Thursday, June 10, 2010

Working it Out in Sunday School

Sometimes it's tough to sit through Sunday School. The lesson was on war, David and Goliath, and more war. The SS teacher said that the palestinians were evil. He referred to that a couple of times in the context of the old testament, however, it was difficult to sit through b/c I couldn't help but feel extremely frustrated that such talk perpetuates the hatred and intolerance that is happening right now on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Nobody brought up current events or politics but it was just so sad to sit through that. I couldn't help but think of all those displaced people who feel that they have even more rights to the land because they never left! But both sides feel a kinship to the land so what really belongs to whom? I don't care who's right. I care that we learn to respect diversity, human life, and do anything and everything to avoid even the appearance of intolerance no matter what dispensation we're talking about.

The next class involved the RS President inviting me to pray to open the class. I did it but I was not in a prayerful mood. I should speak up when I am concerned about how comments may be interpreted, especially if it implies the "need" to take sides.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wanna Hear a Good Story?

I have nothing to complain about! I am enjoying church, even finding myself becoming excited at the end of the week about Sunday being around the corner! On one hand I'm scared that I'm going to hear something and bolt but so far I'm listening and able to keep a metaphorical perspective on things that I have found difficult to listen to in the past. I listen to people's comments during Sunday school and I don't get too angry. I just think of them in the context of Fowler's Stages of Faith, which I learned about from Mormon Stories Podcast. It doesn't create judgement in me towards individuals; it encourages me to understand them and myself better, let them be, and gives me peace to know that we are all at a different place in our faith journey and I try to accept others as I hope that they accept me. My comments and questions are accepted and I think, even appreciated to a degree.

The following speaks to the character of this branch president; during testimony meeting he got up and shared his testimony about the Book of Mormon. He said that if you don't believe in the Book of Mormon there's no sense in you even being here (at church) and then finished his thoughts and sat down. A few minutes later, this brave man returned to the podium and stated that he needed to take back what he'd said and clarify his position. He said that even if you don't believe in the Book of Mormon it is helpful scripture and there is sense in us being here (at church). He explained that his strong comments about the Book of Mormon come from a place of feeling so passionate about the book. I thought that was incredibly courageous to demonstrate inclusiveness and acceptance while holding to his own strong position and belief pertainig to the Book of Mormon.

The day before a church service project regarding an issue dear to my heart (helping women, men, and children impacted by relationship abuse) I prayed that God would help me come back to church. For several months I've studied the atonement from the LDS church's perspective and I really wanted to come back to the church that has provided me the richest of resources on this topic. I asked God for a blessing as simply as I could. I then decided that I would join the Relief Society to help with the next day's service project no matter how hard it would be to show my face once again. I showed up feeling some anxiety (thinking others would think, "Here she is again. How long will she stick around this time? Here we go again!"). With very little effort I was able to let go of my pride and embarrassment and I was welcomed and put to work along with everyone else. I fit in. My ego hasn't gotten in the way, yet, and it's much easier to get along with others without letting pride, embarrassment, guilt and shame get in the way. Alma 36 is my favourite chapter. I can relate to it in my own small way. Its' meaning for me is too much to explain here but I thought I'd reference the chapter that brought me back and seems to be resonating with me through my process of reconciliation.

I didn't know what to post but it never hurts to post something to be grateful for, especially this online community that has been a great help as I read others' posts and can take those thoughts, information and insights to church with me as I continue on my road to reconciliation.

While briefly talking with my branch president, without sharing specifics with him, he asked me if I had anyone to talk to about things that are hard to hear in the church. I said that I wouldn't talk to anyone here but there is an online community that is incredible in sharing ideas and providing understanding and support. I said that the General Authorities were right about the internet being an effective tool in helping to build faith in others. He seemed to understand my efforts to find support and was genuinely accepting; he even shared his experience about finding support for the hard stuff at church too. I think he gets me without me having to share anything! I always felt that from him, even though we didn't talk much together. Long before he was branch president we used to comment on each other's testimonies saying that we could relate and then we would move on. It's nice to feel understood, maybe for him too.

Why is there such a need for us to be connected to each other; to have others understand our queries; to have our frustrations be accepted and understood; to have others share our good times? Is that what the gospel is; community, collaborative, cooperative, finding strength, moving forward...together?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Returning home?

I have been off the blogger radar for about 10 months but today I attended the LDS church. Am I returning home or walking back into the storm by doing this? I don't know. I feel like the LDS church should be my "home" church even though I have no major family ties to it. I've tried various churches and I can't find a home that feels like what the LDS church has felt like many times in my life.

I've spent the last two months reviewing the mormon stories podcasts (thank you for coming back, John!) and I came across Brian Johnston who talked about reconciliation with the church and some of the ways to do that. I do miss the LDS church. I had a great discussion with the Branch President who was not pushy but understanding and appreciative of what I shared with him. I remembered what bloggers have said about being careful what you share to avoid negative consequences. I didn't share all my grievances with him but what I did share is relevent to my life at this time and I think that I can trust him. He was a great listener and let me guide the support that I might need from him. He didn't tell me what to do or give me the typical "read your scriptures and pray". I don't have much more to say than that. That in itself is a blessing. I don't want to have any grand experiences with the spirit or at church. I just want to be still and be able to exercise faith in quiet and peace. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say. While I don't have any race to win I use this expression to say that I just want to enjoy the pace and feel some peace. At least now I'm don't have to be alone. I think I was right to speak with the Branch President. He won't judge me. He won't condemn me. He is open to share my journey with me as I will it. If I never say another word to him regarding my concerns I know that he understands me better and that is for the good.

Thank you to John Dehlin, his guests on mormons stories, Brian Johnston on, and as always The Faithful Dissident. It is good for me to know that you are all out there and I am not alone. Without you I might never consider going back to the church. You have validated me; that once I return, knowing what I know now, my faith will never be the same...and that's ok. The Branch President said something interesting during our visit. My experiences are like Adam and Eve, taking from the knowledge of the tree of life or knowledge of good and evil. He seemed to understand my journey. As I reflect on that I am able to accept that we are never the same afterwards and that's ok. Adam and Eve were never the same afterwards either. Even their roles around reproduction and lifestyle changed. They had no knowledge of bearing and raising children or of their nakedness. That all changed after they took from the tree. It makes sense that the more we learn the more we change and so does our faith walk...and that's ok. The atonement is the most important matter and that was emphasized in our discussion. If the Branch President was reading this blog I would thank him for the good, thoughtful, and kind moments we had today.

Until next time,