Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Guns and God

I served in the Elders Quorum (EQ) presidency for a few years, through 3 different EQ presidencies, always as the 1st counselor. The first president was very organized, got all our assignments delegated and completed in a timely manner, and then proceeded to move and leave us in an unorganized heap because he didn't share his organization plan or any of the administrative tools with us prior to his departure.

The next EQ president was a very laid back kind of guy, willing to help people out almost to a fault. We did many service projects, which basically consisted of he and I showing up and taking care of the project, sometimes with the help of the 2nd counselor, but almost never with anyone else from the EQ helping out. The two of us handled snow removal at the church for two winters, as well as moving people in and out, transplanting trees from one place to another, and basically helping lazy people do projects that they are perfectly capable of doing themselves (but why do that when you can get free labor under the guise of having a special need?). EQ president #2 was a good guy to work with, fun, and reasonable in his expectations. We weren't always as organized as we would have liked to be, but we had fun and tried to do the right thing.

Enter EQ president #3, who we'll call Rambo. Rambo is a US Marine, military policeman, postman, and generally somewhat odd fellow. He came in to the EQ with a mission to totally revamp all aspects of the EQ. Being a military man he had very specific ideas of how things should be done and the 'training and background' to 'make it happen', or 'whip us in to shape', if you will. He immediately mandated weekly presidency meetings.....which lasted for about two weeks until he realized that those of us with children could not/would not sacrifice that much time away from our families for no good reason. We rarely discussed anything meaningful or purposeful that could not have been better handled during the 3 hours we already spent at church each week. The new plan was to meet for 10 minutes or so every week after EQ meeting on Sunday. Fine. Still nothing meaningful or purposeful was discussed. Other presidency members and I frequently expressed concerns or ideas we had for improvement of the EQ, but they were usually not discussed and usually ignored completely.

I recall one time shortly after the calling of the new presidency, Rambo paid a visit to my house because I missed church (I had strep throat). I was downstairs watching a Jazz game and he proceeded directly downstairs to confront me. He explained that he 'felt inspired' to visit me. I explained in turn that I had strep throat and he would likely contract it if he stayed. He wanted to kneel and have prayer with me before he left, which was okay with me because I was already sitting on the floor. Interesting visit. Purpose? Not sure.

Rambo's next idea occurred sometime around the birth of my 2nd child. I didn't attend meetings for a couple weeks as I was staying home with the family and we were keeping the baby out of public places to keep her from getting sick. Well, when we went back to church, I was sitting in EQ meeting holding my baby in my arms. I had been fighting to get her to sleep for the entire meeting block and had finally succeeded with about 10 minutes remaining in EQ meeting. Upon completion of the meeting, Rambo stood and knelt on the floor for closing prayer. The rest of the EQ followed suit as I watched with a bit of bewilderment. I had apparently missed the announcement that we would now be kneeling as we petitioned the Lord with prayer at the benediction of our EQ meeting. Since I had just gotten my baby to sleep I elected to remain in my seat so as to not wake her unnecessarily. This did not sit well with Rambo and he invited me to join the EQ on my knees. I politely declined, citing the above reasoning. He waited silently for me to join them. I declined his second invitation, then stood and excused myself from the EQ meeting without hearing the humble prayer of the holy posturing EQ president.

This story illustrates just one of many such situations that took place with Rambo at the helm. I feel it a pretty good representation of his mindset and my reactions to such insanity and outward displays of self-righteousness.

Rambo's next revelation was that each week the EQ presidency should visit members of the EQ. The time designated for these visits was 5:30 PM on Tuesdays. I explained that I normally don't get home from work until about 6:15 and would not be able to make it at 5:30. He reluctantly changed the time to 6:30, which I still didn't want to do, but which I agreed to. This meant that on that night I would miss dinner with my family and consequently not get to eat until after the kids were bathed and in bed. Still, I agreed.

The first week we showed up ready to make these visits....none of us (except possibly Rambo), sure of the purpose of our visits. We proceeded to drop by the homes of 3 EQ members of varying degrees of church activity. One let us in, one told us to never call on him again, and the third was not home. Within the home of the one successful visit we sat awkwardly on the couch as Rambo tried to visit with the EQ member. The chaos of family life raged on around us as the EQ member tried to be polite, but was obviously distracted by his family who was trying to eat dinner, children running around screaming, wife giving dirty looks, and the rest of us sitting embarrassed as Rambo pontificated over important, but untimely things. When we left he wanted to have a kneeling (would you expect anything less at this point) prayer. Then the EQ member hurriedly escorted us out the door. Rambo was on a spiritual high, totally oblivious to the imposition we had just made into that family's evening and to the social awkwardness of the entire situation. The other EQ presidency members and I expressed our concerns and inquired as to the intended purpose of our 'visits'. Rambo calmly, and with obvious sense of purpose, explained that we were just visiting people to 'check on them' and 'see how they're doing'. I said, "Well, didn't we just see him in church two days ago?" He didn't really have an answer for that.

The 'visits' continued on for a few weeks until the rest of the EQ presidency grew disillusioned with our supposed purpose and questioned again what we were trying to accomplish. I explained that I didn't have a problem with visiting people who needed help or had some special concern that we needed to resolve, but that I didnt' see the point in dropping by unannounced with no clear reason. Rambo's response was that we were just fellow shipping. I countered that that is what church meetings and home teaching are for and that unless we could agree on some additional purpose in our visits then I thought we should let the established programs of the church handle the fellow shipping aspect rather than trying to invent our own programs that not only are not sanctioned by the church, but also take us away from our families and inconvenience the families of those whom are visited. Rambo changed the visits back to 5:30 and I didn't attend any more 'visits'.

Shortly thereafter I decided I couldn't take it any more and asked to be released. I had been wanting to do so for a couple years, but figured I would endure to the end and all that. But, my feelings of frustration and enmity were getting to the point that I felt like I was doing more harm than good in trying to fulfill my calling. I teach primary now again, which is really where I belong, with the only non-judgemental members of the church. I have a hard enough time doing the things I'm supposed to do without obstacles and my attitudes toward those people getting in the way. Maybe I'm an evil person for asking to be released. Oh well.

Finally, one last story about Rambo, which I think illustrates why I was incompatible with him. In December Rambo asked for and received a few minutes during priesthood opening exercises to talk about the upcoming EQ New Year's activity. He explained that 'we' would be taking out some old tv's and fridges, and stuff like that to blow up with guns. He went on to explain that he has an AK47, as well as various other assault rifles and shotguns, and blah blah blah. I don't know anything about guns, so I didn't recognize the names of the guns. What I did recognize was that this was a totally inappropriate activity to hang under the banner of a church sanctioned activity. Not only that, but Rambo told everyone to invite all their nonmember friends as this could be a great fellowshipping opportunity. Really? Really? Wow.


  1. So if I were willing to purchase a ticket to your 3 ring circus of a ward how much would it cost me?