Tag Archives: trials

How To Be a Latter-Day Saint

There seems to be some uncharacteristic upheaval in the church lately, similar perhaps to some of those periods of strife in the Nephite church. It makes me wonder, as I and many others feel batted about by conflicts between conscience and conformity, compassion and consensus, what we’ll be facing in the near future as a body of saints. There seems to be a sharpening divide between “liberal” and “conservative” members, and for moderates like me, that can be highly disconcerting. The danger, of course, is in taking a stand on either “side” and declaring it the “righteous” side. Anyone can find scriptural or modern prophetic quotes to bolster their position. Even prophets say weird things sometimes, sometimes even “in the name of the Lord”. Years later, we read it, and say “Huh?”  Or if it’s helpful to our cause, “See?”

I have no ken for politics, I do not keep up on the bloggernacle or read the Ensign, and I’m not currently involved in church councils. All I’ve got is my own gut, my own spiritual practices, a few close friends, and church hallway gossip. And I’m worried. I’m alarmed at the number of strong saints leaving the church, many of them close friends and family. These are people with deep convictions and real relationships with God. I honor and trust their spiritual acumen, so when they jump ship — or more alarmingly, are pushed overboard — I get upset.

Based on my own deep convictions and powerful personal revelation, I’ve decided to stay in the church. (Read about that here: http://segullah.org/daily-special/stay-in-the-church/) But that makes me all the more anxious to help make the church I love the Zion it is meant to be. I know I am not alone in this divine desire. But the critical questions seem to be: how can I be a true saint in this era of divisiveness and rubbed-raw feelings? How can I be obedient to the counsel of church leaders when it conflicts with my conscience? Whom do I believe? What does an “approved by the Lord” Latter-Day Saint look like?

I actually enjoy engaging these necessary questions daily. For example, does God care if you (as a female) wear pants to the temple? No. It’s even in the temple rules. But have you? Would you? Would you be self-conscious? Would you judge another sister you saw arriving in pants? How about jeans? How about dirty, torn jeans?

Does God care if you think differently about a gospel topic than your Sunday School teacher? Or does He just care that you think? Do you speak up in charitable disagreement? Should you? Should you not?

My friend, Jan, rides a motorcycle. She’s also my Stake President’s wife. When a General Authority stayed at their house during an ecclesiastical visit, she felt obliged to ask him if that was OK. Not the motorcycle. The motorcycle + female + church position. Should she feel obliged to ask?

I am hopeful that this current fiery trial in the church will burn away the pettiness, the unchristian judging, the over-reliance on tradition and human authority that so pervades our church culture, at least in the First World. I’m hoping those recent lessons on Unity will help. I love the “I Am a Mormon” campaign, because it highlights for members and nonmembers alike the fact that there is no one right way to be a Latter-Day Saint. The one right way is YOUR right way. Now I know some commenter will say, “There’s only one right way” and if we’re talking about the Savior, yes indeed. But no matter what color your hair or your skin, no matter your sex or sexual preference, no matter if you’re single or unsingle, fat or thin, wealthy or poor, or anywhere in between — this is a church for all God’s children. Of course, He (and She) gave commandments to obey, leaders to guide, and fellow saints to support. All for our sake. My rallying cry is to fix our eyes on the Savior, listen like crazy for the sound of His voice, and love one another. That’s all.

New Year’s Thoughts on Aging

Magdalena - age 4
Magdalena – age 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda - age 4
Linda – age 4

 

 

 

 

 

The last of the tribe left yesterday. We have had our immediate family (12 of us – including the grandbabies ages 4, 3, 2 and 6 months) in full force or overlapping since the middle of December. There was also an uptick of numbers on New Year’s Day when 23 more extended family members joined us for lasagna and fun in the snow. (By some LDS folks’ standards, the numbers probably seem skimpy – no more than an average Family Night with the cousins.)

It’s a heady experience to see the lyrics of “Sunrise, Sunset” play out before my eyes. As I watch my grown kids handle their toddlers I feel a rush of “As you are, I once was and as I am, you will become” (to reframe Lorenzo Snow’s couplet). I definitely experience tsunamis of joy and ineffable affection.

But I am not naïve. Continue reading New Year’s Thoughts on Aging

Stay in the Church

Twenty years ago, in an effort to evade an impending nervous breakdown, I left my four children in the care of their dad, and went to Florida for a month to simply be still and know God. It was perhaps the bravest and best thing I’ve ever done.

