Learning from Silence

Normally today I’d write of parades with children in sun bonnets, foot races down canyons rutted by wagons, fireworks and celebrations. All in remembrance of the great shared story that is ours on Pioneer Day. A story of restoration, conversion, migration, and refuge.

But I’m not in Utah this year. We’re in another mountain range. And as I type, cool mountain air rises through the screen door and over my shoulder. We’ve taken our first family trip since all five children were born. Our first vacation outside of Utah, that is.

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I had such high hopes for this adventure. But as I was packing swim trunks, favorite blankets, and running shoes, I felt a sore throat coming on. I had already lost my voice, and by the time we arrived at our destination, I was battling a lethal strep throat.

It’s been five days now and the sores in the back of my throat are just starting to disappear. I still have no voice. Nasal congestion barreled in at full throttle, holding all respiratory and sinus passages captive. And the finale? A lovely chest cough. Truth is, I’ve been miserable. Continue reading

Book Review: Letters to a Young Mormon

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Letters to a Young Mormon is a deceptively simple book. The small book isn’t much larger than an overgrown pamphlet, the thin paperback volume easily slides in to bag or perhaps an ample-sized pocket, yet this informally styled book of letters is big. I’ve been chewing on the deep and satisfying ideas in this book for months now, wishing I had could have begun years and years prior back when I was younger than I am now. But I am not old yet, and believe that with eons to go in my unfinished faith I can rightfully consider myself a young Mormon; the book spoke to me.

Each themed letter (twelve in total) was addressed ” Dear S.;” it was easy to slip my own name in the salutation. But it was discussion of our own stories, that made me feel the very personal nature of the book. In the letter themed on sin, Miller writes:

“Like everyone, you have a story you want your life to tell. You have your own way of doing things. . . As the heavens are higher than they earth, God’s work in your life is bigger than the story you’d like that life to tell. His life is bigger than your plans, goals, or fears. To save your life, you’ll have to lay down your stories and, minute by minute, day by day, give your life back to him. Preferring your stories to his life is sin.” Continue reading

Stubbornness As A Virtue

 

Stubborn

Several spiritual wildernesses ago, I found myself a new scripture hero. Caleb, from the Old Testament, was one amazing, tough dude: faithful, honest, courageous and determined. In the second year after escaping Egypt, Caleb and Joshua – at the direction of Moses – go exploring into the Promised Land¹. Ten others went with them, all twelve being a representative of each of the tribes of Israel. When they all returned and told of what they’d seen, only Caleb and Joshua reported positively on the land they had explored.

Joshua and Caleb said “The land is flowing with milk and honey! Huge grapes! Pomegranates! Figs! It’s amazing, let’s go right now” but the remaining ten started freaking out, saying “Nope, no way, the dudes who live there are HUGE and they’ll squash us like bugs!” Continue reading

SOLITUDE

And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost . . . was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit. (Luke 4:1, 14)

 

When I was nine, I read a book about a hermit who lived in a cabin in the woods all by himself. I’d never heard the word “hermit” before then, but as soon as I finished the book, I ran to find my mother to announce,  “Mom, I know what I want to be when I grow up! A hermit!”

I love solitude. Even as a child, though I enjoyed playing with friends, my happiest hours were those I spent in a tree house with a book, or on my horse for a daylong ride, or writing poems in my bedroom. I am always most relaxed when I am alone. And paradoxically, as Lord Byron noted,  “in solitude, where we are least alone” is when I feel least lonely.

Continue reading

Sabbath Revival: “Pioneer Day Fatigue”

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Today’s revival post, “Pioneer Day Fatigue,” was written by Emily M. on July 23, 2007. Reading it took me back to where I was during the sesquicentennial of the pioneer’s 1847 arrival in the Salt Lake Valley: I was working as an editor/writer for the Liahona, and, like Emily, I was thoroughly tired of being immersed in pioneers, both the 1847 versions and the modern-day versions. Yet I look back now and remember all of those stories that I edited over and over again for each different round of the magazine’s editing process. They became a part of me and of my association with the word “pioneer.” This post by Emily will join those stories in my psyche because Emily uses a talk by Tessa Meyer Santiago to reframe the pioneer emphasis on journey rather than destination and on spiritual journey rather than physical:

“Ten years ago the Church celebrated the sesquicentennial of the 1847 arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. I missed all the hoopla, the documentaries and nationwide news coverage”“I was on a mission in Ecuador. I got echoes of the festivities through letters and weeks-old copies of the Church news. Also it seemed like every month’s Ensign that year had something about the pioneers in it. But I felt disconnected from it all.

A few months passed, and so did the Church’s pioneer emphasis. I entered my most challenging time as a missionary: a difficult companionship situation, an area I had hoped to avoid serving in, and the general fatigue that set in after months of full-time service. We were working hard, but very few people progressed, and I felt frustrated and guilty. If I knew how to be a better missionary, maybe I’d be able to baptize more people. If I had more faith. If I were more obedient. I couldn’t see clearly the good things I actually did; instead I felt depressed over my lack of quantifiable results.

During this time, my mother sent me this talk,“Under Covenant Toward the Promised Land: Section 136 as a Latter-Day Type,” given by Tessa Meyer Santiago at a BYU devotional during that pioneer summer, July 1997.

Santiago speaks about covenant journeying to the promised land, and how the pioneer accounts are “types from the beginnings of our religious and cultural heritage that tell us as a people how to act if we will reenact the literal journey in our spiritual lives.”

This resonated with me, as I was in the middle of an important spiritual journey, and I wanted to break out of my depression and journey well. Santiago teaches:

Saints under covenant must be devoted to the concept of journeying, not destination. The ultimate covenant under which the Saints journeyed is simply expressed in D&C 136:4: “And this shall be our covenant–that we will walk in all the ordinances of the Lord. Note the covenant is not that they will walk in the Lord’s ordinances until they reach Zion. There is no mention of destination when we walk in the way of the Lord’s ordinances.

I needed those words! I needed to see my mission right then as a covenant journey, not a goal-oriented destination. I read them over again, and pondered them. They helped me begin to find joy in missionary life, in that daily journey, instead of frustration that I did not live up to the perfect missionary I had imagined myself to be.

That first section of her talk was my favorite, the one that strengthened me the most during my own mission journey. But as I read it over again, I think this talk is for anyone who gets pioneer fatigue, or has ever wondered why we celebrate this Pioneer Day every year.

So what do I find in this pioneer journey that helps me identify with the early Saints? I find something that can help all of us in enduring to the end.

I realize that my awe and reverence and sometimes disbelief–these people were too much, too unbelievable–is perhaps a result of my reluctance to admit that I, too, am capable of such devotion, such sacrifice, and such commitment to the kingdom of God. . . .”