Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Landslide - Caving In

Internally my landscape is shifting and I can feel it.  Internally I can feel the strong walls of resistance I have built for myself starting to crumble.  Which means what, I'm not exactly sure, as I also recognize it wouldn't take much to patch them back up to once again stand strong against .... what  .....  influences I think I prefer not to be built into my internal castle.  Lying deeper though, protected, insulated is a waking part of my self yearning to fully embrace and take it into myself to own, to cherish, to love, to adore, to nurture, to care for, to share, to give.

Since I last wrote in my blog, I have had opportunity to substitute and fill in teaching for Primary Class for two Sundays.  We have had a weekend of family get together and sharing weekend to celebrate mine and my daughter's July birthdays.  Last Sunday was 3rd Sunday which is my time to teach the lesson in R.S. and the lesson was a challenge for me; families together for eternity.  Knowing I could not teach the 'ideal' of the lesson without also including the reality was the challenge for me in giving the lesson.  I think it went as well as could be expected in the framing of the lesson.  The women were responsive, engaged, and actually quite helpful in bringing their own material to the lesson.

My husband was called to be pianist for Primary where he has been substituting for past three weeks, which gives release to the woman who has fulfilled that responsibility for years and desirous of release so she could take in other elements of the Sunday services.  He is happy with this calling.  I am pleased for him, and also feel a bit abandoned as I am left to my own devices in Sunday School lessons and Relief Society lessons.  But it is my time of learning, assimilating, integrating, and he is content to learn anew as he sees it through my eyes.  I would hazard to guess he is doing his own internal integrating.

Yesterday I listened to another podcast at Mormon Matters, subject was on keeping the weirdness of Mormonism.  Somewhere in the middle of the podcast though, as the guest panelists were talking about what works for them, their love of certain doctrines, certain idiosyncrasies, even certain folk lore in what comes together to make up Mormonism, I found myself embracing instead of resisting what I was hearing.

This morning in our typical start the day morning routines, one of which is to start up the laptops and do a quick rundown check of email, I found myself chasing links to Mormon related blogs.  In a moment where I spoke aloud thoughts circulating in my mind normally not spoken aloud, I reflected to my husband that I wish I had been raised Mormon, and that I had been able to raise my family in the LDS church.  I'm not sure what his internal reaction to my thought was but his face registered surprise, maybe even approving surprise, didn't seem to be startled surprise.

I tried to explain to him that I was appreciating the protective and insulated environment created against distractions from the larger world scope.  I was particularly thinking of my years of dance training and the environment of focus created in the dance world.  I was thinking of family that could nurture each other and build each other up, appreciate each other for their talents and contributions.  I was thinking how I yearned when I began my family to have a better family environment than the one in which I was raised.  How I wanted for my children to have the nurture of a close family, none of the emotional onslaughts that wracked my formative years in a hellish dervish.  I was thinking that the map laid out by the LDS church, while too tightly woven in some areas, nonetheless provides an 'ideal' to aim for with demonstrable steps in how to at least aim for the ideal.  Obviously I don't agree with many of the steps or the ways suggested by this church, but I don't take exception to the effort at community, communality, and working towards achieving nurturing connection points.
This morning in our few moments before he goes off to his workplace for the day, we share a few quiet moments in prayerful reflection.  It isn't always a reverential bowing of the heads in respectful worship kind of prayerfulness.  Sometimes it is a brief exchange of deeper thoughts reflected in a few sentences that each of us may take with us into our thoughts while attending to the tasks of the day. Today mention was made again of our appreciation of the Native American spirituality which does not seem to offer condemnation, more ways to be in loving community with each other.  Perhaps that is why it has appealed to me, the quiet, steady focus on being a 'people' together in community.  A tribe of belonging, a place of knowing to whom one belongs.
I think of Mormonism in that way, a people having formed a tribe held together by beliefs shared in commonality, not necessarily their genetic heritage as a people, but their desire towards a tribal community.

I'm idealizing, and I know it.  I'm remembering the insular environment of being raised in military setting.  I'm remembering the 'ideals' of that environment.  I'm feeling a deep sadness of a history for myself that was more strongly about cutting ties with heritage than reinforcing and growing that much needed tethering.  I wanted to give my children that very tethering.  To the degree that I was successful, I also know there were many areas I could well have been more successful, given them more.  I forgive myself in knowing I did the best I could do at every step of the way, even so, I ache in knowing I could have given them more.  I'm not sure that giving them the map of Mormonism/LDS would have been the answer, even so, it would have been a map with high goals to aim for, given them a bit of the insular against the oft times chaotic waves tossing us to and fro less the  benefit of a map by which to steer and guide our ship.

