I always thought the midlife crisis was just a cliché. But now I’m 41, and I’m finding myself in the midst of an all-too-real midlife phase of questioning myself, my identity, and my place in life, with accompanying feelings of anxiety, dissatisfaction, and disillusionment.
Nearly all these feelings focus on my career situation. I’m ten years into a wonderful second marriage, so that’s not affected. But I sense the crisis spilling over somewhat into my religion/faith. For this post, I thought I would do a bit of self-inventory in the spirit of “I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.”
To begin, let me tell you two ways in which this midlife crisis is NOT affecting my religion/faith, so you’ll understand more where I’m coming from:
1) Although I’m aware of some aberrations, inconsistencies, and other unresolved areas in Mormon history and doctrine, these areas honestly do not trouble me much. I find that the solid aspects of the faith far outweigh the unresolved areas, and I’m content to wait and see on those areas, which I feel confident will eventually be explained to my satisfaction. Certainly I can’t imagine any other lens through which to understand life and negotiate my way through it than Mormonism.
2) I don’t find myself facing significant doubts or problems related to the temple-recommend questions. Only three questions give me any pause: A) When asked if I affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church, because I have inactive and nonmember friends and I participate in several alternative LDS forums. B) When asked if I earnestly strive to do my duty in the Church, because I tend to do the minimum. C) When asked if I keep all the covenants that I made in the temple, because I’m sure I could always do MUCH more with sacrifice, consecration, etc. Other than that, I’m totally on board.
So where is my midlife crisis spilling over into my religion/faith? It mainly has to do with what I would term the Mormon lifestyle. Here’s the essence of my midlife Mormon questioning: Must the Mormon lifestyle be quite so programmed, regimented, and one-size-fits-all standardized, or is it OK to do some customizing and setting of one’s own quotas and benchmarks for good works? I’m not talking about rationalizing paying 5% tithing or drinking beer only once a month; I’m talking about those aspects of the Mormon lifestyle that are not explicitly required to maintain a temple recommend, instead functioning as what I would call sub-commandments:
Home teaching: I can see the value of home teaching for socially bonding together a ward and, rarely in my experience, helping families who really need it. However, with my personal and family time under increased pressure and each month passing by so quickly, once a month just feels way too frequent for both visiting and being visited. My midlife self asks, Why can’t it be acceptable for me to set my own quota of quarterly, which I could do willingly and happily? I’m close to making this preference known, but it’s hard because it would offend others.
Daily scripture study: I’m grateful for the scriptures and recognize that they help establish the foundation of our church. However, I personally think they’re a bit overhyped as to how much we can keep getting out of them by rereading them over and over. I’m a passionate reader, and I have tried to do daily scripture study at different times in my life, but it always ends up feeling overall tedious, with the occasional smidgeon of new insight. Rather than not study scriptures at all, I’ve recently given my midlife self permission to read one random chapter from the Book of Mormon each Sunday and call it good.
Temple attendance: The expectation is once a month, but I’ve dwindled to once a year or less, so I’ve set my midlife goal to attend every six months. Again, I personally find the spiritual benefits of temple attendance to be overhyped, and I don’t get what people mean when they say, “I learn something new every time.” Yes, a big component of temple attendance is serving others—so I ask you, do the dead somehow view the movie through our eyes? If not, I hope the church eventually starts offering a streamlined ordinance-only option. Think how much more work would get done! And I’d go more often if the session were an hour-plus shorter.
Dress code: I’ve personally come to reject the Mormon priesthood dress code, disliking it on both the symbolic and practical levels. I think it’s cultural, not doctrinal. So here in my midlife, I don’t always wear a tie to church, never a white shirt, don’t even own a suit, sometimes wear nice leather sandals to church without socks in summer, and often wear a pair of newer black Levi’s to church. I choose to wear a groomed beard and would never shave it off just because some church leader asked. (Frankly, I’ve been a little disappointed that no one’s yet given me the opportunity to stand up for myself on this issue.)
Odds and ends: I’ve found that I’m willing to fast every other month. We hit family home evening every second or third week. I get to skip priesthood and Sunday school once a month. During church, I can read church magazines (Ensign, Sunstone, and Dialogue). I never sing hymns, but I open the hymnal for the sacrament hymn and mentally follow along.
I guess over the years all the religious busywork has just become too much and too often for me, but if I can set my own pace, it helps me feel more in control and more willing to get the most out of what I’m able and willing to do, instead of resenting it or secretly just not doing it at all and feeling guilty. I’ve seen many people fall into all-or-nothing or slippery-slope modes of thinking when it comes to practicing the Mormon religion, but I don’t think it always has to be that way, especially on this sub-commandment level.
