An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Spencer W. Kimball’s greatest legacy is his revelation extending priesthood to blacks. A lesser appreciated legacy (on my part) is his motto, “Lengthen Your Stride.” Although retired for several years now, I still drive myself to fill every minute. Even sleep fails to subdue this message of urgency, and I often awake with heart pounding, dreaming it’s the first day of school and I haven’t used my time diligently and am unprepared for the bell to ring in 15 minutes.

Had President Kimball’s motto come to me when I was still a lazy teen, it would have been revelation direct from heaven. Instead, the message arrived when I was a busy mother of five trying to serve in every church calling and service opportunity asked of me.  “Lengthen your stride” and subsequent Relief Society lessons on time management was like cracking a whip on a winded horse.

 Working oneself to exhaustion and feeling guilty for nor doing more is not spiritual—not even a little bit. I’m pretty sure women like myself were not the target of President Kimball’s remark. Now, I’m not criticizing the advice—I’m sure it was beneficial to many people. What I am criticizing is a culture that doesn’t encourage members to evaluate messages from leaders—to determine if that advice does apply to their own lives at this particular time.

With all due respects to “Obedience First” Mormons, Cafeteria Mormonism is the most logical approach to obeying Church leaders. In an organization with millions of members, leaders cannot possibly know the personal situations and needs of each member. General Conference remarks must address either a generic group of “average” Mormons or a targeted group which has been identified—at least in leaders’ minds—as having significant problems. This approach is not necessarily bad; in fact, it may be the only workable approach for such a large organization. The difficulty comes with the insistence that obedience to leaders take priority over individual contemplation of leaders’ words and making  thoughtful decisions about applying them to one’s own life.

At this time in my life, I need to hobble my stride—to spend more time in silent meditation, to refill my bucket. I suspect President Kimball, if he were here today, would agree with my choice.

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