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Newly baptized and overwhelmed

Posted: 09 Feb 2021, 14:47
by jd3783
Hi everyone!

Long story short I was baptized in December. Still taking lessons from the missionaries, received a ministering companion and family, they set me up biweekly meetings with the leaders of the elder's quorum and I received the Aaronic priesthood. I also just started my last year of college.

Having not grown up in the church, needless to say, this is a lot to take in. Minestering partners and immediately receiving the priesthood were not mentioned by the missionaries. Things were much simpler when I was a Baptist :D

I'm happy with my decision to join the church and I will always make time to help others. However, my work schedule changed right before I was baptized and I now have to work every Sunday. I watch sacrament meetings virtually when I am able to at work and the guys that handle the sacrament bring it to those of us that can't attend in person.

We've had people with COVID and they canceled service a couple of weeks ago. Not many people are attending in person, however, they are pressuring me to change my work schedule so I can pass the sacrament and all the other stuff they do. They ask me nearly every time we speak when my schedule is going to change. They've even offered to talk to my manager for me to see about getting my schedule changed. I feel this is inappropriate.

I don't particularly want the priesthood or to pass the sacrament and all that. I just want to study the scriptures and lessons and attend sacrament meeting.

How do I tell them to back off without seeming rude or unthankful for what they're doing to help guide me in the church?

Re: Newly baptized and overwhelmed

Posted: 09 Feb 2021, 15:44
by SamBee
I am totally sympathetic. I have been there myself. Receiving the Aaronic Priesthood is not a big deal unless you're a young boy - you can't do much with it. The Melchizedek Priesthood is the bigger deal. It mean more important callings. The Aaronic Priesthood is basically what every male teenager and adult gets if they hang around for more than a couple of weeks after their baptism.

Here's the thing. You don't have to say yes to everything. I haven't. Just tell the truth - say you're only just in and say you want more time to acclimatize before you take something.

I have said no in the past. Now I sit on our ward council, which is pretty important and I have an input into how it is run. But I did it in my own time. I felt overwhelmed after my baptism partly because they wanted me do home teaching/ministering and go on a mission. I never did, and went inactive for years. A mission would have been too much for me. But now I play an integral part in our ward and know my way around the church.

Re: Newly baptized and overwhelmed

Posted: 09 Feb 2021, 15:58
by nibbler
I've been on both sides of the fence, I'm a convert and I ended up serving a mission. I'm not saying this is how things are for everyone, every experience is unique to the individual, but I did want to share what I experienced.

My experience as a new member was very similar to yours. Members of the church were eager to get me to do as much as possible as soon as possible. A few things to keep in mind:
  • Members genuinely believe that activity/participation in the church is vital to one's salvation. To go inactive is to put one's exaltation at risk.
  • The church has an issue with new member retention. The church is tight lipped when it comes to statistics, this is all speculation, but I've seen estimates on new member retention anywhere from 10% to 50%.
People are especially concerned with retention because, again, the worry is that people will stop going to church a few weeks, a few weeks turns into a few months, and pretty soon the person is "lost" and their salvation along with it.

There's a form for New and Returning Member Progress. There's the phenomenon of "leadership roulette" meaning some leaders are sticklers for following the process, others less so, but generally bishops (and missionaries) will concern themselves with new member progress. Essentially a checklist of ordinances and milestones that, if completed, are general indicators that a new member will move past the neophyte stage and remain an active member of the church their whole lives.

It's also a method to help ensure that new people don't fall through the cracks, that new people are integrated into the ward family. Lots of people go inactive simply because they don't feel welcome or they never feel adopted by their ward.

I also went through a period of inactivity. About a year after being baptized I got a job that had me working Sundays. Your report that the missionaries have gone to extremes to get you to change your work schedule (or even changing jobs) doesn't surprise me in the least. I heard it too, I'm sure I said it as a missionary a hundred times. It goes back to that same idea; activity in the church leads to salvation, inactivity leads to becoming a "lost sheep" that is in danger of losing eternity.

