Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Utah Mormons Need the Church Too!

I sat by myself in Relief Society for my first two Sundays in Utah. I didn't understand why people weren't more friendly and welcoming. After a month we finally cornered the Bishop at church to let him know we had moved into the ward. It still took another 2 weeks, and a few gentle reminders, before they read our names over the pulpit to welcome us to the congregation. 

Utah has not been welcoming to us. A handful of neighbors have introduced themselves, and then some proceeded to tell us about the families that lived in the houses surrounding us. Sure enough they pointed out which houses contained inactives or nonmembers. Some even went so far as to tell us the alleged reasons why the families were inactive. 

The Bishopric came to our home to get to know us. Before leaving they asked the traditional, "Is there anything we can do for you?" Instead of replying with the traditional (and expected), "no, we're great!" I was brave and told them that the ward hasn't been very welcoming and we were having a hard time getting to know people. The response I got could be summarized as, "That's just the way Utah is." 

It wasn't just a one time response. When there were only a handful of women at my first Relief Society activity, the Relief Society President explained that it was just the way Utah is. Several sisters supported her in the idea. They said that being surrounded by LDS people on a daily basis you just don't feel the same need to get together like you do outside of Utah. 

It didn't sit right with me. I pondered on it for several days. The New Testament and Doctrine and Covenants both describe Saints gathering together and the importance thereof. The modern design of the Church encourages Saints to gather together to uplift one another through service, lessons, and activities. So why is it that these Utah Saints don't feel the need to get together? Does the sheer number of Saints lead them to take Church programs for granted? 

I need Relief Society. It doesn't matter how many LDS or non-LDS people I associate with on a daily basis. I need a periodic gathering of my fellow sisters in the Gospel. I need a time and event set apart from my day-to-day life where I can go and be edified and uplifted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I am sad for my Utah sisters who feel that they do not need these things in their life. I am sad for my Utah sisters who have lost the vision of Relief Society. I am sad for the members of my congregation who have been left ignored and unfriended like myself. I am sad for the people who have been driven away due to the lack of acceptance and welcoming from others. I am sad for my neighbors who are inactive or not members that carry a scarlet letter for it. 

This is not the Utah I want to live in.

It wasn't just this one ward either. We've been in other wards in Utah. Some more welcoming than others, but none who embrace the programs of the Church like they do outside of "The Mormon Belt." You know, the wards where you feel like you are a family. 

I revel in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love it, I crave it, and I cling to it. Jesus has said "if ye are not one ye are not mine." I believe in visiting teaching. The real kind where you love, lift, and serve women and do your best to take care of them as the Lord would. I believe in Relief Society, an organization that I can utilize to bolster my faith, strengthen my home and family, and provide service to others. I believe in a ward family where I anyone can go and feel love and accepted exactly as they are with no expectations of immediate perfection or exemplary faith. I believe in Gospel that creates unity among people where saints and sinners are one and the same. 

This is the Utah I want. This is the Church I want. 

Where do you even begin to make that kind of change? The only thing I can do is to be the change I wish to see and call on others to do the same. 

Do you feel outcast by your ward? Do you feel as though you don't fit in? Do you crave something more from the Church? 

Be the change. It will make a difference to someone. It would make a difference to me. 



19 comments:

  1. Yes I agree. Be the Change!

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  2. AnonymousMay 17, 2016

    I don't agree...but be the change anyway. I'm happy to report this is not the greeting or attitude that I am familiar with. Everyone needs a friend or friends and sometimes people need your interest and concern and may have so many new couples (families) in the area that they just can't keep up with them all. The gospel IS as true in Utah as anywhere else in the world. I remember once we spent a month in Laie, Hawaii and we felt certain that by the time we would be leaving that we would know everyone's name and we would be tight. When it didn't seem like the kind of Aloha spirit we expected we were disappointed but decided that we were only a fraction of the visitors they get and so we started to put ourselves out and make connections and by the time we left we HAD made friends but only through our efforts. Don't wait even a week to offer your hands and smiles. Utah Mormons get a bad rap. Some people think the gospel should teach people "how" to be welcoming in just the exact way you want to be welcomed. We travel all over the world and try to jump in. It works every single time.

