Submitted by ARJ
While Rusty is away the mice will play! Or at least a random John will see the lack of content here and make use of the fact that Rusty has never taken away my guest blogging credentials…
We’ve moved. Again. This time though, it’s permanent.
The one thing my wife and I both claim to have loved about Boston was the ward. It was small, diverse (initially anyhow, darn boundary changes), and constantly changing. This constantly changing aspect was terrible in some ways. I’ve said elsewhere that when we left after three years that I could count on one hand the number of active households that had outlasted us. Part of this was due to shrinking borders, but the ward was basically made up of students and people starting their careers, and most were there for between one and four years. Terrible as it was, it also made the ward hyper-inclusive, at least in my view. If you were new people grabbed on to you when you first showed up and you were likely to have several dinner invites before the three hour block was over. And the friendliness didn’t stop there and it wasn’t superficial. It did have a sense of urgency about it though, as you were likely to be gone pretty soon.
When we moved in August we landed in a Salt Lake City ward that knew we wouldn’t be there for long sinc we were renting my brother’s house, and he is due back in June. Perhaps because of this we were assigned to the nursery almost immediately, despite the fact that we had a newborn and a two year old. Though people did bring meals when the baby was born we never felt that anyone made any effort to get to know us. Maybe we didn’t make as much effort either given that we had anticipated being there for about 8 months.
For a variety of reasons we moved sooner than expected. In November we moved in to a house in a suburb of Salt Lake, and we plan to basically be here for the long haul. The reception has been warmer than in the previous ward, but I didn’t think it was exceptional. In fact, when a speaker a week ago said that this was the friendliest, most welcoming ward their family had ever moved in to, this prompted a discussion between me and my wife. We agreed that the ward is ok in that category but not outstanding.
Actually, my wife is liking it more than I am. She has gotten to know many of the women and is having what appears to be an easy time adjusting. I, on the other hand, am going a bit nuts in church. I have been trying to figure out what it is, and today I have come to a conclusion. The thing that is bothering me is the poor quality of the lessons in EQ.
Maybe I’m hyper-sensitive having been recently released as an EQP. I spent the past three years concerned with the EQ in our Boston ward, and if I thought there was a bad lesson, I not only would attempt to intervene during the lesson as politely as possible, but I would try to make sure that whatever the problem was didn’t happen again. So I can see how I might have impossible expectations.
That said, the lessons have been bad. Almost all of them. Now I am not a fan of the manuals for a variety of reasons, but I think that we should teach out of them because we’ve been asked to. If somebody wants to bring in outside material and teach an amazing lesson then I won’t complain. But ignoring the manual to discuss the importance of the Super Bowl in the dispensation of the fullness of times seems a bit much. Or ignoring it to read your favorite conference talk followed by your own commentary on it seems bad too. What I have missed most of all is the discussion aspect. There is no discussion. Three lessons in a row went by without a single question being asked. I can’t remember any questions being asked that a deacon wouldn’t find routine. If you ask easy questions you kill discussion, but I guess it is hard to ask hard or ambiguous questions. I had never realized that before.
In any case, how am I supposed to get to know anyone if we just sit and listen to a lecture? I travel often and when I don’t I try to spend as much time as I can with my little family. EQ discussions are my main vehicle for getting to know the men in the ward.
The situation has gotten bad enough that I discussed it with the bishop. For once in my life I actively dread going to priesthood. Each week causes me to feel more alienated.
This Sunday I was about to go home early. Fasting was taking its toll on me and my wife had been called in to work early so I had the kids all day. The thought of sitting mindlessly through EQ was too much to bear. I stayed though, and the Stake President taught, and did so with power and authority. He asked no trivial questions. He opened the scriptures and made us really examine them. He led a discussion rather than delivering a lecture. I don’t expect to get such lessons every week. I don’t even expect them once a month, but I do think that putting in some effort and teaching out of the manual are things that I should be able to expect every week. I think that discussion is something that I should expect.
Are there constructive ways to deal with this situation? Have I set my standards for lessons/discussions too high? Should I have shopped for wards before buying a house?