Weighing Our Experiences

Rusty - August 22, 2005

A few days ago I went with the bishop to visit a family in our ward. Sister S and her daughter were baptized a few years ago in an adjacent state. She has since stopped coming to church but her daughter remains one of the most faithful in the ward.

As we were conversing with Sister S the flashbacks of the mission began, “Member X said some things that offended me so I decided not to go to church anymore. If the Church has people like that then I don’t want to be a part of it… etc, etc, etc.” She didn’t deviate in the script she was given by the Guatemalan Organization for Disaffected Mormons. I was actually saying her words before they exited her mouth.

I awoke from my nostalgic slumber as she explained her long-distance walks to church every week and that when the members discovered this they went out of their way to pick her up and drop her off to and from church. This continued until said offense was given and she decided to less-activate herself.

Of course, in my head I quickly assigned each act of service a value and each offense a negative value. Then I added them up and concluded that the net effect was overwhelmingly positive (therefore she was acting irrationally).

So why didn’t she do the same thing and come to the same conclusion?

Yeah I know, because she isn’t me. But isn’t this how we all measure our Church experience, albeit subconsciously? I mean, isn’t it human nature to make these kinds of calculations? Of course the values we assign differ from person to person, but aren’t we always weighing our negative experiences with our positive ones? (and when I say “experiences” I’m talking about ALL of our experiences including the urgings of the Holy Ghost, that piece of Church history we never heard in Sunday School, our answers/lack of answers to prayers, etc.)

Sister S discontinued her attendance because her assigned values. Sister S assigned the one-time offensive remark a MUCH greater value than the oft-given service. What some see as blessings or positive experiences others might not see or even perceive them as negatives.

I like to think that Christ’s scale is different than hers (and mine). I imagine His is one that puts little weight on offense and a lot on service/love given. And He’s the one who has the clearest reason to be offended and given the most service/love of all. Thinking about this helps me shift the values on my own scale.

6 Comments »

  1. I agree, all our scales are different. I assign huge numbers to offenses.

    Maybe one of the reasons we don’t assign big enough numbers to service is: Service done to us goes in the catagory of “I derserve it”, or “It’s no big deal”, or something else like that.

    I think we have to be the ones giving the service, then we give ourselves huge numbers. Getting service gets small ones.

    You’re right about the “Organization for Disaffected Mormons”. The organization is world-wide however, and has branches everywhere.

    Comment by don — August 22, 2005 @ 5:14 pm

  2. There has got to be a world view correction in there somewhere as well. I typically don’t get offended, even when I could. Things would have to get pretty bad for me to get offended (probably someone dogging on my wife or kids). But even then, I don’t go to church because of the people (though they are nice). I could see not hanging out with the saints, but to disaffect oneself from the church is beyond relationships with people to the relationship one has with the church itself

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 22, 2005 @ 8:58 pm

  3. I suspect part of the problem is when the “relationships with people” is the same thing as “relationship with the church”. That separation takes many people many years.

    Comment by Rusty — August 22, 2005 @ 9:34 pm

  4. People who don’t really want to be in the church are looking for an excuse to get out of it. Being offended does nicely as you can lay the blame on others both in your own mind and perhaps in the thoughts of those you tell about it. In most cases, when it comes down to it, if you want to be at church you’ll be there. “Excuses” is just another word for different priorities.

    This is not meant to excuse those that give offense. We should try to be careful to not do so. But I will bet that most of the offenders are completely oblivious to the offense and would do all they could to make it right if they knew about it.

    Comment by a random John — August 23, 2005 @ 1:11 am

  5. I think this whole relationship to the people/church is easy to talk about, but when the rubber meets the road it’s a lot tougher.

    The first married ward I was in at BYU is a prime example. I was asked to introduce myself as new to the quroum at priesthood at least 5 or 6 weeks in a row! It was amazing, the ward had cliques, I always felt like no one cared if I was there or not.

    Of course I continued to go…the church is true…right! But if I knew that I would have been in that ward long term, I’m not sure what I would have done.

    It’s easy for less actives to still feel the have a testimony, believe the church is true and all that and still stay home.

    Why is going to church such a big deal anyway…I believe in Christ, I have a testimony, etc. I think they think they’ll still be ok. Sacrament, tithing, temple etc. just don’t seem very important to them.

    Comment by don — August 23, 2005 @ 1:22 pm

  6. Old cognitive dissonance. I am not sure this is what I want. Hmmm… how to get out of this? Need an excuse… ahh yes. Someone offended me. Of course. Now I’m out.

    People who don’t “invest” in the church i.e. sacrifice spiritually and temporally usually find themselves out of the church soon enough. I am sure that I have offended and I have been offended but no once can drive me away from what God has given me.

    Comment by anonymous — August 25, 2005 @ 11:21 pm

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