Maybe all this is obvious to some of you already, but for me it’s been a midlife awakening to figure out how I can continue enduring to the end without just getting sick of it all and slipping into coasting mode, like I did halfway through my mission. Maybe I come across as a self-indulgent wimp, but at least I’m still holding onto the iron rod.
What about you? Have you had or do you anticipate having a distinctively Mormon midlife crisis? And what’s your take on dealing with the day-to-day benchmarks and quotas on all this sub-commandment stuff?
Check out some provocative, unconventional, yet ultimately faith-affirming Mormon books and/or my personal blog.
I’m not old enough for a midlife crisis, but you’ve said a lot of things I have thought about, but never really verbalized… It’s hard to be motivated to do any hometeaching when Sunday is the only day home with the Family, and you’re supposed to be visiting 5 other families…I’m thinking of spreading it out a bit as well… All comes down to priorities, really.
As for the temple, I’m ok with the length, what I really wish is that church were an hour shorter, i.e. make the last two meetings 30 minutes. The lessons might even be more interesting that way…plus I can’t sit for longer than an hour or two. As for the dress code, I like a variety. I usually wear a tie (which I agree is cultural) though.
I think the MOST important issue in all this is something you’re well aware of. Church exists to change our hearts and our natures. If we’re just jumping through all the “sub-commandment” hoops without much feeling, it’s not going to change us. I agree with you that we should focus on things that produce more results.
And BTW, I love the Enquirer. I didn’t know that was you. : ) Hilarious. I think my favorite is the all-seeing eye on the COB. : )
Heck, I wear my TEVAs even in the winter time. The only time I wouldn’t wear them is when there is snow on the ground. 🙂
I agree with some of that, and vehemently disagree with other parts of it. That said, I think the real issue is this: if you keep yourself going at this pace, will you eventually start allowing other things to creep in, or will you keep to things that matter?
As far as scripture study goes, I think that I have the hardest time with that. I see it like my brother does running. If I don’t do it EVERY day, then I don’t do it. He runs every day, save Sundays, with very few exceptions. I don’t read the scriptures, but I know that if I am going to do it at all, it needs to be every day. Period. I can’t do it a little bit or it won’t happen, because it’s not happening right now.
That said, I read a lot right now in other areas. Voraciously. I read perhaps 1-2 books/week. Plus 2-3 research articles and any number of things on the internet. Plus what I write.
I found myself agreeing with most of your suggestions. Home teaching especially I think is broken. It does not fulfill the function it was supposedly designed for (to inform the bishop of each family’s needs in the ward). As often as not, even when an in-house home teaching visit occurs, it is not intimate enough to discern the family’s needs. I have seven households on my list and a companion who rarely makes it to church due to extensive business travel. It ain’t happening the traditional way anymore.
Daily scripture “reading” versus “study” is more of my goal, but to be honest, I probably read twice a week, Sunday and one other day when I realize Sunday is coming up and I haven’t read the lesson for Gospel Doctrine. I’ll tell you that modern renderings of the Book of Mormon move a lot more quickly. There are two of them out there that I know about which have made it so that I read a wee bit more than I used to.
Amen also on temple attendance. I have fewer problems with suits and ties than some folks, although my preference is for a sport coat, slacks, suitably Celtic tie, and a day or two’s facial hair growth. I’ve also found that looking more orthodox helps smooth my way in the ward when I venture a less orthodox opinion on certain religious matters.
I have a post next week on my own personal cultural sins which is similar to the flavor of this post. I look forward to confessing all, as you have done here 🙂
I like the very thought of just loosening up a bit! Have a little fun once in a while. My lessons in HP are considered a bit unusual because I like to have fun with stuff. I talk about gospel/doctrinal principles but like to put a contrarian spin on it to get response. We had a great session a few months ago on: “Doctrine, No Doctrine.” such as Polygamy, doctrine; white shirts, No doctrine.
I really can’t see myself loosening up quite as much as Chris is saying, but HT every other month or once a quarter, I’m there!!!!
This is an interesting one for me, because I tried to mix it up a bit during my years in the church, but it just feels forced. Once when I was a counselor in the Elder’s quorum, I started wearing colored shirts and a jawline beard to church; but I got called to be president anyway. My stake president just didn’t take the hint.
