Today’s post is by The Chorister. Sometimes I get really frustrated with my relationship with the church and find myself increasingly feeling like I don’t fit. So I e-mailed my younger brother recently and told him some of what I’ve been feeling. He’s had similar feelings in the past, but seems mostly at peace now. Here’s part of his response:
“I’m so sorry for you to be in that place. I know it must be hellish, and that you must feel so isolated. It’s a long, hard road, sometimes, isn’t it? It’s funny, because now that I am feeling better, Wife is having something akin to what I felt (although much less serious), which surprised me. She has always seemed so much stronger. Her mother would absolutely freak out if she knew, but of course Wife will never tell her, because her mom is a lot more school-marmish than our parents.
Anyhow, hang in there, if you can stand it. Honestly, I think the next generation of members–our generation–is going to change a lot about this church. I certainly know that I am, at least.”
I wrote him back, asking whether he really thinks things are going to change a lot and suggested to him that frankly, I just don’t see it. Here’s his response:
“I actually do. There is a lot of conservatism and traditionalism, but look at things like birth control. When was the last time you heard anybody talk about it at church? The use of it is virtually ubiquitous, and the numbers of member families, especially younger ones, completely bares that out. How many families in your ward have 6 children or more? And 20 years ago, how many do you think there were? This stuff used to be the subject of every General Conference, and now, no one could argue about whether or not it’s used. EVERY couple uses it.
More women are working now than ever before, and I think it’s become much less taboo than it used to be. I know it doesn’t feel that way to you, but I think that’s honestly the way it is. Of the women in our orbit at church, plenty of them work AND have kids. And maybe it seems like it’s not, because sometimes, the old rhetoric still seeps out. But I think the world is moving on from it.
The younger people Wife and I deal with all the time in the church, they aren’t like the older people. I think they’re less judgmental, more urbane and learned, more a part of the fabric of society. They watch most TV shows and movies, use the internet and talk about stuff. Most of them are conservative, it is true, but I guess it never really bothered me.
I’m sorry that everywhere you look, you only see the traditional and conservative. I know it’s so common, but I guess I always choose to ignore the stuff I don’t like, and of course it’s easy for me because there is so much more that I love than that which I don’t. And of the stuff I hate, I guess I choose to wait, because I know and feel deeply that I’m going to get a chance to change it. I know I will get this chance, and when I get it, I’m going to do it. It may be that things get so hard, so suffocating, that you can’t abide it anymore. But there is more than one way to not abide it.”
I love my brother. He is idealistic, but I have to admit that I was persuaded, albeit perhaps temporarily and only partially, by this e-mail. It made me feel hopeful—hopeful because my brother has been in the bishopric in the last two units he has been in. And so if people like him, who are open and empathetic and understanding, can be in priesthood positions, then maybe things WILL change. I have long felt that I was going to just keep plugging along, sometimes rubbing people the wrong way. And I’m guessing that’s what I will do, but sometimes I get so impatient. And tired. Really tired.
I’m intrigued by my brother’s idea of there being “more than one way to not abide it.” We can abide it by doing what I’m doing–just plugging along, doing my calling, attending church, making a few waves, or maybe just ripples. Or we can do what my brother suggested: ignore the things we don’t like and patiently wait. We can not abide it by trying to make bigger ripples/waves. We can not abide it by leaving—just pack up our marbles and go home.
If there are aspects of either church doctrine or church culture that frustrate you, how do you (not) abide it?