11 challenges for the Mormon introvert


(courtesy of Mette Ivie Harrison)

Mette Ivie Harrison

I was surprised by the number of responses I received last month to my post on Mormon introverts. In typical introverted fashion, several of these people contacted me privately with their thoughts but did not post them as comments on the blog.

And my regular guest blogger Mette Harrison wrote up a list of the aspects of being Mormon that are hardest for her, an off-the-charts introvert. — JKR

Mette Ivie Harrison

Mette Ivie Harrison

A guest post by Mette Harrison

Jana posted recently about the ways in which the LDS Church is designed for extroverts and the difficulties introverts must have, but she admitted not being an introvert herself.

As someone who is an introvert with some social anxieties, I thought it might be useful to talk about some of the specific problems I struggle with. Not all of these will be universal to introverts, and I also don’t mean to imply that because things are difficult they should simply be done away with. Part of the good the church does is expecting me to come out of myself in order to help others.

But nonetheless, it is more work for me than it is for others, and coming to accept that has helped me understand why Sunday rarely feels like a “day of rest” for me. I am often emotionally exhausted at the end of the day of extroverting in the cause of good, and I’m just a nursery leader.

TO READ: The Mormon Introvert

Here are eleven things I struggle with:

  • The three-hour block of Church. This means three hours of extroverting rather than shorter periods with a break between.
  • No private, silent space for reflection and relief (except the Mother’s Lounge or the bathroom).
  • Being called on to say prayers in church extemporaneously. A little notice helps me not feel so nervous about this. I don’t mind answering questions during lessons in church, so long as I raise my hand and choose to answer.
  • Constant pressure to do missionary work. The implication that it is not enough to simply live your Mormonism openly and discuss it when it is natural in conversation. I’ve tried a couple of times to be “bold” about my faith in the ways others talk about, but it is usually a disaster because I’m not naturally an extrovert and I do it wrong.
  • Testimony meeting in general, with its tendency toward unprepared remarks and people talking about their lives in more intimate detail than I am comfortable with.
  • Chairs set up at church social events in huge, long rows rather than smaller, more intimate tables that would feel less intimidating. Almost all ward activities are in huge groups and you are expected to introduce yourself and just find things to say.
  • Large class settings like Gospel Doctrine. I often tend to go to any class that is not such a large group, no matter what is being taught there, simply so I don’t have to deal with so many people.
  • Constantly changing visiting teaching/home teaching assignments, and being expected to welcome people I have never met before into my home.
  • The tendency to have other people involved in every ritual of the church from the temple ceremonies to blessings, setting people apart, and so on. I tend to want to experience God privately rather than with others, but it seems like this isn’t done in Mormonism.
  • Girls’ camp. This was excruciating for me as a teen introvert. Not only the constant activities where you are never allowed to be alone, but the “girls’ talk” at night when I wanted to sleep and was told I was being “selfish.”
  • Christmas activities or in fact, anything the ward plans during the month of December, just feels cruel to me. I feel obliged to go if I want people to think I’m a good active member, but December is a month filled with social obligations far past my limit. I just can’t extrovert anymore and I come off feeling like a Grinch because of it.

Quiet pleaseWhen I first tried to talk to people about the bouts of extreme anxiety I experienced every Sunday, the general response was to talk to me about “feeling the Spirit.” But for me, the Spirit tends to come in quiet, small situations, not noisy, crowded ones.

I no longer think that means something is wrong with me or with the Spirit. It just means I’m a little different, and that God speaks to me in the way it’s easiest for me to hear Him.

I’m someone who, as a writer, is perfectly happy to spend almost all day every day in utter silence. I keep earplugs with me whenever I go outside my house so that I can deal with too much noise.

I know that this seems “unsociable” to others if I put them in, particularly in church situations. But it’s the only way I know of to survive and remain part of the church I love.

Look around you and I suspect you will see plenty of other introverts who just need a little understanding to feel included and loved as they are.