Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why Missionaries Knock on Doors.

Probably because of where I was raised, I felt my “church life” and my “school life” were very separate.  I wasn’t ashamed of my religion, but I wasn’t very open about it either. I was perfectly content keeping it to myself!  When questions were asked, I answered them; but that was it.  My parents took us to church, taught us right from wrong and had high moral expectations of us, but there wasn’t a lot of doctrinal religion being taught in my home.  I believed in our faith, but lacked a lot of understanding.

At age 18, I moved to Provo, Utah where I was one among thousands of LDS college kids.  Religion was everywhere.  I met people who talked about religion anytime, anywhere.  This was so foreign to me.  As a student at Brigham Young University, I was required to enroll in religion classes.  I had read The Book of Mormon and Bible in high school and had a general understanding of the doctrine of my religion, but it wasn’t until attending these classes that I gained a deeper understanding and knowledge about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  My professors were so knowledgeable about ancient times, historical and religious practices, and things of a spiritual nature. The stories came to life for me and I had no doubt I was reading about real people from thousands of years ago.  As my understanding increased, my belief in Mormonism grew.  I developed a closer relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ.  For the first time in my life, I read scriptures every day.  I prayed to my Heavenly Father morning and night.  I began to ask real questions and sought answers.  And I found them.  Things had always resonated with me since I was a child, but this was different.  I was putting pieces together.  A natural and immediate response to my deeper understanding was my desire to share what I understood with those who I loved.  I began to engage in conversations about religion and took every opportunity to clear up misunderstandings when they were presented.  Looking back, I recognize I was probably a bit overbearing!  But I was a changed person.  I could no longer separate my secular life with my spiritual life.

At age nineteen, Mormon young men are asked to serve a 2 year mission to anywhere in the world (not their choice), at their own expense. All three of my brothers Italy, Guatemala and Spain.  For ladies, it is an 18 month mission at age  21.  I had every desire to go, but ultimately, I chose to get married before I had the opportunity.  There are many misconceptions about why Mormons serve missions.  A friend once told me she had heard that the more people LDS members “convert” to Mormonism, the greater reward they receive in heaven!  Another shared with me with certainty (I love when others are so certain what I believe!) that I would own more “kingdoms in heaven” if I led more people to baptism.  I don’t know where people learn these things...but it simply isn't true and has nothing to do with why I share my beliefs.

My religion has made every good difference in my life.  It has given me direction.  Jesus Christ is very real to me and I feel close to Him.  I believe He is the Savior of the World.  And I want others to know Him as I do and more importantly, feel His love.  I see people who once believed as I do and have turned away, and the light in their faces is dimmed.   I’ve known others who search for happiness in worldly ways and end up feeling empty and alone.  But I have also witnessed people’s lives being changed for good as they accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. What was once dark and empty is now full of joy and peace.  There are many good religious and non-religious, happy and sad people in this world.  But like everyone, it is natural to want to share good things with others because we know it is a good thing!  There are no selfish motives involved.  It is a genuine effort to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. I recognize there are others, a whole lot of others, who aren’t interested, and that’s okay!  I love them still!

So please don’t take offense when someone (like me) tries to share a message of hope with someone like you.  Please be kind when you see two young men in suits knocking on doors or riding bicycles to their next appointment.  Their motives are pure and they have sacrificed a crazy-out-of-the-ordinary amount for a college-aged person.  If you aren’t interested, there will be no hard feelings!  They are not salesmen!  They’ve been taught to find those interested, to respect others' choices; not to engage in debate or be pushy. They are simply trying to give you a gift, if you want it.  And for what its worth, these missionaries come home CHANGED.  I am a witness of this--I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes!  As a parent, I couldn’t wish anything greater for my children.  There isn’t a better way for people at this age to learn to think beyond themselves, to be diligent, hardworking, frugal, independent, devoted, better at problem-solving, humble, loving and enduring through hard times.  My husband has all of these qualities and no doubt, they were increased by his mission to Morristown, New Jersey, where he had doors slammed in his face left and right, a gun pulled on him and he was spit on!  But if you ask him today what was the hardest thing?...those things don’t come to his mind.  He told me the hardest part of his mission was always when someone was so close to making a big change in their life--a change that would make every good difference for their family and their own happiness--and ultimately, they didn’t have the faith to make the necessary changes and they gave up.

