Coping with the Culture

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
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zmadel2
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Coping with the Culture

Post by zmadel2 » 13 Feb 2018, 09:21

Good morning everyone!

I joined the LDS Church about 2.5 years ago when I was 20 years old. I met my wife the night I was baptized, and we were married a year later in the temple. For the first year of my membership, I was the definition of a TBM--even when it came to some of the controversial things general authorities have said over the years. As a result of the culture of the church, however, I am now finding it hard to find any desire to be active in the church.

For the most part, I'm on board with the doctine, and I am currently active because of my wife, who is a TBM. If it weren't for her, I wouldn't be going to church at all, but I want to support her and avoid influencing her experience in the church. So I keep acting as though I am the member I used to be. Ever since I joined the church, I have been pressured to go on a mission. When I made the decision to get married rather than serve, it was almost like signing an order to be shunned. Everyone treats me like a second-class member once they hear that I didn't serve a mission. I have also suffered from depression throughout my life, and the general consensus among the membership seems to be that it is a result of not being righteous enough. It is also extremely difficult for me to go to Sacrament Meeting and hear all about how we need to do everything by the book--never eating out on Sundays, not watching R-rated movies, etc. Those things may work for some, but they aren't official doctrine, and it infuriates me when they are preached as the Gospel.

For awhile, I was able to white knuckle through church every Sunday, but it's starting to bleed into the rest of my week, making me feel like I truly am a second-class member. I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced this and, if so, what you've done to cope with the culture that is often preached as doctrine. Any help is appreciated.

Thanks!
Zach

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DarkJedi
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Re: Coping with the Culture

Post by DarkJedi » 13 Feb 2018, 10:29

zmadel2 wrote:
13 Feb 2018, 09:21
I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced this and, if so, what you've done to cope with the culture that is often preached as doctrine.
Judging by our activity and convert retention rates I'd say a few million have probably experienced something like this! ;)

First, welcome to the forum and second, on the more serious side, you are not alone in these experiences, your feelings, or your perceptions. Most of us here struggle with this all the time.

It sounds like you live in a very conservative (churchwise) area, or at least your ward is. Expecting a 20-year-old convert to go on a mission, especially when you met your wife to be at your baptism? C'mon, really? I suppose she was supposed to be dutiful and wait for you or maybe go on a mission herself? And what about that depression? Are any of the members there willing to perform an exorcism because it's surely demons that possess you. And to be honest I've never even heard the never eat on Sunday thing, except fast Sunday of course. How can you watch football without eating? OK, enough of the snarkiness, I'm sorry.

Truth is it's not easy to be where we are. I am fortunate enough to live in a ward that's a bit more open and accepting and a little less McConkiesque but as I said I still struggle with these things all the time and I have good weeks and bad weeks (this past Sunday was bad). Like you, I'm mostly on board with the real doctrine (Jesus is the Christ, love your neighbor, etc.) and mostly not on board with the pseudo-doctrine and outright non-doctrine. The toughest part is not having anyone physically there to talk to - and that's why we're here.

Different people cope in different ways. I'm a bit older than you and in fact have children your age. Part of coping is a maturity thing - just being comfortable in your skin and not really caring what others think. I go to church to "worship" and be uplifted and sometimes accomplishing that is completely up to me because whatever else is going on isn't doing it. I recognize that some people need the social aspect of church and while I do have some friends at church and do interact, that is not my primary motivation nor do I feel like I have missed out if I don't go and interact. People at church can help me or not, but if they're not it's up to me.

Are you being treated for your depression in any way, such as therapy? There are some smart people in the church who do recognize that depression is an illness just like any other physical illness. Elder Holland has offered some counsel on the topic of late - maybe you could share that and the fact that he also suffers from depression with the cavemen in your ward (oops, there's that snarkiness again).

I know perception is reality, but some of what you describe really is your perception of the way things are and I don't want to dismiss it and say it's all in your head because I'm sure it's not - your perception is based on something. But, it's likely that some of what you perceive is not what others intend and they may not realize they're sending that message (and believe me I am one of the most guilty of this). Cut them a break, and recognize that most of them are just trying to be good people and do the right thing just like you are. I work in juvenile justice and this little trick often works for me although it's admittedly easier with the age group - I try to envision them as little kids. That's not in a demeaning way at all, but envisioning them as five-year-olds tends to changes my perspective because when they were 5 they were as cute and innocent as all other 5-year-olds. I like to think (and hope) that that is how Heavenly Father sees us.

