Sunday, February 27, 2011

Talk today was given by a Young Returning Iraq Veteran

He started the talk by saying he was son of  ________  (whom most people would know, and of course, I do not yet know).  He said he didn't know his father was going to ask him to talk.  He said he wasn't prepared (even though he had in his hand exhaustive notes) and he said perhaps he would have some prepared talks ready in case his father surprised him by asking him to give talks in the future.  He is the son of a Stake High Counselor, which means he is not from here but a guest giving a talk at this Ward.  He said he was a returning Iraq veteran (my words, he said he had been to Iraq in a forward infantry function).  He said he  wasn't sure he wanted to tell the story, was still trying to make up his mind, and even now he is not sure if he will tell the story.

He has talked of kindness, that is the theme of his talk. He begins the story.  Of returning from a military mission and meeting an Iraqi woman with a young girl child.  Of offering the little girl a candy bar and the girl being too uncertain and shy to accept it.  Of coaxing her that it was okay and the little girl's mother giving her the nod of approval to accept the candy.  Of how delighted the little girl was and how much it delighted him to see her so  pleased.   Of going on another military mission and returning and seeing the same woman and little girl.  Of how the little girl recognized him and came to him hugging his leg tightly and not wanting to let go.  And he stopped the story right there.   But the tears began for me, for I already knew the rest of his story.

He spoke then of kindness, small acts of kindness and gave examples of representations of being known for being Morman by acts of kindness.  The rest of his kindness theme was not extraordinary, yet I knew it was.  I knew what he did not say or would not say.  I cried through the rest of his talk and it took a long while to regain enough composure to look up again.

When the service was finished, I sought him out and explained that I have a son-in-law who is a two time returning Iraq veteran and is currently in Afghanistan.  I told him his talk meant a great deal to me and he said yes, he could see how it would be quite personal for me.  Did the girl die, I asked.  Yes, he said quietly in almost a whisper.

How, I wondered, would I get through the next two classes.  By then people were talking to us, welcoming us, introducing themselves and I was still trying to regain enough composure to be present.  Normally we would have our somewhat private investigator lesson, but the other two newbies weren't there, so we agreed to have the Gospel Doctrine Class with the rest of the adults.  Most disappointing, and I won't spend a lot of time belaboring my disappointment with the structure of that lesson.  It rather felt like how a person might instruct a kindergarden class.  But this was not a room full of children, it was a room full of adults.  I earnestly hope this is not slated for my future when the investigator lessons (which I like as they are more spontaneous) have concluded and we are assimilated into the Gospel Doctrine Class.  I will be hopeful instead that it is the stylings of the current volunteer instructor of the class.  And I earnestly hope that the instructor will feel the blessings of the challenge of personal growth in fulfilling this calling.

Off to the Relief Society class and one of the women there whom I had just met the evening of the Dance, wanted to escort me to the class.  She confided, or so it seemed as she said it quietly, that her son had been to Iraq three times, and she understood how difficult it was for me, speaking of her own 24 hour a day vigil waiting to hear from her son.  I know enough about the deployments to know that three deployments would have been short bursts and not the extended 'stop-loss' 15 month deployments my daughter's family experienced.  We shared something in common in that heightened sense of wary watchfulness each family who has a loved one deployed goes through while they are gone.  She shared her take on why we were in Iraq and I explained to her that I was very much on the other side of the fence on that one, yet we still had a commonality despite different viewpoints.  Enough said on that for the time being.

After meetings concluded, I sought out the young Iraq veteran as I wanted to tell him that his talk had made a difference for me, that it mattered, and that it pretty much sealed the deal for me.  He hugged me saying that makes him almost want to cry.

In a strange kind of way, the experience of today was akin to God reaching out to me personally and singularly using a language I could relate to with the story the returning Iraq veteran told in part.  I don't think I was getting the message many in LDS culture would interpret as being told that this was the true church.  I've been among returning Iraq veterans before, but it is rare where we live, there are very few that I know about among our small population and citizenry who have deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan.  Of course, this was not about me nor singular to me, I know that, and even so, somehow it touched me in a spiritual place as if Jesus was issuing a gentle challenge to me that I do not yet understand, and yet this is the place I heard the whisper of that challenge.    It affirms or reaffirms for me that God talks to people in language he knows they can hear and understand, and the threads of that seek out the ear even amongst the words not intended for that ear but for the ears of others.  I don't always understand the language that touches others, nor am I supposed to, any more than others understand the language that touches me.  I liken it to music in that there are notes that sound in the ears and touch such a deep place sometimes captured only in the beauty of  music, art, and dance.  Sometimes in the gifted crafting of a wordsmith painting pictures using words.

This part of the journey is the private part, the part not well described in the traditional words I hear used in the LDS culture.  My dear husband would recognize it as the place I speak of from time to time  - the place of no words.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dance! Dance! Dance! Michael Jackson and the Hokee Pokee

The Ward had a Dance last night and last Sunday several people had invited us to come.   Young and old were invited to the Dance.  My mental perception of what could that look like fascinated me; what music would they play, how would they mix the generations dance styles, would anyone dance or line the walls in shyness, would it look like an old fashioned barn dance, what would people wear?   So Friday I spent some time preparing for this Dance not unlike I might prepare for a dinner night out with my husband.  Did the whole routine, shower, hair, makeup, choose the right clothing and accessories thing.  And off we went - to the Dance!

It has snowed here these past two days, and we don't typically have snow, therefore ice on the roads to contend with - rain, wind and flooding, yes that is more the kind of weather we get here.  I wondered if the snow would cause people not to turn out for the Dance.  When we arrived, there were maybe 5 cars, so it looked to me like it would be a poor turnout, likely because of the snow.   We went into the recreation hall, and it was already set up with the refreshment table and the round tables with chairs.  Our young missionaries were there accompanying the newly baptized man and the other man who participates in our 'discussions'.   I was pleased to see the four of them, not sure who was accompanying who, but relieved that we wouldn't be the only new kids there.

So, the music started up, boombox type player with speakers (actually more elaborate than I've described, but that's the idea of it), and lively dance music was coming out of the speakers.   I looked around and people were dressed casual to very casual, comfortable, young fashionable for the younger set, and dressy.  Good mix, so no dress code here.  And the wee kidlets to the children, to the youngsters, to the teens, to the young adults began to dance.  Great, it will be multi generational dancing, so not too much intimidation on dance style.  I find myself relaxing immediately.

The young lady who seems to be the impetus behind encouraging people to dance obviously has trained dance skills, and I appreciate how she encourages the youngsters.  The music flows nicely between generations, to include some basic line type dancing where people can learn the steps and participate, to some of favorites from the rock n roll era, a not too rap rap, something from today's genre of music, and then there is Michael Jackson's Thriller.   Oops, not too many dancers know what steps to do with that one short of the ghoulish hands.