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  3. I think you can feel unwelcome just about anywhere the church is located. We live in Mesa, AZ which is another heavily populated Mormon area. I call it a Mini-Utah. I have felt very welcomed in areas here in Mesa, and not so much in others. In fact, I still do not feel completely "welcomed" in the ward I live in now....BUT, when my husband suffered a spinal cord injury about 8 months ago this ward has gone above and beyond. I couldn't survive without the support from this ward. I think sometimes areas outside of those heavily populated Mormon areas are more welcoming because they crave the same love and support you and I do, so they go out of their way to foster that attitude in everyone. I also think that even though the wards you have been in do not go out of their way to welcome new folks isn't always a sign that they do not care or will not jump at the chance to help. Let's face it, life is tough for everyone and we are all just doing the best we can. I do agree though...be the change you want to see. Show those ward members how to welcome new folks. I call it Blooming where you are planted, seeing the need and filling it, going the extra mile, showing Christlike love. You name it! Maybe they have forgotten a little and that is why you were brought to that area to show them the way again. I don't know. Stay strong. Do what you can, but try not to be too hard on them, because you have no idea what burdens or struggles those sister's may be dealing with, and yes it could just be plain old too much of a good thing. Hang in there. You will find a way to make this work out for your good. I enjoy your blog. Just found it today but will be reading more and more as time goes on. Thank you.

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  4. AnonymousMay 21, 2016

    When I moved back to Utah after a nine-year absence from "Zion," my non-member husband, our 18-month-old daughter, and I moved into an apartment right across the street from the ward meetinghouse. I was thrilled because it meant I could walk to church, especially on days when my husband was using the car. On the first Sunday we were there, I bundled my child up and walked to Sunday School. Before the meeting started, I stopped in at the clerk's office to ask for my records to be sent from my old branch in the Philippines, then headed for the chapel. I slipped, unnoticed, into a pew near the back so I could take my very active toddler out if I needed to. I noted the announcement that Relief Society would be on Tuesday and would include a lunch. (Note: this was before all wards and branches went to the block schedule.) Because my daughter was still on Philippine time and needed a nap, I opted to go home after opening exercises. We didn't return that afternoon for Sacrament Meeting but we did go to the Tuesday Relief Society lunch. There I introduced myself to one sister, who asked where I had lived before. I told her I had lived in the Philippines and she said, “Doesn’t it feel good to be back in civilization?” I told her that I loved the humble people I had met there very much. Although their culture wasn’t what many westerners think of as “civilization,” they valued the very things our society seemed to have forgotten, family and true friendship. She answered, “oh,” then turned to talk to her friends. I don’t recall what the speaker or teacher had to offer, only the rejection I felt. Future attendance at church meetings for the next four months yielded almost the same results – cold, automated greetings or invisibility. I gradually learned that my non-Utah comments and experiences weren’t welcome so I stopped participating in discussions. I received visiting teachers exactly once but they never came back. Another member, an inactive single mother of 3, who lived in the same complex told me that she had never had visiting teachers. After my husband was released from active duty in the Air Force, we decided to stay in the area, so we bought a house in a different ward (not hard to do, since wards in that part of Utah were about 6 blocks by 6 blocks). The last Sunday before we moved, I asked to speak to the Bishop. I told him we were moving and that while I had lived in the ward I had never felt welcome. He sighed and smiled. “I’ve lived in this ward for more than 5 years and I am the bishop, yet I still don’t feel welcome sometimes. The members here seem to feel that if your family didn’t settle on this land with the pioneers, you don’t belong here.” I laughed and said, “It might interest them to know that it was my great-great-grandfather who originally settled this land. The original site of his log cabin is about 4 blocks from this building and every one of the other original pioneers bought their property from him.” I have always believed that you bring your own welcome with you, but all my efforts at making friends were rebuffed. Fortunately, my new ward embraced me completely and when we moved 3 years later, I was genuinely sorry to leave. Through the years, I have experienced many variations of the welcoming or unwelcoming ward both in and outside Utah. The difference seems to be that the wards which welcome newly-baptized and move-in members understand that there is a world outside of the Utah cocoon and that true friendship involves more than simply calling someone brother or sister when you see them at church.

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  5. AnonymousMay 21, 2016

    I have lived in several areas in Utah in the last ten years and some have been slower to warm up and some have been more welcoming and friendly than anywhere else I've been in the nation. Everyone has their own insecurities and their own problems. Sometimes people can't seem to break through them. I have zero expectations for others to "welcome" me. I make sure I welcome them. We invite them over for FHE and I always sit by someone who is alone at Relief Society or Ward Activities. The result of my actions is that I feel welcomed by my new Ward. People aren't as timid about talking to me. So many of us at one point or another expect others to do the work. We can't hold those expectations without a little effort on our part!

