Posted by Apame
What would a church designed by and for introverts look like?
A few things I thought of (and immediately started having church-envy about) that would make sense for me:
* The only scheduled meeting would be on Sunday for sacrament.
* There would be time after that meeting for socializing or sharing in a cosy room: comfortable armchairs around tables in small groups, simple refreshments (herbal tea, cheese/vegetables), quiet music playing in background.
*The church building itself would be more about being aesthetically pleasing than utilitarian (logical if the only scheduled meeting is sacrament).
* The church would be open for meditation and prayer at any time.
* All meetings with the (hired) pastor/bishop would be initiated by the congregant.
That sounds like heaven to me.
Also, no arbitrarily assigned home/visiting teachers to dutifully pretend to care about you once a month.
There would be time after that meeting for socializing or sharing in a cosy room: comfortable armchairs around tables in small groups, simple refreshments (herbal tea, cheese/vegetables), quiet music playing in background.
The church building itself would be more about being aesthetically pleasing than utilitarian (logical if the only scheduled meeting is sacrament).
There would be time after that meeting for socializing or sharing in a cosy room: comfortable armchairs around tables in small groups, simple refreshments (herbal tea, cheese/vegetables), quiet music playing in background.
The church building itself would be more about being aesthetically pleasing than utilitarian (logical if the only scheduled meeting is sacrament).
I’m not super introverted, but I’m two hundred percent on board with both of these.
A fascinating thought question, which can go in two different directions: would we want to cater to an introvert’s sensibilities, or would we want to help her to socialize in ways that might be challenging to her? Or would it be a mixture of both approaches, and if so, why would some issues go one way and others the other?
“Would we want to help her to socialize in ways that might be challenging to her?”
Kevin, you bring up my impetus for the question right here. I recently finished reading the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts” which explores the various ways we as a culture have made extroversion the norm and introversion a social failing. The author argues (persuasively and well, I’d say) that this is a false dichotomy: many introverts are very social people, they just do it in a different way that is difficult for extroverts to understand or appreciate.
One of the chapters briefly touches on how most American religious congregations are designed to enhance “the norm” of extroversion — often framing introverted congregants’ discomfort as simply a challenge to help them work through their social issues (“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” the extroverts helpfully yell in their completely comfortable us-them viewing platform). However, the author interviews a few introverted pastors who suggest that the onus shouldn’t be on congregants to conform to an extroverted religious model and that we should explore ways to validate the benefits of introvertedness in religious settings.
Hence my question.
If we can choose to see introvertedness not as a social disability but as an alternative (and, perhaps even a better) way of creating community and spirituality, what would that look like?
And, I think it goes without saying that Mormonism is the Extroverted Extrovert’s church.
This is a great question, Apame. I completely agree that the Church is designed by extroverts, for extroverts.
Andi already mentioned this, but as an introvert, I’ve had a difficult time with home teaching. I’m not good at approaching people I don’t know and asking to visit them. Repeatedly.
I love the idea of a chapel or church space available for prayer and meditation. Especially at this time of year I could really go for a little more contemplation and a little less frenetic activity–although I don’t know that that’s exactly an introvert preference, since I suspect Melyngoch, our family’s extravert, would share it.
I eagerly await the advent of the introvert-friendly mission, although it might simply be impossible. Is there an activity more introvert-aversive than proselytizing?
I read and loved “Quiet” and better understand my extreme introversion (always score at the far edge of the introversion scale on tests) due to it.
My brand of introversion seems to be very different from Apame’s and other early commenters. I love public speaking, including Sacrament Meeting talks and class teaching, and your “introvert’s church” would give me even less opportunity for that than I have now. Also, the socializing described here would be a hellish nightmare for me! Having to make small talk with virtual strangers (and they would be — my ward members and every other society of which I’m a part are strangers now, and that wouldn’t change)! every week? in a purely social setting without any framework or purpose? Horror! I wouldn’t last the second Sunday in a torture camp like that!
My natural inclination tends to extreme hermit-like living, yet I do occasionally need direct human contact. I find much of what I need through the Church now, where I can sit in a congregation without having to speak (it’s weird, isn’t it, how I can love to speak when I have a particular role to fill, but never want to speak as a class member?). I have almost never, and will almost never, initiate an approach to a stranger, but I don’t usually mind being approached, and welcome the assignment of home and visiting teachers for the very reason that they come to me with that occasionally necessary human contact without my having to invite them, and regardless of whether or not they actually like me.
