Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Am I fundamentally unsuited for Mormonism?

As I was reading randomly around the bloggernacle, I came upon a very interesting post talking about the author holds a mini-devotional every morning with the whole family. Hymns are sung; prayers are offered.

This reminded me of something that has always bothered me: everyone else seems to like church and church-related things a whole lot more than me. As a kid, I never enjoyed going to church. I think this was supposed to change once I went on a mission, but in reality, it only exacerbated the problem. A mission is like two years of church every day; some companions demanded having a mini-devotional every morning. Now I find out that some people actually like this, and do it of their own free will.

This makes me think that I am constitutionally unsuited for Mormonism. I do not like hymns, I don't particularly like sitting in church or listening to General Conference. I find the history and the doctrine endlessly interesting but somehow not the practice. I would much rather read about a sermon than actually have to sit through it.

If I haven't ever enjoyed church, even when I was a faithful member, why should I believe I ever could?

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't particularly enjoy Church, but I'm about as orthodox and committed as they come. I think.

Yet, I doubt we'll ever hold a family devotional every morning.

Is Church supposed to be enjoyable?

Ben S.

Rusty said...

Yeah, I think Christ said, "only those that enjoy High Council talks will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven"... or something like that.

Actually, what I enjoy about Church is the personal interaction with other members of the ward. If there is a good teacher in Gospel Doctrine I enjoy being intellectually challenged (and every once in a while feel the Spirit). Elder's quorom is almost always a drag. And there is no way I'm doing mini-devotionals every morning. Scripture study, yes. Singing, hell no. Of course, scripture study falls in line with what you enjoy about the Church.

I don't think you're that different from most members. Some are just more enthusiastic about singing than others.

Amen to that said...

Wow - this is a great question. I'm in exactly the same boat as you are. I've never enjoyed Church, and I don't think I get many "blessings" from being a Mormon over and above the blessings I get for being a decent person.

On the other hand, my spouse LOVES, LOVES church, so I go every week and support the callings my spouse has. But I just don't "get it". Why not sleep in on Sunday, read the paper, and otherwise enjoy the day? All the craziness at Church with little kids running around and people falling asleep during meetings certainly doesn't contribute to a spiritual atmosphere.

Anyway, I think some people are hit by the Spirit at an early age, or the Church positively contributes a lot to their lives.

I was never hit with the Spirit, no matter how hard I tried, and the Church was more of a burden than an opportunity for spiritual growth.

I like this question, and would be interested to hear what other people have to say.

Geoff J said...

It's too late for you now, Flanders. We've added your feed to the Mormon Archipelago site so now you're stuck being a Mormon!

Honestly bro. -- even President Hinckley knows church can be hit or miss. I don't like going to recitals for my little kids -- but I like my kids so I go. You don't have to like church... You mostly just need to like God. We like God and that's why we go.

(Plus liking God always eventually leads to liking his kids, and you get to hang with his kids at church too.)

kris said...

Ned,

I don't know if you read my post but as I have publically confessed to such a practice recently, I would like to weigh in. Hopefully my coments were not taken to be prescriptive, but only as background to the story I was telling.

One of my favourite quotes is from Brigham Young, "I am not a stereotyped Latter-day Saint, and do not believe in the doctrine ... Are we going to stand still? Away with stereotyped 'Mormons.'"

It is interesting that Ben S. who defines himself as "orthodox" and posts at what has been characterized as a "conservative Mormon blog" thinks he will never hold a family devotional every morning. I on the other hand, post at a "liberal" blog and would define myself as somewhat "unorthodox" but still sing, pray and read scriptures every morning with my family. I like to include both of us and many others in the "household of faith".

I think it just goes to show how fluid our definitions really should be and how limiting it is to have a "checklist" of what makes a "good" Mormon.

P.S. I enjoy reading your blog :)

NFlanders said...

Kris--
I was inspired by your recent post but I didn't want to link to it in case people thought I was being critical (which I wasn't). I think I just feel a bit left out, wondering what other people are getting out of church practice that I didn't.

I have to say that I find it very encouraging that there are so many different types of Mormons, and that there is no one right way to Mormon.

NFlanders said...

...I mean, one right way to be Mormon.

kris said...

