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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Whatever Happened to Ward Teaching & the Inactives? » Whatever Happened to Ward Teaching & the Inactives?

Whatever Happened to Ward Teaching & the Inactives?

Don - May 29, 2008

I was just thinking of all the “politically correct” terms the church uses now.

Of course it must be a good thing or the church wouldn’t do it. But I do find it interesting to note the changes and or additions over the years.

Here’s a few others I can quickly think of: MIA, Mutual, Young Mens, Young Womens, RS enrichment, compassionate service…what others?


  1. “…it must be a good thing or the church wouldn’t do it.”

    * shudders *

    While the balance of the decisions the Church makes trends positive, I would have to disagree with that statement.

    Aside from that, the question at hand nets the following: Gospel Essentials, half of the primary class names, and a host of others (what did we used to call the Area Authorities? Or the classes we used to have during the week).

    Comment by Silus Grok — May 29, 2008 @ 10:37 am

  2. While most of those name changes are silly, the word inactive became an insult. Moreover, it wasn’t descriptive, as it covered the once a monther (which by church stats was considered active), people you only saw near Christmas, Easter and some funerals, and people you never saw in a church building. Less active is a far better term, albeit not descriptive of the never shows.

    Now as far as home teaching less actives, that’s where our lack of paid local clergy bites us. I don’t know how many times I’ve moved into a new ward and am quickly assigned a list of less actives. I then hand the list back to the priesthood group leader and say “upon being introduced by someone who knows these families, I will attempt the assignment.” A few months go by and then I’m assigned active families near me. In other words, virtually nobody knows these folks.

    I remember when my active LDS live-in gf wife-to-be dragged me back to church when I asked her to marry me. A lot of folks thought I was a bf investigator and just didn’t know how to react when a told them I was a member, had been in the area a few years, but hadn’t come to church (Of course, I saved my wife embarrassment by only telling the Bishop we were living together and were looking to get married and get right with the church.). It’s tough being comfortable around a bunch of Mormons.

    Comment by Steve EM — May 29, 2008 @ 8:54 pm

  3. Except that it’s “Young Men” and “Young Women”. No esses since they’re already plural. :)

    Comment by Kim Siever — May 29, 2008 @ 9:02 pm

  4. I think the change from inactive to less active was totally based on political correctness. When I grew up in southern Idaho and lived for a decade in the Salt Lake valley, being “less active” was possible. These are people who come to church when it is convenient (unless there is something better to do like going boating or golfing or watching a football game) but they aren’t totally active because they don’t hold callings. We see them often but they don’t really participate, other than to fill up seats in the chapel.

    Since I’ve moved to the other side of the country, away from “Zion”, it seems we don’t actually have “less active members.” We either have active members, who hold callings and show up every week unless they are out of town or there is some other pressing engagement (emergency by-pass surgery), or we have inactive members. The inactives might show up for the holiday services but most of them will not darken the door of the chapel in their lifetime. When they are invited to have their name removed from the records of the church ( I know some who have been invited) they almost always decline (there is apparently a glimpse of a testimony there, thank heaven) but they have no intention of returning to church. They are NOT less active, they are inactive and I am not inclined to refer to them in any other fashion.

    I think “Young Mens” should actually read “Young Men’s” meaning The Young Men’s Organization. It’s not plural, it’s possessive.

    Comment by Lamonte — May 30, 2008 @ 6:35 am

  5. I can remember waaaaay back when “less active” families were often headed by Adult Aaronic husbands and fathers. We’ve been trying for a long time to come up with a term that is positive, which really isn’t possible since the choice that prompts the need for a term is by definition not positive.