 Destiny being what destiny is, we are in the places we find ourselves given our life circumstances.  Someone once described how she saw me as a person punching at paper bags in my efforts to take on the world on the terms dealt to me.   I think I understand what she meant with the paper bags analogy.  So much time spent punching at paper bags, time that could have been put to better use in other endeavors.

No Mormonism is not the answer, it is not the sum all or be all and often falls short in helping people who have faced challenges based on their differing realities.  Even so, even with all the peculiarities in the history that makes up Mormonism, even with the out and out wrongness that sometimes permeates the messaging people receive, there is a thread of desire that runs through it all in wanting to be a safe, nurturing, loving community, a people caring for one another, a tribal people.  There is much in the map of Mormon life that is good, wholesome, decent, and while I don't believe that the Mormon way holds a monopoly on those kinds of values, I am coming to believe that it would be a great loss if the Mormon way were to be lost in the landslide that seems to be crushing us globally in these times.   I have a feeling of relief in sensing my internal shift as one of being willing to embrace and letting go of punching paper bags.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Seriously though,

Finding it difficult to post in my blog the enormous amount of information I've digested this past six months, from sources on internet, seemingly both kinds - acceptable LDS and less acceptable LDS.  I have no need to go to the anti LDS at this time, having already walked that part of my husband's journey many years ago.  I read recently somewhere that Mormons, having learned their truths in the fashion that because they 'feel' it (via gift of the Holy Ghost or imo the normalcy of human feelings when one is feeling connected to a sense of something greater than self) then 'it' must be true; conversely because life may not unfold as promised in great disappointment and hurt they feel it must not be true after all and they have been misled, deceived, falsely taught or any variation on that theme.  Both approaches being different sides of the same coin.  Extracting from my own experience, it seems to me that it is the 'feeling' aspect in this belief set that is the the largest element of the messaging.

Lacking expertise to properly articulate an evaluation, I'm content to allow my observations to be more an internal space, less an outward articulated space.  Content for the time being to allow my observations to serve as personal markers bubbling up in my learning to both gain and own my own definition of my spiritual self in context to LDS/Mormon religion.   I use the combination LDS/Mormon sometimes to mark that I have come to learn there are marked distinctions between current day LDS teachings and historical Mormon teachings.  Some carry forward over the history of time and remain part of current LDS teachings (correlated) while some teachings fall into the shadows of history, not quite removed, but not hailed among current LDS teachings.  Ghosts of the past wafting to haunt the present teachings.  I can't help but be somewhat amused as one who has stood on the peripheral edges looking in from the outside and looking out from the inside.  I doubt there is another religion, church, belief set that doesn't have some history to it which might prove awkward, embarrassing, shameful, disturbing in light of examination.

Given that many religions define belief sets specific to the community they serve, the era in which they serve, and location in which they serve, I feel fairly confident that it is safe to say humankind makes their own definitions of the 'Greater'.  I've certainly heard the Greater defined in many different ways, enough so that along the lines of Joseph Campbell's, 'The Power of the Myth'   it makes more sense to me that the commonality of the multitudes of myths is that there does seem indeed to be a need for a Greater among all cultures of humankind.  It would be difficult to discount another's Greater as less great than one's own Greater, and yet one holds in high regard their own spiritual connectedness to their Greater, enough so that someone else's explanation of a different version of Greater might feel somewhere on the continuum as threateningly off putting to invitingly attractive.

Having been somewhat careful with the content of my blog, to date the this blog has covered some of my thoughts about Mormonism with regard to my husband's journey in and out of it, to writing about my own experiences in choosing baptism and the walk for both of us into this church, me as being inside rather than looking at it from outside, him with  a return to heritage roots.   Shifting gears somewhat, I think there will still be much in store for me to delight in with regard to association with this church and I will wish to blog about those finds.  And there will be less delightful elements that are not likely to dissipate for me even with continued participation in this church, these I also wish to blog about.