 And people are continually arriving, more children, more young people, more teens, more young parents, and people are dancing!   A small collection in one corner of preteen boys and a small collection in another corner of preteen girls (isn't that normal!) and our dance instructor manages to get most everyone dancing at some time during the evening.

And then there is the Chicken Dance.  Woo Hoo!   I tell the young missionary that this is a dance frequently used at weddings.  He makes a face.  I clarify, no, not temple weddings, and usually people have had a bit to drink.  Then I think about it, and clarify again, no not at the wedding itself, at the reception afterwards.  Then I think about it and clarify again, the music speeds up and by the end of the tune, people are Chicken Dancing at lightning speed.   Then he smiles, and says he gets it and I am relieved that hopefully I painted more a picture of people having fun but no way to know what images he depicted in his mind.

The refreshments quickly disappear, and I'm tickled to see tots and toddlers out there moving to the music right along with the older sets.   When we first arrived I met a woman and her mother who were setting up the refreshment table, and I learned the young lady leading most of the dances was daughter, so three generations of women are there, and I figure grandmother and mother will be sitting out most of the dances.  Not so!  Both mother and grandmother did just about every single dance with the daughter the entire two hours.  How's that for stamina!   They get my applause for sure.

Mother is wife of our local Dentist who I understand was formerly the Bishop of this Ward.  He danced some of the dances with them and it was fun to see a professional in a different light.  Of course, I tend to be rather frightened of the whole dentist experience anyway, so it was great not to be seeing him seated in a chair with my mouth open and dentist tools arrayed ready to attack my teeth.

The current Bishop and his wife are there, and he is wearing his casual clothes, so much the style of the people who live in our area, and how cool is that to see a hometown dressed sort of guy whom when we first met was wearing the obligatory suit, white shirt and tie.  His wife is dressed comfortably, dress and scarf shawl, comfortable shoes.  There are those dressed up for the Dance, and those dressed down for the Dance, and those dressed somewhere in between.  Women dance with women, children, whomever, and it is more about having fun than any dances I've ever attended.  Relaxed, and just plain fun.

Arthur tries to dance the Twist with me, but his knees won't twist.  No more twisty dancing for him.
 Early into the evening, the YMCA song comes on and I just have to dance to that one to do the ol' Y M C A movements with my arms.   Arthur dances all the couple slow dances with me, and I get him into the action when the Hokee Pokee dance song plays. Left arm in, left arm out, left arm in and shake it all about, do the Hokee Pokee and turn yourself around, that's what it's all about!  

Overall it is a quite lovely evening.  I learn later that this is the first time the Ward has had a Dance in a long time.  Well the turnout was great for a snow night and the participation was great.  I give my compliments to the young lady who chose the music, on her dance training and on encouraging the dancing participation.   I hope they will have many more Dances!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Putting a human face on the story of Joseph Smith

Lesson with the missionaries again tonight, and they wanted us to watch hour long dvd with them, give a bit of relief to the discussions.  I don't recall the exact title of the dvd, but it is an updated depiction of the life of Joseph Smith.  Some things I did not know about the traumas that shaped him in his early life;

-- trauma 1; he was a small 7 year old boy with a residual after effect of typhus - leg injury requiring surgical removal of tissue.  Spent some years crippled using a cane.

-- trauma 2; his older brother Alvin, 25, dies.  Religious belief sets at that time Second Awakening, Restoration included some harsh (imo) beliefs about damnation, hell, baptism, salvation.  Likely Joseph was told his brother was among those lost as he had not been baptized, was not saved, hell-bound.  (It is said this influenced Joseph Smith's later thinking in regards to baptism for the dead).

-- trauma 3; stillborn deaths of four (4) of their children - Joseph and Emma Smith.  Another of their children died at 14 months.

This portion of the dvd really struck a chord with me.  While I am not at a place to believe that what came next with the visions was inspired of God inasmuch as I am greatly willing to believe Joseph was spiritual in his questing and believed his vision to be real to him, many pieces of this puzzle clicked together for me in appreciating the very human, psychological aspects that made up parts of Joseph Smith's early years that would have a great influence on the visions and his structuring of what became the basis of Mormonism.

I was so taken by the human portrayal that I want to watch this dvd again, take it in sections, stop it at certain points and study it out.  I asked the young missionary how I might obtain a copy and he provided the resources where he thought it might be available for purchase, and the other young missionary said he had a copy he could loan to us.  He went out to his car to get it, and I am much pleased we will be able to view it as a study reference.

There did come a point in the dvd where it did seem the efforts to elevate Joseph Smith status shifted him out of the human-ness as portrayed in the earlier part of the dvd to a place of close to worship.  I'm sure as we watch the dvd together again, I may want to write about the portrayal of various stages of his life in the dvd, which will of necessity being church produced paint a more glowing portrait against so much of what has been written about his less than savory characteristics as a person.

The dvd did evoke strong feelings in me, leaving me with a more empathetic view of the course of history that birthed Mormonism.  I'll be getting back to writing about my impressions.

A btw, we began reading 'The Mormon Hierarchy Origins of Power' by D. Michael Quinn and the first two chapters are so thoroughly involved with explaining the concepts of Authority and Priesthood and who holds what authority and why and the march down the hierarchal chain of command, that I soon lost interest in trying to visualize all these men vying for some place of position, authority and relevance in this formation.  I'm fairly content to let the men mill about figuring out who is head of what and has keys to what and so on and so on as men are prone to do.  Unless or until they are stepping on my toes or those of the people I hold dear, the Men's Club can enjoy whatever it is that makes Men's Clubs attractive to them.  I mean no disrespect, truly, but as I listened I could feel the dinner burning in the oven, the dishes piling up, the kids crying as their needs went unmet, the laundry backing up and on and on and on as that is so much of what women do irrespective of all the other jobs they may choose to do alongside their jobs in their homes.

I said that I was willing to 'default' on the whole men's priesthood authority thing for now.  I didn't grow up inside this church, and am not beholden to a male ordered authority structuring and am perhaps less likely to feel the compression of my identity as it is defined within this church structure.  Not wishing to get sidetracked into a discussion of gender roles, gender identity, it provides me some element of relief that my adult life was not lived under these constraints.  Even as I don't fully agree that the eruption of women's choices and roles as I experienced in that second wave of feminism (1970s) was a balanced social reaction, I also don't agree that keeping women's roles in their status quo was useful nor indicative of personal growth for women.  I have said to my own children (now grown) that I don't regret the opportunity I had for career development, but that I would have preferred the timing to be different, not simultaneous to the time of raising children.  But I do digress.

This may have to do with a mellowing of my attitude about Joseph Smith as the originator of much of the LDS doctrines that seem odd in their male authority over women.   When I can see him as a human, a person, a boy, get some sense of his background, the historical time of religion that shaped his own religious/spiritual formation, I can get past the chagrin I have felt for him with regard to my sense of an oppressiveness of women to see him in a more personal manner.  Less the charlatan portrayal, certainly not the saintly deity portrayal and a somewhat more balanced view of a human making his way in the world, asking those angst kinds of questions we all ask, and looking for better answers than were being provided him at that time.

