12/7/08

Confessions of a Sunday-School Hater

Have you ever been poked with a stick, fork, trident, or any other demonic poking device? That's what it felt like this morning when Ivor came into my room saying in one of those prolonged tones "Nathaaaaaaannnn, you coming to chuuuuuurrch?" I'm pretty sure God kept me immobile as he does any other morning/first ten minutes I'm awake. All I could muster was a grunt, but in my head a rude dialogue took place; One that, with a cleared head, should never be spoken. So, I rolled over and twenty minutes later Dan had the audacity to ask if I was going. This time being a little more in control of my motor functions, I frown and shake my head side to side. "Well," he started, "do you need someone to take care of the bread?" A parade of curses just sprung up in my head as I pushed myself off of my bed, coveting how it got to stay right where it was. I just forgot again. I am in charge of setting the sacrament up and once again, dropped the ball. Luckily, Dan is like this volunteer superhero and he consented. A feeling of shame and guilt began to swirl around my chest like a hot acid bath. "I'll buy you dinner or something," I said almost scrambling for an "I'm sorry" or a "Thank you" that never surfaced. He just left without another word about it. I climbed back in bed, but somehow it wasn't going to be the same comfortable warmth it was before. As my fingers hit the keys, I'm thinking what's my deal with church up here anyways? It wasn't like this back home, but then again my Dad is back home. Still, church is just different up here. With everyone always moving and this overwhelming insecurity of making first impressions and trying to find a spouse, I never could just go and think about God. For the most part, the Sunday school teachers just read out of the scriptures for an hour with little blips here and there of themselves or the manual. Priesthood isn't any better. I just feel like I have to go and walk through a feast of china-ware every Sunday. The Bishops and counselors are amazing men. I'm not throwing the church down by any means. I do have a strong testimony of the gospel and Jesus Christ. I just feel like Emily Dickenson about how I can feel God in my garden and don't need a special building to find him. (I probably butchered that, sorry Emily) I just crave a meeting where it more than a peacock dance or a reading session. I'm looking up the number for the singles ward, but I'm still unsure. I do notice that I feel more independent on everything, and not in a good way. I need the Lord's hand in my life, especially right now. I'm just going to hike the "R Mountain" butte and read some scriptures myself. The atmosphere would be better anyways.

30 comments:

Natorade said...

Ok so I quickly ran this through spell check but alas still many mistakes. So quit editing it in your head like I am and take it for what its worth

Matthew R. Hall, Esq. said...

The only reason I went to Sunday School today was because I happened to run into Ivor and Chan on my way out the door and went to class with them.

I feel the same way about Sunday School and Priesthood that you do. The lessons are generally very dry; usually the teacher will slowly wade through the reading of verses and quotes from the manual and give very little energy to their teaching. There is so. much. space. between. words. and. ideas. that it makes me frustrated and bored. I'll stare at the clock and sometimes try to liven class up with an open-ended discussion question, but most of the time it is taken as a question I personally have and answered quickly before the teacher immediately gets back to reading quotes.

Once, I tried suggesting to a member of the bishopric that the "Teaching the Gospel" class could be taught to Sunday School teachers when they're not teaching. He snappily told me that they were in the process of getting that and they're aware of what they can do. I think he took it the wrong way and he stopped liking me after that.

Skipping class is what my dad does, though. He doesn't go to Sunday School or Priesthood because he feels that he could read in the car and get more done that way. It frightens me that I'm finding myself doing the same thing because I feel the same way about those meetings.

Matthew R. Hall, Esq. said...

Why are my comments always so long?

Eric James said...

Can I join the club? While I was serving my mission (I know, I'm sorry) I would teach investigators about the importance of church; they were hesitant. I coined the metaphor, "Church is like Pepto-Bismol. You don't really enjoy taking it. It doesn't taste good while you are taking it. However, you feel better after you choke it down." Most people came because they thought the metaphor was funny. Either way, I still struggle with Pepto-Bismol, and church too. Sometimes it's just too boring, and sometimes it's just too pink.

Kaitlin said...

Just thought I'd throw my two cents in and let you know that I know where you're coming from.