So an introvert’s church for me would not be greatly different in structure than the existing one. Such a church would, though, not equate fellowship with mindless chatter and the hugging of strangers. It would allow me to sit in the chapel listening to prelude music and getting centered for the service without the constant shrieks of delight and the reaching over of benches to touch me because the RS secretary thinks it’s part of her job to “get to know me” this way. Ward socials and other activities would have some structure — some type of entertainment, perhaps, or formal program — beyond the mindless chatter, so that I could be *with* people without wanting to run screaming into the night to escape their small talk.
And I’d get to speak in Sacrament Meeting once in a while.
“Such a church would, though, not equate fellowship with mindless chatter and the hugging of strangers.”
Yes! I think you bring up good points–I also don’t think we are as different as my original list may have led you to believe.
Like you, I love public speaking and, at least in my mind, Sacrament Meeting would be an hour of well-prepared and thoughtful talks from congregants. (And I think Sunday Schoolish hours are up for grabs in my worldview. I’m on the fence as to their introvertedness-friendliness)
And, I also have an oft-occurring horror of unstructured socializing — though I do occasionally crave a bit. That’s why I added the whole after-church social chat time thing. In my mind, though, there was no social expectation to attend–it was just an option for those who may want to talk to someone they know or would like to know. I guess I added it as a way to provide that social opportunity to the various introverts who would want a way to talk in small groups, but get rid of the whole expectation of attendance/echoy void of a cultural hall thing.
And I also love your idea of ward activities having structure or a formal program. In my brainstorm with my husband this morning I landed on, “Something, like, where we go to a museum or a nature reserve and the leader says ‘Okay, here’s the tour guide, the tour will last x minutes, or you can go explore on your own. Afterwards, we’ll meet outside and go to x cafe for x minutes. And then we will go home.”
Wouldn’t something like that be…just…I don’t know…such a *relief*?! (I just get a huge sensation of relief just thinking about it. I think it’s just the feeling of having no anxiety. How nice.)
And Eve– I would love to see what an introvert-friendly mission would look like. Part of the reason I just never went was because the whole idea of proselyting felt so horribly horrible. I just wanted to go on a mission where I could simply teach English courses or spend every day doing service at a community center or shelter–and I wanted that sort of mission to “count” just as much as a proselyting one.
I love the idea of structured activities! I’ve currently been avoiding all activities in my ward due to the anxiety small talk creates. But I would like some socializing. I would love id we went somewhere and did something structured (like the museum tour you mentioned) where you didn’t have to stand around and chat so often. And that if there was, you’d have something to focus your conversation on. And leave out the “Team building” games from youth conferences that continue to haunt me in singles wards.
I like being in charge of my own space and level of interaction in church settings. So I like being able to sit in the back of a class or sit a few seats away from the next person if I need a little more space that day. I hate church classes in which you are crammed up against the people sitting next to you. I also like the ability to step out if I need a little break.
I went through several temple open houses before I was endowed. Since they were large, Utah, temples they had some landings and spaces that just included a few chairs and tables in front of stained-glass windows. I was really excited about the idea of being able to walk through the temple freely, or sitting in one of those little spaces to read scriptures and contemplate. The actual temple experience was very differnt from what I expected. I really struggled with feeling like I was locked in a room and that I was often forced to sit right next to people. I didn’t feel in charge of my own space and I didn’t feel like I was choosing my level and manner of engagement in the religious practice. I think that an introverted temple experience would allow the individual much more freedom and would not include mandated physical contact with other people.
I’m with Ardis! Social hour after Sacrament meeting- I”m so out of there! Small talk is my personal hell. Let me talk or teach and Make me visit teach so I can know others and possibly serve, because I would never just offer or inquire of someone i don’t know about their personal life!
Why not? “Borrowing” existing legends worked for all the other religions! Go for it!
In SS I make it a practice never to call on anyone unless she volunteers. That might limit the pool of participants somewhat, but a lot of people volunteer so it isn’t a problem. But I’ve known too many people who simply wouldn’t come to class if they thought there was even a risk of being called on there, and I want to make them feel comfortable so they don’t have to go sit in the foyer during SS time.
