When we moved back (to our hometown) this past August, our bishopric wasted little time in extending callings to my husband and I. No big deal; we knew the drill. First they stopped by our home as a "get to know you" type meeting - the type I like the most. There's something about when you have a leader take the time to stop by your home that feels more genuine. A past Relief Society president did that, and I loved her for it. She was amazing.
Anyway, within a few weeks we both received that phone call. Brother J asked Eric if he'd like to be a Sunday School teacher for the 16-17 year olds, and of course Eric said yes. He liked the idea - not time consuming, no meetings, kids, cool. Then, because I was otherwise occupied, Bro. J told Eric he wanted to call me to be the fourth Sunday Relief Society teacher.
I'd never taught before, not really - and never in church. I don't count the two times I substituted for the Sunbeams class. I did have some experience as an English tutor and I do enjoy giving talks during Sacrament meeting, so I accepted, knowing the potential of the challenge due to my faith issues. But I understand the deal: stay within what's accepted, keep my opinions to myself, etc.
November's lesson went much better than expected. Even two weeks later I had sisters complimenting me. I wish I remembered what I did. I know I gave them opportunity to discuss and I did little reading...but I also know my preparation lacked severely. Apparently I did well though, which propelled me to December's lesson.
Oh boy. This lesson was based off Elder Uchtdorf's talk The Infinite Power of Hope and Sister Dalton's A Return to Virtue.
This lesson didn't go well...at all. I found I struggled greatly in keeping within the approved lines. I couldn't handle the dialogue, the difficulty I found in asking questions which didn't lead to the standard Primary answers. I could hear Sister Dalton's voice in my head, and it screeched like nails on a chalkboard. A return to virtue? Yes I know the world has a different idea of virtue at times, but I tire quickly of the intonations, the vocabulary, the insinuations, the complete lack of feeling someone is relating to me.
Say I'm making much out of something small, and you'd probably be right. I do have some anger right now. I'm annoyed. But I tried.
I extended the lesson on virtue to that of charity. One woman in the room recognized that charity is much, much more than just bringing a new mom a casserole: it's what's in the heart. Yay!
Someone else related a story which reminded me of one of my own. In short, two friends of mine and I went to a Giants game in San Fransisco some years ago. A man rifled through the dumpsters in the parking lot. While I did all I could to avoid this person, my friend ran back to the car to get some food for him. As she handed him her twinkies, another man approached and handed the transient a beer.
My first reaction, I said, was "Oh, geez, a beer?" but then I remembered and understood this man's charity matched my friend's and far exceeded my own. I learned a few lessons that day I'll never forget.
When I mentioned the beer in class, however, one woman sighed with disapproval. A beer.
I'll admit nervousness and little preparation for this lesson, but I felt it all lost in this one story. I could be wrong, perhaps the women believed I wanted to make a point regarding twinkies versus beer in charity. I don't know. My driving point as a teacher, though, has been to help people know that we're not alone in our righteousness, that good, even amazing people really do exist outside this church. Even virtuous people.
Suffice it to say the lesson bombed. I knew on one level I could recover from it; after all, everyone suffers bad lessons, especially as novices. My issue came with the fact that I harbor a special irritation with the talks. Come to Zion, Our Hearts are Knit as One, O Ye That Embark.
For real. I don't get why we're still stuck in the pioneer age.
Last week put the last nail in the coffin for me, though. I substituted for Eric's Sunday School class. I had four boys and one girl, and all of them didn't want to be there. All of them complained. All of them liked to harp on other churches, on their hypocracy. "Do you see them smoking pot?" "Yeah, they get drunk all the time, too."
It didn't occur to me until after class that these kids harbored a jealousy over their non-member friends. These kids are angry. I asked for their honesty, and honestly, they just don't care. They don't get it. They don't believe in it, and they don't really want to. They don't have a reason to.
I couldn't teach the lesson because...well, I couldn't. Not in good faith, so we just talked. Their attitudes, lack of respect, and anger truly astounded me - and it's nothing I haven't run into before with our youth. But I was good. I didn't let any of my feelings through. Just let them talk.
I understand my heart may be "hardened" right now. I also know I shouldn't be teaching like this, so I called my bishop. Of course he wanted to know why, so I told him.
I'm out. At least to my bishop. He wanted to know what exactly was bothering me, but I couldn't figure out how to put it into words. I know I write here like crazy about it, and I know I talk with my husband about it to death and I've other people online I've vented to, but I still don't know how to tell my bishop. I don't know how to say it. My writing and incessant talking is all in an effort to figure out what exactly I'm feeling, believing and thinking and how to say it.
I need an Aaron.
I respect my bishop. He's a good man. He understood my need for time. That'll help; it already has. Perhaps I've mentioned it before, but my previous bishop counseled me to watch more BYU-TV. Gee, thanks.
Yesterday was a hard day. I was a mess. Today I feel I could talk with him. I hated asking for a release so soon after my call, but I didn't feel I could teach in good faith anymore. I don't know. I need to talk with him again, if only to get this all off my chest. I don't expect much to change, I don't expect my bishop to understand, but he gave me my space yesterday. He's been a good man that way.
I think that's why I hesitate to tell him exactly what's on my mind. I don't want to disappoint, and I fear my emotions are getting the better of my otherwise level head. I don't want to give the impression, as some have commented, that I'm throwing the baby (doctrine) out with the bathwater (the culture). I do take issue with some core doctrine, but it's easier to harp on the culture. Less frightening. More people tend to agree the culture needs help whereas doctrinal issues may prompt a spiritual intervention. The look on a close, once best friend's face when the topic of gay marriage comes up breaks my heart. She's scared. She wants to save me despite everything I've said.
It's very difficult to say what is going on in my head out loud. It's like stepping into the dark, and before anyone says that the dark is no place we want to be, let me assure you joining the church was like stepping into the dark. When Joseph Smith prayed, there was a period of darkness before the light. There is often darkness before the light. This I know. I've experienced it.
I'm still a little afraid of it, though.
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