Combine that thought process with the inexperience of youth and training that missionaries receive that prompts them to say those things and you have kids pulling out all the stops to get you to put church ahead of work.
jd3783 wrote:
09 Feb 2021, 14:47
I don't particularly want the priesthood or to pass the sacrament and all that. I just want to study the scriptures and lessons and attend sacrament meeting.

How do I tell them to back off without seeming rude or unthankful for what they're doing to help guide me in the church?
I think you say just that. A polite, "I'm not interested in doing that, right now I'd just like to..." Maybe the key is letting them know what you'd like to do.

I'm certainly no expert, I declined ministering assignments and it didn't go so well, so hopefully others will chime in. One thing to keep in mind is that we don't have a lot of experience dealing with boundaries at church, so I'd advise to cut people at church some slack (and cut yourself some slack) when people step across boundaries. Ministering assignments and priesthood ordinations are often seen as duties and responsibilities, so leaders can sometimes come on strong.

Again, I think the ministering thing and the priesthood thing go back to them worried that you'll fall away. We may have missed the causation does not equal correlation memo, but they see people that have "fallen away", they see that statistically those people never received the priesthood (for men), and they make the determination that people won't fall away if they have the priesthood. The tail starts to wag the dog and before you know it... ensuring all males receive the priesthood is this vital thing.

Re: Newly baptized and overwhelmed

Posted: 09 Feb 2021, 17:00
by DarkJedi
Been there. I was 21 when I was baptized and received the Aaronic priesthood the Sunday after my Friday baptism (in those days confirmation was done at the baptismal service). It was a huge change for me (former Catholic, an hour on Sunday and that was pretty much it - and no big deal if you skipped).

I've definitely had my ups and downs over the years, but Nibbler is right - they're checking the boxes with you because they believe it's mui importante that you get the Melchizedek priesthood, go to the temple, get married, etc. Anything that seems like it's not getting you to those goals (their goals for you) is a red flag. But in life it's not about other people's goals, it's about your goals and what you want. Thus I agree with Nibbler:
I think you say just that. A polite, "I'm not interested in doing that, right now I'd just like to..." Maybe the key is letting them know what you'd like to do.
Be prepared that it might not be comfortable.

Re: Newly baptized and overwhelmed

Posted: 09 Feb 2021, 17:05
by Roy
Hi jd3787,

It sounds like you have lots on your plate with a new religion on top of work and school responsibilities.

President Gordon B. Hinckley (Former LDS Prophet) once gave a talk that every new member needs 3 things: a calling, a friend, and nourishment from the Good Word of God. It sounds like you are most interested in the last part by studying the scriptures and the lessons. I hope that also you have a true friend to support you through what can be a big lifestyle change.

The first part - the calling - is what I see at play here. The idea is that people need a job to do to 1) feel like they belong as a contributing member that pulls their own weight and to 2) keep on attending even when they don't feel like it because they know that people are counting on them and they don't want to let anyone down.

