My Valentine to the Church

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It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’ve felt inspired to take a moment and write some reflections on my gratitude and love for the Church.

My last few weeks have sparked a renewed joy in the gospel.  Two years ago I left my cluster of friends in the one and only true ward (thanks California!).  Ever since, I’ve felt a little aloof from the heart of Mormonism.   Yet recently, my Sabbath experience has been refreshed as a delight.

The new two-hour block and Come Follow Me curriculum seems to have galvanized my ward — gospel doctrine discussions have increased in thoughtfulness; Relief Society lessons have increased in vulnerability.  I’ve heard raw and inspiring commentary from the pulpit during Sacrament Meeting; slightly shorter talks have focused the content on Christ.  My family created a listserv to discuss the Book of Mormon; my friend circle Mormon Studies book clubs are going strong.  An intimate discussion on the temple overflowed with wisdom and hope.  I love the emphasis on ministering and the ways I’ve begun connecting with every individual in my ministering circle.  Then last Sunday, I had a conversation with my Bishop that embodied the best of pastoral care.

When the body of Christ is healthy, it is truly divine.

For these last few weeks and a lifetime of joy in the gospel, I am grateful.

I am grateful for a gospel that aspires to spread the light of Christ throughout the world.

I am grateful for a gospel that teaches humility as a virtue.

I am a grateful for a gospel that emphasizes the inherent dignity, worth, and goodness of souls.

I am grateful for a gospel culture that often succeeds at prioritizing emotional connections and spiritual health over material wealth.

I am grateful for doctrines that emphasize the importance of eternal learning and eternal progression.

I am grateful for formative years of teaching and practice about prayer, study, and identifying the Holy Spirit in my life.

I am grateful for Seminary, for teaching a self-centered and sleepy teenager to put God first each and every day.

I am grateful that my struggles to explore the mysteries of the Holy Spirit and the depths of God’s patient love continue.

I am grateful for the myriad ways my Heavenly Parents inspire me with the beauty of creation.

I am grateful for the rich depth of stories about grace and Christ and conflict I find within the pages of the Book of Mormon.

I am grateful for the profound ability of Joseph Smith to imbue the daily drudgeries of life with divine importance.

I am grateful for our shared narratives of pioneer heritage, which we have expanded to all those who struggle to seek Christ, healing, and peace in their lives.

I am grateful we teach our members to stand as witnesses of God, in all times, and in all things, and in all places.

I am grateful for our encouragement and celebration of children and families.

I am grateful for the slightly-busybody individuals in every ward who scan for newcomers, then invite those newcomers to dinner and conversation and friendship.

I am grateful for the village of loving ward members who raised me — who served as honorary aunts and grandmothers and role models, and who invited me as a youth to serve alongside them.

I am grateful for how quick Mormons have been to defend immigrants, refugees and the oppressed.

I am grateful for a mission system that teaches youth to embrace God’s children across  socioeconomic, demographic, and linguistic divides.

I am grateful for the generosity of time, talents, and service I have found in every single Mormon community I’ve ever participated in.

I am grateful for Bishops, for Relief Society Presidents, and for all others in our ward families who exercise their “leadership” through constant acts of quiet and empathetic service.

I am grateful for a lay ministry, which embodies the message that our imperfect, broken efforts to be willing to answer God’s call are accepted, and enough.

I am grateful for the abundance of creative, nerdy, and ridiculous ways we have found as a people to bond, while shunning alcohol and premarital sex.

I am grateful for the festive nature of youth conferences, Mormon proms, EFYs, pageants, and temple dedications.

I am grateful for the mix of ages and wisdom of diverse experiences that cross ward and stake families.

I am grateful for the knowledge that I will be met with hugs and camaraderie in every church building I walk into, anywhere in the world.

I am grateful for, and awed by, our emergency and disaster relief responses.

I am grateful for how often our curriculum teaches practical skills of preparedness and self-reliance.

