Special Sunday School class

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Rumin8
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Special Sunday School class

Post by Rumin8 » 03 Jan 2019, 23:27

Some of you may remember that I some months ago I was put in a calling where I would have frequent and regular contact with my bishop. You might even remember that this freaked me out at the time. It still does. That said, one of the things he and I have discussed a time or two is starting a new gospel study class that will be held monthly, in his presence, during the second hour. The purpose of this class is to discuss difficult doctrinal and or social policies of the church.

The time has come and the class is starting off very soon. I’m very freaked out by this because I am to be a key participant in the class and will be expected to contribute. The class contains a small number of couples. Some of whom raised my eyebrows. I don’t know if they are in my boat, or if they are salting the class as a form of control (I don’t mean control in a mind control way, but rather as a control portion of an experiment).

My problems are this:
1) I don’t hold a literal belief in the church. I have gone through the motions for many years and for many reasons, much the same I’m sure as the majority of people on this board.
2) Given item 1 above, how am I to participate in this class in a meaningful way without tipping my hand too obviously.
3) while my spouse and I have been able to connect to a point on my church issues, it may be a whole other matter to hear about them openly and in public. My spouse remains flexible on some points but is very much an active believing member.
4) I don’t think this class will help me. I feel that ship has long since sailed. That said, I don’t know how to step away from the class, given my current calling and situation, without stepping away from it all.
5) as a further point to 4 above, I’m in an active deconstruction phase. I’m not ready to begin reconstruction of my beliefs yet. I don’t even know what the potential reconstruction looks like. So far I just know what I don’t know and don’t like. I don’t see how this class will help with either of those goals, other than to prolong the deconstruction process.

I guess this is mostly a vent, to try to get some of my thoughts down where I can review them in advance of the class. That said, do any of you have any experience with this type of class? If so, how did it work? Was it helpful or hurtful?

Thanks to all for reading.
"Moderation in all things, especially moderation." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Be excellent to each other." - Abraham Lincoln to Bill & Ted

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nibbler
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Re: Special Sunday School class

Post by nibbler » 04 Jan 2019, 05:44

I've never heard of a class like that. During the initial phases of my transition I would have appreciated a class like that, either to get some validation or new apologetic that would help.
Rumin8 wrote:
03 Jan 2019, 23:27
one of the things he and I have discussed a time or two is starting a new gospel study class that will be held monthly, in his presence, during the second hour. The purpose of this class is to discuss difficult doctrinal and or social policies of the church.
Did he create the class because the two of you got together and decided it would be helpful to talk about various issues at church or was it more one-sided, where after talking to you he alone thought it would be a good idea to create the class and then he committed you to attend? The only reason I ask is because if it was a mutual decision then I think there's more of an expectation that you attend. If you decide not to attend he may be thinking, "But you wanted this."
Rumin8 wrote:
03 Jan 2019, 23:27
I don’t know if they are in my boat, or if they are salting the class as a form of control (I don’t mean control in a mind control way, but rather as a control portion of an experiment).
There may (or as you point out, may not) be others in your ward with similar issues. I'm just thinking out loud, why hold a dedicated class for one person? But some leaders might do just that. But to your question, I'd expect both. Maybe a few other people that have expressed doubt and maybe a few people that feel like they know all of your issues but are still orthodox in their beliefs. I tried to be careful how I worded that. There are people that remain orthodox that say they know all the issues, and that may be 100% true, but in my mind there's a difference between "the" issues and "your" issues. Something that doesn't affect one person can have a deep effect on someone else.

