Ask not what your church can do for you …

Some of my friends have wondered why I’ve opened my “comments” section to the disparaging remarks of believing Mormons, but I believe in openness and letting everyone have their say. It doesn’t hurt my feelings when people disagree with me, even when they’re smug or belligerent; and the responses are fairly predictable.

Take, for instance, this response to my “conference weekend” post from ditchu, a proclaimed Mormon believer:

Runtu, You have sparked a question in me…
Is LDS Conference meant to entertain us or is it to be something else?

One would think that the lack of entertainment value you have noted in your experience of conference would lead to a better understanding of the purpose. Twice a year we are given counsel to do that which is true right and noble, to abstain from evil and wickedness. We are shown ways to avoid common pitfalls and encouragement to continue in righteous living.
Your apparent boredom is a natural reaction to this guidance.

If it were for entertainment we would have comedians like Bill Cosby give talks, and video clips of sporting events, in vaudevillian style the profit would take a pie in the face… All for a few moments of fleeting laughs and giggles.

No, the serious reverence and respect that the members of the LDS Church have towards these semi-annual occurrences do not allow for such folly to entertain your latent mind, thus leading to your boredom and I suppose your dislike of such times.

So, it took you this long to ignore it, well whoopee-dee-doo… If all you attempted with this post is to show your disrespect and displeasure, you have achieved that goal. However, I must ask: What is it to me that you no longer care for the guidance and counsel of the leaders of a church you have abandoned. It should come as a given that you want to hear these things no more. The only logic I can ascertain from your post is that you are going through some sort of therapy, and if so I apologize if I have disrupted it. I hope you have at least had a cathartic experience in writing this one.

My best guess is that ditchu was trying to do a few things at once: chastise me for being shallow and criticizing church leadership, sneer at me for what he perceives as my need for therapy, and of course try to guilt me into repentance. But I take from this response something different. Ditchu makes me wonder if LDS church members actually expect anything of benefit to come from their church membership.

A few years back, Henry Eyring mentioned that his father had a knack for making “bad” meetings good by imagining how he would have done the meeting or lesson differently. Eyring then told us what we’ve heard many times before: what we get out of our meetings is entirely up to us. If a meeting is boring or uninspiring, it’s the fault of the listener, not the speakers. I believe this is the point ditchu was trying to make: I didn’t get anything out of the meetings because I had faulty expectations and didn’t expend the effort to find the “true, right, and noble” in them.

This attitude is consistent with what I’ve said elsewhere, that we were constantly made to feel inadequate because programs weren’t working or lessons and talks weren’t at all inspiring or beneficial; it’s never the church’s fault; it’s ours. The programs are inspired, and lessons and talks are what we need to hear.

What is also interesting is the strange undertone that we aren’t supposed to want anything from our religion. I’ve seen it all my life. The LDS church teaches investigators that the church can help them with their problems (see, for example, the new “Truth Restored” ad campaign), but when push comes to shove, if members are unhappy, they’re told that they are supposed to be giving to the church, not expecting something from it. Like Henry Eyring’s father, they are supposed to make the meetings and lessons good; why expect the church to make the effort? It’s all about you. And if you can’t make it work, you aren’t trying hard enough.

I can’t think of any other organization that acts this way. Imagine going to a grocery store and buying a peach. You take a bite, and you discover that the peach is mealy and tasteless, so you head back to the store and ask for a refund or a better peach. The store manager chuckles and says, “Silly customer, it’s not our job to provide a decent peach; you just have to have the right attitude. The peach is only as good as you want it to be, and if you don’t like it, you’re not trying hard enough.”

Church members give and give, but it almost seems selfish to ask anything in return from the church. After all, they’ve given you the possibility of exaltation. How could you possibly ask for anything else back? You owed so much to God that no matter what you do, you’ll always be “unprofitable.”

I did that for more years than I can count. And I’d still be doing it if the church actually were what it claims to be. My brother-in-law recently told me that he can’t stand the meetings: he describes them as “brutal” and “excruciating.” But he endures because he believes the church to be true. But once you figure out that it isn’t really true, why make excuses for the tedium?

Pointing out the pointlessness of General Conference isn’t cathartic or therapeutic (our smug friend’s view notwithstanding). It just is.

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15 Responses to Ask not what your church can do for you …

  1. SML says:

    “Pointing out the pointlessness of General Conference isn’t cathartic or therapeutic (our smug friend’s view notwithstanding). It just is.”

    So true. I liked your peach analogy too.

  2. runtu says:

    I just get tired of people saying it’s our fault the church doesn’t work. To me the problem is twofold: it isn’t true, and it doesn’t work, anyway.

    Nice to see you over here, SML. 🙂

  3. Ray A says:

    The peach anaolgy is a classic, Runtu. Once again you had me laughing.

  4. runtu says:

    I’m glad you liked it, Ray. How are things going for you?

  5. Ray A says:

    Runtu: I’m glad you liked it, Ray. How are things going for you?

    Ray: I like your blog and will keep reading, but probably only comment on days off.

