More isn't always better. Sometimes it's just more.

Tell me what's wrong with these stories.

Example #1. A young mother (battling morning-but-really-all-day sickness) is asked to "make a cake" for an annual Young Women activity. After agreeing, she is handed the recipe for this incredibly complicated thing that will take her all day to assemble because she has to bake and freeze four different layers at four different times using her one cake pan. This while dealing with sick toddlers, battling nausea, and trying to do some of the things she might have been meaning to do that day.

Example #2. A different young mother is put on the Home, Family & Personal Enrichment committee in her ward. For their quarterly big activities, the decree is that they must always have a full, sit-down dinner, and that the entire committee must show up at the church, tiny children in tow, and spend all day decorating the gym with millions of white twinkle lights. Then they have to go home, make food items to bring to the dinner (and no, soup and salad is not nice enough), leave their cranky, resentful babies at home, and go spend the evening at church even though they just spent all day there.

Anyone else think that's jacked up? Also, these are not isolated instances. I'm sure you could give me more examples (oooooh, and I hope you do!).

Turns out that we as women have a tendency to spend a lot of time on what can only be called CRAP THAT DOES NOT MATTER. I have tried to keep the details of these two situations vague. So if you read this and see yourself in it, please assume that I am not talking about you personally. But also, you should really stop it.

We fall into the trap of forgetting that the real ultimate purpose of church, and activities, and all of it, is to bring people closer to Christ.

We forget that and then we get wrapped up in things like The Perfect Cake. Because I'm so sure those girls went home that night thinking, "You know? The talks and songs were fine and all, but that cake . . . That's how I know Jesus loves me." Also the Enrichment dinner. Sure, the twinkle lights probably look really pretty, but they don't create a nicer atmosphere or foster togetherness any more than something, I don't know, about 12 times easier couldn't have done. And once we're wrapped up in non-essentials, we sometimes force those around us to get wrapped up in them too. We also, when given the counsel, urging, and downright pleading to simplify, refuse to do it. We feel that if we back down from what has always been done, we will somehow be failing the people we're serving. When really, it may be that we're taking the easy way out by clinging to tradition or precedent rather than stopping to prayerfully consider what would actually benefit those around us. It may be that everyone needs a break. It may be that our sisters need to hear inspiring and encouraging words more than they need a three-course dinner--or that maybe they only need one three-course twinkle lights dinner per year instead of four. It may be that our teenage girls need "feasting on the words of Christ" and the attention of loving leaders more than they need to feast on 9-hour layer cakes.

Why is this such a problem for us? I think most of us have been there in one way or another, either as we plan activities or as we teach or serve or however it creeps in. Maybe we feel that the outward things like the decorations or handouts or food let people know how much work we put into something, and therefore how special they are to us, which will then make them feel really good (and also more lovingful of Jesus, somehow). "But look how hard I worked! You HAVE to love it if I worked this hard!"

Or perhaps we are anxious about our ability to invite the Spirit or a sense of togetherness, so we instead overemphasize the things we can definitely control, like the centerpieces that we spent hours laboriously creating out of toothpicks (or worse, that we made someone else put together for us after we dropped the project in their laps at the last minute, which means that we maybe deserve to die). We get caught up in the frosting--in the frilly details that might enhance something that is already meaningful and worthwhile and enriching, but will never actually make something meaningful and worthwhile and enriching on its own. Because hi, it's frosting.

Elder M. Russell Ballard agrees with me on this one. He gave a talk in 2006 called "O Be Wise," and said this (the whole talk is great, though, you should check it out):

Occasionally we find some who become so energetic in their Church service that their lives become unbalanced. They start believing that the programs they administer are more important than the people they serve. They complicate their service with needless frills and embellishments that occupy too much time, cost too much money, and sap too much energy. They refuse to delegate or to allow others to grow in their respective responsibilities. . . .

The instruction to magnify our callings is not a command to embellish and complicate them. To innovate does not necessarily mean to expand; very often it means to simplify.

I mean, look at my examples. Those two young moms were dumped with quite a lot of work--work that didn't actually make the activity better but just resulted in them feeling even more frazzled and put-upon and neglectful of their families and other responsibilities. With the SAHMs, I think the assumption is that "they're home all day" so of course they have time. But really, these are women who are adjusting to motherhood, adjusting to marriage, adjusting to being home all day with little kids, some are even working from home, and they kind of already have plenty on their plates. So while it's really not okay to make unfair demands on anyone's time, or to make people spend hours working on Frosting That Just Doesn't Matter, I think it's especially unfair to do it to people who are likely already overwhelmed and exhausted and maybe throwing up every 2 hours.

And while we're on the subject of the young mommies, take a look at who does most of the work in many of your nursery, Primary, and Young Women organizations. This may not be true for every ward, but when I look around my Relief Society class, do you know who I see? I see newlyweds, women with one baby, middle-aged ladies, and elderly ladies. I'm not jumping up demanding a crack at teaching Nursery, but it does seem as though the kid-wrangling jobs are given to those who could most use the break from kid-wrangling and a chance to spend some time with other adults.

Elder Ballard in last April's general conference (since we still aren't getting any better about this) gave a great talk about young motherhood, and how it's this exhuasting time that passes quickly, so it's important to not be so overtaxed that you miss the good little moments.

. . . may I suggest that the bishopric and the ward council members be especially watchful and considerate of the time and resource demands on young mothers and their families. Know them and be wise in what you ask them to do at this time in their lives.

