Long time reader, first time commenter

Public forum, tell us about yourself and what brings you to StayLDS!
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Weaselgirl
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Joined: 20 Jun 2016, 08:21

Long time reader, first time commenter

Post by Weaselgirl » 20 Jun 2016, 15:21

Well, I've finally decided to join in after reading this forum pretty much every day for the last two + years.

I am a lifetime member with all of the generations of pioneers in my past, and I was born, raised and still live in Utah. I am an RM and have been married for 25 years and my kids are young adults. I have always been a little "off" in church things, because I am not really ever satisfied with a pat answer. The good news is, I have never been a believer in a literal Bible and I haven't been caught off guard by any historical surprises.

My problem lies with the "lived experience" of the Church. I have rarely felt like I fit in--that there is a place for me. I have recently come to the conclusion that the Church is a very poor teacher of Christian behavior. I am one of those it has failed. I know that I'm supposed to be Christlike, but I don't know HOW to be Christlike. I don't know what that looks like.

A couple of years ago, my husband had a hard thing happen to him (maybe I'll talk about that later, maybe not) and so he and I stopped attending all at once. We had lived in our current ward for over 10 years and never missed and had callings and were involved and then we just stopped. Our kids were still going, because they wanted to, and we weren't going to stop them, that would be wrong. Anyway. We were out of things for a few months, and then we attended sacrament meeting only for about a year. In that time we were visited or even spoken to by less than 5 people. None in ward leadership. I had always had the feeling that if we dropped off the face of the earth that no one would notice and I turned out to be right. It was weird, and unexpected, and I hadn't wanted to be right.

We've been going every week since then, and I've been trying to be a more observant person and I've also been trying to comment in a way that showed kindness. I've been the standby Primary sub (the job no one wants) and I've tried to be more social and proactive. But lately, the last few months, I have been feeling that what I do doesn't matter. So we haven't been to church for the last three weeks. My daughter got a text from a friend that had noticed, but that's been all.

So, I am not learning anything at Church, or being spiritually strengthened, nor do I have a place where I can be schooled in acting Christian. In other words, I feel like the Church isn't doing a good job of being a church, and because of that I don't see the point in being involved there any more.

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mom3
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Joined: 02 Apr 2011, 14:11

Re: Long time reader, first time commenter

Post by mom3 » 20 Jun 2016, 15:46

Welcome, thanks for sharing your story, I imagine you will get plenty of advice. I won't start any here. I just want to say hi and that we are always happy to have new friends.
"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

unsure
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Joined: 05 Jun 2016, 19:10

Re: Long time reader, first time commenter

Post by unsure » 20 Jun 2016, 17:15

What do you mean exactly by you don't know how to be Christlike? Could you expound on that some more?

You're an RM and have been a member longer than I so I hesitate to give advice on this as you are probably well aware of but if you are looking to learn about the attributes and how we can be more like him then the Preach my Gospel manual is a good place to start. It has a lesson specifically on this and it's laid out really well.

https://www.lds.org/manual/preach-my-go ... 1?lang=eng

I'm sorry that no one has reached out to you. I recently stopped attending church, just quit going one week and the only people who reached out to me were the two who I knew would but they are more like family in my eyes. Never heard a single thing from anyone else, not even the bishopric. I recently met with the bishop and he said, "there are a lot of people in this ward who care about you and love you", and I just thought, well they sure did a great job of showing it. :eh: After the initial backlash in my head I had to take a moment to reflect a few days later and wonder if there were others who left that I didn't reach out to. Now I'm not the most social person nor do I keep many close to me but there were some new members I could think of who were newly baptized and I was acquainted with and they quit coming after awhile. I didn't reach out to them. I was saddened by that revelation. I was an established faithful member for 10 years in my ward so I was very well known but I guess I'm saying that I'm not any more important than the new members. I didn't reach out when I should have so I'm not sure I can blame those who didn't reach out to me. It is hard to disappear and feel like nobody really notices or cares though.

What do you mean when you say, what you do doesn't matter? That it's not noticed? Appreciated?

Sometimes I think we get out of church what we expect to get out of it. If we walk in thinking, "why am I here" and "i'm getting nothing out of this" then that will ring true. Sometimes you have to look for the positive and focus on that.

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SilentDawning
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Re: Long time reader, first time commenter

Post by SilentDawning » 20 Jun 2016, 19:09

I was wondering the same thing as I read your opening post, as to what you mean by not knowing how to be Christlike.