I might attend the first class, mostly as an observer. If the class had more interesting discussion than the alternative (Sunday school) I might continue to attend. If the class felt like they were trying to fix me I'd stop attending. I'd thank people for inviting me to the class and tell them I no longer needed the special class because I had worked out my issues, even if I hadn't. The goal in communicating that I had worked out all my issues would be to get them out of fix me mode.
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words, "And this too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!
― Abraham Lincoln

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Rumin8
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Re: Special Sunday School class

Post by Rumin8 » 04 Jan 2019, 11:52

nibbler wrote:
04 Jan 2019, 05:44
Did he create the class because the two of you got together and decided it would be helpful to talk about various issues at church or was it more one-sided, where after talking to you he alone thought it would be a good idea to create the class and then he committed you to attend? The only reason I ask is because if it was a mutual decision then I think there's more of an expectation that you attend. If you decide not to attend he may be thinking, "But you wanted this."
No, it wasn't just for me. It's been something on his mind for a while. We talked about it because I shared in very general terms that I was not renewing my TR and why. He offered some advice, and allowed me some time before putting a deadline on having a TR. We also discussed the class, which I think is a splendid idea, but not necessarily for me at this time. I felt much more positive about it only 6 months ago.
nibbler wrote:
04 Jan 2019, 05:44
There may (or as you point out, may not) be others in your ward with similar issues. I'm just thinking out loud, why hold a dedicated class for one person? But some leaders might do just that. But to your question, I'd expect both. Maybe a few other people that have expressed doubt and maybe a few people that feel like they know all of your issues but are still orthodox in their beliefs. I tried to be careful how I worded that. There are people that remain orthodox that say they know all the issues, and that may be 100% true, but in my mind there's a difference between "the" issues and "your" issues. Something that doesn't affect one person can have a deep effect on someone else.
I know at least one other person on the class list is in my boat or even further down the road as they have not been to church in quite some time. There will be very orthodox believers in the class, including some who seem to be at peace with many of the things that give me pause (my spouse among them). I have learned through my deconstruction process that "issues" are very specialized to the person. Even among "nuanced" believers things trigger different people in different ways. This is one reason I don't think this class will work, except for providing a forum where these things can be discussed in more detail in an intimate setting. Having the bishop there is a problem, but I don't see how you do this class without him there. This bishop, at least, is very earnest about helping people. That is on reason why we are having the class in the first place.
nibbler wrote:
04 Jan 2019, 05:44
If the class had more interesting discussion than the alternative (Sunday school) I might continue to attend. If the class felt like they were trying to fix me I'd stop attending.
This very nearly mirrors my concern. I do not want to be "fixed." I feel that I'm working that out without this class. I don't want to lay bare all my issues for that class to examine. I don't want to be a catalyst for someone else to start a faith crisis. I don't want to hand the bishop the blueprint to my current belief (or lack thereof). And finally, I don't need a regurgitation of FAIRMORMON when I can do that on my own time. That said, no matter what, it is going to be more interesting than the typical Sunday school class. How can it not be?
"Moderation in all things, especially moderation." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Be excellent to each other." - Abraham Lincoln to Bill & Ted

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DarkJedi
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Re: Special Sunday School class

Post by DarkJedi » 04 Jan 2019, 12:24

Rumin8 wrote:
03 Jan 2019, 23:27
I guess this is mostly a vent, to try to get some of my thoughts down where I can review them in advance of the class. That said, do any of you have any experience with this type of class? If so, how did it work? Was it helpful or hurtful?
In my own limited experience this kind of class or even an informal group like this has been discouraged, probably for some of the reasons you mention. Like you, I'm a "do no harm" kind of guy and I think my beliefs (and unbeliefs) are my business and not necessarily anyone else's. I usually don't publicly share them without anonymity. There was a point in my faith transition where I might have liked a class like this if it were meeting my needs - but as you point out, FAIR did not and does not meet those needs nor do things like pray more, read the BoM, etc. - so I'm skeptical.

I would be interested to hear how it goes, though.
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."

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Re: Special Sunday School class

Post by Curt Sunshine » 04 Jan 2019, 17:28

You shared a concern. Your sincere Bishop listened to your concern, and similar concerns from others, and is trying to help.

I think you owe it to him to attend at least once. If it is detrimental to you, you can stop attending, with a sincere thanks to your Bishop for the effort. If it isn't detrimental, and especially if you can contribute in a way that helps or doesn't hurt others, it is a win-win socially, at the very least.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

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Rumin8
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Re: Special Sunday School class

Post by Rumin8 » 04 Jan 2019, 19:27

Yes. I definitely owe at least one class, if not more, and planned to attend. I guess my point that I didn’t articulate well, or at all is whether I can sustain attendance in that class for the full year or more it is scheduled.