(Translation: They are already working hard, people. Don't make them your go-to when you need something done.) And in reality, everyone is already working hard. Everyone is overtaxed, with a million different commitments and concerns, and we're having to choose where and how our time can be best used. So when we are choosing how much work to put into church assignments (and how much work to ask others to put into church assignments) we need to be thinking really hard about what we're doing, what the purpose is, how much time we can commit, if the time we're spending is actually being spent in the right way, and if we're making people's lives better or if we're just making them busier.

Easy, right?


Mike and Debbie said... [reply]

So, I've never commented on your blog and now it looks like I'm the first one! But let me just say...I'm a fan.

THANK YOU for this post! I'm a new mother and was just complaining to my man about my calling in YW and how things are getting way too frilly and we're doing big productions and I feel like assignments are getting dumped on me. I'm fine making a handout here and there, but come on...

Do we honestly need to make each of our 17 girls a DVD of pictures from their life set to some Mormon Pop song to let them know how much they are loved by their Heavenly Father?!? Try explaining to a parent that you need 52 pictures from their daughter's life. "Could you get that to us next Sunday?"

We're having a meeting soon and the quote that you posted is perfect! Things have got to change. The "supplemental" YW idea books are taking over and it's not good.

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

AMEN. I have 2 little kids and am the Activities Chair for our ward. I basically told our Bishop (who is used to quite inventive and frilly activities) that we would be "lowering the bar" from now on. I still get snide comments about how things "used to be," but quite frankly, I don't care. I'm not going to spend hours on centerpieces. That is STUPID.

C. said... [reply]

Absolutely amen. I have no children and I sit in Relief Society with empty-nesters (recent ones, who still have energy and ideas), grandmas and a few other young ones. Also the ones with 4-6 kids? In an auxialiary. And yeah, I'm on the Enrichment Committee and while I'd like to say we're more low-key than most, sometimes I think the must-have-Noah's-Ark-centerpieces-so-we-will-call-everyone-until-we-find-some obsession is a little much.

JackJen said... [reply]

Oh let me tell YOU. In addition to my other church assignment (which is one of those "Sunday" callings where I procrastinate until Saturday night to prepare anything), I was asked to plan a monthly playgroup for our ward. (Also of note: no one wanted me to schedule one or two in the evening to involve working moms, nor did anyone want to invite at-home dads...because, of course, this is not at ALL for our children). After a year of planning these things without anyone taking issue, the Enrichment counselor informed me that she "can't take [me] planning these only a month in advance." (A FULL month! It was the only thing I've planned that far in advance in a long LONG time)...but rather, I had to plan them a YEAR in advance. And have the information to her in three days.

So I told her I couldn't do that and she might want to ask someone else.

{low ooooooooooooohing}

Jenny said... [reply]

Let me tell you about the word in my kitchen, in big, black, bold letters: S I M P L I F Y.
It has saved my life.
And soup and salad are the staples of activity-dom here in the east.
Love it.

Melanie said... [reply]

What your two examples have in common is that these were complicated tasks/activities given to women by SOMEONE ELSE. Some women (and men) really enjoy making those fourteen layer cakes and ornate centerpieces. They have a talent for it, they enjoy the creative outlet, and it might even be a way for them to escape the stress of their daily lives. That's great. To those people I say more power to you, but please, don't force your preference for complicated and time consuming projects on others.

When it comes to projects and activities that require a committee of people, keep it as simple as possible.

Doreen said... [reply]

Amen to that. Church wears me out sometimes. What's even more, often those young mothers have husbands in scouts and EQ and whatnot. Makes me tired just thinking about it. I've often thought that while there are perks to having lay church leadership, there are also perks to having a church set-up with a paid pastor and whatnot. I do feel like sometimes we are asked to do too much. And then we have to listen to Sister Righteous teach a lesson in RS about how we are never given more than we can bear, and we will be greatly blessed for all of our church service. I get so tired of it. There is such a thing as balance, you know? I do believe we will be blessed for our service, but I don't think that makes it okay for people to dump things on us all in the name of serving others... Thanks for providing a place to rant. :p Love your blog, by the way.

JustMe said... [reply]

Amen sister! I never got out of the kitchen for the first 10 years I was in the church. Make the refreshments, serve the refreshments, clean the kitchen, go home and clean again. Finally I said, "Hey, just because I'm round as a snowman doesn't mean I can't do anything but cook."

I am now an "empty-nester". I don't do social events because I work and I'm an introvert who would rather stay home. I was on the activities committee but I asked to be released because I don't do socials!!

I'm not allowed in Primary because I told the Bishop I find small children "very attractive". Which really meant, "If you make me sit in the mini chairs in sharing time, I will kill myself"

The only calling I am really good at is teaching RS, and I manage to get myself kicked out of their fairly quickly. When you write sexuality on the board, it tends to freak people out.

I'm not as weird as I sound - just blunt.

chosha said... [reply]

I agree, agree, agree and I totally support all the comments made in addition.

However, I also think assertiveness is appropriate here. That first mother should have either said 'no' first up, or when handed the ridiculous recipe, have said, 'I can make a cake, but it won't be this one. If you need this particular cake, you'll need to ask someone with more time that day'.

One of the reasons that overbearing people ask too much of others and get away with it, is because we let them. People, especially women, really need to be comfortable with saying 'no' or clearly identifying (without guilt) what they are prepared to commit to, and what they aren't.

And yes, it's hard to do. But imagine how much easier this simplifying process could be if we did.

