Friday, May 6, 2011

My Church History

When I was 12, I think, my mother got a big bonus and promptly went out and bought a piano.  Dad picked us kids up from school/daycare, and when I walked in the front door and saw the piano, I dropped my sister, dropped my book bag, started crying and hugged the piano. 

Due to financial constraints, I was only able to take piano lessons for about 7 months. Anything I learned after that I taught myself.  I played the piano when I was angry, when I was sad, when I was pensive, when I was glad.

Fast forward several years.  I got baptized into TSCC when I was 17, actually on my father's birthday, which didn't make him very happy. He was the only holdout in our family, although I delayed it some time past the time when my mother, brother, and sister got baptized.  I didn't join because I had a testimony, though. I joined because I wanted it to be true, because I wanted to have a healthy, normal family, and thought that somehow that would make those desires happen.

It didn't.

I didn't attend for a while, and I can't even tell you why I started going.  My mother told me to go talk to the bishop and ask for a calling, like working in the church library. I could do that.  I was incredibly shy and timid, and a library calling seemed perfect.  I didn't know, nor apparently did my mother, that you didn't ask for the calling you wanted.  I was called to be the YA rep for our ward. Dude. That was an awful experience.  I think my most vivid memory was that of setting up a sock hop, and having 2 people come, one of whom was a friend of mine from high school, and the other was the male YA rep for our ward.  I quit going to church after that.

The next time I started going to church, my parents were divorced and my mom had moved herself and my siblings in with her father in a city near the coast of Texas.  I tried to make it on my own, and couldn't, so I moved in with them.  I got called to teach Relief Society.  I could do that. It felt weird, my 19-year-old self teaching grown women, but it was doable.

Then I moved to Austin. I found roommates to live with, and started attending a student ward even though I was an employee of UT, not a student.  I went to church all the time, went to all the activities.  I think I was a RS teacher, but can't recall for sure. I do remember going to teacher development class, and having a good time in that. And I sang in the choir. And I tried to fit in, with no success.

I remember trying desperately to find a way to pay tithing.  I made so little money, and only got paid once a month, and by the end of the month I was so broke I would search the couch cushions for change.  But I kept hearing how I was supposed to pay tithing, and how the Lord would open the windows of heaven and shower out blessings upon me, so I swallowed hard and wrote a check for 10% of my gross income.  I mean, while the church leaders, at least in public, won't come out and tell you that it's supposed to be 10% of the gross, everyone knows it's 10% of the gross.  And the check bounced.  Far from being embarrassed when the financial clerk told me about it and handed the check back, I beamed at him.  "See? Heavenly Father knows I can't afford to pay tithing!"  I still recall the look on his face. I never attempted to pay tithing again while I lived in that ward.

I moved to Utah, because my mother had remarried, and taken my sister to Salt Lake City. My sister was/is my best friend, and being that far away from her was not fun. I found a roommate, and moved in with her. I attended our singles ward a few times, but I was no better at fitting in than I had been anywhere else.  The men were assholes, because there were so many more women than men, and they totally had their pick of the gorgeous women.  The women were bitches, if they were gorgeous, because they had their pick of the men and knew they'd be getting married and creating more tiny little mormons ere long.  And I loathed my roommate, and she loathed me.

I moved out into my own apartment.  My sister lived with me for a while. We didn't go to church. Why bother? My sister moved back in with our mother & stepfather, and my brother, who'd been dismissed from the army for bouncing checks all over Germany (no, of course our parents didn't teach us how to manage money), moved in with me for a while.  That was a complete disaster, and he soon left.

I moved into a house with the awesomest roommate ever.  I adored her, and I didn't go to church because I didn't feel like it.  See how bad I was?  I did watch general conference on TV at home, and usually video taped it so I could watch different episodes later.  Then the awesomest roommate ever decided to go spend a summer in Greece, and as I obviously could not afford to maintain the house by myself, I moved in with a friend and her daughters. That lasted a month or two, and I got my own place again. That lasted another month or two, and I moved in with some girlfriends. Still didn't go to church, even though they did.  I remember one night lying in bed trying to sleep, and hearing one roommate, who'd been "heavily petting" with her boyfriend on the couch ask him what blue balls were. And then after he left, she came to our room, got into her gown, knelt by the bed and prayed.  See, that didn't make sense to me either.  How did that fit in with the law of chastity?

I moved again. And again.  This move put me in a house up near the U, where I worked. It was close enough that I could walk, although I usually drove or took the bus.  My roommate was non LDS, and we hated each other. Despite our agreement at the beginning of the arrangement, she almost always had her boyfriend there overnight. Her big black lab shat under my piano. He ate a huge chunk out of my sofa. I was going to a student ward again, and trying to fit in, and doing a slightly better job of it, although still not great.

I moved into the basement apartment of the house as soon as the tenants moved out, and found a roommate from the student ward. It worked pretty well, and I was called to be a visiting teaching supervisor, and then visiting teaching coordinator. It was the ward where I met my husband. I paid my tithing for the first time ever, and was able to go to the temple and take out my endowments and wear ugly, ugly underwear. I had a great group of friends, and was probably the happiest I've ever been.

