Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Anniversary

So, my 1 year anniversary for this blog (3 years for the family blog) passed by last week while I was on a scout camp. I've been thinking lately of doing a post about the evolution of my opinion over the past year and this seems like an appropriate reason to post on that topic.

As I stated in the commencement post, I consider my personal opinion to be semi-fluid. That isn't to say that I waver back and forth, but that I understand the information upon which I base my assumptions is not complete. As I learn and experience more, sometimes that leads to a new understanding and therefore a slight change here and there in my personal stances. Mostly, these are just nuances, but sometimes they are more significant. Here are some relevant changes over the past year or so...

Because of an experience I had last Sunday I want to start with personal changes concerning my Utah Mormons post, which doesn't fit well because I haven't changed much. This post has created a lot of discussion on this topic with people that read my blog and I actually see them in person. I have come to the following conclusion...Utah Mormons don't do anything that out-of-state/country ones do, they just do some eccentric things more on a per capita level (and vice versa is true for other eccentricities I stated in the original post). I challenge anyone to show something that Utah Mormons do that doesn't significantly occur outside of the state...you can't ;-) So, this experience I referred to above was from a relative of some friends of ours that I'm pretty sure don't read this blog. This relative of theirs shared an experience of how a Utah ward that he now lives in has done a couple ward fasts for members in need. He was very surprised to know that a ward in Utah would be that good. What!? It seems like the Utah stereotype is usually the other way around, people are surprised that Utah wards/members are so loose and non-commital, or weird.

Now, the main area in which my opinion has changed...why people leave the church. I have family members, friends, new friends, etc that have left the church completely or to a certain extent. In my mission I heard that 95% of people that leave the church do so because of an underlying problem with morality or the word of wisdom. That implies that they lose their faith and testimony because the underlying problem keeps them from the spirit. Now this may be true in some cases, but my experiences over the past year have shown me the opposite is true, at least with those with whom I'm acquainted. Church history is probably the number one reason. I am fully aware of these reasons and while I don't agree with them, I still love the people that made these decisions and am hurt when others jump to the erroneous conclusion that I used to do. At the same time, because I was guilty of this same problem, I'm easier on those that incorrectly accuse and hope that this will help them be a little less judgmental and more patient/loving.

Contrary to the experiences of some, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, learning deeply about church history has actually strengthened my testimony rather than weaken it. Similar to an aging oak tree I feel like my spiritual roots are stronger and run deeper thus making me more stable when the winds come blowing.

My role as a father has changed. I now see more importance in my need to do things with my children at their level. This is kind of hard to explain, but I try to consciously get down to their level and do what they do with them rather than get them to come and do what I think they should do with me. I have learned that this allows me to see their individual personalities and talents more rather than pushing them towards what I think would be best for them.

My role as a spouse has changed. I see the need to be positive more than I used to. I really do see Marisa as my second half, without her I truly am not complete and capable of doing what I can when unified with her. That has many benefits, but also some negative consequences that I now try to recognize and avoid. Its ok to be demanding with yourself and push yourself to achieve your very best, but my second half should get recommendation to reach further as a positive encouragement rather than a push for more.

Two posts about which I haven't changed my thoughts much, but have been posts that friends most frequently bring up when we are talking in person were in my Evil is Easier and Not Fair [for women] posts. I have learned to be avoid the dramatic press style titling of my posts like these two had and keep them more straight forward. This helps keep the reader focused on my intent for the post rather than being tripped up on a blatant title intended to encourage clicking through and reading the entire post. The intent had the opposite result.

Evil is easier - I still think this is true. I had a good friend/neighbor give an example of how if you convert a person then they can go and do good for years to come themselves and all of their posterity. As I thought about this, I remembered that the opposite is true as well. But, as I said in the original post, I do think it is possible to do more evil with the same effort than you could do good. What if I spontaneously walked out of my house with the lawn mower gasoline and burnt down a house at night and everyone died inside (this is hypothetical to make a point, I don't really think about this in case you were wondering)...how could you cause the opposite amount of happiness in 2 minutes , for $1.50 and no preemptive thought?