Years and years ago when I taught SS and RS, that was my practice as well, Kevin. There are all kinds of reasons a person might not want to be called on to read or comment or pray–dyslexia, social anxiety, performance anxiety, insecurity about gospel knowledge, crises of faith, complete and utter exhaustion from the sheer effort it took to get the kids to church or to finish the dissertation chapter the night before. Many times I’ve found myself in one or more of those categories and just haven’t felt up to contributing.
I’m glad you bring up the issue of teachers not calling on people who don’t volunteer in SS/RS/EQ, Kevin and Eve. A few years ago I was teaching RS and handed out quotes beforehand for different sisters to read aloud during the lesson. One of these women approached me afterward and told me that she had dyslexia and had never read a quote aloud in RS before, but she had been working to overcome her anxiety and had been willing to try that day. She read her quote without a hitch; I had no idea that she had dylsexia, and had never noticed that she didn’t usually volunteer to read in class. I’m glad that she got to choose to read at her own pace rather than feeling pressured into it, and it was a good lesson for me as a teacher to respect people’s need to be silent.
…and I’ve veered further and further off topic. Carry on.
Dances would be abolished as the One True Way way for singles to meet and get to know each other.
I hate them. Hate them hate them hate them. I also hate that me hating them is viewed as a deficiency on my part by extroverts and is supposed by them to an indication of my supposed lack of faith.
I just recently attended an endowment session in the Tokyo Temple. My entire experience there was much more reverent than in any North American temple I’ve attended. Approximately 60 or more were in attendance. Almost all waited for the endowment to begin with bowed heads and folded arms. I agree with Beatrice, how wonderful it would be to find a quiet space in the temple and truly meditate, something that westerners lack in their culture. Such a privilege would be eventually abused by someone in some way, which probably leads to our very structured and directed temple approach. At Buddhist, Shinto shrines and temples and temples, worship is personal and private for the most part, not conducted in manner that the Church does via a correlated, structured manner. I would greatly appreciate a change in the procedure, process at LDS temples.
Most compassionate service and other service projects now are aimed at extroverts: You show up at the announced time, without any preparation, and do some repetitive and ultra-low-skilled work, where the only engagement is to — wait for it — make social chatter with nearby strangers. After two hours you part, without any follow-up.
As an introvert I would prefer long-term service projects, ones that called for me to work regularly with the same peopley, so that I could get to know them while doing something that mattered — something more meaningful than nibbling desserts or dancing, something I could be involved with planning, or seeing through, or SOMEthing. Even if all we did was assemble hygiene kits, it would be more suitable for introverts if we worked with an ongoing team, and if we were involved in the planning and follow-through so we would have something to talk about besides pretending to be interested in the banal details of each other’s lives. (Where banal details are concerned, Facebook is an introvert’s dream. The “like” button establishes a connection without the need to sustain an ongoing trivial conversation. Facebooking in real life is dreadful.)
I would love to have smaller groups that met together for Sunday School. It was an awkward and unsettling transition for me when moving from Sunday School as a youth to Gospel Doctrine classes. My class quickly went from 8 students to over 50 and I didn’t feel the same sense of intimacy and closeness with my class members. I didn’t (and still don’t) know any of their names. It’s just too large a class to foster interpersonal friendships.
I would much prefer smaller classes of ten with rotating teachers so I could actually really get to know the people in my ward. Especially for Relief Society, where the focus is supposed to be on sisterhood. How am I supposed to feel sisterly towards someone I’ve never had the chance to have a real conversation with?
I also agree with suggestions about making church buildings more aesthetically pleasing. There’s nothing about the physical space in the church that makes me enjoy being there.
The two that spring most immediately to mind have been mentioned–having a structure or stated purpose to activities beyond “socializing” or “fellowshipping.” Having VT/HT be on more of an opt-in basis.
I really liked the gospel study format that we used at the MTC, and think that could be an interesting way to go for a Sunday school-type thing. You sat in a classroom with your district (about 10 people) and worked through the readings/discussion questions in the workbook, then discussed them as a group with the teacher leading the discussion. It was more comfortable to participate in a smaller group, and I liked the quiet time to read and reflect before talking.
