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A Post in Which arJ Whines about EQ

Guest - March 6, 2006

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?


  1. arJ., We seem to have a new family every month visiting our ward that will be moving into the area. They are “shopping” wards. 20/20 hindsight is always good, and shopping may have helped. But then again you might find a great teacher and 2 weeks later he’s released.

    I had a similar experience to yours in our first married ward. I was introduced/asked if I was new for 6 of the first 8 weeks we attended. It really didn’t get any better, fortunately we moved.

    Solutions? That’s tough, the the EQ pres. you’d be interested in teaching a lesson if they need a sub. Tell the Quroum teachers you’d be willing to sub if they need you. Or use the EQ time for personal scripture study and ignore the “lesson”.

    Good Luck

    Comment by don — March 6, 2006 @ 1:30 pm

  2. ARJ,
    We have a similar problem here in my ward. It’s not the EQ lessons, but early morning seminary. Seminary every morning at 6:15 AM is such a sacrifice and to have ones time wasted at that unholy hour is irritating. We have a Seminary Teacher that is a 50+ year old kid. Most of the class time is goof off time, the handicapped kid gets openly mocked, the popular kids are fawned over etc…
    The teacher does not like CES lesson material so the lessons (what little there is) have fell into the category of the gospel-(a lot of it false)-according-to-the-teacher. I have a child who loved Seminary until this year. Lest one think that it is us, other parents are complaining.
    I don’t know what else to tell you except what I have told my child. Sometime our obedience is tested. We attend our meetings to add to the spirit when we can. We are there because we are supposed to be there. Finally, this too shall pass. Callings and people come and go and we have hope for better things.

    Comment by JA Benson — March 6, 2006 @ 1:32 pm

  3. What I would suggest is you take the initiative and hijack the lesson. Prepare beforehand by reading the lesson, come up with some good thought-provoking questions, ideas, and remarks, and then ask/say them during the lesson. Thats what I do when I am in lesson and my brain wants to jump out of my head and run away (assuming I am even awake). Nobody has ever told me to shut up and stop asking questions in GD or EQ, and the teachers usually say thanks afterwards for injecting some life into the class.

    Comment by Kurt — March 6, 2006 @ 2:08 pm

  4. Our EQ lessons are extremly dull. They use the manual, but they usually don’t ask good questions, or they don’t ask any questions at all. I try to speak up as much as I can to get some discussion going.

    I was recently asked to be one of the teachers. Perhaps I can not only teach a slightly more interesting lesson, but perhaps I can try to encourage the other teachers to ask better questions.

    Comment by Ian Cook — March 6, 2006 @ 2:44 pm

  5. Here’s my solution. Volunteer for Nursery.

    But I agree. Perhaps moreso in Utah simply because of the way Wards are organized around small areas, I find both the socializing and the lessons to be rather spiritually trying.

    Comment by Clark Goble — March 6, 2006 @ 3:35 pm

  6. If nothing else, sit there and outline the lesson you would teach from the material that they should have been using, and let the speaker’s voice do for background noise.

    Or, raise your hand (and if ignored, stand up) and ask a question from the proposed questions in the manual for the assigned lesson. Just point blank ask the question of the instructor.

    Something like “I read in the manual we were supposed to discuss ‘question’ and I’d like to do that now, in light of what you’ve said so far. Is it too soon in the lesson for the discussion we are supposed to have, or is this a good time?”

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — March 6, 2006 @ 3:39 pm

  7. My husband taught EQ for awhile, and his big complaint was no one would ever participate in the lesson.

    I agree with Kurt. I tend to think that if I’m finding a lesson boring (how many RS lessons have I sat through where the teacher just reads from the manual the whole time–drives me nuts), it’s up to me to try to liven it up a bit by speaking up and asking questions, making comments.

    Comment by Susan M — March 6, 2006 @ 3:39 pm

  8. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions! When I spoke to the Bishop he asked if I would be willing to teach occasionally. I told him that I’d be happy to do so. This is the first time that I haven’t been teaching EQ at least once a month since 1996. My approach has always been to teach from the manual, but only hitting a few (may 25%) of the paragraphs and comparing and contrasting them. I also like to ask hard questions that require thoughtful answers and I don’t have an answer in mind when I ask them.

    The problem with the suggestion that I read the lesson beforehand and then hijack it is that the manual is being tossed aside. We’ve opened it once all year, and then we barely used it. The hijacking would be much more blantant when the teacher states at the outset that he isn’t going to use the manual and then sticks a video into a machine.

    Comment by a random John — March 6, 2006 @ 4:36 pm

  9. You should try going back to a singles ward EQ. You’d think with all the “recent RMs” there would be some good lessons and discussion. Since getting home from my mission almost 4 years ago I’ve had ONE good EQ teacher that I can think of. My present EQ had three weeks in a row of “I guess we forgot to assign the lesson this week so I’ll get up here, read a bunch and ask a bunch of disjointed questions.” Thankfully there is SOME decent discussion every so often but it’s like since this isn’t Gospel Doctrine (i.e.–where there’s girls to impress) effort is fleeting.

    I’d go with what everyone else says. Ask a question regarding the subject you know/hope will get everyone going. I’d even think about talking about something controversial (since you KNOW people will speak up about something like that) but that’s one thing you have to be VERY careful about.

    Comment by Bret — March 6, 2006 @ 4:48 pm

  10. Bret, I can say without a doubt that singles wards have uniformly been better with lessons than married wards. The advantage is that most have 2 – 3 different lessons in SS. And EQ seems more a discussion there than in married wards. That’s not to say I haven’t had poor lessons. But nothing compared to the married wards I’ve been in.