And again, this may have to do with maturity, but I'm not afraid to point out pseudo-doctrine or false doctrine when I see it. No r-rated movies? Is that in Section 139? Oh, it came from a prophet you say? Nelson? Monson? Who was the last prophet who talked about that (or food storage or having a garden, etc.)? Is it Official Declaration 3? Is it even in For the Strength of the Youth or any other recent church publication? Of course in reality I've never had to push that far because it's so easy to point out it's a personal choice and between me and God and none of anyone else's business.

Finally, what the "church teaches" is hardly ever what the church actually teaches. Almost everything the "church teaches" is really some individual expressing his (or much more rarely her) opinion or "good idea." What the church actually teaches tends to be the gospel of Jesus Christ and none of those other things.

I'm sure others will chime in. I hope we can help and you can share and help us as well.
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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Roy
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Re: Coping with the Culture

Post by Roy » 13 Feb 2018, 11:07

Welcome ZMadel2,

You remind me of some friends of mine. They are joined the church a few years ago. They have a special needs son and the dad does not work and stays home to help deal with the son's challenges. The wife does not want to stay home and takes much satisfaction in being able to work outside the home. There has been repeated suggestions (particularly from the older folk) that the husband needs to get a job to allow his wife to stay home. This male friend of mine is constantly made to feel like a second class man and priesthood holder because of their family situation.

So yes, you are not alone - there is a culture there - and it does not seem to be especially accepting or welcoming of diverse approaches.

For me personally a huge piece to this is not having the church rule my home. DW and I have counseled together on the standards of our home. The church perspective is always something we consider in making decisions - but they are still our decisions. That for me is a big part of being able to "Leave it at the door." I attend the LDS church, the LDS church does not run my life.

There are a few other "coping" strategies but for me it must begin by having some breathing room at home.

Again welcome! :thumbup:
"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

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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dande48
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Re: Coping with the Culture

Post by dande48 » 13 Feb 2018, 11:53

Word for word, this is EXACTLY what my brother-in-law went through, and is going through even now. For a second there, I thought you might be him. It's been a year and a half, since they've been together.

It's practically a checkbox commandment for every worthy young man to serve a mission. It's a rite of passage, and an incredibly painful, challenging one at that. So you're dealing with two difficulties here. First, people tend to hold the commandments they keep as the most important, as well as the ones they struggle with as the least important. Seriously, ask anyone to "rank" the commandments, and you'll know in an instant which ones they struggle with the most.

Second, you're dealing with the Christ's parable, of the workers in the vineyard. Some started early on in the day, and agreed to a wage of a penny. As the day went on, the Lord kept recruiting, and offering everyone a penny for the remainder of the day. When the day was done, and the wages were allotted, those who worked the whole day were miffed they got paid the same as those who only worked an hour. Guys who served a mission will have a hard time feeling someone who served a mission could possibly be on the same standing as those who chose not to serve.

Not that I agree, just saying how most of them feel. As you get older, it'll get brought up less and less. Right now, you're at a point in your life, where most men have just gotten off their mission. It's something they are very proud of. Converts at your age, who haven't served, are few and far between. As you get older, it'll become much less of a deal. It almost becomes impolite to ask about, and when it's brought up, saying, "No, I didn't serve a mission. Maybe in the future." becomes a much more acceptable response.

There are also a few trump cards you can play in the meantime. "No, I'm a convert" is a pretty solid excuse. And my favorite explanation of ALL TIME that I use for practically EVERY area in the Church where I deviate from the norm is, "I prayed about it and strongly felt...". I use this little gem for everything I don't want to discuss further, such as turning down callings, assignment, choosing not to renew my TR, and anything else that is largely stigmatized. There is literally no way to argue it, no way to disagree, and stops any further inquiry right then and there.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

AmyJ
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Re: Coping with the Culture

Post by AmyJ » 13 Feb 2018, 12:39

Roy wrote:
13 Feb 2018, 11:07
They have a special needs son and the dad does not work and stays home to help deal with the son's challenges. The wife does not want to stay home and takes much satisfaction in being able to work outside the home. There has been repeated suggestions (particularly from the older folk) that the husband needs to get a job to allow his wife to stay home. This male friend of mine is constantly made to feel like a second class man and priesthood holder because of their family situation.
My husband feels like he is in a similar predicament sometimes. He has chronic health issues and stays at home with our children - who can use the attention and support. He is also not interested in sports and some of the more traditional guy realms. He has had to work on wanting to get to know people at church (he is an introvert with intense social anxiety), and I have wanted to get to know less people at church over the last 6 months or so... so it works out (unless it doesn't because we get socially rejected and move on - oh wait, we can make that work too..).
Roy wrote:
13 Feb 2018, 11:07
For me personally a huge piece to this is not having the church rule my home. DW and I have counseled together on the standards of our home. The church perspective is always something we consider in making decisions - but they are still our decisions. That for me is a big part of being able to "Leave it at the door." I attend the LDS church, the LDS church does not run my life.