I’m way, way over on the introvert side of the scale, and yet, I really enjoyed my mission. As an introvert, the proselytizing wasn’t nearly as hard as not having “down” time, and never being able to be alone. In some ways, proselytizing felt like I was playing the role of a missionary (the fact that I spoke a foreign language probably helped that perception). Not in an insincere way, though–the beliefs I was sharing were genuine, though a lot of the time the outgoingness was somewhat contrived.
OK, seriously, I’m curious whether all of the things discuss above are necessarily introverted reform, or just good ideas for reform regardless. I’m relatively extroverted myself, but nonetheless:
~I have no particular love for home and visiting teaching; I’m not sure it’s such an extrovert-friendly system as it is just a fundamentally flawed system, in which the sense of obligation tends to interfere with the development of real relationships. I can see how an introvert (at least a shy one) might find HT and VT more difficult than an extrovert, but I’m not sure that I as an extrovert am getting that much more out of it. Banal conversation is banal whoever you are.
~I would lead any light brigade you can band together on a charge to improve the aesthetics of church buildings and services. (Is an aesthetics of space really an introverted concern more than an extroverted one?)
~I don’t mind unstructured socializing terribly, but in a crowd I don’t already know well, I far prefer socializing with an object of focus. It’s easier to get to know people when you aren’t deliberately focused on nothing but trying to get to know them — it’s not just introverts who find that awkward and stilted.
~I can see that large Sunday School classes are more likely to provoke a certain amount of social anxiety, but I’m also pretty sure large classes are just less effective anyway. And extroverts can have social anxiety, too.
~I love Ardis’s point about long-term service projects being more meaningful than short-term low-skilled-labor service projects. But I don’t think we do the less-cool short-term hygiene-kit-making projects because the extroverts are in charge; I think we do them because they’re much easier to plan and execute. Surely this is a change that would be just as extrovert-friendly as it is introvert-friendly.
Melyngoch: All good points.
I think my idea about a more aesthetically pleasing church was, in my mind, the logical and direct result of making worship in general more introverted (not about having a lot of social activities, available for personal meditation at any time, only one scheduled group meeting each week).
So, no, I don’t think that wanting a beautiful building is an essentially introverted desire–just that it may be something that would possibly come much more easily if the focus was on a more introverted religious experience.
cont. in response to Melyngoch:
I also am interested in parsing out what exactly we mean by introverted religion. In my mind, it is simply a religious experience that favors the possibility of having institutionalized “alone time” for religious practice along with giving congregants a feeling of control over their interactions with others rather than feeling forced or pressured to participate in things that are draining, uncomfortable, and feel “fake.”
This isn’t to say that an introverted religion wouldn’t have any social activities, but rather the emphasis would be on “opting in” (as was noted above) and providing opportunities for more organic relationship building (here’s a cozy space where you can stay or leave –no judgement– and strike up a conversation –or not!– when you’re ready) rather than things like pre-dance get-to-know-you games which have highly exposed, public, peer-pressurey elements to them.
Fascinating question! Fascinating answers!
There would be no more ward activities in which the only conversations possible are small talk. They’d possibly be replaced by meetings of just a few people, maybe progressive dinners?
I, like Ardis, am an introvert who enjoys talking in Sacrament Meeting. I also like giving lessons occasionally. It is nice to have an assignment and get to participate….I actually want to be a part of things but can’t make it happen unless it is an assignment.
I like smaller Sunday School classes like Teacher Development that I am in right now. I like Relief Society (but we are in a small ward). I think a social, small talk hour is going to make me feel left out, but structured activities in small groups are great.
Church may have been designed by extroverts, but maybe not. Church is awesome for me because without it I would not know people and have a support system. It is very difficult for me to get to know people and have people get to know me. Church gives me something that would be missing from my life.
Just because I am an introvert doesn’t mean I don’t want friends or I don’t want people to ever notice me or I don’t to get to know others.
Church isn’t torture, but then I have a very nice ward and I guess I push myself to develop social skills and am motivated to keep trying. I am an introvert plus was very shy growing up, so it is nice to have overcome some of the shyness through a lot of work. I’m still an introvert but haven’t dropped that motivation to keep trying to interact with others after years of being denied the ability to do so.
What Ardis said! I quite enjoy speaking and teaching, but unstructured socializing is awkward hell. I prefer to pretend to be reading something until the structure starts again. As a teenager, when forced to a dance, I tended to retreat to an empty side room with a book.