Perhaps I seemed too enthusiastic? I do enjoy the singing, which partially grew out of my calling as the Primary Chorister, but I just like to sing in general. Scripture reading is harder -- I don't always like it because I just seem to get more questions than answers. But for now, I am committed to the process. And it may not always be like this. I highly doubt that when our kids get to be teenagers they will be running to the table to sing hymns at seven o'clock and yelling, "Gratitude Circle! Me first!!". :)

kris said...

P.S. I think I am liking "Mormon" as a verb!

J. Stapley said...

I know that this may sound chintzy, but upon reflecting on the Title of this post I thought about humanity in general. Conclusion: Humanity is fundementally unsuited for Heaven.

And I like mormon as verb as well.

Clark Goble said...

I'm not a big fan of church the way it typically is. It's sort of like endless meetings. I sit there twisting and turning in my seat wishing people would just cut to the chase. But there are people who do like it the way things are. I'm not.

That's not to say I always am like that. Further I hate when I miss sacrament. (Well except when my baby was up all night teething) I do hate having Sacrament at 9 in the morning which is almost an unreasonable hour when you have kids (IMO).

I have been to meetings I've loved. I have had sacrament services I wouldn't have wanted to miss. But over all, I think our meetings have problems.

m said...

i've pretty much always been bored to death by church. some talks/lessons have been good, but usually they put me to sleep. occasionally there would be a fantastic talk that would make me feel good, but usually the talks or lessons i found interesting were because we were talking about controversial topics.

i remember telling my bishop in a TR interview a few years back that i just am not a spiritual person. i'm bored in church, don't really ever want to attend the temple, don't find joy in reading the scriptures, have a hard time praying, could never imagine reading scriptures w/ my family, and have nary a deseret book on the bookshelf. a lot of members seem to treat living the gospel as a hobby that gives them joy, but i've never really been a church-hobbyist.

so, in my best michael mcclean, "you're not alone..."

Anonymous said...

This all sounds sooo religious! If you don't like going to church, then why go?! If you don't go to church for the reason of worshiping God (which IS the reason to go), then what's the point? It's not about what YOU get out of it, is it?! Why do you continue to go then if you've never liked it and don't believe you ever would, out of religious duty because you are scared what might happen if you don't? I believe that if you REALLY love God (not just like Him) then you'll want to know Him more, you'll want to go to church, you'll want to pray, you'll want to read the Bible (do you use it in Mormonism?) you'll want to sing hymns, you'll want to meet with other members. Because it's all about God! You know though, I'm not Mormon, so I really can't relate to that. One commenter said that kids running around and people falling asleep doesn't contribute to a spiritual atmosphere, but neither does an unenthusiastic attitude!

Anonymous said...

Kris: If you want to see some further mixing of terms and labels, check out this characterization here.
http://www.joeyday.org/2005/04/12/lds-blogging#comment-234

Ben S.

kris said...

Thanks Ben, I think we have a lot of common ground :)

Anonymous said...

Dude, It is so easy to totally hate church and just about everything that goes with it (including our hymns, many of which are extremely lame) but I still go 100% of the time to each and every meeting unless I am seized by a contagious illness, which never happens.

Lately I’ve turned church into a more ‘abstract’ experience which is kind of hard to define. Part of my mind is listening in the moment and then the rest of it is in another room tossing about ideas and checking them against what I ‘know’. I’ve stopped automatically taking everything literally, which is hard because we’re kind of taught that it’s safe to. I try to question everything thoroughly, so that keeps me occupied in meetings. I do the same for General Conference etc.

I think part of the reason I’m on the ‘outside’ so often is that I wasn’t raised in a traditional Mormon home and though I’ve been a faithful member since the age of eight, I differ culturally. I don’t like the music so much because I have a music education and have been exposed to a much broader spectrum of sacred works…same for literature, science, other religions etc. Where meetings are run by and sustained by those with a more traditional experience and enthusiasm, they aren’t really going to appeal to me unless I put some work into it, and I must say it has been rewarding.

Take care,

Clark Goble said...

Why go to church if we don't like it? Well there are parts that are valuable and enjoyable. I always get a lot out of the 10 minutes of the sacrament ordinance and the meditation I do during it.

Further it seems to me that many of the biggest benefits are our ability to serve others. Scrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven, as they say. Who am I to make church focused just on me? That's rather egocentrical of me.