Because he was committed to something greater than himself, sincere heartache was more difficult than his pride or the fear of losing his own life.  How can something so sincere come from a selfish motive?

As Mormons, we take Matthew 28:19-20 from the Bible literally:

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost . . .and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

Because I am a Mormon, I want to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others simply because I want to spread the happiness and peace it has given to me.

Brandon on his mission to New Jersey--1991.  I've never met these women, but I know he loves them!

Brad and me at SLC Airport--he's leaving for Rome, Italy--1995

Family get together in Snohomish, WA in 2000 sending Jeremy off to Guatemala.
Bailey and Uncle Jeremy 2002

Bailey and Uncle Tyler in Provo, UT before going into the Missionary Training Center--2003

Spain is a far, far away place for a two year old!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Women in the LDS Church

I was in sixth grade at Seattle Hill Elementary and was looking forward to our upcoming “Cowboy Day” where we wore boots, handkerchiefs, button-down shirts and braids.  Any day that was out of the normal routine was fully anticipated with excitement.  But as silly as it seems now, I remember as an 11 year old being bothered that it wasn’t called CowGIRL day.  Looking back, I think it is ridiculous that this bothered me so much, but it did.  Enough that I wrote about it in a journal I kept.  A few of us got together and approached the principal about changing the name to “Western Day”, which she did.  Somehow, I felt that made things right.

I have always considered myself a feminist.  Maybe it is because I have three brothers and we are all very competitive.  Maybe it is because I was involved in athletics and witnessed firsthand how girls were treated on the ball field or basketball court. In college, I seriously had a guy run right in front of me when the ball was hit directly to me and he yelled at me to move so he could field the ball.  Then I watched him lob a pathetic throw.  If there was one thing I was good at, it was throwing a softball.  Hard. Maybe it is because every time we’ve sat down with an attorney, accountant, broker or businessman of any sort, they speak directly to Brandon as if I’m there for the ride.  (If only they knew how little Brandon knows about where our money can even be found, let alone the amounts.) Or maybe it is because my personality is such that it simply begs for equality.

But there is a false perception of feminism.  I do not wish to join a movement for women to take over the world and bring down men!  I do not want to be a man or have the same responsibilities men have.  I also worry that the liberation of women’s freedoms has created an entirely different mess.  We are our worst enemy.  The outward expectation of perfectionism in women is frightening to me. In many respects, our freedoms have created great bondage in many women.

I belong to a church that is predominantly governed by men.  I know this bothers some women.  It is funny to me that a cowboy dress day would get to me, but the fact that only men are able to hold the Priesthood in my church does not. Not one bit.  The responsibilities placed on men are different than women.  This doesn’t lessen my self-worth or standing before God.  I am confident that He loves me just as much as He loves His sons. I have felt my own responsibilities equal to that of my husband's in assisting the Lord in His work.  I am so grateful for wise, kind, faithful men who lead and guide my family and me through their best efforts.  Unfortunately, there are always exceptions.  But in the vast majority of its members and in my own experience, I believe LDS men have held women high on a pedestal.  If they don't, they are not following the Savior and His example.

I am so grateful to be a woman; one who acknowledges that I am a daughter of a King. Women have a powerful influence for good in the LDS church and in the world.  Many meetings, welfare efforts and huge undertakings in the LDS church simply would not be productive without women. 

One of my all-time favorite LDS leaders, Gordon B. Hinckley, said this:

‘How thankful I am, how thankful we all must be, for the women in our lives. God bless them. May His great love distill upon them and crown them with luster and beauty, grace and faith.  May His Spirit distill upon us as men and lead us ever to hold them in respect, in gratitude, giving encouragement, strength, nurture, and love, which is the very essence of the gospel of our Redeemer and Lord.”

Because I am a Mormon I know that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). 

Even when it comes to gender.