I am not a competitive person in the ways most people are. I couldn’t care less about sports scores, I don’t believe in praying before a game to get Jesus on my side and I don’t like to see anyone lose. To have winners means there must be losers. In that way, I appreciate my Amish and Mennonite friends. They work so hard to find equality in their communities they don’t even have raffles because that would leave someone out. If they give gifts, they are unwrapped and given without ceremony so as not to offend anyone who doesn’t get a present. Wedding gifts are given in a communal way, unwrapped and displayed on long tables in the cultural hall during the wedding reception so everyone can inspect all the wedding presents as a group without individual acknowledgement of who gave which gift.

I am not bothered by a bit of fun competition, I don’t begrudge my elderly parents and their nursing home companions the fun of playing Bingo and winning a quarter. I just don’t want to see anyone’s soul crushed for not winning.

Years ago I went head-to-head with my Primary Presidency over a chart system they devised to help motivate all the kids to memorize The Twelve Articles of Faith. On the wall outside the Primary room they listed each child’s name along with space for a check mark for each Article they were able to repeat unaided to a Primary leader. At the end of the competition, all the kids who filled in the chart would get an Ice Cream Sunday Party. I took one look at that chart and I saw red. I was furious for such a public display of competition in church. I wasn’t only upset for my kids, who had zero chance of accomplishing the goal because we were doing intensive speech therapy at school and after school three times a week just to communicate, let alone memorize long passages of religious ideas they would not comprehend. I was also thinking of the kids with learning problems and kids from single parent homes who didn’t have the luxury of parents who had the time to drill them nightly on their Articles of Faith because they were weren’t picked up from day care until late in the evening. I was thinking of kids with parents struggling in all the ways adults do, and how the children would be made to feel “less than” because of things they couldn’t control. The Primary Presidency argued with me and said that a lot of kids loved healthy competition and that it encouraged the kids to stretch their abilities. I responded with some snarky comment about kids who didn’t need any encouragement because they were always going to be at the top of the class anyway. I then told them it didn’t really matter to my family, we were allergic to milk and their reward was worthless to us. I don’t know how that program worked out; I stopped paying attention and told my kids to do the same.

When my kids were in Seminary, I had another opportunity to voice my concern over rewards given for Scripture Chasing and Scripture Mastery. What about kids with learning difficulties who were never going to memorize a whole pile of scriptures or were never going to be the first or second or anything other than dead last every time they searched for a scripture? Weren’t they deserving of recognition for even showing up day after day, knowing they would never be a winner? If accommodations aren’t made to ensure everyone can be successful, how is that a gospel worth following? In my experience, there is no correlated plan in any church program that is mindful of “the least of these, my brethren.” Some wards have adults with sensitivity to people who struggle, others have none.

My sensitivity to winners vs. losers hasn’t dimmed with years and time and space. I have now morphed to such a high distain for all church programming that revolves around special recognition for accomplishments that I don’t like anything that gives out certificates, jewelry or patches as outward symbols of someone’s inner goodness. I am not motivated to read scriptures, set goals or achieve greatness because I will earn a cool pin I can wear on my shirt.

I take comfort knowing that people I love who have died without ever winning/earning a damned thing in church are in the Celestial Kingdom with our Heavenly Father, having fulfilled the only thing that matters in this life – they learned how to love unconditionally. The rest of it is crap that doesn’t mean a thing.