I’ve completely failed at being inactive.

by Kelly Ann

Last week, late on Saturday evening, I received a phone call from my Bishop.  The message and prior email sent earlier in the day that I had missed said something to the effect of “I need to talk to you.  Preferably before church tomorrow morning.  Can you be here at 9:15?”  For some reason, I said yes.

Already planning to bike to church in the morning, I set my alarm clock even earlier to make sure that not only would I be on time but that I would have a few minutes to catch my breath.  As I sat on the soft chair outside the Bishop’s office in the nice slacks I wear to church (rather than dealing with a skirt when biking), I heard an occasional word through the wall that suggested the Bishopric were talking about callings.  However, I was not nervous until the Bishop opened the door for the high councilor, who had knocked to belatedly join their meeting, and then told the rest of the Bishopric “‘Kelly Ann’ is already here.  I’m going to step out for a minute.”

Given I recently told the Bishop I’d be game for more responsibility, having first succumbed at the beginning of the year to join the activities committee after the chair asked for my help despite recognizing me from the Exponent blog and my insistence I was laying low, I felt another more involved calling was in the shadows.

But I figured I was pretty safe.  I have been completely open with my Bishop, my former institute teacher, about my spiritual journey over the past couple years.  He knows I snapped after Prop8 passed.  I have felt it important to convey to him (and to the Stake President, who I also consider a friend) the anguish, frustrations, and ways I have deviated from traditional Mormonism since then.  He knows that after I ripped my temple recommend in half and took my garments off the Saturday after the election, I didn’t take the sacrament for over a year for lack of belief.  I have detailed my list of issues and even copied him on parts of my Exponent posts, as I have never intended on hiding behind my penname which I use for professional reasons.  He knows that I don’t like Joseph Smith and think the church is sexist.  But as a good friend, he has made me feel welcome whatever my level of participation or belief.  And as I have reestablished my ties to the community and rebuilt some of my beliefs, he has listened to my continual questions and perspective.

So as we sat in the small primary chairs in a room down the hall from his office, while I thought I might be asked to do something that day, or get a small complimentary calling to the activities committee, I did not anticipate the following conversation.

He proceeded to tell me that the Relief Society president had called him on Friday and felt impressed that I should fill an unexpectant impending vacancy as secretary.  His response was that “it was a brilliant idea”, that I could “reach those who might otherwise feel marginalized”.  However, he then proceeded to give me an out, telling me he understood if I  didn’t accept, that it was a lot of work and a huge commitment.  I told him I knew, that I had been secretary before, but it was an important calling.  So with wide eyes, he looked at me and said “so you’ll accept?”  And for some reason, I said yes.

The calling is either completely inspired or the leadership is completely out of their mind.  As am I.

When I stood to be sustained confidently wearing my slacks and suit jacket, I could see the expressions of some of my friends.  I’m pretty sure they think I am out of my mind.  But it felt good to see everyone raise their hands in affirmation and later to be set apart.  Even as the meeting included testimonies of some things I still don’t agree with, I do feel that the calling is inspired and that it will be interesting and something I can do.  I feel like I can continually hash out my issues, not being required to teach anything I don’t believe, while making a good contribution to the Relief Society as a member of the presidency – as scary as that sounds!

And it makes me incredibly happy to feel that my voice is valued.  In my blessing following being set apart by a member of the Bishopric who I don’t know, I was told that my voice and perspective were needed, that I would be able to reach out to people in an unique way.  I was later told by the Bishop that while some callings might be less inspired than others, there was no question in his mind, that God wanted me now for some reason or he wouldn’t have asked.  The Relief Society President has kept expressing to me how happy she is I accepted and how much I am needed.  I hope this is true.  I hope I won’t regret this.

So quite frankly I have completely failed at being inactive!  But I don’t seem to mind.  I even seem to be enjoying my first week of responsibilities.

That’s my story for now.

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21 Responses

  1. NG says:

    Good for you. I remain convinced that silly traditions that don’t have much to do with the Gospel Christ taught won’t change unless there are people in the church who want them to change and who include their perspective in what’s taught on Sunday. Relief Society is an excellent place to start.

  2. James says:

    Great post, but you should have titled this post “Just Say Yes.” Fascinating in context of mraynes recent (also very good) post.

  3. EmilyCC says:

    I can’t wait to hear more of your spiritual journey, Kelly Ann. It’s always neat to hear the unexpected twists and turns our lives take. And, I love this quote: “The calling is either completely inspired or the leadership is completely out of their mind. As am I.”