As many individuals that have been members their whole lives will tell you, there is always more that you can and should be doing. This can be good as a motivator for getting out of our comfort zone and gaining self-improvement. it can also be exhausting and can lead to burnout if not done judiciously. This becomes an exercise in boundary setting. The Book of Mormon tells us, " “A man should [not] run faster than he has strength” Mosiah 4:27
jd3783 wrote:
09 Feb 2021, 14:47
We've had people with COVID and they canceled service a couple of weeks ago. Not many people are attending in person, however, they are pressuring me to change my work schedule so I can pass the sacrament and all the other stuff they do. They ask me nearly every time we speak when my schedule is going to change. They've even offered to talk to my manager for me to see about getting my schedule changed. I feel this is inappropriate.
I have worked most Sundays for the last decade. This has made it hard for me to receive a calling since most of them are primarily performed on Sunday. There is also the idea that no work should be done on the Sabbath but I think the barrier to Sacrament Meeting attendance and holding a calling is the bigger issue here. I have done a number of things over the years to manage both work and church on Sundays. I have attended a different ward with a later meeting time that allowed me to attend after work. I have missed the first half of church but then got there for the last half. I have requested callings that I can perform outside of Sunday (for at least 5 years I have worked with the 9 and 10 year old boys on Wednesday night activities [formerly known as cub-scouts]). We have not attended live church meetings since COVID began and have only had access to virtual sacrament meeting since the new year. I do believe that people observe my good faith efforts to stay connected to the faith and leave me be to a fair extent. I do worry however that given your newness to the religion, people may feel more bold in telling you what they think you should be doing. I am sorry about that.
jd3783 wrote:
09 Feb 2021, 14:47
How do I tell them to back off without seeming rude or unthankful for what they're doing to help guide me in the church?
I feel that the best boundary setting happens when the boundary setter is able to remain calm and polite but be firm.
I can imagine saying something like the following:
"I really appreciate the invitation, I also need to not make any waves with my employer right now. In what other ways could I make progress without attending on Sunday"
I also like what Sambee said
SamBee wrote:
09 Feb 2021, 15:44
Just tell the truth - say you're only just in and say you want more time to acclimatize before you take something.
Your mileage may vary but I hope the best of success for you in all your endeavors - at work, at school, and at church. :thumbup:

Re: Newly baptized and overwhelmed

Posted: 10 Feb 2021, 17:02
by Sheldon
You fell for the old 'bate and switch" routine. The missionaries teach you one thing, and the reality of "church" is much different.
You are an adult, and you need to set boundaries. They are thinking you will stop coming to church if they don't load you up with activities. But as I've seen, sometime it will drive people out. Tell anybody that will listen what you feel comfortable doing, and remember that "No" is a complete sentence and needs no explanation.

Re: Newly baptized and overwhelmed

Posted: 11 Feb 2021, 10:04
by Roy
Sheldon wrote:
10 Feb 2021, 17:02
They are thinking you will stop coming to church if they don't load you up with activities. But as I've seen, sometime it will drive people out.
The good news is that one of the biggest benefits of the church is the community. The more that you are active in participating in these things the more integrated into the community you will become. The people trying to get you "involved" are doing so with positive intent. However, despite these intentions, some basic and friendly boundary setting is always appropriate.

Re: Newly baptized and overwhelmed

Posted: 11 Feb 2021, 13:03
by DarkJedi
Roy wrote:
11 Feb 2021, 10:04
Sheldon wrote:
10 Feb 2021, 17:02
They are thinking you will stop coming to church if they don't load you up with activities. But as I've seen, sometime it will drive people out.
The good news is that one of the biggest benefits of the church is the community. The more that you are active in participating in these things the more integrated into the community you will become. The people trying to get you "involved" are doing so with positive intent. However, despite these intentions, some basic and friendly boundary setting is always appropriate.
I think some members, perhaps especially those who have never been part of another church, don't really understand the culture shift that's taking place for new members, especially new members who were active in another church. As I alluded to earlier, I was a semi-active Catholic just prior to joining the church and that meant an hour on Sunday morning and nothing else. Even if I were more active it would have been nowhere near the level of expectation in this church. I think that just re-emphasizes the importance of boundaries.

I agree the people trying to help new members are doing so with the good intent and believing what they've been taught about what keeps new members active (Hinkley's 3 things everybody needs and Packer's [paraphrased] "People fall out of the church for the same reason they fall out of bed - because they weren't in far enough"). But one size really does not fit all, especially among Millennials and Gen Z (jd3783 would appear to be Gen Z). I think as most of us who have been around the church for a while know, breaking those "cultural norms" for the old school/old guard can be difficult - even with church programs put in place by the prophet. Our EQP is quite honestly still stuck in home teaching mode, it just takes time to change culture. Again, boundaries are important here.

Re: Newly baptized and overwhelmed

Posted: 11 Feb 2021, 20:32
by jd3783
Thanks, everyone!

I do enjoy the lessons and stuff, and I know they have good intentions, but it is a culture shock with the level of activity that they expect. I plan on participating more in the future as life settles down. It's good to know I'm not alone!