There’s more than one way to (not) abide it . . .

guestMormon 10 Comments

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?

Comments 10

  1. My answer for myself has boiled down to this: “Don’t take everything so seriously.”

    Take your own spirituality seriously, of course, and take right and wrong seriously. But life is too short to worry about what was written in Joseph and Fanny’s love notes or whether Prop. 8 is constitutional. For me, anyway.

  2. Your brother said: “I always choose to ignore the stuff I don’t like.” That’s me in a nutshell. It’s also how I feel about feminism. I just refuse to acknowledge (on some level) stupidity or out-dated views or repression from external sources. I am not unaware of those things, but I try to live as if everything is the way I think it should be. And so, in a big way, for me it is.

    I am willing to be direct and speak the truth plainly as I see it, but if others don’t agree with me, I generally don’t get frustrated anymore; change doesn’t happen because I will it. But I can live my life as if it has happened. The people who have the most impact on my actual life are me and my immediate family. People outside that intimate group don’t get into my head anymore. And I can really enjoy people because of that detachment.

  3. I have to agree with Arthur about not taking everything so seriously. I used to take things much more serious than I do now. I don’t get caught up in the “everything must appear perfect in my life” mode….you know the one….is my home perfectly clean and have I tried the latest new painting technique (done by me of course) for my living room wall? Do I have the latest scrapbook ideas and are all my scrapbooks caught up? (heaven forbid if they are not!!) Do I have a treat with a hand written note card for each of my primary children on Sunday? This is a description of the church culture I am embedded in and continue to live in but have been able to find a better way.

    How I learned to deal with the frustration and high expectations of my particular church culture was by developing my relationship with the Lord and BELIEVING Him when I felt He was speaking to me. I was able to let go of many falsehoods and my life became much more enjoyable. I don’t worry about what others think of me (in a way that was affecting me negatively before) and I am able to enjoy being in my home when there are still dishes sitting on the counter (that was a big step for me). I think we tend to “know” many things, but sometimes we struggle to believe them, and once we do believe them it opens up a whole new perspective, which is very liberating. I feel peace in my life about things I don’t understand because I know that as I seek the Lord, if understanding doesn’t come right away, He gives me that peace and it is not something anything or anyone else can give me. I love the Lord’s peace and there have been times when my life has been beyond ridiculous, and yet underlying all the craziness there has been that calming peace within me. I have had to learn to be patient and it has been hard. Waiting on the Lord can be a true refining fire, but if you are waiting with His calming peace abiding with you…I believe it is worth it.

  4. look at things like birth control–this seems to be extending even to vasectomy, which, if I recall, is more frowned upon by the Handbook of Instructions than contraception. I see men getting this done and not sweating it at all (at least, not from a religious standpoint 🙂 )

  5. In relation to birth control, I have grown up in the church and don’t ever remember any big issues about birth control. I was always taught that it was between the Lord, me and my husband and didn’t feel pressure about the issue. On the other hand, my extended family who are all Catholic seemed like it was a much bigger issue and frowned greatly upon.

    As far as vasectomies, I have never heard anything about the church frowning upon them. I have always assumed that it is between the Lord and the couple….silly me….

  6. After a lot of sleepless nights and meditation on this subject I have come to the conclusion that I am going to focus my life on the best way I can. I may disagree with the church on some topics, wear a tank top here and there during the summer, skip church every once in a while to sleep in, and drink a cup of coffee time to time BUT every day I want to focus on being the best person I can be that day. I know a lot of members that would completely disagree with this, but this is the first time in my life I don’t live with cognitive dissonance every day. So for me, it works.

  7. 5 – I hope this doesn’t come across as though I am targeting your comments. Regarding birth control, I think that was the point Chorister’s brother was trying to make. The culture has changed to be totally accepting of something which was so taboo during the 50’s, and 60’s, and to a lesser degree the 70’s, and 80’s, to total acceptance and use in the 90’s to current. Case and point is the the most famous and widely regarded Prophet in Mormonism other the Joseph Smith Jr, Joseph Fielding Smith (sarcasm). In either Doctrines of Salvation, or Answers to Gospel Questions, President Smith speaks quite emphatically against birth control, even considering it a form of direct self inflicted damnation. He argues that exaltation is defined among other things as the continuation of the seeds, this referring to increase beyond bound with spiritual progeny. His point was that there is a direct correlation to our williingness to raise up seed in mortality, to the degree of increase with which we will be entrusted with eternally, pending faithfulness and exaltation. In other words, exaltation is somewhat contigent upon the mortal willingness to raise up numerous children in mortality, and any “unnatural”/intentional effort to impede that process is percieved as an assault on divine nature.

  8. Cowboy-

    I had read Rigel’s comment about birth control(right before mine) and was responding more to that than to the actual post. I own those books you mentioned by Joseph F. Smith and remembering reading some of what you are stating in your comment. It is interesting to see the ways things have evolved in the church in relation to birth control. In this aspect it seems that the members have been given more accountability for seeking after the Lord and getting answers for themselves in relation to their family, rather than relying on the general counsel given for everyone. I have noticed that the changes made with missionaries in having to rely more on the Spirit rather than memorized discussions suggest this same thinking. In some ways it seems members are being given higher expectations in learning how to seek after the Lord and His Spirit rather than relying so heavily on what the general counsel is for the church, because the reality is there are such great variations within the church in each individual’s purpose that personal revelation is key. It is interesting to consider, just as we grow in accountability as we grow from a child to adult, if the church itself is growing in a sense from telling us everything to do or not do, to allowing us to seek personal answers for our life situation. As I am writing this I realize that Prop 8 is probably coming up in someone’s mind and the fact that the church spoke out about that and didn’t leave it to members to decide, but interestingly, members are deciding on their own anyway. The fact that members are doing this may show a spiritual awakening in members that is necessary to survive the times before the Lord comes again.

  9. I guess I am disappointed in the idea of not abiding. I think there are far most positive ways to imagine both our relationship to the church and our own spiritual condition as individuals. While I empathize with the frustration there are more positive ways to conceptualize the issue. I also am uncertain about the idea of “making waves.” I’m not sure what it means exactly, I am certainly not one to say that those of us on the margin should be silent, far from it, but how we speak,and where we speak, and our intentions matter a great deal. I believe that those of us on the margin have real opportunities to provide spiritual leadership but they will probably only arise as we find proactive and positive ways to express our theological priorities.

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