Not Fair - this was a basket of dry straw just waiting to ignite and it caught me by surprise. It made me realize that it's scary to lay myself and my thoughts out there, but at the same time it has really helped me understand myself better and therefore has been worth it so far. So, start your own and let me know about it. We'll understand each other better and be closer in the end.

12 comments:

the narrator said...

I challenge anyone to show something that Utah Mormons do that doesn't significantly occur outside of the state...you can't ;-)

i'll take up the challenge - they go to church in utah. this is more than just a joke though. i would say that for mormons in utah the geographic church(ward/stake) plays a more significant role in governing their social life than it does for mormons outside of utah or outside of the intermountain west. for many mormons in utah, their neighbors are the people within their ward and neighborhood relationships are identical with ward relationships. for many utah mormons, they know nothing of their non-mormon neighbors to the point that they sometimes don't even know they exist. because of this i think that 'utah mormons' or 'intermountain west mormons' are more likely to be more exclusive and less tolerant of the non-lds around them. yes, there are plenty of mormons outside of the west who are the same, but i think utah has the higher percentage of mormons who are this way.

i agree with you about those who leave the church. however, i don't think it's necessarily the history that bothers them, but rather the sense of deception they feel when they realize the 'history' they are officially taught by the church in sunday school, institute, books, and other official sources often fall short of (or contradict) the actual history of the matter.

also, i think for those that leave the church, the word of wisdom is rarely the issue. for the many friends who i have seen go this path, no longer abiding by the wofw follows, not precedes, their leaving.

i've enjoyed your posts. keep them up.

Carson Calderwood said...

I'll give you that one. I remember growing up and knowing about the non-LDS in our 95% LDS neighborhood, but not really associating with them. More importantly, the adults in the ward were satisfied w/ their social relationships that naturally occurred through the church medium and therefore never felt a need to venture out into the neighbors. This is what I see as the main culprit. Also, I don't think that when this happens the neighbors are "ostracized" as in purposely excluded, it is a natural negative side effect of the fulfillment that comes via ward associations.

In dental school I made a solid point of associating/hanging out/etc with those that weren't LDS. Some of those with whom I did this said that I was a weird Mormon because most others didn't. I was glad to break the stereotype a little, but sad to see it was so prevalent.

Jennasee Shore said...

As a current LDS member within Utah I disagree with the previous accusations of LDS within Utah. From the area I live in and other who I have talked to they are more aware of non LDS members within a neighborhood and take the effort to accept them and invite them to socialize with them but as I have began to notice more and more non LDS members want less to do with LDS members in their neighborhoods. They feel as though all we are trying to do is convert them to our church and they want nothing to do with it. So are you looking at the LDS members and how they act or are you looking at non LDS individuals of a society who want nothing to do with LDS individuals?

Carson Calderwood said...

I agree with you Jennasee that there are areas of great wards within Utah where this doesn't happen. I do think though, that this happens more in Utah than outside of Utah, not because of the type of people in Utah, but because of the circumstances.

I saw the same thing occur to an extent in Maryland and Maple Valley where there was a Utah-esque community with lots of LDS people concentrated in one location. If there are a lot of LDS people in one area, be that in Utah or out of it, this 'negative side effect' will occur. I would venture to say that there is a direct parallel correlation between concentration of members and degree of "ostracization." The higher the concentration the greater the amount of social need met by the local ward and less effort is needed to reach out to your non-LDS neighbors to fulfill that need. What's nice is when there are areas like your ward where people don't choose the easy road but instead reach out to those around them.

At the same time, some Non-LDS bristle with this b/c they think your only motivation is to convert. True with some, but definitely not everyone.

Anonymous said...

I challenge anyone to show something that Utah Mormons do that doesn't significantly occur outside of the state...you can't ;-)

I'll take up the challenge - They live in Utah. This is more than just a joke though. People in Utah (not just mormons) are different than people in California just as there is a difference between growing up in Vermont and Mississipi. So it would be natural to assume that Mormons who live in different areas will have different cultures. Is this really an issue? Is your challange meant to show that mormons are a homogeneuos lot? If we are all the same, that is a sad commentary that needs to be addressed.
Why not:
1.show something that Mormons in (random place x) do that doesn't significantly occur outside of place X.
The real question is: In what ways are mormons the same, and in what ways are we different from each other.