Scully said... [reply]

AMEN! I needed to hear (read?) this as I just got the most involved calling of my life and am trying to figure out how to make it work on top of school and life and family, all of which is fairly involved already. So thank you! I think I will have a section in my Church binder labelled CRAP THAT DOES NOT MATTER because that made me giggle.

Doreen said... [reply]

Chosha, it's not just the women that can't say no. I can't tell you how many times I've told my husband he needs to learn how to do that! lol

Kristen said... [reply]

Amen, amen, amen. I also agree with the commenter that said we also need to learn to say "NO, I'm sorry I really can't."

Unfortunately, where I currently live, our entire ward is young families. We have maybe a handful of couples over the age of 45, everyone else is in their 20's and 30's. So if all the young moms didn't do any of the jobs involving "kid-wrangling", I think our ward would fall apart. Even our bishop is only 35, with 3 young kids.
It is incredibly difficult, very exhausting, and hard to know how to give anyone a break. But, as you said, simplifying would help INMEASURABLY. How I wish we could all take the counsel of our leaders to heart and really think about the essentials.

So anyway, I'm a relatively new fan of your blog, but wanted to put in my 2-cents worth. :)

Nemesis said... [reply]

Melanie, thank you! I actually had a whole paragraph about what you just said but decided I was losing focus by going there. So I'm glad you brought in back in for me because that is absolutely true--if you get a creative kick out of going the whole nine yards, follow your bliss and then please invite me (AFTER the work is done).

j said... [reply]

No wonder you mormon women are always sneaking crystal meth and getting treated for depression. I appreciate your emphasis on things that really matter. If I'm ever in the position to have any say over such things I'll hopefully keep these things in mind.

Jenny said... [reply]

Elder Perry gave a last last conference about simplifying and how we really only need food, clothing, shelter and fuel. The last general RS presidency was also very focused on simplifying, I thought.

I think it is easier for some people to focus on the stupid details and work themselves and everyone else into near hysteria than actual foster unity and have the audience feel the spirit.

I hope more people realize that work for the sake of work is a waste of time and that church really is about Jesus and making the people you are serving feel His love and not all this stupid other stuff. It is exhausting to try and keep people on track.

Cafe Johnsonia said... [reply]

I felt my blood pressure rise just a bit while reading this....

I was our ward's Activities Chair (or on the committee) with one baby, then pregnant again, then a newborn, then nursing, then pregnant again. I worked my butt off. I cried. And cried. Then I'd do it over and over again. Our bishop at the time wanted Linger Longers ONCE A MONTH. Hello???

Oh--and don't get me started about all the young moms they put in primary and nursery. (Although I love nursery--it was a piece of cake after being the Activities Chair.)

Good post. I wish more people would say what you've said. (And say.)

brinestone said... [reply]

Thanks for this. I'm on the Enrichment committee right now and struggling with some of these issues. (For one activity, we spent all our budget buying fleece blankets to hand out to the sisters, so we needed the sisters to supply the food. To make matters worse, the leader insisted that we write "homemade only" on the sign-up sheet for rolls.) I still don't know what I personally should do, since I'm not the Enrichment leader, to refocus and simplify, but it did give me food for thought.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

I'm starting into my fourth year as Enrichment leader. (Talk about Seriously So Blessed!)

And well, now I feel a post coming on, so I am just going to shut up. It is just that if everyone here is so in agreement, then where the are the people who want it to be complicated? And if they don't exist then what the hell are we doing?

CoolBoy said... [reply]

My woman Julie B. Beck said something great in last year's Worldwide Leadership Broadcast:

"When a ward council meets together or a presidency meets together, oftentimes they discuss, “How can we get people to support us in our organization?” or “We had a lot of people there; we had a lot of support.” And that’s really backward. When a ward council meets or a presidency meets, if they would begin by saying, “How can we support the family?” Then what we do is an outgrowth of things that will support the family and not the other way around; I think we could all turn that lens backward."

Yeah, that's pretty dang right. Actually, the whole discussion was pretty amazing on this same topic that you've posted.


Michele said... [reply]

My husband and I were having a conversation about a very similar topic just last night. We both laughed when we saw your post. My question and concerns have more to do with the why of the activity than the, oh shall we say, accoutrements. Why are we having the activity in the first place, so that someone can show off their party planning skills? I yearn for activities that draw us outward, into the community, and not just the LDS community. We have such power as women. We should be a force for much good, not better centerpieces or desserts.

PS I really enjoy your blog and have been lurking for sometime now but have never commented. So a very belated congratulations on your recent marriage!

abby said... [reply]

I see all these comments and it makes me want to go eeek! Don't people realize in your ward that they can't pressure you do things. It's not like its a paid calling or anything. You can say no I can't once in awhile. If the calling will take major time away from the family (the true purpose of the Church) you can say no to that.

I'm in a ward like Kristen's we have a lot of singles and a lot of people with young children. We depend a lot on both groups in the church. My family ward enrichments are quite elaborate, but I go to more of them so I guess that works. The food isn't always homemade but we have fun.

I think the silliest thing is our RS binder. The thing looks like a scrapbook. I can't tell you how many handouts I bring home each week that end up being thrown in the trash. I guess that's a huge ward for you (2 RS's and 2 EQ's)

Nemesis said... [reply]

Brinestone, "homemade only"? Are you serious? Because hi, that's what those Rhodes Rolls (or, hey, Costco if you really have no time) are flipping FOR.

