Thursday, September 13, 2007

Is This Right?

I really want some comments here, because I am close to forming an opinion and I need to get some feedback. What I really wanted to title this post was . . . .

You Have Got To Be Kidding Me!!??!!??

But I thought that might show my opinion was set in stone, when I really do want to hear some arguments on the other side.

A little background first--my mother's ward is a normal mix of older and younger women, lots of kids of all ages, and a fairly active Relief Society, so Enrichment attendance is high. Like a lot of wards, when the Enrichment format changed, they started a book club. I've never really patronized the RS book clubs--mostly it has been a timing problem. I've also been careful to never advertise any book club I was a part of in church.

For one thing, if you start talking about it at church, you give an open-ended invitation. I don't know if this is always a good thing. My book club in Texas nearly imploded when we had 15 people show one week. Also, that first book club was started with the idea that we would try to look outside church-genre books to read things we weren't used to and that were worth discussing; books you grew richer for having read. We also read some just for fun books. I've always felt pretty strongly that if it is a church-sponsored book club, you had to be VERY careful what you read--church books, squeaky clean YA literature, or old classics, that kind of thing

Anyway, my mother calls the other day to tell me the book club in her Relief Society is reading TWILIGHT.

This is where my brain exploded. I think this is wrong on so many levels:

a) Just because the author is LDS doesn't mean this book was published by an LDS publishing house, who, for all their other faults, do at least try to publish things within the parameters of LDS doctrine.

b) If this is happening in RS book clubs even across Utah, this is going to mean loads of money for Mrs. Meyer. After all, the waiting lists are a mile long and if you want to read it this month you have to buy it.

c) Other than a brief discussion on agency if you are really stretching, there is nothing in this book really even worth discussing. (The Logan book club--not church affiliated--did read this and our discussion much more revolved around "Why do women like this kind of thing so much?")

d) The book is about VAMPIRES for crying out loud. Even with Meyer's rather clever twist, and Twilight being much less gothic in tone than New Moon, it is just freaky subject matter.

e) The whole icky tension sleeping NEXT to my boyfriend but not WITH my boyfriend thing because I'm Stephanie Meyer and I do have to maintain a minimum level of chastity here scene ought to exempt it forever from mention in church.

f) With the whole wide world of really wonderful books out there, is this really what RS should be reading? The word is ENRICHMENT.

So, while I'm unloading all my grievances on Plantboy, he counters with, "Well, isn't the purpose of the new Enrichment program to socialize; to come up with focused activities that women really want to attend?"


That is the sound of my mouth open and nothing coming out of it. I didn't really know what to say to that. It is the same "argument" we use to have when I was on the YW board. Is mutual primarily spiritual or primarily social? If you say spiritual, you plan activities that don't attract nearly as many girls, but they are wonderful for the ones who come. If you say social, you pack in more kids, but what do they really take away besides some fun? Should they be taking away something more? And the social activities often alienate kids who aren't as socially adept. So the compromise is a combination of the two, which is what usually happens.

But my real question is: Can't activities be both? Can't we increase sociality and spirituality at the same time? If reading and discussing books is something that can "enrich" us, then can't we choose books that will enrich us spiritually and socially?

I must admit, over the past two months I've been pretty grouchy about the whole vampire book love among LDS women, but I actually liked Twilight. New Moon was entertaining enough, although I must say that afterward I felt kind of dark--suicide, a city of vampires preying on stupid tourists, her misguided attempts at throwing some religion into the narrative, werewolves who maul their girlfriends, months upon months of depression--there is just a lot there that doesn't led itself to cheerfulness.

Anyway--lets get some feedback here so I can try to get a clearer idea of how I feel about things: The point of church activities? Is a book club, particularly a church-sponsored one, obligated to be more than just pure entertainment? Do share.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I live in Texas. Our churchy woman Book Club is also reading Twilight to celebrate the month of October. I allowed my Crap Happy Spawn to read this book before I did relying solely on the recommended reading age of Grades 7-9. I shan't be making that mistake again, nor will previously mentioned Crap Happy Spawn be allowed to read Eclipse until they've matured and aged a bit.

It's no mystery why churchy women liked this's smooookin HOT! It's a romance novel without the dirty little Harlequin sticker slapped on it. That alleviates the inherent guilt, see? Women going to the extreme with Harry Potter bugged me and now I'm seeing the same behaviour with scads of Twilight groupies. 30-somethings with kids choosing who they love more-Jacob or Edward. Ridiculous. Yeah, I squealed like a pig when Edward makes his move on Bella, but I'm not going to go around telling people, OMG-I Heart EDWARD!!!!! LOL!!!!

