Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Tale of Three Churches

Over the past few months, I've picked up something of a bad habit. Or, maybe it's a good habit. But before I get into that, I would ask that you refer to this article so you can have a bit of context on the matter at hand.

There now. Pretty good stuff, huh? I think it was B-man that posted the article to his facebook page a couple years ago. Like any self-justifying member of a misunderstood minority, I ate that thing up when I read it. And along with Card, I have found myself not a few times since then reflecting longingly on the idea of a mini-Mormon monastery.

But alas, the structure of faithful church membership remains as it is, three hours, once a week in a designated meetinghouse. And I suppose there must be divine wisdom in that. Still, I have discovered an alternative that I allow myself to take, only every now and then, when my student ward becomes too much to handle.

Family wards. I go to family wards. It started out innocently enough. Oops! By some freak accident I overslept my alarm and missed my ward today, oh well, guess I'll have to go to the family ward instead. After all, it's just right down the street. This evolved into, Geez, my ward meets so early, I'm just gonna catch up on some sleep and hit up the family ward tomorrow instead. This soon became, I only ever go to the family ward because student wards blow. It was a problem.

But you have to understand! First of all, do you know how refreshing family wards are for someone who has only known church in the form of exalted high school for the past five years? It's like stepping out of an artificially-created world into the real deal. To me, family wards represent what real life is like. It's not quite so neatly manicured as a student ward. It's not quite so Stepford Wivesy. And I like that.

Second, do you know how awesome it is for an introvert to be able to sit through all three meetings completely undisturbed? And why is that? Cause no one knows you! Forget the stomach-churning, mind-numbing, soul-deadening chit-chat that is common to halls and foyers, you don't got nobody to talk to! Sure, you might have to endure a few well-meaning souls who want to know if you're new here or visiting, but in the end it's still worth it cause you're never going to see this person again. Off come the chains of social responsibility, you are free! Free to worship as you please, which is privately, in the back row, and only until the last prayer is said, after which you better believe you are outta there quicker than you can say Visiting Teacher. Basically, it's wonderful. The only revitalizing Sundays I ever have anymore are the ones in which I allow myself this indulgence.

Today was one of those days. I woke up, made pancakes, got ready for church, and drove down to the 'ol meetinghouse where I knew a family ward was guaranteed to be meeting. Unfortunately for me, I was barely seated when I happened to make eye contact with my old roommate and her newly-married husband, who are apparently in this ward now. By the time I realized my error, it was too late, and I became obligated to come and sit with them. So much for my hour of private worship.

Unwilling to ride out the rest of the church block with my acquaintances, who would surely feel obligated to invite me to continue on with them to Sunday School, I respectfully bid goodbye to my married friends and headed out in search of another meetinghouse. A short way down the road, I chanced upon the very first ward I ever attended after moving to Utah. I decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately for me, former young women leader who happens to be a psychiatrist who once gave me free counseling is still in that ward, and may have recognized me. I waited out the second hour, but you better believe the closing prayer had me outta there faster than you can say Bad Memories.

The third hour of church finds me parked at one of those fancy new meetinghouses that all look the same. What is wrong with me? I think. Why do I find it so impossibly difficult to attend more than three hours of the same ward, much less my assigned ward? Aw, who cares, I think. All that matters is that I'm attending my meetings and being edified. And then I think, Man, I sure am lucky to be living through this phase in a state where I can find a different ward every quarter-mile. And then I think, Hey, what should I eat when I get home from church? And then I go inside.

And find that no one in that church building currently speaks anything but Mandarin.

You can't say I didn't try.

The last half hour of church finds me at Grant's nursing home. Unfortunately, he is asleep and I am not one to wake people from afternoon naps.

The fourth hour of church finds me at my favorite cemetery overlooking the valley. Hunsaker and Hall are kind enough to let me share their plot while I sort out the complexities of the living world. And it's just nice.

I don't mean to come off as one of those weirdy, God-is-everywhere types. I don't mean to imply that sitting in nature has the same effect as engaging in meaningful study and discussion of gospel principles with people who believe the same thing you do. Obviously the latter activity cannot be replaced, and is important enough that we are asked to participate in it every week. As an introverted Latter-Day Saint, this is something I'm just going to have to learn to reconcile.

But sometimes...

Sometimes, you just gotta monk it up. Putting that on a t-shirt.