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The Mormon Guilt Trip


consiglieri

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I mentioned to my wife (who hates going to Church) the other night that perhaps one reason Church could be so difficult is that the approved manuals always have purposes to the lessons, and the purposes more often than not are that we need to be doing something better than we are.

Sacrament meeting talks don't have a manual, but usually a topic is given to speakers by the bishopric and guess what? Those topics are usually on subjects where we need to improve.

So I suggested to her that going to Church and hearing for three hours every week how we aren't doing good enough could tend to be a little discouraging, and might contribute to folks not looking forward to the experience.

Fast forward to yesterday at Church where, in sacrament meeting, all three speakers were assigned to talk about reverence and how we weren't being reverent enough in the chapel, and how now, not only was the chapel off limits for socializing, but also the foyer just outside the chapel doors because, you know, they can hear you in the chapel.

At the conclusion of the meeting, my wife says to me, "Well, I guess that proves your theory." Me being me, I didn't have a clue what she was talking about, so she explained about how at Church we are always being told we aren't good enough.

I had to agree with her on that; it looked like I was right. I told her we all needed to line up for the little blue pills.

What do you think?

Is there too much Church Chat about how we aren't doing good enough? Is such a thing even possible within the framework of the Mormon Church?

Is this part of the reason Church can be so intolerable?

Is this part of the reason non-Mormons think we are so works oriented?

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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I really don't know.

I don't find church negative in the least, though i assume i hear pretty much the same things that you hear in church. Maybe it's the difference between me having a positive view of the church and someone else having a negative view of it.

As they say, we don't see things as they are, we see them as WE are.

:P

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1 Nephi 16

1 And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of speaking to my brethren, behold they said unto me: Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear.

2 And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.

3 And now my brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth, and say: Thou speakest hard things against us.

Not saying you and your wife are "wicked". Just food for thought.

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I mentioned to my wife (who hates going to Church) the other night that perhaps one reason Church could be so difficult is that the approved manuals always have purposes to the lessons, and the purposes more often than not are that we need to be doing something better than we are.

Sacrament meeting talks don't have a manual, but usually a topic is given to speakers by the bishopric and guess what? Those topics are usually on subjects where we need to improve.

So I suggested to her that going to Church and hearing for three hours every week how we aren't doing good enough could tend to be a little discouraging, and might contribute to folks not looking forward to the experience.

Fast forward to yesterday at Church where, in sacrament meeting, all three speakers were assigned to talk about reverence and how we weren't being reverent enough in the chapel, and how now, not only was the chapel off limits for socializing, but also the foyer just outside the chapel doors because, you know, they can hear you in the chapel.

At the conclusion of the meeting, my wife says to me, "Well, I guess that proves your theory." Me being me, I didn't have a clue what she was talking about, so she explained about how at Church we are always being told we aren't good enough.

I had to agree with her on that; it looked like I was right. I told her we all needed to line up for the little blue pills.

What do you think?

Is there too much Church Chat about how we aren't doing good enough? Is such a thing even possible within the framework of the Mormon Church?

Is this part of the reason Church can be so intolerable?

Is this part of the reason non-Mormons think we are so works oriented?

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

Yes. Yes. A million times yes.

A corollary to the doctrine that we can become like unto God is that we have to consistently strive for perfection. The misunderstanding comes in as we pretend that such a state can be achieved through our own hard works with only a nominal contribution by the Savior. Despite repeated reminders that perfection does not come in this life and that running faster than we have strength is unneccessary - perhaps even detrimental, we often speak as if working harder, setting more goals, and jumping through more hoops will lead us to exaltation.

Personally, I prefer Elder Maxwell's approach. He described this life as a schoolhouse and much of the knowledge and attributes we need to gain as products of experience. The implication there is profound since we rarely control the experiences that come our way. It puts us in the more passive position of student. We do the best we can with our assigned workload, study and complete the tasks we're given but realize that the actual tutoring is in the hands of God and our course of study, highly individualized. We have to be more receptive to God. To listen more and talk less. Let God lead us home like any loving mentor would rather than rushing ahead to the pearly gates and laying on the doorbell demanding entrance.