It's not that I hate Sunday School--I enjoy the people in my ward and appreciate the efforts of the teacher. However, 1)I don't feel like the Lord instituted Sunday School as a social gathering, and 2)While I appreciate the teacher,as I listen to the lesson, I find myself pridefully thinking of insights or discussion questions the teacher could have incorporated into the lesson and didn't.

What frustrates me is that there is SO much to the gospel of Jesus Christ--I mean, you could study for hours on a daily basis and never reach an end to discovering truth--yet we just skim the surface over and over again every Sunday. I can't help feeling that this is a little ungrateful, considering all of the knowledge God is willing to give us.

(P.s. Matt, I think my comment beat yours on length)

Kaitlin said...

ha ha on second thought, Matt, maybe not ...

Chan said...

Hey Nathan Fathead, I'm the Sunday School teacher, thankyouverymuch.

Matthew, your second comment was pretty short.

Natorade said...

Well, if I ever came I would have known that and thus included something like "most" and not "all" sunday school teachers suck.

Matthew R. Hall, Esq. said...

Kaitlin, you look like Emma Smith in your profile picture. Just saying.

Kaitlin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kaitlin said...

Why thank you. That is a step up from the last compliment you gave me...
Ha ha just kidding, Matthew.

Katie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crystal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chan said...

While I agree that we should always err on the side of personal preparation, and while griping about poor lessons may not be the quickest route to great Sunday School, great class participation and student preparation does not negate nor excuse a poor lesson. If it were so, the church would have neither Teacher Improvement courses nor the manual "Teaching: No Greater Call." Heck, if it were so, we wouldn't have teachers. Even if I have read the lesson from the Joseph Smith manual, it is more difficult for me to enjoy a re-reading of the thing in Elder's Quorum than it is to enjoy a genuine lesson into which someone has put time and thought.

Chan said...

Okay, now my comment doesn't make any sense.

iBo said...

I say we start our own church with the teachers and lessons that we want. We could call it "The Writing Center Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints". That would solve our problems.

I think the same way you guys do, and I've struggled with it since coming home from my mission. That's why the forum was so stimulating to me. Someone took the time and energy to use his religion as a place to use his scholarly abilities.

Leanna said...

I might be banned from the Writing Center blog after this, but this quote says how I feel in a nutshell. A rather large nutshell.

"Consider the response of President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) when someone once asked him, “What do you do if you find yourself caught in a boring sacrament meeting?” President Kimball thought a moment, then replied, 'I don’t know; I’ve never been in one.' With his long years of Church experience, President Kimball had undoubtedly been to many meetings where people had read their talks, spoken in a monotone, or given travelogues instead of teaching doctrine. But most likely, President Kimball was teaching that he did not go to sacrament meeting to be entertained; he went to worship the Lord, renew his covenants, and be taught from on high. If he attended with an open heart, a desire to be 'nourished by the good word of God' (Moroni 6:4), and a prayer—rather than judgment—for the speakers, the Spirit would teach him what he needed to do to be a more effective and faithful disciple. President Kimball was teaching the principle of learning by the Spirit."

(Quoted from A. Roger Merrill, General Sunday School President, in his talk "To Be Edified and Rejoice Together.")

Matthew R. Hall, Esq. said...

Also, I'm pretty sure that the rest of that quote is that Pres. Kimball would make up his own talks in his mind if the speaker was terrible. He got the idea from his father, if I'm not mistaken.

So I suppose that shows that the student can bring a lot to his or her personal learning with their effort even with a crummy teacher. This also shows that you can not pay attention and conduct your own learning and get great stuff out of it because that's what the prophet did and it apparently turned out pretty good for him.

Julie M said...

You are wrong Matt. That was Henry B. Eyring and his father. Not to apostle bash or anything. Leanna, I don't think you should be banned. The purpose of this blog and us as people is to express differing opinions. If everyone can be okay with their opinion, they should be okay with yours. And I am inclined to agree with you. Not to say that I haven't shaken my leg off in many a meeting to try and stay awake, but I think it is important to try.
This has nothing to do with Nathan's post, because I don't think any of us are trying to give you "advice" Nathan. People are just trying to relate to your experience, which you penned down with truth and honesty. Well done.

Chan said...

Here here, Julie, Or is it hear hear? Does anyone know what I'm talking about? I don't know. But amen, all the same.

