Filed under: Uncategorized
In response to some email I’ve received — from family, and from people I don’t even know — I want to balance what I’ve said with some other things I’ve experienced with the Mormon church.
The most recent beautiful experience I had with the church happened when my nephew Cooper died in August. (https://aseriesofsmallfailures.wordpress.com/2008/11/03/an-example-of-love-and-compassion/)
My brother and sister-in-law are devout members. My brother serves in the bishopric, and my sister-in-law is in the stake young women’s presidency. They live their religion, and for them it seems to be all about service. They are constantly spending their time helping others. So it was natural, when their youngest son died in a tragic accident, that they became the recipients of service. It was amazing to witness the outpouring of love and support they got. Neighbors and friends brought in meals every day for weeks. They mowed their lawn. They cleaned their house. They cared for their children. One neighbor even threw an intricate pirate birthday party– the day after — for Logan (whose birthday fell on the day of his brother’s death) while my brother and Sharon were at the mortuary, picking out a coffin and planning the funeral.
When I was a teenager, we had a few friends who felt alienated from their families. They became part of our family. One friend, Randy, used to say his name was Randy Mardesich. Almost our entire extended family flew in for the viewing and the funeral. Again, friends and neighbors (church members) helped manage the crowds at the viewing, they brought us water while we sat in the viewing room as more than a thousand people streamed through (the entire community was mourning), they organized the food (lots of funeral potatoes), they watched the kids. We didn’t have to think about any infrastructural issues. Whenever I looked up, someone was there asking if I needed something. It was so well-coordinated.
On Sunday, their bishop offered to bring church services to the house. At first I wondered if that was necessary. Wouldn’t they want to go to church and get back to normal life? He brought some young men, deacons and priests, to bless and pass the sacrament. And this is where I was blown away. When I was mormon, they taught that the sacrament (taking the bread and water) was a ritual and covenant you made ONLY if you were worthy. It represents the body and blood of Christ, which he sacrificed for us. I would torture myself every sunday, wondering if I was worthy to take it. You could look around and see who was and wasn’t taking it. Sounds petty, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. You were only to take it if you were a member in good standing.
However, this bishop (super hot, by the way) gave a little speech before they blessed the sacrament. He explained what it was about, that it was in honor of the sacrifice Jesus made, giving his life for us, and that it was a commitment to follow him. Yet, he also invited everyone there to take it. He said it could be a gesture of support for Ted and Sharon, and their family.
The boys broke the bread, blessed it, and carried it to everyone — except me. As they walked the tray of bread around, I wondered if I should or should not take it. I decided I would, for Ted and Sharon. I didn’t get the chance. When they passed around the little plastic cups of water, this time they offered it to me. So I drank it. Everyone else did too. Sharon’s family, who are not Mormon; my cousin, who is Catholic; his parents, who are Catholic.
My father was so moved. He had never taken the sacrament before (probably because you’re usually told it’s only for members). It was a simple gesture, but so inclusive and loving.
Yet I felt it wasn’t representative of the church as a whole. Most bishops would not have done that. Or would they? Had the church changed that much since I left? Still, I couldn’t overlook the dogma. Polygamy (which they downplay now, though they say it will be instituted again, in heaven), discrimination against homosexuals, and discrimination against intellectuals (scholars have been excommunicated for their research and publications on church history). Not to mention the crazy history, and rewriting of history.
It would be beautiful if we could have that sort of neighborhood support, based on relationships and love that transcends a religious infrastructure.
1 Comment so far
Leave a comment