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When Church Goes Wrong

What do you do when…

  1. It’s been over a year (possibly two) since your child has had a lesson in Primary class.
  2. It’s been several months since your child’s (different child than #1) Primary teacher has even shown up and she asks you, “Doesn’t she like me?”
  3. The suggestion of service projects for the youth rather than video gaming nights, facebook parties, and movies all the time, is met with shock and judgement that you simply don’t know what kids are into these days?<
  4. Your son is being accused, along with another boy, of things they are not doing to disrupt and cause irreverence. It’s guilt by association, and no matter what you say, no one really believes what your son says is going on or what you say.

What do you do when church goes wrong?

I know a lady. “The Crazy Lady” as she is called. Let me tell you that the ward she lives within is absolutely positively crazy. It would take me way too long to explain, but just know we lived there for 4 years and have been gone for 5, I am still trying to fill my spiritual well from the draining it took there. When we tell tales of the place, we get comments such as, “Really?! Are you sure you weren’t in a third world country?” I am telling you people it’s bad. Inbreeding might have had something to do with it. But there was plenty else too. Okay, I just have to share this one thing.

The first Sunday we attended, I went to take my son to nursery. I stuck around even though he was fine because I just got a weird vibe. The “nursery leader” was MIA. In her place, was her daughter (15) and her daughter’s boyfriend. They sat in the reclining chair in the corner making out. I am not joking. Turns out the “nursery leader” wasn’t MIA she was just assuming her regular spot in the kitchen preparing french toast, bacon, and eggs, for the little ones because they get so hungry. After their feast, and plenty of syrup being slimed all over the place, never to be cleaned up, it was time for war. Hitting, kicking, punching, biting, full on wrestling on the ground, it was a battlefield that’s for sure, but I was told it was “just fine” and not to worry, “they are just being children.” During the last hour, when I thought we were gathering for some sort of lesson, there was extreme excitement in the room. I thought, “Okay, so it’s not what I grew up with or am used to at all, but at least they are excited about learning about Christ and his Gospel.” Stop laughing! One of the aunts (I am not kidding about inbreeding) comes in (I guess she needed a break from class) and dumps a huge bag of McDonald’s french fries in the middle of the table. They jumped on them like wild pigs in a brawl. I could not believe my eyes. Needless to say, there was no lesson and the fries showed up every week. Let your mind run wild about what happened in Primary. I promise you could not imagine it if you tried. I’ll get you started, they didn’t even have manuals for teaching. One more teaser, blood and stitches were not uncommon. I bawled the entire way home and asked my husband if there was any possible way to get out of the mortgage we just signed on. Okay, just one more. 

The Bishop’s wife declared over the pulpit that their openly gay son was born with the wrong spirit and that he would not be held accountable for his actions. His spirit was female and so the Lord wanted him to live as a female and he would make the necessary changes in the next life. He was called as a Primary teacher the next Sunday. No joke. Now just so I don’t seem like a hypocrite when you read the next part, let me state that I really don’t care if that’s what she believes and what they want to go with. I don’t. I will say, however, that don’t think it’s appropriate for it to be mentioned over the pulpit and presented as doctrine. The Bishop never did say anything about it, but you could see him nodding his head emphatically the entire time she was speaking of it.

Anyhoo, so I know this lady. Her approach was to not attend church with her family and refuse callings due to the extreme nature of things going on in this ward. She felt the spiritual welfare of her children was in jeopardy. They would attend on occasion and stay for Sacrament Meeting only. On Fast Sunday, you knew they would be sharing their testimonies. It wasn’t anything crazy either. It was solid and true, first time you’d felt the spirit at church in a really long time good.

I was her VT and we had a great relationship. I learned much from her, and then. Then I joined the crazy judgmental train that was that ward. How? I have no idea, and I am ashamed of it. From the Bishop on down, the mission was to “help” her see how insane she really was and “help” her “come back to Christ”. Not a single one of us had true intentions of “helping” her; not like I understand charity anyway. It was all about manipulation and “helping”, rather forcing, her to see it our way. She HAD to attend church or she was damned, and she was RUINING her children by the choice she made. The choice, I might mention, that came after much fasting and prayer, temple attendance, and careful study. The choice that was made as a result of personal revelation.

I can tell you that we have lived many places in our married life, and I was in many different wards in Utah and Arizona before getting married. You could say I have seen a few families. I have never seen any family, and I know some marvelous ones, that lives the gospel more fully and wholeheartedly than the “Crazy Lady’s” family. The children that are of age have served missions and currently hold callings. They are seriously faithful and christlike and are crucial in their current roles helping the youth of that branch to see a better way than has been there for so incredibly long. They are fighting the good fight in the most kind and non-judgmental manner I have ever seen and real change is taking place where it matters. The lives they are touching and influencing are benefitted more than words can say. I am not sure they could have turned out that way had their church experience been at the church building instead of their home. Do you know what is still said about their mother and their family? Yep, you guessed it, she is still the “Crazy Lady” that did it all wrong, and ruined her children. Even better, they are still trying to find the “celestial room” purported to be in or under her house somewhere. Again, not joking.

