August 13, 2006

On Being Nice

So today I was at church, because I'm a counselor in the primary presidency and had to set up chairs. I didn't have my kids with me today so that felt nice. I arrived just as Sac. Mtg. started, so I tuned in to listen as I did so. It was interesting...subject was "Being Nice." We will be learning how to BE NICE all month long in our Sac. Mtg. talks. I was so glad I was sitting alone in my freshly set up chairs so I wouldn't laugh out loud in public like I wanted to more than once. Especially when the speaker spoke along the lines of he's definitely the only one there who should receive the "award for being the nicest. And if any of you disagree after hearing my story, you can see me afterward and we'll fight about it." (Niiice.) He then proceeded to describe how he often sees really old people who drive while barely being able to see over the steering wheel, and how they usually drive very slow and it's frustrating to him. (Why he'd say this is beyond me since 1. it appears we have at least 20 people in our ward who fit this description, and 2. it didn't have any relevance to his story.) Anyway, he was driving and an old lady came out of nowhere in an intersection and hit him head on, causing his airbag to "punch him," and when he finally got out and the cop had given their licenses back etc, he asked the little old lady who hit him, "You didn't even see me, did you?" She replied, "No, I didn't. I'm sorry."

He then proceeds to explain to us his "niceness." He said "I could have said 'Next time look where you're going!' but I didn't! So if that doesn't give me the award for being nicest, what would?" I couldn't believe him. First of all, he thinks that he was nice because he THOUGHT the mean phrase, shared it with 200 people in church, and yet because he didn't, he deserves an award. Sheece.

Other comments made me laugh because it's all too common for Mormons to talk like it's our religion that makes us "nice" and a shining example for others, but it's all too common to experience exactly the opposite. I even went rounds with my home teacher today in church, which I will relay in my next post. My mom related once that she was friends with a non-member in her youth, who after some time found out that my mom was LDS, and she was shocked because she didn't act Mormon and was so NICE. The other speaker during Sac. Mtg. gave that story I've heard many times over about the shy girl who gets treated badly at church and is given a gift of dog food by the other girls in her YW group. Have you ever heard that story? I've heard it countless times, but today the speaker ended the story that she hadn't heard yet if the girl had ever made her way back to church after the hurt of that incident. It made it sound like the event happened to someone she knows personally. I could only shake my head. Not to discount the mean story. Sadly, it's probably a true story. I have my own Mean Girls story, maybe someday I'll share it and maybe I won't. Not quite sure it's worthy of my time anymore. I'm just glad that my brother called one of them a bitch in the middle of seminary when she was dogging me in front of everyone behind my back. Go Eric! The kind teacher did nothing to reprimand him, which tells you she really was. But I digress....

Sometimes unkind behavior comes from me and I'm ashamed to admit it. Usually this comes when I get caustic and say cutting and sarcasting things to my kids. I'm really starting to see myself more clearly as I look at my church and past beliefs with open eyes for the first time ever. It hasn't escaped my attention that I'm glad my childhood foe was called a bitch! But I couldn't be more glad for this doubting in my life. I'm still struggling with what I'll do about it, but it's starting to feel like the beginning of the end of my illustrious career at church. Wonder what my kids will think...


La said...

How's your family taking it? Your husband? Are you in the closet still?

Oh, I like to fish for case you didn't notice :)

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Well, I've been married to my husband for almost 14 years, and he was never a member of the church. We met in a bar (although I've never been a drinking woman, haven't reached that stage of life yet!) but we hit it off and we were married a couple months later. He had a daughter from his first marriage and I had a son from a "moral slip up" while at BYU. Ash was 7 and Joe was 9 months old when we got married.

Dart took the discussions once about 5 or 6 years ago. He never wanted to read the BoM, and he never participated in the "discussions" besides just listening politely. He tolerated them because he respected my home teacher/bishop/friend who had us over for the missionaries. It was OK. I got real tired over the years of hearing "I just KNOW your husband will be LDS someday." The new secretary in the primary said in last week's presidency mtg: "My husband says he knows Dart and said he's a really nice guy!" implying that it was surprising to hear a non-mo could be so. I said, "Did you think I'd marry one who wasn't nice?" Geez.