What I hate about stuff like that is that it makes people feel that they're not allowed to simplify or use shortcuts to preserve their sanity. Also that they're dirty trashy hos if they don't OH MY GOSH know how to make homemade rolls from scratch.(Guilty!)


Nemesis said... [reply]

Coolboy, word. I can't tell you how many times someone has tried to guilt me into attending things because "we need to support the people who planned it," or "we need to support the activity." Actually? The activity is supposed to support ME. And if doesn't, then it's just one more empty obligation. (This is not to say that I haven't gone to activities I wasn't that excited about just because I wanted to be with people, because I certainly have.)

BEFore said... [reply]

Brinestone, "homemade only"? Are you serious? Because hi, that's what those Rhodes Rolls (or, hey, Costco if you really have no time) are flipping FOR.

This is one of those times where you buy the rolls, put them in a nice homemade-looking basket/serving thing and count it as good-enough. :)

And good points all around commentators. :P

Lindsey said... [reply]

Don't know if you remember me. I'm married to one of GH's friends. Anyhoo.. I have two thoughts on this.
First, not only do we need to take it easy on ourselves, but LAY OFF other people when things aren't perfect. They're doing their best. I remember when I was a teenager, my mom (who was raising 4 kids and working full time) was the OBVIOUS choice for the Primary presidency. For a Saturday activity, she was in charge of decorating a table and bringing shrinky-dinks. She spent way too much time getting all the stuff for the perfect table with table cloths and balloons, but she's a perfectionist and she likes it. Then, she went to 3 craft stores looking for the shrinky-dinks. They were all sold out. So, she went in Saturday morning and spent WAY too much time setting up the table. It looked fantastic! The ONLY thing the president could find to say to my mom was "Oh, but you forgot the shrinky-dinks, that will ruin everything!" Nice.

Yes, I am a SAHM. That does not mean I am any less busy than everyone else. I spend my day up to my eyeballs in the messes and small tragedies of two boys under 3. Plus, I work from home. I REALLY don't have time for THREE callings, one of which is the ward babysitter during enrichment. They gave me this one when my youngest was 2 months old!! Because, since I had a baby, I want to watch everybody else's babies, right? Why would I actually want to take that chance to be with adults!?!? Oh, and did I mention that my husband is the Executive Secretary because, yeah, we've got the time.

Sherry said... [reply]

My mom was the leader of the Enrichment committee for a few years, and I fear she might have been one of those over-the-top ones. Although, I think she usually delegated SO much that most people just had little tasks to do. I know that for her, it was more like, "How can I show every one how awesome I am at throwing parties?" and not "What can I do to bring these women closer to Christ?" Of course, I should say that she planned some pretty awesome things for people to learn. But mostly, it was over-the-top, particularly the annual RS birthday dinner.

Flashlight Girl said... [reply]

1. Hope you all feel better for having had an outlet for your venting. It is a necessary thing.
2. Having been in all of the mentioned situations, I understand the stress, grief and aggrivation (sp?).
3. So now what are you going to do? If you are of the "no" variety, may I suggest you proceed with caution. Having also held many positions in which you are asking others to help, I like to think that most of those people truly are trying to ask those they feel inspired to ask, or are in need of feeling "involved", etc. If you really are overburdened, speak up. If you've just been nursing a whining binge for the sake of something not being "your thing." Reframe, people. Who is it you are really being asked to serve? If you think something is indeed fluff, speak up. But don't just complain, offer an alnerate solution. Serving was never intended to be easy, convenient, or even fun. WORK is the word. But a "spoonful of sugar" helps. Attitude is everything.
4. Lest you think I'm a hypocrite, I have 5 children pretty dang close together. My husband held callings that kept him away from home and not sitting with us in church for a very long time, still us. Sometimes church just sucked. It was hard, exhausting, and I was too tired to feel very uplifted. BUT, I was given callings that helped me to grow, threw me into contact with awesome people who will be my friends forever, and taught my children about service (they had to be my helpers always). My kiddos still aren't very old, but they are pretty dang awesome. They know the drill. Church is not optional; Church is often fun; Working and serving helps us to feel the Holy Ghost if we have a good attitude; Church helps us to think about others more than ourselves.

I appreciate the snarky attitude, but now that everyone feels that they are understood and not alone in feeling overtasked and like the frilliness can end, move forward. Be that woman that you look up to for someone else. Sister Beck is so awesomely amazing. WHY? Because she asks us to be the women she knows we are. NOT just a bunch of fault-finding whiners. We are WOMEN with power, knowledge, and ability. Now go to it!

Doreen said... [reply]

Flashlight Girl, I think the point is that sometimes people get so caught up in details, they forget the big picture. I don't think what's being said here is that people don't want to serve. I think it's that sometimes, it's all too much. Ever wonder why seemingly half the women in the church are on anti-depressants? Much is expected of us (and our husbands!), and sometimes maybe it's too much. And it's not easy to say no. Because when you do, you can almost feel people staring at you like you just announced you're leaving the church. Seriously. Now how about those elaborate dinners? I have to admit I love Enrichment dinners. What I love most is when they are potluck. Everyone signs up to bring something. Not only does it greatly reduce the stress on just a few individuals, it makes for a great variety of food. I wish we could do that for every Enrichment. :o) And ambiance IS important. STM, I know you've been working very hard in your calling. And your ideas are awesome! Personally, I think the key word, and the most difficult thing to learn, is balance. Being able to make something nice and inviting, but without going overboard. Now, don't look at me like I have all the answers. I don't. Maybe that's what committees are for. And maybe a good committee is one that is able to find that balance. To delegate responsibilities so the burden is shared.