I consider myself an “insider” in my wards and actually like to wear a suit most of the time, my politics are conservative, and my interpersonal communication skills are improving to the point where I no longer offend others (that I know of anyway). I am not much of a misfit, though I am well known for stirring the pot in a good natured way and making others laugh. I spend a lot of time doing home teaching because I enjoy it so much and the families trust and love me, though I may miss a month here or there of being in their homes, I spend time with them on the phone all the time so they know that I am available to them.
I read the scriptures daily (most of the time) because I enjoy it (most of the time) and it is fulfilling to me (most of the time). I usually feel peace and joy in the temple. My kids adore home evening and so forth. I usually like helping others move. I usually like service projects. My professional job is not super demanding of me, so I feel like I may have deeper emotional reserves than others in this case.
I’m just letting you know that I worry very little about those who don’t experience these things in the same way as I do, my purpose in life is to serve others and I know that deeper than I know anything. I find that much of my life is spent doing the bare minimum where I see few opportunities for real service and impact, so I can understand when others may not want to invest in relationships or projects where they see little return on their investments. I am much more interested in assisting others find “what is next” in their spiritual journeys than I am worried that others think or act as I do. Building Zion (the pure in heart) is the task at hand and little brings me more happiness.
Although I am a few years away from a mid-life crisis I feel for you Chris. I empathize with all you have said and I wonder if these are Mormon “mid-life” crisis issues (as catchy as your title is) or issues that are affecting everyone. I also do have a dislike for the dress code, wonder about the temporal relevance of spending much time in the temple, and other things. I think your implied conclusions are felt by many.
As my dad says to me, “Hang in there mate.”
I think you’re doing exactly as you should. If you love the Mormon community and the only way to maintain your happiness in it is to be a little “rebellious,” then you’re doing what you need to. I think that conformity is a harmful endeavor for those of us who like who we are just the way we are; and if we want to change, then we change. Being fluid and flexible in life is a great gift, and one in which I wish I was in better possession. I think the tired slippery slope argument of if you don’t do things with exactness you’ll wind up leaving the church is fallacious and controling. After all, one of the main mantras of the religion is “men are that they might have joy.” If you have joy as a Mormon, and in maintaining your love/sanity for Mormonism means loosening up, be joyful, man. I see nothing wrong with bucking the cultural trends and minutia. Of course, this is all coming from a former believer. ;0)
Christopher, thanks for your thoughtful and honest post. I think the self-evaluation, re-ordering of priorities, and approach of simplification you’re going through is good, healthy, necessary, and inevitable for just about all Mormons. Thankfully, we have General Authorities who recognize it. Here’s what Elder Ballard has said about the wrestle you’re having:
“[W]e need to thoughtfully allocate our resources of time, income, and energy. I would like to let you in on a little secret. Some of you have already learned it. If you haven’t, it’s time you knew. No matter what your family needs are or your responsibilities in the Church, there is no such thing as “done.” There will always be more we can do. There is always another family matter that needs attention, another lesson to prepare, another interview to conduct, another meeting to attend. We just need to be wise in protecting our health and in following the counsel that President Hinckley has given often to just do the best that we can.
“The key, it seems to me, is to know and understand your own capabilities and limitations and then to pace yourself, allocating and prioritizing your time, your attention, and your resources to wisely help others, including your family, in their quest for eternal life.” (M. Russell Ballard, “O Be Wise,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 17–20.)
Chris, was it you who wrote the Sugar Beet article on the “slacker track”?
I’ve decided that I’m going to pick just one of the things that are “the most important program in the church” and do that excellently. I’ve picked visiting teaching, because it lines up with what I value most – community, and bearing each other’s burdens.
There are only so many hours in a day, and my level of commitment to the church is such that I would probably do everything half-assed if I tried to do it all.
My biggest heresy is that I don’t believe that our observance or non-observance of any of the ordinances or commandments you list in your post — or even some of the “biggies” you don’t list (Sabbath, Baptism, Word of Wisdom, Tithing, etc.) — matter in the eyes of God. I believe that the entire gospel can be boiled down to phrases like: “In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” or “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Having said the above, I don’t think these ordinances or commandments are useless. On the contrary, we need symbols and ordinances to remind us of our commitment to follow God, to love our neighbor, etc. Without them, we either tend to forget, or we don’t know “how” to demonstrate our commitment to God and neighbor. Such ordinances, symbols, commandments, etc. are literaly the “language” we use to communicate with God, and with each other (on a spiritual level).
