Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"No" is a full sentence...

There were many reasons why I left the LDS (Mormon) church. One of those reasons was that they just can't take no for an answer.

Take callings. While they'll tell you that callings (jobs in the church) are voluntary, when I was in the church I was taught that turning down a calling was something that a good Mormon just doesn't do. The theory is that it isn't the bishop or the stake president who is doing the calling. It is "The Lord" himself who has decided that you are the correct person for the job, and if you say no, you're saying no to God, which will disappoint him mightily.

When I was a Mormon, I had several experiences with this principle. I usually said yes, even when it wasn't a job I wanted or would be good at. At one point, when I was just out of high school, I was called to teach Sunday School to the three-year-olds. I tried to explain to the bishop that I am not good with toddlers. "Oh," was the reply, "but it will be good practice for when you have your own children." What I wanted to say was that I had already decided that I wasn't having any, but that would have not been wise. Good Mormons don't say no to having children, either. So, being young and inexperienced, I caved and said I'd do it.

I'm not sure why that calling ended, but it didn't last long. It probably had something to do with the little golden boy in my class whose parents thought he was the be-all and end-all of the universe and, as such, should be catered to at all times. Of course, that meant that he was constantly disrupting class activities and being a general butt. I suspect that Mom and Dad didn't like that someone was saying no to their little darling and had me replaced. Fine with me.

Some years later, I was called to work with the little ones again, this time as a Primary teacher. At the time, Primary was held on an afternoon during the week as a teaching and activity day for children to the age of twelve. I can't remember what age I had that time; it seems like it was the five-year-olds, but it was years ago and I can't recall for sure. At any rate, I was put in charge of fairly young children again. Again, when I protested, I was told it would get me ready for my own children. I think I might have rolled my eyes, but again I didn't say anything about being childless by choice. And again, I caved and said yes. I was miserable the whole time I had that calling.

A bit after that I was called to be the Single Adult women's representative for my ward (congregation). Well, I wasn't actually officially extended the call. Instead, one of the stake Young Adult officers, whose mother had been friends with my mother since before either of us was born and before either family had any idea about Mormons, called me up to sound me out about taking the calling. By that time I had fallen into semi-activity in the church. Callings are one of the ways the Mormons use to reactivate members who don't come to church much.

That time, I said no. I wasn't interested. By that time, the Church had been instrumental in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment in the states, and I had no desire to participate in a leadership role in an organization that had done that. I recall there being lots of angst that I had said no to The Lord (you could hear the capital letters in people's voices every time they said that). But, I finally convinced them that I was serious and would not take the job.

But, it isn't just callings. Once I left the church for good (I was in and out a lot before I finally managed to say no to the church itself; for reasons that I can't quite fathom now, I really wanted it all to be true for a long time), I told them that I didn't want any contact from the church. They are supposed to honor that. However, I still get a call or a letter or a knock on the door at least once a year from people from the church, contacting me to see if I really mean that I don't want any contact.


Who does that? What part of "No" they don't understand is beyond me at this point. Perhaps they think I'm so stupid that if I did decide I wanted to go back to church, I wouldn't be able to find the proper ward to attend. Mormons, as I might have mentioned here before, do not get to pick which congregation they attend, but are assigned a ward based on where they live. Or maybe they think I would start giving them money if I went back. Good Mormons are very serious about tithing ten percent of their increase (which is defined differently by different people) to the church.

I don't wish individual Mormons ill. And I know that as individuals, some Mormons deplore that their church goes out and bothers former members who don't want to be bothered, even if they don't go through the motions of asking to be taken off the church's rolls. But the institution just doesn't get it. They think that if you don't jump through their hoops to resign from the church, that gives them the right to bother you as they see fit.

But, you know. I said no to them. As far as I'm concerned, that's all I need to do. A church is a voluntary organization. If I say I'm not interested any more, I'm not interested. Part of saying I'm not interested is that I am removing my permission for them to contact me. If that bothers their bean-counters, that isn't my fault and it isn't my problem.

I don't go knock on their doors, or show up at their church services, or call their members, and make them listen to why I don't attend any more. I expect them to respect me enough to extend the same courtesy to me, and quit bothering me.

Of course, that's probably too much for me to ask of the institutional church.


Steve Finnell said...

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Lucinda said...

We have a Jehova's Witness church just down the road and they come through our neighborhood monthly. In fact, they hit me up weekly for awhile. I was polite and listened and told them I wasn't interested, that I had my own beliefs. Eventually I just said stop. I told them I had respected their right to spread their faith and I would like them to respect my right to not listen. I didn't want anyone coming to my door anymore. They haven't been by since but I hated having to be that abrupt because it isn't my style. The problem is, I've read the Bible. Worst thing I did for my faith so I know they stories they are quoting. I just couldn't listen to them anymore, even politely. Your blog intrigues me. I will probably stop by again.

Tamara Tipton said...

Interesting post. We have a Mormon church in our community, but I have never known any of its members personally. I can't fathom being pushed into a "calling" like that. In my church (nondenominational) I have been asked to help out in different areas. Usually I know right away if it is something I am willing to do or not. Other times I have to pray and think about it. Regardless, my choice has always been respected. My calling is between me and God. End of story.

littlemissattitude said...

Thank you all for coming by and reading, and for all of your comments.

Lucinda...It is a sad fact that sometimes it is necessary to be abrupt to get proselytizers, no matter from which denomination or religion, to quit pushing. I believe that these folks are a minority of believers, but it does happen.

I am also reluctant to be abrupt, but there have been times that being that way is the only tactic that worked.

Tamara...The problem with the Mormon church, as an institution, is that it doesn't understand boundaries very well. This extends to some but certainly not all individual Mormons. Mormons can be wonderful people individually, but the church and its leaders are often not reluctant to use pressure and guilt to get the members to do things.