Showing posts with label testimony. Show all posts
Showing posts with label testimony. Show all posts

Monday, February 17, 2014

There is a Difference

 There is a great difference between
Black and white

Day and night

Sunshine and Rain

Happiness and Emotional Pain

There is also a tremendous difference

Between the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ

Sadly there are those who base their testimony upon historical figures or other members of the church, and when imperfection is revealed there are many that have gone astray.  There appears to have been some big hoopla lately about the plural marriage among some of the brethren in Church history – particularly Joseph Smith who doesn’t appear to have been honest with how it was done.

Joseph Smith was the first prophet in this dispensation.  The Church of Jesus Christ had not been on the earth for 15 centuries.  Cut the guy a break.  What example did he have to follow?  God had given him instructions.  Sometimes he followed them to the letter.  Sometimes, unfortunately, he felt that he knew better than God and would follow his own fears.  We all make mistakes.  Perhaps his seem more severe because of the position he was in.  

There were a lot of mistakes made in Church history.  Some that have been kept hidden from Church members – or so it seemed.  Like the Mountain Meadow Massacre,  the fact that the four men in Carthridge jail were given weapons to defend themselves,  or the sisters involvement in women’s suffrage movement or some of the hostilities that took place among polygamist wives.

At one time those in authority painted the church in a certain light – perhaps lifting it to a higher pedestal than it deserved.  Oh, certainly the church endured its hardship – but it was always the fault of the outsiders, never the members of the church.  The authorities would call the gospel perfect when they referred to the church and so many members would assume they meant the church was perfect.  And it was not.  It still is not.  The church is run by imperfect leaders who (hopefully) strive to live perfect lives – but let's face it: Only one man who has lived upon the earth was perfect.  Nobody else fits into the perfect category.  No one.  And thus church itself can never be perfect if run by imperfect humans.

Roland and I were married by a bishop who (at that time) happened to be state auditor by profession.  I had once asked him: “What is more organized?  The state? Or the church?” 
His answer bothered me a lot because he said “the state” and I think the government in this state is so severely flawed that it almost makes me ashamed to tell people what state I live in.  So what does that say about the Church?

For many the church is just for show.  That’s how it was for the Pharisees of old.  Church history does NOT represent the truthfulness of the gospel.  Sadly, there are several who seem to have a hard time separating the two.  But then again, why should we have to separate them?  If everyone lived according to the gospel, wouldn’t the church itself be perfect?  Think about it.

Why is it that everything has to (or should) be approved by the brethren?  Too many Inaccuracies or opinions given that are taken as gospel truth – though that was not the intent.  Even the best of intentions can sometimes have negative results.

Let’s use “pioneer Trek” as an example – an activity that has become popular for the youth of the Church.  The program has evolved into something more than what it was when I was a youth.  There was no “Woman’s Pull” – there was no “reenactment” of the Mormon Battalion.  What many participants don’t realize is that not all the men left the company nor were the women left alone.

         At the time Pres. James Polk sent for a recruit of 500 volunteers from Pioneer crossing party, the year was 1846 – the Pioneers at the time were crossing in Wagons.  They weren’t pushing handcarts.  Perhaps there’s a great metaphor and lesson in store for those involved – but in the minds of many they believe that’s how it actually was in Mormon history.  And granted, there probably were a few woman who had lost their husbands, sons and fathers who may not have had the support of the brethren per se– but not as an entire company.  There was always leader support.  Or so we assume (We do have the story in which Mary Fielding Smith is believed to have crossed the plains on her own; some part (or perhaps all) is based on true story that has become Mormon folklore – another part of Church history that we need to separate)

         So where am I going with this?  Nowhere really.  I used to be one of those who would take everything on face value and never actually research it out on my own.  Fortunately for me I have learned that “the Church” does not “the gospel” make and hopefully I may continue to be active in both but always keep in mind that even leaders (past or present) have faults just like me.