    I feel this way most of the time when I get a new calling 🙂

  4. Kelly Ann says:

    EmilCC, this is a big twist for sure! I am grateful I have found this community to share my spiritual journey with. I wouldn’t be the same with out. And this feels like a good risk to take.

    NG, The thing I love about my ward is that there is already a variety of voices willing to speak up to a certain extent. I hope I will be one more unique voice heard in the choir, so to speak. I also look forward to the opportunity to just truly serve the sisters as there are a lot of needs in our ward. I am grateful for the trust the leadership is putting in me.

    James, thank you for the compliment. However, while I recognize that this post stands in an interesting context to mraynes’ “just say no” (even though I wrote most of it before), I don’t like your proposed title of “just say yes.”

    While I said yes, I don’t think everyone should. I really admire the secretary I’m replacing who asked to be released for personal reasons. I admire others who say no when trust is not put in them. I feel incredibly lucky to have confidence put in my abilities and the feeling of being wanted. But if that were to change, I would have to reevaluate. I really appreciated mraynes’ post.

    I believe it comes down to a individual’s decision. I said yes because right now I feel it is inspired. I just want to tell my story and share my hope that there is room for everybody at the table. And for now, that involved saying yes for me.

  5. James says:

    I agree completely – my suggestion had a little tongue in cheek, which rarely reads well on blogs, I’ve found. The contrast between the two wasn’t compelling in terms of a simple “Yes-No” dichotomy, but more from the really nuanced interpersonal and spiritual factors that often (or at least should) go into accepting or declining a calling. There can be great courage in either decision, as both you and mraynes articulated well.

  6. Kelly Ann says:

    James, thanks for clarifying. The contrast in that regard is compelling. It is nice that we have a space here where multiple voices can be heard. And it is interesting that even if not a simple “yes-no” dichotomy, that two contrasting stories get told so close together.

    And on a side note, yes there is a difference between written and spoken humor. I get myself in trouble for it all the time.

  7. berzerkcarrottop says:

    I hope you didn’t think my expression was that I thought you were out of your mind – more like angry that you won’t be on my activities committee anymore!! (But they did give me a warning call that morning so it wasn’t out of the blue.)

    I laughed out loud at your title but had tears in my eyes by the end. You’ll do an awesome job, our ward needs your voice, and when you get tired of it, you are always welcome back on the activities committee!

  8. djinn says:

    What a wonderful post! I’m so glad that Mormonism is open to not just a narrow sliver of some presumed orthodoxy but a wide variety of us. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me, there is a place for you, you are valued; there is a place for more than I thought–a very bad error (sin?) on my part. Just wonderful.

  9. mb says:

    I like this post. You express yourself well. Thanks.

  10. Clean Cut says:

    ” I just want to tell my story”

    I’m so glad you did! A wonderfully well written post and a beautiful story. This stranger supports you 100%.

    And as an aside, I’d be completely fascinated by a post on your rebuilt beliefs. I too am still trying to figure out what I do and don’t believe.

  11. Deborah says:

    Oh, I loved reading this. Seems inspired on so many levels. Congratulations to your ward — and to your bishop and RS prez for recognizing what you will offer, for seeing your questions and spiritual path as a STRENGTH instead of a deficit in serving the women of your ward. It reminds me of vision of Zion in 4th Nephi, a place that lets go of the “ites” that divide them. . .

  12. Sterling Fluharty says:

    Awesome. Sometimes I am glad that when callings come we can’t see how things will turn out. Just imagine all of the surprises we would miss out on. Can’t wait to hear how this plays out in our new position.

  13. Kelly Ann says:

    Berzerkcarrottop, thank you for your support and for making me feel welcome in general! I am glad they gave you some warning… It is good to know that I would be welcome back. After a long day yesterday, it was interesting to have the fight the desire to sleep in this morning, knowing that I had things I had to do … As for my title though, I have never really been good at being inactive ;-p I am glad this brought a smile to your face.

    Deborah, recognizing my questioning to be a strength has been one of the single most important things for me personally. It is awesome for me that the leadership recognizes this as well. I do believe they are both inspired. It was also nice to meet again with the RS president today, who in training, re-emphasized to me that she needed my perspective as an experienced member, a single sister, a working woman, a young individual, someone without children, and a questioner. It is nice that she recognizes everything I bring to the table.

    Djinn, I too did not appreciate the diversity that can exist. I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that the orthodoxy is really just presumed for the most part. I wish more people were open about that fact though so that we would not have –ites as Deborah says.

    Mb and CleanCut, thank you for the compliment. In telling this story, I actually thought a lot about how to frame it. For one, it helps me process it but I am also becoming more conscious of the readership that I have within the ward and that the details and wording are therefore more important. I am glad my experience has been well received.

