to say what you really think, unfiltered in this forum. This is where I am authentic, and I don't need to be authentic in my words at church as a result.

6. Remember, we are never usually authentic in all places. Do you tell your boss you think their leadership skills are weak? Do you tell your spouse they look fat and ugly lately? Do you tell your kids, bluntly, about their weaknesses? Your neighbor that their hair looks awful? Most people aren't that honest. Check out Liar Liar with Jim Carey for how funny life would be if we were all truly authentic in what we say to people. Why expect to be that way at church when the LDS way is so dear to the hearts of the people who have sacrificed so much for it? Be tactful, and let being tactful and respectful of others beliefs be your authentic way of expressing yourself. Let that eclipse your desire to express contrarion views about the church, putting a charitable disposition above a disagreeable one.

Anyway, this has worked with me so far. when I've been blunt about what i think about the church, it rarely ends well.

Would you mind have a few VT families assigned with the understanding you'll help them when there is a legitimate need? That is another way you can integrate without selling your soul, if you are OK with that...

I am doing that right now, although I agreed to make a couple visits a month.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

Stayforthedip
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Re: How to be authentic but not cause a scene

Post by Stayforthedip » 20 May 2017, 11:50

I think I am in a fairly similar place as you Journey Girl. I have gotten to a place of real peace, but it has been years in the making (and I am not that old!). But there are still ups and downs and tricky situations. I like SD's advice. I especially agree that it is wise not to tell anyone (at least in your church circle) of your disbelief. That was hard for me at first because I wanted to scream every week at church. But this forum really helped me come to see that being myself doesn't require sharing my deepest (un)belief with everyone I meet.
Each move is calculated to preserve your cruising range (options) in the future.
This is SO important. Part of my belief now is that I leave room that I am totally wrong and it really is all true! So I am trying not to burn any bridges, even as I step back more and more.

I too have given up my temple recommend (by not renewing it) and have stopped wearing garments most of the time. But as part of my 'not burning bridges' theme, I still wear them to Mormony things. I see it as a sign of respect for those who believe and as a sign of commitment to my husband.

Along those same lines, I still hold a calling (actually a fairly 'high' one on a local level). This is how I see it: if I was part of any other club, I would feel the need to pitch in and put in my time. So I do a job at church and do it the way I am comfortable with. Others see me happy, smiling and helping and they don't assume that my soul needs more saving. Win, win.

I don't live in Utah and where I am there are very few Mormons, but several years ago all my friends were Mormon. It made it very hard during my faith transition to feel like everything in my life was Mormon. So I have worked very hard to make other friends and associations and that has helped a lot as I have stepped back from church. But it has also shown me that I really like Mormons! They are my people. So while plenty of things drive me crazy, I can cope with most of it now.

One last thing. It has really helped to not attend church every week. I usually make it a couple of times a month. And I always have a great excuse--out of town or sick kid or something (and I don't lie!). But I use every opportunity possible to skip a week and that makes things easier.

So I guess, to sum it up: I am letting Mormonism into my life where and when it fits. I make it an active choice and don't feel guilty. But I also don't feel the need (anymore) to educate others on how crazy Mormonism is :)

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DarkJedi
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Re: How to be authentic but not cause a scene

Post by DarkJedi » 20 May 2017, 13:40

I think the best advice here is that you don't have to carry around a placard stating your beliefs or unbeliefs in order to be authentic. I think we might all be surprised at how many don't believe it all. And why would we be surprised? Because they're not carrying around placards, either.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

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SilentDawning
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Re: How to be authentic but not cause a scene

Post by SilentDawning » 20 May 2017, 21:09

Stayforthedip wrote:
20 May 2017, 11:50

One last thing. It has really helped to not attend church every week. I usually make it a couple of times a month. And I always have a great excuse--out of town or sick kid or something (and I don't lie!). But I use every opportunity possible to skip a week and that makes things easier.

So I guess, to sum it up: I am letting Mormonism into my life where and when it fits. I make it an active choice and don't feel guilty. But I also don't feel the need (anymore) to educate others on how crazy Mormonism is :)
Great advice up here. I too don't go all the time, but usually 3-5 times a month. Tomorrow I have something that conflicts with church, and I've been jacked up all day looking forward to it. My life will be very full when I get home from it, as I'm helping people express their passions, have new experiences. As a result, I feel like I'm being very kind and nurturing in what I'm doing. I love the people I will be with -- all non-members, and I can't wait.

Why trade that for a church experience that is repetitive and hasn't changed in 35 years?

Happiness comes first.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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dande48
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Joined: 24 Jan 2016, 16:35

Re: How to be authentic but not cause a scene

Post by dande48 » 20 May 2017, 21:51

I'm also an active agnostic, with a TBM spouse, and a child on the way. It's a tough spot to be in, but I have faith you can do it!

First, I would explicitly talk to the Bishop and RS president, and explain the situation. I wouldn't go into much detail, just them them you respect them and their beliefs, and are not antagonistic, but you don't believe in it, and would like to be exempt from having a calling and VT assignments. The leaders will be as keen as you not to make it into a public display, and will likely comply with your request.

Being authentic in Church meetings is difficult. There will be many lessons (and many more comments) that you'll straight up disagree with. A lot of doctrines teeter from "helpful" to "harmful", depending on the literal truthfulness of the Church. In Church, I take a bit of advice from Kenny Roger's:
You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
In other words, know when to speak up, know when to keep quiet, and know when you'd better leave.

