Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Highlight -- a must see especially if you have heard of NieNie

For me, there are twenty minutes left of this holiday, and I just found this. If you have heard of NieNie (and even if you haven't), this video for me was a wonderful way to finish this day. It's a wonderful example of the power of goodness out there, and the power of a grateful heart.

Warning: You will probably want to have a tissue handy.

Have miracles ceased? This is pure and perfect evidence, at so many levels, that they have not.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A touching story of repentance and forgiveness

Some of you may remember hearing about this mother and her three children (one unborn) who were killed by a drunk driver, and the amazing way her husband dealt with the tragedy.

I was reminded tonite (one of those little thoughts that passed through my mind) that President Faust talked about this man in his powerful talk on forgiveness.

Well, read this, a news story I read tonite. It brought tears to my eyes.

(If you didn't read all the links, you should. Really. OK, you don't need to read the first one (the actual news story, which is just plain sad), but the others are must-reads. I have a lump that remains in my throat even after reading them.)

Especially at this time when we reflect on the importance of gratitude and of the Savior's birth and life, stories like this just make me want to be a better person, more loving, more Christlike, more faithful, more forgiving.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Not bad for a pajama day!

Here's a little change of pace....

Yesterday was a pajama day for me (meaning I wasn't feeling the best). But I had an idea that was too fun not to follow through on.

Child #2 (age 8) had a lesson yesterday at school on table settings and etiquette. At the last minute, we decided to pull out the china (something we had never used as just our family) and surprise Dad with a formal dinner (even though part of the menu was just leftovers).

#1 distracted Dad upstairs while the girls took over the main floor. I cooked while the girls folded napkins and made name cards and set the table.

The look on Dad's face when he walked into the room was simply priceless.

#2 delighted us throughout the meal with etiquette tips she had learned. I learned a thing or two!

I suppose I should have gotten dressed for the occasion, though. Ah, well!

(I have to say that the soup I made for those who didn't want leftovers was a hit. YUM!)

Friday, November 14, 2008

"First Presidency Urges Respect, Civility in Public Discourse" [Updated]

The First Presidency today expressed its disappointment with how some people have responded to the passing of Proposition 8 in California.

"Attacks on churches and intimidation of people of faith have no place in civil discourse over controversial issues. People of faith have a democratic right to express their views in the public square without fear of reprisal. Efforts to force citizens out of public discussion should be deplored by people of goodwill everywhere."

They point out that the inappropriate and "extreme actions of a few" ought to be discouraged by all.

Read the whole statement here.

[Edited to add the following]

The Utah Pride Center and Equality Utah have also issued similar statements. Hats off to them as well. (Find links to their statements here.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

from 52 to 48 | 48 to 52 with love

This was related to the Obama win, but could be used in principle with the Prop 8 situation. We can only really move forward as a nation if we are united, not divided. (Hat tip here.)

I'm so weary of all the anti-prop 8 stuff. I understand the pain and frustration, but the way many people are dealing with that is out. of. control.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

On Smelling Cigarette Smoke in Sacrament Meeting

Some recent discussions have reminded me of something I have heard more than once...something along these lines:

"We should smell more cigarette smoke in sacrament meeting."

I recently heard a story about a woman who, as a child, was shunned by ward members because her dad (not active) smoked, and therefore the children smelled like smoke.

This should not be!

Of course, there are many other things we could include besides Word of Wisdom problems that may test our ability to withhold judgment and instead reach out in love. We are probably all aware of people who struggle because they feel different and/or inadequate in some way. The list could be endless, I'm sure (people might feel different because they are divorced, or single, or infertile, or struggling with mental illness, or struggling with physical illness, or "liberal," or doubtful, or....)

Elder Marlin K. Jensen spoke at our regional conference about this, and reminded us that, in some way or another, at some time or another, we will likely all feel 'different.' I was so moved by his talk because of how often I have felt different. (I still have yet to write about what his talk meant to me that day; it was a direct answer to prayer. Maybe someday I will.)

We really are all broken, and that's part of the plan, part of the purpose of mortality. And a significant part of our Church membership and activity is to learn to love and work with and reach out to imperfect people and remember that we are all inadequate, all beggars.

Pres. Hinckley once said:
There are so many young people who wander aimlessly and walk the tragic trail of drugs, gangs, immorality, and the whole brood of ills that accompany these things. There are widows who long for friendly voices and that spirit of anxious concern which speaks of love. There are those who were once warm in the faith, but whose faith has grown cold. Many of them wish to come back but do not know quite how to do it. They need friendly hands reaching out to them. With a little effort, many of them can be brought back to feast again at the table of the Lord.

More recently, Elder Wirthlin said this:

Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.

Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.

This is something that Elder Wirthlin has talked about at other times as well:

The Church is not a place where perfect people gather to say perfect things, or have perfect thoughts, or have perfect feelings. The Church is a place where imperfect people gather to provide encouragement, support, and service to each other as we press on in our journey to return to our Heavenly Father.

