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Joining the LDS church 32 years ago was a big decision, not one that I considered lightly. I knew that if I converted to what many call “Mormonism,” there would be some backlash and downright discomfort on the part of many. And yet, I knew what I knew with my head and felt what I felt with my spirit and heart. How could I deny such a force?
I said yes and have never looked back.
Today in church I pondered for the umpteenth time what it is that’s so off-putting about Mormonism. Is it because it’s strange and peculiar for those in the Bible belt? Are its precepts and guidelines too demanding? Is the way too straight? It could be that many (most?) people don’t believe there can be prophets on the earth today.
Now Moses…that was a man, a prophet with name recognition and credibility, one who saw God face-to-face and who gave us the Ten Commandments. Even people who don’t live by these directives give lip service to their usefulness and credit to the prophet who wrote them on stone.
And of course Moses isn’t the only one. To name a few, there are Joshua, Isaiah, Samuel, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist. If I’m mentioning Moses, then I must include his sister Miriam who has long been accepted as a prophetess. And there’s Anna, an elderly New Testament prophetess who instantly recognized the Messiah though he was but a babe.
But what 2015? Doesn’t it make sense that the world is in need of prophets today, ones that understand current issues and challenges? Pornography, drug addiction, gender issues (and transgender ones), mass killings, broken homes, hungry children, homelessness, and a myriad of other contemporary problems plague our society. Couldn’t this ol’ world benefit from the words of a prophet?
I think yes. That’s where Thomas S. Monson, President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, comes in. His message is simple. Love one another. Follow the example of the Savior.
Here are some of his words I used in a lesson this morning: “Love should be the heart of family life, and yet sometimes it is not. There can be too much impatience, too much arguing, too many fights, too many tears. I would hope that we could strive always to be considerate and to be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around us. Let us not demean or belittle Rather, let us be compassionate and encouraging. We must be careful that we do now destroy another person’s confidence through careless words or actions.”
I’m not trying to stir up contention. I’m a lover, not a fighter. It’s just that as I consider the recent horror that took place in Charleston, I’m reminded that love is the answer to every question. Rich or poor, black or white, American or Haitian, we are all children of the same Creator. He loves us all and expects us to do the same. After telling us to love our neighbors as ourselves, Christ remarks that there is no greater commandment.
President Monson says we cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey, and I concur. I want to be a forgiving, compassionate, turn-the-other-cheek type of gal, and that’s the kind of instruction I pretty much always get at church.
I have an internal moral compass. I really do. At the same time, regular church attendance helps me keep it pointed north. Without the lessons I pick up and the fellowship I enjoy with my ward family, I’d probably be more inclined to lie, steal, cheat, and so forth.
Yesterday, I was reminded of the power of forgiveness, the layers of meaning in the parables of Christ, and the importance of making one’s home a place of order, refuge, protection, and holiness. Nothing I heard was new, but all I heard was shared in such a way that it pierced my heart and renewed my resolve to be a better person.
In the first service of the day, a speaker told a powerful story that illustrated love, peace, and forgiveness. A person had committed a transgression of a serious nature, and his bishop counseled him on the wrongdoing. Lest there be some doubt, the sin was a serious one. After the “talk,” the person who had received the counsel was offended, and so was his family, so upset and hurt that they didn’t feel they could return to church.
Here’s what happened. The bishop’s leader talked with him about the matter and indicated that an apology to the man and his family was in order.
“But I was right,” the bishop insisted. “What he was doing was wrong and needed to stop.”
His leader again encouraged him to apologize. “Someone was hurt. See if you can handle the situation with more love.”
The bishop did as he was advised, and the hearts of the man and his entire family were softened, and yes, the behavior changed for the better. The man, a sinner like me and like you, responded to compassion and understanding in a positive manner. He, like all of us, had responded to condemnation and blame with hurt and anger.
Yesterday’s speaker went on to add that this situation had applications for all of us. It doesn’t matter who’s right and who’s wrong. If you’ve offended someone by your words or actions, apologize. Failure to do so could lead to family, both church and kin, rifts that can never be repaired. Bitterness will ensue.
In Sunday school, the teacher helped her listeners better understand the deeper meanings of several parables. In a graduate class entitled The Principles of College Teaching, I learned that there are several types of teachers. Actually, I already knew that, but what I didn’t know was that even in this nuts and bolts methodology course, Christ was perceived to be the master teacher. Asking, demonstrating, and telling stories, He’s the teacher to emulate.