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  6. I am one of the few "crunchy" or hippy moms in my ward. I use cloth diapers , lavender water to wash my sons butt and breastfeed uncovered in the mothers lounge. all the other moms have teenagers or have grown great grandchildren. I dont feel like I belong but everyone sure loves my 1 1/2 year old. We've been in the ward 3 years and i only have exactly three people i talk to at church one of my home teachers, another mom , and my old vising teacher companion's husband. before this ward it was just one friend, my visiting teaching companion. Tempe Az is pretty crummy a good deal of the time . My testimony is the gosple is perfect, The church is not. hoping to move to a good area with an on fire bishop when our lease is up.

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  7. I've lived both in and out of Utah and have had a whole array of experiences when it comes to feeling welcomed in a ward. I think the wards that have been the most unwelcoming are wards that have a large turn-over rate, like wards with apartment buildings or a large student population. I think oftentimes in these wards the "permanent" ward members get tired of extending themselves. I got lost time and time again in these sorts of wards when I was a young adult and young married and at that time of my life didn't have the self confidence to extend myself as I should have. On the flip side, I have been in some wonderful, welcoming and supportive wards, including the one I am currently living in. I disagree that this is a "Utah" problem. I think this is a people problem. Now, I do agree that Utah members don't cling to each other as much as members outside of Utah do. I only had 3 members in my high school, they were all in my ward and grew up together and we got to know each other very well. My teens' classes are full of members and their high school covers stakes and regions, so they form groups of LDS (and non-LDS) friends outside of ward boundaries. It's the same for the adults. You make LDS friends at work, at PTA, at the gym; the need for a tight-knit ward just isn't as prevalent. I don't think that is bad, it's just a different.

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  8. I am a nearly 50 never married no children member of almost 30 years as such have rarely felt welcomed or part of a ward completely. Struggled with being active in Church though not so much with my testimony of it. After having multiple callings at once and being deemed worthy to teach the kids, be a cub master yw camp director AND SA rep all at the same time everyone abandoned me when my dad died suddenly I wasn't worthy of even being in the same room with them. a Few years of struggling but fighting and continuing to go I gave up and started taking jobs that required working on Sundays and not fighting for time to go to church with work. Moved with in the stake a couple of times the last time it took over a year to get my records to my ward and once they were there I was on a do not contact list EVEN though I had requested home and visiting teachers just they needed to set up appointment due to my weird work schedule. I was bitter, and when i was able to go to church feeling the spirit was difficult maybe impossible. I spoke with my loving Bishop told him I would be there for sacrament and would not be taking the sacrament ( so many reasons for that but mostly because people had made me feel unworthy to do so)and didn't want to talk to him yet about why.spent 18 months getting rid of the bitter in my spiritual tank and finally talked to my bishop ( he was patient) in the end I decided that members have no idea what to do with me. They don't know how to be my friend because I appear to have nothing in common with them. So I came to the conclusion to show them. I have them over for dinner, invite them to lunch, go out of my comfort zone to include them in my life showing them how to include me in theirs. it has made the ward experience much better for me much more welcoming. be the welcome you want to have.

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  9. I grew up in California and always felt like we had a tight although small ward. There was the usual, holier then thou, gossiping, or judgemental people but it was still our family and everyone felt the need to support one another an at activities. I've been Utah now 13 years, soon after I got married. Feels like you have to work hard to get to know people, work hard to prove you can take a hard calling, and wirk really hard to get people to show up to any activity. We are lucky if we get 20% show up for a dinner. And maybe 15 people to a RS activity. This is Utah. I'm bummed I have to raise my kids here.

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  10. Oh my goodness! I read this and thought, "Are you me and I just haven't realized it?!" I moved to Utah a couple months ago and always heard how difficult it is to make friends at church in Utah. I always judged people who I heard that from saying, "Oh, they just must not try hard enough! Don't they know THEY need to initiate things and then people will come and they'll get to know people that way?!" So here I moved. The first Sunday I asked for help watching my kids on the day the movers came. Eight women raised their hands to help, so I wrote my number on the board and was like, "Would you mind texting me so I don't have to take up any more time? Thanks so much!" The day came and one girl actually texted and invited my kids over. I appreciated that so much! But then she was also watching other kids so it kind of was too much to have all mine over. Over the next few months, I sent out several invitations to everyone in RS to come hang out at my house at such and such a time, or to meet me at the park. The first time I got two responses and the next three I got none. I asked for help babysitting my daughter and that I would pay and got no responses. It has hurt my feelings so much because I felt like I tried and I don't want to keep getting rejected, especially when other women do the same thing as me, and then they get twenty people over. I know I shouldn't take it personally, but the response I get back is, "People in Utah are really busy."
    Again. and Again. And again. What the heck are you all busy for if you don't have time to make a friend for someone that has no one here?!

