Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Whither the Sociality?  Part 2.

November 24th, 2017 by Bookslinger

(Part 1 here.)  I found this book in the $.75 bin at Goodwill.  This Land of Strangers: The Relationship Crisis That Imperils Home, Work, Politics, and Faith.   By Robert E. Hall.  $17.50 new at Amazon.  $6 used, including shipping. (G.: pray about whether you should get this.  I’m going to give this to our EQ president.)

Chapters one through ten describe the problem.  Chapters 11 and 12 describe, in general terms, what some organizations are doing.  Chapter 13 describes, in very general terms, what can be done, or should be done.

If you already understand how human relationships — family, work, faith, politics — have gone to heck in our society, you can skip directly to chapter 11, or to chapter 13 if you want the distillation of it all.  (G: go right to chapter 13.)

Chapter 13 is not a how-to.  It uses too many buzz-words, buzz-phrases, and wishy-washy touchy-feely mumbo-jumbo for me.  It allows too much to be read into it, or left out of it.  But then, I’m a tech-nerd, and firmly within the autism spectrum.

But somehow, I think perhaps with the Spirit’s aid, chapter 13 hit some chord. I recognized some eternal gospel principles in it about relationships.   Every paragraph, almost every sentence, triggered thought-chains of what it might mean, or how to implement it in regards to relationships among church members. Chapter 13 was difficult to finish because it kept sending my mind hither and yon.

Wow. This author gets it.

I started to see mental pictures of how societal culture has eaten away at church culture.  

The Lord is always right. The Brethren are always right.  Nothing I write here should be taken as countering what they teach us and tell us to do.  That said, at the rank-and-file level,  we have slowly morphed “church culture” (as practiced by the rank-and-file)  closer and closer to the dysfunctional culture of our surrounding society.

We have shifted attitudes, lifestyles, goals, and aspirations slowly away from what is optimum for saints.

We have, individually and collectively, lost much capacity for proper relationships. We can’t find time or motivation for home-teaching visits. We bury our noses in electronic devices instead of paying attention to sacrament speakers or class teachers. Boys and girls don’t know how to date, and have lost motivation to date.

We’ve lost the social skills that make up the vast part of sharing the gospel with friends and neighbors. We actually have less friends, and we don’t even talk to our neighbors.

Unfortunately, rank-and-file Mormons have long conflated the dominant culture of church members with the gospel itself.  This is as bad as, perhaps far worse, than the normal tendency of people to think that what “everyone does” is “normal/good.”

What author Hall has opened my eyes to is that the “relationship crisis” that has leaked from general society into the church needs to be dealt with.   In fact, now I see how church policy has evolved in the last 15 years or so for exactly that!  IE, Ward Councils, and the like, that actually implement the buzz-words Hall is talking about.

“Relational Leadership” is Hall’s main buzz-word.  And that perfectly describes “The Savior’s Way”.  Mainly “come follow me”, but much more that actually builds both the leader and the follower and their ties/relationship.

I had thought-chains envisioning that, and it was a much better scenario than an EQ pres authoritatively  saying “Brethren, do your home teaching.”

Is your interaction with fellow ward members limited to HT/VT visits, and your/their other callings?  If so, read this book, or at least chapter 13.

Comments (19)
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November 24th, 2017 22:13:47

November 25, 2017

I (and my family) may be an outlier, but I feel that we’re pretty well-connected, not only to our church society, but to our neighborhood at large – despite living in an extremely transient area right next to a college.
A few examples:
My father has a special gift for finding and befriending the people who don’t quite fit in, though he has an impressive network of regular folks as well. We can’t go anywhere in town without meeting SOMEONE he knows.
My mother is the same, though her network has more people from the ward and stake in it. She has a bit of a knack for taking VT assignments and turning them into real friendships.
I go to a YSA ward, and although there are certainly some problems with socializing, there are times when the bishop has to get up and tell people to quiet down before sacrament meeting starts. Often after the block at least a few people will stick around for 30-45 minutes just talking to each other.
Basically, we’re probably not normal, but all of my family can walk down a street in any direction from our house and know that we could greet at least one or two people who’d say hello back – mostly from our ward and stake, but also just neighbors.

November 25, 2017

E.C., Great! Now replicate that among as many other people as you can.
Your Stake president (well, the Lord too) needs as many people like your father and mother as possible in every ward.

November 26, 2017

Actually, funny story – a few months back my dad said that some young couple with several kids in tow came to visit the family ward, and told him that we’d been quite an inspiration to them, as a family. He didn’t even remember their names, but they sure remembered ours. Hopefully there are more out there . . .

November 26, 2017

We had a great EQ lesson today. It ended up (at the teacher’s instance, not mine) as a discussion about one of my hobby horses, the fact that Mormon men isolate themselves too much from male friendship. I got the chance to complain about my least favorite Church ad, the one where the dad gives up his bowling night so his girls can dress him up in curlers.

There was some concrete talk at the end about things we need to do to hang out more.

Apparently there’s a Facebook post that’s making the rounds about this. The teacher read quite a bit from it. It even mentions my wistful complaint about how Mormon men can’t “go get some beers.” Anyone seen it?

John Mansfield
November 27, 2017

Mrs. Mansfield and I were discussing sociality in the LDS church, spurred by recent, separate instances of mothers who say their children don’t feel connected to our ward. My take on it is that we are about three decades into a deliberate move by church leaders to pare down the social elements of the church, to concentrate on what only the church can do, proclaiming the gospel and other explicitly religious ministry. Instead of joining together for softball and dances, we are directed to be attentive to our families and to participate in our communities. The church moved very slowly to follow this direction, but the last fifteen years the concept has taken hold. Maybe counter-correction will be needed at some point.