Eric James said...

This is going to sound arrogant, probably because it is. The most fun I've had in a Sunday school lesson is when I was the gospel doctrine teacher. It's been my favorite calling EVER. I loved getting people involved and helping them unfold the gospel in different ways.

Moral: when you aren't the teacher and you aren't in control, raise your hand and participate.

Kaitlin said...

It's "hear, hear" I believe...

Crystal said...

I love teaching as well.

iBo said...

Eric I totally ditto that. Teaching lets you control what you're learning. goooooooooooooooo byu-i learning model!

Anonymous said...

Sunday school is my favorite part of the week.
Kylie

Sky said...

"Anonymous" is KYLIE? That blows me away. Well . . . this is an interesting post. I love the sincerity of Nathan's original, and Chan and Julie's perfect understanding of each other; I like the advice, and I especially admire the compassion of those who deleted comments in order to respect (not necessarily agree but respect)the opinions and feelings of others.
Anything I would say here to relate to the original subject would be hypocritical, since I find myself in the same place as Nate. And it's not the first time in my life either. I love Sacrament meeting because of the sacrament and singing. But, I grit my teeth and fight a tough battle to force myself to the other meetings. I've actually resorted to writing in my journal. However, when I stay for all three meetings, I'm amazed at how much...I don't know how to say this... how much is added to me? (and it's usually not from the lessons; it's from the Spirit, so I try to go), and how much better my week goes. Seriously.

I have actually gone to the mountains to read scriptures also; it's not the same. Darn--because I hate "peacock" people and superficiality. I despise it.

But . . . the gospel's true. Just as Nate said, I also love the Lord. I adore His gospel. And I hate this problem. I hate that I'm struggling with it again.

On Sunday, I was thinking about how I got through this many years ago in Provo. I prayed and prayed that the Lord would help me have the right mind-set--whatever that was--to go to church. And He answered. This is what I'm resorting to again. This seems such a low level of living the gospel, but we have to do whatever it takes to stay with Him. And I think the reason this post is so touchy--for those who posted and for those who deleted--is that we do love the gospel and never want to offend the Lord or speak against His servants. But we respect each other's sincere struggles to live the gospel.

The gospel is not the people. As in C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, if we have our eyes on the people, we have trouble seeing the "One" (as the nephew's uncle calls Him). However, I agree that sometimes the people are so loudly weird, we have trouble getting them out of the way. I mean I wish I were more compassionate to see them for who they really are and feel respect . . . but, right now I can't. That's why I use prayer. And, at my age, I can't help but feel sorry that I'm not more of a good example instead of being so low on the gospel chain. But, C'est le vie. Good post. Sometimes life is such a paradox. Thank Heaven we know the gospel is true and real.

Sky said...

OK. I win for longest post.

Sky said...

Julie, your post is so wise here. Hear Hear.
And I love this metaphor: "Not to say that I haven't shaken my leg off in many a meeting to try and stay awake,...." You really are a deep, talented writer.

Shani said...

I almost cried when I read this post and most of the first comments. Until last week I hadn't gotten to enter a church building for 3 and 1/2 months. My husband and I and one other friend held our own Sacrament meetings in a place where we never ONCE had a Sunday go by where we did not have to spend money or do something we felt was breaking the sabbath. Since I've been back I've had one full Sunday of church, and it was amazing; I wished it never had to end. Last Sunday I had to leave church right after Sacrament meeting so we could travel in the middle of the day and miss some bad weather. It hurt me so bad to leave that building before the meetings were over. Gathering with saints, though they be flawed, holds power.

Like many have said, I love teaching gospel doctrine, but I also love just being there, where people who believe in Christ are gathered to speak of him. I spent 3 1/2 months in a place where I couldn't say the words "church" or "Christ" without fear of retribution (the area of China we were in is definitely dangerous communist China, and not used to foreigners). Now I can go on Sunday and spend 3 hours with people talking about Him and His gospel. I don't care if it's the same things I've been hearing all my life; I get to HEAR it! I don't care if the people speaking it are morons; I get to hear people speak about Christ! I don't think most of you can understand what that means to me and my husband.

Sky said...

Shannon, read clear to the end before you post.