Say Whattttt !!

Another lesson with the missionaries yesterday.   By now at home I have several bible translations in use, KJV, The Oxford Bible Commentary, and a Catholic Bible, along with a New International Version (which I haven't yet used in these studies).  Meanwhile Arthur has been pulling out book after book from his collection of books from over the years in both his ardentness and his disaffectedness along with a goodly number of LDS related magazines he collected.  Elder M. gifted me a new Big Letter version of the three books in one = Book of Mormon (BOM), Doctrines and Covenants (D & C), and  Pearl of Great Price (POGP), which elicted one of Arthur's joking comments to which the young missionary said simply 'it's so she can do her homework'.  He had asked me to review some verses as homework.  He also gifted us an hour long dvd, The Testaments.

Between all that material, and my own questing via internet gobbling up information that I can get to as fast as the hours permit, I've no shortage of reading material.  Hello life, some things are not getting done, and I'm not complaining, as this learning curve phase can't go on indefinitely, can it?

I'm intrigued because we read Matthew 26: 36-55, then John 18: 33-37 and then Matthew 27: 45-54 when Elder M. mentioned that it was curious that Matthen 27; 9 indicated 'Jeremy the prophet'.    And sure enough it does in the KJV.  No way...Jeremy?!    That wasn't a name commonly used in those biblical writings.  Jeremy?   I told him it had piqued my curiosity and I was going to chase it down.  Which is what I did today. And thus begins the old dialogue about bible translations, bible translators and agendas for books of the bible.   I made a mental note and told myself, I'm not going there, been there many times before and it becomes a circuitous chasing my tail to little or no avail (ah, a poetic rhyme).

It's been mentioned a few times in my learnings that the gospel of Matthew may have had a strong agenda to favor the Romans (might have been politically expedient at that time to do so) with a slant against the Jews of that time making the Jews out to be more villainous than was perhaps accurate.   I can somewhat be dismissive of the Jeremy the prophet as written in Matthew, but it is rather indicative of a square peg being fitted to a round hole.  Some bible translations reference it as Jeremias the prophet, or Jeremiah the prophet, however the reference to the Old Testament book that speaks of Jeremiah is not the book of Jeremiah but the book of Zechariah.

Nonetheless, I can live with this and sort of wonder why young Elder M. mentioned it.   Moving on.

Reading Matthew 27: 45-54, Jesus being crucified which is an oh so familiar story, having heard it, read it, seen it so many times over my life time....but what is this verse 51 - 53; the veil of the temple was rent in two, the earth quakes, the rocks rent, and the graves were opened and many bodies of the saints which slept arose and came out of the graves after his ressurection and went into the holy city and appeared to many.

What!   I don't recall any time that this portrayal of saints arising from the dead and heading out to the holy city was part of the crucifixion/resurrection story.  Not in Mark, not in Luke, not in John, only in Matthew.
Internet here I come once again.  And it is explained away in metaphor or symbology or used as argument for the erroneous manner in which the stories of the bible are built, or used as arguments for atheism as in there are so many errors in the bible as to defy reason, thus there cannot be a God.

You know, I'm not altogether sure what it means, why I haven't heard of it before now - the part about the holy people coming out of their graves - and how I will put it together, but there it is in all the translations, just somewhat different words that still indicate that some that were dead were made alive at the time that Jesus is being crucified.  The arguments flow back and forth as to whether it was at the time Jesus died or the time of Jesus resurrection, and did these arisen wander for three days --- that sort of back and forth discussion.   I can instantly see a correlation to the writer(s) of Matthew putting a spiritual end to the Jews with the renting of the veil, the renting of the rocks and the rising of the sainteds out of the grave, thus giving birth firmly to a new Christology as supplanting Judaism.  I believe the gospel of Matthew was the last of the gospels to be written after Mark, Luke and John, and written at a much later time post Jesus death.  Were these verses added in that they do not appear in the earlier 3 gospels, and if so why were they added, how did add to the account?

Something else to assimilate and if I've learned nothing else in my studies of bible, I've decidedly learned there is very little that is concrete in the structuring of the bible, yet much to be learned and gained.  Ahh, but that it were a linear narrative, wouldn't it be so much simpler?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Convert - a most annoying word to me and I'm not one am I ?

Among the LDS people there seems to be a need to differentiate between generational LDS and 'converts', meaning people who were not raised in the culture (or the covenant) but decided to join the culture via baptism covenant.  Okay, in the sense of converting to another religion or culture, I get the useage of the term convert in it's many definitions.  In my limited understanding of how that word is used in context of religious cultures, a person changes from one belief set to another or it could also mean when a person more closely aligns to a belief set similar to the one they already carry.  

I don't see myself as doing either in this case.  I see myself as bringing what I already own via my appreciation, experience, understanding and belief sets to this religion without any wish for my belief set to be 'converted' to align more in line with the LDS model.    In some ways, it feels more like a testing ground to see if the LDS model can be adaptive enough to permit me to keep my belief set and permit it to be deepened within the their structure, a structure which, btw,  I view as subtly changing, perhaps needfully so, and in a way as to be more inclusive, opening up what has been or seemed to me to be a closed cultural structuring.  

However, in the technical definitions applied to the word convert, perhaps I am more comfortable with this definition;   to exchange something of equal value.  

I don't see myself as 'converting' to the LDS world view, rather I see myself as trying to embrace yet another human made structure of the spiritual mysteries.  I see myself as bringing intact my already existing relationship with Jesus Christ, and not that I am without a relationship and in need of having a relationship.  

But, perhaps I personalize the words I hear a bit too much.  As Arthur has explained, it could well be that the people in their earnestness to embrace me as a newcomer, they are liberally (wink, wink) pouring out the spirit, their testimonies all over me in a show of loving embrace.   Okay, I'll work on reframing it in my mind to be more the latter than the former.  I've pretty much resolved that Jesus walks with me where ever I go, there is no threat to the belief set I have formed of my relationship to Jesus except that it continues to expand.  The difficulty is in attempting to verbalize the individual personalization of that relationship, it has lived comfortably in a place of no words for a very long time, and giving voice to something so personal does not come easily.  

I see in many religions there is a standard of normal to share ideas, thoughts, discussions and dialogues about what is the meaning of the spirituality connection to the Greater Source, and that gets defined in many unique and different ways.  For me, less comfortable with the religiosity of the word useage, it seems more comfortable to keep my personal relationship quietly, inwardly personal.  I'm not saying better, just more comfortable.  