In the final meeting of the day, the teacher shared ideas about making homes places of order, refuge, protection, and holiness. I was already familiar with everything she said, and yet there was something about the spirit in the room that caused me to sit up and take notice. All throughout her lesson, I kept looking at a collection of children’s building blocks that she had on the table. What was their purpose?
Anne, the teacher, built a wall with the blocks, an object lesson that literally rocked my world. I told my husband about it last night, and something in the story prompted him to wash the dishes! I shared it with my daughter Elizabeth, and even she, a teacher, was impressed. I’m going to buy some wooden blocks and carry out he activity with my grandchildren soon. It was that good!
Everyone needs gentle reminders of how to live better, happier, more peaceful lives. And while you don’t have to be a church goer to hear those reminders, I most definitely do!
Want to share something you’ve recently learned that can improve the quality of your relationships?
I went to a beautiful backyard wedding last night, Carol and Randy’s. On the way home, we talked about what made the event especially nice, and we finally decided that it was EVERYTHING. From the setting to the music and food and special combination of people, we loved it. Oh, and then there’s the fact that love was involved; that always adds the icing on the cake (quite a cliché, but still true).
It rained all the way to Sumter, and the closer we got to the house, the heavier the showers became. When we arrived, the bride’s son-in-law was standing barefoot in the drive, umbrella overhead, directing guests back to their cars to wait it out. The family had been closely watching the weather reports, and all were confident that the storm would pass by 5:00. Sure enough, the downpour turned to a light sprinkle, and by the time we made it to the backyard, we put our umbrellas away. I loved the symbolism of the cleansing rain followed by the life-giving sun.
The back yard was beautifully decorated, and as we waited for the nuptials to begin, we watched as several close friends and family members wiped down tables and chairs, one of whom was Marna. She had come from Wilmington and at the moment, clad in her wedding attire and white tennis shoes, was working diligently to help sop up the rain with a thick towel. In case you’re wondering, yes, she later changed from the wet tennis shoes to a pair of stylish white sandals. (Marna, we miss you at CCTC!)
The music was provided by two of my co-workers, T-Bo and Jackson, and by Brent, a fabulous DJ; all three did a great job of adding just the right musical ambience to the evening. The co-worker duo played their guitars, and T-Bo sang a few of Carol’s favorites including “Love Remains.” It was beautiful, and I became quite emotional as I listened carefully to the words of the song. I think the setting beneath the trees, glistening after the spring showers, added to the sentimental feelings. And lest I forget, two birds soared high between the treetops during the vows, a sight that seemed to say, “We’re in love too!”
Vows complete, Carol’s brother, a minister who had conducted the service, pronounced them husband and wife, and everyone clapped. As the afternoon and evening progressed, people chatted, danced to the DJ’s selections (each carefully selected by Carol and Randy), reunited with old friends, ate scrumptious barbeque and the fixin’s, shared stories, and laughed a lot. Everyone was happy for the couple and grateful for love, sweet love. I met a couple who met (or re-met?) at their 15th high school reunion a few decades ago and married not quite two months later. We chatted briefly about the importance of timing, but before I could hear more about their romance, my hubby snagged me to go to the drink table with him.
I must share this. While we were eating, Nancy, a friend and techno-savvy person, came to our table and asked each couple for advice to give Carol and Randy. It was impromptu, but I think we did “okay” in our brief videotaping segments. Rex and Patricia advice was to remember that each of them loved the other more than anyone else in the world. In their case, whenever either of them gets perturbed, they think, “No one loves me more than Patrica (or Rex),” and that thought quells acrimony or annoyance. Patricia went on to say that although he doesn’t drink coffee, Rex gets up every morning and fixes it for her. One day when he didn’t have time to prepare it (can’t remember the reason), he went to Baker’s Sweets, a local eatery and coffee shop, and bought her a cup. That’s love. The rest of us gave some pretty good advice too, but I don’t have time to write about it now. Maybe later.
People drank peach tea and wine, ate fruit and wedding cookies, and savored barbeque and rice. They thought about love and families and connections. “The sun comes up and seasons change, but though it all, love remains.” A good time was had by all, and I hope the Brileys have a long and happy life together.
This is my catch-all blog, the one where I can rant and rave and vent and expound as much as my heart desires. It’s not centered on one theme like religion, politics, families, or cooking.
You’re as likely to read something about exercise here as about the poverty in Burundi and how embarrassed I sometimes feel to have so much when those folks have so little. I just ate a piece of chocolate with almonds and am wondering how widespread that delectable treat is in one of the poorest countries in the world.
Oops, I strayed from my topic. Since I can write about anything I want to on this blog, today I’m focusing on love.
