The Dry and Weary Land --
Even though we haven't been to LDS services since July I'm still assigned as a home teacher, companion to someone in a leadership position. I specifically asked to be assigned as a home teacher because I wanted to maintain that connection to the community. Likewise we have always tried to welcome our own home teachers, the missionaries, or anybody else who would like to engage us.
Practically this hasn't worked that well. We're not in the social whirl of the ward, which is a generally young ward, and we are "out of sight, out of mind". Practically folks are busy with their families, and people have been ingrained with the culture of obedience, so that's what the leaders get. Obedience, without a lot of passion.
I went about three months without hearing from our home teachers and finally e-mailed them to set up an appointment in November. We had a nice visit, and they shared a thoughtful message. I didn't e-mail them in December, and we found a plate of cookies with a post it on it wishing us a Merry Christmas on our doorstep. Now, that was a nice gesture, and I appreciated the thought, but our primary phone is my cell phone and I am never more than about twenty minutes from e-mail. I would have really appreciated some kind of personal connection more than cookies and a post it, but we are "inactive", and everybody knows the way you home teach inactives is the non-threatening plate of cookies that will not offend them.
On the other hand, we are friendly, so maybe a message connecting us to the Christmas spirit with the goal of providing spiritual nourishment and maybe even bringing us back?
Sadly we just don't fit into people's pre-defined categories, so too bad for us.
On to my own home teaching appointment this past Wednesday.
We also did the drive-by with plates of cookies, although my companion had segregated the route into people we should make appts with and people we shouldn't (because they wouldn't be home if they knew we were coming). The father of one family in the latter category had a general look of astonishment for the minute we were on his doorstep, like "why are you people doing this?"
The other two families were happy to see us. One family was very active and the other friendly, but not so active. We made really pleasant conversation, and I found myself slipping back into the role of home teacher, telling stories from past visits, talking about "church things", "church people", etc. I can play this part, because I did it well for 20 years. Mostly I loved home teaching and loved the LDS church, but many home teaching assignments are just exercises in getting it over with because the families are either busy or don't want to be bothered. So you talk the talk, touch all the bases (message, "is there anything we can do for you", prayer, and run for the car).
When that was all there was, it was enough.
Now it feels like a dark shell. Although we shared cookies during these visits, we didn't share any of the spirit of Christ. Our mission was obedience. We are supposed to visit, so we visited, but we stayed off of possibly offensive topics which are the true theological reason we are supposed to be visiting in the first place.
I guess the worst thing is that I realized what a fake I am. I can talk the talk of an active home teacher, but I will never fit back into this group again. The signal to noise ratio is too low, by which I mean the ratio of real spiritual experiences and enlightenment to just "busyness", going visiting just to fulfill assignments, sitting through meetings as an act of obedience, hearing the exact same lessons over and over again because of the exhortation for teachers never to stray from the script and follow the Spirit. I don't believe in the absolute authority of the leaders. I believe in the authority of God and of Christ, and trying to hear that message of the still, small voice is increasing like trying to communicate with a Mars probe. Through LDS channels it is still out there, but there's too much intervening interference to get a clear signal.
I can pretend all I want, standing on someone's doorstep with cookies in my hand, but I am really not cut from the same cloth as these people anymore, and we all know it. My perspective is too different, my behavior is too different, what "the gospel" is to me is too different. I will never fit again, even if I wanted to.
I wanted to reference the First Presidency message from January, which arrived in my home just before Christmas, but it's not online yet. I'll add a link to it when it comes up. It was very deflating. I opened it hoping for a Christian message, and instead got a regurgitated exhortation for more missionaries for the LDS church from the church President.
Really the December message was no better: December First Presidency Message
Although it at least references Christ, this is the limpest possible message that could be imagined. It doesn't actually testify of Christ, but instead merely challenges people to think about Christ in the Christmas season. This subject should be a sonnet at Christmas-time, but instead is a little to-do list written on a post it. "Buy milk". "Vacuum the stairs". "Think about Jesus".
One interesting thought is this. Why is the most important message that could possibly be delivered to mankind offered by one of the counselors to the President, while the "Lord's Prophet" instead offers a useless message in January trying to convince people to merely do things? Why wouldn't the Lord's true prophet on the earth take advantage of this opportunity to stand on every street corner, visit every homeless shelter, preach non-stop in the tabernacle, the Conference Center, on BYU-TV, to buttonhole every visitor to Temple Square, to walk through the streets of Salt Lake City, Orem, Provo, and every other populated town in Utah begging people to share the message of Jesus with their neighbors? Why isn't this man acting as Peter, Paul, John, or even Joseph Smith, intent on sharing this message of hope and salvation? As opposed to what clearly interests him most, advocating the institutional needs of the church for more warm bodies filling seats at the MTC and filling the corporate sales force of LDS incorporated?
There is just no content to this any more.
I can do better.
I am going to.