But it’s the underlying purpose of these ordinances, symbols, commandments, etc. that is the priceless treasure, the ordinance itself is but the wrapping paper. Emphasizing the wrapping paper over the priceless treasure leads to idolatry, ethnocentrism, self-righteousness and worse, on the one hand; or boredom and spiritual apathy on the other.
So all of the “sub-commandments” you list above are mostly grounded in sound principles, but if they don’t work for you, there are dozens of other ordinances, symbols, and commandments that will help you achieve the same result.
Ask yourself what the real, eternal purpose of daily scripture study, monthly temple attendance, home teaching, dress code, etc. is, and then ask yourself if there isn’t another way to achieve the same result? I can think of several alternative ways myself.
Such is the path out of any midlife spiritual malaise.
The only downside to this is dealing with the dirty looks and second guessing from the Pharisees and Sadducees in the community who will be quick to remind you that you are “doing it wrong,” or that your spiritual offerings won’t “count” in heaven because the wrong words were spoken, or didn’t have the stamp of approval from this or that authority or institution. But if that happens, you just smile and refuse to shave your beard.
Benjamin O. (#3) asked, “If you keep yourself going at this pace, will you eventually start allowing other things to creep in, or will you keep to things that matter?”
Ah, the slippery slope. For me, the fire wall is to keep qualifying for a temple recommend. And the reality is that I do more by being honest about my own limitations than by pretending to accept the benchmarks and then just doing nothing.
Stephen Wellington (#7) said, “I empathize with all you have said and I wonder if these are Mormon “mid-life” crisis issues (as catchy as your title is) or issues that are affecting everyone.”
Yeah, I’m sure they do simmer for most people, but the midlife mindset of questioning and reevaluating is the perfect time to start really looking at them and being honest and realistic. I hope my midlife clarification will help me have a better time in the religion than I did in my twenties and thirties.
Matt (#11), I don’t think that’s heresy, I think it’s the essence of the Gospel. Sometimes we get those two things mixed up.
Yes Chris…the perspective of church indiscrepencies must be different from mid-life compared to the 20’s or 30’s. I think there would be more incentive to stay.
I think that the Temple Recommend is the firewall for me. I don’t care much for the Sunday School manuals and think that new editions are long overdue. I am all for shortening the block. Three hours is a bit much for me to take. In the South, and perhaps elsewhere, there are two hours on Sunday and then on Wednesday nights the whole family comes back for their youth program and for men’s and women’s meetings. If we did something like that I would not object.
I have not been reading the Book of Mormon lately. I have been reading the Old Testament and really enjoy it. I also alternate between between the KJV and the NRSV. Right now I am in Nehamiah in the KJV and second Samuel in the NRSV. I also like the Pearl of Great Price and selectively read sections from the D&C.
My goal for temple attendance is once a month. I will do a different things when I go there as opposed to just doing endowments.
White shirt: When I feel like it.
Other then that, things are good.
In Defense of the White Shirt
I’m not sure why white shirts gets so much slag. The thing I like about wearing a white shirt is that I never have to really think about what I’m going to wear. I just choose my suit, get a tie that matches the suit color and go. When I try to wear a different colored shirt, it gets more complicated because I have to make sure that my suit matches the tie and the shirt. That’s just way too much of a hassle on Sunday morning. I work for a company that is very image conscious, so it’s great to not have to worry about what to wear on Sunday. I know what to wear and I won’t feel out of place.
Ann, you mentioned the Sugar Beet’s slow-track gospel program, which is still bouncing around the church in e-mail form. Yeah, I was the one who thought of that, but our writer Amy Chamberlain is the one who actually fleshed out the idea. I guess to me it wasn’t that much of a joke!
Here’s another thought: They say your mission is a microcosm of your life, and I’m seeing how that’s somewhat true for me. I spent the first half trying to live up to all the benchmarks and rules and really never succeeding fully and nearly always feeling quite miserable. Then I had a mid-mission crisis and let go of the rope and crashed for a couple of months, which was easy to do because I was farmed out into one of those districts of other misfit missionaries who were all crashing too, just drowning their sorrows in 10-12 hours a day of sleep as well as constant fast food and endless videos.