I referred to it here: http://segullah.org/daily-special/solitude/#more-18197 in a blogpost I wrote last year. But I didn’t (yet) tell you what God said to me that month. Continue reading Stay in the Church

Mommy and E

Stand as Witnesses

Orlando is a great vacation destination, but its location at the lower east corner of the United States makes it difficult for the majority of my family and friends who live in the northwest U.S. and Canada to pop over for a quick visit.  My nearest and dearest knew about the difficult life of my son, Ethan, and although they knew and loved him from afar, very few had stepped inside my home.  In the nearly 10 years that we have lived in Orlando, my family has come to visit, but very few of my close friends.  In early 2013, all of that changed.  In January, to my delight, Justine and her family came to Orlando for her daughter’s 12th birthday.  We spent some time together at the temple, went to church, and had dinner in our home while they were here.  They stood at Ethan’s bedside, murmured loving phrases to him, and held his hand.

Andrea and Justine

Then in May, Julie came to visit on her way to Cuba via Miami.  She had known him in Sacramento when we lived there, but marveled at how he’d grown since she saw him last.

Andrea and Julie

A few weeks later, the delightfully saucy Kel messaged me and asked if she could spend a few days with us while on her whirlwind trip through the U.S. from Australia.  She brought the little boys gifts of boomerangs and Tim Tams and a kangaroo pelt for Ethan because he loved soft, fluffy things to touch.  Later, she told me this about meeting Ethan:

“I remember walking into his room behind you, checking out the equipment, and as I turned I saw your face as you straightened. I had yet to see you mother, to see you with your kids, and your face in that moment was so soft and fiery and devoted it choked me up. It was a moment of truth, and I realised again that just being in your house, being in Ethan’s room, was a gift, a vulnerability, and I loved you for it and felt honoured.

‘Hey, Ethan,’ you said, “this is my friend Kellie, she wants to meet you.’

My god, did I.”

Andrea and Kel 3

Heather was also able to make it down from South Carolina during Kel’s stay, and showered us with gifts and lively conversation.  I realized after they left that three of my beloved Segullah friends had met my son for the first time.

Andrea and Heather B

Later that year, as Ethan’s health began to decline, Heather and Nate, Brittney and Andy, and Aaron and Stina all were in Orlando and all visited my home.  These were dear friends, some of whom I had known since college, who stood at Ethan’s bedside, stroked his soft hair, held his hand, and kissed his cheek as he neared his last days on earth.

Andrea and Heather

Brit and Andy

Aaron and Stina

Mosiah 18:8 – 9 counsels us to “…bear one another’s burdens that they may be light…mourn with those that mourn…comfort those that stand in need of comfort… and stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places…”  It is not uncommon to feel helpless in the face of another person’s tragedy.  Death, divorce, disability – these things and more leave us groping for the right thing to say or do.  Our case was no exception.  Ethan’s disabilities were profound and his health was very fragile, and although my friends and ward members were willing, only a person with specialized training or a nursing degree could give me hands-on help with his day-to-day needs.  What meant more to me during that time in Ethan’s life were the people who came into my home, stood by his bedside, stroked his hair, held his hand, and bore witness to the life that he and our family lived.

Not all problems can be solved.  Not all hurts can be healed.  Not all losses can be restored.  Sometimes it is enough to stand as a witness.

Finding room for your burdens on my back

About a dozen years ago, my best friend went through a difficult time. It was actually more than just difficult; as the miscarriages added up, they seemed to obscure everything else and take over her life. We had lived together for several years in college, but we had graduated, gotten married, started our families, and now lived more than a thousand miles apart. We’d talk on the phone a couple of times a month, but I never knew what to say. I called because I loved her and I knew I needed to, but it always took a certain amount of pysching myself up to pick up the phone. She felt powerless. I felt helpless. I didn’t know whether to listen or to offer advice, and I was always sure I was going to stick my foot in my mouth. And then there was the fact that while we both had toddler sons, I had gone on to have a daughter as well. I think it was hard for both of us not to retreat from the friendship. When I got pregnant with my third child, telling her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

In the years since that time, I’ve talked with friends about their unhappy marriages, and given (probably bad) advice from the point of view of my own solid union. I’ve chatted online with a friend whose son was dying while my own houseful of sons created chaos at my feet. I’ve tried to listen sympathetically to unmarried friends, while staring at the diamond on my own ring finger. In each case, there was absolutely nothing I could do to fix the situation, and listening didn’t feel like enough.

Right now, someone I’m close to is going through a hard time financially. My own family enjoys enough affluence to be comfortable, but not enough to make their problems go away. And even the daily, easy interactions we used to have (“What did you do this weekend?”) feel charged (“Dinner and the Ira Glass concert, how about you?”). I think we’ve both retreated from our relationship, and I know that it’s hard for me because I just feel so darn guilty. In Mosiah 4 we learn that we’re supposed to impart our substance with those that need it, without judgment, and that makes me worry that we’re prioritizing piano lessons and date nights above the more serious needs of our friends.

How have you helped friends through difficult situations, especially when your own life seems relatively easy by comparison? How do you resist the urge to retreat and manage not to stick your foot in your mouth? How do you know how much to help? How do you know when you’re “mourning with those that mourn” and not just making things harder for them?