         I’ve always been taught to pray about my understanding of things to know if it’s true or not – as far as the gospel goes anyway.  I don’t think it’s necessary for me to pray about my understanding of Church history or what saints were involved doing what because whether this pioneer story or that hand-me-down passage really turns out to be true or not, what pertinent difference does it make to my own Salvation?  My testimony needs to be based upon the truths that Christ taught and not what happened in the personal lives of our forefathers.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Another Sunday

          When I was younger I remember having only two meetings on Sunday then.  There were three for priesthood holders – but for the first fifteen plus years of my life I recall there being only two meetings.

            I don’t recall the specific times or the length of time that took place between the two meetings.  I remember Sunday School being first, coming home to have dinner and returning to the church at a later time for Sacrament meeting.

            The other meetings were spread out during the week.  (e.g. Relief Society was on Tuesday nights, Mutual on Wednesday nights and Primary was on Thursdays after school.) but as the growth of the membership had taken place outside of Utah, the meetings were changed so that all meetings would take place on Sunday.

            It wasn’t until my last year of mutual (Young Men/Young Women formally called MIA – Mutual Improvement Association) that the meetings were changed to three in one block.  Relief Society (or Young Women’s – though I don’t believe we called it that then) was first followed by Sunday School and then Sacrament meeting was last. 

            So until I got married, I remember Relief Society always being first and Sacrament meeting being last.  But in Kearns in was the opposite.  Sacrament meeting was first.
            I think most wards have Sacrament meeting first – or at least that is my belief.  Currently I attend a ward in which Relief Society is taught first and Sacrament meeting is held last.  The stake President says as long as he is president that is the way it will remain.

            So here is my church experience for today:

Combined Meeting

(every fifth Sunday the RS and Priesthood meet together)

            Bishop gave the lesson.  His prepared lesson was to get us motivated for General Conference which takes place next weekend. 

            He started off by asking questions about “Why do we have general conferences?” “What are some things that can be learned?” and “What was your favorite talk from 1985?”  1985?  Is he serious?  He would have been in primary.
First I had to visualize where I was.  April 1985 was the last General Conference in which Bruce R. McConkie would give an address.  I knew when I watched him give his speech that it would be his last. 

I also remember the opening prayer being the absolute longest prayer I’d ever heard in my entire life.  No, I did not time it, but it felt like it had been somewhere between eight minutes and an eternity.

            I was on my mission.  It was a hard area.  Neither my companion nor I were in the right frame of mind to even receive instruction.  I don’t think a lot of the elders were overly thrilled with the area either.  I looked around to see how many had the same attitude as my companion and I shared.

            Bishop had asked for participation by asking us to share what Conference talks had made an impact on each of us.  I must admit that I do not retain things very well.  I remember last night’s session was quite beautiful and I remember thinking, “This is a great talk.”  Sadly I can’t tell you anything about what was said without referring to it again.  And I’m so grateful that we have ample opportunity to do so.

            So as I was trying to think of an example in which I could actually name the speaker and come up with enough words to paraphrase my mind wandered to General Conference October 1992.  That was the longest weekend of my life.  That was the last weekend that dad was upon the earth.  The TV was turned on to Conference but I don’t think I got anything out of it.  And even if so, I can’t remember any of it.

            General Conference April 2004.  My water broke on Friday.  My mom and my sister and my husband were all in the birthing room with me.  The TV was turned on to Conference on Saturday.  Jenna still hadn’t come and I KNOW I don’t think I got anything out of it.  I was exhausted Sunday.

            I’ve had some really nice Conference weekends – unfortunately those are not the ones I thought about.

Sunday School

            The classroom was full!  First time ever we had run out of chairs.  Six youth and four leaders.  I love it when the Young Men leaders sit in.  They participate and add thought provoking ideas and wisdom.  There’s one youth who will participate by answering questions.  I love the participation.

            The theme this month has been on commandments.  Some people have left the Church because they have found that the commandments are too restricting – which they’re not.  But sometimes freedoms aren’t understood until the restrictions have been removed and then there’s that “a-ha” moment.