But then I began to rebuild my own approach somewhat—and if I had it to do over again, I would have done this much more aggressively and brazenly and confidently. Instead of dozing through study time in the morning, I went ahead and slept until 7:30 or 8:00 and then did my studying from 10:30 to 11:30 or midnight, which was so much more rewarding and productive for me. Instead of trying to face a whole day of tracting and ending up never doing any, I did an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon, and that was enough to assuage my conscience. I found the complete cultural privation totally counterproductive and incomprehensible, so I introduced carefully selected novels, movies, and music back into my life, which helped me feel happier and more balanced, so I was better able to function as a missionary and not resent the whole experience so much.
I guess my personality just doesn’t mesh all that well with Mormonism on some levels, and I’m certainly not unique or alone. But maybe there’s also something flawed about a human institution making so many rules and quotas and benchmarks and expecting others to live up to them so perfectly. Yeah, warn us against the major stuff, but teach correct principles and let us govern ourselves rather than fostering such an intense peer-pressure situation where you have to be just like everyone else or you’re not worthy, even if the one-size-fits-all standards don’t fit you. I think there’s a big difference between how the Church institution/culture/society handles this stuff and how I would like to think the Lord and God do, who I would think would accept any positive offering and movement in the right direction with full love and acceptance rather than making you feel bad because you prefer to study your missionary materials at night or don’t see the point in home teaching every single month.
Here’s the famous Sugar Beet article Ann was talking about:
Church Unveils “Slow-Track” Program
In order to better meet the needs of “our most average members,” church representative Howard S. Jeppeson announced the creation of a new slow-track membership program. “This program caters to those members of the church who may not be top-level celestial material but who are still willing to put in a nominal effort toward their own salvation,” he said.
The slow-track program includes the same components of normal church membership, but at a more relaxed pace. Members who sign on for the program are required to read scriptures and have personal and family prayer once a week, attend church once a month, visit teach or home teach four times a year, and watch one session of general conference every other year. If slow-track members can commit to these requirements for five years, they can earn a temple recommend stamped with an S for “slow track,” after which they are expected to attend the temple semiannually. According to Jeppeson, the church may create a shorter, condensed version of the temple ceremony for S-track members “in order to better accommodate those members’ shorter attention spans and lower levels of ambition.” [Holy cow, I forgot how closely this spoof article resembles the midlife plan I outlined my post above… Sheesh.]
Social historian Jane Schippen, PhD, a long-time scholarly observer of Mormon society, hails the new slow-track program. “Mormonism pays a great deal of attention to its high achievers, like those who are stake president before they turn forty or women who have eight children and maintain a spotless house,” she observed. Similarly, she continued, “Mormons spend a lot of time and energy worrying about those on the other end of the spectrum, the less-actives.” She sees the slow-track program as “a way to acknowledge and honor the vast majority of Mormons, those who will never hold high positions of leadership but who are nevertheless active – the sloggers, if you will.”
Logan Stake president Gary L. Hackett agrees with Schippen and says that the new slow-track program “will prod the lazy ones into progressing at least a little bit, which is an improvement.” He estimates that implementing the slow track will cut administrative tasks, such as nagging phone calls to complete home or visiting teaching, by as much as 75 percent. “It’s about time we recognized that not everyone in the church is that top ten percent of the celestial kingdom material,” he notes. “And, really, that’s okay. I mean, the bottom two levels of the celestial kingdom are supposed to be pretty good too, right?”
Most members seem happy with the soon-to-be-implemented system. “Let’s face it,” says local member Larry K. Whiting. “I’m not cut out for this high-paced, pressure-oriented Mormon lifestyle. I mean, home teaching four families every month? The scheduling alone takes way too much time. And then I have to go over there and pretend I care about these people when I’d rather be home watching ESPN? Give me the slow-track program any day.”
Local member Kendra Koenig agrees. “Do you know how much fun it is trying to roust five kids out of bed for family scripture study and prayer at 6:30 A.M.? I am sick to death of nagging them about it, and you can believe it’s not doing our family harmony any good.” She praised the slow-track system for offering a more realistic temple-attendance schedule. “Like anyone who has a life can manage to get out there every month? This slow-track program is the answer to my infrequent prayers.”
For what it’s worth, when I went to the temple last weekend they did fast-track it just a tad. Seriously, the movie and the session have been abridged. Sounds like someone in Church headquarters is having a mid-life crisis, too.
BTW, if you want to know how it feels after the mid-life crisis is over, imagine having a two day fast and ending it with an Iceberg chocolate malted.
I got tired of wearing suits to church for a while, but that is because I was wearing them to work six days a week. Now that we have office casual I’m more comfortable with the suits.