    Relief Society used to have names for courses of study, too (did the priesthood quorums?) — instead of today’s “first Sunday” or “fourth Sunday,” there were things like Theology, and Social Relations, and Mother Education, and Cultural Refinement. Cultural Refinement was one of the last hold-overs, long after the term had ceased to have any legitimate meaning — in the beginning, it covered music and literature and art, when the Relief Society really did study those topics and provided just about the only way a woman could get a touch of the finer things in her life. Then when recordings and TV and transportation to museums and libraries and everything else became commonplace, the lessons turned into a sort of geography and history lesson, made slightly church-relevant by references to LDS women in the target countries. Then even the name, as well as the concept, disappeared, what, 15-ish years ago?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 30, 2008 @ 7:18 am

  6. BTW, I wasn’t trying to list all the names RS classes have had over the years — some may remember “spiritual living” on Fast Sundays; “theology” was even older than that.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 30, 2008 @ 7:20 am

  7. Lamonte,

    You invite people to have their names removed? Wow. I thought that was a no-no.

    Comment by a random John — May 30, 2008 @ 10:58 am

  8. Yeah, don’t let your stake president find out. You could get in a spot of trouble over that.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 30, 2008 @ 7:39 pm

  9. random John – perhaps my terminology was inaccurate. The situation is that someone, an inactive member, is contacted, hopefully in person, by a home teacher or priesthood leader. That person expresses their desire to not have any contact with the church. It is explained to them that it is our duty to maintain contact with all of our members and that if they wish no contact then it is possible to have their names removed from the records of the church. In some cases the inactive members will inquire further and follow through on the process. But in most cases, the inactive member will state their intention to maintain their church membership and work out a compromise where the church representatives can contact them periodically, either in person or through correspondence.

    Comment by lamonte — May 31, 2008 @ 7:07 am

  10. The process described by lamonte happens in my ward as well. We will even give them a tithing envelope to write a request to the Bisop with! This was a definete no-no 15 years ago when I was on my mission, but I have been told it is the policy now.

    Comment by Lara — May 31, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

  11. There’s also the category of “less actives” who attend lots of church meetings but hardly ever do anything gospel-centered on a personal basis or as a family. I think I have more respect for those who don’t attend but at least admit that they are lacking.

    Comment by Brent — June 1, 2008 @ 5:30 pm

  12. Mormons are so judgmental. Can’t stand em.

    Comment by Steve EM — June 1, 2008 @ 6:22 pm

  13. Ah, the distant memories evoked by Ward Teaching, Gleaners and M-Men (even Golden Gleaners and Master M-Men), Gaynotes and Merrihands and Bluebirds and the Guide Patrol, the Singing Mothers and Relief Society Work Meetings, and don’t forget the Relief Society Bazaars.

    I vaguely recall the Adult Aaronic being called the Senior Aaronic (I remember a Theron Luke column in the Provo Daily Herald about 40 years ago where he suggested that Robert Leroy Parker, aka Butch Cassidy, may have been the first Senior Aaronic) and I’ve heard it said that prospects are not too good for most Prospective Elders.

    The Gospel Essentials name suggests that all the other classes in Sunday School are Gospel Non-essentials (hat tip to my dad, who used to refer to the class he taught as that).

    Comment by Mark B. — June 2, 2008 @ 6:46 am

  14. Steve EM,

    Everyone is like this.

    The only difference between Mormons and most other groups of people, is that Mormons are forced to interact with each other, so the judgmentalism is a bit more noticeable. Other groups get around it by essentially ignoring each other.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 2, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

  15. How about big name change from “Genealogy” to “Family History” ?

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 2, 2008 @ 6:44 pm

  16. Steve EM, welcome back. LTNS.

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 2, 2008 @ 7:46 pm

  17. Hi Bookslinger. Yeah, I’m less active on more than one front. I took a transfer to Houston last year, am still learning a new business, etc. I’ve kind of moved beyond Mormonism and am just going through the motions at church for now to keep peace at home, making excuses to avoid going to temple, etc.

    Seth R, No, many Mormons have turned making “less valiant” people uncomfortable at church into an art form. The Utah-Idaho brand of Mormonism is the worst for this, but it holds throughout the US and Canada. While thick skinned myself, I’ve seen good people/families virtually chased out of the church. There is a hell, and some people are going to be surprised there.