I will post a blog about what happened to lead me to the truth as we know it. I couldn't believe how strongly disillusioned and betrayed I felt when I found out the details of Joseph Smith's many marriages, his seer stone, the racism of BY, all of it. I read it all in a day and I was so shocked, I had to tell my husband. He just laughed at me that first nite and told me "You don't think all churches have skeletons in their closets? Of course they aren't going to publish them for all the world to see." And that's all we said that nite. The next nite I came home from work with a lot more info in my head and I told my husband I was more disillusioned than ever and that I really didn't think I could swallow it all. I told him I didn't think I could be a Mormon anymore the same as I was. His first gut reaction surprised me: He said, "But you can't just not go!" and I said, "Why not?! You don't!" And he said, "But you're good. I'm bad. You're the good to my bad." And I just laughed at him but he was serious I think. For someone who doesn't really want religion in his own life that was interesting to hear.

I was born in UT and come from a stronly dysfunctional family, but I love each one. My parents married in the temple at 19 after dating in UT high school for 3 yrs, and they had 8 kids together. I'm second oldest. They divorced when I was 19. We as children rejoiced since my dad really had issues with being a control freak and not nice to anyone in the fam. Then they remarried while I was at BYU without telling any of us. Very traumatic times, causing me to think that stress was the reason I skipped a period. Oops! Anyway, now my sister and I are the only two who are married and we are both married to non-members, and we have recently been attending the temple prep class (for 2nd time) in the hopes we'd each feel a little more excitement for going. She and I are the only active LDS members of our family besides our dad. The folks divorced again after about a year or 2 the second time. Then this big thing happened to me and I'm not sure what will happen, but I know I'm not the same person I was a month ago.

Interestingly enough, my mom and brother are both inactive, but when I told them what I'm feeling they both told me they believe the church is true, but they just choose to not go because it feels better to them. Mom lives with a married man (much to Dad's chagrin. I think he prays in the temple for her soul every week. They are still "sealed" together ~ much to HER chagrin.) But she's never been happier and I have to wonder at this. I told her I'm not someone who can believe it's not true and then keep going "just in case." That's the impression I get when I hear her talk about it. Same with my brother. He hasn't gone to church in so long, but he still says he has a testimony. But if I believed it was true, then I couldn't be someone who didn't try to live it fully. That's what I've done, and that's why it feels so gross like a betrayal. I've dedicated many many years of angst to the "gospel" and it makes me sick to think I didn't have to feel that way, but I did. I will have to post my feelings about this and my mom's comments and my brother's comments as well. I told my sister and she listened but didn't want to see what I had read on the internet because she was so close to inactive status at all times anyway. I also confided in a friend who is a single LDS woman, aged 24 or 25 who recently moved to Murray. She is shocked and doesn't want me to talk about it any more to her. I guess that's why I so enjoy these blogs. Someone who REALLY understands what I'm feeling and can empathize. My husband can't ~ he has no idea what kind of angst a woman married to a nonmember goes thru sitting in RS and Sunday School every week learning all about the IDEAL that she'll never attain. Very difficult.

I just realized I wrote a 10 page discertation. Hope I didn't put you to sleep! Better save this material for a full blog entry!

I guess for me it feels impossible to stay "in the closet" because it's so huge to me it must be let out. I'm laying low and maintaining my status at church for now because I'm trying to decide how to break the news to my kids who are active LDS with me, aged 13 and 8. Wish me luck!!

Details you asked for, details you got! I'll try to clarify my thoughts better in my next blog.

:) L

CV Rick said...

some of the nicest people I've known - - I mean the truly genuine people who'd do anything for a friend and go out of their way to give of themselves - - aren't religious at all.

The cloud that always hung over the heads of Mormons who were doing "charity" or "fellowship" work was the carrot on the stick, the reward from God that comes from being Nice. What kind of motivation is that?

If I ever truly needed something, I could ask the following friends:

A nonpracticing jew who has a "we got him once and we'll get him again" party every easter.

A practicing homosexual pagan scientist whose husband is the music director at an episcopal church.

A true secular humanist with a prison record who believes in giving everything he has away to people in need.

My friends don't expect rewards and they're genuinely great people. Next to them I feel small and greedy.