Just having friends who oppose, or participating (as one of the “good guys”) in an alternative forum makes you uncomfortable in the TR interview? Man, I’m in trouble. 🙂
I like home teaching. I don’t like formally coming into someone’s home and teaching them a lesson. But I like the idea of people connecting who might not otherwise. In fact, THAT is precisely the thing I love most about the church in general. Transcendent relationships.
I’d rather study the Quran, Torah, Baghavad Gita, etc. before I read the Christian Bible and the Book of Mormon again. Its a big world.
Temple: I totally agree with the feeling you expressed. The only thing I felt I ever learned at the temple (besides the stuff you memorize) is that being Mormon is a lot more serious than I realized coming from a plain ol Christian background. From what I’ve heard, since I never attended before the endowment changed in the 90’s, I don’t even know the half of it. Even at the times I desperately wanted to understand people’s testimonies of the temple, I just never got it.
Dress code: I like dressing up a little, but I hate the feeling of the top button and a tight necktie, so I always have it undone and the tie loose. I have one shirt with french cuffs, which is fun to wear in an Ocean’s 11 kind of way. I have a blue and a gray shirt I mix in. I have never noticed any shirt color pressure for anyone other than kids passing sacrament, at least here in Arizona.
Interesting post and comments. I can understand where most of you are coming from. I often feel my flesh speaking to me as Christopher writes. However, I am pulled back from this path because of the many manifestations of the spirit I have experienced.
I would be interested to know if any who read my comment have the same dilemma?
Jared (#22) wrote: “I often feel my flesh speaking to me as Christopher writes.”
Did I write that? I don’t see my concerns as relating to the flesh or the natural man, particularly. It’s not about appetites and lusts, etc. It’s more along the lines of not getting why Mormons have so many sub-commandment-level quotas and benchmarks and so much social pressure to conform to them exactly, not getting why people can’t make more of their own flexible lifestyle plans within Mormonism and still be treated with respect and acceptance. It’s more along the lines of reevaluating priorities and behaviors and deciding to take control and set one’s own pace instead of pretending otherwise while secretly feeling resentful and/or guilty.
I laughed out loud at your line about not wanting to slip into “coasting mode”, because really brother, it sounds like you’re already there! I think these issues are best worked out between you and the Lord, though.
BTW, I had never seen the “slow-track” story. Hilarious!
E (#24) wrote: “I think these issues are best worked out between you and the Lord, though.”
While I admit my post was quite personal, I believe it goes well beyond the private and into valid cultural analysis/critique, so I don’t accept your brush off. I think many people would benefit from more frankness and authenticity in facing up to the demands/pressures of the Mormon lifestyle and whether it really has to be quite so much that way.
Something else E (#24) said pushed a button and I gotta reply: “I laughed out loud at your line about not wanting to slip into “coasting mode”, because really brother, it sounds like you’re already there!”
Absolutely not! Coasting would be just not doing ANY of the stuff. People like me may not be in overdrive, but second or third gear is certainly not coasting.
I’m truly sorry to have offended you. I really was not trying to push any buttons, and I can relate to what you’re going through trying to sort out what is important to do and what can be left undone. I don’t think anyone can do everything on the cultural “list”, so we all have to let some things go. What I really meant was, in trying to sort that out, I don’t think there is any one right answer and I have found it helpful to try and seek guidance when setting priorities. So I have no advice for you.
Jesus instructed his Church (ie the Priesthood) to take the names of members and see that they were not forgotten and regularly strengthened in the word of God.
I see Home Teaching as the modern equivalent to this, and so in my opinion Home Teaching is actually one of the few programs of the Church that I have actually been asked by Jesus to do. In my opinion a bunch of the other programs that seem to eat so much of our time fall far behind home teaching in importance because of this.
Daily Scripture Study:
The power of God is in the speaking of the Word and in the hearing of the Word. It was by the power of His Word that the world was created. I don’t think it is any accident that God seems so obsessed with us constantly reading the Word. I don’t think it has anything to do with learning new things as much as it does with constantly being exposed to the power of God as contained in His Word. (Particularly the BofM and the 4 gospels- but try reading some Psalms to mix it up if you feel burnt out). That may be overly esoteric to some, but it works better to me as a motivator to read at least one chapter a day.
Try thinking of a trip to the Temple the way you would a trip into the mountains or the woods. It has the same meditative atmosphere, but without the day after back aches and knee pain.