Lady Susan said... [reply]

In my mind, sticking a young married with no kids and no prior experience with kids in a class with 6 5-year-old hellions isn't the greatest idea either. (Anyone care to guess my new calling?)

Like I have any idea how to keep them from jumping off the walls? No. No, I don't. Which is why I am all for giving that particular calling to someone who knows what they are about.

This option will, I am sure, change once I have kids of my own.

This just goes to show you that 1)we all have different points of view as to what would be best in any given circumstance. 2) that serving in the church is difficult no matter how you slice it.

goddessdivine said... [reply]

I didn't read above comments, so I hope I'm not repeating....

I was totally thinking of that talk by Ballard when I started reading this post.....and then you quoted it! Seriously, sometimes we get so caught up in the frills and warm and fuzzy stuff that we forget the basics. Why do you think they banned having an array of decorations in RS on Sundays? Some people just go over the top. Really, we all need to be asking ourselves: Is this bringing us closer to Christ?

As a single person I sometimes sense from people that they think I have more time than most others. Between serving in the RS presidency, an ordinance worker in the temple, and on the mid-singles' cluster board on top of my full time job.....there's just not room for much else. I don't have time for over the top frills.

The ward leadership should be stepping in with these situations and instructing these people that we don't need to overdo everything.

Azúcar said... [reply]

For that kind of nonsense I have learned the word


No, I won't. Or yes, I will, but it will not be what you think you want and will instead be what fits for my family.

Why do we let people bully us in these kinds of activities? Defend your family and say NO!

As to the other topic, I had one of my VT supervisor ladies complain that I never answered the phone. When are you calling? I asked. Well, I just call in the morning. Right, well, I'm AT WORK, so I can't answer my home phone, please leave a message. Oh, uhm, you work? But you have little children...I thought you'd be at home.


Azúcar said... [reply]

Makes me want to swear...

Audrey said... [reply]

Nem, can I tell you how often I come over here to your blog and you spout off about something that I have recently been pondering myself? All. The. Time. And I'm so glad you do, because you do it articulately and intelligently! Judging by the number of comments here, you're not the only one who thinks those things -- so thank you for saying what so many others are thinking but have a tough time getting into words.

I just have to respond to two things. Nem said: I'm not jumping up demanding a crack at teaching Nursery, but it does seem as though the kid-wrangling jobs are given to those who could most use the break from kid-wrangling and a chance to spend some time with other adults.

Yes, yes, yes! I don't know about the kid-wrangling since I don't have any yet, but I think it very frequently happens in the Church that people end up serving in callings that mirror their personal circumstances or career. And I'm not saying the people who extend those callings aren't inspired to do so, but I do find it interesting that people end up in callings that are a "natural fit" so often. For instance, I'm a teacher by profession. Guess what calling I have held more often in the Church than any other? Teacher! Primary teacher, Gospel principles teacher, Sunday school teacher, Relief Society teacher... you name it, I've done it. And I am really tired of it.

I realized after a while that serving in a teaching calling was making me resentful of going to Church. My job is stressful and emotionally exhausting. Teaching at Church often makes me feel more stressed and exhausted because it's not just a lesson but a dog and pony show full of handouts and centerpieces in addition to the actual lesson. I work hard at my job all week and I very much need the Sabbath to be a day of rest from those labors (much like I am sure many young mothers would like a bit of rest from kid-wrangling at Church too).

I met yesterday with my new bishop (I recently got married and am now attending a family ward) and when he asked me what kinds of callings I have served in, I told him. And then I requested that I NOT have a teaching calling if possible for the reasons I stated above. He was understanding and respectful of that request and of my feelings, and I am so glad I had the chance to say something. I can't guarantee that the Lord won't have a different idea about where my strengths and talents can be useful, but I feel better having gotten it off my chest, and at least this way I will really know that if I am issued a teaching calling it is because God Said So rather than "Audrey's a teacher... that would be perfect!"

Secondly, goddessdivine said: Also? Let's not assume the single ladies have all the time in the world either. Just because we don't have a husband or children doesn't mean we don't have busy lives.

Amen to this as well! Prior to getting married last month I held two callings in my YSA branch. One was RS teacher, the other was Ward Music Coordinator. My wedding was the 27th of December and I made sure to notify the branch presidency and pianist of the chosen hymns for sacrament meeting almost a month in advance and remind them of my exit date so they would have time to call someone else to the position immediately following my departure from the branch. The first Sunday in December, I was asked by the a counselor in the branch presidency to plan the branch Christmas program. I reminded him that it was the WEEK OF MY WEDDING and it would really be better for me if someone else could take over that responsibility. I'd even be happy to forward them everything I had done in the previous year's program. I was told that no, they wouldn't have someone else called to the position by then so I would really be the only person who could do it.

So, fine. I did it. But after fretting about it for a while, I realized, how many different Christmas hymns are there, and how many different ways can you tell the Christmas story anyway? I ended up using the exact same script I had used the year before and quite a bit of the same music, just with different people reading and performing the musical numbers. It saved me HOURS of time and stress, and several people made comments to me about how much they enjoyed the program, whereas not one person seemed to notice that it was a total rerun.