I do much better in small groups than large ones, unless I’m teaching or speaking.
Had an interesting experience the other evening. Wife, BIL, MIL and I were at a restaurant. The two jolly older women next to us kept switching between heavily accented English and fluent but oddly accented French, my mission language. I finally worked up the nerve to ask where they were from (would have killed me not to know), and we had an interesting conversation. My BIL (an extrovert) remarked to my wife, “he should speak French all the time; he’s so much more animated and cheerful!” When my wife told me that, I replied, “that’s because when I speak French, it’s a performance.”
The worship pattern of cloistered nuns comes to mind. There’s some serious introversion.
Maybe what we need isn’t so much church for introverts as…wait for it…church for human beings. I’m currently enduring 1-4 church with a reluctant, exhausted husband and two reluctant, exhausted, frequently screaming children. I find it meaningful to take the sacrament, and I’m happy to serve as Primary pianist, my favorite calling. I can’t sing the praises of my fellow Primary workers highly enough: they are hardworking, devoted, thoughtful people who love the children in their care. There is absolutely nothing anyone in my ward could do to make my church experience better. And yet the whole thing feels like a horrible, miserable, utterly inhuman undertaking.
I completely understand why we have the block schedule. In terms of resource allocation, it’s far and away the best system. And there’s much to be said for not going to church twice a day. But it must be said that for a church that’s so determined to be family friendly, we just don’t feel all that friendly to my particular family.
I’d say more but my family is calling.
Only singles wards should meet 1-4. I understand why that meeting schedule has to happen sometimes, but it truly is horrible for any children who still need naps.
I want Ardis to be my bishop. This, x 1,000,000: ” (Where banal details are concerned, Facebook is an introvert’s dream. The “like” button establishes a connection without the need to sustain an ongoing trivial conversation. Facebooking in real life is dreadful.)”
What would a church designed by and for introverts look like? It might look like what Boyd Packer wishes it looked like.
His teachings over the decades are colored with a lot of introversion. In his book on the temple he wrote that though his family is large, they use the smallest rooms in the temple for marriages because they invite few guests. When he became Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, he sent out the memo telling us to cut down on meetings. He doesn’t like church programs and organizations generally, finding them a hinderance to families, where all social and religious needs should be ministered to.
I lived in a stake whose president was charged when he was set apart to carry out Elder Packer’s vision of the church, and he did. It was as if the stake didn’t exist. Want to rehearse a Young Women’s choir? No, don’t pull people away from their homes. Put on a ward musical play about Joseph Smith for his bicentennial? No, the stake president says that would be a waste of a lot of people’s time. Even the much reviled Unwritten Order of Things follows Packer’s pattern of introversion—we shouldn’t conduct ourselves according to pronouncements from on bureaucrats on high codified in program manuals, but by personal, word-of-mouth, organic cultural traditions. “Brigham Young’s no better than my grandpa.”
Ardis E. Parshall your comments about service projects reminded me of a cool experience I had. Last year I went to a youth conference where we put together humanitarian kits for some children in South America that some local dentists were going to do some free dental work on. At the time I was disappointed because I wanted my experience to be a more contemplative one as opposed to throwing stuff in a bag as quickly as possible so we can go dance. I felt the purpose had been lost due to the activity’s extroverted tendencies. This year the dentists put together a slide show of all the children the humanitarian supplies really did help and it was exactly he type of kind and thoughtful experience I had hoped it to be the first time.
“As an introvert I would prefer long-term service projects, ones that called for me to work regularly with the same peopley, so that I could get to know them while doing something that mattered”
Ironic that this describes visiting teaching, yet comments above beg for discontinuing VT for introverts.
As a severely introverted Relief Society President, what I’m seeing is not so much a need to change church or how church is done, but instead a need for increased compassion and understanding from everyone that there are different needs and different ways of serving or meeting those needs. Just spent last Sunday teaching our Relief Society that the single most important thing in visiting teaching is cultivating a relationship with the Spirit, and following the promptings thereof when doing the Visiting teaching, even if it isn’t what you personally would like to do or have done.
Well, at least for me the difference between a long-term service project and visiting teacher is that the service project focuses on working with each other to accomplish specific tasks, while often visiting teaching is focused on small talk and checking on how people are doing. There is nothing wrong with small talk and checking up on people, but I enjoy interacting with people more when we are solving a problem together or working on a long term project.