            Wade shared his upbringing with family rules in addition to the commandments – restrictions that he didn’t understand as a youth but certainly appreciates right now.  One of those restrictions was that he couldn’t hang out at the mall.  Everybody hung out at the mall.  Was this for real?  It was mortifying.  But now he understands.  Two of his “mall friends” are now in prison.  And he just recently attended the funeral of another.

            I shared an experience that happened to me when I was fairly young.  The weather had turned from warm summer to breezy fall and mom said that if I wanted to play outdoors I had to wear a sweater.  Well that was humiliating.  None of my friends wore sweaters!  I had a sweater on when I left the house.  I intended on removing it before I played with my friends.

            One friend, who had heard my mom’s “command”, said that she was “lucky” because her mom didn’t care if she wore a sweater or not.  I don’t know how old I was, but her words hit me hard – “My mom doesn’t care . . .” and I thought myself the lucky one, the blessed one.  I had a sweater on because my mom cared about me.  And it stayed on.  And I tried not to question her commands because I knew that she did it out of love.

            James talked about the Word of Wisdom – which is a commandment for LDS members.  James reminded each of us that we all have the freedom to choose.  Each of us could smoke if we wanted to.  But the smoker doesn’t necessarily have the option of NOT smoking – it has become an addiction.  The smoker has become a slave to his or her habits and although they think they have freedom – for most it’s a long painful road to finally quit and remain smoke free.  (That is just one example) 

            Participation usually always makes for a very great lesson

Testimony Meeting

            The second counselor made the announcement that the bishop’s wife would be released from teaching Sunday School.  A chorus of groans could be heard by many members who attend her class and are not anxious to see her leave her teaching position. I for one am excited as she has accepted the position of activity’s day leader and that will be helpful to Jenna.

            After the counselor bore his testimony, he opened up the meeting for the rest of us who would like to bear our testimonies. I felt impressed to bear my thoughts of gratitude – to my family and friends and Heavenly Father, for the support, for the celebration of mom’s life, for goodly parents – for the bishop’s wife’s new position.  I went up to the stand.  But Brother Cole beat me to the pulpit.
            I think every ward has a Bother Cole – the one who drones on and on endlessly and the Spirit seems to have left the room.  His talk did start off as testimony but after two minutes he started rambling the same words over and over – even after the bishop told him to sit down.  He just doesn’t get it.

            The ironic thing was that his focus seemed to be on sharing testimonies and not wasting one’s time.  How about following your own advice and stop wasting the time that belongs to all of us?

            I should have stayed seated when I saw him walking up to the stand.  I don’t know how long he was at the pulpit – his head was in the way of the clock.  By the time I stood up there was only thirty minutes left and I had lost my train of thought.  If I hadn’t already been on the stand, I would not have gotten up.  I think my heart must have hardened when Brother Cole rattled on endlessly, wondering if I would even get a turn.

            I’m not the only one who lost my train of thought.  The sister who’d come up behind me said only one sentence before she returned to her seat.  I think the 11 to 14 people behind us eventually returned the Spirit back to us.  Still I was a bit upset about the way I had handled the situation and wished I could have a do over.

            Actually I will have an opportunity to bear my testimony after Conference – provided that the weather is drivable and I actually have a working car.  I plan on returning to mom’s ward where my testimony will be more meaningful (to me at least) as I still have a connection with so many of the members of that ward – the ward I still consider family.  For that I am grateful.

Monday, September 3, 2012

There Must Be Uniformity at the Pulpit


Shortly after Roland was called to the bishopric, he was asked to summarize a talk that had been given about the conformity of testimonies and submit it to the monthly newsletter – which actually didn’t exist before this particular bishopric. 

Now there are a few people in the ward who tend to drone on and on until the gratitude that is felt in their hearts turns into penetrating boredom on the part of the audience.  Every ward has them.  They start off by expressing what it is that brought them to the podium – and then they take us on a stroll down memory lane, or into their health, or into their entire week.  Gradually the testimony gets lost in their words.  And all eyes turn to the clock and you can almost hear a chorus of silent groans.