Having grown up with parent in military, it became part of my heritage to look at different cultures, different approaches with interest and curiosity, borrowing what I valued, leaving behind what was less valued.  I'm not sure that has left me with what is called a cafeteria approach to my own personal spirituality, as in taking what I want and leaving the rest.  It feels more like I'm drawn to a precept not unlike Joseph Campbell's comparative religions (belief sets) archetypes of mythical figures as is better explained  in his book 'The Power of Myth'  and the 1988 PBS collaborative series with Bill Moyers of the same name.  

LDS taking a New Look at the New Testament in 2011. I'm relieved.

2011 agenda for the LDS church seems to be a focus on the New Testament scriptures  (video at, and the scaffolding of how the NT was organized.  I'm Very Relieved, and perhaps in this element, I can make a small contribution.  At the lesson with the missionaries earlier this week, I explained that the reading of Jesus words per the BOM considerably flattened out the personage of Jesus as is unfolded in the NT scriptures.  It would have been greatly disappointed to think that Jesus reframed in the perspective of the BOM is the definitive Jesus that many among LDS point to when referencing Jesus.  

I look forward with anticipation and hope that emphasis this year among the LDS endeavors will bring Jesus into sharper focus, perhaps move Joseph Smith more into the background and not the forefront centrality of the story, the gospel, the good news.  And I truly say these things in the name of Jesus Christ...Amen.

On a quieter note, what I am learning via grace and via our experience with the people of this Ward, is the mentoring (intentional or not) to gentle my voice while telling my story (my testimony)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Catching up, meeting Stake President, more Missionary lessons, more Sundays

For whatever reason I took it into my head that we were 'fast tracking' towards baptism, I was leaning forward eager to get through the steps and reach conclusion.  It was an impression I formed based on information given me in various exposures to this church experience, and perhaps with the information given me I formed my own sense of time lines (too long perhaps working in a bureacracy where timelines meant by this time these steps will have been taken toward conclusive goal).  

Now, a mere three weeks later (honestly, it feels like it's been two months), I'm starting to realize that it will be when it will be and all my endeavors to get and grasp as much information and knowledge as I can is not going to hurry the process.  Therein lying the operative word -- process.   Not the language of the LDS church, rather language more familiar to me I take a breath and slow down a bit reminding myself that a process is, in fact, a process, not always linear, not always with a timeline.

Since last post, we have had meeting/interview with the Stake President (last Sunday), two more lessons with the Missionaries and another Sunday 3 hour meeting block including a Linger Longer potluck afterwards.  My  continued question which I now state with personal amusement 'Where are the Women' has been taken seriously by the young missionaries and the last lesson a woman from the Ward was at the lesson with us.  You have to love the earnestness of those young missionaries!   Bless their hearts.   It wasn't quite what I had in mind, yet it does show some degree of appreciation for what I am asking as well as some degree of accommodation.

In the interim between lessons, and Sunday block meetings, we have been voraciously consuming information available on internet, audio podcasts in the Mormon Stories series, hosted by John Dehlin, reading, discussing, and audio mp3 of self assigned chapters of the Book of Mormon.  Arthur assigned the homework for us =  3rd Nephi and the King Benjamen part of Mosiah.  Plus the Book of Moroni, which Arthur read aloud the first week of lessons.   And the ongoing daily dialogue he and I share, have shared throughout our marriage.

It has been a whirlwind type experience as in moving quickly while I attempt to adapt my experiential belief set to this LDS belief set.  Wishing to bump up the pace a bit, we requested the missionaries suspend the usual introductory type lessons and permit us to get into more hefty aspects of the doctrines. They have been most accommodating and I appreciate their efforts more and more each time we meet with them.  Arthur shares stories of his time as a young missionary, then we'll hit some piece of knotty doctrine and I thoroughly appreciate how the young missionaries allow for either or both of us to express our opinions, while they find ways to incorporate those concerns into the lessons without dismissing our concerns as irrelevant.

I still find a goodly number of doctrinal concepts that I strongly disagree with while simultaneously trying to understand how those concepts were structured by looking at the scaffolding that built those belief sets.  The people I have met thus far have been sincere in their outreach, and it will take time (process) to build communication blocks that permit a flow of understanding the symbology, meanings, and power of words.  For now it more resembles elements of tower of babble to me in that I am speaking a language perhaps foreign to them and they are speaking a language foreign to me.  I truly do not wish to have the vocabulary I do use fall by the wayside in adapting/adopting a vocabulary more familiar to their comfort level.

Small example, the assurances that continue to come at me that I will feel the spirit, be filled with the Holy Ghost, feel the fire, grasp the understanding, develop the appreciation for the Book of Mormon, for Joseph Smith, and more such like codified terminology understood amongst themselves.  Sometimes I listen politely, sometimes I attempt to inject my viewpoint, sometimes I strive for mutual appreciation of what I am trying to convey, sometimes I shrug and say to myself another day and will try again.   Today one such concept was shared with me, as told by a great grandfather, about the fire of the Holy Ghost after not feeling it for long period after baptism and conversion, and when he did...........

While this is meant as encouragement, to my ears this is what I am hearing;   you don't yet have the Holy Ghost, you don't yet have the fire, you aren't yet converted and can't have these experiences until you are converted.    I'm fairly sure this is not the message they mean to give me, more that they are enthusiastic in sharing what I might expect or could expect, their enthusiasm for sharing their version of the 'good news' with me and that I am interested.  What I have not been able to convey is that I don't come to this church less the Holy Ghost, less the Holy Spirit, less my own personal close connection and walk with Jesus, and I do not have a desire or wish to convert or be converted.  I wish to understand, I wish to respect and appreciate but I am not without my own internal resources, and spiritual experience, values, ethics and morals, that make up who and what I am as a person, as a child, a daughter, a beloved of God.

I'm not of the belief that there is a prescribed way to experience the experience of spiritual connection to Creator, nor necessarily a set of behaviors that define Godliness.  On the other hand, I'm fully cognizant that for people to share in community there needs to be some standards of behaviors that promote valued morals and ethics that elevate the human spirit to desire to walk the path that elevates others' humanity.

What is highly significant thus far about this experience is the warm receptiveness of the people connected to us (families), and the new family of which we are seeking to become a part.  I do indeed understand this as the honeymoon phase in any new relationship, but in all honesty, I have to say the people have been very genuine is their outreach and skeptic that I am as in it's that early love bomb stage, somehow I don't think that is the case.  Time will tell, time will show, and meanwhile I trust firmly in the guidance of spirit that has served me well over my many years.  The Mormons like to say repetitiously to read the Book of Mormon, and pray about it.  I doubt that reading the Book of Mormon is going to cause me to feel any more spiritually connected than I currently do, and in fact, at this point, I'm more annoyed and angry with how Joseph Smith used the Book of Mormon to set in motion....but I digress.  As to praying, that is typically useful advice and sharing among people, and among different cultures there assuredly are different ways to pray.

