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The Visitors


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Sorry for our recent silence. We promise more content soon.

I absolutely detest visits to inactives. I hate it. I had an experience a couple weeks ago where I skipped church (not for the first time, I’ll admit) and found the Elder’s Quorum Presidency at my door, waking me up from a nap. I wrote a post about this, but didn’t put it up on the basis that it was too bitter and just made me madder and madder. But, I would ask you to consider the following:

I had worked until 5 AM the previous night.

I live in the athletic dorms here at OU. You have to be a resident with a valid ID to even get in the door. So, they waited for someone, snuck in, and then knocked my door.

They tried to call first, but got no answer (you know, since I turn my phone off when I sleep after working ALL THE LIVE-LONG NIGHT!). Either I’m not available or I’m specifically avoiding you. Which one justifies bothering me?

But I’m not bitter.

I don’t really resent the EQP for caring. I do resent him doing something that he knows I won’t respond well to. So, last Sunday I talked to him about it and let him know that spiritual nagging isn’t appreciated on my end. I was quite charitable and I feel the conversation went well. The guy’s still trying to be my best friend, but I don’t think he’ll be doing any pop-ins in the future.

All of this makes me think…..I can’t be the only one with a problem with this. I used to be EQ secretary. I’m currently one of the ward executive secretaries. Point is, I’ve made these visits. I’M MAKING THESE VISITS. Mike, our esteemed co-blogger from whom we never hear (passive aggression meter: 4.5/10), likened this scene unto “Singles Ward”, where the guy “knows all their tactics”. And I certainly do. I’ve done and am doing the same things they are. Aside from the hassle that it was, it’s an insult to my intelligence. I know what’s going on. It’s just a little transparent when the EQ presidency shows up in suit and tie an hour after church. They didn’t just come by to chat. They came to interview.

Webster’s dictionary defines interview as: “1. A conversation between an inquirer and an inquiree in which the dialogue takes the primary form of questions and answers. 2. Any conversation in which a Mormon that thinks him/herself to have a stewardship judges you. 3. Any conversation in which a Mormon judges you. 4. Any conversation with a Mormon at church. 5. Any conversation with a Mormon.”

I do personally resent the EQ president for reasons external to this. He’s a good person that does things in ways that just make me simmer. We’re very different people and I’ll leave it at that. His counselors, as near as I can tell, are good kids that are trying to do their job and just don’t know any better.

So, you say, why is D-Train making visits like this when he hates them with a purple passion? The answer is that I’m a hypocrite. Pure and simple. I hate it and I do it to other people. I think it’s wrong for other people to do it to me and I do it to other people.

But there is a silver lining: I’m really conflicted over it. If it were just up to me, I’d talk to these people and say: “Look, you know why I’m here. You know that I’m here to ask you to come to church. I do honestly want you there and think you should come. But I also know that you didn’t just forget to come to church for six months. I know that you know that I’m here because your name is on a list and not because I’m in any position to offer you advice. Please come back, but I’ll understand if you don’t. I don’t like it all the time either. I believe the Book of Mormon and the Bible to be the word of God. Please read something from one or the other every day and pray about what the Lord would have you do in your own life. Here’s my number and please call me if you ever need or want anything. I’ll probably be back in a few months, but I won’t get mad if you don’t answer the door.”

And I’d go in a T-shirt and jeans. I know that you probably think that’s pretty callous or cold or whatever. And it might well be. But here’s the point that I want to get across: these visits really are pretty transparent. Even when you sincerely mean it (and I have, on a couple of occasions), the people that you’re trying to help know why you’re there, even if what they know isn’t really what’s going on. Above all, I just hate nagging people. For the most part, people can make their own decisions.

I’m sure these visits help some people. As I said, I’ve made a few visits that I felt really good about. The Spirit was there and they did help. But I’ve made a lot more where it’s obvious that even when we really cared about doing it and doing it to serve our brother or sister, they just did not want us there. When people don’t want you in their lives, you only make them more bitter by pushing your way in.

