Friday, October 17, 2014
My Place in Mormon Culture - Leavening the Lump
Yes, I really think there is a higher percentage of traditional people in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, than out of the Church. There are probably more orderly people in most religions and organizations since they are the people who set up and maintain society on the whole. The fact is that about forty-five percent of the American population are these diligent souls. As much as creative people complain about their inflexibility, we need them. Orderly people are the bulwark of society, but where do we fit in?
Another third of the population (33%) are what I call "doers". These are the movers and shakers of the world; the people who make things happen. These people bring an enthusiasm for life to all they do, and they do a lot!
These two groups comprise nearly eighty percent of the people in the United States (78%). In the Church the orderly people are often those who are the administers and clerks. (My husband has been a wonderful clerk, but never a Scout leader.) The doers often work with the youth and are the Boy Scout and Girls camp leaders. These busy people paint scenery for road shows, play the organ, plan socials, bring meals to the ill, repair widows homes, work at Church farms, and do all manner of good works. Where would the world, or the Church, be with out them?
Now what about the other twenty percent of people who I call "creative"? Is there a place for them in the Church? Yes! Almost all writers, professors, inventors, and many musicians and artists are creative people. When they receive wide acclaim, they are accepted and admired. But what about the average (for us) creative person? Often we are very sensitive and feel painfully out of step with our society. I know the feeling. I wanted to "fit in". I wanted to feel accepted, but I just didn't. My comments in Sunday School were often met with a stunned silence. My helpful suggestions in Relief Society (women's organization) were ignored or dismissed.
I really began to feel like an outcast, but I never thought of leaving the Church. Where else would I go? I knew the principles where true, so I hung in there. Finally, I came to realize that I was expecting "orderly souls" to be like me which they couldn't do any more than I could be like them. Orderly people like recipes and patterns to follow to help them cope with life. They desire things planned and savor the predictable. Relief Society lessons: tablecloth and decoration on the table, favors, carefully prepared lesson read clearly, and the required "class participation" - four to seven scriptures or quotes on slips of paper to be read by class members, and the three questions dispersed at intervals during the lesson with the expected short predetermined standard answers.
Blissfully unaware of the "script" I shared thoughts and experiences attempting to support the concepts of the lesson. I had no idea I was "upsetting" the teacher and "interrupting the lesson presentation". I had a degree in teaching and had taught many teaching classes to Church teachers. I knew that the Church leaders wanted and encouraged the participation I was trying to give. What was going on? Why weren't the teachers trilled with my comments? Why did everything I said or did seem wrong?
At last it dawned on me. I was like a rose in a corn field. Though I wasn't like most of the people around me, I had my own special gift to share. I didn't provide food for the body; I fed the soul with ideas. I listened. I studied. I thought. I came to accept, appreciate and love the "orderly people" and "doers" for who they are. They have impressive gifts which add a lot to my life.
They know I love them and am trying to do all I can to help them. Sensing my love, I am loved in return. That is how it is in life. The more different a person is from you, greater effort is required to understand them. It is a wonderful gift of love when someone tries to understand me. I cherish their gift.
Instead of waiting for some niche to be set up for me, I have created my own niche of writing. I share poems and encouraging emails, answer feedback on lds.org, do a newsletter for my church group, and blog. As I have begun to share who I am, I have found many other creative souls in the Church. Most keep a very low profile, as creative people do in most cultures. Let's face it when you are out numbered at lease three to one, you tend to keep thoughts to yourself to avoid possible criticism. When you feel safe; you share.
Instead of just leaving the Church because everyone didn't understand me (actually who does?), I realized that God has given me creative gifts which He expects me to share. The Church needs our differences. Who else could teach, write the plays and the music, create the art, or come up with ideas for activities like a creative person can?
Yes, I know that some orderly people may not appreciate my unscripted comments, but I know they need them. I know my gifts, and I do not need everyone's approval to share them. (I have even spoken out when a teacher will not look up from her notes). Different perspectives are essential for the growth of any society. Creative people are very much needed in the Church. I now recognize who I am -- I am the leaven in the lump.
I wrote a poem "Rose in the Vegetable Garden" about my feelings of being different. See also Topics - Self Esteem at http://sherryannestories.blogspot.com/