I never leave church without feeling spiritually energized. The peace and love that surrounds me is palpable. I kid you not. Then there are those lessons and talks and hymns that never fail to touch, educate, or affect me in some way. On Sunday, one of the teachers mentioned one little sentence that I keep thinking of, especially in light of a couple of situations that have been troubling me lately.
Here’s what she said: “The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ is love.” While that’s something that I already knew, I needed to be reminded of it. If you say you love God but make disparaging remarks about people of other races, ethnic groups, or social classes, you might want to examine your heart. If that sounds snarky, it’s because I need to work on that love thing too, and that realization puts me on the defensive.
I don’t have a problem with loving people who are “different” from me. I sincerely believe that we’re all brothers and sisters of the same Heavenly Father and that He doesn’t love me more because I’m a white middle-class person with the good fortune to have been born in America. Instead, I think He might actually expect more of me because of those reasons. “To whom much is given, much is required” and all that.
Lately I’ve been full of that loving feeling—for my family. My son and his wife just had a new baby, and I’m already in love with her little rosebud face. I enjoyed staying with the family and taking care of the little ones last week and am looking forward to doing more of the same soon.
There’s more. I helped someone with some troubling internet connections last week, and I cut some of my students some slack when they missed their due dates. I cooked a delicious pot of chili for my husband yesterday, but really, Y’all, that was easy stuff and required little exertion on my part.
But there are a couple of situations going on in my neighborhood that I’m concerned about. What am I doing to ameliorate them? Nothing. Nada. Not a darned thing except talk about them with my husband and friends. Talk is cheap. And yet, when does one know when to cross the line between minding your own business and helping someone who’s cold, hungry, neglected, or _______________?
This morning I’m sitting in my nice cozy home watching the gas logs flicker and flame while I know for a fact that one of my neighbors has no electricity. There are other sad scenarios being acted out all over town. I’m thinking of how the Savior (sorry if I offend anyone here) was virtually homeless during the last few years of His life, and yet that didn’t stop Him from helping and healing and doing good.
What am I doing? Nothing yet. Just writing and thinking.
What’s the answer? I don’t know, but I think kindness and compassion go a long way, and that’s something I can do more of. It’s a start, right?
Don’t worry. I’m not going to get all-religious and start spouting off (or writng down) pious phrases. I just want to share a few thoughts I’ve had the last few days without coming across like a zealot.
Quick story. Nearly three decades ago, my father and another man were engaged in a conversation when my dad noticed the man looking at me with what seemed (to my father) to be curiosity. When Daddy looked at him inquiringly as if to say, “Why are you staring at Jayne?” the man said, “Is she the sister that’s a Mormon?”
Daddy said he turned back and looked at me again and said, “Yep, she’s the one. But don’t worry. She’s not fanatical about it.” I wasn’t offended when my dad shared this story. I knew what he meant. I’m not going to knock someone over the head with my beliefs, especially when I’ve always known that talk is cheap. Some of the most Bible-quoting, holier than thou folks that I know are the scariest. But that’s a story for another day.
That said, I’ve been thinking of the phrase “tender mercies” and some associated incidents that I’ve observed lately.
My husband has a heartache. It’s been nearly a year since his son died of melanoma and each day is a struggle. Although he has three other wonderful children and seven precious grandchildren, that almost unbearable pain is still there. Sometimes it’s a dull ache, like a muscle that you’ve overused, and then for no apparent reason, the ache become a sharp pain that nearly cripples him.
BUT every day of his life, good things are going on. I like to call them “tender mercies.” One recent day, he got a message from his son’s first cousin letting him know that he (my husband) was in his thoughts. “Hey man, just wanted you to know I’m thinking about you. I know this time of year is rough.” A tender mercy, one that conveyed, “I care about you, and I haven’t forgotten Chris. Never will.”
He has seven healthy, beautiful, energetic, and funny grandchildren. One of them spent some time with her grandfather in a deer stand last week, just chillin’ and enjoying Mother Nature. Little Cooper, the youngest one in town, always warms his granddad’s heart when he says, “Hey PaPa” as he runs into his arms. This past weekend, my youngest grandson Ethan cried when we left Atlanta, not for me but for Otis. To me, all of these are tender mercies bestowed by a loving Heavenly Father. Some cynics might say, “If He’s so loving, why did He take Otis’ son?” I don’t know the answer to that. I’m Jayne; He’s God.