I don’t have an easy answer. I’ll probably just keep making the visits even though I don’t want to, seeing as the alternative is to give up my calling entirely (I have to go with a bishopric member, which means I can’t even introduce a hint of the above on my own initiative). I totally understand if any of you think I’m just a jerk or an apostate. But, I can’t help but think of how I felt when I opened that door and saw the EQP, knowing full well what he wanted. I have to believe that for people that are actually inactive, that feeling can be a million times worse. If nothing else, let’s leave the ties at home. Let’s at least pretend that we’re just regular guys coming by to check on a friend. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what we actually are. We just need to work on putting on a decent show of it.


15 Responses to “The Visitors”

  1. Anonymous BestHair 

    Amen! Brother D-Train-
    I, too, get royally pissed when I have visits from EQP. Sometimes I wish Mormon church was more like other churches. You can miss a Sunday, and no one thinks a second thought about it. Somedays, you just can't make it to church or some days you just need a break.
    I also had the same experience as you did with the EQP in the sigles ward. My younger brother lived with me last school year. He started to smoke, consume cofee, and drink while I was on my mission. Needless to say he has no interest in church. He's a good kid. Funny as hell and he's not resentful about church or anything. It's just not his thing right now. Well, anyway the ENTIRE year I was constantly pestered by a couselor in the bishopric or the EQP to get in with my brother. I knew what they were doing. And you know what, I wouldn't let them see him. I got really protective of him. Granted, it was tough to see him because I hardly saw him. He slept all day, stayed up all night, and went home to Edmond on the weekends. But I still got pissed off. I knew they were going to show up in a shirt and tie and want to "interview" my bro, to see why he wasn't going to church, and invite him to get ready to get ordained an Elder so their numbers looked good. They would try to act like they were going to be friends with him, but my brother is not dumb. He's been a member all of his life, and he knows when a dude from church comes to your house in a shirt and tie, its not to talk about football or your favorite band. Also, these "re-activation" tactics contributed to my bro going incative in the first place. His priest quorum decided to make him their "project" and get him back to church. My brother saw right through it and said "See ya". So, after being brought into see the EQP and the bishopric a few times, I finally said, "Look, my brother is not interested in church right now. And as his brother, the guy who has known him for his entire life, I know that he doesn't want to meet some stranger to talk about church. He's even told me he's tired of people trying to push church down his throat. If you want to get to him, try getting some of the people he went to high school with to contact him." Basically I was saying "Leave well enought alone.Well, the message didn't get through, because they were still adament about seeing him. I was furious. I'm glad my brother moved back home at the end of the year.
    I know they mean well, and probably were only doing it because they were getting pestered in PEC to visit my brother, but come on. There comes a point when instead of helping you're just pissing people off, and pushing them even further away from the Church. I think part of the problem lies in the fact that in EQ we only hear the success stories. HT visit and visit and finally the family lets them in and becomes activated. Well, not everybody will respond to that. I agree that we should be more upfront about our visits to inactives. I also think a better way to reach in actives is just to go visit them or invite them to something outside the context of church. Just be a normal person with them. No white shirts. No ties. No message. Instead wear your rage against the machine shirt, play a violent video game, and get a burger from Carl's Jr. Don't even mention church. Just be his friend. You've got nothing to lose, and only a new friend to gain. If the guy doesn't come to church, no big deal. At least he has some contact with someone at church. Maybe you can even get some HT visits in the future.
    Sorry for the rant. It's just a topic that I think members could do better on.