There are a few other "coping" strategies but for me it must begin by having some breathing room at home.
I hadn't thought about it that way, but that is sorta what we do as a family. Since I have grown up knowing that I had to identify the principle and learn to apply it to me personally - that is something I more or less common sensed my husband into doing as well.

AmyJ
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Re: Coping with the Culture

Post by AmyJ » 13 Feb 2018, 12:46

dande48 wrote:
13 Feb 2018, 11:53
And my favorite explanation of ALL TIME that I use for practically EVERY area in the Church where I deviate from the norm is, "I prayed about it and strongly felt...". I use this little gem for everything I don't want to discuss further, such as turning down callings, assignment, choosing not to renew my TR, and anything else that is largely stigmatized. There is literally no way to argue it, no way to disagree, and stops any further inquiry right then and there.
Love This!

I don't pray as fervently or traditionally as I should (do a lot more quiet introspective prayers) - so I tend to go with "I was inspired to do x,y,z, instead..."

DH thinks I am trying to get away with breaking the commandments sometimes, but generally doesn't want to spend the marriage currency to go there (since I am not breaking big commandments - just a little lax in garment wearing, remembering formal prayers...) especially when he feels he is working on bigger commandments then I am breaking.

When I recently started being careful but basically prescribing low doses of caffeine for me deliberately, he started to have conniptions. He rethought his position when he found some additional health research, astute observation of consequences both ways in my behavior, and when I pointed out that his medication would be banned according to the WoW bar the piece of paper and responsible prescription management - and that if I needed a piece of paper and responsible "prescription" management to make it "legal" I would go down that path.

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nibbler
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Re: Coping with the Culture

Post by nibbler » 13 Feb 2018, 18:33

DarkJedi wrote:
13 Feb 2018, 10:29
And to be honest I've never even heard the never eat on Sunday thing, except fast Sunday of course.
Small detail, zmadel2 said "eating out," like going to a restaurant to eat. That one makes an appearance in nearly everyone's Sabbath checklist.

- - -

Re: serving a mission. I don't mean to defend these guys but I'll try to step into their shoes for a bit.

Every ward has its own unique pulse but where I came up, being a convert was the only valid excuse for not serving a mission. All the young men I know got rode hard by their leaders to serve a mission. I'm also a convert, I joined the church at about 19 years old, but I never experienced any pressure to serve, no one even brought it up with me - maybe it was an "of course they aren't going to go on a mission" thing, who knows?

That's not to say your experience is invalid, it's just odd how hardline their approach is.

Fast forward a few years to the early married years. During these years I did see a lot of bonding among the young men centered around serving a mission. A few points:
  • It's the Mormon ice breaker. Small talk is hard, talking about the weather is lame, so the Mormon go-to is often "Did you serve a mission? Where did you serve?" It helps break awkward silences when people are trying to feel out what they may have in common with others in the group.
  • For men the 20s and even early 30s can be the "On my mission..." years where every story starts out with "On my mission..." It's probably the case that the mission is the most interesting thing that's happened in their lives so it serves as their only source for stories.
All the talk about missions among people in church that are still young likely isn't meant to rank people, though it can have that effect. It's probably innocent attempts to bond with others in the group, or someone relating the only life experience they have, or even simple parroting behaviors that they've seen. Unfortunately this phenomenon can have the effect of making people that didn't serve a mission feel left out of the group.

My good friend at church is in his 50s and has never married. Being single in the church can produce an even more profound odd man out effect. :(
The new beatitude: "Good luck..."
- Maynard James Keenan

zmadel2
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Re: Coping with the Culture

Post by zmadel2 » 14 Feb 2018, 18:45

Thank you so much to everyone that has taken the time to reply to this thread. Your words have encouraged me so much and given me plenty to think about. It means a lot to have a forum of like-minded people that are going through the same journey of finding our place in the church and making it work. I'm looking forward to hearing from each of you around the forum.

Thanks again!
Zach

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