At the end I inquired about something I'd been told by one of the members - something regarding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and something to the effect that America was the chosen land. Arthur attempted to clarify his understanding of what I might have been told, based on his understanding, which is not at all as I was told. The missionaries also tried to offer clarifications. I'd like to be persuaded, but the person who told me this was pretty clear about what was being conveyed and had an investment in such being true.
I decided to let it go for the evening and Arthur and I enjoyed a meal together and watched a dvd later in the evening. Next morning, I did some googling to see if I could determine what position the LDS church has taken on war, and more specifically the Iraq war. It was disheartening to read the 'non position' yet the enthusiastic support for President Bush in deciding to invade Iraq. I won't get into all of that in this post, except to point out that it was not at all reassuring or uplifting to read that the then prophet of the LDS Church...well, I just won't get into it......
This is the first Sunday of the month, so the pattern in the church meetings for first Sunday of the month is where members are given ample time to go up to the podium to give their 'testimony'. I recall that we had this experience the first Sunday in February and I thought it went well enough. Not so today. A couple of people gave similar testimonies as they had previously given, not much new there. I likened it to lighting a candle at the Episcopal church. A young person gave a testimony of concern for loved ones going through serious medical procedures. I was touched by young person's concerns.
And then someone got up to give a doomsday testimony of how awful are the conditions of the world, so much so that it must be the end times, and we'll be out of food, resources, and we better brace for mean times ahead. Well assuredly the news is full of the ain't it awful stuff, in fact, this morning I had put something on my Facebook to the effect that I was wondering where was the good news today. In this first morning meeting (the sacrament meeting), the chapel has a mix of adults and children, and being a mother and a grandmother, I couldn't help but look around in wonderment about how the children were absorbing this doomsday information. They might well wonder if they were going to have a meal next week. The person giving this testimony indicated that while it might be offensive, he/she didn't care;, it was fact, and true, and tough.
Next person got up and another not so uplifting testimony. Next person, was in such great personal emotional pain, and I did not feel anything like joy in that testimony. Couple of quite young children got up to give a three sentence, standardized rote testimony.
By the end of the meeting, my mood was anything but the 'feel good' I keep hearing as what I should be feeling that the spirit would be letting me know. Shake it off, I tell myself, and next meeting will see an improvement. Not to be. What is called Investigator lesson. Room full of men again, the young man instructing the lesson, three other men, another man whom we have not met who is apparently also of the investigator status, and myself and my husband.
I'm determined not to let my mood influence my ability to receive this lesson and I tell myself to just get through it. I am coming to appreciate or understand that this culture does indeed have it's own language with it's own meanings and I feel so outside the language. The young missionary isn't sure if he wants to teach a lesson on prophets or priesthood. Suggestions and he decides on prophets lesson. He is doing well, imo, with staying on lesson, on topic. The men, in the room, eager to help teach, offer their input and suggestions.
I listen quietly as these men pound home their version of truths until I can stand it no more, the assaultive language. Don't they have a clue how that sounds to my ears, what they are in effect saying, that I am in the room with them, that I am a woman, a mother, a grandmother, that I have a family and that I would never condemn my children, my family using the kinds of words they are using?! I speak to it with them. They reinforce each other's words, all of them in a rush to 'teach' whatever it is they think they are needing to teach. I speak to it with them again more forcefully. And then my husband speaks to them. That seems to get the attention my own words don't seem to get. And then they dial it back, explaining that what they meant was.......................... (exactly what they said in the first place).
It is a heated exchange, not necessarily comfortable, but assuredly an exchange that I don't regret. In fairness, one man there did acknowledge he understood what I was saying, citing an example in his own family of exactly what I pointed out. I really don't have any idea what kind of impression is being formed of my reactions as an 'investigator' trying to learn these great truths, but frankly today I'm not much interested in learning much more about these kinds of truths.
Meeting ends, and Arthur goes to his 'men' meeting while I go to the 'women' meeting, which just happens today to be on Priesthood. Fortunately the woman conducting the lesson has chosen to read from several different sources and there are not many openings for discussion, until she asks one question of the women 'how do you feel about the priesthood'. I respond that I'm not too happy about it today, having just come from a meeting with a room full of men that I did not feel were respectful. She offers that misunderstandings happen sometime, and if I might seek one of them out and explain, to which I respond, no I didn't do anything wrong, they did it wrong (based on the lesson given about priesthood responsibilities) and it's on them to understand their responsibilities. My reaction is met with quiet, and she goes on with the lesson. At the end of the meeting, there is time left and women are invited to give their testimony. Three women do so.
As the meeting wraps up, several women come to me to inquire what happened, if I'm doing okay, and provide some reassurances, woman support. It is comforting, in that I had thought perhaps I had alienated the women, and maybe not so much.
Home and Arthur fixes us a meal, his way of giving grace to what has been an awkward day. We talk, and then reflect, and then talk again. I wonder aloud if I have the stuff or stamina to live in this culture. Sounds like I'm letting one difficult day color my thinking, but it feels much larger than just one bad day. I have worked diligently, carefully to try to understand it from the other side, what governs the thinking, why it is what it is, despite knowing, living, experiencing first hand the damage I've seen it can cause to families on all sides with it's rigidity. Today I am not thinking favorably on this religion or culture as demonstrative of a loving God of compassion. I have worked to try to discern that this is a lay person church, that people are merely people doing the best they can, that the administration of the church, therefore many of it's doctrines are a management level element of operating a global company, and that the people within are church communities enfolding and supporting each other through this earth walk. Today this philosophy isn't working for me very well.
In our discussions together, Arthur is concerned, disturbed in knowing that I am disturbed, and we enter into more discussion, coming to a place of deciding to dial this back a bit, push baptism forward several more months, permitting us both time to reconcile in our minds how we want to go forward. I have engaged a great deal of reasoning, mind work, thinking, researching, studying, and it might be a good time to employ the four legged stool model I learned at Episcopal church of reason, faith, tradition, scripture. So I've been using three of those, reason, tradition, scripture and for now I think I want to spend some time in prayer, solitude prayer, prayerful prayer, not the public prayer nor the prescribed LDS prayer styles being taught to me in the lessons and at the church meetings.
And not to leave this on a note of comparisons between religious style approaches, for me there is prayerfulness in the Mother, in Nature, in Great Spirit, and that is yet another venue altogether.