9 a.m.: The Only True Time to Start Church

LDS meetinghouse (photo from LDS Media Library)

In my stake, we change schedules every fall, instead of in January like every other stake I’ve ever lived in. This means, my friends, that come September, we will have eleven o’clock church. Bleh.

I have long held that the Church is most true at 9 a.m., and gets progressively less true as the day goes on. One p.m. church is practically apostate (especially on Fast Sundays with a group of grouchy kids–and teachers–in third block), and if you are one of the poor souls who have to attend from from three p.m. on you might as well get rebaptized every week. Continue reading

Peculiar Treasures: Stillbirth, Sand Tables and Strong Female Character Fatigue

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Did you know the primary once had sand tables? What fun! What a mess.

Have you ever said, I hate strong female characters? Here’s a few reasons why they aren’t enough as is.

Lisa Valentine Clark, funny lady extraordinaire, lets us in on why making a movie is like motherhood and scroll all the way to the end for a sneak preview on her new movie, Once I was a Beehivereleasing August 14th.

Nothing can you prepare you if you experience one, but sharing stories of stillbirths, reminds us that the grief is real and there is beauty  and power in remembrance.

The ever lovely and gifted Ashma Hoilands’s gorgeous, thoughtful essay on the difference the exchanging the word crisis makes in the middle of one, changes the feeling and experience when your faith is shifting.

Another item to ask why? A BYU student’s depiction of Heavenly Mother goes missing from an on campus exhibit.

This week’s first draft poem is brought to us by Melonie.  And it’s lovely.

The Woman That I Am Not
 
The woman that I am not
wears knee-high fringed moccasins
and white hippie dresses.
Her hair leans over a shoulder
in a thick braid
like the staff of Moses.
She tattoos
a fern leaf on her neck
and pierces a diamond
the size of a toddler’s freckle
into the side of her nose.
leather and silver bracelets circle her wrists
turquoise wreaths her ankles
and her heart beats to
the flickering of fire.
She dances to drums.
Laughter spins from
her mouth
as simply and clear
as a flute laid to lips.
The woman I am not
sees God in the reflection of a spoon,
weighs heavy thoughts
until they turn light
and speaks words that grow gardens.
She is a sediment of wisdom.
Her limbs are long and lean.
Sometimes she plays finger tambourines
and walks in moss.
Fireflies follow her.
Where she is
It’s always twilight,
lovemaking is slow,
stars have meaning,
snow makes sound,
and the pen never runs out of words.
I can find her
when we speak.
We both share
a brown beauty mark
on the peak of our upper lip-
a dot on the horizon -
a finite spot
marking the place
between what is and what is not
.

Vacay Church

How Welcome is W

Just how welcome is “Visitors Welcome”?

That’s how they cool kids say it, right? Or maybe that was like five years ago. Not sure. The word vacay, the clipped, cutesy cool version of vacation is entirely unfamiliar in my mouth. I’m not really in touch. I would be fooling myself to say I ever have been. I’m no regular to the most popular vacation destinations, but I have taken in a few when others have done the planning. And so it is now, I’m with my husband’s family, on vacay in a popular summer destination.

The gathering spans over a weekend and so being the good (and) Mormon family that we are we all troop over to the local Mormon chapel to get our church on (do you say that? Is that cool or am I trying too hard here?) Roughly two hundred other non-natives are there to do the same. Our group shuffles in moments just before and after the meeting’s opening. The pews are packed, and rows upon rows of metal folding chairs clang against the wooden floors of the cultural hall, continuously being set up as more and more couples, families and family group sheets worth of people come in together through the back doors, realizing their chance at a cushy seat in such a popular, populous place passed twenty-five minutes ago. On vacation, when you are trying to find the church and get ready when a portion of the group failed to pack or ran out of room for a typical Sunday outfit component, and don’t have a calling or meeting that demands our particular arrival time, the result can be relaxed Sunday Casual in dress and arrival. Flip-flops with slacks finely disguise a visiting stake president. Forgive us all our sins, fashion and tardiness infractions. Continue reading