IMO, There is a fundamental underlying misunderstanding of the atonement at the heart of all Christianity's failures, including those in our church. It's not doctrinal but stems from a lack of comprehension by adherents - whether the overemphasis is on grace or works.

MnG

P.S. The efforts we put into our mortal experience, if we truly emulate the Savior, will not look like merit badges but like battle scars.

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...and the purposes more often than not are that we need to be doing something better than we are.

What do you think?

--Consiglieri

I think there's a misunderstanding here. The point of the Gospel and ultimately our life here on Earth is to improve. To become better at putting off the natural man and therefore closer to becoming perfect like our Father. This requires repentance. The first step of repentance is acknowledging what it is we've done wrong. Self-Analyzation. It's required. If we want better results we have to search for what's hindering us. Maybe you're saying, why are they always pointing out what I'm doing wrong? I believe it's because correction is needed. Now whether that correction applies to you comes back to that Self-Analyzation.

I don't believe this correction has to be taken so negatively. I for one am grateful when the Lord, through His servants, tells me how I can come closer to Him. You are right, it happens quite often. But I need it. I need the reminders. Without such leaders, not only would progression be slower, but ultimately it would reach a limit. Meaning, a lower kingdom than the one I desire. The progression I seek is limitless.

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I really don't know.

I don't find church negative in the least, though i assume i hear pretty much the same things that you hear in church. Maybe it's the difference between me having a positive view of the church and someone else having a negative view of it.

As they say, we don't see things as they are, we see them as WE are.

:P

Bluebell,

I think Sister Chieko Okazaki would disagree since she took the sisters to task for struggling under the self-imposed weight of perfectionism in her well known book "Lighten Up!"

MnG

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1 Nephi 16

1 And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of speaking to my brethren, behold they said unto me: Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear.

2 And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.

3 And now my brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth, and say: Thou speakest hard things against us.

Not saying you and your wife are "wicked". Just food for thought.

And if what you are hearing isn't "truth" but the philosophies of men mingled with truth?

Adding a dash of spice to your food for thought ;-)

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I mentioned to my wife (who hates going to Church) the other night that perhaps one reason Church could be so difficult is that the approved manuals always have purposes to the lessons, and the purposes more often than not are that we need to be doing something better than we are.

Isn't that like complaining that Stanley Steemer is always telling you your carpets need cleaning?

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I don't go to church so I can be told how good I am. I have myself for that.

How are they going to perfect the Saints without telling them what to improve on?

We have to balance calls for repentance/perfection with the recognition that such can only be attained through the merits of Jesus Christ. Often, we do a bad job of balancing.

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Bluebell,

I think Sister Chieko Okazaki would disagree since she took the sisters to task for struggling under the self-imposed weight of perfectionism in her well known book "Lighten Up!"

MnG

She would disagree with me that church is a positive place to be?

Maybe i'm not understanding what you are saying so please clarify if i'm not getting it, but what i'm trying to say is that it seems a bit dramatic and off-kilter, to me, for someone to hear a talk about the need to socialize less in the chapel out of respect for God as a church sanctioned desire for all of us to 'stand in line and take our little blue pills'.

Again to me, the reaction doesn't match the request and so it leads me to wonder if the issue isn't so much what was said, but the filter through which one has heard it.

:P

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I agree with the OP with some added comments. I worry about church becoming to "cookie cutter". By this I mean that we are becoming too much a "letter of the law" type of church where the Official handbook of instructions becomes the bible we worship. Not that I have a problem with guidelines or rules, it's just that there seems to be more of a "what does the manual say" versus "what does the spirit say". It's hard to go to church every Sunday to be indoctrinated on how official guidelines and procedures are supposed to go. Sure, we should be reverent and be respectful of others and procedure but we also need to be guided by the spirit and let some things go. I remember not too long ago in my ward when it was really being hammered home about sticking to the "manual" and keeping on track schedule wise. On one side you have the people who believe that at all costs we need to stick with the schedule regulations on lessons and on the other side have people who feel that it should be left more up to the teacher and class, and thus in my opinion- more "by the spirit".

