Thursday, May 5, 2011

Loving Our Neighbours

I used to think my visiting teacher loved me. I may have mentioned this here before, but it's still bugging me, hence this post.

She's been my visiting teacher for years. She used to come to my house 3-4 times a year. The other months she would send me a photocopy of the current visiting teaching message with various phrases/passages highlighted or underlined, a very brief note about how much she loved and missed me, and closed with an invitation to call if I needed anything.

Even before I quit the church, I'd gotten to where I wouldn't even open her missives anymore. I just tossed them, unopened, into the recycle bin.

So most recently, about the same time this all started happening for me, I got an email from my other visiting teaching companion wanting to know if they could come at a certain date/time.  I responded with a no, saying that was a bad day for me, and wondering if they could come the next week.  She thanked me for responding, and said that she'd get back in touch with me.

That led me to believe I might be expecting a phone call or another e-mail proposing a new date and time. But what I got was that same old envelope.  "Open it," my husband urged.  "She's a good woman. She loves you."  So I reluctantly opened it, only to find the same-old, same-old.

Now there have been various times within the past several years when I would try to get my act together, start going to church, etc.  I tried telling myself that it didn't matter what people thought of me there, and I should just go (despite my wondering why I should go somewhere that I was unwanted).  I remember once asking my visiting teacher if we could meet a couple of times a month to have a little prayer group.  I obviously couldn't go to the temple at that point, but I wanted a little one-on-one companionship.  She didn't hesitate to tell me no, it couldn't possibly fit in her schedule. I felt a little hurt, but tried to ignore my hurt feelings.  I did wonder why she couldn't fit in half an hour twice a month (she's single with few obligations), but after all, I knew she loved me--she told me so every time we talked and she wrote it on every photocopied visiting teaching message.

It was the same thing on the rare occasions that I went to church.  Some people's faces would light up when they saw me, and they'd rush over to shake my hand and tell me how happy they were to see me, and I felt warm and loved.  But this niggling little voice inside said that if they were so happy to see me, and had missed me so much, why had none of them ever called, or written, or done anything outside the strictures of the church (home and visiting teaching). And I'd tell that niggling little voice that they were probably very busy with their own lives, just as I was busy with my own.

We haven't had home teachers in a very long time.  The penultimate home teacher was the one who adopted my youngest sister's son and didn't think it appropriate to tell us, despite the fact that initially we were planning to adopt the baby and had told him so.  Very, very unpleasant experience.  Our last home teacher only came over once in a while, very reluctantly, and despite his asking how he could help us, he always had a reason as to why he couldn't help on the rare occasions when we needed help and asked for it.

The home teaching and visiting teaching programs seem like they would be a good way to keep in touch with all of the members of the ward, and provide help when it was needed.  It created a form of artificial friendship. My visiting teacher loved me when it fit into her schedule, but she never strayed from the requirements of the program, and she didn't love me when I asked for help, even though she told me in each letter or visit to call if I needed anything.  Our home teacher(s) loved us when they were doing their home teacherly duty, coming to the house, giving us a brief message, but they didn't love us when we asked for help even though they told us to ask.

I'd rather have friends who just love me, friends whom I just love, not because someone is telling me to, not because of some artificial quota, not for any reason than because I love them.  And I've been very richly blessed with true friends.  The fact that few of them are mormon hasn't escaped me. I'm worried, also, about the ones who are mormon.  Can I tell them what I'm thinking and feeling, and will they love and accept me anyway? I pray so.  I'm still afraid to say anything on facebook about my true feelings, lest I suddenly find myself unfriended by everyone.  I'm afraid to blog about this except behind a pseudonym, at least for now.

I used to have mormon friends, back in the day when I sublimated my entire personality to become the perfect Molly Mormon.  I look at photos of myself from that era, and they just make me gag.  Longish permed hair, denim dresses with lace trim, white socks with lace trim worn with keds.  I think of how I decorated my home back then, and that also makes me gag. Cutesy crafty crap everywhere.

After my IVF failed, I went through a huge funk.  I searched everywhere in the writings of the church leaders seeking for hope, and found none.  I did find an online support group who got me through some of  the darkest days I've ever lived through.  And then I changed my name (long story). And I got rid of every bit of artsy-crafty-crappy decor item in my home. And I changed how I dressed.  And I started being true to myself.  And every Mormon friend I thought I had in my ward and stake, save two, dropped me cold turkey.  I wasn't fitting into the mold anymore. Did it make them uncomfortable?  Or were we just distanced by the fact that I had no children, and wasn't going to have children?

Of the two friends who didn't drop me, one of them is dead.  She and her family had moved to a different state, and we hadn't been in touch in quite some time, but somehow I always knew that the next time we saw each other it would be like no time had passed at all.  The other friend who didn't drop me is truly one of my dearest friends aside from my sister.  I'm nervous to tell her what's going on with me, but I know that she will love me and accept me anyway, because she loves the core of me, the thing that makes me me and not someone else. In short, she practices true charity.

I contacted my bishop and requested that I be placed on a no contact list.  If any more letters arrive from my loving visiting teacher (and she is a good person, and I mean her no disrespect. I just contend that she doesn't really love me.), they will be placed, unopened, into the recycle bin.  If any home teachers show up at the house (which is unlikely but possible, since my husband did not request no contact), I will either politely leave the room or politely leave the house.  If the missionaries show up while they're tracting, I'll give them something to drink and let them cool off, and then politely send them on their way.

My life is too short to worry about artificial friends, and it's too rich with the joy from true friendship to give any more time or thought to those artificial friends. To my true friends, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You make my life a joyous thing, even when times are the darkest. I love you, and I'm here for you if you need me.  And I mean that. 


  1. Visiting teachers? Home teachers? The more I find out about the Mormon Church, the more I suspect they are attempting to perfect social control.

    Good post!

  2. Are people just completely oblivious to how fake and inauthentic they're being when they pull this crap?

  3. This is a beautiful post and highlights not only everything that is wrong with these institutionalized "friendships" but the emotional distance suffered by almost every devout Mormon I've ever known. They don't want friends. They want validation. As long as you validate their beliefs and their superficial sense of self-worth, they "love" you. Otherwise, they drop you like a hot potato.

    As you noted, so much better to be true to yourself and nurture real friendships with people who know how to be real friends.