Well there’s no doubt that this is primarily cultural. It’s a way to show respect to God, but as that method of showing respect is driven by cultural standards, not by anything God has asked of us, I don’t think this is a big deal. Far more disturbing is that you seem to want someone to make a big deal about it so that you can defend your actions. It sounds like you are a rebel without a cause. I mean… why would you want to have a fight over your manner of dress? Are you going to keep pushing things until somebody does say something? That can’t be very Christ-like. Also sounds like you aren’t doing what you want to be doing be instead you are searching for a way to push other people’s buttons, and are then frustrated when they don’t react.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but really, that comment was the only one that really bothered me. Strange huh, as the Dress Code is the one thing I agree with you is optional. But really, you sound like an angst-filled-over-nothing teenager… I guess it is a midlife crisis after all.
“I choose to wear a groomed beard and would never shave it off just because some church leader asked. (Frankly, I’ve been a little disappointed that no one’s yet given me the opportunity to stand up for myself on this issue.)”
This is my favorite line–I’m the same way…
Wow. I’m a 37 year old woman and consider myself to be a pretty faithful member.
But I never even consider it possible to do it all anymore. Maybe I’m just used to motherhood and have had to adjust all my expectations of being perfect that women so often complain about.
Yeah, it a perfect world I would do daily scriptures, family and personal prayer, weekly FHE, monthly temple and VTing, and showing up on time to church each week, etc. But I think its pretty much a given that life doesn’t let you work that way. At least it doesn’t for me with a husband and kids and other life problems getting in the way.
I’m a total believer in mid-life crisis and think everyone should be constantly having one so that it stays in managable doses. Each time I’ve had a child, or a child with a serious problem, or a major health issue, or my husband having cancer, or a marital difficulty, it makes me take stock and regroup.
For you, is it really possible to do all these things? Do you seriously have the time to go to the temple, or the energy to think of a lesson and activity for Monday night–nobody works late, or has homework, or the dinner didn’t get made, or anything that makes you want to just sit on the couch and relax before you start getting impatient and crabby with the spouse & kids?
I have to control the part of me that seems to insist that I be perfect. I can’t be. I have to accept that I am not. I am content these days to do my best. I’m pregnant with #4 right now, and I have learned something in my life. Pushing myself to my physical and mental limit didn’t do my family any favors. As much as it goes against my nature to leave things undone that I could do when I have energy in the morning, if I do relax more in the morning when I just have one child, I have far more patience and energy for when my kids get home from school and my husband gets home from work. I have to pace myself in this strange way (ah, the backwards life of a SAHM) by doing my relaxing first, just to save my energy for when I need it. So, this has been my best pregnancy.
I think that only the Lord can help us truly prioritize the way he would have us prioritize. We can guess, but as long as you keep submitting your will to his and let him guide you, you can take care of what is most important at each moment.
Esther Rasband’s book “The Myth of Self Esteem: 12 Steps to Finding PEace” was the most helpful book I ever read. It really takes your mind off the “checklist” that you think is required for eternal life.
I wish everyone could read it. I was in a RS lesson and they discussed service and losing yourself, and then of course someone pointed out that you can give and give and don’t have enough to take care of yourself and so how do you balance that. The whole room seemed confused. They had forgotten about the Lord. If you give yourself to the Lord and let HIM help you pick what you do and what you don’t do, you can find the right balance. It does require personal revelation and a lack of pride. You have to do what you can and trust that the atonement does make up the rest.
I don’t mean to say that anything on the list is bad. It is all good stuff. Just read the book. I guarentee it will make an impact on you and your specific mid-life crisis.
I can relate very strongly to your midlife crisis situation. Been there. I would like to make a couple of comments; mainly around your statements about Mormon historical issues and scripture study. I felt for many years that I had gotten everything out the scriptures that was of value so, like you, my study waned. That is until I had my crisis when I was around 46. The situation I was in forced me to reevaluate what difference there was between the corporate church and the spiritual church.
As I started down that path, I was amazed at how many nuggets of understanding I found in the scriptures that I had never perceived before. The church had me so programmed with the pat answers that I didn’t really seek after more light and knowledge. What a shock and an invigoration that became as I began from the most basic spiritual concepts and began to ‘rebuild’ my understanding. I began by not reading the scriptures in marathon mode but by seeking to understand concepts and follow where ever the trail led me.
Electronics helped to be able to do efficient sorts. An example; one of the earlier posters noted his definition of the gospel. Have you ever wondered how the scriptures define the ‘gospel?’ Or the church? Or the doctrine of Christ? Or the mysteries of God? Go do some searching and you may be amazed by what you could find.