We've all got plenty to learn from each other, no matter where you stand with the Church. But religious rhetoric leans heavily towards pathos; in church, any contradiction will be viewed as antagonism. If you can't agree, speaking up won't do much good. Sometimes, that means taking a step out for fresh air. "I was feeling a bit nauseous", is as true an excuse as any.

Best of luck, Journeygirl!
"Sir, it's quite possible this asteroid is not entirely stable." - C-3PO

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SilentDawning
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Re: How to be authentic but not cause a scene

Post by SilentDawning » 21 May 2017, 03:44

dande48 wrote:
20 May 2017, 21:51
I'm also an active agnostic, with a TBM spouse, and a child on the way. It's a tough spot to be in, but I have faith you can do it!

First, I would explicitly talk to the Bishop and RS president, and explain the situation. I wouldn't go into much detail, just them them you respect them and their beliefs, and are not antagonistic, but you don't believe in it, and would like to be exempt from having a calling and VT assignments. The leaders will be as keen as you not to make it into a public display, and will likely comply with your request.
I have only been proactive once in my life with talking to leaders, and it was only theBishop. And that was a couple months ago when our Bishop kept coming at me over and over and over and over and over again with callings. Eventually he assigned me 20 HT families and I'd had enough -- all without my buy in and agreement.

It was very risky -- but my approach was to affirm testimony while disaffirming my commitment to high pressure work in the church at this time. I framed it as exhaustion, and shared some really extreme and damaging experiences I'd had at church -- but affirmed that I had kept trudging along in spite of these experiences, working on "testimony alone". This stopped the requests for activity etceera.

But I consider myself among the lucky. If you go in there and tell them where you stand on any doctrinal or doubt issues, it's over. So I would not be proactive in meeting with the leaders. Just put boundaries on what you will and will not do. Only be proactive in pre-empting what they ask you to do if it they come at you with so many callings and requests for work that you can't stand it any more. The request for a calling here and there doesn't qualify in my view. For example, I said "no" five times before it got too much with the 20 HT families...

Also, once, I was asked to speak to the Bishop and he really pressed me to share why I didn't have a TR or wasn't more committed to the church. This was with a different Bishop many years ago. I eventually told him after 3 annual visits. And then a member of the SP called me out about the things that bothered me over the pulpit in Stake Conference. He mentioned specifically the things that were bothering me in such close proximity it HAD to have been shared with him by our Bishop. And the SP member looked right at me when he said it. So, share something with the BP, and it'll go straight to the Stake President and others in the priesthood line. There is no loyalty to you personally -- the loyalty is to the chain of command. So consider that when considering being forthright about why you have concerns about the church.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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DarkJedi
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Re: How to be authentic but not cause a scene

Post by DarkJedi » 21 May 2017, 03:50

I agree with SD. There are some very understanding bishops out there but there are also some who are not very understanding at all. Sharing doubts, questions, and unbeliefs is risky with any member, leader or not. I have thought about the quote from The Gambler in the past as well - it's very applicable to most situations at church, whether you're talking to a bishop or participating in class.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

DoubtingTom
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Joined: 22 Mar 2017, 12:13

Re: How to be authentic but not cause a scene

Post by DoubtingTom » 21 May 2017, 08:57

To those of you who suggest not sharing where you are personally with leaders or other members, may I ask a question? What value and meaning do you feel in belonging to a community where you feel if you were to publicly share your personal perspectives you would be rejected or dismissed? This is where I am and where I am really struggling right now. I too am basically agnostic with TBM spouse and attend to support her. Support of her is also why I haven't specifically asked to be released but I have come close. I did tell my leaders and they basically know where I'm at and that was important for me to have them know.

So now I basically look at the church as a club I belong to. But what is hard for me is the thought that if I were to stand up at the pulpit and express honestly and sincerely where I am at and how I got there, that ultimately I would be rejected. So the struggle is, other than support for my spouse, why continue to associate with a community that would reject the authentic self?

And right now it is a real struggle and I am having a very hard time coming up with reasons for someone like myself who falls more on the side of disbelief to continue. I could continue attending for years, but will that bring me satisfaction and joy? Am I missing out on being part of a different community that would accept me for me? And at the very least, I am so glad I found this online community that fills that need.

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journeygirl
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Re: How to be authentic but not cause a scene

Post by journeygirl » 21 May 2017, 12:19

Thanks everyone for your responses. I really appreciate your comments.

SD: I really liked that idea to be authentic in what I do more than just what I say. That seems to be the way I am dealing with it with my dad, if I don't directly address things with him then he has deniability, but he (likely) won't call me out on something he may notice on his own. At church I could imagine doing certain roles but probably more informal or temporary things, so that might be a way to set a limit there and be authentic in what I do.

I also liked your suggest in keeping options open. It seems like a safer approach. I am worried about what to do when directly confronted about something, like why I don't have a recommend. It was good to read your experience with that. I wonder if it would be different for me as a woman though? Since there wouldn't be that concern on their part of losing a priesthood holder?

Stayforthedip: I hadn't thought of making sure to skip some days. I may even plan on at least once a month missing a week! That would likely help a lot.

Dande48: I think that is great advice to recognize when to hold back versus when to say something. I tend to fall more on the not say anything at all end, but it would be nice to do a gentle push back at times. I think Ray has given good examples on how he does that.

DoubtingTom: I think I am feeling a lot like you, that's why I have this desire to be authentic. I get the caution that DarkJedi and SD have given, but it does feel very disappointing to feel like I will have to hide and fake it still to some extent. I think I have hope that as my husband comes along to at least seeing my side of things, then I may have more freedom in skipping weeks or just attending sacrament meeting with the family or something. I feel very stuck right now though, and not satisfied with where things are at.

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