    And yes, Sterling, I think the most interesting thing will be how this continues to play out. I suspect plenty of surprises are in store.

    So CleanCut, while I am most looking forward, I am aware that there is a lot I can say (for others and myself) about all the steps I have taken to get to where I am at. I will try to compose this into a later post. It has been difficult for me in that it is an ongoing process.

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    Congratulations on the new calling. I think that your being open and communicative with your bishop is exactly what made it possible for him to receive this inspiration. He knows you and he can sense ways in which your voice and perspective will be a gift to your ward family.

  15. Paul says:

    Thanks for your post. Thanks also for your observation that your bishop is a friend (he probably appreciates that, as well; I’m glad he is one).

    As for inspired or out of their minds — I’m rooting for inspired. Sounds like you are, too.

  16. kevinr says:

    Kelly Ann, welcome to the world that so many of us “blogging lurkers” live in relative to the church. I believe in some things, I keep going because of many social and familial reasons, but I don’t believe in so many other things and yet I still can’t completely disengage and be inactive. I wish there were more people like you, though, that would assert themselves and be open about their feelings and their beliefs, but, like me, too many are “lurking” instead of standing up to be counted. Thank you for your courage and, most certainly, you’ll be an asset if the Relief Society isn’t doing this “calling” as “project”, and it certainly sounds like everything is being done sincerely.

  17. Kelly Ann says:

    Kevin Barney, I like your statement that “I think that your being open and communicative with your bishop is exactly what made it possible for him to receive this inspiration.” I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I believe it is true. He sees the potential because he understands where I am at. However, not having all the same conversations with the Relief Society President, whose idea it originally was, makes me think about what inspired her. Although given her husband is one of the more outspoken “doubters,” I think she has had her eye on me for awhile. When I was sustained to the activities committee, she congratulated me afterwards with a definitive look as she said “Although I didn’t think you were available.” My answer was that I had told the activities chair the same but she asked for me anyways, and for some reason I said yes. So I guess she finally saw her chance …

    Paul, thanks for your support. Being friends with the Bishop and many others in the church, has been important to my journey and I believe they all appreciate that. I hope others can find similar friendships. It has helped me be comfortable whereas previously I was not with other leaders. I have had the luxury of hopping to a place that has been accepting. And while I like to think I am pretty open with everyone now, there are still people with whom I don’t speak my mind. And sometimes I think I should, but than I decide against it. I pray for my inspiration to be able to know I continually walk the right line while striving to be more transparent.

    Kevinr, so while I do lean towards being open, I can’t claim that I always am nor believe I always should be. I do hope that more lurkers will feel comfortable voicing themselves if they want. A couple years ago, I felt gagged. I didn’t discuss my doubts and questions for fear of being perceived apostate. I don’t want anyone else to feel that. I am grateful for the various online forums that allow discussion that will hopefully spill over in various forms of voice.

    And Stephen, thank you too for your support. Everyone’s encouragement really does give me even more confidence.

  18. A Francis Chisolm says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful and sincere post. It reflects the quality of conversation that is a hallmark of this site. I am moved by the maturity that comes through in your description of how you have faced this as well as other decisions that have come to you. I am also pleased to hear that the primary inspiration for this calling came, not from the Bishop, but from the one who has the responsibility for the RS organization — the RS President. Which is as it should be.

  19. Hillary says:

    I find your spiritual journey so honest and interesting. I applaud you for not forcing yourself into a one-size-fits-all box. You do what you believe, what feels right, and what works for you. I do think that your calling as the RS secretary will benefit the sisters of your ward immeasurably. I think it’s important to have differing viewpoints and non-cookie-cutter people from which others can learn and some can relate (when perhaps they felt they had no friends or no like-minded sisters).

    I know that for me, my calling as a RS teacher strengthened my testimony. I love the opportunity I have to try to broaden and enrich my fellow sisters’ thoughts. I like pushing them beyond the tired, same old answers people have been giving since primary. I like that I can add my own twist to things, and leave out parts that make me uncomfortable for whatever reason.

    Please keep us updated on how your calling goes!

  20. Kelly Ann says:

    A Francis Chisolm, thank you for the compliment. My journey has definitely been maturing for me and I am glad that has come across.

    In writing this post, I felt it important to convey the RS President’s inspiration and role even though the story involves the Bishop. While I am grateful for my interactions with him, and I am not sure that my response would have been the same otherwise, I have been thinking a lot about how I wish the RS President could have directly extended me the calling.

    Hilary, thank you as well for your kind words and sharing your experience. I hope mine will be similar. I will keep people updated.

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