Last week as I was leaving church, a former bishop told me of the sudden death of one of his brothers-in-law. He was hit by a speeding 17-year-old and died immediately. As we talked, the grieving bishop said, “But he wouldn’t come back even if he could.” I needed to hear that. What a true statement. Knowing what Chris is currently experiencing, I don’t think he’d want to come back now even if he could. I told his dad that, hoping to offer some solace. Was it helpful? I don’t know. I, however, see that chance conversation as a tender mercy.
This post is longer than I intended it to be so I’ll wrap it up. My thoughts on this beautiful Monday morning are not fanatical or preachy. At least I hope not. I just wanted to share my belief that there are always tender mercies around us, but we can’t always see them when we’re focusing on the sad, evil, vile, sordid, heartbreaking stuff.
As a final note, I can’t recall the moment of my sweet mother’s death without also recalling the love that surrounded her at that moment of passing. I’ll always remember the soft hymn playing in the background (at her request) and the sun dappled radiance in the room. My sibs were all there, and I know they felt those tender mercies too.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the truth behind the cliché, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Yesterday I thought of how it lines up with Stephen Covey’s concept about finding one’s center. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a huge Covey fan, and I’m amazed and pleased at how often his writing comes to mind.
According to Dr. Covey, in order to get where you’re going, you need to find your center, what it is that you’re all about. After writing about the various centers that a person can have, he discusses the importance of having universal principles of fairness, love, equality, integrity, kindness, and honesty at one’s core. These values are timeless, unchanging, and present in every culture. They won’t let us down.
Often we have other centers that give our lives focus and direction. Examples from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People include self, family, spouse, friends, work, and religion (or church). All of those things are good and are valuable. BUT sometimes when they’re at the very core of a person and he (or she) loses one, then the person’s whole world falls apart.
- If your family is more important to you than anything else, and then someone in your family dies, gets put in prison, goes astray, or lets you down, your world could come crumbling down if that’s all you ‘ve got. Think empty nest syndrome.
- If your job is primary in your life and you lose it for whatever reason and have nothing else of importance, you’re anchorless.
- If you’re enemy-centered, and thoughts of getting even are foremost on your mind, then that person is in control of your life and thoughts, not you. Covey gave a great example of a man who was thinking of leaving the university and taking his family with him to another locale because there was a person in his department who was the bane of his existence.
- If you’re friend centered, your friends might get busy with other aspects of their lives and neglect you. What then? Are there other eggs in your basket?
- If you’re spouse centered, that person could disappoint you, perhaps even find another.
- If you’re church-centered, what happens when its teachings don’t line up with what you consider to be “right?”
Again, caring about the above events and people are important. Covey just reminds his readers to have some balance in their lives and to have fundamental values and principles as guiding forces in our lives, thus keeping us from cracking when our baskets drop.
Have you ever put all of your eggs in one basket? If so, how has that worked out for you?
“I love you but you don’t know what you’re talking about.” That’s a line from one of my favorite movies, and I’m using it to follow through with a WordPress writing prompt: Take a quote from your favorite movie — there’s the title of your post. Now, write!
Yesterday my daughter Carrie shared a blog on Facebook about pit bulls and how they are often unfairly maligned. In this post, a 4-year-old child had been attacked by a pit bull and will be permanently disfigured because of the assault. I couldn’t bear to look at the picture of him. Too heartbreaking. Animal lovers are raising money for the dog’s defense (I guess he has a lawyer) while meanwhile this child, Kevin, has to breathe and eat through a tube.
Don’t even bother telling me that the child’s mother should have been watching him more carefully or that pit bulls are normally adorable. I’m close-minded on this one and would say without hesitation, “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.” In Moonrise Kingdom, that’s what Sam says to Suzy after she tells him that sometimes she wishes she had been an orphan.
Sam and Suzy are running away together, and at some point they even manage to get married before her parents, Social Services, the town police force (Bruce Willis), and the Boy Scout leaders find them. Sam’s parents are deceased, and he had been living in a foster home and knew firsthand how difficult being an orphan could be.
I love the quote because it applies to so many circumstances in life. Below are several examples of things I hear and read on a frequent basis:
Mormons aren’t Christians. “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Homosexuals are going to hell. “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re….” As an aside, I just have to share something I realized yesterday. Jesus said this about homosexuality: NOTHING. Interesting, huh?
Southerners are illiterate bumpkins. “I love you, but you don’t know….”
God loves the believers (American Christians) more than he does the Hindus, Jews, or Muslims. “I love you, but….”
Mormonism is a cult. “I love you.”
Here’s what Mormons believe. Whether black, white, red, yellow, polka dotted, rich, poor, Buddhist, dull, clever, beach bum, Bedouin, gay, strong, or weak, we’re all brothers and sisters of the same Heavenly Father who loves us all.