Being newly baptized, the rule is that a year must pass before I can be readied for a temple recommend, and my husband, being a returnee also must allow a year to pass.  In some way it feels like a probation period, and that actually is a two way street.   I don't feel a need for the temple part of the church experience to round out my understanding, appreciation, admiration and my consternation for elements of what defines this religion.  I'm 60 years old this week, been married to my Mormon husband for 15 years now, this after both of us have had 24 years each in previous marriages, his LDS based, mine non-mormon.   We both have adult children, eight between us, with eighteen grandchildren between us, sixteen living, two not living.  It feels a bit foolish to me that the church wants us to walk that same path assigned to young, new adults, newly  entering their path as temple married LDS couple just starting their lives and families.   At this time, I can't see that the effort towards becoming (in the vernacular) temple worthy, recommitting our vows in a temple marriage ( I really loved our wedding, borrowed from a Native American Cherokee theme and the vows of eternal pledges to each other that we exchanged ), doing the work of the temple strengthens what our life experience has already taught us, nor causes us to become more spiritually connected to Greater.  It seems more like satisfying the requirements of this church's outline or doctrine than a needed element that will enhance our life experience.   So it could well be said (again in the vernacular)  that I have yet to gain a testimony of the temple.  I don't have such a testimony, nor am I sure that I need or want one, and  I'll leave it at that for now, even while I understand the manner of the plan by which this doctrine has been laid out.  

I don't yet have a testimony of a few other elements and I am beginning to imagine what kinds of conclusions  might be drawn by others from that statement.   Somehow, despite 'feeling it', that it is being suggested feels more to me like being pushed into something I'm not yet ready to embrace, and while I know I do not have to commit to taking the steps in that direction, I don't like the feeling of being pushed.  Bishop, Stake President, Missionaries have all made statements to both of us pointing in that direction as the expected and desirable direction for us to proceed.  I understand that as leaders, they do need to identify what they understand and know to be doctrine - that is the job of leaders.  My job, as I see it, is to value that they have leadership positions and as such will be required to point to present day understanding of doctrinal elements and encourage members in those directions.  My job is to also simultaneously hold my own ground as to my feeling about my own spirituality and connection to Greater without giving in to being pushed into actions that embrace a Greater I may not yet be ready to embrace. Their job, as I see it as leaders, is to understand this about me as a member as and when I present it, and respect the space I need to carve out for myself.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Getting familiar with the layout of the church building

I came across this link which I'm sharing here.  It is a pdf which shows the basics of the interior set up of LDS church buildings.   As I understand it, the LDS church building that we attend is not the same building that many of the long term members attended back when it was the 'white chapel building on the hill'. Since I don't have an earlier history to compare it to, I am getting acquainted with the church building as it relates to other church buildings where I have spent time, ie, the Episcopal Church, other Protestant denominational churches, Methodist, Baptist, community churches, Buddhism, Shinto, Native American.   Having grown up a child of military family, there was a lot of moving around, and attending churches in the proximity of where we resided at the time.   I am initially struck by the absence of many elements that I am more familiar with, as the cross icon,  alter, candles, banners, but otherwise there are striking similarities.  The pews, the chapel part, the dais or choir section, the hospitality room.  The LDS church includes in it's buildings what is called a cultural hall which serves as a multi-purpose room, has sports (basketball) markings on the wood floor, foldable round tables and chairs, so the room is used for social, holiday, funeral, children's and family activities.  It also has separate rooms where the lessons are held separately for children; women; men.

It continues to take me some acclimation to get used to what is not there, while also embracing what is there that hasn't been there in other churches I've attended.  I do miss the candles.  Lighting a candle in  prayer for someone or something happening in one's personal life.  I do miss the ritual of the Episcopal Eucharist.  While the LDS Sacrament is ritualistic, I do prefer the elements of the Eucharist. I can easily get used to the absence of the cross, but unlike the views of the LDS church, which state they do not wish to worship His suffering, I have too long a history in viewing the cross in a quiet, personal spiritual manner that is not likely offensive to Him or others in that it is merely a different way to show reverence and respect.

However, there are many elements in the LDS services that I find I am appreciating as also a show of reverence and respect in a different format.  I do a lot of mental translation in trying to recognize similarities while appreciating differences.  On the one hand, as I understand it the earlier Mormon church did not want to replicate elements of Catholic worship services and were opposed to rote repetitions.  On the other hand, whenever anyone in the LDS church in these modern times gives a 'testimony', I often hear rote repetitions along the lines of bearing testimony that has some stock phrasing (those who know it will know what I mean).

I value the parts of those personal testimonies that tell a bit of story the person is wishing to share, and I value that for the most part the person sharing is quite moved by what he/she is sharing.  I value that others are moved by their testimonies, enough sometimes to generate tears of sympathy or empathy or both.  I appreciate the efforts at respect that are demonstrated one to another.  Where that falls down, in my opinion, is in the reinforcement of what is considered 'doctrinally correct' which has the effect of shutting down further discussion/conversation.  For me developing the conversation requires differing views be shared respecfully, which is a process whereby people can consider varying view points and get to a place of arriving at personal conclusions, which are subject to change in accordance with their own life experiences.