My spouse is less than enthused about attending as well, if for different reasons.

We have both agreed to attend.

I honor this bishop for caring enough to try this, even though it could backfire in so many ways. He is a genuinely good dude.
"Moderation in all things, especially moderation." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Be excellent to each other." - Abraham Lincoln to Bill & Ted

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Heber13
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Re: Special Sunday School class

Post by Heber13 » 05 Jan 2019, 10:52

To build social capital, it would be good to start off with some difficult topic but quickly bring in supportive and positive tones to it that allow people to think but don't prescribe specific answers. I think it would be good to end with positive stories of testimony building while not ignoring difficult topics, many quotes on this site from prior church leaders about investigating and challenging truth without fear since we have truth and revelation on our side, speaking in terms like "our side" to build that tribe connection. I think it is ok to have doubts and struggle with some things at church, but we work through those...and you can me tion how the church has opened up to change recently to accommodate this. The church leaders have listened. That is a huge point to be made. Whether or not we have answers...the point is they listen and change comes slowly but it can come.

I also think you may pass around a clip board to ask class members to give topics they are thinking or wondering about and have never discussed in church, to give future class content for lessons...that way it is coming from the class, not just you.

Just some ideas.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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mom3
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Re: Special Sunday School class

Post by mom3 » 06 Jan 2019, 14:38

We had well respected ward member bear his testimony and he began it with "I am reading Joseph's Journal." He is talking JS. He was able to use the differences between early church activity and our present changes in a unique twist.

I couldn't guess if he is going through a transition, a true believer, or anything - yet he brought new thoughts. I didn't see anyone flinch.

This supports Heber's take.

That gives you and your wife room to work. I would definitely follow Heber's advice.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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Rumin8
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Re: Special Sunday School class

Post by Rumin8 » 06 Jan 2019, 15:52

Well, I am returning to report on the class. I’m having a hard time processing how it went. It was a mix of great people all across the spectrum (mostly trending towards orthodox, but not obnoxiously so), so if nothing else it’s going to be interesting.

The first part was spent by the bishop framing the purpose of the class. And that was that it is okay to inquire thoughtfully and prayerfully. It’s okay to have doubts. Most people do. Most of the rest of the class was a deeper dive into introductions and possible future topics.

My trouble comes because I don’t feel this class is for me. Even as little as a year ago it would have been. That said, I am still able to frame my thoughts constructively and in harmony to accepted church teachings. At least on some issues. I just will chose to not be vocal on the topics that I struggle with the most. I think this is consistent with the counsel I have received on this thread. Thank you all who have participated.

Bottom line is I think it will be helpful and enjoyable for most participants.

On another note, it did prompt a post church discussion with my spouse. That did not go well, much to my surprise. We are retreading some ground we have tread already. Maybe I haven’t been clear enough with my thoughts and feelings. Maybe if I was, she still didn’t want to hear it, or accept it. Two steps back and none forward I guess today.
"Moderation in all things, especially moderation." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Be excellent to each other." - Abraham Lincoln to Bill & Ted

Roy
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Re: Special Sunday School class

Post by Roy » 06 Jan 2019, 16:18

I personally would love a class such as this. I would love a venue where it could be discussed that there are reasons to disbelieve as well as to believe.
This is precisely the environment where faith can exist. Also that we Mormons may have put many things into the truth cart that do not belong there (i.e. Zelph the white Lamanite - is it possible that Joseph made up a story in this particular instance without the entire gospel crumbling down?).
If you are not responsible for teaching the class then it would be fairly easy to keep the datails of your faith as private as you want.
OTOH if it is too much like FAIR then I would lose interist after a few weeks. Every year on ward conference we have ward council members who teach on the new Essays. I am glad that they are trying to inocculate but it seems very apologetic. "Did you know that JS used a seerstone to translate the BoM - By the way here is a bunch of other information and my testimony that the church is in fact a true historical record and a miracle that could not possibly have happened without the direct intervention of God." I am left with the impression that what is wanted is not a discussion. They want to insert the seerstone into the current narrative without unraveling any other pieces.
Is this a class where you can discuss RSR?
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

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