It definitely made me realize that it is OK to say no to doing things the way you think they "should" be done and to take the "easy way out" sometimes. I made the Costco rolls of the Christmas program world, and guess what? We still had an uplifting program, people still felt the Spirit, and I didn't go insane. Everybody wins!

coolmom said... [reply]

My post keeps getting erased so maybe I'm not really supposed to comment, but I can't help it. I hear you all loud and clear and have probably had every experience you listed on this blog post and a few more. I have come up with some ideas that help me in these situations.
1. Callings are sacred. So is the handbook. Pray for help. Have the best attitude you can.
2. Give optional service (things peole call and ask you to do that are not related to your callings) whenever possible and involve your family. You will be blessed again.
3. Do secret service whenever possible. This brings the best feelings ever. Involve others when appropriate,especially family members. They need to learn that service feels good.
4. If you must say no, for whatever the reason, say it! Maybe someone else needs that opportuinty. I've seen this many times. Offer to do something else at a time that works better.
5. Never judge or compare yourself with others, only bad will come of it.
6. If you refuse and decide later you were just being a poop, repent and remember. We are all human. We are here to learn and love.

Mrs. Hass-Bark said... [reply]

Thanks, Nemesis. I have actually been guilty of indulging in this excessive behavior. Though, since I have a terrible time delegating, and feel guilty doing so, I usually just end up having a nervous breakdown.

It has taken me years to come to the realization that the a centerpiece or homemade rolls or layer cakes shouldn't be the focus of a given church function. The true focus must be bringing each other to Christ, whether it's by creating a spiritual environment in a class or helping each other to develop trusting relationships. As long as those things are happening, there's no need add extra frills to an activity or lesson. I hate it when I figure out that I have been over-complicating things yet again.

ps. Audrey--I definitely feel your pain on teaching callings. There was a week in January where I taught a different lesson (on totally unrelated topics) every day of the week, in addition to attending my own classes. I was exhausted and very cranky. I can't even imagine what it must have been like for you!

Audra said... [reply]

I totally agree with you and seriously there are times that I hate going to church functions... there... I said it! I have 7 kids and I do the best I can do! I sat in a sacranment one Sunday where I had worked my butt off to get 7 kids presentable, dressed, fed (since we had 11am church) and on time, but, alas, I was late and we walked in during the opening hymn. Then the subject was reverence. My 7 kids (ages 2-8) were kneeling on their floor using their seats as tables coloring color pages QUIETLY! I do not expect the to enjoy sacranment yet, they are young and 3 of them barely understand me, much less the speakers. So, you know, I do the best I can do and quietly coloring is better than being in the hall and I was quite proud of them. The speaker then gave the most unloving talk on reverence I ever heard. Apparently, according to her, if you are not 15 min early to listen to perlude music you are late, if you come in during the opening hymn you are interepting someone's "prayer to the Lord" and if your child does not sit perfectly still you should go home and practice and shove a picture of Jesus in their hand and MAKE THEM think about Jesus... sigh...

My thought was "Good thing I have a solid firm testimony of the gospel or I would quit coming to church!" And I was grateful that my friend who went in-active did not choose that Sunday to come back to church because it was people like the speaker that ran her off in the first place. I am so flippin' tired of judgemental condescenting I-am-holier-than-you Mormon women! I can NEVER do enough in their eyes... not enough service, food storage, family history, Visiting Teaching, my kids are not reverent enough... whatever!

So... I suppose my point is... sometimes it is more than just the decorations and the froo-froo that can get overwhelming... sometimes people forget "to everything there is a season". And the "love one another" thing. But maybe I am just grumpy with my ward right now because the last Sunday I was there they were so darn mean. Seriously... mean! Not to me, but not only sacranment was Relief Society was a condescending beat-down. A lady even chastised people in from of all relief sociery for not standing up when they read their readings. Ugh.

I even had a VT supervisor once somehow get on a tangent and chastise me for not being in my backyard digging holes to burry 50 gallon barrels for my water storage. I am sure my neighbors and HOA would LOVE that! I really need to grow a pair with people like that and tell them what I really feel to their face, instad of letting it all fester and then explode on poor Miss Nems blog comments!

Anyway, I think my comment was totally off the subject, but I suppose it is something I needed to get off my chest. I can not do it by blogging about it, I am too chicken someone from my ward will read it!

Nadia and Jeremy said... [reply]

When I lived back in NY I was on the Enrichment committee, and the women in that ward had a similar standard for the quarterly activities, or should I say sit down dinners. One time I got so sick of it that for the March Relief Society Birthday party I suggested we get pizza, soda, chips, and birthday cake, because it would be sooo much easier than making everything ourselves (and ALL of us on the committee were either pregnant or had a baby six months of younger). Everyone in that room looked at me like I was crazy, and the my friend who was the leader said that that just wouldn't fly with the women in the ward. My response was who flippin cares? We're always bending over backwards, and no one ever says thank-you...more often than not they would complain about the food or that it was too long or something!

And agreed with callings. In my current ward my friend was in nursery for 2 1/2 years! The entire time she was in the ward she was in nursery. I'm in the primary presidency and I tried to get her released time and time again, but nobody wanted to because she was the only regular person who showed up to nursery! And the kicker for me was that when she moved a few weeks ago, her aunt and I were the only ones who showed up to help her clean her house with her. Seriously, she had been watching 18 kids for 2 1/2 years, and not one of those people who she helped was willing to help her. It infuriated me. People are just so weird.

Elsha said... [reply]

Excellent post. I knew this kind of stuff was a problem in lots of places, but until reading all these comments I didn't realize how good I have it in my ward.