Just my 2 cents.

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I've heard it said that upon attending an LDS worship service someone remarked "Mormons must be the most miserable people on earth."

All too true much of the time.

Consider the sometime mormon who musters the nerve to attend a worship service only to hear for three hours how piss poor of a job they are doing.

I wouldn't blame them one bit for heading up the road to the EV church who (in spite of anything else you might criticize) has figured out how to make worshiping God a happy, guilt-free experience.

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She would disagree with me that church is a positive place to be?

Maybe i'm not understanding what you are saying so please clarify if i'm not getting it, but what i'm trying to say is that it seems a bit dramatic and off-kilter, to me, for someone to hear a talk about the need to socialize less in the chapel out of respect for God as a church sanctioned desire for all of us to 'stand in line and take our little blue pills'.

Again to me, the reaction doesn't match the request and so it leads me to wonder if the issue isn't so much what was said, but the filter through which one has heard it.

:P

I already replied but it got lost in the ethernet... ugh!

BB,

What I am saying is that the focus on works, works, and more works, has caused many of our members to suffer depressing side effects of perfectionism. This is not only something I say from experience - having seen it among the women of the church all too often - but a fact consciously recognized by church leaders.

In the 2003 General RS meeting when President Hinckley acknowledged his own sense of inadequacy and told sisters to "quit nagging themselves with a sense of failure" there was an almost audiible sigh of relief among the women in our ward at the time. It was the same sense of relief we all felt 15 or 20 years ago (don't remember) when Sister Okazaki's book came out annd told us to quit thinking we had to be up at 5 a.m. baking bread in our June Cleaver wardrobes.

You are right that the filter makes the difference to some degree. However, there is a general misconception about the relationship between grace and works that pervades all Christianity and our congregations are no exception. We tend to overemphasize works, frustrating many, and convincing our critics that we don't even believe in Christ.

From Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the 70s (April 1997)

We need to understand the Atonement more fully than we do, both because outsiders may misperceive our doctrine and because we may view the Atonement too narrowly in our own lives. For example, Newsweek magazine has erroneously stated:
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I wonder if you ward is just harder on people than mine. I hear the same type of stuff, but like BB, it doesn't seem so negative. It always seems just to be ways to better ourselves. Reminders that the chapel is a place we come to worship Christ is good.

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going to Church and hearing for three hours every week how we aren't doing good enough could tend to be a little discouraging

Sometimes we hear what we want to hear or are predisposed to hear, likewise the tone in which we hear it.

D&C 112: 3-4: "Nevertheless, inasmuch as thou hast abased thyself thou shalt be exalted; therefore, all thy sins are forgiven thee. Let thy heart be of good cheer before my face..."

Enos 1:6" "And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away."

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I wonder if you ward is just harder on people than mine. I hear the same type of stuff, but like BB, it doesn't seem so negative. It always seems just to be ways to better ourselves. Reminders that the chapel is a place we come to worship Christ is good.

I don't think the real issue os talks about reverence, that's just the example Consiglieri gave in the OP. The issue is much larger as addressed by Elder Hafen in the quote I cited above.

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Isn't that like complaining that Stanley Steemer is always telling you your carpets need cleaning?

I have come to the conclusion that a sub-article needs to be added to one the four-fold missions of the church.

The Perfecting of the Saints:

It(the Church) is to act as a vehicle in reminding the Saints to never be comfortable with the positive prognosis of one's own salvation.

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Yet another example of church leaders recognizing the problem of negativity occurred in priesthood session in 2008 GC (IIRC). The men were getting hammered hard - call after call for repentance - and remember these were the men who were in attendance taking the heat. Then President Eyring stood up and said something like "Hey - we need to lighten up a little..."