Each one of us will travel a different road during this life. Each progresses at a different rate. Temptations that trouble your brother may not challenge you at all. Strengths that you possess may seem impossible to another.

Never look down on those who are less perfect than you. [And I would add, how on earth can you know where someone really is on the road to perfection compared to you?] Don’t be upset because someone can’t sew as well as you, can’t throw as well as you, can’t row or hoe as well as you.

We are all children of our Heavenly Father. And we are here with the same purpose: to learn to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

One way you can measure your value in the kingdom of God is to ask, “How well am I doing in helping others reach their potential? Do I support others in the Church, or do I criticize them?”

If you are criticizing others, you are weakening the Church. If you are building others, you are building the kingdom of God. As Heavenly Father is kind, we also should be kind to others.

We live in difficult times. There is much opposition for all of us, which means there will be much of struggle and opportunity to exercise agency and learn by experience, which means we will all make mistakes. As I ponder the words of our prophets and leaders, I feel them calling to all of us to open our hearts to each other, to show Christian courage -- to not respond to others as the natural man would want to respond (defensively, unkindly, selfishly) but to
truly pray for charity and seek to be more like the Savior. No. Matter. What.

As my husband and I talked about this tonite, I mentioned this idea of smelling smoke in sacrament meeting. We reflected on this concept, which we have heard more than once from people whom we admire, reminding us of the importance of opening our hearts to others.

But my husband captured another facet of this issue, also so important to remember. He said, in essence, "Yes, we should rejoice when we smell cigarette smoke in our church meetings.

"However, we cannot change the Word of Wisdom to help them feel more comfortable."

Therein lies a tension in all of this. At times, people have wanted to equate love with changing doctrine and commandments. Or, sometimes people are afraid to say something doctrinal because they might offend someone whose life doesn't match the ideals that the doctrine teaches.

This should not be, either.

I'm not saying that we should ever use doctrine as a weapon, throwing it in someone's face in a confrontational way. I have written before about how we should not judge each other in a vacuum against gospel ideals. But we cannot and should not shy away from these ideals, either.

Our meetings are a place to nurture each other, not just in love, but "in the good word of God" so we can stay "in the right way." It is only through truth that we can truly be free. It is only in following the Savior's doctrine that we can fully become His disciples and truly come to know Him.

In that beautiful talk by Elder Wirthlin, he reminded us of the importance of doctrine when he said:

To those who have strayed because of doctrinal concerns, we cannot apologize for the truth. We cannot deny doctrine given to us by the Lord Himself. On this principle we cannot compromise.

I understand that sometimes people disagree with doctrine. They even go so far as to call it foolish. But I echo words of the Apostle Paul, who said that sometimes spiritual things can appear as foolishness to men. Nevertheless, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men.”

In truth, things of the Spirit are revealed by the Spirit. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

We testify that the gospel of Jesus Christ is here upon the earth today. He taught of His Father’s doctrine, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

But again, doctrine should never be used as a weapon. As Elder Hales recently said,

As true disciples, our primary concern must be others’ welfare, not personal vindication. Questions and criticisms give us an opportunity to reach out to others and demonstrate that they matter to our Heavenly Father and to us. Our aim should be to help them understand the truth, not defend our egos or score points in a theological debate. Our heartfelt testimonies are the most powerful answer we can give our accusers. And such testimonies can only be born in love and meekness.

The most effective way we can help others is for us to be founded in truth.

And a key part of that truth is about how the Savior expects us to treat one another. I hope we can each strive to do our part to bring more love and light and truth into others' lives.

And to those who feel different, I would say: You are not alone. There are many who care and want to reach out, but may not know how, or may be clumsy -- perhaps even careless or clueless at times -- in their efforts. Please be patient with the weakness of those around you. Help others know how to help you. Pray for a friend who can listen and love.

And most of all, know that the Savior is aware of you, and that line upon line, you can work through whatever you are facing, with His help. In the end, that is why we are all at Church -- because we all need Him so desperately. We are all beggars. We all have our 'cigarette smoke' even if it's not all equally apparent.

As we all strive to be more loving and patient with each other (regardless of where we are on the path, regardless of whether we feel like we belong or feel different), I believe we can each become better at being more like Him, line upon line. The more we open our hearts to each other, the more He can fill our hearts with His love -- and His healing power and mercy.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Bishop of SL Diocese Issues Statement re: Prop 8, Solidarity with LDS Church

There's much going on in Utah with regard to Prop 8 -- protests on Temple Square, talks of boycotts of Utah events such as the Sundance Festival, continued news stories.

I was touched by this statement from the Most Reverend John C. Wester, Bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. (The former bishop of the Diocese also issued a statement, and other leaders from other faiths are quoted here.)

It's important to remember that, as Bishop Wester said, "[O]ur two churches [Catholic and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] joined with a wide alliance of people from different faiths and ethnicities including Orthodox, Jews, Evangelicals, Hispanics, African Americans, Asians and Anglos."