  2. Anonymous Katie 

    Ah, D-Train, I feel you pain. Your story reminds me of an experience I had my freshman year at BYU. A newly baptized convert, I became quite lost at the Y. I was culturally shocked, and testimonially disoriented. I was thinking about leaving the church, but I was working through it. I confided my secret thoughts to a friend, who I thought was a confidant. This girl who was not in my ward, behind my back, and without telling me, got in contact with the bishop in my ward. One day I got a random phone call, requesting that I meet with the bishop. I had no idea what it could be about. When I went to his office he began, “So, I hear you are having doubts about the church…” He proceeded to give me a pep talk. And all the while my blood pressure was rising. “I can’t trust anyone! There are gestapo spies turning me into the authorities,” were how my thoughts ran. I was so dang mad. It turns out this friend had also contacted my RS prez, and the ward missionaries, who would also try to help me. I suppose I should have been happy that my friend cared so much. But that it certainly not how I felt. I felt betrayed and my testimony funk sunk to even lower levels. I think it was just the horrible feeling that they were operating behind my back. And there is just nothing worse than people trying to help you because they have to. It has the opposite effect that it intends. It comes off as suffocating and annoying. The good Lord knows sometimes you just need a break. I mean the crowds were always mobbing him and sometimes he would go get away from it all and hide out on a mountain to pray. I can just imagine if he lived in our time. The EQP would find his mountain hideaway and commence an interview.

  3. Anonymous D-Train 

    Good to hear from you, man! How's the life?

    I'm guessing you know the name of the EQP I'm talking about then.... ;)

    We totally need to do better here. I just feel bad that I'm being part of something that I don't like, but there's not a whole ton I can do about it now. I actually remember someone talking to me about your brother, but at that time I wasn't in a calling where I'd have to visit him or harass him.

    I also kind of feel like we blow church attendance itself out of proportion. It's important to go, but not going one week isn't going to cost you Celestial K. In my case, I think I had missed two weeks in a row and had only been about half the time for the last month and a half. So let's review:

    1) I miss church three times.

    2) My best several friends in the world are Church members and in the ward.

    3) I'm in a calling where I have to visit inactive people that we assume are plunging into horrible spiritual darkness because of their unwillingness to go to church.

    I know! I know! The best thing that can be done is to send the EQP and counselors over in suit and tie! He'll never figure it out!

    Gosh dang it.

  4. Anonymous D-Train 

    Wow! We're totally on here at the same time!

    I love you two....we're much poorer for not having you around. I should have talked to you guys a lot more when we did have you.

    Katie, that's a very moving story. Myself and the guys sort of have an understanding that any time that we hear anything about any one of us in a meeting, we'll fully disclose. I really hate it when former members or antis think of the Church as a machine that just grinds people up, but stories like yours are kind of revealing. I'm sure that your friend probably was just trying to help, but doing that DOESN'T help most people. It just makes you mad that your friends won't just come to you and help. It makes the ward seem a lot more like a machine than a group of believers.

    I don't know. Maybe I should share some of the reservations that I have about these visits. I'm not the most social guy and I don't know if I could successfully become someone's friend just by cold-calling them, but there just has to be a better way than this.

  5. Anonymous NFlanders 

    Excellent post, D-Train. I agree completely. There is a fine line between letting people know they are welcome at church and harassment. No one seems to have a clue where that line is.

    Also, unless you are good friends with someone, it is rude to show up without calling first, in my humble opinion. If someone wants you to visit, they'll answer the phone when you call.

    I'm sorry you have to go out on these visits, and even worse, you have to do it in a junior companion position. Hopefully, some day you'll be EQP and then no one will get harassed.

  6. Anonymous Pris 

    Ah. One of the things that turned me off of church was similar to this. (EQP asking Home Teachers to interview their families on personal righteousness issues.)

    It's easy for me to say this because I have nothing to lose (and my be underestimating the possible damage), but since it seems that the EQP, etc. already know of your, uh, unconventionality, why not take a stand on this? Just say that you don't feel comfortable doing it, etc...

  7. Anonymous Logan 

    Well, I am the EQP in my branch, and I feel exactly the same way. In fact, I'm glad to hear you all talk like this, because I've pretty much been acting on the idea that this is how people really feel.