Anyway, something like this doesn't belong in a church sponsored group......well, for that matter, it doesn't belong where it was intended either-A middle schooler's bookshelf. I think it only serves to stir up feelings that young girls aren't ready to recognize and handle while putting out unrealistic expectations for dating. (I said 'putting out!' The irony.) Nothing wrong with assigning wholesome selections for the church club. We have plenty of time to read what we want in the "outside world."

Science Teacher Mommy said...

I would have definitely said ninth grade was the minimum age on this doozy. If your kids like the fantasy genre, get them into Robin McKinley (NOT Deerskin for younger kids, but all else is fair game); she is completely brilliant. And, thematically, Harry Potter, though fantasy, doesn't belong anywhere near the Twilight books.

PS For those of you who ask from time to time about comment deleted; it is not me doing it. I'm guessing somebody tried to post anonymously and I'm set up to NOT take them. I think you should at least have to give yourself a pseudonym if you want a part of the conversation.

zippity-do-da said...

Okay. Slow down. I know your feelings on Meyer and her success. I just don't think it's that big of deal. While I don't personally take part in RS book clubs because my tastes are all over the place. Many people (like my mother) join the RS clubs because that is their only circle of friends. I think it is more to invite people to group together than to teach doctrine. Isn't being together uplifting? I tend to think that reading and then talking about almost any book helps my spirituality. (Maybe not ANY book). (Our RS is having thier big enrichment night doing a multitude of crafts that you have to pay for. Not right that we HAVE to attend with a price tag attatched.) But don't take it out on the book. I loved TWILIGHT because I love to escape- and that is what is was. A discussion about the things that you don't like in a book is part of the book club experience. I have too much to fret about in my life to worry about the choices of other wards and leaders. I have a large cirlce of concern, but a very small circle of influence. Love you Nomad

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Good point. Like I said; my own book club did this book and it was a really enjoyable evening. It was less about the book and more about the church thing. Probably half the books I've read in book clubs wouldn't make good RS picks for various reasons. What about books that are picked and then people are offended by what is chosen because of iffy subject matter? As much as I love the HP books, I think you'd be calling for an RS schism if you advertised one for book club.

Desmama said...

I'm kind of leaning toward zippity-do-da's opinion. It's not that big of a deal. And plus, just because it's not War and Peace doesn't mean it doesn't have merit. Popular often doesn't mean that it's nothing more than pulp. I read Twilight and it was fun and good but it didn't change my life and I haven't read the most recent two but I'm not actively campaigning against them, either. I disagree that reading something that may be a bit more escapist is "just pure entertainment." And it's one month's pick, not the entire theme of the book club.

I trust you don't want me to be a Yes Man as a friend, so I'm hoping you take my comment in the spirit it was meant to be taken. ;)

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Okay, okay, I'm getting the message fellow bloggers. I'm off the soapbox now. But I will emphasize that I was a lot more interested in discussing the PURPOSE of church activites than in discussing the merits of Twilight. Just as people attend church and church activities for different reasons, people also read for different reasons. It doesn't follow that all of those reasons are not valid.

zippity-do-da said...

Truth be told, I sometimes have to be reminded why I attend at all. I know, I know... but's kind of refreshing to discuss something dark and blood sucking (wicked snicker). Maybe that's why I am not currently engaged in a book club- I want to read what I want to read and not feel like I need to validate myself. (have you tried the Outlander series by Diana Gabledon? Daring and rewarding)

Doreen said...

I haven't every read Twilight (don't think I will), but I love love love Anne Perry. She's LDS. But I don't think her books would necessarily be suitable for a LDS book club. There are some things in her books that some people may find offensive. I certainly wouldn't want to be the person recommending her books for a church book club, simply because some church members are a lot more sensitive to issues like sexuality or violence than others. While I think book clubs are good for socializing, I also think that in a church setting, you have to be very careful what you pick. Can't it be both, fun and uplifting? Don't know that I'd call Anne Perry uplifting, and from the sounds of things, Stephanie Meyer isn't, either. :p Am I even making sense?

Doreen said...

And yes, I can spell "ever"...

FoxyJ said...

This is why I'm kind of nervous about having book clubs as part of our new "Enrichment groups", because the question of semi-officially sponsored arts by the church brings up these kinds of issues. Everyone has different ideas of what is "inspiring" and what is inappropriate. I'm on the enrichment committee in our ward and we've tried to get a bookclub going, but it's been hard. One girl just wanted to do one that was sponsored by Deseret Book, but that would probably require people buying things because the library here doesn't have very many Mormon books. Is your book club held at the church, announced in Relief Society each week, etc.? For some reason that always makes it feel more "official" and I could see people being offended that way.