Sometimes there is a dead silence and often times the droner just feels it’s his (or her) duty to fill the silence while the audience wonders which is worse: the silence or the droning on and on.

Today it was announced in each first meeting (primary, Relief Society and Priesthood) that if one spends more than three minutes at the pulpit than it is no longer testimony.  And we are reintroduced to five subjects that should be topic of one’s testimony.

I get it to a certain degree – the timing thing.  Sadly, it doesn’t seem to register with the ones who are guilty of running off the mouth.  And though I do have a testimony of the five given subjects, I don’t always feel inspired to share – especially because it now seems so conforming.  I like to hear individual experiences and a brief history of the belief – but not by just one individual for the whole entire meeting.

Sweet Jeff got up to bear his testimony.  He’d written it down so that he wouldn’t stumble.  And yet he did.  He is a member of the special Olympics.  They treat him like he matters, but not all people do.

Our ward mission leader quickly followed him up to the stand, and stood by his side.  The words he used were non-conforming and perhaps out of line with what a true testimony is – but it was real.  It was genuine.  And as he teared up with his plea for prayer support, the ward mission leader stepped closer to the mike and finished reading what Jeff had written.

Before Corey had even decided to go on a mission, my dad had had a series of strokes.  His brain wasn’t able to communicate to his muscles quickly enough to have them do what and when he wanted. 

He had a one or two minute talk, but it had taken him an entire minute just to get out the first sentence.  Corey lovingly put his arms around dad and asked him if he (my dad) would like  Corey to finish reading it.  That moment between Jeff and our ward mission leader triggered those memories.  I started bawling.  But it was actually a good memory – for there had been so much gratitude on my dad’s part – it shined as he told Corey “thank you.”  And I wasn’t the only one crying.  Those who didn’t cry (if any) were definitely in the minority.

Shortly after Jeff sat down, a couple came to the stand.  Roland and I often refer to them as Frank and Marie Baronethough he is certainly way more humble than Frank could even dream of.  It’s just the constant bickering they seem to do with one another.  They genuinely do love one another.  And perhaps their arguments are just playful on their part (well at least on his) it still doesn’t seem in harmony with a happy marriage.

He got it.  His testimony was short, sweet, covered at least three of the subjects.  He was very humble.  His testimony was genuine.  It was nice.

His wife didn’t drone on as much as usual – but she did drone.  Time to sit down, Marie.  Oh, I would not want the bishop’s job for anything.

I enjoy watching the second counselor.  His expressions often mirror my own thoughts.  He looked like he was trying to keep from laughing while the bishop painfully checked the clock.  She finally sat down without his inviting her to do so.

Overall, it really was a nice meeting.  Not a lot of conformity.  I must say I liked that as well.  I realize that I do not go to meetings to be entertained.  But the heart gives me more focus than guidelines do – though I really do understand their purpose.  I just think it’s sad that so many of us have to be asked to conform because there are individuals that just don’t get it – even with the guidelines.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Chopped, Snipped, Spliced and Discarded – I could SO use that Money

          Before Roland and I moved from our first house, he introduced me to the reality show “Chopped” a one hour show that gives four chefs the opportunity to create appetizers, entrees, and desserts using four specific ingredients – most I haven’t been familiar with or think of as too bizarre to belong with  either the rest of the ingredients or in the particular round.

          I would think that there is more than eight hours of footage for each episode of “Chopped” – thus it is not just the chefs competing who get “chopped” but the editing as well.  It sickens me to know that all this wasted footage exists – that so much tape ends up on the floor.  The expense that goes into these reality series (Wife Swap is another example) and all the waste.  I could really use the money that is spent on wasted film.  So many Americans could – especially in this economy that seemingly continues to spiral downhill.  Where are the priorities of this nation?

          Recently there was a documentary on NBC called: “Mormons in America: NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams" and actually I feel a certain amount of emotion which I stated in my last post.