Sabbath Revival: “The Beauty of Baldness”

In October 2006, long before I had discovered Segullah, our founder Kathy Soper wrote a beautiful piece about being open and real. I chose it for today’s Sabbath Revival because it’s certainly worth another look, even if you’ve read it before.

~~~~~

The first time God spoke to me—I mean literally, with words—was through the mouth of a police sergeant. I don’t remember his name, but he changed my life. I was seventeen, miserable, and in a whole mess of trouble. And while I know you’re just DYING to hear all of the sordid details, I’ll just have to let your vivid little imaginations take care of that. Suffice it to say that I was a really stupid sheep who had followed some really stupid other sheep in to a really, really sheepishly stupid situation. The sergeant was arresting me.

He was darn nice about it. In fact, he is one of the wisest people I’ve ever met. He knew that I had just been humbled to the dust, and that I was in prime position to be taught. So instead of telling me what a loser I was, he did just the opposite. Or, I should say, God did.

“You don’t belong here,” he said. “You are better than this.”

And I believed him.

Five years later I attended a meeting of the newly-reorganized Young Women presidency in our ward. I was the new Laurel advisor. The eight of us had moved our metallic folding chairs into a loose semi-circle for the occasion. At one point the discussion turned to the importance of nurturing each young woman’s individual worth. I felt inspired to share my police-station experience as an example of how an adult in tune with the spirit can change young lives. The spirit filled the room as I spoke, warming each of us as we sat in the cramped, dimly lit room that Sunday evening.

Sharing the story was easy to do. Back in those days, I often referred to my checkered past to illustrate gospel principles. I rarely volunteered any truly gory details, but I wasn’t afraid for people to know where I had come from. After all, I was living proof of the truth of the gospel and the redeeming power of the Lord.

But in the years that followed, my comfort level in sharing such experiences took a nose dive, and I became an expert at wearing “the church face.” I trust I don’t need to explain what I mean by church face. I imagine I’m not the only one who prefers to broadcast the signal that I’m in control, that I have my life together, that I’m faithfully performing in all the ways I’m expected to. And always have.

It’s understandable, of course, this urge to convince our social group that we’re hot stuff. As if public opinion determined reality. But my compulsion to act the part really took its toll. At one point, I peevishly explained to a friend of mine that I did not want to burden my church community with the skeletons in my closet. And I cited my police-sergeant story as an example of what NOT to share.

“That’s too bad,” she said. “Hearing that story makes me love and respect you all the more.”

Over time, this friend, Angie, tried to help me understand the value of being open about our selves, our lives. It took her considerable time and effort, but through her mentoring I began to remember the beautiful things that have happened in my life thanks to openness—my own, and that of others. I was so grateful for the teaching that I browbeat Angie into writing on this subject for Segullah’s debut issue. The resulting essay, “On Being Bald,” is a poignant look at the value of remaining vulnerable, of taking risks, of being truthful about ourselves as we interact as sisters in the Church.

She reminds us that while there are risks—big ones—in being open with each other, there are greater risks that come with wearing our church face. Even at church. Especially at church. When we insist on being fake-happy, fake-confident, fake-righteous, we create and maintaining distance between ourselves and others, distance that prevents us from truly knowing and loving each other.

That doesn’t mean that we should engage in an emotional free-for-all during every church gathering, or that we should constantly spill our guts on our Visiting Teachers’ laps. The extent of our openness should be gauged according to the situation, and especially according to the inspiration that we feel, or don’t feel. Furthermore, there are times when we’re not feeling strong enough to be candid with people we’re not already close to. Disclosure can be exhausting. We shouldn’t feel obligated to hold our pain up for everyone to see, if we feel fragile. The timing needs to be right.

