Sunday, August 22, 2010

church videos

I don't know if its a well known fact, but it is an established fact within my mind that I am not entirely comfortable with media as missionary work.  Its something inside me that is insecure.  I know all the advantages, but I am not secure enough inside to stand up should somebody make fun of me, attempt to engage me in arguments that can't be won, insult me, or otherwise do anything other than click "like".  And yet, on occasion, I do share, and yet have I been persecuted.  But still, I have a gnawing discomfort about it.

So when facebook started showing me side-bar ad's for videos titled "and I'm a Mormon" I really kind of thought to myself, what? Now we're going to attempt to validate ourselves by pointing out famous people who are also Mormon? I thought to myself, aren't we confident enough in our faith that we don't need to go name dropping?  And then some names started popping up that weren't familiar to me. I questioned myself, wondering if I'd really created such a vacuum in my home by turning off cable that I wouldn't recognize these names?  I refused to click.

It turns out I had it all wrong.  Its not about name dropping.  Its about encouraging members of the church to be their talents, their passions, their strengths, and then also being a Mormon. Here's what I found:

Just the right ad popped up.  I don't know what was different about it, maybe because the woman featured didn't "look like a Mormon" (ie: she wasn't wearing multiple layers of jewelry on top of multiple layers of t-shirts topped off with multiple layers of teased hair topped with a giant blossoms posing as cherry on top of that frilly yet modest sundae of fashion...not that the look isn't kinda cute, I actually like it, but you all know exactly the look I'm describing, because 2/3 of your RS showed up to church today dressed like that). Maybe it was because it said she was an artist.  I don't know why I clicked. But I did.

Of course I can't find the video a second time to save my life, or I'd post it here for you to see.  But watching this video, this woman, this artist, she answered for me a deeply smoldering question I hadn't even fully formulated yet.  My question was "why don't I feel like 'one of them'?" The answer is "because that's not what Heavenly Father created you to be.  Earlier in the week I had come to a realization that my social circle at church did not need to be the definition of me.  I have found so much confidence, self acceptance, social acceptance, and happiness outside of my church community lately, that I've really begun to think deeply on what role church plays in my life. I had realized that I didn't need to be struggling to become socially engaged with women I don't fully understand in order to be a "good Mormon".

What does that mean?  I think it means I can take a load off!

Not too long ago I was a week away from never going back to church.  I felt miserable there.  And not for any good reason.  I couldn't put my finger on my unhappiness.  I felt like I was surrounded by unhappiness, by women trying to be something homogeneous and safe and as wholesome as vitamin D milk, who didn't really want to be that.  I felt like I was surrounded by misery, boredom, and women trying to be someone else's idea of what they should be.  I was having conflict because I found something I loved that was exciting, physical, enlightening, energetic, healthy and didn't involve in anyway chocolate, bread dough, whole wheat, or crafting scissors, and I suddenly had no idea how to relate with this group of women on a level other than the gospel.

And then this video clip.

What did she say? I'm not 100% sure, but what I heard was "that image of what I was supposed to be was something I made up! Heavenly father wants me to be me!"

And I got to thinking.  Where in the scriptures does it say put your passions to rest, do not seek to discover your talents, be like everybody else and get along? NO! This is NOT what we're taught! And yet, many women of the church are receiving this message loud and clear.  What are we doing to each other and ourselves that we receive this message, even though this is not the message sent? WHY do we hear this message?  Is it the "anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report" thing? Is it the advice to temper our tongues? What is it?! Why do we feel the need to be homogeneous to the degree of sacrificing our talents, opportunities to strengthen our understanding of the world around us, to go outside our bubble and seek other worthy knowledge?  Where did we get the idea that a "good Mormon" defines herself by the perfection of her scrapbook, the freshness of her ground wheat, and the perfect balance between modest and hottest in her wardrobe?  Where did we get the notion that a "good Mormon" is a church mouse?

Well, I went back to church, because I know what I know.  I KNOW God the Father and His Son and the Holy Ghost are three individual beings.  I KNOW that the Book of Mormon is a book of scripture, written by prophets of old.  I am certain that other books containing holy writings will be found across the globe.  I cannot walk away from my church and expect to have this knowledge sustained elsewhere.  I decided to keep going because I don't know enough yet, and I want to be in the service of my Father in Heaven while I'm learning.  I don't have the personal discipline to learn it on my own with nobody guiding me, teaching me, or giving me the opportunity to teach. And now I know that I can go, I can serve, I can do my best and my best is good enough for my Father in Heaven.

And I think maybe that's a tiny portion of where we've gone wrong.  As women, we've forgotten that our best is always good enough for Him.  Sure, sister Jones might think our best is lame...and chances are good if she does think our best is lame, its because it makes her feel inadequate in some way, but so what? Love Sister Jones anyways, help her find out what HER best is, greet her with a friendly smile, and keep walking till you see the next sister that doesn't know why she's there.  Find your passion, chances are good your talents and passions are not what everyone else's are, and that's a GOOD thing! Imagine what a boring world we would live in if all of us really were the Stepford Wives we seem to be trying to create within our social network of church.