And about those pit bulls, they’re dangerous.
So if you and I are having a conversation, and I’m smiling sweetly at something you’re saying but am not speaking, it’s because I’m thinking, “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I sure will be glad when I get the keyboard for my iPad. I ordered it through Groupon last night, and they say it usually takes about two weeks to arrive. In the meantime, this morning I’m using the old hunt and peck method of typing on my awesome iPad. Love it!
And love is what this short post is about, love and a movie. DH and I saw Silver Linings Playbook the other evening, and I’ve been thinking about just what it was about the flick that impressed us so much. Well sure, there’s the superb acting. If possible, Robert DeNiro gets better and better. And his wife in the movie was perfectly typecast. So was his buddy.
And then, of cours, there are Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence who are phenomenal. I was so entranced by their dance scenes that I told my husband I wanted to take dance lessons so that I could dance like Jenniger Lawrence. Usually tactful and nice, he said without hesitation, “You’re no Jennifer Lawrence.” And after a moment, “But then I’m no Bradley Coopet either.”
But dancing and acting and betting on Eagles’ games is not what really makes the movie so memorable. It’s love. Yep, love sweet love. Everyone in the movie has some human quirkiness going on, and some are more wounded, twisted, or confused than others. Still, despite all of the actors’ warts and wens, there’s the redeeming power of love.
If you want to be touched emotionally, put this movie on your “to see” list. The dynamics between the characters will both amuse and inspire you. And honestly, at some point, they might even sadden you. Still, it’s a great “heart” movie that you don’t want to miss.
In the meantime, share some love today. You never know what secret sorrow might be hidden within the human heart. I’ m not saying that you/we can save the world on this Valentine’s Day. I’m just saying that we should all send a little more love out into the universe today.
One of the reasons that I love the LDS church so much is we have no paid ministry. We do it all ourselves, and most of the time, I think it gets done fairly well. At least I’d like to think so. An added benefit of this is that members get to grow and develop their talents.
Lots of people like to go to church, sit there, listen to a sermon, sing a few hymns, and be uplifted and edified. Hey, I like to do that myself! At the same time, I believe in the law of reciprocity, and I think we should both give and take. I recall a quote from a Relief Society lesson many years ago that followed some complaints of women proclaiming that they got nothing from Relief Society. I recall thinking that any woman who says she gets nothing from this fabulous organization must have some loose screws. The response from a church leader was more loving, however, and was in the form of a question like, “My dear sisters, what are you putting into Relief Society?”
So this Sunday I’m speaking in Sacrament, and it’s going to be an awesome talk. Not because I’m a good speaker but because my assigned topic is a great one and because I’m taking the heart of the talk from a recent General Conference address. How can I go wrong? The topic is how to be a more Christian Christian, a better follower of Christ.
One of my brothers frequently tells me of his trip to the Holy Land in the hope that one day I’ll go there. I won’t. It’s too far, too expensive, too dangerous, and from the reports I’ve read, too touristy. What I’ve told him is that I care more about walking How Jesus walked than about Where He walked. I want to be more compassionate, kind, patient, nonjudgmental, and service-oriented. I want to be more like the Good Samaritan and help people who are different from me. I know for a fact that our Creator loves people of all races, creeds, and social classes. He doesn’t care about the size of your bank account but about the size of your heart.
In preparing Sunday’s remarks, Christ’s words to “feed my lambs” and “feed my sheep” keep coming to mind. I needed that reminder, and I’m wondering if Todd knew that when he nabbed me in the foyer last Sunday and gave me this assignment. Hmmm. I think he knew that we all need a reminder to feed His sheep. Sometimes those sheep might be the little children in our homes, and at other times, they could be our neighbors. I was thinking just yesterday of how often I had sheepishly (there’s that word again) skulked by the Salvation Army bell ringer outside of Wal Mart without putting even a dollar in the bucket. What’s wrong with me?? What would Christ have done?
I could go on and on. I just need to post this and get back to my talk preparation. Reading Elder Hale’s conference address inspires me to be a better follower of Christ at the same time that it makes me realize where and how I’ve fallen short. Just like you, I’m a work in progress. For today, I’m going to start practicing the Christ-like qualities mentioned my Elder Hale, Christian love and Christian caring. I’m going to throw in some peace and forgiveness too.
And P.S., If you want to learn more about becoming a more Christian Christian and feel the warmth of Christ-like love, join us at the LDS chapel on Chestnut Ferry Road in Camden this Sunday at 11:00.