    Everything is fine with me, except not much looking forward to going back to work tonight. 14 hour nights. On Sunday mornings (when I finish), I feel like I’ve entered the Celestial Kingdom. Probably the only beer-drinker there. 🙂

  6. runtu says:

    I hear some Australian beer isn’t bad. I can’t drink beer (or alcohol of any kind) because it interferes with the medication I’m taking. Oh, well. No great loss, really.

    I’m glad you’re doing well. We go way back, don’t we?

  7. Ray A says:

    I like Pils beer, which is purer than most without all the additives, though a bit more expensive because of this. Contrary to opinion, and advertising, Fosters isn’t that popular at all. Victoria Bitter is very popular, which I use to drink, but can’t stand it after switching to Pils, which was only marketed in early 2000s.

    Yes, we do go back over many board lifetimes, and not always in agreement. Such is the nature of the web. Never thought I’d meet my one-time “arch-enemy” Dan Peterson.

  8. runtu says:

    It’s OK to disagree, as long as you can do so with kindness and friendship. That’s what counts to me, anyway. With very few exceptions, we’ve always disagreed in a friendly way.

  9. Ray A says:

    Web-communication is not the best, and in particular forums, which is why I prefer blogs, next to person to person contact. I communicate weekly with an exmo friend I met on RFM in 2002, and we plan to meet in the near future, since he’s Aussie. If you ever do make it Down Under I’d be happy to meet you as well. I won’t be traveling for many years as I’m still recovering from “divorce debts”, and one place I’d like to visit is Lebanon, since I now have many Lebanese friends from the industry I work in, but Arabic is not an easy language to learn. You’ve got to be very careful not to offend them either, because their culture is very different to ours.

  10. sideon says:

    I’ll self-regulate my comments to Morgbots because they (the comments) are often pointed and unkind – and because I’m a judgmental bastard.

    Hey, I learned from the VERY best.

  11. runtu says:

    Yep, Ray, you’re right. Maybe I’ve read too much smugness into ditchu’s comments. If you’re reading this, ditchu, I’m sorry, and I hope we can be a little more friendly than we have been.

    If I’m ever in Australia, I’d love to meet you. I’d skip a day of meds to drop down a Pils with you.

  12. Ray A says:

    Wasn’t dropping any subtle hints, Runtu.

    If you can’t skip the meds, I’ll have your share 🙂

  13. runtu says:

    I know you weren’t, Ray. I just figured that maybe I’ve been a little too defensive with our friend.

  14. ditchu says:

    About this post… You got me all wrong. Not the quoat, that was spot on but it seemed you put more meaning into my statments. Just for the record, I said exactly what I meant. Nothing left out, no pulled punches.

    In point of fact all I was trying to get to was that if you find the talks and confrence boring… Do something else. Don’t rag on the people who choose to watch or lesten. I know you think the church is based in untruth, but there are many who would counter your conviction with overwhelming evidance to the truthfulness of this religion. However, I cannot say anything that would convince you of the truthfulness of the church you seem to have left, and why should I try? It is not my place to tell you what to beleive, or not to beleive. You must follow your convictions to whatever end.

    I was sincer when I appoligized if I had disturbed your thearpy, it was not intended to be a snide suggestion that you need thearpy. It just noticed that this is a great way to get out anxed, and decided that if that was all you were doing I’d not want to get in the way.

    My “it up to you” comments were not to be put together with all the shallow statments like, “If it dosent work for you you are a fault and need to work harder at it…” No! I was reminding you that you have control of the situation, like having the T.V. remote you can change the channel. If you are in these situations, it is due to your choice.

    When ever you fing yourself in a situation that you are overcome by bordom, you have placed yourself there.

    ***Remark Content Alert*** the following statment may be taken as smug…
    I would state that: “Bordom arises only when one has a latent imagination, or none at all.”
    ***end of smug remark***
    Just in case you wanted smugness from me there you go.
    {Also, I’ve never before this been quoated in the body of a blog post.
    It may take ma a while to live down this kind of celebrity status you have given me (crocadile tear rolls down left cheek, sniff) Thank you… I’d like to thank all the bloggers out there in post land, I couldn’t have done it with out you…}

  15. ditchu says:

    Also I’d like to note: The LDS church is unique in the regard that it is a community made up of its members. Meaning here the only way the church does anything is by some member doing it. If nobody put into the church as you seem to take argument with, then nothing would get done.

    It is just like our government should work and dosent… We the People! who is our Government? We the People! who does it work for? We the People! who does the work? … “the government?”

    With the LDS Church: Who is the church? We the Members! who does the church work for? We the Members! Who does the work? We the Members!! If we do not do any of the work in the church then the work load in disproportioniate. It is this giving and giving that you mention seeing, it is sad that you lacked seeing the getting and getting. In the last several years I have gotten as much back as ever I have “Given” when dealing with the church and the church body.

    It is the State and Fedural Government that I see little to no return on my giving and giving. The break down is when people expect something for nothing. “I can’t pay me morgage, please have tax payers do it for me.” or “I don’t work, so can I take mony from those who do?” this is not how we should function.. We must expect to get a return on our investments, I work and get to reap the benifits or being paid. this is how it functions in the church. If I ask my church for help, they give it but they will ask for my help in return. I teach, or clean, or mow the lawn… others do service in the church for me. This does work, and it is fair.

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