90% Of You Make Us Feel Bad (Just So You Know)

Rusty - January 1, 2007

A mission friend of mine and I were comparing and contrasting our experiences as counselors in bishoprics, he in Mesa, Arizona and me in Brooklyn, New York. Many wonderful differences and similarities. Among the similarities is our distaste for calling people and asking them to speak in Sacrament Meeting. Why? Because almost all of you Mormon people make us feel bad in one way or another (90% to be exact…we agreed!).

“Oh, I knew I shouldn’t have picked up the phone!”
“Has it been a year already?”
“I need more than a week to prepare. And I’m going to be out of town in two weeks.”
“Oh no, you don’t want me to speak, trust me.”

Now, this isn’t to say that 90% of you turn us down, in fact most of you accept the invitation. It just seems the only ones who willingly accept without remark are the Good People.

Just so you know.

38 Comments »

  1. Oh, I knew I shouldn’t have clicked on that link!

    Comment by Dave — January 1, 2007 @ 4:22 pm

  2. I won’t make you feel bad…I’ll just turn it down. I’m willing to do alot of things but public speaking isn’t one of them. Eventually you’ll stop asking me.

    Comment by Jared — January 1, 2007 @ 4:46 pm

  3. We use those lines:
    1) to get back at you for asking us,
    2) as an icebreaker since most of us are nervous speaking in front of a congregation because we don’t do it each week.

    The most memorable “talk introduction” I remember (definitely the top 1% of the 90%) was by a youth speaker who asked for the help of the counselor who offered the speaking invitation. The counselor became part of an object lesson on faith as we were told. The counselor was blindfolded and asked to trust the lad. Grabbing the counselor’s tie with one hand, the boy used a pair of sewing scissors in the other and snipped the counselor’s tie in half. Of course the congregation was aghast and the counselor removed his blind. The youth excused the counselor, admitted to lying about the subject of the talk, apologized, and proceeded to teach about repentance.

    (Note: he had warned the counselor’s wife beforehand to assure that the counselor wore on old tie that the wife wanted to discard.)

    Comment by jose — January 1, 2007 @ 5:58 pm

  4. I don’t mind giving talks. I think people assume I would, since I’m a pretty quiet/shy person. But I’m more comfortable talking in front of a large group of people than I am trying to socialize in one.

    Comment by Susan M — January 1, 2007 @ 6:33 pm

  5. Perhaps people use those lines not just because they are scared to speak in public, but maybe to show humility? I actually enjoy putting talks together and speaking in Church (if I’m prepared!), but I don’t want anyone to know about it…

    BTW, I’m sure it would be very taxing to hear excuses and things over and over…Church leadership is hard enough!

    Comment by cheryl — January 1, 2007 @ 7:05 pm

  6. I make it a point to thank the individual for asking me to talk of serve in a calling. I consider it an honor to be asked.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 1, 2007 @ 7:54 pm

  7. I remember volunteering once to speak. I felt I needed the experience so I volunteered to give a talk.

    Comment by Chris Rusch — January 1, 2007 @ 8:20 pm

  8. I just get tired of hearing people start their talk with “When Brother so and so ask me to talk…” I swear EVERY SINGLE PERSON (of that 90%) does it.

    I don’t mind speaking or performing for sacrament but I sure do usually go well over a year for both before being asked again. In fact, if I wanted to be insulted, I could be for not being asked to sing in church again, having only done so once all year while many others have done so multiple times.

    Or maybe I just do a horrible job!

    Comment by Bret — January 1, 2007 @ 9:28 pm

  9. I think the whole, “when Rusty called me” intro is idiotoc and have never even thought about starting a talk that way. But that doesn’t make me one of the Good People. Save that title for the legit home/visit teachers.

    Comment by cj douglass — January 1, 2007 @ 11:59 pm

  10. CJ,
    I agree that the \”when Rusty called me\” intro is idiotic (and oftentimes embarrassing). And you\’re right that it doesn\’t make you a Good Person because you don\’t do it. Like I said, it\’s usually the Good People who accept the invitation without complaint, not that it makes them Good People.

    And CJ, shoot me an email at rustyclifton at gmail dot com.

    Comment by Rusty — January 2, 2007 @ 6:36 am

  11. I very seldom get asked to talk, so I don’t have that problem. It’s one of the benefits of being a loose cannon, they’re afraid of what I might say.