But I think that most of the time, we are capable of being more real with each other than we usually are. And typically, we err by sharing too little, not too much. I am convinced that, for the most part, incredible things happen when we’re willing to be open about our ourselves: our dreams and fears, our successes and failures, our questions and our faith, our struggles and our joys. I believe that inviting a sister into our inner sphere is one of the greatest gifts we can give another.

Today in Relief Society, Sister H. was teaching. She’s one of the few elderly women in the ward, a paragon of righteousness and obedience. You don’t mess with this woman. She toes the line, and reminds all of us that we’d better darn well do the same. But she’s also incredibly humble.

The lesson was on Pres. Monson’s conference talk, “True to the Faith.” (The one that had the octopus-lure story. You know, the maka-fete. Say that ten times fast.) One of his points was about the terrible struggle of those who are ensnared by drugs and alcohol. After leading a discussion for a few minutes, Sister H. told us about her daughter’s war with heroin.

“You have no idea,” she said, voice trembling, “of the agony I’ve felt as I’ve held her, and felt her cry and shake, as she’s come down off that drug.” As she spoke, the spirit of truth filled the room. She grew luminous, transparent, as she wept for her daughter and for herself.

We all cried too, grateful for the gift, awestruck by the beauty of baldness.

If you haven’t read Angie’s essay, do it now. And tell me:

What inspires you to be open with your church sisters?

What compels you to stay closed?

What benefits have you experienced from openness?

How can we help each other feel safe enough to be real?

Favorite Things: Girls’ Camp

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(Please note – this post is by Lara, not Kellie. Kellie tried to get WordPress to cooperate, but it didn’t go in Kel’s favour…)

Girls’ Camp is one of my favorite things! I went four years as a young woman, and this was my fourth year as an adult leader—I love camping, I love crafting, I love nature, and I love working with the young women. Though we aren’t supposed to covet, I could spent the rest of my life going to Girls’ Camp, and be perfectly content calling-wise.

First of the year I was asked to be the ward camp director for Girls’ Camp. Our Young Women’s program is currently very small, so some of the things I would usually do in this calling weren’t on the agenda, such as a fundraiser. For the camp skit, our ward was combined with another small ward, and their ward to the heavy lifting on that, and for camp itself the stake assigned me to be a leader for the second year girls. Additionally all certification was taking place at camp by leaders specifically assigned to teach. This meant there wasn’t much for me to do except go to a few meetings and wait for camp. Still, I wanted to serve, and I know what I gained when I was a young woman and that was worth giving to others.

My daughter turns twelve one day before the camp cutoff date, and I was genuinely glad I was going to be there for her first year—she hadn’t been away from home before, and that way if she was worried or homesick I was close by—but I found myself not looking forward to camp in the weeks leading up to it. In the past, there has been lots to do to spark that excitement, this time not so much. I felt like there was going to be a lot of down time, and with many responsibilities and upcoming events I needed to deal with at home, I wasn’t convinced camp was going to be a useful expenditure of my limited time and energy.

The first afternoon, after a grueling hike on the tail of a sleepless night, all I wanted was a nap! But I sat at a devotional and listened to a speaker say exactly what my soul had been needing to hear for weeks. The next morning it happened again. Three devotional talks a day felt like warm embraces from my Heavenly Parents, reminders of who I am and what I needed to be doing, and what I am doing right. I had gone to camp to serve the young women, but over and over again I heard the Spirit telling me that I was called to camp this year for me.

The last night at our testimony meeting, my heart was broken as I listened to the struggles and heartache being faced and endured and overcome by the girls in our stake, and the Spirit spoke again—if once a year, we can give these young women a single week where they feel safe, cherished, protected and loved, it is worth any sacrifice made. For some, it’s the only time they have this security. I’m already looking forward to next year, hoping to go again, for myself, and for them.

What is the calling you’d be happy to have forever? Have you had an experience of having your heart change during an experience of service? Where do you feel most safe and loved?