Small talk and checking on how people are doing. Man, so not the case where I am. My current route includes sisters who are dealing with disabling disease, long-term incurable pain, caring for mentally ill relatives, raising grandchildren, insect invasions, etc. etc. as well as one sweet sister who just occasionally could use someone to put her children to bed while she’s at choir practice.
So my visiting teaching route keeps me amply supplied with long-term service.
No way am I, generally an introvert, going to advocate doing away with it.
Wow, that’s great MB. It sounds like you are providing a much needed and valuable service.
If only there was a way to phase out visiting teaching for those who didn’t need or desire the visits and focus our energy on those who really needed the support…
Certainly there is a mechanism in place for opting out if you do not wish to be visited. But as for determining independently who “does’t need” them, that’s another matter.
There’s a sister in our ward who generally is doing fine and is a considerate visiting teacher. Her visiting teachers didn’t ever visit her, however, because they thought she was doing fine and she didn’t bother anyone about it because, though she thought it would be nice to know them, whoever they were, she was doing fine and didn’t want to make them uncomfortable about it. And then late one night this past spring her house caught fire. After the firefighters had put out the fire she didn’t call her visiting teachers for help because she didn’t know who know who her visiting teachers were. The only way our RS pres. found out was because she had a casserole in her refrigerator for a family whose mom was having surgery and she called someone the next morning to pick up the casserole because her house was uninhabitable and refrigerator had no power.
Fortunately, there were a few others in the ward who knew her and once the word got out there were about a dozen people who knew the sister and her family who showed up at different times those first couple of days to start working on salvaging what could be salvaged. But her visiting teachers didn’t. They just felt too awkward about going to help someone they didn’t know but felt they should have known.
Part of the long-term service work of visiting teaching is the work that goes into creating an establishment of a relationship of trust so that when a need does arise for serious help you have laid the necessary foundation.
You never know when the person, maybe you, maybe someone else, who “didn’t need” visits but graciously allowed them enough to create a sense of familiarity between the sisters involved, will, all of a sudden, be very grateful she knows those two VTs.
At least that’s my experience. Which is one of the reasons I keep visiting.
Nope. Double checked the story. She called the sister that had visited her as a visiting teacher last…That sister told her that she had been switched off her route a over year previously and assigned to two other sisters She offered to come help anyway.
Just wanted to make sure I had the details right.
MB, I would love to have you as my visiting teacher. I think it would be awesome, and I think we would be friends. The trouble is, I’ve had an awful lot of visiting teachers who weren’t awesome, who just didn’t really care and were checking off a box, and who thus made me feel slightly alienated from the whole system. I’ve even had a few who actively didn’t want to be my friend, who were pushy and judgmental, and sometimes insulting. So the anecdotal data of my experience is that visiting teaching, while a great idea, needs some serious practical reform. Blog post on that topic pending.
Your house-fire story is a little weird to me, because who on earth would call their visiting teachers first if their house caught fire? I think I’d call my friends first — if there’s some overlap between friends and VTs, great, but there rarely has been for me. I’d also think that in the case of your house burning down you could skip the chain of command and call the RS president, or even the bishop. (I’m not trying to criticize any of the people involved; it just seems like a lack of visiting teachers isn’t the biggest problem here, so much as the implied assumption that if you can’t call your visiting teachers, you can’t call anyone.)
I think that’s a good question. So I asked her.
She said it was because she approaches big problems in small bites. She’d first found a place for her family to sleep. The next morning the first thing she needed to do was call her insurance company, which she did. The next thing was to tackle shoveling and sweeping debris out of her first floor (only the second floor had burned). And she thought she’d only need a few people to help her do that next step. (She actually needed more, but she didn’t think so.) Besides which, being an introvert herself, she hadn’t lived in the city long enough to have a bunch of bosom friends that she knew would drop everything and come running. And she had no family in town.
She said that she’s the sort of person who wants to inconvenience the fewest number of people possible (another introvert characteristic, I think) and do as much as she can on her own, so she thought that calling visiting teachers would keep the numbers smaller than if she called the RS president who she didn’t want to bother if she didn’t have to as she knew was already swamped with other ward needs.