    And I actually don’t mind giving a talk. I hate to pray in public, though. I will sweat blood when asked to pray. It ruins the meeting for me. A talk, who listens, anyway? So I’ve made them feel bad when they ask me to pray. It’s quite a traumatic experience for all of us.

    Comment by annegb — January 2, 2007 @ 9:43 am

  12. I agree with cheryl’s #5.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 2, 2007 @ 11:12 am

  13. I agree that the \”when Rusty called me\” intro is idiotic

    Ummm… Does anyone in your ward read thins blog?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 2, 2007 @ 11:35 am

  14. One of the greatest benefits, I think, that comes from serving in a church leadership position is that after being released, you’re much more likely to be sympathetic towards (and therefore supportive of) those in your former calling.

    I am guessing, Rusty, you won’t ever give your future bishopric members grief when they ask you to speak in a Sacrament meeting. Right?

    Comment by Amy — January 2, 2007 @ 11:59 am

  15. Rusty:

    I think the guilt trips are deserved. I know at work that if I need a colleague to produce a valuable piece of work– particularly a presentation– then I need to give him/her at least two weeks notice. There are few thangs that chap my *** more than a call 5-7 days before the next sacrament meeting asking me to deliver a sermon on a topic not of my choosing. Bishoprics should do more detailed planning. If I were in the position to make that decision I’d plan sacrament meetings out like most wards plan meals for the missionaries– pass out a calendar looking for volunteers and then fill in the gaps with more directed emphasis (i.e. phone calls, interviews). In fact I’d take the extra step of including topics on the calendar so that people could pick their date based on the topic.

    Comment by endlessnegotiation — January 2, 2007 @ 12:19 pm

  16. Geoff,
    I think there might be a couple lurkers, but I don’t know of any that read it regularly.

    Amy,
    Yes, you are right, I won’t give them grief, but more because I wrote this post and don’t want to be a hypocrite, not because I care about future bishoprics :)

    Comment by Rusty — January 2, 2007 @ 12:23 pm

  17. As hard as asking people to give talks, prayers have been just as bad – if not worse. We do have about 10-15 members that are a guaranteed “yes” with a great attitude and without the already mentioned cliches. We (Bishopric) fight over these members all year long. Then we have the new move-ins, who get handed a calling and speaking assignment in no specific order within their first month. They are easy targets with not enough tenure to give us attitude and they’re to busy trying to remember and recite their and their spouse’s life history at the beginning of their talk to say something totally witty, such as “My wife and I had argued for months about whether or not caller ID was worth the money….Then Rob called us last Sunday and asked us….. We now have caller ID.” . The rest of the ward is made up of members who have given talks in the past and made it known (verbally or non-verbally) that they were not happy about it and the “Unaskables”. For whatever the reason(s), we have members who, by unspoken understanding (not worthiness issues)and I’m sure years of hard work, cannot and will not be asked to do anything in Sacrament meeting. Maybe our ’07 Bishopric goal should be to get the huevos to start asking these members because, give me a break, who doesn’t have a fear of public speaking? This is my month to assign talks and prayers, and I’ll come back and comment on any noteworthy experiences while they are fresh. Unfortunately, there is more than a 100% chance that I will extend an invitation to several of the 90 percenters.

    Comment by Rob — January 2, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

  18. Endless,
    I can’t believe you just wrote that. I’m amazed because just yesterday I finished setting up the document that will serve as our 2007 Calendar for Sacrament Speakers with all the topics filled in for the entire year (context sensitive I might add), space for speakers and contact info. Our plan is to print out three months and pass it around almost exactly as you detailed. This is something we’ve been working on for a while now because of the aformentioned angst. It’ll be interesting to see how the ward responds.

    And for the record, I agree that the guilt-trips are deserved if the person is given 5 or less days of preparation but a week is pretty standard, no?

    Comment by Rusty — January 2, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

  19. …and let me formally introduce you all to Rob, my mission friend :)

    Comment by Rusty — January 2, 2007 @ 12:41 pm

  20. Actually, the only introduction that is worse than the “when Rusty called me [last night] and asked me to speak . . .” is the one I hear almost every Sunday:

    “Estoy agrade[something or other} a Dios y a la presidencia de la rama por este opportunidad . . .” (with apologies to all of you who really can speak/write Spanish).