    If you're someone who's made it on my list of people to visit, you can expect me to show up with wild shaggy hair (I control it a little bit for Church, but outside, anything goes) and an AC/DC shirt, and actually want to talk about your favorite band! (So funny, BestHair -- you described me perfectly.) For one, I think meeting someone who admits to having a life that isn't 100% Church-related is much more helpful to someone than an "interview." Secondly, I've found that the people who make it on my visit-list are often the most interesting people in the branch. I'm happy to get to know them whether they come to Church or not.

    Sometimes I wonder if I'm just kidding myself; if maybe I should do things the more conventional way. But threads like this make me feel better about my methods.

    And by all means, keep ranting -- I want to know what else DOES NOT WORK.

  8. Anonymous Mike 

    I think that sometimes the conventional methods are good. And lots of times they aren't. I think that being sensitive to the spirit is important here- but so is common sense. The Lord gave us brains for a reason and he expects us to use them in our stewardships.

  9. Anonymous annegb 

    Since I've been in the nursery, most of the ward thinks I've finally gone inactive. They've been waiting for it.

    I think it would be funny if somebody visited or asked. I could make up a good story. In fact, I think I will.

  10. Anonymous D-Train 

    Good comments, all. It's nice to hear of an EQP that actually sees things the way I do.

    Ned, if they ever make me the EQP, I'll shoot myself. And you for putting bad karma out there ;) I must say, though, that one benefit of being thought to be an inactive/apostate/less faithful/whatever is that I'll never be stuck with callings like EQ president.

    Pris, the basic issue here is that I'm just too lazy and don't want to deal with it. I still might do as you suggest, but it seems that making a stink about this would simply lead to being harassed more (WHAT?!? He's not coming to church AND he doesn't like the interviews? We'd better interview him!) The fact that I do go to church is an inconvenient fact that I can only assume would be summarily disregarded.

    But I would say that I don't judge the Church based on this. These sorts of things are just people that aren't doing a lot of thinking and get caught up in "the way it's always been done". And not only that, you've got people like me that know full well that it's a bad idea and are complicit due to cowardice/inertia/social pressure.

    Logan, good work! Is it working? Have you gotten over the "oh s*&!, it's the EQP" barrier with anyone? What else are you doing as a substitute for the usual? How have local leaders reacted to that?

    Mike: yeah, pretty much. I think the basic pattern gets so entrenched that anything the Spirit or mind might have to say about it is usually washed away. Again, not that I'm any better. That's just how it works around these parts, and it's by no means unique to the Church.

    Anne: tell them that you're too busy having an internet affair during Church hours. That'll teach 'em to nag.

  11. Anonymous Talon 

    "Look, you know why I’m here. You know that I’m here to ask you to come to church. I do honestly want you there and think you should come. But I also know that you didn’t just forget to come to church for six months. I know that you know that I’m here because your name is on a list and not because I’m in any position to offer you advice. Please come back, but I’ll understand if you don’t. I don’t like it all the time either. I believe the Book of Mormon and the Bible to be the word of God. Please read something from one or the other every day and pray about what the Lord would have you do in your own life. Here’s my number and please call me if you ever need or want anything. I’ll probably be back in a few months, but I won’t get mad if you don’t answer the door.”

    That nailed it on the head, I pray for the day this is enshrined in a Church manual.

    "The fact that I do go to church is an inconvenient fact that I can only assume would be summarily disregarded."

    This is the one that gets me. My wife is not a member, but has attended Church with me regularly for 8 years (dating 3, married 5). In most wards she has been treated as a target, and I have been treated as someone who needs extra encouragement and attention, because obviously I am on the verge of apostacy, since I made the horrible mistake of marrying someone I am deeply in love with despite the fact she was not a member of the one true and living faith. Sometimes I feel like shouting "I'm here.....at Church...regularly...don't you see me? Don't you see her? And she's under no obligation....can't you cut us some slack?!!!"

