20 April 2007

Pressure to Conform

I had a conversation with my mom today. She started out by saying, "I know you kids struggle with me not being active in the church." (For the record, I don't struggle with it. I am not happy with the choices that she has made, but I don't judge or condemn her for them.) I knew this was going somewhere so I just let her continue to talk. She said how it was so hard for her to be married to my dad for 29 years. (Last year my parents were divorced) She felt like he was always telling her how to live her life according to the principles of the gospel. Not only my dad, but everyone in the church. She left because she was so tired of everyone telling her how she was supposed to live and what to do. She felt stifled and pressured. In the end she said she was telling me all this because she didn't want me to have to do anything I didn't want to do just because I was a member of the Church.

My mom is a convert of about 35 or so years. I grew up in the church. My parents taught me the gospel and how to live a righteous life. I told my mom that I do not feel the pressure that some people feel from the church culture to "conform." Honestly I can't remember ever feeling that way. Personally I don't even know what I'm supposed to "conform" to. I don't feel like there is anyone breathing down my neck and telling me I have to do something because I'm LDS. In fact it's just the opposite. I don't do anything I don't want to do. Now there are some things that are hard for me--like my current calling--but hard and challenging is not a reason to say no to something. There are some days I really don't want to teach that class, but it's not that I really don't want to, it's that I don't want to put forth the effort.

When I was in High School I had migraine headaches. I didn't know they were migraines at the time I just thought they were really bad headaches. Looking back I know they were migraines because I would come home from school and just want to sleep for at least three hours and hope they were gone when I woke up or not look at any light and lay as still as I could. There were many times when I had these headaches that my mom would drag me to Mutual activities. I can vividly remember laying down in the van on the way to the church building with my eyes closed because it was too painful to look at the oncoming cars and their lights. She made me go to Mutual every week. When I got there I would just find a nice quiet place to lay down until it was time to go home. It would have been better had I just stayed home on those days. Because of that experience, I don't do anything I don't want to do. I told my mom that today.

I also have a friend that I went to college with that feels similar to the way my mom feels. She is also a recent convert as well. So my questions for you are these: First are you a convert or a life long member? Do you feel pressure to conform to certain standards as a member of the church? Do you do things out of obligation because people tell you that is what is best for you? Or do you just live your life the way you want and that happens to coincide to the principles of the Gospel? Or something else??


Spencer J said...

I am a life long member. I live the gospel because I have found it is what makes me happiest. For example- when I am idol I feel sluggish and useless. When I am about do my work at home and fulfilling my calling, I feel good and happy. Some of the best people I have met in the world are good members of the church who just live their lives.

Julie P said...

I'm a life long member. I live the gospel standards because I think they make for the best life. As for "church standards" (drinking caffeinated soda or not, letting your daughter wear a tank top or not, wearing denim to church or not, etc.), which I see as different from "gospel standards" (keeping the commandments, paying tithing, going to church, etc.), I do what I feel is right for me and my family and if other people aren't comfortable with what we do (which would be silly, because we're generally pretty mainstream), then that's tough for them.

Susan M said...

I'm a convert of almost 20 years. I don't feel pressure to conform to anything, but I'm also the type to just not care. I'm a pretty atypical Mormon. Doesn't bother me.

I live the gospel because it's true. I've had prayers answered, I've seen miracles happen.

Melissa said...

Life long member here. I don't know that I feel the pressure to conform... but I think I can see what your mom is talking about. I remember talking to a friend one time about geneology - how in the world was I supposed to make time to do it? I felt so overwhelmed with everything else I was supposed to do and now this? (BIG geneology push in our ward at the time) She quoted the scripture about "To every thing there is a season..." and told me that I wasn't in my "geneology season" yet. I was in my "crazy young mom" season and that my time would come. I think we need to remember that there are hundreds of wonderful things that we can involve ourselves in, and that we can feel a lot of pressure to be a part of, but we have to be realistic. I would love to go to the temple once a week, have a few hours for geneology every day, study scriptures in the morning and evening, take meals to the needy, read stories to the sick, organize fundraisers for the food bank, volunteer at the nursing home, scrapbook/journal every day, take a neighbors kids so she can have a break, make baby blankets for every new baby in the ward, and so many other things. But, my priority is my kids right now and their well being. There will be time to do some of those things, but I can't do them all right now. Right now, all I can do is trust in the Lord that he will direct me to the right things at the right times. Does that make any sense? lol

Lisa M. said...

Great question-

I'm a life long member, who struggled considerably through my youth and early adulthood.

I do not feel pressure to follow gospel principles.

I do feel pressures though, to conform to what everyone else is doing. In our ward, our homes look alike, we decorate in the same way, we have simular yards, blah blah.

I do feel this unspoken pressure to keep up with the Jone's so to speak and to have beautiful cookie cutter kids all on my church pew.

I don't know if other church organizations feel that way or not, or if it is just *me* feeling, insecure. But that drives me insane.

I have lived outside of Utah, and it doesn't seem to be as prevalent in other places as it is here.

I know several women who feel slighted and socially unconnected to the other women in our ward, because they either can't compete, or refuse too, and then feel left out.

However, I do find myself being extraordinarily critical of people who do not dress modestly or allow their children not too. This is a MAJOR flaw of mine. It is just *my* thing, and I don't feel like I am perfect or anything like that, I just don't think it is at all appropriate. I swear, constantly, and I am sure that is bothersome to people the same way, imodesty is to me.

Its a battle- But, I have never let my feelings get in the way of my testimony. I think that is the key.

Having a relationship with our Savior, if we have that, the other stuff, really, is just fluff.

Jamie J said...

Thank you so much for your comments. It's so great to see everyone's perspectives. I think Lisa M. hit the nail on the head by saying I have never let my feelings get in the way of my testimony.

That seems to be what it all comes down to. If we know the gospel is true, then we will live it. If we have faith that Jesus atoned for our sins and we can be forgiven and we repent, really what else is there?

citymama1 said...

Hope you don't mind me lurking and piping in. I found a link to your blog and followed it because I liked your title (I too love my flip flops)

Anyway, I thought this was a particularly interesting and thoughtful post in that we all struggle in someway or another with conformity. I struggled a bit in my late teens/early twenties with my testimony. I knew the church was true, but didn't want to conform and just follow what my parents wanted me to do. I spent a couple years being pretty miserable in my attempt to not conform. The silly thing was I knew the gospel was true, but I didn't want to conform or admit that I was wrong. Finally, after a bit of soul searching (and repentance) and looking at what I wanted in my life, and what would truly make me happy I realized that my attempt at not-conforming to the gospel standards was really just me conforming to society. Society told me that religion wasn't happiness and I needed to "find myself", when all along I already knew who I was and knew what I wanted.
Now, I don't feel any pressure to conform. I admire and am inspired by those around me, both in and out of the church, and I try to improve myself each day, but I know I'm not perfect. I think that's all we can ask of ourselves.
Thanks for the thoughtful post and for the opportunity to reexamine our own beliefs and motivations.