    By the way, I am a member of Rusty’s ward, but don’t attend there much. If I do, and if I am asked to speak, I will make sure to refer to Rusty’s asking me to speak–even if he didn’t.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 2, 2007 @ 12:49 pm

  21. We have a small ward with lots of shy people, so I have a policy of having one missionary pray in each Sac mtg (we have 6). Also, we don’t assign topics, unless its someone who needs the guidance or we’re having a theme meeting, which is rare. I always do the asking live at church, not on the phone, and we’re currently asking at least month in advance with reminder calls and sms (unless we have a cancellation). We have a spreadsheet showing all the members and the last time they spoke, but I’ve learned not to walk around with it as most members have learned to recognize it and will avoid eye contact if they see me with it.

    Comment by Norbert — January 2, 2007 @ 1:31 pm

  22. Okay, I guess I’m really slow here, but I am having a hard time connecting the dots between “you make us feel bad” and the list of sample comments given.

    Why would those comments make you feel bad?

    Comment by Naismith — January 2, 2007 @ 3:30 pm

  23. This may sound lame, but in response to Naismith –I “felt bad” two days ago in Primary, when our prayer didn’t show up. Of course it was last minute, but I had to ask 5 primary kids before one finally agreed to say the opening prayer. It made me feel bad because of ONE: All of these kids had prayed in Primary before…but they can’t do it now? TWO: What are these kids being taught? What’s wrong with helping out? and THREE: I don’t have time for this! 2 of my counselors are gone! I’m conducting and doing Sharing Time! And 8 months pregnant! Just somebody please say the prayer!!
    Of course, the person that said yes was my own daughter. But she can’t say no to her mother…

    So…my point is that when people in leadership get grief for just asking others to help and participate in our weekly worship services, it makes us feel bad because we really are trying to do our best, you know?

    Comment by cheryl — January 2, 2007 @ 4:57 pm

  24. Cheryl,
    I hear ya hon. This last Sunday was zero fun for me. The rest of the bishopric wasn’t there (including all the clerks) so I was putting together the program (printing and cutting), making sure sacrament was set up (no cups so I had to put a call into the missionaries to pick some up at another building), the bread didn’t arrive until I was standing up to announce the beginning of the sacrament, a (not-all-the-marbles) member giving me flack for leaving the clerk’s office door open (while setting up the sacrament), finding someone to teach the youth class (teachers weren’t there neither was the SS president), helping teach the combined third-hour class, and then setting up the ridiculously confusing projector/dvd/satellite set-up for the broadcast that night. The problem is that responsibilities don’t go away when the person goes away, it just gets shifted to someone else.

    Naismith,
    You’re probably right that I might be a little too sensitive. I guess they make me feel bad because it makes me feel like I’m inconveniencing them. Sure, they might have the responsiblity or ultimately have a great experience preparing/giving the talk, but it doesn’t keep me from feeling bad about asking them.

    Comment by Rusty — January 2, 2007 @ 5:32 pm

  25. You know Rusty, in being a member for over four years now, no one has EVER asked me to give a talk… I wonder why, now.

    Comment by tracy m — January 2, 2007 @ 6:27 pm

  26. It’s no fun asking people to do something you know most people on earth dread doing. I hated having to assign the talks and Prayers in primary when I was the secretary, and those were just kids!

    I just wish we didn’t have so many Sundays in our ward with no women speaking.

    Comment by Susan M — January 2, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

  27. Wow, Cheryl what a supermom you are! Good luck with the new little one.

    In fairness, Cheryl’s example of people saying NO seems very different from Rusty’s original case of people who are willing to do it, but make comments along the way.

    Since those comments (at least those given) weren’t personal attacks or particularly negative, it’s hard for me to see it as “grief.” At least compared to my church experiences of being told that I was the worst Relief Society president ever, that I was teaching false doctrine, etc.

    But then, my day job involves asking people to fill out paperwork, and they often make comments, and it never bothers me as long as it doesn’t get personal. Letting them blow off steam is just part of the process. I don’t care as long as I meet the deadline. So maybe I’m just immune to such comments.

    Anybody done chapel cleanup coordinator after being in the bishopric, or vice versa? I’m wondering if people are more willing to clean the chapel than to speak? Or less? Or how the comments compare?

    Comment by Naismith — January 2, 2007 @ 7:28 pm

  28. Tracy,
    What’s your bishop’s contact info? How big is your ward? Even if it’s huge it still doesn’t make sense that you haven’t been asked to speak yet.