When my little one was 6 months old the bishopric called me in to ask if I felt like I had enough time to accept a calling before they actually gave me one. I know they've done this with other moms of young children too.

I do remember something that happened to my mom growing up that's along these same lines. My dad was the bishop and somebody called my mom and told her that they needed her to sew something (a costume or some such.) This other woman was SHOCKED when my mom told her that she doesn't sew. She actually said: "But you're the bishop's wife!" Apparently in her mind, being married to a man who happens to be called as bishop automatically makes you into a seamstress. Crazy stuff.

Polly said... [reply]

I have never commented either but felt I had to pipe up. This is one of my biggest problems with church culture (really just the women- short of one wack-a-doo activities leader I haven't known any men to torture them selves this way).

In general our stake has been working very hard to counter this mentalitly. That being said our stake RS leaders are the worst. In one training meeting just about how to simlify and improve our lessons the pres. member teaching handed out a bag with 15- count them 15- handouts and cute little doo-dads to illustrate the importance of simpifing. I thought it was really funny but no one else was laughing. The same presidency also assigned out salad recipies for a dinner that many of the women in our ward could not afford to make- of course we had already signed up to help make the salad not knowing the crazy recipe.

All of this in mind I love the new HFPE program. A little book club, a little walking group- it is great. We have a big christmas party and the rest of the activities are really casual- just friendly.

I also hate the need to sechedule a thousand things and expect all active members to attend. When there are only a handful of active families in your ward you get burnt out pretty fast. Sometimes magnifing your calling means looking at what has been done in the past and eliminating as much as possible, not adding some great new meeting.

Anonymous said... [reply]

Thank you Melanie.

The following is directed at the self righteous simplifiers (not the normal simplifiers that have been responding to this blog post).

Someone must stand up for the over-the-top fluff queens! I elect me. I elect myself because I never delegate my fluff to others. I don’t turn in receipts for fluff. I own it and love it and I want all the fun of doing it.

What do I ask in return? Please for the love of all that’s fluffy quit putting me down. If you don’t like fluff don’t do it. Please don’t assume that I don’t focus on the important, spiritual, meat of the gospel. Please refrain from saying the following:

“You have too much time on your hands.”
“I don’t do fluff it’s unnecessary” (said during a board meeting to my face).
“So and so is bugged because your lessons always include a handout.”

Do you assume that I haven’t been studying and praying about my lesson for months?
Do you think I can’t provide a spiritual lesson and have a fun way of presenting it?
Is there some reason a handout (even if it is thrown in the garbage) threatens you?
Why is a poem, song, work of art appreciated but not my offering of a quote nicely presented?

The some of the women in my ward/stake:
•Do lunch on a weekly basis (some on a daily basis).
•Go as a group to day spas for spray tans and massages
•Get manicures and pedicures on a regular basis
•Own cabins, quads and ski boats
•Don’t understand why we and our children do our own yard work.
•Actually asked if we have ever owned a new car (No but thank you our mini-van is a fit for the Scout Master and your sons enjoy the campouts even if they aren’t riding in an Escalade. When I picked up your ten-year-old daughter for you she wondered what the window cranks were in my 2002 car).
•Don’t understand why I don’t hire someone to clean once a week or send my ironing out.
•Can’t understand why we think camping is a vacation. “Really, in a tent?”
•Clothes and jewelry and boot – Oh my!

I don’t spend my time and money on what you enjoy as entertainment and I don’t comment on it to you or to others. This “fluff” is my outlet.

Mrs. Self righteous simplifier, I so appreciate your lesson. I enjoyed the musical number and the scripture references. Is there some reason you can’t enjoy my contribution?

Lastly, who do these women come to for fundraising ideas, bulletin boards, recipe book covers, Girls Camp banners, Youth Conference T-Shirt designs, bridal shower invitation, party favors, and general ideas? Maybe they should make a calling for those of us who love the fluff. I have often told my husband that I want to be called as the ward “handout specialist”.

We all have our gifts and talents and this is one of mine.

Giggles said... [reply]

It's a scary thought, but when I think about what might make me stop going to church, it's not the doctrine or being offended, it's just being too dang tired to do it all anymore. And if you're too dang tired to go to church anymore, if you're crying on Saturday nights because you know the next day is Sunday (and I've been there), then there's something wrong.

momof8 said... [reply]

Amen, sister. I am an old mom now and let me tell you, it doesn't get easier. I'm not throwing up anymore, but once the kiddos get in school there is homework, science fairs, band concerts, choir concerts, parent teacher conferences, etc. etc. etc. THEN there are all of the church things, YM/YW, seminary, visiting teaching conference, leadership training, seminary saturdays, etc. etc. etc. This year the first 11 Saturdays of the year are scheduled with church stuff, which I would elect not to go to and try to spend time with my family EXCEPT my husband, myself, and my children are in leadership positions and expected to put this stuff on!!!!!!!!!!!!! GAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

momof8 said... [reply]

Oh and one more thing, when I was expecting my first baby and teaching elementary school, my husband was having some health issues and I had been driving him to the hospital in the middle of the night and then I started having pregnancy issues, my visiting teacher supervisor called to see if the ol' visiting teaching was done. I apologized and explained the situation. Her reply? So, does this mean you're not going to get it done??? I could go on and on. Yes, people, let's simplify. Please.

Kristeee said... [reply]

I think that the people in charge of things like this are just trying their best to make their activity a success, and are afraid that by delegating they're taking a chance that someone else will "mess it up." I think it's a hard thing to have a vision and pass it off to someone else and see the ball get dropped.