So, in my navigation of what is best for my children, I think of her and remember that doing what is best for your children might not always fit the mold. I am also careful to remember that doing what someone else did is not the same as receiving your own inspiration.

{ 11 comments… add one }

  • Sharon S August 3, 2012, 9:44 am

    Crazy Lady? Brave lady! I wonder if I was in that situation I would have taken the same stand or gone with the flow. Probably the later, and murmured under my breath the whole time. Our ward got in the rut of making mirco-wave popcorn even on fast Sunday (not for the nursery but the older primary kids). And unbeknown to me since I sit in the 2nd or 3rd row in sacrament, didn’t know till we had a new family move in, find out there was a whole picnic going on in the back rows.

  • Amy Lockhart August 3, 2012, 11:28 am

    Brave Lady, in deed!

    The food in Primary issue seems to be in every Branch and Ward that we have been in. The frustrating part for me is that the excuse is given that there is just no other way to get them to be quiet. My feeling is that if all we are doing is trying to get the children to be quiet, we are missing the point entirely. Maybe we should change the song lyrics from “reverence is more than just quietly sitting …. ” to “stuffing their loud mouths with popcorn and candy, is easy and doesn’t take much!” :)

    I realize there are challenges to be dealt with, but it seems food rewards, most often candy and popcorn, are the crutch. I think the children deserve better than that from their leaders.
    Amy Lockhart recently posted…Impressive, No?My Profile

  • Michael J. Snider August 3, 2012, 12:27 pm

    Many times there is nothing you can do in such situations outside of moving out of the ward boundaries.
    When faced with similar situations sometimes I repeat to myself:
    “The church is like a hospital.
    I am a patient, and the ward I’m in has other patients of varying degrees of sickness.”

  • Joseph McKnight August 3, 2012, 2:21 pm

    This sounds like a ward I used to live in, and I’m reluctant to say the name of the town, but is it in rural Georgia? We left as soon as we could, I’m sorry to say. There was just way too much going on in the town, too, that was so very different from the culture my wife and I had grown up in. Southern hospitality wasn’t at all what we expected it to be. We met with the STake President soon after we realized so many problems very much like what you’re describing and he seemed to be glad just to have anyone to have taken on the role of bishop, let alone try to monitor what the ward was doing. What you describe and what we experienced were way beyond the normal issues of candy in Primary. There was some serious dysfunctional personality stuff going on. We lasted about 8 months.

  • Joseph McKnight August 3, 2012, 2:26 pm

    PS, I really am sad and a little embarassed about leaving that place (if it is the same place you’re describing), especially when I hear about the Crazy Lady you describe. We didn’t get to know anyone at all in the ward; just high-tailed it out of there. Perhaps if we had taken the initiative to know her and her family, we might both have mutually benefitted. She sounds like a true saint.

  • Jenicolorful August 3, 2012, 5:31 pm

    “there is nothing you can do in such situations outside of moving out of the ward boundaries.”

    Actually the church discourages doing that. On my mission people would do that all the time and not only does it mess up church records, it prevents growth in Gods kingdom here on earth.

    I have also been in a ward similar to Amy’s and quite frankly it was scary. Members would talk about how their ward was cursed (active members said this). Not to mention the 800 plus inactive members many of whom i have visited doing visiting teaching (many became inactive supposedly by how terrible the ward was.)

    The thing is, every ward needs a “Crazy lady” and her family. The church is designed to fortify everything parents teach in the home. Children should never learn anything at church they haven’t already learned from their parents. Unfortunately many member don’t live like that. They depend on the church to raise their children. in their cases, yes it is frightening when the church does not provide the necessary spiritual nourishment children and adults need.

    Im gonna give an example. i hope its not completely inappropriate. i recently went on a date and he took me to see a movie. of course it was “The Dark Knight Rises.” I was a little hesitant going in, but in the end i loved it. This might sound weird but i equate the “Crazy lady” to batman. When you are surrounded by awfulness in a ward, dare to be righteous. Dare to be the one that fulfills their calling. Dare to rise up against the rumors and backbiting found in dysfunctional wards. Dare to be the family that raises your ward up out of condemnation. you know, come to think of it an example about the Savior having to go against the grain and not act like a Sadducee or Pharisee would have been better. but you get the idea.

    i do however want to clarify that one should never try and change the ward by attacking the leaders. Ive been in wards like that and it always makes people go inactive and weakens the ward. what the “crazy lady” did with her example is how i think it should be done.

  • Alison Moore Smith August 3, 2012, 7:06 pm

    Actually the church discourages doing that.

    There is no church policy or counsel that discourages moving.

    On my mission people would do that all the time and not only does it mess up church records, it prevents growth in Gods kingdom here on earth.