    Our current ward is very good. Our Bishop, a convert himself, asked us when we moved in how much we wanted to be involved. We said home teachers, no visiting teachers, and keep the missionaries away from us. He has been very obliging, and gave us both callings that keep us involved.

    But now I feel things are about to change, we just got a new Bishop and a new EQP. In a lesson a week or so ago about home teaching the counselor to the EQP made a comment about HT being a good opportunity to "take a look around when we are in their homes to see if they have pictures of Christ or the Temple on their walls, if their scriptures are out and look like they are being read....and if we don't see these things to make some subtle suggestions...."

    It won't be so subtle when I punch him in the teeth when he asks where my picture of the Temple is....

  12. Anonymous D-Train 

    Talon,

    Your wife got a calling? That's really interesting (unless I misread you). What does your wife think about the Church if she's coming all the time, but hasn't joined? Does she generally like it, but has a specific issue? Or does she just see it as another Christian church and doesn't go for the Mormon-specific elements? Just a bit curious.

    Sounds like she's very supportive, in any event. And that emphasis on Mormon decor in the home strikes me as a wee bit creepy. I've got a picture of Christ in my room and there are generally scriptures or similar items around, but there's nothing too out of the ordinary in here.

  13. Anonymous Talon 

    D-Train

    Yes, my wife and I are co-chairs of the Activities Committee, but to be honest, she's the one in charge as she is the one with all the skills in the department. She gives reports in Ward Council and everything. In my opinion it is one of the best examples of being inclusive and innovative that a Bishop has ever demonstrated.

    My wife has told me that her calling has made her feel comfortable, accepted, needed, and has exposed her to members she would otherwise not interact with. This is awesome in my opinion.

    My wife does not come from any religious background (although her dad was adamant that she was an Anglican when I went to ask for her hand, and did not hide the fact that he didn't want her marrying a Mormon), and as such had never heard the most basic of Bible stories. She was befriended by some LDS youth in High School and began attending dances and activities. I met her in University. She took the discussions, but never got to the point of baptism. We got married after dating 3 years.

    There are things she likes about the Church, and things she doesn't, just like most members. Most of the things she doesn't like are related to Mormon culture, rather than Mormon doctrine, just like most members. I think the biggest issue is that she is so much like a member already, its hard for her to see the need to take the plunge and make it "official".

    Fast and Testimony is her favorite meeting. High Council Sunday is her least favorite and when she is apt to get the most offended by something said from the pulpit.

    There is an understanding between us that she will get baptized when she is ready, and we leave it at that. I know she thinks about it, because sometimes out of the blue she asks me questions like "If I get baptized will our kids be born under the covenant?" No. "If I get Baptized and endowed will our kids be born under the covenant?" Yes. "If I don't get baptized now, and we have kids and then I get baptized and go to the Temple our kids can get sealed to us?" Yes. "Ok.....lets go to McDonalds for dinner...." Ok.

    It will happen someday, and I look forward to it, but she knows that my love for her is not contingent upon it, because it's not.

  14. Anonymous D-Train 

    Good on you, Talon. Sounds like a potentially tricky situation has turned out quite well.

  15. Anonymous K.D. Clement 

    Hey Talon my friend, you are not alone. I'm an RM sister who married a non-member and I have never stopped going to church and do not regret my decision to marry him-personal revelation is a lovely thing-my husband is the best of men.

    My husband, though he doesn't want to get baptized, is active in the church right alongside me. Most people think he is a member at first (in fact, in an old ward the new EQP called me up and told me I should remind my husband to renew his Temple Reccomend. We had a good laugh about that one). He has been not only ward organist but accompanied the choir and primary and was called as a Home Teacher in our last ward. Still I know what you mean about people wondering if I'm on the brink of apostacy because I married him. Sheesh. We are also there every week, involved, etc. It gets on my nerves (stereotypical assumptions) too.

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