    Just yesterday I missed a meeting for my calling. I had cried in RS one Sunday when two other ladies talked about how we had the best ward and whenever they had any sort of needs, they were flooded with too much help. Several people noticed and called the RSP to ask how I was doing (she was very nice and let me know that people were concerned). I was like, What. The. Heck! If they're concerned about me, they can call ME. Let me know that I'm not alone. A few weeks after, one called me to let me know she wanted to talk about my calling with me. So I went over, and she admitted that she really wanted to know why I felt lonely in the ward. I tried to explain and she said, "Well, you just need to ask for help." So I explained when the new girl sends multiple invitations on email and facebook, that probably is a cry for a friend, or asking for a babysitter, also a cry for help. She said, "You probably just need to ask one on one then....and people are always here to help if you need it! They are so willing! Just keep asking one on one and people will help."

    Argh. Sorry, this just happened last night so I'm trying to not let it bug me. Instead, I'm trying to be really welcoming to someone who just moved in. And just like, "Whatever!" to all the people that think they're so friendly for saying "Hi!" in the halls. Yay for "Hi's" but I need friends!

    I'm trying not to be bitter towards Utah. Argh! I'm glad it's not just me! Everyone quit being fakey fakey and just be genuine and warm and stop by and say hi. A real hi! invite other kids over to play who are new. We can do this! We're not too busy!

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  11. It's not just Utah...I've tried and. Been rejected several times. Let's just say I'm teaching the sunbeams now and I'm very happy to work with people who like me and show it.

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  12. It's not just Utah...I've tried and. Been rejected several times. Let's just say I'm teaching the sunbeams now and I'm very happy to work with people who like me and show it.

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  13. It's not just Utah, it can happen anywhere. I have a nice ward in Southern CA and have made several good friends, (we have lived here 5 years) but it is hard to get anyone to commit to anything outside of church on Sunday. (Sometimes you just have to find the one thing people in your area like, so try different stuff. Book club, park day, birthday lunch meet-up, etc.) Keep trying, especially with newer people who aren't part of a clique yet. Also remaining friends with people who have moved away and making friends with other moms in other wards and non-member friends (my neighbors are great, moms at the library and park) has helped me feel more connected. I try to remember that those who say hi in the halls are usually doing their best too. Being in a new place is so hard. I need to give myself at least a year in a new place before I feel settled and start really making closer friend(s). When I feel like the odd one out I go out of my way to make sure any other new members don't feel that way.

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  14. We moved to Utah from the Seattle area. My husband attended the ward here for 6 weeks prior to myself and sons moving down. It's horrible. No one showed to unload our moving trailer. I went 14 months with no visiting teachers. I called the RSP, she told me visiting teaching just doesn't get done. It's not a priority with the members. My husband has given up on trying to do home teaching. ( we don't have those either). My father in law was with us for four months, he was very ill. I got more help from ward members from my previous ward than I did here! In this ward/stakemany members are related. I quit going to enrichment. Usually only 10-15 people show up. We only do it once a quarter. The only ward activity we have is the Christmas party. I have never had a problem making friends. Here the ward members just aren't interested. My kids have noticed too. They even stated that the ward is not friendly to outsiders. Recently, any new members have family members here. They too, are very inclusive/cliquish. I have been here 18 months. I look forward to the day when we move.
    My coworkers have said its because Mormons here just go through the motions.

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  15. I've experienced this outside of UT too. This hits the nail on the head though. We moved into our ward 3 years ago, after several months of sitting alone in relief society, I slowly started to dread going. Our bishop still hasn't introduced himself, my first contact with him was 2 months after we moved in and he called to check and see if I was up on my tithing. I was so shocked. I've served 2 callings, one in primary where I was met with the same cold shoulder. I've asked to be moved to a different ward but our stake president's home ward is our current ward and he says we need to give it more time.

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  16. shawna@mail.postmanllc.net

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  17. This post was perfect for me. I felt so alone in not loving my ward or my relief society. All of the presidency grew up in the area and has local family. They cannot even comprehend my living 1000 miles from my parents and over 150 from my grandparents. I need this ward to be my family and they just won't be. Thank you for this. I don't and will never fit the Utah Mormon mold. Sure I bake bread, when I want to and I can sew, but I hate crafts just for the sake of crafts. I don't like the color mustard, and I don't swoon at floral print. 97% of the time I am wearing zero makeup and my hair is barely brushed. Until that changes I will never fit into my relief society. All i can do is make myself that safe and welcoming space for the oddballs

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