My sister and I have ongoing conversations about big ward/little ward, in-Utah/outside-of-Utah church experiences. You’ve probably held similar conversations with friends and family.
Our conclusion? There are pluses and minuses everywhere.
My sister lives in San Diego in what they think is a large ward, but it’s small enough that all the Young Women meet in one class and everyone takes turns serving in time-consuming callings. Ward members treat each other like family and gather for every holiday and birthday.
Sitting in the middle of the church gym, my heart swelled with emotion and tears wet my cheeks. It had been too, too long, but the effect was the same. Listening to one of Morten Lauridsen’s compositions does something to me. John Rutter, Leonard Bernstein, likewise. I want to soak those sounds into my soul. In high school, as I prepared for auditions for state choirs I never made, I fell hard for the music selections. Those weaving, itching chords, make me bask in their intensity, then sigh in jubilation and wonder as they resolve. Classical music, and particularly choral music, reaches me. Those transcendent sound waves ripple my listening ears, evoking layers of listening pleasure that other music just doesn’t touch for me. It’s a spiritual experience, both listening and singing.
It wasn’t always so pleasurable. When I started a new high school, my love-love relationship with music, became more dynamic. My new choir director rubbed me the wrong way. She lead grueling, seemingly endless practices- standing until my legs hurt, and holding phrases until my lungs cried uncle. That director was gifted, but brutal. She threw music stands, insulted students, yelled in our faces, and threatened us that the authorities would find her in a closet dead-drunk from Drano martinis from the depression we were sending her into, by failing to meet the expectations she had for us. Those moments made be question why I was there. But when the music came together, I knew I could put up with it a little longer–just to be one of the voices making that glorious sound. Despite her histrionics, I learned to sing well, and listen for good music. She worked and worked our choir until we produced sounds we didn’t know ourselves capable of. Though sometimes she was mean, terrible, terrifying and diabolical, but when she heard good music, we knew it- it transformed her. Continue reading
Right now I am waist deep in literary theory. I am at the end of my first semester of an English grad program and assembling a term paper. I’m interested in food studies, anticipate spending a lot of long nights cozying up to Claude Levi-Strauss’ The Raw and the Cooked. So, indulge my geek-out for a minute here, but I talk about binaries, as used by Levi-Strauss, the theorist, not the maker of fine denim apparel.
Binaries have fans all across the academic spectrum. There are binary numbers, binary code, binary stars and binary relationships in theory. What makes the term so popular is its articulation the relationship of two alternatives existing in opposition to one another. Levi-Strauss pointed out man:woman, raw:cooked, and young:old. The list can go on and on. As Book of Mormon scriptorians, we are all familiar with the discussion of opposition in 2 Nephi 2. Yes, there is opposition, in just about everything.
With the political high season winding down, we are all quite familiar with the binaries that separated and divided so much of the country. Many of us are downright exhausted by it, myself included. I stress and agonize over the structural lines, fissures that edge us apart and divide us into binaries. While I realize that opposition is natural, normal and sometimes useful, its not something I find productive. As I am writing and considering binary theory with my semester research, I have to ask the question, so what? It is not enough that matter and issues exist in a divided state. For me, the interest comes in the second half of binary structure, not the opposition, but the relationship between the two, or, how they then come together. Continue reading
In a couple of weeks my youngest daughter will receive her patriarchal blessing. She’s only thirteen, but for six months now she has been pestering me and my husband about getting her blessing. At first I brushed her off, thinking she wouldn’t be able to understand the blessing’s significance at such a young age, and told her it would be best if she waited until she was a little older. But she persisted. To her credit, for the past several months she has researched patriarchal blessings on her own, read talks and articles, asked me and my husband questions, fasted, pondered, and prayed. Her desire for her blessing has never waned, nor has her insistence that she is ready. Continue reading
“We don’t believe we’ve got a monopoly on truth,” were the words that eased my dad’s welcome into a room full of Methodists. My father is the regional public affairs rep in his area, which means this wasn’t the first formal gathering where he has spoken to about us Mormons to those who are not. This particular group was a group of single adult Methodists aged 30-50ish. The goal of their study group was to learn about various religions, ways that other people understood God.
My dad’s utterance, was not the first time I’ve heard that phrase used. I just wish we confessed it more freely. And I am wishful for a Sunday School class that studies the world’s religions. Sigh. I just haven’t seen it offered in the 3 hour block just yet. I just wish it were. I have come to understand my own faith so much more fully as I have studied and observed other religions. Continue reading