    Comment by Steve EM — June 4, 2008 @ 4:55 pm

  18. What I was saying Steve, was that I don’t think this is a particularly “Mormon thing.”

    Comment by Seth R. — June 4, 2008 @ 8:29 pm

  19. I think the term ‘less-active’ is and sounds stupid. Inactive is inactive. There’s no other word for it.

    Comment by Jan — June 18, 2008 @ 5:08 pm

  20. How about big name change from “Genealogy” to “Family History” ?

    I know that here in The South we have been calling it Family History for a while. Although I don’t know when it changed for the rest of the world, around here it simply put more emphasis on the Family and less emphasis on big word of foreign (Greek) origin. Also, when people around here were asked to fill out “pedigree” charts they turned up there noses. “I’m no prize ‘coon dog!”, they would say. Indeed, sir, you are no prize ‘coon dog. We called them Family History sheets from way back.

    Comment by Jason — June 20, 2008 @ 8:07 pm

  21. This post is a long time past the last one, but since I’m new to this site, and just now reading the archives, I guess I’ll go ahead and put my two cents in anyway.

    I just wanted to say that I was one who was “invited” to have my name removed from the membership records. When I moved to a new area, my new bishop and his wife came to vist, along with RS president and her husband. They showed up at my home in the middle of the day, the Saturday before the 4th, while I was hosting an enormous family gathering for my husband’s, non-LDS, family.

    I invited the bishop, et al, inside to visited for a few minutes. The bishop asked when they might see me at church. I explained that I probably wouldn’t be coming but that now might not be the best time to go in to why that was. When he pressed, I explained that after much soul, and scripture, searching, I’d come to the conclusion that I didn’t believe in the restoration story as told to me my whole life and that, based on the church position of “either it’s all true or none of it’s true” I’d been forced to conclude that it must all not be true.

    The bishop asked what specifically I had a problem with. I shared a couple of specifics with him. He sat there for a moment, quietly, and then said that he’d prefer (he really used the word prefer) that I go ahead and have my name removed from the records, if that was the way I felt, so that he wouldn’t have to send folks out to “bother” me. I told him that I enjoyed my LDS friends and wouldn’t mind at ALL if anyone wanted to come out and see me. He said that just the same, he’d rather I go ahead and request that my name be removed. So I did.

    He insisted that I also request to have my children’s names removed, as well, though I expressed a desire to leave them and let them make that decision on their own when they were older. (These children were the product of a previous temple marriage where my husband passed away. I had been re-married for less than a year at that time.) Keep in mind that while all this is going on, over 75 people were standing around in the yard, waiting for me to come out so that we could get on with our cookout.

    Since I’d already determined that there was no value in church memebership, beyond the good relationship that I had with my VERY active family, I went ahead and had my name removed. The entire exchange was very pleasant, no one lost their temper or got upset. I had already spent a great deal of time with my previous bishop and stake president, trying to sort out all of the questions that I’d had, and this new bishop didn’t even try to get into those things with me. He handed me a paper with that month’s visiting teaching message on it and asked me to fill out my request for removal on the back, before he left. Then we (the bishop’s entourage and myself) all went outside to where my guests were waiting, my husband invited them to stay for BBQ, they declined and left. I’ve never seen any of the local LDS people in the four years since.

    It turned out to be a relief and my relationship with God moved forward in a great way from that moment on.

    I only share that experience in response to the discusion about wether or not people are actually “invited” to have their names removed. In some cases, at least, they certainly are.

    Comment by Kate — September 6, 2008 @ 6:54 pm

  22. Kate #21
    I am so sorry that happened to you. All I can say is that you encountered a doofus who was more concerned about statistics than the members of his flock who were entrusted to his care. He will be accountable to God. I am glad that you were able to find peace and joy in your relationship with God in another setting.

    Comment by JA Benson — September 6, 2008 @ 9:36 pm

  23. #22 JA Benson

    I realize that and I have no hard feelings, toward him or the church in general. My dad is a bishop and a wonderful, wonderful man. I can’t imagine him ever handling that situation that way. But…we’re all just people, doing the best we can. I don’t feel bad about it.

    Comment by Kate — September 7, 2008 @ 11:12 am

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