I think I’d probably do the same kind of “keeping it small” thinking and approach, being an introvert myself.
Some people have good, bosom friends that they’d call first. Some more reserved people who are friendly but more private don’t. But they do have, hopefully, a couple of VTs who understand that helping should be an “of course!” thing to do
I think your point about many VTs failing to establish relationships of friendship and trust is well taken. I hope in the coming years you have more experiences with ones who are able to create those with you. And I suspect that you try to. It’s work, but it’s good work.
The number one thing I would do is allow members to pay their tithing online. I will go months without paying tithing because finding a member of the bishopric and cornering them to hand them an envelope with money in it is pure torture. It’s agonizing.
Try putting a stamp on the envelope which already has the bishop’s address on it and sending it through the mail. That’s what many of your fellow ward members do.
I just found this site, and (gasp) it sounds like I’ve found my tribe! I’ve often fantasized about little balconies or booths where introverts like me could sit during sacrament meeting and just quietly meditate on the symbolism and significance of the sacrament. Also, having grown up around a lot of Catholics, I was exposed at a young age to the contemplative peace of mass. Once in a while, I slip into a pew at my local parish church and just soak up the beautiful language, music, and artwork. Nobody tries to make small talk, just smiles, and I love the “sign of peace” part where you gently shake the hands of your neighbors. Apame, when I visit the parish, I experience all the elements of your first comment except the social time after the service…church envy indeed.
RuthAnn, I think that’s what Krister Stendahl, the Swedish theologian called “holy envy”.
I like that idea of his.
Melyngoch, I agree, I think we would be friends.
Late, but can’t resist chiming in.
I agree with #35, we’re an INTROVERTED church.
Think about everyone in church leadership with a big Mormon last name.
You’ll find that they spend TREMENDOUS amounts of time alone- doing the following:
* Reading scriptures. We’re always impressed with those church leaders who have all the standard works memorized, but has anyone considered how much time they would have spent alone to to that?
*Meditating in the temple
*Working in the church office building- proof-reading, writing memos or books
*Learning multiple languages. Before you can have conversations, you have to spend HOURS studying vocabulary lists- usually alone.
*Traveling all over the world. Family often stays home.
*Play piano and instruments- practicing takes a lot of alone time.
Now, think of the most common professions in church leadership.
—-Businessmen study stats, numbers and ledgers. These are the ‘bean counters’ of life, not the ‘people professionals’.
—–Lawyers have their noses in books most of the time.
—–We do have a few educators, but they are mostly secondary school or higher ed administrators- not classroom teachers.
—–Doctors. Most doctors are science nerds who struggle with bedside manners.
—-Oh yes, and then we have the scientists and a few academics- Talmage, the Eyrings, etc. Who thought chemists were extroverts?
—-Women in these families play piano, bake bread, quilt, run marathons, write in journals, garden, do homemaking things, paint, sculpt, sew, crochet, do handi-crafts, etc. These are all essentially individual activities.
Yes, I know there are exceptions to the rule, but I think that many of them “work” at being social, it isn’t their natural state. Many study elocution and flout poetry with ease, but are quite comfortable in the cloistered church office building.
Take a look at a few church policies. These were made by introverts.
— “All mail will be automatically returned to sender and/or sender’s stake president’
—PR policy forbids severely restricts public appearances and participation in the political process.
—(Ok not a policy, but a practice) Church leaders marry other ‘connected’ church families
—-They create correlated lessons and manuals and like it when we read straight from the book.
–There is a huge Church handbook of instruction which provides structure for every social interaction, including a time limit on HT and VT. You don’t have to do ANYTHING in the church without a formula- especially interact with others. (Memorize the missionary D’s, VT, HT messages, etc.)
—-Allow 3 out of 4 required annual VT interactions to be conducted via letters, when the purpose of VT entails watching out for each others physical as well as spiritual well-being.
—No adult gospel study groups. No socializing after hours and discussing doctrine!
—No cooking FOOD in the church. This is TOTALLY anti-social. Since we were paleolithic cave men, we have always bonded over fire and food. Someone at church HQ thought this was less important than insurance premiums that every other church in the country pays.
—- Personal” progress. We have an ENTIRE program for YW that is based not on service (as they Boy Scouts are), but on PERSONAL introversion. Read this scripture and write your feelings about it in your journal.