I did just find out last month that some women in our ward hold a bookclub and I've started going. The way recommendations work is that people take turns recommending something. If someone wanted to read Twilight, I'd probably just skip that month. Or I'd show up with some feminist lit-crit about weak female protagonists and romance addiction :)

KarateMommy said...

Hey Girl! I'm just trying to get your comments up into the teens ;). My mom's ward read Twilight for their book club too. I know you said you were looking for more comments on Appropriate church activites instead of Twilight, but I had thoughts on both. First, it really bothers me when people categorize others just by the books they might read - or not read. I love lots of different genres in books, as I'm sure you know ;). But it is very interesting to watch the reaction of women walking by and ask what I'm reading and respond "Wuthering Heights", versus "Twilight". Just because I like Twilight, does not mean I am a weak female, and reading Wuthering Heigths does not mean I am a stuck up literary snob. Anyway, it is a person's freedom of choice to what books she may read, not a label. I was surprised to hear that My mom's ward read Twilight for a church book club, but that was up to their ward, and I'm sure if some women disagreed with the choice, they could skip that month. It seems that a lot of people in our religion have quite a problem with taking offense easily. They need to realize that certain things that happen in church are because of an individuals choices, not the churches view. However, I do think that there was quite a bit of sexual tension in that book, and would not recommend it to anyone younger than 18. Harsh, right? But, I think you said 9th grade would be a good age for this book, and I just remember myself at 9th grade, and it would have been a horrible time for me to read it. I lacked a lot of male affection growing up (Daddy hugs and such), and so think I seeked/yearned for that attention. Reading that book might have put in my head, I can lay next to a boy in my bed, and it's okay! I can have someone strong and safe next to me, and nothing will happen! So as my thoughts were not sexual in nature, but more companion centered, I have no doubt the male laying next to me, would not have the same train of thoughts as me.

About the appropriate church activities. I think that an activity can be spiritual, without "planning" to be spiritual. I have noticed that through shared experiences, likes, dislikes, I have acquired some close friends. And by first establishing that base of friendship, it can lead into a spiritual one. You become more comfortable to discuss spiritual things as you share experiences that are not spiritual in nature. For Relief Sciety, or even Young Women, feeling comfortable first with those around you, makes it much easier to open up, and share a special part of yourself. A feeling of security, around others who are trusted, is a much better environment, then discussions with practical strangers. When we read Twilight for our bookclub, the discussion we had that night made me personally feel closer to everyone else. I dont' know why - maybe it was sharing things we felt as we read, but I actually felt comfortable contributing to the discussion. You may not know this, but with most of the club meetings, I feel greatly inferior. And fear contributing, I might say something that makes no sense, and would look like a fool. That's usually why I just like to sit back and listen to what others have to say. I love going, and learning from everyone, I just feel like I dont' have anything important or profound to say. That's also why I dont' comment much on blogs. Anyway, what I'm trying to get at is, I think activites designed to bring women closer, share experiences, is a great way to build a base realtionship. Spending time with good people, is spiritually uplifting, whether it was planned to be spiritual or not.

Sorry for the post in your comment section. It was quite personal, but felt good to "talk".

Love and miss you.

Kimberly Bluestocking: said...

I second Karatemommy - I think social activities can encourage spirituality in a group as we grow closer and feel more comfortable with each other. We're trying to create Zion, which implies both love of God and others. Social and spiritual activities both contribute to that, and I'd go so far as to say that we'd suffer if we had only one or the other.

It'd be like trying to choose between food and water. You can debate which is more important, but the fact is you need both to be healthy.

Karin said...

I definitely agree with KM. We need both of those elements in oreder to form lasting relationships that will lift us. I don't think it's a "compromise" to include both elements in your activities. One of the key phrases here though is "church sponsored". Someone previously posted "pseudo church sponsored" and that makes more sense to me. In my experinece, once the RS pres hands off the book club, they are not over seeing it very much at all, let alone even attending it. There is nothing in the "handbook" about book club, and the bishop probably has very little idea that it's even ahppening...very low on his radar. It's just to fill a need where one exists. Lots of women like to read, or would read more if they had a small bit of guidance with their book choices. My sister hasn't read a novel since high school and her RS is reading twilight-it's the first time she's read a novel in forever. As I understand it, you could have any kind of group: a scrapbooking group, for example. My ward does parenting classes that are definitely out of mainstream parenting and the last ward had a playgroup for young moms. It's a great place to meet the women of your area and form relationships that can then lead to more spritual fullfillment.