Carson Calderwood said...

Anon,
You truly trumped me there!

I guess the unspoken parameter is two fold. I don't think there is a significant difference in the general level of religiosity or eccentricity between Utah Mormons and non-Utah Mormons.

There are cultural differences such as Jello, but I do not think that all the religiosity level differences people say exist are not valid.

the narrator said...

jennasee,

i don't doubt that many utah mormons are aware of their non-lds neighbors, but this again illustrates the point i am trying to make. utah mormons see their non-lds neighbors as NON-LDS neighbors. bob millet (probably the most influential theologian in mormonism) once told me that a huge problem in utah is that utah mormons have a tendency to see their non-lds neighbors as merely potential converts and not as potential friends. when they move in, the lds around them bombard them with brownies, help, and all sorts of neighborly love. however, once it becomes clear that they aren't going to be baptized, that 'neighborly' love suddenly disappears. there is a reason why "They feel as though all we are trying to do is convert them to our church". that is because that is how so many utah mormons see them. i have heard time over time over time in lds wards in utah someone talking about their non-lds neighbors that they don't know that well, but are going to try to befriend so that they can share the gospel with them. we should be trying to get to know our neighbors regardless of whether or not they want to get baptized. in fact, i think it should be a policy that we don't try to proselyte our neighbors in utah, but rather just follow ammon's example by truly loving and wanting to get to know them and letting the spirit guide them in asking us questions.

the narrator said...

furthermore,

i remember elder ballard a few years back specifically referencing the exclusionary practice (and language) of utah mormons and telling us to be more conscious of it.

Anonymous said...

My complete experience with the state of Utah consists of 12 weeks at the missionary training center in Provo, 3 hours in the salt lake city airport, and the two hours or so that is required to make a round trip between the two. I've also known people that are from Utah. I dont really know a lot about the state or culture, but as a mormon myself I'm curious about the term "Utah mormon". My previous comment hinted at an honest question: Is a Utah Mormon only defined by the facts that they reside within the boundaries of that state, and are Mormon? If a Utah Mormon can live (if even temporarily) outside of the state and retain that moniker, what is it that defines them as such.

Carson Calderwood said...

I don't think this is something you have to live in Utah at all to know about, you just have to be Mormon for a little while. People will say either 1-if someone does something weird and their a fellow Mormon, that they must be from Utah (this happens a lot at church schools, EFY, Mormon's on TV, etc.) or 2-if talking about something that some Mormons do that is weird, say that it is a Utah Mormon "thing."

Examples:
-Leave church after sacrament
-wear socks with sandals
-funeral potatoes
-minivans
-being judgmental: having word of wisdom/morality issues yet being openly critical of others with less severe sins
-etc

Anonymous said...

In speaking to the thought that most church member leave the church because they either loose faith due to church history or morality issues. I would disagree with that concept to a degree. In my position where I have to deal with this issue consistently I find the biggest reason (at least with endowed members) is due to succumbing to worldly pressures. What due you mean by that, you ask? Well Bro. Calderwood, I mean that the most common, and there are a lot of different reasons, but I find that it is tithing. When Satin brings the heat, i.e. lost job or an unforeseen expense arises, and we fold. We stop going to the temple and then stop praying, then its amen to that persons testimony, then you conjure up all sorts of reasons why the church just doesn’t work for you, all just excuses. It has happened or it will happen to everyone. The trick it is to be quick in repentance and to do what ever you have to stay worthy to hold a recommend and to use it! Frequently! Just my .02 cents.

Carson Calderwood said...

Anon, I agree about that slippery slope you describe. My change in attitude has been though that many members jump to the conclusion that anyone that has left did so mainly b/c they had an initial morality or WofW issue.

They may come up later, but I think there are either testimony doubt issues in general or other minor things not done that cause a testimony to begin to falter. I don't believe the majority of people that leave are good in most ways, but sleep around or drink beer then leave the church because of that sole issue.

When I had my great trial of faith 10 years ago and strongly doubted my testimony it came at one of the, if not THE time in my life that I was holding tightest to the rod.