I can live with the concept of calling out that a young Joseph Smith, derived from the religious atmosphere of his time a unique way to cope with or initiate another way to look at the scriptures (as in the bible, not the books he developed after).  I can live with the concept that in this regard Joseph Smith was considered a prophet of his time, many others were as well.  I can live with the concept that Joseph Smith introduced a revelatory church in that more revelation had come and was to come.  In the personal experience of revelation, it is not so unusual to experience a sustained strong spiritual connection as to feel that revelation is indeed happening uniquely to you while perhaps not fully appreciating that this is a more often than less commonality of experience among people.

My hurdle for this time being though is that the testimonies I hear point more to the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith than they do to the life, example of Jesus Christ (and not the Jesus Christ of the Book of Mormon --- that portrayal is too righteous, dry and a bit of a two dimensional character imprint that belies the fullness of my own experience of Jesus the Christ).  Each prayer and testimony ends with in the name of Jesus Christ, and that seems to be as much attention as is given to Jesus Christ.  While there is a strong emotional sharing of belief of the Atonement, it is still as if this is the backdrop from which Joseph Smith is then elevated along with the books he caused to be created as revelatory scripture.

I think perhaps for some, perhaps many, the means of expression so deeply personal and real to them is better met in the codified language which seems to be understood as the common language of sharing.  Thus saying such things as I have a testimony of  (fill in the blank ---- Book of Mormon as true, Joseph Smith as a prophet, Jesus Christ died for our salvation) that it has deeper commonality meaning of sharing emotional, spiritual experience than perhaps my ears are hearing at this time.  Ah, but you know this is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it is not called nor imho should it be called The Church of Jospeh Smith of the Latter Day Saints, nor should Joseph Smith nor the subsequent books he brought forth be elevated above the due to be given to Jesus Christ.  Just a humble opinion, but it's mine and one I hold dear.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

One more Lesson with the Missionaries

I got phone call from the young missionary wanting to set up another lesson appointment.  Oh, I thought there were only four, and he tells me that there is one more.  I ask what is the lesson content, and he tells me it will be about the Commandments.  Arranged an appointment for us for tomorrow.

Referencing one of the church meetings we had last Sunday (I really must learn the title names of these meetings) for newcomers which Arthur is not but since I am he agrees to endure these meetings with me.  I say endure as I'm sure for him they are repetitive and unlikely of great interest to him.  It does provide him though with an opportunity to expand on the content, welcome help which the brother doing the teaching seems to appreciate.  There are two other newcomers in this meeting now, so it is not just us two as I had previously thought.   One is a man recently baptized and was confirmed at the earlier meeting, which means I've now seen the process for a confirmation, the laying of hands by the men (the men once again!) on his head as confirmation verbiage is stated aloud.  The other is a Spanish speaking man who speaks some limited English.

I'm wondering as the lesson goes on just what the Spanish man can assimilate since the book and the language being spoken is English.  At some point, I asked Arthur to inquire in Spanish of the man if he is able to follow the lesson.  He tells Arthur in Spanish that he is able to follow along, does speak some English.  I ask the brother teaching the class if they have the lesson book (Gospel Principles) in Spanish.  He says they do not.  Hmmm, given the population of Spanish speaking people here..... enough said.  But having met the woman who came here from Guatemala and she quickly learned to speak and read English, perhaps it works to other Spanish speaking people's interests to encourage them to learn English.

We both have heard too often, too many times from the local people in this area what sounds to our ears like contemptuous remarks about how the Spanish speaking need to learn to speak English because after all, whomoever is making the remark will invariably follow it up with how their immigrant great grandparents had to learn English when they got to this country.   Uh, disconnect there, because the person making the remarks did not have to learn a second language and knows little about what that process entails.  We know it is easier for young people to learn a second language than it is for mature adults, and we know most of the time the person making such a remark does not know a second language and might struggle greatly to learn a second language.  But I don't need to go off on a tangent here.  Perhaps in time, this Ward will see wisdom in having some of the learning materials in Spanish as well as English.  I'm fairly sure the larger LDS church has materials in more than one language.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Last Missionary Lesson and Taking the Missionaries to Dinner

We've met with the Bishop, had that meeting, which went well.  We are back on track to the baptism(although despite Arthur's willingness, I think he has more than earned but wah, wah, never mind).   Arthur has let his children know of our plans, and the response we receive is warm, positive and upbeat.  I have to admit, I am pleasantly surprised and pleased.  I am not sure what I thought his children's reactions would be, but they have shown themselves to be most gracious on the matter.

We make arrangements with the young missionaries for the last lesson.  I believe there are more missionary lessons, but the missionaries have advised us that we need to have four lessons and attend church services three times to be readied for the remaining procedures towards baptism.  We have this fourth lesson with the missionaries, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I am in my element.  I have several challenging questions I have written down in the handout they gave us to study before the lesson. As I listen to the lesson, I come to appreciate that I have a strong biblically based knowledge of the gospels, this lesson is going quickly and smoothly and deciding against using the time in challenging questions (one or two perhaps) I did get to throw in a couple of quick references to the elevated status Jesus gave to women, ie, it was woman that he first appeared to upon leaving the tomb, it was woman who recognized him as Jesus, it was woman he commanded to go and share the message that he lives, a message the men did not receive happily from a woman as in the historical time of that history women were held in lower regard by the men of that time.  It was men who failed to recognize Jesus although he appeared to them several times at different places.  And there is the woman with the Alabaster Jar whom Jesus said we should remember her name for all time.

The missionaries, pronouncing that I seem to have a strong testimony of Jesus, concluded the lesson.  Well, good, I have part of this down, as I do not yet have what is called in the LDS vernacular a testimony of the Book of Mormon and I'm Really Working on Joseph Smith the prophet.   More about that in another post.
Actually, this lesson included a rather well made short 20 minute film documentary format of the life, parables, and gospel of Jesus, and I found it to be a pleasing representation.  I would have perhaps taken issue with only one or two words, but otherwise it seemed to stay true to the biblical gospels.

We made arrangements with the two young missionaries to meet up with them and take them to dinner at a local restaurant within the week.  It was refreshing to meet with them under more social conditions, exchanging stories with our meal, and less about the teaching exchanges we have had with them to date.

Meeting with the Bishop

Sunday, Feb 6, 2011.  We attend the church meetings.  First meeting is what is called Sacrament Meeting, and I enjoy the ritual of the young men preparing and sharing the communion bread and water.  It falls short of the Eucharist services that I am used to at St John's Episcopal Church, and there are some of the elements of the communion in that it is a somber and sacred ceremony.  I don't know about water instead of wine, but the idea of bread (body of Christ) and wine (blood of Salvation) has enough similarity to be comforting, comfortable.   Although Arthur tells me we cannot partake as we are not yet baptized members of this church.  Hmm, well, that seems a bit harsh, as we are assuredly in communion in the body of Christ already, but it's their church rules, so we will go with the flow.