—–Journal writing. We’re a record keeping people. Another word for this is “librarianship”. Genealogy is a introverted practice. You spend hours reading and writing and visiting libraries.Shhhhh. People like Wilford Woodruff must have spent hours alone- writing in a journal- away from the family- in his study.
And finally, don’t forget that the church officials built an ENTIRE underground tunnel system around Temple Square. They don’t even have to cross the street in public!
J. A. T., I don’t disagree that there’s plenty in the church to keep an introvert busy. But I’m a little bit skeptical that the medical, legal, business, and scientific fields are all populated by nothing but introverts. The fact that any particular occupation demands study and analytical work hardly means it couldn’t be done by an extrovert.
I’m not really sure you can determine to what degree church leaders are extroverted or introverted when we really only see them acting in highly formalized contexts, but I think it’s safe to say that there’s plenty of meeting-having, people-managing, and social-function-attending in their lives to at least balance out the more introvert-friendly demands of maintaining a personal devotional life. Also, the tunnel system was definitely built for security reasons, not because the GAs are too introverted to stand being seen in public.
I’m also a little confused by your definition of introversion, which seems to entail not reading one’s mail, being the boringest teacher possible, and, umm, only marrying other rich and famous people?
While all professions require solitary study as well as communication skills, many professions struggle to expand diversity in the workforce. Traditionally, most professions have attracted either extroverts or introverts. Try administering the Myers-Briggs in a library staff meeting, a chemistry department, or in patent/copyright law firm. You are guaranteed to find more “I’s” than “E’s”. All I’m saying is that I’s and E’s often gravitate to professions which are more comfortable for their ‘natural’ or ‘resting’ selves.
Many of the church’s lawyers are copyright, patent, tax, and administrative business lawyers. They make their money and win their cases by spending hours pouring over case law and writing papers. Contrast that with a social worker or counselor, teacher, or even a trial lawyer, who makes their money focusing on people and what makes them tick. We have very few ‘people professionals’ and many “bean-counters” (of sorts).
I lived in SLC and spent time observing GAs and their families. Most of the GAs are highly introverted, but work very hard at being extroverted. Formalized structures give them the added support that extroverts don’t necessarily need or like. Yes, many spend countless hours in meetings and appearances, but I don’t see President Eyring getting “jazzed” about being in front of a crowd, or meeting strangers in a McDonalds, the same way that say, Bill Clinton does. Introverts derive more regenerating energy from solitary time, and extroverts- from being around others. The inverse is also true, especially for longer periods of time. Introverts expend more energy being around others, and extroverts expend more energy being alone.
I often think of Joseph Smith as being a classic extrovert. Not only did he enjoy being around others, but in moments of stress and crisis, he reached out to people and was rejuvinated by the company of trusted friends. An introvert would find solace in peace and quiet, reading scriptures, praying, pondering– all alone- thank-you-very-much.
The fact that so many of our current leaders appear to be introverts and sometimes visibly uncomfortable in the spotlight is more of a testament to me of the strength they receive in doing their work than anything else. Years of being on the road and in the limelight can exhaust even extroverts (too much of a good thing), but our leaders keep up a steady pace until they pass away.
I pointed out several introvert-inspired church policies and practices which to me, seem to be a logical extensions of a predominantly introverted leadership.
About the tunnels- yes, I’ve heard they are partly for security reasons, and partly to help more elderly leadership have easy access to meetings out of the snow and bad weather. Still, on a bright spring day when the birds are chipring, don’t you think an extrovert would like to walk outdoors and wave at a few nice people and make not only their day, but their lifetime???
—The ‘not reading mail’ policy is very typical of introverted behavior . . . trying to create rules and policies to avoid social interactions.
—It doesn’t matter if one is a boring teacher or not, I’m just pointing out that academic administrators are primarily policy enforcers and budgetary administrators, not extroverted classroom teachers. It is very common and quite easy for academic administrators to be introverted people.
—GAs don’t marry rich and famous people, they marry each other. GAs are very inter-related. There are a few really interesting blogs out there which keep track of it all. Most GAs have not only one, but several family ties to one another. I point this out simply as a little more evidence that most GAs aren’t extroverted enough to go outside comfortable circles for anything more than the mere formalities of church assignments.
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