Category Archives: Mormonism
Special Note about My LDS Lesson Recaps: Please feel free to use any of this material in preparation for your own LDS Relief Society lesson plan or sacrament meeting talk — no attribution required. 🙂
This lesson outline comes from a mini-workshop I taught this past Saturday at our stake women’s conference on Living a Christ-Centered Life. This is how it came to be: the stake relief society president caught me after church one Sunday and asked if I would be willing to teach something at the conference. I said yes. She said, “What topic interests you?”
I replied, “Well, Sister E., I’m happy to teach whatever you’d like, but you should know that I’m over the moon for Jesus.”
And thus this lesson was born.
I was recently released from my calling in the primary (hooray!) and called to be a Relief Society teacher (double hooray!). In the past, whenever I’ve taught a Relief Society lesson, I’ve shared a recap here. I’ve enjoyed that, because it’s generated more discussion after the fact — and heaven knows I love a good religious discussion! — and because I think it’s nice to have an archive of lessons that I can look back on over time.
Today’s lesson was called Survival through Faith. It was based on three general conference talks: Faith–The Choice Is Yours by Richard C. Edgley; Our Very Survival by Kevin R. Duncan; and Never Leave Him by Neil L. Anderson.
The other day, I came across my old mission sketchbook — not my journal, but the place where I wrote a bit more creatively: descriptive paragraphs, recipes, and song lyrics, mostly. And I stumbled upon a song I’d forgotten about, called “Hiding Place.”
Now I’m not a great songwriter; I recognize that. I don’t know enough about music, or the piano, or poetry to put together anything truly excellent. Still, it’s a wonderful creative outlet I’ve enjoyed over the years. When I started playing this song again on the piano, some fascinating memories came flooding back. I remember writing it on a P-day in Pernik while I was companions with Sister R., and being a little bit baffled by it. I wasn’t quite sure who I was writing to. The other day, a good 7 years later (holy crap, I’m old!), I finally realized:
I was writing to ME.
This song is about faith, doubt, and finding the courage to tell the truth about yourself. Long before I had any idea what was really going on with me, I knew I’d have to face myself; and this little song, as simple as it is, was permission to do what I needed to do.
I was pretty stunned. So I opened up Garageband on my husband’s Mac and recorded it with the cheap little headset I use to Skype with clients. The sound quality isn’t great — there’s a bit of background noise (at the very end you can even hear a watch alarm go off) — and I just messed around a little with some harmonies, but it’s actually pretty special to me…so I thought I’d share. 🙂
(Image source here.)
I interrupt your regularly-scheduled gratitude blogging for a post I’ve wanted to write for some time now but haven’t gotten around to. Yesterday, though, I read something that brought it to the forefront of my mind — and I figured now was as good a time to address it as any.
First, a bit of background on what inspired this post now. The church recently updated its handbook of instructions — the official guidebook that outlines all its procedures and policies — and among the more interesting changes were revisions to the way it speaks about homosexuality. No longer are homosexual thoughts and feelings considered “sinful” (homosexual behavior still is), and advice to send gay people to reparative therapy is gone. They’ve also removed language that refers to homosexuality as a “distortion of loving relationships.” In other words, this reflects and solidifies the shift we’ve seen in the church over the past 5-10 years — acknowledgment that homosexuality isn’t necessarily chosen or changeable and that gay people aren’t inherently vile in the eyes of God.
I am glad for the official change. As a people, I believe that if we can truly internalize this message, it will lead to greater love and acceptance of our LGBT brothers and sisters. And that will reduce the suffering they experience as they grow up Mormon and gay, torn between two worlds that, at the moment anyway, are pretty much irreconcilable.
But my post today isn’t about homosexuality.
It’s about the nature of change and the value of accepting people exactly the way they are.
