Guest Post: Quiet Quitting Church
Guest Post by Makanoe.Makanoe eats, thinks, and reads too much. Occasionally, she also cleans house and writes. But mostly eats.
Reading the headlines, I realize I’ve been quiet quitting church for a while now. Ward members might say I’ve lost my testimony, that I didn’t really understand the gospel, that I’ve been seduced by the philosophies of men and have wandered off the covenant path.
None of this is true.
The truth is sitting in church is just too painful. Instead of uplifting and filling my lamp with oil, church exhausts me. I wait, teeth clenched, for the next stone to be thrown as members congratulate themselves, virtue signaling their alignment with God.
It feels very performative and less than what Christ would have us do.
Like many active members today, there was a time when church was my life. God expected sacrifice, obedience, and submission—the Law of Consecration made that clear. Naturally, this can cause discomfort as you give up good things for better. There’s no glory without cost.
I didn’t go on vacations, spend time boating or camping with family on Sundays, or look too closely at job opportunities that would have taken me away from my family and ward. God needed me to be his hands in all things—and that work was never done.
There were always meals to bring in, committees to serve on, refreshments to bake, camps to coordinate, lessons to teach, genealogy to research, and people to visit. It wasn’t unusual for me or my husband to spend twenty hours or more a week as God’s hands.
Of course there were things even back then that chaffed. Sticky doctrinal points that didn’t jibe with my experiences and quite a few church policies, but with my shoulder pressed firmly against the wheel, I had a remarkable capacity to ignore the stones in my shoes, the weight of unacknowledged burdens, the imperfections of people.
It was six years ago that my son, then a freshman at BYU Provo, told me he was bi and wouldn’t be going on a mission. My bright, intelligent son who loved Christ and the gospel more than anyone I knew, suddenly had no place in our faith. I stood up from the wheel and really took in the view.
In those six years, I’ve studied, prayed, volunteered in the temple, and listen, listen, listened for answers—and they came. As I heard that still, small, undeniable voice, I understood that these revelations were mine, meant only for me and my family, but they gave me hope. God isn’t finished organizing his church yet. Patience, patience, patience, the voice counseled. I got this. I planned for this. It’s going to be all right.
Six years later, my son is very happy, living with a boyfriend several states away and no longer active in church. He’s thinking about weddings and adoption. Even my husband, Mr. Traditional, sees the difference in our son’s countenance as he navigates successfully through the world as his true self. Where he was once a bundle of dysfunctional anxiety and depression, he’s bright again.
But back to quiet quitting church.
A while ago, I stood up in fast and testimony meeting and said that I was going through the toughest time I’d ever experienced and that it was overwhelmingly hard. The ward knew about our on-going challenges with aging parents and in-laws as we supported them through multiple strokes, rehab stays, cancer, cognitive decline, and Parkinson’s. To be fair, they did not know that my husband had also lost his job, that our son was dating a guy, that I had serious health troubles of my own, that our missionary daughter had seen people shot, that I was in the middle of a faith crisis, or the myriad other major life events that were crashing down on us like piles of bricks. But I did say I was struggling mightily.
From a ward I’d been highly active in for over twenty years.
That was the start of my quiet quitting, although I didn’t consciously think that at the time. I asked to be released from my calling in Young Women’s because of the time commitment and simply stopped saying yes to everything else. I spent time with non-LDS family and mended broken bridges and hurt feelings. I went on long trips and didn’t worry about who would teach my classes or minister to my families. I spent less time in the pews and more time in contemplation and study, Marie Kondo-ing each aspect of my faith to see if it still served.
What, I asked myself, is the least I can do and still be worthy to be with my return missionary daughter when she’s eventually sealed in the temple? How do I mother two very different children? And what, exactly, do I want my life to include? What feeds my soul? My focus had been as a wife and mother because I thought God demanded that of me. Is that what I still wanted?
My life was a backpack that I’d never emptied and now was bursting at the seams. I’d reached the point in my mortal journey where things had to change—things left, added, or shifted and the bag repacked—or I wasn’t going to make it.
There’s another component to quiet quitting a job: acting your wage. I started experimenting with what my real responsibilities were and discovered that church was perfectly fine without me. Lessons got taught, meals were made, committees served.
Church, however, was not perfectly fine without my husband who continued to attend and serve regardless of whether or not I went with him. It’s his quiet way of affirming what feeds his soul.
Crickets on that from the ward too, by the way.
From emptying my backpack I learned that I’m the same person wearing garments or not, going to every church meeting or not, wearing my wedding ring or not. It didn’t matter if I was continually worried that I’m not sacrificing or suffering enough or was just comfortable waiting for the day’s requirements to reveal themselves. I’m still honest in my dealings, faithful to my husband, an engaged mother to both kids, concerned about the well-being of my neighbors, and have charity in my heart. I’m figuring out how to be a disciple of Christ in a way that makes sense to me within and without the church.
I know my quiet quitting of church is a transitory coping mechanism. It’s not sustainable because neither church nor I are geared that way. But maybe instead of forcing myself back onto the hamster wheel of faith that I thought God expected of me, I can find a new way to serve that allows me to be all in without losing myself.
I kinda missed her all these years.