Maybe one of the fellows remembers that - my husband isn't here to ask right now and I don't think the Ensign included those extemporaneous comments.

This isn't all in the eye of the beholder.

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I already replied but it got lost in the ethernet... ugh!

I hate it when that happens!

BB,

What I am saying is that the focus on works, works, and more works, has caused many of our members to suffer depressing side effects of perfectionism. This is not only something I say from experience - having seen it among the women of the church all too often - but a fact consciously recognized by church leaders.

I understand what you are saying and i agree with it and with the quote that you have provided, but i guess, if i can explain myself, i disagree that church leaders are agreeing with the OP.

I mean, the OP states that the problem is that all the lessons (and talks) in church focus on what we could be doing better and that THAT'S what's wrong with the church. It seems obvious that since church leaders are writing the lesson manuals (and the purposes of the lessons) and assigning the topics of talks, etc. that church leaders do not agree with the OP. That would seem to show that church leaders do not think that being focused on what we can do better is a negative thing.

Does that make sense?

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I have come to the conclusion that a sub-article needs to be added to one the four-fold missions of the church.

The Perfecting of the Saints:

It(the Church) is to act as a vehicle in reminding the Saints to never be comfortable with the positive prognosis of one's own salvation.

Noble? Perhaps.

Lofty? Without question.

Practical? Not in the least.

Such an article would be very effective at driving 95% of the members straight out of the church, whilst the paragons of perfection wonder where everyone went.

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It is hard to draw conclusions about your own home ward (which I don't belong to) and to draw conclusions about the church in general (which I am but a small part of). I think what the OP describes as a problem could truly be a problem in some specific wards and specific situations. I also think that what was described could be exactly what a ward needs. Trying to extrapolate the experience to the entire church certainly seems to be a bit too much.

If the bishop was following the Spirit in requesting more reverence in the chapel, but it seems that the message came out a bit odd, then we can always try to follow the Spirit ourselves in discerning how we can support what is really needed. There is some responsibility that falls on each one of us to choose how we will respond to what we hear. If someone speaks overly harshly, we can be offended or not. We can choose to try and understand where they are coming from and gain something from them, or we can choose to ignore them and whatever message they were attempting to convey.

The complaint that the church preaches too much perfectionism is partly the fault of those preaching and partly the fault of those hearing. Certainly there are those people out there that constantly complain that we aren't good enough. But there are plenty of people who also find it painful to be reminded that they still have some room to grow. Certainly there are people who focus too much on our personal efforts and neglect the necessary enabling power found only in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. But there are others who would like to believe that they've already made all the effort required, or those who demand perfection of themselves.

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While on my mission I certainly saw some of that Consig, I think it is by and far the rarity. And by "that", I mean correcting in a negative tone and demanding tone, not the act of correcting itself. I think most of the wards I've ever been in, the majority of members do a pretty good job of emphasizing how we can improve through the grace and power of Christ and the Holy Ghost, and that even though we are not perfect, that we have reason to hope.

One can tell me "You are a sinner! I cannot believe you do X that way when it should be done this way! How dare you? Christ wants us to do it this way and you are screwing it up!". Another, on the same topic, can say "None of us are perfect, save Christ alone. Christ knows our hearts and wants us to draw closer to him and be more like him. Sometimes in the Restored church the policies themselves may change to suit the expanding needs of the church, all of which are adapted to the local needs by inspired leaders. One of these is X, as illustrated in this recent conference talk by XXXX. We can all do better, and this is one of those ways that may be good for us to individually ponder how it applies in our lives. It is important to remember that while we may not be able to do so all the time, we do not need to be dragged down with guilt, but rather uplifted in the knowledge of the redemption of the Savior."

Okay, so the second is a bit long-winded, but you get the idea. Both are corrective in nature, but one is uplifting while the other is demeaning. I think that most wards are filled to the brim with those of uplifting natures.

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