    The church is well-equipped to handle the transfer of membership records from one ward to another. It happens by the thousands every week and is no big deal. Moving your family to a better place for your family (whether motivated by church, schools, work, weather, preference, doesn’t hinder church growth.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…The Happiness Advantage – 5 Easy Steps to a Happier LifeMy Profile

  • Jenicolorful August 3, 2012, 8:26 pm

    oh right sorry alison, i reread the post and i was mistaken. i thought Michael J. Snider was talking about ward hopping. Like when people move to a new place and realize they don’t like the ward they are in so they just ignore the ward limits and go to whatever other ward they feel like. i was referring to that in my previous comment. sorry for the confusion.

    you can move for whatever reason you want. i still think that’s kind of a drastic thing to do for simply not liking a ward, especially if you had prayed about moving to that place to begin with (that’s just usually what is done when picking a house right, you pray for confirmation).

  • Amy Lockhart August 3, 2012, 10:25 pm

    Joseph McKnight:

    Nope not Georgia. You make an interesting point with your lamentation regarding not getting to know anyone. I have found in all our experience moving around that no matter how crazy things are in a ward or branch, there seems to always be at least someone you can find to connect with.
    Amy Lockhart recently posted…Impressive, No?My Profile

  • anonymous August 4, 2012, 12:16 am

    “I am still trying to fill my spiritual well from the draining it took there.”
    I moved from a ward a year ago that drained me spiritually. Most of the people were nice individually but the collective dynamic was terrible. Gossip, backbiting, judgment, criticism…At one time I would have said moving was a pretty dramatic reaction to a ward with a less than ideal dynamic. Looking back a year after our move and now living in a new ward, with far fewer friends or acquaintances than I had in my old ward, I am happier and more at peace. I feel I was released from my prior ward. It was time to go and the Lord knew it more than I did. Leaving involved a job change and walking away from a house that I loved. Part of looking back is realizing I could have done better with the situation ( I was more caught up in the dynamic than I wished I was) and forgiving myself for not doing better.
    In the meantime, I am working on filling my well and recognizing that the things people say about you really don’t matter. I am also working harder to recognize that the word friend is used really loosely among women in the church who are often little more than Sunday acquaintances.

  • Janice August 11, 2012, 1:06 am

    New to site & luv it. I have been inactive for a few yrs. but circumstances has a lot to do with it. Still totally believe doctrine. My ward is horrible. I will use Michael Sniders chant. Wish I had a sense of humor but not wired that way. When we first moved in I worked in Primary with a woman who hated authority of any kind. Her family looked like they did not have much. Went to her house & saw marijuana plants etc. all over. Asked around & found out every member including Stake knew about it! The husband always tried to get members to petition SLC as well as the Feds. to allow marijuana use.
    While still active my husband’s grandmother died, 4 weeks later his mother unexpectedly died, 6 weeks after that my father unexpectedly died. No calls or offer of help. No VT or HT ever came or comes. But people come for fast offerings!
    The Bishop told his wife everything; stuff only a Bishop should know. We knew this because Bishop’s wife was a huge gossiper. Bishop’s wife did me very wrong and their daughter was horrible to my daughter. Bishop’s wife thought Harry Potter was from the devil.
    When my daughter turned 12 yrs old she had a horrible experience at a YM/YW snow day. Long story, three 16 yr. old boys ganged up on her & hurt her physically & emotionally. Bishop assured me it would be addressed. Leaders would not talk to me. Bishop back pedaled and tried to downplay what happened. Couldn’t go to Stake Pres cuz he & Bishop are brothers-in-law! I wish now I would have filed charges against them. I was VT to a family for 5 yrs. & then my husband was assigned to them as HT. No one wanted anything to do with this family, all had mental problems. The woman of this mental family had surgery so I arranged meals for 3 days. Woman calls me because food has not come. I call my VT companion & she informs me RS Pres. cancelled all meals. I call RS Pres. & am told the mother-in-law of woman who had surgery could cook for them. I asked if she knew the whole family & she said no. The mother-in-law was not capable of anything. Bottom line, the ward just hated this family. Other members would get banquets brought to them for hangnails! If you were not in the right clique then you did not exist. Everyone related to everyone. I could go on & on.
    I have to tell this last one ! A state patrol officer moved in temporarily with his folks while his house was being built (in other ward boundary). Investigators were in sacrament, huge family. Officer recognized the name & face of investigator father and knew there was an arrest warrant out on this guy. Officer leaves sacrament. Sacrament is over & family walks out to face officers with guns drawn. Yes, inside the building with all the members watching. Father is cuffed . Outside of church bldg. are even more officers with guns drawn. The member officer could have waited until church was completely over, follow the guy home & arrest him there. The guy was not a big time criminal, heard it was a dui/drug charge. They never came back. This same officer stopped my son & officer was a total jerk (I’ll keep language clean).
    Very spiritually draining ward. It’s like no one is in charge. It’s chaotic. We can’t move. My daughter who was attacked goes to another ward with her friends, thank goodness. People look down their noses at me & my family but my kids are the only ones who have turned out good from that entire ward, and I am not exaggerating nor boasting. Just telling it like it is. With a few exceptions the whole Stake leaves a lot to be desired.

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