I think Rock Center handled “Mormons in America” well.  Some accused of focusing too much on the small percentage that “don’t really represent the entire church” well guess what?  It’s that small percentage that the world will be looking at. And I think it’s wonderful that it has been presented to the world (or nation anyway) that there might be a better understanding.

          Abby Huntsman does not represent the entire Church.  Who does?  Some criticized that the creators of the program should have gone to the authorities or at least devout members to for a more accurate understanding.  But we are a very diverse people – even among ourselves.  The gospel values are true regardless of its members.  But the members are not perfect.  We are not all cut out of the same mold – and the world needs to know that there are struggles that many members face that don’t always correspond with what the gospel principles teach.

I think the documentary was handled very nicely.  And I think Abby did a great job letting people understand her position but still being respectful of the Church. She probably has a better hold on what a non member might feel.  There are many who have left the church who experience that “ah-hah” moment after they’ve been away for it – not that they disagree or become uncomfortable – but all the sudden understand the meaning of “a peculiar people” and understand the non-members view – whereas those who are so close to the surface don’t have that same understanding.  They don’t see the forest for the trees.  Corey explained it a little bit in this post  

          There are many members (or former members) who have had their feelings hurt for whatever reason.  Treated like outcasts.  Overaggressive concern isn’t handled correctly either on the part of the leaders or the interpretation of the member (I think more of the first; as an example Abby’s bishop told her that she wouldn’t receive the same blessings – and although it may have been said out of concern – it hadn’t been communicated in a proper manner)  I like the way Clive Durham said it in this post 

          Bishop, stake president, and other leadership positions are held by people.  Imperfect people. Some, who unfortunately abuse their power, some, who should have never been put in that position to begin with.  Some who would rather not be there and wonder why the position was accepted in the first place. 

          Julienne (sp?) and Al Jackson do NOT represent all members.  A large majority, perhaps.  But certainly NOT all members.  Mitch Mayne is told he can keep his position in the Church so long as he remains celibate.  Celibate?  Really?  In a Church that pushes marriage and family? (And there are many who actually do push)

          That was Corey’s plan - to remain celibate – though he wasn’t fulfilled.  He would have been able to keep his membership – but still not feel whole – not complete.  He did NOT go in search for a partner.  Truth is, when they initially met, he tried to avoid it. 

          Their first encounter together was working on the same production in Las Vegas.  The two of them started out with a casual dinner, but after a while Corey's feelings deepened towards his partner.  He started to have feelings that he had been  told all of his life were wrong to have.

Corey returned home from Las Vegas the first Christmas after they had met.  Relieved in some ways not to be tempted by something he had been trying to avoid all of his life.  Yet torn because he really did have emotions for this guy.  And what a wonderful guy he is.  I really really do like Corey’s partner.

          Eventually it turned into something very beautiful.  Both celibate.  Both wanting to wait.  Both yearning for God to be a part of their “marriage” and I have no doubts that He is.  Corey had to give up his membership.  But he did not give up on the gospel.  He still attends Sunday meetings (minus the priesthood which he was never comfortable with in the first place) and though it’s often hard for him not to be able to participate to the fullest – Corey is happier than he has ever been in his entire life. 

          Corey is very knowledgeable in the gospel.  He is very well rounded individual.  He doesn’t represent the entire Church – even when he was a member.  But he does make an impact.  A GREAT impact.  He has a very strong and beautiful testimony.  He is one of many pioneers on a path that is slowly being smoothed over and more widely traveled – and yet too many who are on that path feel alone and unwanted and aren’t always handled with care.  Corey, fortunately, has had amazing support. Yet it seems to be a rarity with far too many.

We have a friend who is strongly opinionated and probably more of a feminist than Joanna Brookes.  She is married to one who has been on the high council as well as other prominent positions.  Both strong in the gospel.  Each representing what sometimes appear as conflicting ideas.  And I love them both.  And I respect them both.  And I am personally grateful for the diverseness.