Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Changing Leaves, Changing Callings, Changing Feelings

This image is from a page of my journal earlier this year. It's a graphical representation of how I "outgrew" Mormonism, if you will. I recently shared it with the Mormon Expression folks as part of an episode on which my husband and I appear:

So, one Sunday about a month and a half ago, my husband and I were playing a video game in our living room when there was a knock at the door. It was the 2nd counselor in the Bishopric, stopping by for a surprise visit. It made me nervous instantly. My pulse went up; my muscles tensed. What was he doing stopping by our house for a surprise visit?

It turns out he wanted to give us a new calling to serve as Primary Teachers to the 6-7 year olds. They've been having lots of problems staffing the Primary and so we had been substitute teaching quite a bit the last year. I guess they decided to make us official members of the Primary staff. We asked the 2nd counselor if we could step into our bedroom and discuss whether we should take the calling or not.

The discussion was a vigorous one. I had previously made a promise to myself that I would not accept another calling so that we could gradually transition out of the church. But then when push came to shove, I chickened out. I didn't want to deal with the consequences of "coming out" about being non-believers at that exact moment. The timing felt too sudden. At that immediate moment, I just wanted the 2nd counselor to go away and saying yes seemed like the easiest and most direct way to make that happen. Besides, I kind of liked the 6-7 year olds, so it couldn't be that bad.

Now that a month has gone by, I feel that working in the Primary has been a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's a lot more work to prepare a lesson every week. (I'm a perfectionist, so I can't just phone it in---which makes this calling sometimes very time-consuming and occasionally stressful.) But on the other hand, it's actually been easier to just go back to the basics. I feel like I can teach general humanistic principles in Mormon terms without compromising my integrity too much. And it's been really nice not to attend Sunday School or Relief Society---where the lessons range from being mind-numbingly boring (at best) to offensive (at worst).

As a result of being in Primary, there have been times when I've started to feel somewhat complacent about being at church---and sometimes even comfortable. But just when I start to feel that way, something always seems to come along to take me out of that state, to remind me that I don't really belong here because I'm not a believer.

For example, last Sunday we were assigned a new home teacher who I'll refer to as "Brother W." Brother W. is an uber-Mormon. Very much the TBM, seminary-teacher type. He's probably the only guy in the ward who actually does his home teaching. So, why was he suddenly assigned to us? It could be just a benign decision, but part of me feels paranoid that I've said too much, that I've made it onto somebody's radar, that we're being "watched over." It's irrational and silly, but I can't quite shake the feeling I'm being scrutinized by the people around me. I was really paranoid at church this last week, watching what everyone said to me, how they looked at me, etc. I was frustrated with my own heightened sense of self-consciousness, honestly. It felt like being a teenager again.

Anyhow, since I no longer teach Relief Society, I think I'm going to delve into the archives of the Gospel Principles lessons I taught in the past and continue working through those in my blog. I'll try to shoot for one lesson a month as my free time permits. So, stay tuned!


  1. Really great observations. Isn't it amazing how much pressure we feel when asked by the bishopric to take a calling?

  2. I agree that the psychological pressure to take a calling is extremely great. I have a "public" blog that I've kept for a very long time that I share with family and friends---most of whom are believers. One time when I was still at the beginning stages of doubting Mormonism I posted a blog entry in which I questioned whether all callings came from God and discussed how we have personal revelation that can allow us to sometimes disagree in good conscience. It ignited a firestorm of controversy from my believing friends and families from both sides---some who defended my position and some who vehemently opposed it. I got lots of comments and phone calls about it. It's amazing how emotionally invested some people were in this topic.