I think our church services could do with a significant restructuring. But that's really independent of whether I ought go.

Bent1957 said...

You would hate me, Ned. I love just about everything about Church and haven't missed Church more than about 20 times in my 48 years. I have lots of Deseret books. I practice with the Choir even when I know I will be out of town for the actual performance. I even do my best to attend church when on vacation, even when camping in the mountains. I download the conference sessions from lds.org and burn them onto MP3 CD's so I can listen to them while traveling and commuting.

One of my big regrets right now is that I'm getting hooked on LDS blogging, which takes away from "reading out of the best books". Can blogging somehow count towards activity in the Gospel ?

-Brent

NFlanders said...

I wouldn't hate you Bent, err, I mean Brent. I don't understand you, certainly, but people have different interests and different natures.
But I do think your General Conference cds just replaced the monsters in my nightmares.

Eddie said...

Ned:

You are NOT unsuited for Mormonism. There are many things that are left to our personal preferences, and what we feel is right for us/our marriages/our families. Something that works well for Family A may not work for Family B.

We have a family prayer every morning before we head out the door. We read a page or two from the Book of Mormon Reader and Bible Reader at night with the kids (they're young enough that they enjoy this, and they're learning the basics of the stories).

I have an in-law that is, to borrow a term from Kelly, "Churchy McChurch." They have a devotional every morning, with an assigned speaker, a hymn, prayer, scripture study, yadda yadda yadda.

I'd go nuts. And you know what? It's fine for them--if it works for them, great. But it's certainly not required. We do what we feel is best for our family.

Anonymous said...

All that is "certainly not required" huh? What IS required? What is done out of love and devotion and NOT out of requirement?

NFlanders said...

I guess my problem is that I assumed when I was growing up that someday I would be magically transformed and start liking all this church-related stuff. This transformation was supposed to happen on my mission, but I just didn't catch on fire like the guys in the "Called to Serve" video.

I felt like every one else around me was like being burned like Elijah's altar; meanwhile, I was cutting myself like the priests of Baal, and there was nary an whiff of smoke. This is not to say I didn't have spiritual experiences on my mission, but somehow they didn't seem to change me too much.

From all the comments posted, I have to say that it is heartening to know it's possible to be a faithful member and still not enjoy the cultural aspects of the church. At this point in my life, I am fairly confident that I will never enjoy these things, but it's nice to know that doesn't mean I can't still "Mormon" my own way.

A deeper problem, though, is that I am not a very spiritual person. It's common to hear people in the church say that the spirit guides them all the time, but I just can't relate to that. Perhaps I instinctively distrust anything intangible, but I can't imagine a life like that. How would you know when it was the spirit and when it was just you?

justin said...

Don't know if anyone's still looking at this thread, but Ned, especially in your last post you describe some of the exact same sentiments I've felt.

I never thought I'd really enjoy church, but lately I find myself surprised. I don't really like most of it when I'm there--Gospel Doctrine really, really bugs right now--but I feel I've missed out if I don't go, and being there feels right.

I didn't do anything I can put my finger on to cause this shift in my feelings about church, and maybe it won't last, but I'm enjoying it right now.

As far as distinguishing between one's own thoughts and the Spirit's inspiration, I'd love to hear what you have to say. This is an issue I've struggled with since my mission threw me a significant curveball on the topic.

NFlanders said...

Justin--
The guidance of the spirit is a hard topic for me, probably because I don't have much of a frame of reference.
Most of my "spiritual" experiences seem to have come and gone extremely fast, like a stabbing.

Once, I had a slightly prolonged experience while teaching a discussion, but other than that they have been brief.
This is why I have a hard time relating to people who talk about the "constant companionship of the spirit." I wouldn't know what that's like.

NFlanders said...

I would also be interested in hearing about the issue that came up during your mission, if you felt comfortable discussing it.

Steve (FSF) said...

LDS church services are a drag, no doubt about it. Attending an LDS worship service is probably like having sex with an orgasmically challenged woman (not that I have experienced the latter personally). We need some energetic preaching, use of power point and video, and revamp that hymn book entirely. Also need a modern gospel choir. I'll bring my tambourine to church if someone else will join me.

Aimee "Roo" said...
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