I also loved this from Bishop Wester, which is something that deserves repeating:

Our defense of traditional marriage should in no way be interpreted as an attack on any person. To the contrary, we honor the dignity and sacredness of each individual.

In my view, those who perpetuate a perception of hate and bigotry on the part of those who supported Prop 8 are in a very real sense contributing to the pain that has come with the passing of the proposition. To continue to assert that those who supported Prop 8 are nothing but hateful, uncaring, unChristlike people only fuels the fire of contention and division. Of course, this can go the other way as well...those of us who support Prop 8 cannot and should not respond in anger or disdain when others differ in their opinions. We must allow each other the space to disagree without dissolving into attacks and unkind generalizations. It's hard when we hurt not to do this, but it's so important for us all to think and act with open, loving hearts.

Again, from Bishop Wester:

One of the hallmarks of our country is that people of different opinions can debate neuralgic issues and at the same time demonstrate respect, civility and courtesy for the other. I pray that this will be the case going forward.

This is my prayer as well.

Another Church Statement -- This one about protests over Prop 8

Once again, the Church's statement echoes my feelings.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Reflections on Prop 8

I came home last night from five days of vacation (without computer or internet access - unplugged I was!) to watch the votes for Prop 8 unfold. I went to bed before the results were announced. I awoke to find that the predictions that it would pass by a slim margin were correct.

But I couldn't have predicted how I would feel.

There was no sense of celebration in my heart, no feeling of victory or vindication. I am grateful, yes. I am relieved the vote is over...just anticipating that day was hard!

But this isn't like a sports game, where I feel like running around the house screaming, "We won!" I know this issue has caused deep pain and confusion for many, and that very fact has made taking a stand on this issue very difficult. And it makes the fact that it passed difficult, too. I have no desire to rub this in anyone's face. My feelings are deep and complex.

I feel sobered by all that has happened. Even after a vacation, I feel drained. I feel sad that this issue has been (and continues to be) so divisive. Even as I took a stand on this issue because of my concerns about the future, I still have many concerns about what the future will hold, at many levels.

The statement by the Church that was issued today reflected many of my feelings, thoughts, and concerns.

Most likely, the election results for these constitutional amendments will not mean an end to the debate over same-sex marriage in this country.

I had this realization hit me hard a few weeks ago. This is not the end of this issue. I have a feeling we've only just begun.

Such an emotionally charged issue concerning the most personal and cherished aspects of life...stirs fervent and deep feelings.

Indeed. There is both an intensity of emotion and a lot of pain -- on both sides -- that exists because of this issue. As such, there is much required of all of us as we move forward:

We hope that now and in the future all parties involved in this issue will be well informed and act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different position. No one on any side of the question should be vilified, intimidated, harassed or subject to erroneous information....

As we move forward from the election, Church members need to be understanding and accepting of each other and work together for a better society.

There is a call there for unity, for forgiveness, for love and charity and understanding and suspending judgment. My heart is heavy with the feeling that this has to some degree caused a rift of sorts in the Church and in our nation. There are things we can and must do to help heal that rift -- even as we will continue to have varied and strong opinions on this topic.

I am reminded of Pres. Eyring's talk about unity from this last Conference. I just skimmed it and found this:

Happily I am seeing more and more skillful peacemakers who calm troubled waters before harm is done. You could be one of those peacemakers, whether you are in the conflict or an observer.

One way I have seen it done is to search for anything on which we agree. To be that peacemaker, you need to have the simple faith that as children of God, with all our differences, it is likely that in a strong position we take, there will be elements of truth. The great peacemaker, the restorer of unity, is the one who finds a way to help people see the truth they share. That truth they share is always greater and more important to them than their differences. You can help yourself and others to see that common ground if you ask for help from God and then act. He will answer your prayer to help restore peace, as He has mine.

What an invitation, what a reminder, at a time like this.

Back to today's statement from the Church:

Allegations of bigotry or persecution made against the Church were and are simply wrong. The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility toward gays and lesbians.

This is so important to understand. Neither the Church nor individuals who supported prop 8 should be accused of hateful motives.

I do not mean to ignore the real fact that prop 8 has felt personal to many. I also know that among supporters on a broad scale, there were some whose motives were not good. But the Church does not condone such behavior! And neither do I.

I know tears have been shed because prop 8 passed. Tears have been shed by those who supported it, too. This has been hard for all of us.

I believe in many ways, the future will give all of us some significant -- and likely difficult -- opportunities to really consider and practice what it means to be Christlike -- to be sensitive to the pain of those with whom we disagree, and to learn to love, accept, and forgive those who have made choices that have hurt us.

I believe there is pain for people on both sides of this issue that needs the healing power that only the Savior and following His teachings can provide. At some point, we must allow each other to believe what we believe, but strive (again as was said today) "to be understanding and accepting of each other and work together for a better society."

A sobering charge indeed.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pray for Proposition 8

At this point, that's about all we can do...