Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It's Okay to Say No

I just listened to a Mormon Expression podcast about opening your mouth and taking a stand. It's an awesome podcast that I found inspiring. It's hard to speak out against the majority but I feel that we can't complain about things that are wrong if we aren't doing something to draw attention to it (which isn't to say you have to be vocal in a specific way; there are many ways to draw attention to problems.)

Listening to this podcast made me feel better about something I did on Sunday. I ended up in Gospel Doctrine class because I thought a woman I love and respect was teaching. We have long discussions about the church and women's position in it. We don't always agree, but she is understanding and extremely intelligent so talking with her is always fun. And she is a fantastic teacher. So we walked into the classroom and someone else was teaching. It felt rude to walk out, so we stayed. The lesson was Alma 39. I wasn't really paying attention so I'm not sure how the teacher got here, but he started railing about enthusiasm and ragging on people who refuse callings. He described his early life in med school, where every night he and his family had church activities. He spoke with pride, saying that having this constant participation in the church brings joy and there is no good reason to turn down a calling. His method for curing unhappiness was to do more in the church.

I was enraged. I thought of the posts on the Expoenet and FMH written by women who are utterly exhausted, and yet feel like they can't say no to a calling or asked to be released. You can feel the pain, the helplessness, the despair in these posts as they ask permission to do what they know is right for them by turning down callings. I thought about the people I know who feel they don't know their fathers because all their growing up years their dads were never home. They were always in church meetings and neglected their families in the process. I was enraged that this man felt okay telling a room full of people that it is never okay to turn down a calling and that joy comes from spending all your time involved in church stuff. That doesn't hold up in many people's experience, and it ignores the fact that people are capable of determining what is best for them and their families. It says that some random church leader show does not know much about my life knows better then I do what will be best for my mental and physical health, my family relationships, my job and schooling etc.

So after the lesson, the woman I know went up and called him out. She shared that her dad was constantly absent in church callings and because her mother was an unstable person, she had to take over as parent as a young child. Every time her dad left she was terrified. She believes he should have been home but he chose the church over his family and his family suffered. She and her siblings have been damaged by his continued absence. I went and stood with her and gave my two cents, telling him abut the women I know who are literally killing themselves trying to do everything. They are hurting themselves by always saying yes to callings they don't have the capacity to fill it. And when they finally feel that they have the right to decide for themselves what they can handle, then they hear a lesson like this and go back to feeling like sinners for not being able to do it all. We spoke at him for about 10 minutes.

He looked a little deer in the headlights; he's a convert and very enthusiastic about the church. I don't think he has ever encountered such a strong negative reaction to something he has said, and I also don't think he has considered that there are legitimate reasons for saying no to a calling. He seems to assume everyone who says no is just lazy.

I felt a little bad for ganging up on him and fore being very blunt. But if he doesn't know that what he is teaching can be damaging it won't change. And he is jst a teacher; there is nothing that makes him more right then anyone else. Just because he has been given a podium that does not mean he can say what he wants and expect everything to think he is correct or more intelligent then anyone else in the room.