That being said, I've been in the same situation, where it was unacceptable not to have every detail planned a month or more in advance of the activity. I don't like the feeling of being set up to fail, either in my calling or in my family because of my calling. Making things uber-complicated sets people up to fail, and prevents the person performing the complicated task less likely to feel the spirit because of their apprehension or stress heading into the situation.

AmandaStretch said... [reply]

I had a really good talk about this and other things that tend to happen in the church with my the wife of the second counselor in my YSA bishopric on Sunday, instead of (horrors!) actually attending RS. She said "The gospel is true. Church can be weird."

Anonymous said... [reply]

Y'all need to move into my ward. We used to have the 'fluff people', the 'self-righteous only my way works' people, the 'intricate-knick-knack handout' people, the 'RS table is so decorated we can't see the teacher' people, etc. But I guess they all moved away (or something). Our members have listened to the "scale down & simplify" counsel of the last 15 years or so, and most meetings are focused on the Savior & the principles he taught. At the rare times a nice activity is planned the leaders don't call me (& if they did I would pass)--they call L.A. or J.D. or D.Y., all people who love to plan a party. So it all works out.

And yes, when my kids were young I took my turn in nursery & primary, and though it was at times difficult I don't regret the experience and (don't gag) the blessings that came from doing something inconvenient.

One more thing--being in my mid-50s now I have a long-term perspective. The wards used to do a lot more so even though the younger members don't see them as having simplified, they have. When was the last time you went to a Scout auction (to raise operating funds), a budget dinner (to earn $ to light the building or build a new temple), or an RS bazaar? Have you ever served as pre-primary leader? Or served in the nursery for 4 hours during homemaking day? Or gone to church in the morning for Sunday school, then come back at 5:30 for sacrament mtg? See, all those things have fallen by the wayside. We have simplified!!

Nemesis said... [reply]

Anon, thanks for reminding us younguns how good we really do have it in so many ways! Over Christmas I was talking with my parents and the conversation turned to the time when they combined the meetings into just Sundays. Mom and Dad said that it was possible to actually spend nearly every night at church. Also that you ended up taking the sacrament twice in one day. Which was when my mind exploded and I kept shaking my head like a cat with water on its ear.

april said... [reply]

excellent quotes. this is definitely a hot topic. i have to say that in my ward we have the opposite problem. enrichment has very little advertising. our presidency has finally gotten better on letting us know when (as in more than a week's notice) enrichment is, but oftens tells us very little details about what will be happening. it's one of those "come and be surprised" things. i'm more inclined to come to something when i know someone has put some preparation into it. our ward has just struggled with the new enrichment program since we don't really have the membership to keep small groups together. so they have finally gone back to holding something once a month. now if they just put a little thought into it, we'd be ok. i had actually forgotten about all this mormon culture craziness. somewhere there is a happy medium in all this. (which i do think my primary and young women presidencies do very well at it.)

Kristy said... [reply]

"Homemade rolls only." Wow. I'm still picking my brains up off the floor after reading that one.

Well, I have nothing new to add that hasn't been said. But, (gulp) I just got called to be the ward activities chair. You all should have seen our Christmas party. Holy mother of pearl. There was a ten foot high mural of a train engine, (the theme was The Polar Express), a musical program, a video presentation, a dinner, a visit from Saint Nick, and hot chocolate served by the ym/yw in engineer outfits to the "hot chocolate" song on the movie. The lady whose job I'm taking over assured me that I, too, could create a ten foot high mural of whatever the theme is for next year, even if I'm not an artist. Yah. I could also probably staple my head to the carpet too, if I wanted to, but I'm not gonna.

Indeed. We'll be simplifying in our ward activities from now on. Pot luck ward dinner, anyone?

Kari said... [reply]

My mom was one of those who got way too caught up in doing every church thing to the n-th degree and as a result, most of us nine kids (yup. nine.) grew up feeling that the church was more important than we were. I so agree with you. If we lose sight of the bottom line, someone loses, and it's often the families and kids.

Becki Becki Bo Becki said... [reply]

Okay, I'm so late, but I'm sure there are other people out there that read old posts and might read my comment as well.

First, I COMPLETELY agree with your post. More isn't just better. BUT, we live in a ward where they think that NONE is better. It kind of sucks. And I'm no crafter or mom with tons of time on her hands wanting things to be embellished. I just want to HAVE things.

Our ward LITERALLY has ONE activity a year. Maybe that sounds enticing to you, but I haven't talked to anyone in the ward that likes it. There is a serious lack of fellowship and togetherness in our ward. I'm privy to our home/visiting teaching stats and they are so low I don't even want to mention them. There isn't real friendship.

I'm in the Primary presidency and I do the yearly Sac program. I never want it to be a production or anything fancy. But the past two years, we weren't allowed to do anything besides have every child sing the first verse of each song. And EVERY child has a part, no matter what. Nothing else. I mean, it was great. The kids did very well and it was a nice program. But I just wished for a small group number or maybe a second verse or something to break it up.

I guess I just have to say that sometimes it's nice to have a LITTLE extra effort. Obviously I don't know all that people do, but I wish for more.

Kimberly said... [reply]

I think I love you. Just found your blog through Mormon Child Bride and wow. I think I am the only full-time working mother in my ward and can feel the looks of, what is it, pity? from the other women in the ward when they hear of that great sin. I think this topic needs to be brought to light, in appropriate ways of course, to all ward auxillaries more often than it is. Thanks for a great morning read.

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