I am grateful for the ways that Sacrament Meeting talks and callings and ward activities teach public speaking, confidence, teamwork, and logistics.

I am grateful for the pragmatic effect of academic support, networking, job-hunting, babysitting-swaps, playdate circles, and other forms of support which rise up in our communities and expand outwards in our circles of influence.

I am grateful for the way my heart swells when singing in ward and stake choirs, or listening to the Tabernacle Choir.

I am grateful for how often simple primary hymns cross my thoughts as I try to be like Jesus.

* * *

This beauty and community is why I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

When we truly love and serve one another, in all of our sins and flaws, we tap into something divine.

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.  What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3)

I know I, and others at By Common Consent and throughout the Bloggernaccle, regularly criticize aspects of the Church.  But please know, the last edit I do, of every single blog post or lesson or talk I write, is to ask whether each and every paragraph comes from a place of love.

Am I standing up for the poor in spirit, as an invitation for them to join me in a community of fellowship and love?  Am I inviting the Church to exercise humility and introspection, because I feel we have fallen short of Christ’s call towards compassion?

I know I fall short.  I know snark creeps in.  I know commenters often correct my blindspots and enlighten me to new perspectives.  I am listening.

It is precisely because my faith has been the source of joy and lifelong friendships that I  want to share the best of it with everyone.  The world is cruel, but Christ offers peace.

It is precisely because my faith has taught me that the life has meaning through service that I am committed to serving those who suffer.   When I hear stories of institutional failures and heartbreaks and pain, when my brothers and sisters have been trodden underfoot and torn apart by harmful policies or misconstrued doctrines, I ache.  I see them.  I give voice to their experiences.  And then out of love I pray:

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:  Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. 

*Photo by Maira Gallardo on Unsplash

Comments

  1. Such a refreshing post, Carolyn! Sometimes I ask why I stay and raise my children here, and I look around at my amazing, selfless ward and have my answer. I feel God here. I may be more jaded than I used to be, but it is worth it to me.

  2. Lily Darais says:

    Thank you, Carolyn. I needed to read this today.

  3. Sweetest post ever!

  4. Thanks for this post, I have a feeling I’ll be coming back to re-read this in the future.

  5. There is so much about this post that I love, but I particularly loved this: “I am grateful that my struggles to explore the mysteries of the Holy Spirit and the depths of God’s patient love continue.”

    Only slightly related, I will say that I’m grateful for a congregation that has not self-selected into racial or socioeconomic groups, so that I have the opportunity to support and participate in the daily practical and spiritual struggles of people who, although members of the same religious community, face different struggles and come up with different solutions than me.

  6. Amen, DSC.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m grateful for this post.

  8. lovely post — thank you!

  9. Beautiful, Carolyn. And I totally agree, Dsc.

  10. wreddyornot says:

    Thanks.

  11. Mr. Schmidt says:

    Thank you for sharing!

  12. This lovely post had me sobbing with joy. I do want to stay on the church, I am grateful for angelic ministrations, I believe the whole nutty sounding restoration deal… angels and all. My little trans self though is increasingly marginalized and denigrated in the church, and as I overtly transition it may save my life, but I fear I will be kicked out… so this had me sobbing Carolyn. I love it. It was meaningful to me to be reminded of why it will be a profound grief if I am excommunicated ever, and also to feel in your words a transcending reminder of Christ’s love bounding. I guess angels are still out there. Thank you. Lona

  13. Lona: I hope for the best. There are so many of us that welcome you with open arms. But I won’t pretend your fears aren’t real. I hope you can find some solace in the idea that no one else has the power to tell you what Mormonism means to you. Christ and your friends will stand by you. <3

  14. Thank you my friend.

  15. I felt the spirit so strongly while reading and am grateful for your eloquent words and heart felt post.

  16. Allan Garber says:

    I am grateful to be a member of a church that recognizes our Heavenly Mother. This is such a comfort to me.