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.

Crickets.

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.

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18 Responses

  1. lws329 says:

    I really empathize with your journey. I am also uncomfortable with the talks at church. Often talks sound like members have climbed the Rameumpton stand to congratulate themselves for being better than inactives and nonmembers. Other times it feels like members in authority are trying to tell me how to think and live without really understanding how different each situation can be.

    As I got older things happened in my life that didn’t match the narrative I was taught all my life. It’s complicated and hard to explain to people that haven’t yet been told by their children that they just don’t believe, or want to believe in the church.

    As time went on I came to fully accept my children’s choices and to know that they are each where they need to be in their unique journey. I have received spiritual affirmation that we can still count them as part of our beloved family, now and in the future.

    I believe members of the church are misguided when they imagine that by doing certain things like family home evening every week, they can guarantee certain outcomes. This transactional approach to faith is antiChrist in my opinion. In Alma 30:17 we are told Korihor taught it was people’s own management that made their lives turn out.

    In reality, we are in a mortal experience and part of the basic terms is it is uncontrolled, what may happen to us. We can receive comfort and guidance from God on how to deal with our situations, but no guarantees of outcomes.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  2. nicolesbitani says:

    Your post is so beautifully written, and I love your use of metaphors. The line “but with my shoulder pressed firmly against the wheel, I had a remarkable capacity to ignore the stones in my shoes…” will stick with me for a while.

  3. Wendy says:

    A deeply moving post, Anonymous. You wrote so poignantly wrote about the freedom, hope, and life-giving energy available in embodying one’s truth. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  4. Lavender says:

    Ah. Yes. Thank you for sharing your beautiful journey with us.

  5. Beth Somerton Young says:

    They are thousands of us doing the quiet quitting. I think the church will hit a tipping point where all of those important service opportunites won’t automatically be handled. Where leaders will have to wake up to the toxic culture that we have and do something to correct it. I believe many more people will learn that leaders don’t have their best interests in mind, so it’ll be up to each of us to know when and how to serve. I spend a lot of time volunteering in three major areas of importance to me, and I find it easier to serve there and way more joy-filled. I no longer serve “under the direction of the priesthood.” It is nothing personal against any particular leader, but they seem to have small ideas of how women can serve the Lord. So I follow the Lord, not men and I highly recommend it.

  6. Lily says:

    My challenges are different than yours but I could tell the same story. I feel like I have broken my back for 55 year to serve in the Church and now that I need some real help its crickets.

  7. rlcpd says:

    Hello. I am not a Mormon but I have followed the ‘happenings’ in Mormonism for a couple decades or more…..I am not familiar with using the term ‘Crickets’…but I can guess. What are you gals saying when you say ‘Crickets’. ? thanks. and praise your willingness to speak out and share.

    • Angela C says:

      It’s not a Mormon phrase. It’s just colloquial to refer to silence as the sound of crickets chirping. She’s saying that nobody responded to her statements about having difficulty after decades of service.

  8. Elisa says:

    Do you think this is more common with women than men? Curious because I actually did a post about this last week and hypothesized that it’s happening with women, but I don’t have data – just my own observations. Lots of stories about quiet quitting in the comments over there too. I’ll going to link to this.

    https://wheatandtares.org/2022/09/22/are-women-quiet-quitting-church/

  9. Angela C says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. I feel likewise, and I love the phrase “acting your wage.” Last I checked, all the money was going one way in this relationship, and so yeah, it’s time I started setting the rules and boundaries.

  10. Jenzi says:

    Elisa, is it possible that men are just quitting, not loudly or quietly? It seems like they have been doing so for a while, thus the lopsided numbers for the single adults.

  11. Elisa says:

    @jenzi I don’t want to derail this convo. I describe this more in the post I linked above. But the short answer is IMO those men are quitting completely … different than quiet quitting.

  12. Lori says:

    I just want to thank you for writing this so eloquently and say “amen” to all your words and all the comments. I relate so much to this experience you have described.

  13. Allemande Left says:

    It is so liberating to quietly quit on one’s own terms and not feel any guilt. I relate to many pieces of the post and Elisa’s. I suspect this has been going on for decades and that is why there are 16 million members on paper but a fraction in the pews. Now that I see more clearly, I empathize with others who were once active. I understand the bigger picture I did not see before.

  14. Danielle says:

    This resonated deeply.

    After almost 40 years of sacrifice and obedience to the Mormon church, I couldn’t do it anymore. (Church history, sexism, misused power… it felt unbearable)

    They quickly gave my husband a place in the Sunday school presidency, a spot at ward council to keep him in the church.
    No one cared that I left, no one wanted to discuss the church issues that hurt me, my leaving seemingly made no impact I decided to resign via quit mormon.com.

    It was very clear that women are not valued in the Mormon church.

  15. JC says:

    “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.”

    There is truth here. We are still restoring. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt and that mistakes aren’t being made. I’ve had extended family and friends of mine quietly quit church. I’ve contemplated doing it so many times over the years, but feel that it’s where I need to be right now. We’re all on different paths and journeys in life, and each of them are valid whether we’re active in church or not. At some point, you have to say, “I will follow God’s plan for ME as an individual” and do it, no matter what anyone else says.

    I’m glad you’ve found yourself again. I hope you’re enjoying getting to know her.

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