I was pleased and inspired when I read the posts some of my co-bloggers wrote on Thanksgiving. I’ve decided to contribute my own version.
In the room where I sit as I write this, there are indications of my Mormon identity all around me. Without moving, I can see a triple combination, a container of consecrated oil, and a card on which the temple schedule is printed. As I think back over my life in the church, I am grateful for experiences which have helped me feel at home in Mormonism. Here are some memories and experiences that are especially meaningful:
- It is early on a Saturday morning. I’m at the stake welfare farm along with a few hundred other people and we are there for the string bean harvest. I am assigned three rows, and the three rows next to me are assigned to a woman who has brought her infant with her in a carrier covered with a blanket. For several hours we crawl down the rows on our hands and knees, picking beans. Sister X pushes her child’s carrier down the rows and cheerfully does her part. I’m grateful for her example.
- I am standing in line at the checkout counter of the grocery store with a man in my ward. The woman in front of us is juggling her groceries and three children, including an infant in her arms. She is flustered and embarrassed because she is a few dollars short and fumbles in her purse, frantically searching for coins. My friend surreptitiously draws a twenty dollar bill from his pocket, touches her shoulder, and says: “I think this fell out of your purse.” I’m grateful for a church which produces people like this.
- I’m in the baptism part of the temple and see a family arrive to perform ordinances. The family includes a teenage daughter who is blind and both physically and mentally handicapped. I watch as her father helps her out of her wheelchair and descends with her into the water of the font borne by twelve oxen. She is nervous and clings to her dad. He pronounces the words of the ordinance and then lowers her into the water. She emerges, beaming and filled with light. The family gathers around her at the top of the steps and hugs her. I tear up as I get a tiny glimpse of what Joseph Smith might have meant when he spoke of eternal bonds. I am grateful for an economy which values this young woman’s contribution and for a faith which anticipates a time when her body and spirit will be perfected and she will be together with those for whom she has served as proxy.
- I am literally stopped in my tracks as I look at the football field of the high school located in Poplarville, Mississippi. It is covered with domed camping tents, there must be hundreds of them. Their shape reminds me of Deseret, the honeybee. The tents are the temporary housing of about a thousand men from priesthood quorums all over the South. They have come to assist with the cleanup projects in the wake of hurricane Katrina. I am filled with gratitude for them. Joseph Smith prayed that the restored church would emerge from obscurity, “clear as the sun, fair as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners.” Even more terrible than an army with banners is an army with chainsaws. These guys make the army of Helaman look like a sandlot team.
- I’m grateful for the glorious chaotic mess of Saturday morning moving projects and that there are people who will allow us to serve them by packing their box springs and barrels of wheat and toys in a truck. As we say good-bye to a family we have known for a year or a decade, I’m grateful that another group of latter-day saints is waiting for them at the other end of the road.
- I’m grateful for restoration scriptures which complement our understanding of our Savior. I’m grateful that his first words to the Nephites were an admonition about contention and that He reminds the early saints and us that we must be unified. I’m grateful for the chilling reminder that we mustn’t “grind the faces of the poor”.
- I’m grateful for home teachers and home teaching. I’m grateful that there is someone who trusts me enough to call at 4:00 o’clock on a snowy morning to request help in jump starting a car. I’m grateful for a faith which emphasizes learning by doing, and that this principle applies to bishops and primary teachers and mission presidents and prophets and me. I’m grateful for the principle of repentance and only wish I didn’t have to use it so much. I’m especially grateful for the grace and salvation Christ offers us.
Happy Christmas, Everyone.