Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunday Observations

During Sunday School yesterday we were discussing the Army of Helaman. The class began to discuss how it seems that the testimonies of the youth are getting stronger and stronger as the years go by, and maybe it is because they need to be for these perilous times. My mind wandered to how grateful I have always been for the testimony that I developed as a youth. When I was 17-18, I seriously had an incredible testimony of Christ and other aspects of the gospel. I was very diligent at reading my scriptures and praying. An adult leader commented to me after a youth conference testimony meeting of how strong my testimony seemed to be for someone my age. I always wondered why I was so blessed with believing and accepting truth and feeling it in my heart. Although I was raised in the church and knew that my parents had testimonies and were faithful in attending, I never heard them bear their testimonies nor saw them participate in personal scripture study or prayer, hold FHE, etc. I wondered why I personally was blessed with such spiritual strength.

Since that time, I have not always been so diligent at the personal prayer and study that I enjoyed as a youth, and so I have been grateful that my testimony has been strong enough to endure things that have tested it. Now especially, I need it as never before. I am relying on it. I see now how the Lord has prepared my life prior to this time so that my testimony could survive through this new struggle with the church and its views on homosexuality, gay marriage, etc.

When I was telling another teacher at school about my summer (he happens to be in the bishopric in his ward) he was impressed that my struggles with things in the church over the last couple of years were to help prepare me for this time. Let me back up and give a brief history: I was Primary President for about a year, and I did not get along with the Bishop during that time. I also struggled to get along with one of my counselors. All in all, it was a horrible experience. Sometimes when people are released from callings they get up in testimony meeting and say how grateful they were for the experience and even though it was hard, they learned a lot from it that made it worthwhile. Not me. I learned to question the leadership of my ward. I learned to question my own inspiration regarding the counselor I had selected. I was confused. Church became a place of anxiety for me and I dreaded it. I think it was the only year I have taught school that I have NOT looked forward to the weekend. Since then, I have continually asked myself why I had to go through that year of hell.

Last year at school I was very emotional and on edge. I did not handle anything very well and I cried a lot. One time last year when I was unloading my stress on this same teacher, he said that he and another teacher in the department had decided that my being primary president had broken me. Here it was a year later, and I was still an emotional basket-case. For a while last year I was the ward organist. Four months after I started playing the organ, I was informed by both the bishop and a counselor that I was playing too loud. I felt ganged up on. I wondered why I had been playing for four months and never been told this before. I frequently asked Scott's opinion on volume, and he said he thought it was fine. (It is hard to tell from the organ how it sounds to the congregation.)

Then, a week later, we had a sacrament meeting where people were assigned to share a few words about their favorite hymn and then we sang it. I was given a weeks notice. (The counselor had no other ideas for speakers and decided this was a good idea without considering how it affected the people involved, like my practice time.) The music director selected those to share the hymns, and at my request, she put me last, and my favorite hymn was to be the closing song. I had prepared my explanation of the hymn. I practiced for hours to prepare for the meeting. I played well, but was anxious and excited the whole time to share my hymn. When it was my turn, I started to get up from the organ, and the bishop got up and motioned me back. I thought he was going to close the meeting because we were nearing ten after the hour, but then he gave "remarks" for quite a while, and I sat there on the organ bench getting more and more frustrated. Finally, he announced the closing song and prayer. Instead of playing the intro to the hymn, I got up and shared a modified version of my prepared words through my hurt tears prior to playing the closing song.

The following week I sent a letter to a counselor in the bishopric (the one not involved above) asking to be released from all of my callings (organist, ward music chair and R.S. chorister) due to stress and anxiety. I wanted to go inactive. Instead, I chose to quit my stress and stay active. (I actually called him later and decided to stay as chorister since I didn't see any way the bishop could be involved in stressing me out with that one.)

So, that was January. I have spent the last 6 months getting comfortable with church again, comfortable with the fact that I had actually "quit" church callings. I know some people would never consider that, so I felt a bit guilty. Just when I was beginning to feel again like I actually wanted to go to church instead of just going through the motions, BANG, the gay thing hits.

So, my co-worker's opinion was that maybe it was all to prepare me to realize that the leaders of the church, local or general, are still human. They are not infallible. It is our choice individually to be offended and go inactive, or to cling to our testimonies and know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, even if some of the policies and procedures don't seem quite right to us.

Fortunately, my mother brought me up with this same philosophy. I watched her say "no" to callings. I heard her say many times that if everyone who was offended by someone at church stopped coming, there would be no one there. I am so grateful for her. Sometimes I long to tell her just how grateful I am and explain why, and then I realize that I am not quite ready to tell her the whole story. I don't want her to worry about me right now. There will be a time, and hopefully I will know when that time is. In the meantime, I am silently grateful for her.


-L- said...

I've been closer to quitting my current calling than I have ever been in my life. I've always been taught that you should never say no to a church leader's request for service, but if you have a hard time you should make sure they know that so they can take that into account when they pray for inspiration about how to arrange the callings. But right now I'm amazed not just at how stressful my calling is but how completely oblivious the bishop is in giving me assignments! I'm the executive secretary and it's not enough to be asked to do something, I'm asked to do it and redo it and redo it again, each time with a different set of instructions! It's a complete waste of time that I don't have to waste, and I'm beside myself trying to know what to do.

Anyway. Hmmm. So, nice to meet you. :-) I appreciate your blog so far. Sorry I don't blog as much as I used to but I'll try to be in touch. And sorry for dumping on my first comment!

Serendipity said...

Go ahead and dump. Isn't that part of what this blogging thing is all about? Dichotomy was executive secretary for a while when we had an awesome bishop, and he hated it. I can only imagine what it is like with other bishops.

Hang in there, and thanks for letting me know that you are reading.