    Comment by Clark Goble — March 6, 2006 @ 7:26 pm

  11. How about some advice for the teacher? As part of the EQP I’m assigned to teach once a quarter – and it is always from a recent General conference talk. The last assignment was about the WoW – great. How many million times has each quorum member had a WoW lesson? Who shows up to EQ (hint: those who obey the WoW)?

    How is one supposed to teach about a topic that’s been covered 12 times this year?

    Comment by ed — March 6, 2006 @ 9:10 pm

  12. Well, sounds like you are going to teach some and will get the chance to teach by example.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — March 6, 2006 @ 11:11 pm

  13. Greetings from Boston arJ. It is always great to read what you have to say. I have no advice to offer on EQ since I have never attended (being a woman and all). Boston wards really are amazing, but I imagine they miss you even more than you miss them.

    Comment by skl — March 6, 2006 @ 11:23 pm

  14. ARJ,
    Dude, that’s a toughy. It’s definitely not a Utah thing though. It just completely depends on the teachers. EQ isn’t inherently boring, just some teachers are.

    Comment by Rusty — March 7, 2006 @ 12:24 am

  15. Rusty, absolutely. Boring teachers aren’t just a Utah thing.

    I have a problem with the hijacking thing. Being called as a teacher can be scary, particularly if you hate public speaking. These guys may be doing their best just to get through the lesson. The last thing they need is someone who could teach circles around them trying to take over.

    On the other hand, as someone who knows how to teach, it’s tough to listen to someone who either can’t or won’t take the time to make the material interesting or meaningful. But that’s the job of the listener – to help bring the Spirit into the classroom.

    My advice would be to pray for these teachers (what a novel thought!). You might include a prayer for yourself, to be more humble and teachable. Let your pride go. When I don’t enjoy or “get anything out of” a lesson, I consider the fault to be mine, at least partially.

    Comment by Natalie — March 7, 2006 @ 11:24 am

  16. Natalie,

    I’m tempted to say that the teacher that made it clear he wanted to discuss the Super Bowl for an hour was actively driving the spirit out of the class and that there wasn’t much I could do outside of leaving to recapture it. But I agree that I should sincerely pray for the teachers and for myself. I also agree that hijacking is fraught with difficulties. Not the least of which is that I am new in the ward and don’t want everyone’s first impression to be that I am some sort of know-it-all jerk. They’ll figure that out soon enough.


    I do wonder if there are aspects of Utah church that make it more prone to bad teaching. I think there are more cultural Mormons here that are going out of habit or for social reasons rather than out of conviction. That said, Utah doesn’t have a monopoly on this aspect of church by any means.


    Thanks for you kind words. Maybe if we had stayed around for a bit longer they would have made me a High Priest (at 31 I think I was the oldest Elder in the ward) and that would have solved my problem when I got back to Utah.


    Doesn’t the presidency have the first Sunday lessons in your ward? First Sunday should be any topic you select. Fourth Sunday are the Teaching For Our Times things.


    I am more than willing to admit that my singles ward experience was not the norm. Also, it was limited to one ward so I don’t have a large sample size. The lessons were generally very good with the possible exception of the ones I taught.

    Comment by a random John — March 7, 2006 @ 1:01 pm

  17. arJ: That last comment to skl suggests that your problems would be solved once you move into the scintillating world of the high priests group.

    Let me tell you a little secret . . .

    Comment by Mark B. — March 7, 2006 @ 2:40 pm

  18. Mark B,

    I was joking. I was actually glad to avoid that, especially given that a member of the HC was actively campaigning for me to be put on the HC. Mostly because he liked my talks. Ugh. I think I would die in the HP meetings. Though at the moment I have a hard time imagining how they would be worse.

    Comment by a random John — March 7, 2006 @ 3:02 pm

  19. arJ, yikes, the Super Bowl? That teacher is so in trouble. At that point, yes, hijacking is justified – necessary, even. I hope the EQP took some action after that week. Ours has trouble with teachers just showing up on their week.

    Don’t they just sleep in High Priests meeting? “Well, brethren, Edith and I… blah blah blah… zzzzzzzzz…”

    Comment by Natalie — March 7, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

  20. Natalie,

    It gets worse, but more complaining about specifics on my part probably isn’t going to solve the problem. I only brought that up to illustrate the depth of the problem.

    Comment by a random John — March 7, 2006 @ 4:11 pm

  21. Ok ok, your right. Singles wards do have better lessons (in general) than married wards. Anyway, now that I look at that I think my complaint was more towards how I don’t like that Gospel Doctrine has so much the better lessons then EQ. I was just complaining about the recent bout of lessons in my present ward and it isn’t my place to do so here. Sorry. No more threadjacking by me!

    Comment by Bret — March 7, 2006 @ 4:57 pm

  22. I don’t have any advice. I’ve been in YM for the past few years (except for the short period when I was WML and then called back into YM after only 8 weeks, thus constituting the 2nd time I got sent back from my mission). Now, I’m back in EQ, attending for the first time just this past week. We’ll see how the lessons go.

    And years ago, when I used to attend EQ before being in YM, if the lessons were boring then I was part of the problem. People would start talking about spiritual stuff and I’d just sit very still, fold my arms, squint, and offer the occasional thoughtful nod.

    Comment by DKL — March 7, 2006 @ 7:15 pm

  23. DKL: People would start talking about spiritual stuff and I’d just sit very still, fold my arms, squint, and offer the occasional thoughtful nod.

    Must… Not… Make… Joke…

    Comment by Rusty — March 7, 2006 @ 8:00 pm

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