An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Obeying Church leaders’

The Lesson I Didn’t Teach

The other day, George picked up my copy of Spencer Johnson’s 1998 best seller, Who Moved My Cheese?. “Looks like a good book,” he said as he turned the pages.

“Yes, and I still regret not sharing it with the Relief Society in our Sandy ward.”

I read the book several years ago as part of a faculty discussion group. It’s a fun story of fictitious mice looking for cheese in a maze. The mice represent people seeking fulfillment in life. One mouse constantly sniffs out change, another scurries into action when change occurs, a third resists change—fearing the worst. When this mouse no longer finds cheese at the usual place, it returns to the same spot over and over until it starves. The fourth mouse follows others—changing its behavior when evidence shows the change works.

The point of the story is that somebody is always moving the cheese—situations in our lives change, leaving us empty. We can, like the third mouse, keep going back to the routine that used to work for us. We can be angry or hurt at the change. We can yell, blame or wait for someone to fix it. Or we can search for fulfillment in new places.

I loved this book. I’ve always been a sniffer and a scurrier after change—optimistically believing change always leads to improvement. Fortunately, George and my work colleagues provided balance for me. Looking before leaping is wise.

Shortly after reading this book, I was asked to substitute in a Relief Society lesson on the Second Coming. I thought of basing the lesson on Who Moved My Cheese. I could loosely tie it into the topic. Obviously, Jesus’s return would be the biggest change of all time.

Most of the women in our ward were dealing with changing situations as their children grew older and needed education and missions. Husbands lost jobs. Children moved from home. Many of these women kept trying to change things back—praying for husbands to find jobs or to get better jobs. Begging children who left the state for better job opportunities to come home.

Probably none of the women in my ward had read this book. The coping strategies it contained could help them deal with present and future changes in their lives.

But, I knew the rules: Teachers should not use unauthorized material in Church lessons. There was nothing objectionable in Who Moved My Cheese. Still, it was neither scripture, nor an article from the Ensign, nor a personal experience—the only approved resources outside the lesson manual.

Well schooled in Church obedience, I taught the lesson as outlined. The sisters in the room dozed or yawned through it. They had heard the same lesson, the same scriptures, the same quotes from General Authorities dozens of times. The 40 minutes of lesson time was a total waste for us all.

I will always regret not teaching these women something new—something that might have helped them deal with situations in their lives. Rules exist for reasons, but rules too rigidly followed ignore individual needs.

 

 

The other day, George picked up my copy of Spencer Johnson’s 1998 best seller, Who Moved My Cheese?. “Looks like a good book,” he said as he turned the pages.

“Yes, and I still regret not sharing it with the Relief Society in our Sandy ward.”

I read the book several years ago as part of a faculty discussion group. It’s a fun story of fictitious mice looking for cheese in a maze. The mice represent people seeking fulfillment in life. One mouse constantly sniffs out change, another scurries into action when change occurs, a third resists change—fearing the worst. When this mouse no longer finds cheese at the usual place, it returns to the same spot over and over until it starves. The fourth mouse follows others—changing its behavior when evidence shows the change works.

The point of the story is that somebody is always moving the cheese—situations in our lives change, leaving us empty. We can, like the third mouse, keep going back to the routine that used to work for us. We can be angry or hurt at the change. We can yell, blame or wait for someone to fix it. Or we can search for fulfillment in new places.

I loved this book. I’ve always been a sniffer and a scurrier after change—optimistically believing change always leads to improvement. Fortunately, George and my work colleagues provided balance for me. Looking before leaping is wise.

Shortly after reading this book, I was asked to substitute in a Relief Society lesson on the Second Coming. I thought of basing the lesson on Who Moved My Cheese. I could loosely tie it into the topic. Obviously, Jesus’s return would be the biggest change of all time.

Most of the women in our ward were dealing with changing situations as their children grew older and needed education and missions. Husbands lost jobs. Children moved from home. Many of these women kept trying to change things back—praying for husbands to find jobs or to get better jobs. Begging children who left the state for better job opportunities to come home.

Probably none of the women in my ward had read this book. The coping strategies it contained could help them deal with present and future changes in their lives.

But, I knew the rules: Teachers should not use unauthorized material in Church lessons. There was nothing objectionable in Who Moved My Cheese. Still, it was neither scripture, nor an article from the Ensign, nor a personal experience—the only approved resources outside the lesson manual.

Well schooled in Church obedience, I taught the lesson as outlined. The sisters in the room dozed or yawned through it. They had heard the same lesson, the same scriptures, the same quotes from General Authorities dozens of times. The 40 minutes of lesson time was a total waste for us all.

I will always regret not teaching these women something new—something that might have helped them deal with situations in their lives. Rules exist for reasons, but rules too rigidly followed ignore individual needs.

A Good Mormon–Now and Then

I consider myself a good Mormon. My neighbors consider me inactive. Who is right depends, of course, on whose definition is used. A few years ago our stake presidency made a “Back to the Basics” list of gospel principles:

  • Personal and family prayer
  • Scripture study
  •  Family Home Evening
  • Attending church meetings
  • Temple attendance. 

Their example caused me to create my own list of gospel basics—based on principles emphasized while I was growing up in the church:

  • Love
  • Service
  • Generosity
  • Knowledge
  • Work

The difference in the two lists probably explains why I’m more impressed with my Mormon credentials than are my ward members. How do I measure up to the first list—the list that probably represents how contemporary Mormons evaluate church activity?

  • Personal and family prayer:  Not publicly visible.  When the home teachers make a formal visit and ask to leave us with a word of prayer, we always agree.
  • Scripture study:  I declined my visiting teachers’ invitation to join the Relief Society in reading the Book of Mormon in a month. I assured them that I have a daily study routine and showed them my collection of Bible translations. They were not impressed with my substitution.
  • Family Home Evening:  Again, not publicly visible unless my neighbors notice me driving off alone to a meditation group on Monday evenings.
  • Attending church meetings:  Now this one is visible. I refuse to spend Sundays listening to lessons and talks I’ve already heard 400 times. I do attend Fast and Testimony meeting each month to say hello to neighbors and ward members because they are good people and I like them.
  • Temple attendance:  I attended the temple regularly for 15 years or more because it gave me a spiritual lift. When the temple ceremonies ceased to lift my spirits, I opted to spend my time on other spiritual pursuits.

Well, I definitely come up short on my stake presidency’s list, but what really counts is whether or not I live up to my own standards.

  • Love:  Loving my friends and family is easy, of course. I try to see people who tick me off as children of our Heavenly Father, but that’s not easy. Is it possible some of them may only be very distant cousins?
  • Service:  I spent most of my life doing for others, can’t I rest on my laurels? My conscience does nag me to try to improve the community by carrying petitions for ethics reform in the state government and volunteering at an ESL Center. I try to leave a small carbon footprint although in cold weather I drive to pick up a carton of milk when I really could walk. But—I achieve 100% visiting teaching every month.
  • Generosity:  A couple of times a year I turn in a tithing envelope with my “user fee,” a small amount to help with the utilities and food for the meetings and social events I attend. I do donate above and beyond Mormon requirements to charities and organizations which relieve suffering, promote education and economic independence for people both at home and abroad. I don’t quite live up to the advice of C.S. Lewis, “The only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”
  • Knowledge:  Always my favorite gospel principle. No problem taking classes and burying my nose in a book.
  • Work:  Hey, I’m retired. Does gardening and doing my own cooking and cleaning count?

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