Back to the church building.  Overall I am pleased to arrive at the building, knowing a bit more about what will take place in the building.   I am pleased with the concepts of the attentiveness to who will be using the rooms and for what purpose.  I love the concept of the cultural hall, even while I'm not sure that I like socializing in a basketball court.   A familiar concept to me is that for the most part what I am participating in that day is what is happening in LDS churches internationally.  For the most part there is some similarity to the Episcopal rotational study for services used internationally, even while doctrinally the beliefs of the two churches are quite different. I like the antiquity of the Episcopal church building we attended, and I like the modern convenience of the LDS church building we attend now.

 I like church buildings in general, and often think I wouldn't mind living in one, a sacred space in which to have a home.  I've seen church buildings converted to restaurants, and occasionally converted to a home space.   I've seen church buildings abandoned, and feel sadness knowing that their time of useage has passed, wondering who will purchase the building and how it will be used.  I think I feel the sadness of the loss of the sense of the sacredness of the space, even while I appreciate the cathedral nature provides us, mostly free of charge. Somehow though, I don't think  LDS church buildings would convert so easily to another kind of space useage.  Maybe I need a bit more time with the building so that it takes on the intimacy for me that I have found in other church building spaces.

Father's Day Sunday, a particularly special Father/Daughter gift

It was Father's Day Sunday, and my husband had been asked to fill in playing the music in the combined Primary classes.  He was also asked to fill in playing music at Sacrament meeting.  Interestingly enough, his firstborn adult daughter, who was visiting for Father's Day weekend, agreed to stay overnight and accompany us to church, once she learned her father was playing piano.   It was also third Sunday, which is when I teach the lesson in Relief Society.

A bit of background.  His daughter, born in the covenant, raised LDS is no longer practicing LDS or in the vernacular, inactive. Of his five children, four of which are daughters, none are currently what is described as active.  At least two have found and participate in their own faith denominations.  The family had gravitated to inactivity when his daughters entered their teen years and the family began to face the typical dilemnas of having teen daughters.  At the juncture that his and my life came together, he was not only inactive but thoroughly angry, hurt, and disappointed the promises of his church were not being realized in their family life.  He with his 24 year LDS marriage, me with my 24 year marriage (non-Mormon) and divorces which had the kind of fall out for all the family members which can follow the rupture of divorce.  Needless to say, after 15 years of marriage to him, assimilating that his heritage is a big part of what formed his character, the decision of baptism and his rebaptism was a bit of surprise to his adult children.  Which makes this part of the story with his daughter accompaying us to church on Father's Day a bit more significant.   

I can't know his daughter's inner thoughts during the three hours, and she was entirely gracious during the services, however, when I explained that normally he would be sitting with us in the pew, she commented that she was used to him not sitting with them in the pew, he was usually playing piano in the choir loft.  She seemed quite comfortable with the service, right up until her Dad, playing one of the hymns caused her to cry. I can guess at what some of her emotional feelings may have been.  

Interestingly enough, with the change in our normal routine, staying for Sunday School, we instead went to the Primary class with the little ones.   His daughter was almost transported to an earlier time in her life when she did attend Primary classes, reciting the recitations, singing the songs, enjoying her Dad's light hearted piano tunes to accompany the children hymns.  It was precious for me to witness, giving me a bit of a sense of how it might have been for her when she was a child growing up LDS in her parent's home.   

Some women from the Relief Society came to get me, worried I might not realize I was to give the lesson.  Oh, yes, I did indeed realize, had the lesson prepared, and was ready, just not sure when this Primary lesson ended.  In other words, with the change in routine, I was off in the timing, unsure of the timing of Primary lesson.   His daughter accompanied me to Relief Society where I did deliver the lesson, receiving her welcome compliment on the nature of my presentation.  The lesson, being on talents, was a less challenging topic than some other topic might have been for me to present knowing his daughter was part of the sharing that day. 

Our ward has initiated what is being called Linger Longer once a month, where those that wish to stay (linger) a bit longer to socialize, enjoy informal potluck food stuff.  This particular Sunday was such and his daughter was agreeable to staying to meet people, eat and socialize.   An added element to the day.  I was pleased that she was able to meet our Bishop, his wife, the Missionaries, along with some of the other members. 

In view of the family story, I really can't think of a more special way for Dad and Daughter to have spent this Father's Day than the way it unfolded.  We didn't and couldn't have planned it to unfold in the way it did, and with that might well conclude that blessings did indeed abound via the grace of Heavenly Father (the Beloved, Heavenly Family, Holy Spirit). 
Related Posts with Thumbnails