For me, I get why some people might feel that way -- even though I am curious about your version of it. For me, I find our focus on furthering THE CHURCH often gets in the way of being Christlike. For example, Bishops are so busy as volunteers they don't have time to care. There was a lady who once told me how much warmer and kinder a man was after he was released as a Bishop. She said "I guess it's easier to care about people when you don't have to care about EVERYBODY".

I remember once stopping helping a member move when I was a missionary because "we had goals to achieve". I remember, as a leader, losing interest in people after it became clear they weren't going to be able to serve very much in the church, or if they were a perceived drain on my already busy schedule. I find it's easier to care about people when you have free time.

I am impressed you've been checking in daily for two years. Wow! What is it that prompted you to finally post? What kept you coming back, day after day?

I will say this -- a common thread I hear among people who land here is they want to be cared about. I don't mean that in a negative sense. It is a reality that you want to feel you are part of a community that cares. I think that is nearly universal, or at least, part of what a LOT of people want. I know I want that. A particularly hard part of my church experience was leaving a high profile calling before I was released, and feeling ostracized. It was so hard not feel used, and almost like an employee.

This evening I went out with some past members of our Ward. Younger people, well educated and highly intelligent. I was socially engaged the whole time even though we spent most of the time standing around a place where one of the babies had thrown up so people didn't slip on it. It was like standing around a campfire with good friends. We were at a major theme park, and we might as well have been in the middle of the desert, and I would have enjoyed it just as much. Having that social connection was critical to the whole experience. I realize I am not asocial, just not engaged when I feel I don't belong.

Maybe I hit on some of the things you are experiencing, maybe not, but I'd like to hear your thoughts and elaboration...
"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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Weaselgirl
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Joined: 20 Jun 2016, 08:21

Re: Long time reader, first time commenter

Post by Weaselgirl » 21 Jun 2016, 06:14

Yeah, part of what has kept me reading for two years and not contributing is that I don't feel like I am very good at explaining myself. :smile:

On knowing HOW to be Christlike: I guess what I mean is that in all my lifelong membership, I know very well what to do in a missionary situation, but I am helpless when it comes to knowing what to do for a sad person. Or a lost sheep. Or a person who needs a hand. I have an impulse, wanting to be of service, but I don't have a script. I do know I bristle at things being an assignment. Like visiting teaching or home teaching. I get why those things are programs on paper, but in practice....wow. assignment relationships are kinda terrible.

I don't want to give the impression that I blame everyone else for how I feel left out. I actually think that's part of the problem with the structure of the Church. I don't think anyone knows what to do with each other.

And I think the Church (culture maybe?) (over the pulpit maybe?) teaches so much about being a certain kind of person, that when you aren't EXACTLY that, no one knows quite what to do with you. For instance, if you are an older single woman, or are divorced, or you smell like a smoker, or you are a dreaded "intellectual" or HEAVENS! WHAT IF YOU SIN!

I hope this explains what I mean better. I'll keep trying to clarify. Part of my problem is even explaining how I feel to myself, so there's that.

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nibbler
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Location: Ten miles west of the exact centre of the universe

Re: Long time reader, first time commenter

Post by nibbler » 21 Jun 2016, 06:24

Weaselgirl wrote:I know that I'm supposed to be Christlike, but I don't know HOW to be Christlike. I don't know what that looks like.
I think I know what you mean. I can't speak for you but I can share what I feel is a similar experience. If everyone doesn't mind I'm going to remove my filter for a while.

To me it feels like lessons at church focus on the what at the expense of the how. Lessons seem to be more preoccupied with relating a common definition of something or a particular factoid related to church history or policy and less focused on how we implement Christlike principles in our daily lives.

I feel that the façades we tend to put up while at church prevent us from talking about the gospel hows. It's hard to have a real conversation about real struggles to live gospel principles when doing so potentially reveals "weakness" and can have an impact on our social standing in the group. By the way, this isn't unique to the church, it's a very human thing in all walks of life. There are the occasional rare moments during lessons where the rubber meets the road but for the most part we shy away from revealing our weaknesses and reaching out to the community for help. There's a status to think about. For (an extreme) example, one might think, "How would openly discussing my struggles to reign in my swearing affect my chances to become the Relief Society General President one day?" It's a silly example but I think one thing that affects our ability to have open discussions is the nagging fear of how it will affect our social standing in the church. We don't want to talk the hows, they reveal weakness.

Lessons about gospel principles typically follow an established formula, define the principle, maybe talk about the punishment for not obeying, talk about the blessing for obeying, share a few scriptures, and share an example. In a lesson about charity we ask "What is charity?" and one of several things happen. 1) People share their definitions of charity and the teacher keeps asking until someone finally says "the pure love of Christ." at which point the lesson moves on. 2) No one says anything and after a sufficient timeout has occurred the teacher says "the pure love of Christ" and the lesson moves on. If we have not charity we are nothing. Enos prayed for the Lamanites. The bell just rang twice. Testify. The end. So now I know that charity is the pure love of Christ, charity is good, and that I should have some... but how?