Nuf rambling. I hope there is something in this that awakens a thirst in you.
I’ve been trying to figure out what’s going on with me. I’m 37 and have had exactly the same feelings so I have not been to church for the last 3 weeks thinking that it’s all or nothing.
I work 12-16 hour days in a startup business.
I have been trying to understand what is going on – I don’t learn “something new” at the temple every time – most of the time it’s painful to go. I begrudged the time and cost of the overnight trip to the closest one.
I hated my high council meetings – three hours wasted discussing nothing every 2 weeks.
I begrudged driving for 4 hours each way to some tiny branch in the middle of nowhere to check up on some branch president who was just trying to do his best.
And a couple of months ago I got roasted because I wore a gray shirt with my suit because my wife had been too busy to do all the laundry!
The reality is that waking up before dawn to study the scriptures with my 4 kids was not uplifting when I’d worked till after midnight.
I bumped into all sorts of sites explaining why the church wasn’t true but that wasn’t what I was really after. I like the idea of the slow track for the moment.
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I went on my mission not knowing if I had a testimony or not. I spent from the age of 14 to 20 drinking a lot of beer and having a lot of girlfriends, I was not prepared to go out at all. Three months in I was ready to throw in the towel and go back to my normal way of life. I came to the realazation that if the church is true, we could act in Christ’s name. A couple days before I was going to tell my parents I was coming home I ran into a homeless/paralized man. My first thought was if Christ could heal this man, I, through the preistood, acting in God’s name could as well. This was my final test. I felt if I commanded this man to heal and it did not happen I was done, next flight home. All I knew is I needed a “mustard seed” of faith which is about all I had. We took this man into a secluded room and I gave him a blessing to be fully healed in the name of Christ. It was the first and maybe only time I have felt the spirit so strong it scared me. This man after our blessing slowly stood up, spoke a little and walked to the restroom. People waiting outside almost fainted (non-lds folks) and cried in disbelief. For what this is worth, it is a true story.
I bring this to you that I have been active in the church (as much as I can be personally) and have tried to do the best I can and to do whats right. My wife after 13 years of marriage just requested a divorce and I feel like the world is crumbing down on me. I am not from a divorced family and I have two beutiful daughters. I want to go do things like get caught up with some friends having a few drinks or to be truly honest visiting a strip club. But with all the hurt I feel and the “un-fairness” that has come my way, I can only remember the man I healed that one summer day in Korea.
I understand exactly where you are. Many of us feel the exact same way. I can tell by your message you have a sincere heart and a good guy. This is the first time I have ever responded to a message on the internet, hell, it’s the first time I have been on the internet in years. Just do the best YOU can do and I promise you will be happy. As far as clothes, shoes and ties? I promise you God would be happy if you came in a swimsuit verses not coming at all. Hang in there my friend and throw me a prayer or two.
Oh, the burdens of trying to do everything that our church leaders tell us that God expects! Its seems to me that our motivation for doing good works so easily gets off track. If God accepted the prodigal son whose only act was to come back home (Luke 15:11-31), justified the tax collector who did nothing except to cry out “God, have mercy on me, a sinner”(Luke 18:10-14), and saved the sinful woman who crashed a Pharisee’s dinner party simply because of her faith (Luke 7:36:50), then obviously our standing with God has a lot more to do with humility, repentance and faith than with our good works. Note that in each of these three examples there is a person struggling to do good works (the older son, the Pharisees) who is not commended.
Striving to do good works always leads to weariness, to which Jesus says:
Matthew 11:28-30 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
As far as I can see, doing good works is NOT the basis of right standing with God:
Galatians 2:15-16 15 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
Romans 5:8-10 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Rather, doing good should be an overflow of the love that He puts within us:
1 Thessalonians 3:12 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.
1 John 4:7-11 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
How do we get more of this love and avoid weariness? By spending time in thanksgiving, quiet prayer, meditation about what He has done for us, and so on. Sabbath! Renewal! Asking and receiving cleansing and forgiveness. Asking to be filled again with the Holy Spirit!
Here are some renewal resources:
Fix your eyes on Jesus:
Hebrews 12:2-3 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Encouragement from others:
Philemon 1:7 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
Taking time to regain an eternal perspective:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Regain strength directly from meditating on the hope we have in God:
Isaiah 40:29-31 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Take time to be re-tanked by God:
Romans 15:13 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Avoiding the impossible burden of justifying yourself before God:
Galatians 5:1-4 NIV Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
Fred – a Protestant in need of this kind of renewal.
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