Off we go now to another meeting they have set up seemingly just for us, as we are the only two in attendance, with two older men who are instructing.  We are reading out of a book, Gospel Principles.  The content structure of the book offers an idea, which includes some verses, followed by some discussion questions.  I liken it to the confirmation lessons we had to take at St John's before becoming confirmed, or a catechism, although I'm fairly sure the LDS people would not appreciate that comparison.

And now off we go in separate directions, he to what is called a priesthood meeting and me to what is called a relief society meeting.  I suppose I should capitalize the first letters in those named meetings.  I'm still struggling a bit though with the gender distinctions, and men being almost automatically in a priesthood while women are what....oh, women, doing what women do best, enduring to the end.  Okay, that was snarky.  I'm a newcomer, I'm permitted to have impressions.  I came from a small local church in our region that had a male and female priest, and across the larger church has a mix of genders who are priests, including women who are Bishops.   Arthur and I had begun the long three year process of training towards becoming priests for the church.  Actually, we hadn't come to that decision, it was a path that we were encouraged to begin to walk, and we were aiming towards becoming licensed preachers, meaning being recognized by the Church to preach, having taken and completed some hermeneutics trainings.   I digress, well not really, as the all male priesthood does seem to me to be a bit of a step backwards, and I'm willing to be patient in learning how this church structures itself, appreciating that while I know some things about this church, I am also in a learning curve with much more yet to learn.

Meetings are concluded and we are off to meet with the Bishop.  He is an engaging and  kindly fellow, with a ready smile, one of our own (by that I mean he has a long history here in the region with it's lumber, fishing industries and his secular career was working in the forests).   We all share some stories about our affections for the area, share some stories about our secular careers, and somewhere in all that friendliness, we shift to the business at hand.  He is in no hurry and pulls out an instruction manual (I assume it is a manual for Bishops and other ranking stewards of the church).  We are amused as it much resembles the RCWs, WACs, and Instruction Manuals we have used in the course of our work with Washington State.

So the bottom line is that when a person such as Arthur, raised in the church, returned missionary, married in the Temple, raised his children in the church, held callings and church offices, and came to point of disenchantment with the church, requesting his name be removed from the church records, is required to go through the same process of return to the church as someone who has been ex-communicated by the church. Go figure.   The night before, with not some degree of anxiety, upon hearing there was to be this interview with the Bishop, while they were reassuring me that I could be baptized, but they were not sure Arthur could be baptized, I had said to the men in the room, that I would not be baptized into this church if my husband was not also going to be baptized.  Once again they tried to reassure me, not fully understanding or appreciating what I was trying to say, which was not that my path to baptism was in jeopardy, but that I had no wish to be part of this church unless it was with my husband, this being a male dominated church structure. They were eager to reassure me that the women had a very active role in this church, and it was at this point that Arthur suggested we all needed some time out from what he described as the train wreck we had just been hit with.

I liked the Bishop, and his approach was inviting, welcoming, but I still took issue with what was seeming to me to be a punitive course laid out for Arthur.  As the Bishop continued to explain, Arthur could indeed be baptized with me, he could not baptize me, and Arthur had already told me he was okay with that, but we had been laboring under the impression that he was not going to be permitted to be baptized until a year had passed.  And I was absolutely sure I had no wish to be baptized into this church if he was not.  As it was explained then, seems it is not nor was it an an issue of baptism.  We both could be baptized.  The issue was the procedure that treated returning people who had their name removal in the same manner as people wanting to return from  an excommunication.  Arthur would have to wait a year for restoration to the priesthood, callings, temple recommend and well, frankly, I don't know what all else.  I was not grasping how this was not punitive, but Arthur was assuring me by that time, that he was okay with it, understood it and wanted us to proceed.

The Bishop explained that he had already sent up his recommendation for our baptism, that it would to to the Stake President, and then up to headquarters (okay that's the word I use, not the word the Bishop used) in SLC.  Or at least that was my impression of the administrative procedure the Bishop was explaining.  He told us the Stake President was going to be at the Ward next Sunday and we could meet with him after the church meetings.

I'm completely happy with the Bishop's handling of the situation inasmuch as it is agreeable to Arthur and he assures me it is.  Next...meeting with the Stake President.

Lesson 3 and Oops, there is a small problem

We had what seemed an uneventful Lesson 3 with the young missionary, and a much older member of the church.  Who is this, and where is the other young missionary?  As was explained, it was a missionary split, meaning one young Elder (how about that for twisted terminology) was in the field in our area and the other young Elder was in the field in another region.  As I already learned the established practice requires not one by two to teach the lessons.  So we met another (male) member of the church to assist the young missionary with the lesson for that evening.

As the lesson was finishing up, the other young missionary and another older (male) member of the church entered the room. They took seats behind us.   I didn't think much of it until as the lesson finished up, the talk was then directed at Arthur that he was to have an interview with the Bishop. Or maybe it was we were to have an interview with the Bishop.    I heard body language more than I heard words from the men in the room, (by this time I'm in a room with 5 other men), seemed to me to be uncomfortable in the message they were delivering to Arthur.   I turned to them (why are they sitting behind us and talking to us from behind, it is not a comfortable setting for me), and stated that this was beginning to have a punitive tone to it, is this intended to be a punitive action.  They quickly reassured me it was not, nothing like that, and the church was eager to have us as members.

Arthur went silent for a moment or two, and I was trying to ascertain where this turn in events was headed, when the young missionary giving the lesson mentioned the word excommunicate.  Now I really was puzzled, and annoyed.  Explaining that Arthur was not excommunicated, but had gone through the process to request his name be removed from the records, I could feel the male energy surrounding me as one of growing discomfort. Mine, Arthur's, theirs.   Arthur, coming out of his initial reaction, could see where I was going with my questions, could hear the men all trying to respond in reassuring us that they did not know the nature of why we were being asked to interview with the Bishop, but that it was standard operating procedure in this kind of situation (name removal) which really amounted more to talking over each other and was not at all reassuring.  Arthur advised them that this was doing little good at the moment, and that we needed time to be with it, which at least ended the not so reassuring reassurances.  Arthur then advised them and me that he was recalling something about the process that he had forgotten to remember and to go ahead and set up the meeting with the Bishop, but that for this evening, we were concluded with our time there.

We all left, and when we were in our car and driving home, Arthur explained to me his experience of  instances where an interview with the Bishop was called for and that he was comfortable, okay with it.  I was still puzzled about the interchange of the two actions, requesting name removal and ex-communication as not being the same thing at all.  He continued to try to put me at ease (I suspect putting himself at ease as well).
He said we would simply meet with the Bishop tomorrow (Sunday) after the church meetings and he was confident/comfortable it would go well, and that it was more a matter of procedure than a problem.