November 27, 2017

I saw that FB post. I am not sure what to make of it. My experience with Mormon men not socializing has been that most of them are just too tired to want to do anything with the guys. My best relationships with LDS guys have been in working together in callings. I think we need purpose to our friendships like that. At the same time, I am not sure many men feel the need to have a best friend outside of their family.

John Mansfield
November 27, 2017

Three Sundays ago, a phrase that kept running through my mind with force was “live together in love.” Mrs. Mansfield and I had quite unexpectedly learned two days before that that her months are numbered unless it is her blessing to be spared. There were several people we had to tell personally so that they wouldn’t learn this by rumor. It is a strange task to intentionally make people tear with sadness because you know that they would rather be sad than oblivious.

“Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.” (D&C 42:45) The work of that comes before the need of it, developing the sociality so that mourning with those that mourn is an automatic consequence of our existing relations and not a piece of work that we pick up to do when circumstances call for it.

When I went to the Relief Society room to find my wife and walk with her to the bishop’s office where our son would be ordained a priest, I couldn’t see her. One woman saw me searching about, and pointed to her. She was surrounded by several women. The comparison of the women of the church with angels has usually seemed a little sappy to me, but it aptly fit what entered my view and the support they have rendered us.

As I dealt with a couple sleepless weeks, away from work, with hours of each day in the hospital and others at home standing in for an industrious woman, one of many aids given me was five of my fellows in the priesthood clearing my lot of fallen leaves on a Saturday morning.

November 27, 2017

God be with you and yours. If there is any way we can stand with you in support, let us know on the backchannel email list or here in the comments.

November 28, 2017

JM: Dittos to what G wrote.

“… we are about three decades into a deliberate move by church leaders to pare down the social elements of the church, to concentrate on what only the church can do…”

Agreed. Yet, spontaneous interaction/fellowshipping has not adequately/sufficiently replaced programmed interaction/fellowshipping. Maybe this is just a local phenomenon, but in PH opening exercises, EQ, and youth nights, people don’t sit next to each other, but rather spread out as far as possible, as strangers on a bus. A visitor would likely conclude that we either don’t like each other, or we are indeed strangers.

I can understand why people would want to avoid me. But what I see among others is not a group shunning an individual, but rather each individual (most, not all) isolating himself.

Here’s an interesting observation and suggestion: Most adults in the midwest are wider than the folding chairs or stacking-padded chairs we use in chapel/gym overflow and classrooms. (We have about a 33% adult obesity rate in the midwest. Plus us macho guys tend to be broad-shouldered.)

If you set up chairs so they are touching each other (side to side), most adults then have to leave an empty chair between each other, unless it’s your spouse or child; because either your shoulders or hips (whichever is wider) is jammed against the other person.

If you let kids (or most adults) set up chairs unsupervised, they will set up the chairs so they are touching.

But if you leave two handwidths between chairs, then adults can sit next to each other without body contact. They don’t have to leave empty chairs between people, and therefore people will actually sit closer if the chairs are a few inches apart as opposed to chairs abutting side to side. And you also don’t have to set up as many chairs, as you won’t need a whole chair for buffer zones between adults.

As a professional lecturer, BC can probably chime in about the effect of having students spread out in a wide span. Too wide a span means less eye contact, and therefore less interaction between teacher and students.

Paul Mouritsen
November 29, 2017

Another problem is that at ward dinners, the cleanup committee is so eager to get on with the job that they start folding up the tables and chairs before most of us have taken our last bite.

Carter Craft
November 29, 2017

When I was in school, I attended seminary and boyscouts with the other youth in my branch. There were only three of us. We did everything together. Not only did we go to camps and other scouting activities together, as well as Church functions and conferences, but we spent time together outside of those things. I would go shopping with them, or hang out around their house, or they would come over to my place and we’d share video games and the like. I even went with them when they visited family sometimes.

This stopped completely when we graduated from seminary and grew out of scouting. I haven’t spoken to them outside of Church in ages. We live next door to each other.

My experience with my classmates in high school was similar; no contact at all once we graduated. The main difference is I was never that close to anyone high school to start with.

I feel as if adults just don’t have a reason to spend time with each other; you either make those connections as a child, or through your own children.

I wish I had kids. I could drive them to sleep overs or camping trips, then meet their friends’ parents. That sounds nice.

November 29, 2017

Carter, yikes. That sounds exactly like Hall’s book “Land of Strangers.” I recommend it for you.

November 29, 2017


“they start folding up the tables and chairs before most of us have taken our last bite”

That’s one way of dealing with high obesity rates. : )

November 30, 2017

@Paul Mouritsen,
one ward, we had semi-monthly ward potlucks after church, and the bishop wouldn’t let anything but the most necessary clean up happen. All the take down had to happen during the week. The result was everyone stayed around talking longer.

November 30, 2017

you have put your finger on a real problem. My ward has an adults-only volleyball night. Maybe I should start going.

Ivan Wolfe
November 30, 2017

Volleyball night? I might go for that. My ward does a Basketball night, but frankly the behavior of Mormon men (or men in general) while playing basketball drives me away from that activity.

naked rat
November 30, 2017

It seems like us menfolk don’t bond just because we’re men (like them women seem to do). I’ve found that I make friends with whomever I work with, or do some activity with. Since I do nothing with old friends from school, I am no longer an active friend despite their proximity.

First a fellow laborer, then a friend.

December 1, 2017

Paraphrased from a recent JrG post

“One God spoke with a voice like the rushing of great waters. “Lets play Volleyball””

December 12, 2017

This past Sunday I found out about the new format for Priesthood/Relief Society lessons. The monthly “council” format addresses this very issue. Local decisions for the other lessons also fit Hall’s suggested solutions.

It almost sounds as if the Brethren were reading Hall. Or else were inspired by the same source.

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