    Susan,
    Not a week goes by in our ward without a female speaker (or two). I can’t imagine how that’s possible.

    Naismith,
    I actually have a pretty tough skin. There’s just something about it that makes me feel bad.

    Comment by Rusty — January 2, 2007 @ 7:41 pm

  29. My worst calling ever was as ward ride coordinator. I had to call members and ask them to pick up people and take them to Church on Sundays. I set up regular ride arrangements but every week some ride giver was out of town or an inactive member or investigator would need a ride and I’d have to call around and arrange rides. The biggest problem was that most of the people who had cars lived out in the county where the chapel is located and all the people who needed rides were in the city, so I was almost always asking people to go at least 30 min. out of their way early Sunday morning. Anyways, it was more than 90% of the people I called that made me feel bad. More like 95%. Even when I called people who had volunteered to give rides. I appreciated very much the few people who seemed happy to help.

    I don’t know why the missionaries or the people who needed rides couldn’t make the calls themselves, but it was my calling so I did it, albeit grudgingly. Every time the phone rang for that year I could feel my blood pressure rise. I still flinch when the damn thing rings.

    Comment by Tom — January 2, 2007 @ 8:49 pm

  30. Naismith-
    Yeah, you are right —I figured my example would be kind of lame. But it did feel good to vent a little! :)

    Rusty-
    Seriously, after hearing about your Sunday, I have no reason to complain –ever!

    Comment by cheryl — January 2, 2007 @ 10:21 pm

  31. endless,

    I love the idea! The only kink that may need to be worked out are those of us with pet doctrines (that a Bishopric may not know about) who will snag any chance to preach our views on something we love, but may not be wholly doctrinal about.

    I’m guessing this may include many a blogger!

    Comment by Bret — January 3, 2007 @ 1:20 am

  32. Wow, who doesn’t mind giving a prayer in Sac. mtg? I love it. It’s easy; it takes only a few minutes (or less); you don’t have a preparation to stress about; you’re helping out; and you’re giving face-time, thereby, hopefully, burning an imprint into the bishopric’s memory that says, “don’t call her to give a talk, she was just up there a couple of weeks ago..” heh heh.

    Comment by meems — January 3, 2007 @ 2:29 am

  33. I haven’t given a talk in over 20 years, even after asking the bishop – twice, in the past 6 months! – if I could speak because I enjoy speaking in public. I’m starting to wonder why….

    Comment by Donna V — January 4, 2007 @ 4:46 pm

  34. Geoff, re #13:
    yes.

    And Rusty, Joe appreciated the ol’ bait and switch last week:

    “Say, do you want to come over on Sunday night? Great, since you’re going to be in town, would you mind speaking in Sacrament Meeting?”

    Good Work :)

    Kelli

    Comment by Kelli — January 5, 2007 @ 12:10 am

  35. Kelli,
    HA! Yeah, not until I was actually asking him to speak did I realize it could be perceived as that. I had two things to talk to him about and one just happened to be a more pleasant thing than the other. And Joe called me on it and I felt pretty dumb (this time it was my own fault though). But we missed you Sunday night!

    Oh, and Kelli, Joe is one of the Good People.

    Comment by Rusty — January 5, 2007 @ 8:05 am

  36. I wish I could speak more often. I blame my mission in Utah for liking to give talks.

    Comment by Kim Siever — January 5, 2007 @ 8:17 pm

  37. i’m with meems. i dig prayers because they’re short, sweet, and get you up there. and they’re hard to screw up! 30 to 90 seconds and i’m in the clear! woohoo!

    my peeve with our bishopric lately is that they CONSTANTLY ask my husband and i to give talks after we’ve declined every time because my husband works sundays and i’m alone with three under three. i don’t know if they think i need to feel included, or what, but it’s annoying. other than our current situation, we’ve always been more than willing to give talks and don’t give any guff.

    my husband has spoken probably twice as often as i have, though i’m the better speaker (despite having a few vomiting and crying sessions beforehand, ick). my husband has been known to say things like, “husbands, it is not important to love your wives.” he just starts talking and all sorts of stuff spews out. good thing he’s cute!

    Comment by pick a name, any name... — January 6, 2007 @ 5:22 am

  38. I would happily speak in church once a month with one week’s notice.

    Comment by a random John — January 11, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

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