I read a book several years ago called "In the Company of Women", I think it was by Brenda Hunter. It made me realize that for women, forming and maintaining relationships is part of our spiritual health. I'd really begun loving RS and all it had the potential for, but often fell short in. The beginning of these groups does much to make up the difference.

There's my feedback... :-)

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Very interesting. I had two RS presidents at one point in my life who couldn't be more different. The first was rather non-communicative and wouldn't even let us use the RS binders to promote a playgroup where part of the mothers baby sat and the other part went to the temple. If the handbook didn't specifically SAY it was okay, then it wasn't. The second was exactly the opposite; as long as there was no specific prohibition of said activity, it was all fair game. I will definitely say that there was a very friendly feeling in that second ward. Both for her and for one another.

I guess the part I'm now not sure I buy into is that for me, personally, social interaction = spiritual uplift. While social interaction can lift our spirits, that, to me, is not the same as inviting the Spirit. People feel temporary happiness all of the time that has nothing to do with spritual matters.

Maybe that is what my real argument is. When any church organization plans an activity it is going to be social; Mormons are generally friendly people. The key for those planning is to prayerfully design an activity that ALSO invites the Holy Ghost so that the attendees come away not just socially closer and momentarily happy for having had an evening away from the kids spiritually uplifted in a way that has a lasting effect.

As much as I've enjoyed hundreds and hundreds of novels, only a portion of them really provide that lasting blessing of having made you better for having read them. It doesn't mean I only read to learn something and that I never read for escape; but maybe there is a time and a place for all types of reading?

Christie said...

Whee! I'm so glad that I didn't happen upon this post first. It's been an absolute kick reading all the comments. CrapHappyMamma's upfront honesty made me chuckle, and zippity-do-dah's paranthetical wicked snicker made me belly laugh right out loud! KarateMom's thoughtful and brave remarks gave me pause. You guys are great! I'm feeling a big group hug coming on, and I don't even really "know" anyone but the ScienceTeacherMommy (STM).

Now onto STM's question about mixing social and spiritual in one activity. The best example I've seen of this is my mother. She gives motivational talks that have listeners laughing one minute and crying the next. In fact, that's how I came to even know STM -- she taught with my mom and invited us both to give a talk to her ward's big Relief Society Birthday social. I can't speak for my own part of the evening, but I came away lifted spiritually and socially.

In our ward, our YW Pres. has a gift for combining social and spiritual into most activities. But from what my son says, the deacons could use a little more spirituality. But I'm not pointing any fingers. Social activities are much easier to pull off. If you want to bring the spirit into an activity, however, that requires spiritual preparation -- and we all know just how difficult that can be.

I say shoot for both, but if you get only the social, call it good. When the Lord created the earth he didn't say it was perfect or even ideal. He pronounced it good. Works for me.

elasticwaistbandlady said...


Nope. I won't waver on this one.
Two facts:
I LOVE the Twilight series.
I'm no prude.

And still, I consider activities promoted, discussed, and passed around in a folder on Sunday to be church affiliated whether people like it or not. There's hardly a dearth of great LDS-friendly books around that Book CLub organizers should have to resort to 'fun reads' that are incongruent with our core Gospel teachings.

Maybe it's not a 'big deal' in the grand scheme of world events, but it certainly sets a precedence that would lead to a decline. Twilight today; Erica Jong tomorrow? Probably not. I still don't think Twilight is suitable for a LDS Book Club that has handouts in a RS folder. Just sayin.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

You love Twilight and you guys don't read Harry Potter? HP is just as outlandish, but more substantial thematically.

Five Froggies said...

I'm pretty late on this one, but I would say reading Twilight isn't a problem. It wouldn't necessarily "enrich" but I don't think the book is inappropriate or unclean. And the discussions could get the women of bookclub closer by sharing about highschool, first loves, whatever. HOWEVER, I have been stunned, absolutely STUNNED, at LDS women absolutely going wacko, sicko crazy over these books. For example, I have heard it said that a woman asked her husband to put ice on his lips, then kiss her?!?! That is just crazy hilarious and sick at the same time. Or thinking of Edward while at the temple?!?! I find people talking like that pretty offensive.

But I did really like Twilight and New Moon. I haven't read #3 yet. But I won't be daydreaming of Edward or Jacob, and I don't really care for Bella. She bugs.

As far as activities go, I think activities can be both spiritually uplifting and social in nature. And I guess that we should try for both. However, I wouldn't feel like a failure if some activities are purely social in nature, while others are more spiritual with little social aspects. The social brings the closeness and I think that helps when sharing of spiritual things.

I presonally wouldn't pick Twilight for a church book club, but I wouldn't be offended if someone did.