There’s no doubt about it: I’m an unconventional Mormon. I have a tattoo that says “grace” on my upper back. I attend an evangelical Bible study every Friday. I’ve even been known to drink the occasional chai latte, just because I can. Over the past several years I’ve wrestled mightily with my testimony of Mormonism, my commitment to the Restored Gospel. Eventually, I decided to stay…partly because I find deep beauty in many of our distinctly Mormon doctrines — doctrines which I genuinely hope are true — and partly because I feel there is value in loyalty to the faith community in which I was born and raised.
I am generally content with my decision. I no longer question it every day. Still, there are moments when I am discouraged, fearful: perhaps I’m fooling myself. Maybe I’m settling when there is something Bigger and Better beyond Mormonism. Maybe God would lead me elsewhere if I had the faith to follow Him. I know this candid confession might come as a surprise to some who are reading this (to others, it might explain a lot), but I want to share the context from which the next part of my post emerges.
You see, tonight I had an experience that confirmed to me the wisdom of remaining Mormon despite my doubts, that instilled in me a deep gratitude for my Mormon identity, culture, belief, and practice.
My 20-year-old sister is in the process of deciding whether or not she should serve a full-time mission and sent me an email asking me about my experience. Of course, prayer and personal reflection are her primary decision-making tools; still, she feels that an important part of her process is gathering as much information as she can about what missions are really like.
Knowing that several of my readers are returned missionaries, I asked for her permission to share her questions on my blog. She jumped at the chance to get wider feedback. So here are her questions and my responses. If you’re an RM, please take a few minutes to respond to the questions as well (if you feel comfortable, you could even include where you served — not necessary though)! We’re happy to take responses from everyone, regardless of how much you enjoyed your mission (or didn’t!) or whether or not you are still an active Mormon.
Thanks in advance for helping her out. 🙂
I was planning to go somewhere else with this next post on why women are unhappy, but a recent conversation with a good friend convinced me that I should start here.
So let’s talk, shall we, about that familiar kill-joy for women everywhere: guilt.
WARNING: This post contains a frank discussion of human sexuality. If that makes you uncomfortable, I encourage you skip it.
My relationship to Mormonism is like my marriage.
When I first married my husband, I thought he was one way. Handsome, funny, vibrant, talented, charismatic, intelligent.
And he is all of those things — and much, much more.
But the more I got to know him, the more I became acquainted with his faults. His inflexibility, his quickness to anger, his tendency to withdraw emotionally even when I need him.
It was a terrifying discovery.
Because as a young woman, idealistic and naive, I believed that love makes everything better — and that “better” means smoother, simpler, without stress or strain.
What, then, to do when I discovered that it was harder than I thought it would be? That along with the intimacy and joy, I’d be fighting through pain, frustration, anxiety, even heartache?
If it’s really right, shouldn’t it be easier than this?
Today in Sunday School, we talked about the Pre-Existence and fore-ordination.
At one point, a guy in the class raised his hand and asked, “Okay, so let’s say you’re fore-ordained to do something. But you fall away from the church, stop believing in God, and totally miss your chance to do it. Then you come back 10 years later. What happens to you?”
There were a variety of answers, from “God would find another way to get the job done” to “you miss out on blessings during that time, but you can still come back to full fellowship,” and so on.
I raised my hand and said, “You know, I think the amazing thing about God is that He’s so big and His grace is so wonderful that He uses our good choices to bless us AND our bad choices to bless us, if we let Him.”
A pretty basic comment, I thought — until I got this response: “Well, we have to qualify that by remembering that, in this instance, we’ve set ourselves back 10 years.”
And I’ll be honest, that frustrated me. The teacher is a good friend, one I’ve opened up to about my beliefs, and I know he meant to be helpful and kind with his reply. But if we’d been out of church and in a private setting, I would have responded with this question:
Why do we have to qualify it?
Why is it so terrible to think that God might be able to take something ugly and messy and turn it into something truly wonderful and beautiful — even more wonderful and beautiful than if we’d never fallen?
Why do we have to place limits on God’s grace?