I did gather my composure, put my rising anger to rest, and decided to leave it in Arthur's and the Sacred Spirit's hands.  Arthur being the one experienced with these matters of church protocols.   I have been a member of other churches, most recently we are confirmed in Episcopal church, and I can't imagine a scenario where there would be a halt to the proceedings while we had a formal interview with the Priest.  But then, I already know the LDS church does things differently and they do have this male priesthood thing going on.  I'm actually rather struck in somewhat of amusement that I was in a room with 4 men who seemed to be code talking to Arthur while trying to reassure me, the newcomer woman.

Where are the women, I keep asking, because for the most part I find myself trying to converse with males who seem more intent with quieting me than hearing what I have to say.  Tomorrow then, we'll learn more.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Acquiring a language, a vernacular in which to share concepts

How to find words to explain to those in the LDS church who have developed a common language amongst them where words have different connotations and meanings for them than they will have for me and others like me, people who are newcomers to learning about the LDS belief set?

It will be a most difficult challenge.  I have a resistance to many of the words I have heard used to convey some of the LDS concepts.  I believe I come to their doors already embued With a Testimony (to borrow from the vernacular I am hearing and trying to appreciate, understand).   I do not wish to have the testimony I already have, have earned through my diligence, studies, prayers, and endurance....I do not wish to have my testimony, which I hold precious and dear, put through a indoctrination process until the words I am saying sound like the words I am hearing from others and is therefore more pleasing to their ears that I have 'seen the light'.  In my mind that translates to mean I will have seen 'their light', not my own light, and until I learn (via the example of pablum and milk first,meat later) I will be seen in the capacity of a newcomer not having a testimony in alignment with the LDS testimony.

In my efforts thus far to get my message through as something worthwhile to be incorporated into the language and vernacular, I can see it will be a perplexing challenge ..... for them, for me.   For the moment, for the time being, for now, it is my wish that I am permitted to contribute that to my newcomer ears, the words they are using hold meanings that are not embracing, but in fact, have a ring of arrogance to them that is off-putting to me and perhaps to others like me, who wish to hear more, but are prohibited by the sense or feeling of arrogance that the words sometimes convey.

Coming to peace with Lesson 2

Having spent a good deal of words in trying to capture the feeling while also chronicling the unfolding events, emotions, exchanges, this post will be brief.  My husband and I have by now spent several days in deep conversation with each other about the material, concepts, change in our life, changes in the lives and loves of those close to us, but the focus of our conversations are actually each of us reaffirming to each other that even with the feeling of the movement of spirit, the guiding spirit, the holy spirit moving within us and taking us to this place, that first and foremost is our marriage, our love for each other and our desire to protect what we share together.

It is good that our next lesson with the young missionaries is scheduled for a few days away, which gives us opportunity to experience, to process the tumultuous emotions we are each experiencing.   We are indeed having individually different while simultaneously similar emotional experiences and we are doing so in the context of our commitment to our marriage, to each other, and looking to take the preciousness of our marriage into a faith belief set that may or may not work for the integrity of our marriage.  We are about to take that leap of faith that Arthur likens to Indiana Jones character in the movie Last Crusade where they have to trust that even though they cannot see it, there is a bridge in place that will hold their weight when they take that jump.

Missionary Lesson 2 yields personal upheaval

Day 3, Lesson 2
    My husband and I are still talking non-stop between ourselves about what this change will mean in our lives.  What I haven't mentioned is that simultaneously what is going on in the background is what seems to be some healing activity with one of his brothers, an activity that began months earlier.  I'm not sure I want to write a great deal about the circumstances that led to the alienation, as much as I hope to focus on the feeling of being guided towards a healing reconciliation for husband and brother, and an opportunity for embracing of me, in my role as his wife, which felt like acceptance where it has not felt so prior.

    By this time, I have shared with my adult children my intended actions, to inquire of their reactions and give them time to accept the new direction I am laying out.  They accept my decision as mine to make and that it gives them no sense of discomfort.  Perhaps I will circle back to writing more about my sense of their calm reaction and why I wanted them to have an opportunity to weigh in with their reactions.  There can be much derisiveness about the LDS practices among the general public.  It is my intent to give my children a bit of opportunity to be prepared to hear some perhaps unloving statements, although I don't think in their daily lives and activities, there would be much reason, occasion for them to mention or discuss their mother's faith choices or decisions.

    By this time, I have also shared with my mother my intended actions, to which she gives me the reaction I fully expect her to give me.  One of apprehension, despite the fact that by now she knows and respects my husband on the merits of his character as a man, and not on the merits of his choice in faith beliefs.  She knows him as a person first, a spiritual man second, and as a former practicing Mormon last.  Nonetheless, she subtly intonates her fears that this may not be a well thought out decision on my part.  I know her well enough to know what is not being said is as much a message as what is being said between us.  In my amateurish efforts to try to frame a language around my decision, I try to make the distinction between some of the typical public perceptions that prevail about the LDS and Mormon belief set and my hope to learn what they themselves mean weighing that information side by side.  I make the unfortunate mistake of choosing the word outsider, she repeats the word slowly and with emphasis, and I know she has begun down that road of thinking I have stepped inside a cultish community distinguishing insiders from outsiders.  I do not know how to adjust my words yet to distinguish newcomer into LDS from those who have chosen the belief set and are made up of people who were raised in the culture, in the church, those who converted, those who left, but essentially all have had some exposure to the enculturation from inside the church and not as myself, an observer outside the church.

 Lesson;  what is called The Plan of Salvation.  My description would be that this was a lesson in which the LDS belief set of the life after life was explained.  My intention is to follow along the narrative to better understand their belief set, and be able to explain that belief set as another of the many belief sets that exist in explaining the spiritual mysteries, ie, Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myths.   As I follow along, waiting for that big hit that failure to do these things leads to some kind of hellish torment, the young missionary drawing the diagram never gets to a place of hell.  Rather he shows various holding places, reviews the Atonement, gets to the place of a Second Coming, the raising of the dead, and then veers off into the various places they will be judged to go, and none of those places are a place of hell.  There is the outer darkness place, but even that is not a place of demons, and eternal torment, as much as a place of isolated, separated from participating in the other spheres of the after life.

   For me, this is a Very Big Deal.  As most of the Christian denominations to which I have been exposed have some element of hell as a not great place to wind up, and has elements of penance, pain, and eternal types of suffering, it is something I have had to reject as not of God, not Godly, not of a God loving of mankind.  Therefore, it has also served as an impediment to embracing the God as described in the Old Testament as the same loving God of which his son, Jesus Christ pointed to and enjoined us to wish to enter into communion with.   Appreciating that this is my personal construct of the information as it was presented to me over my growing up years and into adulthood, it is a mixed bag of messages and my resulting perceptions as to what constitutes hell, therefore what constitutes a loving God.