Then my roommate and I moved into a different apartment, and not too far after that I moved into my own apartment again. And then I moved to California for a while. Hated it.  I did go to a singles ward there, with my soon-to-be husband, and I was called to play the piano for Relief Society. My husband and I decided to go back to Salt Lake and get married. So we moved in, temporarily, with my sister and her husband, and got married.  When we got moved into our own apartment, we were both very active. We were called to be the ward activities directors, and it was an awesome calling. I was also primary pianist.

Then we moved to Texas, and were in a good ward. Again we were the activities committee directors. I was called to play piano for Relief Society.  I was called to play piano for Primary.  The ward boundaries changed. I was called to play piano for Relief Society. I was called to play piano for Primary.  The ward boundaries changed.  I briefly got to be in Young Women, which I loved, but was soon released and called to play piano for Relief Society.  I got to teach Primary from time to time, but usually if I was attending church, I was playing piano for one group or another.

Now see, I'm an okay, not great, pianist.  I'm a kick-ass teacher.  So why was I always called to play piano? Was it really because God wanted me to, or was it because I was one of 2 or 3 people in the ward who foolishly admitted they could play?  I knew people who actually could play piano, but refused to tell anyone because they'd never get a non-piano related calling again.  I judged them. I did, and I'm so sorry, because they were totally right.  Once my husband and I settled into the area where we've been living for what, 15 years?, 90% of the callings I had when active were playing piano.  I had already decided that, if we ever moved away, I wasn't going to tell anyone I could play. I wanted the opportunity to do something else.  And if callings really were inspired of God, well, he knew I could play piano.  So if I still got a piano related calling, then I'd say okay. And if I didn't, I'd be thrilled.

Of course, things changed and I'm never going back.  And don't misunderstand me. I love playing piano, even if I'm not that great at it. But I felt I was being pigeonholed into this situation, and my other abilities and desires and strengths were being completely ignored.

And I always had a hard time with tithing. I make more now than I ever have, but as I'm trying to figure out budgeting to see how I can make it on my own, should my husband and I go through with this separation/divorce, I'm so glad I don't have to figure out how to do it on 90% of my gross income.

Here again, don't get me wrong.  I have charitable causes that I whole-heartedly support.  At work, for example, we donate $10 to be able to wear jeans the last two weeks of every month, and that $10 not only goes to an excellent charitable cause, but the company doubles it. (Question: does TSCC double every humanitarian aid donation that comes in on the tithing slips?)  I have other charities that I support, charities that show how the money that comes in is being expended, and that I know how much money is going for the charitable works. (Question: why doesn't TSCC have to show their finances? Shouldn't that be a requirement to maintain tax-exempt status? It should be, IMNSHO.) 

So this is a long blathering post, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing.  Some days are like that.  I suppose if I were to sum things up, I'd say that there were some times, few and far between, when I was fully active and felt great about TSCC and myself, and I felt like I was doing a decent job at being a good mormon.  But the other times I hated TSCC and I hated myself, and I knew no matter how hard I worked, I was never going to be good enough, so why bother. Those times won out.  Now that I've let go of all of that, I feel better about things. I still believe in God and in Jesus Christ, and I still believe in trying to be a good person. I still believe in being my neighbour's keeper, in the sense that I think Christ meant it, and not in the sense that the morg mean it. 

So there.


  1. *Like*

    First thing, what does TSCC stand for?

    Second, check out Alan Waterman's blog, Pure Mormonism. In his blog post titled "How corporatism has undermined the LDS church" (ahem...or something like that) he goes into quite a bit of detail about where your tithing money goes. You won't feel like it's a charity after reading that. Ugh. I was disgusted.

  2. @ Foxy I believe it's "The So Called Church"

    LOVE this post! It was not blathering at all!

    Question: why do you say "take out" your endowments? Is that how a lot of people refer to it? Sounded like a bank withdrawal to me, and it made me giggle.

    Thinking about what you said about tithing, I know that if I bring that up to my TBM in-laws, they'll come up with some rationalization saying of course you still have to work hard and manage your money properly, etc, God can't do it all for you! But the thing is, that's just their opinion, their own rationalization of the tithe requirement. But they just cannot deny that General Authorities tell stories at Conference about how some man or woman they know didn't know if they could afford to pay tithing, but because they had so much faith, they did, and the very next day they got a great job offer, or a raise, or some other miraculous reward for their faith. They can't point out official documents that support their opinion. Charitable and reasonable people do their best to take some of these doctrines and spin them into a more logical or merciful version of what the LDS church actually teaches. That's really sad to me. If it's The Truth, you shouldn't have to wrap it up with a bow on top to sell it to others.

  3. Foxy, yes, TSCC = the so-called church. Thanks for the referral. I'll go check that out. I was reading some posts yesterday about the finances of the church, and they sort of made my blood boil.

    You know, Macha, I don't know why it's called that, but I always heard receiving one's endowments as "taking out your endowments." It does sound funny to me, now that you've made me question it. I never saw any blessings come to me, financially, from paying tithing. And even when I struggled with it, I always believed the problem was myself, not the whole concept of giving away 10% of my income. How weird is that?

  4. The way they use guilt and fear to extort tithing from people who can't afford it makes me want to vomit. It is disgusting and evil.

  5. So, I guess if I ever establish my special church (aka Church of the Holy Mercantile-we pay tithing too, we just call it taxes!) you won't play the piano? Even if you're called???