I'm picking on charity but the Gospel Principles manual actually does include some good points on how to develop charity if the teacher chooses to make that the focus. I was just trying to relate lots of my experiences in classes. Define, scare into obedience, tease into obedience, invite to obey - with very little idea of how a principle might come alive in my life. Sharing stories about Enos is one thing but in my opinion sharing stories within our community is much more powerful. Enos prayed for the Lamanites. So what? Do any of you have an old sofa they'd like to donate to this refugee family living right down the street?

Then there are the lessons about church dogma, ensuring we all know what priesthood keys are or the particulars that prove the church was restored. I don't find much practicality out of those types of lessons and they seem to make up the lion's share of the lessons that are taught in my area.

What's missing in all of this is the role I play as a participant in the classes. I can break down my façade. I can expose my weaknesses and risk my dream of becoming the General Relief Society President ;). I can talk about how I struggle with the hows and ask the class for help, even as a student. I can mention the refugee family down the street. Usually I keep to myself though. Maybe that's the weakness that I need to expose, how do I add my voice to the lessons that are taught at church?
Weaselgirl wrote:But lately, the last few months, I have been feeling that what I do doesn't matter.
I understand that feeling as well. It's tough when you feel like you go unnoticed whether you attend every possible meeting or whether you attend none of them.
Weaselgirl wrote:So, I am not learning anything at Church, or being spiritually strengthened, nor do I have a place where I can be schooled in acting Christian. In other words, I feel like the Church isn't doing a good job of being a church, and because of that I don't see the point in being involved there any more.
I've been mostly negative in this post, I did warn that some filters were coming off, but I felt it was important to let you know that other people understand how you feel. I think one thing that helps me stay engaged at church is telling myself that some days I need to be at church to grow, other days I need to be at church to help it grow. I realize that sounds boastful, maybe even blasphemous, but sometimes we all need a little help.

At any rate, welcome to StayLDS.
The time to relax is when you don't have time for it. - Sydney J. Harris

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nibbler
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Joined: 14 Nov 2013, 07:34
Location: Ten miles west of the exact centre of the universe

Re: Long time reader, first time commenter

Post by nibbler » 21 Jun 2016, 06:32

Weaselgirl wrote:On knowing HOW to be Christlike: I guess what I mean is that in all my lifelong membership, I know very well what to do in a missionary situation, but I am helpless when it comes to knowing what to do for a sad person. Or a lost sheep. Or a person who needs a hand. I have an impulse, wanting to be of service, but I don't have a script. I do know I bristle at things being an assignment. Like visiting teaching or home teaching. I get why those things are programs on paper, but in practice....wow. assignment relationships are kinda terrible.
:lol: I posted too soon. Ignore everything I just typed.

Those are difficult things to learn. I'm a "fixer" by nature. Over the years I've learned that there's no one answer or tried and true approach... that and some people don't want to be fixed they just want someone to listen.
The time to relax is when you don't have time for it. - Sydney J. Harris

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DarkJedi
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Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Long time reader, first time commenter

Post by DarkJedi » 21 Jun 2016, 06:33

Welcome to the forum, I'm glad you introduced yourself and look forward to your contributions.

I know exactly what you're talking about with people not visiting when you don't go to church. The same thing happened to me when I stopped going, I can count on one hand the number of people who interacted with me during that time - and no "leaders." There are several others here who have experienced the same type of thing. Since my return to church I make it much more of a personal experience and don't particularly concern myself with what others are experiencing. My relationship with God (such as it is) is mine and is not dependent on the church or others.

I don't know if the church teaches us how to be Christlike or not. I do know some very good, very Christian people in the church and I know some who I don't think are very Christlike at all. The same can be said for people outside the church. Maybe being Christlike is something we have to figure out for ourselves.
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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Weaselgirl
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Joined: 20 Jun 2016, 08:21

Re: Long time reader, first time commenter

Post by Weaselgirl » 21 Jun 2016, 06:45

No Nibbler. You get me. That was wonderful, and I needed to hear it.

In other news, I think your chances of ever being "General Relief Society President" are pretty slim. :smile:

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Minyan Man
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Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 13:40

Re: Long time reader, first time commenter

Post by Minyan Man » 21 Jun 2016, 07:04

Weaselgirl, welcome. Keep contributing. Keep coming back.

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