welcome to the system

I've been teaching the "Sunbeams" class at church--the three-going-on-four-year-olds.  The kids are adorable and the lessons are wonderful: "I am thankful for my eyes," "I am thankful for my home," "I love my family," "I can say I'm sorry," etc..  But no more.

I was recently called to be in the Primary Presidency, which was kind of surprising, given that I'm more comfortable with middle-schoolers than eight-year-olds.  I can't tell if it was a surprise for the President herself, but speculation on that front leads only to negative places.  Regardless, somebody's decided that I need to be elbow-deep in church: N and I are working at the temple once a month and I'm still a VT supervisor for the Relief Society.  Have I mentioned that N and I just chaired a service project too?

The more bureaucracy I see, the more I want to change.  For example, on the service project, I got a fair number of emails, probably about half of which concerned publicity.  Not publicity as in getting the word out to up the number of volunteers, but publicity as in can you give us a quote for this newspaper article? or can you read this statement from the governor of New Jersey at the event?  No, was usually my answer.  Especially when reading the statement from the governor would be patting ourselves on the back in front of those who we were serving.  We'd be telling adults in a group home that they were a service project.  Yeah, not gunna happen.

And now I'm in Primary.  Recently there was a lesson in modesty and they talked about how we should keep our shoulders covered.  To kids aged three to eight.  Several of whom were wearing sun dresses without sleeves.  I told one afterward that I liked her dress, and she shamefully replied that she had left the jacket at home.  I told her it was okay, but I don't think it sunk in.  I don't feel good about passing on some aspects of the culture to kids so young.  I don't want their bodies sexualized or them to feel that kind of shame at seven.

I'm supposed to be in charge of the Primary program coming up in October.  One of the songs I take issue with: The Lord Gave Me a Temple, to be sung sweetly.  It seems wrong to have kids singing about being "clean and pure and habit-free."  Ugh.  I get shivers.  We aren't open enough to say we're talking about sexuality, drugs, etc. for kids, and so we use these vague terms, which frankly makes it really creepy.  Another nit: reading your scriptures is a habit.  So there.

As long as I'm ranting, Mormons say "I know ___ is true," a whole heckavulot.  The scriptures, the gospel, the church, whatever else.  What does it mean that the scripture are true?  Does it mean that they're literally true?  Does it mean that they're inspired?  Does it mean that they exist?  If the church is true, does it mean that other churches can't be "true" too?  Again with rampant ambiguity.

Finally, I've been in a whirl of streamlining my life.  I've become pretty efficient in general, but I'm now using the GTD system and taking it up a notch.  Given that context, almost everything systematic in Primary is grossly inefficient, to the point where it might be twitch-activating.  What I really need to do is focus on the wonderful people I'm serving with and try and feel their concern for the kids, which is where the real beauty lies.

On some level, I need to stop worrying about being right and start worrying about being good and loving.  I don't need to come up with a way fix everything I see.  I do need to make sure those that I interact with are treated respectfully and with love.  It doesn't matter that I'm recycling almost every piece of paper that's passed my way (in favor of digital copies I've requested from the fabulous secretary).  What matters is that we're there for the kids.  I'll do my best to teach what and how I think is best, and I have to trust everyone else to do the same.


Gwen said...

I think that there is a lot in the church that is inspired and most definitely truth with a capital T. There is also a lot that is just cultural tradition. And I think a lot of good and loving people go along with the tradition because that's what they know. But I also think those who have a perspective beyond those cultural traditions should fix it where they see it. So forge ahead and stop making little girls feel bad for wearing a sun dress in the middle of summer!

ajbc said...

Thanks, Gwen. :)

I think the hardest part for me is when inspiration gets mingled with and muddled by culture. Running with the modesty example, I think that the counsel to be modest is inspired; it's a simple wisdom. Culturally, we've taken modesty and redefined it in very specific ways: keep your shoulders covered, etc.. How do you teach kids about Truth, when there is so much truth associated with it? And then, how do I make the distinctions for myself--how do I gain that perspective? Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's not. Sometimes I find myself fighting self-invented ghosts.