I am so glad I watched that video and received the message that Heavenly Father doesn't want me to be just exactly like each one of my RS sisters.  That he wants me to explore my own strengths and talents and then be able to say "and...I'm a Mormon".  That's different, isn't it?  and I feel comfortable again.


Kristina P. said...

I have to say, I'm a big fan of the new campaign. I know there's a lot of controversy surrounding it, and if it's genuine or not, but I like it.

I created a profile. And you know, they let me be my normal, sarcastic self when describing my life. And I appreciated that.

Reuben said...

I'm glad you liked the ad. I know quite a few people that are still trying to figure out how to feel about them. As you've pointed out, the videos are inspiring. They present unique people living unique lives. They present people following their passions and chasing their dreams. It's beautiful.

The only problem is that this just isn't what I see when I attend church on Sundays. These videos certainly aren't representative of most of the Mormons I know (including myself). The pessimist in me wants to view these commercials as a bait-and-switch - the church trying to brand us as a bunch of exciting artists when that really isn't an accurate description of us at all. The optimist in me wants to believe that these videos represent the church's hope for what members of the church should be (rather than what we are...). I really want to believe that the Church encourages individuality. And at it's core, I think it does, but you sure don't see much of it at church on Sundays.

The Lamps Family said...

I really needed to hear that, that is something I have been struggling with lately. Thanks for posting.

Reuben said...

P.S. You might be interested in this discussion about how the ads portray women as well.

clan of the cave hair said...

I had no idea that there was controversy surrounding this campaign, but I suppose since it was making me a wee bit ill at ease until I watched one of the clips, that it makes sense that I would not be the only one. I do have to say that I'm not sure that these ads are geared towards non-members, I don't think there's branding involved. I think there's a well needed message to members all over the world who are exciting people full of personality, talent, and "worldly" knowledge who are wondering, why don't I feel like its ok to be me when I'm at church?
I think our leaders are aware enough of our challenges to know that especially the women of the church are struggling to understand their roles in this world and that the SOCIETY and TRADITIONS of our wards and units may not be meeting the social needs of our members. The gospel is the gospel, is the gospel. But sometimes being a mormon is weird socially, and they know that. I think we are being given a nudge to be brave, to explore our gifts and talents, and to "own" them if you will. I think we're being told, be productive, make a difference, a mormon too.

Chef Tess said...

Hmm. Maybe why I'm strugglin' too. I'm too weird, but thanks to you for letting me know that it is a good thing. Sometimes I feel I can be perfectly imperfect to a certain point...and only around a certain group. I think the gospel at it's core, is knowing that dispite your imperfections, God loves you...and sister Jones...because you are different. Thanks for being different with me. It makes me feel...not so different. lol.

clan of the cave hair said...

Tess, I know exactly how you feel, and I'm right there along for the ride with you. I think as life long members, we grew up with our friends being our primary class, and our young women's program class and sort of morphed right into the belief that our friends would continue to be the people we attended church with. And if that is true and they are good, solid, supportive friendships, then wonderful, but I know myself, for many many years, I failed to go outside church for friendship, and guess what? Many of the friends I've made outside church have set for me the best examples of what a Christian is in what they say and do. I think the social network of being a mormon is complicated, and the women of the church make it even more so, but the gospel, the gospel is simple. I for one am going to focus on the gospel and service, and should a good friendship arise out of that, all the better, but if friendships are hanging on how well, or how poorly I function within the social network of church, well....they may be waiting a while.

The Sartori's said...

I refused to watch the videos for the same reason and I have felt the same about the social structure so much that I've all but completely alienated every sister in my new ward. And I haven't been to church in 9 weeks under the guise of pregnancy and a baby but that is just a lucky coincidence.

I joined MOPS to make friends outside of the church and I have loved it. They are good women. Our best friends right now are from work and aren't members. I have always known there was life outside the church and I am glad to have found them.

But I also long to get back. As good as the friends are I am hollow for the need of me and what I miss regardless of the other women there that I don't get at all. So I am going to go to fill up that hole. And I am going to get a fohawk and not care what anyone thinks. A fohawk and not like the MOTAB and refusing to scrapebook and having no wheat doesn't make me a bad mormon. Not going makes me a bad mormon

rachel said...

AMEN. This was beautiful, Lisa and I completely agree. I just perused this site recently because I knew that Kristina P. was on there as well as some other bloggers I knew and I was hooked seeing all the different personalities. And I too, didn't feel so alone. I absolutely am a spiritual person, but the "culture" leaves me cold. Thank you for sharing this!!

Anonymous said...

COmmenting MONTHS later ... (I mostly didn't blog in 2010)

It's funny. I've never felt like I had to be someone specific to be a good Mormon. I was trying to think of why that was. And honestly, I think it was growing up back east. Particularly in the was in which had in it's geographical boundaries 5 colleges and universities. We were a diverse bunch. Artists, musicians, academics, and dyed-in-the-wool New Englanders who acted more Protestant than Mormon. I was the only LDS kid in my HS, so ALL my friends were non-members.

So even though I've spent all of my adulthood out west, this problem just hasn't effected me. I don't even think of this "mold" in regards to myself or even in regards to women who I see as coming out of that mold. And reading all of these comments, I guess I'm really glad.