    In the sudden onset of awareness as to what the young missionary was diagramming, the theorem of what an afterlife might look like, I was struck by how little I have of a sense of afterlife (heaven) as laid out by some of the Christian denominations to which I have had affiliation.  I was also thunderstruck that this was the first time I was hearing of the LDS version despite the many years I have been married to my husband, and despite his side of the family's LDS connections.  Anger filled me, a sense of having been betrayed by having this depiction withheld from me when he and so many others in his family branch knew the information as it had been presented to them.   How could this have happened, how could I have not known this over the many years he and I have shared spiritual matters, spiritual belief sets together?!

  Addressing this with him with a hurting heart, he understood immediately the pain I was feeling, the absence of having shared the concept in our many shared conversations together related to the matter of spirituality.  Even as I was feeling my own emotions, I was feeling how awkward this had become for him.  Wishing to comfort myself and ease the awkwardness for him was an emotional storm for both of us, generating between us a level of understanding that while we seemed to think we were on the same page in many of our spiritual conversations, we were chasms apart in this particular arena.   We worked through it, we talked it through, we reaffirmed the closeness we shared in our marriage that would permit us to have this conversation.  He didn't try to explain it, rather he said something that resonated with me in a new light of understanding.  He said he has never been afraid of hell, has had no reason to be afraid of hell, and that being raised with no other concept of hell, he took for granted that others saw hell in a similar, non-fearful manner.  In speaking with another of his family members about the unfolding events, and my recognition of lesson 2 as highly significant to me personally, she indicated same thought my husband had stated; raised in the church, not afraid of a cruel hell place, took for granted others saw it in similar vein.

    Extracting the concept of a tormenting hell as an impediment to embracing a loving God gave me an opportunity to place the loved ones in our family who have passed into a new mental construct where I can view them busily engaged, preparing a place for me for a time when I enter that place where they are, and they welcome me with loving arms.  I had never placed them in a place of torment, or hell, or absence, rather had vague notion of a heaven, an afterlife, something no one could really know and was a personal matter of whatever construct each of us has created of the afterlife.  The concept as was presented to me by the young missionary yields a degree of comfort for me about the loved ones in my life who have passed.  And it somehow also opened the doors for me that I might finally be able to begin to embrace an imaging of a loving God, and perhaps a way to incorporate a more gentle image of God, or Giver of Life, or Creator or the names attached to The One as not of that described in the Old Testament.    We'll see.  I remain skeptical, but do embrace the opportunity as an opportunity.

   Continuing conversations with my husband, and registering my feeling level that I don't wish for my mother to be left with the impression she created in her mind, I phone her the next day and attempt to explain my intent and inadequacies in knowing what words to use.  We have a conciliatory moment with the acknowledgement she felt my use of the word outsider meant I saw her in that light and that she was going to lose her daughter.  I assured her that the word was not one I was given but one I had used in trying to make a distinction, and that it in no way meant I had made a demarcation line of insiders/outsiders.  That our relationship would continue as is, nothing much was likely to change.  Having in recent years encouraged my mother to attend the Episcopal church in her neighborhood, and knowing we have been confirmed and active in our Episcopal church, it would be a bit of a surprise for her to understand my decision.  I don't expect her to understand, exactly, even as she says she does understand the connection to my husband's heritage as a compelling reason for my interest.   The rest of the conversation we share our mutual appreciations for the many aspects of the Episcopal structure we both enjoy, and I do share with her the concept that was given to me in lesson 2 the previous evening.  With application to the passing of her husband, we share some discussion around what we think of as where he is, what an afterlife might be.  Our conversation ends on a positive note.

The Decision

Day One, announcement of wish to be baptized.
    My husband, anticipating that if I say the 'tipping point' words aloud, the young missionary who had been sitting in the pew in front of us would move swiftly into action.  My husband shushed me, wishing to help me avoid the initiation of missionary lessons part of the process.  I tell husband that I am intentional, and understand that this is a step that cannot be avoided, so let's do it, get through it.  And while I wish we didn't have to be subjected to what seems to me to be baby step lessons having lived sixteen years with my husband and learned much from him, nonetheless, it seems there is no other entry point.  I compare it to the time we were required to spend in a catechism to get ready for confirmation into the Epsicopal Church.

   The Bishop of this Ward has come up to us to greet and welcome us, hears the conversation and shares with us his own experience at the time he decided to be baptized and his impatience with having to go through the missionary lesson steps.  He encourages us to go through the lessons anyway, and we agree to get started that very day; the young missionary has some open time in his schedule.

  Lesson 1;  An introduction, some discussion of what Atonement means (in the LDS church).  No problem, we are marching through this.  By this time, we are into the afternoon, and upon finishing up, Arthur and I decide to have lunch to discuss this rather sudden change in events for us.

Impressions in the walk towards baptism into the LDS church

The title of this post initiates the beginning of blogging my impressions as a newcomer to the LDS belief set/church/faith.  I wonder if I might retitle this blog as Impressions, and will leave the blog titled as it is for now.   It seems I have made a decision to walk inside the LDS faith rather than observe it from outside.  In our marriage years together we have not made a visit to the LDS church in our area.  We decided to pay a visit two Sunday's ago.  We set the ground rules for ourselves, that we would attend the general meeting and leave before the other two meetings that follow.  The purpose of visiting the church was to introduce ourselves to Mormons within our community.  I found myself quite taken with the speakers at the meeting, a husband and wife team in the function of missioner presidents.  Meaning to the best of my present understanding that they assist and help the young missionaries in performing their functions.

She spoke with depth and feeling to the Book of Ruth (biblical), he told an engaging story, and it did not feel to me like 'preaching' in the traditional sense of the word.  As I looked around at the people in attendance, I had moments of appreciation that they were people, neighbors living in the region where we live, trying to make their way in the world to the best of their varied abilities.  i said to my husband, that I would like to stay and see how the rest of the meetings develop. 

It happened to be the 5th Sunday at this Ward (they call their church buildings Wards), and the agenda for the services/meetings differ on the fifth Sunday.  The men and women stay together in what is called Sunday School, and then the meeting following that which is a combined Priesthood Meeting and Relief Society Meeting.  The men and women remain together, the children go to their various classes.  

At the end of the meetings, I said to my husband that I was ready to take the next step towards moving inside, and that step is baptism, so I was ready for baptism.  He was startled and quick to recover, knowing our walk is one together, not separate and his appreciation for the male role of attendance to his wife,  indicated he would be baptized, he first, and then he would be in position to baptize me.  Thus began for us a new aspect to our journey together.  As I continue to write in this blog, I hope to write some of my initial impressions of the experience as a newcomer to this church. It has been a week since that announcement, and  it has been a week full of high wind emotions, The Storm, which in it's own right is neither good nor bad, but is in fact a storm, the culmination of climatic events in the weather that come together to create conditions that generate a  weather storm.  

Related Posts with Thumbnails