Saturday, March 28, 2009

Virtue and Courage

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." ~Mahatma Gandhi

I attended the Young Women's General meeting with my 12 year old daughter and some other mothers and daughters in our ward. As you all know, it has been a tough week for me, and as you know from Scott's blog, we are having a hard time with wanting to go to church anymore.

So, I wasn't sure I wanted to, but I haven't given up yet, and my daughter was looking forward to it, so why not--a chance to see if I could feel the spirit while in the presence of the prophet.

The focus of the meeting was virtue--the eighth and new young women's value. "Be an example of the Believers." The messages were good, but cheesy, and I was thinking that if I had gone to the meeting a year ago, it probably would have felt so much different to me. I kept reading into it, wondering if people were thinking about taking a stand for virtue with things like Prop. 8. But still, it wasn't offensive to me, and I agreed with many of the thoughts that were shared.

One of the general young women leaders told the girls they should do 3 things:
1. Pray morning and night
2. Read the Book of Mormon for at least five minutes daily. (I should even be able to do that.)
3. Smile (She said they should smile because true joy is found through the gospel of Jesus Christ.)

I began to think about the path I am on. I pray in my heart all the time, but I rarely kneel for a focused personal prayer. I have not been very good at reading my scriptures for several years now. I began to wonder, when is the last time I really truly felt the spirit? I know I have a testimony of the gospel, so even though I haven't been feeling anything at church for a few weeks now, I should still be feeling the spirit in my personal life if I am living as I should. I don't think that has been happening either, though.

I kind of made a decision in my heart that before I can make a choice to go inactive, I need to first do some of the basic things above to make sure I have the spirit in my life to help me with these important choices.

One statement that was repeated several times through the meeting is that one virtuous young woman (or man) can literally change the world. We must help the world return to virtue.

Partway through the meeting, I said a silent prayer that I might feel the spirit while I was there, that I might have the encouragement I need to stay active in the church, if that is God's will for me.

President Monson gave the closing address. His talks are always so easy to follow, because there are usually 3 or 4 bullet points that he repeats several times and expounds on with interesting stories. He spoke to the young women in a way they could relate to and understand. His topic was a good one for me this week:


(Numbered items are just a summary of what he said about each thing.)

1. Have the courage to refrain from judging others, don't gossip, don't criticize. "Love one another. By this shall men know ye are my disciples." Every individual has a contribution to make and should be loved. True love can alter people's lives..."

Wow. That is what I am trying to do: love God's gay children. Yeah, everybody should listen to this. The prophet is speaking.

However, am I doing enough to not judge and criticize those who are homophobic? Or do I talk about them unkindly when I am venting? Maybe I need to step up and reach out to some neighbors (with whom we are feeling a larger and larger separation) .

2. Have the courage to be chaste and virtuous. "Wo unto them that call evil good and good evil." Commandments are not negotiable; they are not the 10 suggestions. Immorality is wrong, but the promises of repentance are real. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as snow."

Although my mind obviously turned to undertones of chastising homosexuality, I then turned to the thought that this goes along with something Scott and I were discussing (again) last night. We also believe that immorality is wrong, but we don't see sexual relations within a same-sex commitment or marriage as immoral. We spent the evening with Scot and Rob last night, and we felt more comfortable there than we would in many LDS homes right now. There was a feeling of family, of love, of acceptance, and I cannot condemn them for who they are and how they live their lives. Their children and ours have become close friends, and it was wonderful to be there. So, my definition of morality is a bit different than the church's, but I still feel it is important.

3. Have the courage to stand firm for truth and righteousness. The world is very confused right now about what is right and what is wrong, but we have to stand up for what we know is right. Our testimonies need to be firmly rooted. Satan wants us to doubt that the church is true, to believe others when they criticize the church. In Lehi's dream we learn about a group of people that make it to the tree and they taste of the fruit, but then they are mocked for doing so, and are ashamed, and therefore fall away.

I pondered briefly on that last scriptural referrence. I feel like I am "falling away." Am I ashamed? Yeah, this week I felt ashamed of making a student so uncomfortable when answering her question about what GSA stood for that her parents went to the principal and she and her friend are dropping my class. Have I tasted of the fruit? Tasting of the fruit means feeling the pure joy of eternal life, doesn't it? I have felt more joy than ever this year as I try to love and accept homosexuals. Have I been mocked for trying to do what I felt to be right? Definitely.

Chills went through me and my eyes filled with tears. I had prayed for a spiritual experience, and here it was. I have tasted the joy that comes through service to God's children, I have been mocked and am ashamed, and I am starting to fall away.

I felt God's message to me was that I need not be ashamed, and that it is not right for me to let myself fall away because of the mocking. I have to stand for truth, the truth that is in my heart, and continue to do what I know I need to do, even if it is hard.

Now I only have to convince Scott that I can't do it without him.


Ned said...

Thank you for helping me look forward to conference. To be honest, I've kind of been of two minds, dreading it a bit bt knowing that I will watch and listen nonetheless. You've helped me realize that, just like when I attend Church, I can find those things that apply to me if I look for them and seek the spirit. Thank you, thank you!

Sarah said...

Ned, I have the same dread about conference as well. I have already begun praying for the leaders, that they may choose their topics and words carefully. Now, yes, I need to pray for myself to be receptive to the messages I need to hear. Thank you for your comment!

Alan said...

This is one of the messages I took away from the Sunstone Symposium yesterday. It is easy to just slowly walk away if you aren't 100% comfortable or agreeing. It takes more energy, courage and endurance to hold onto what we know is good and right, acknowledge the imperfections in both organization and people, and try to "bring to pass much righteousness" by staying, reaching out, risking rebuff, repenting, forgiving, hurting, healing, helping, and hoping. That is damn hard work sometimes. But we would wither away without a challenge. Sounds like you just got tired and needed a rest. We all do sometimes, I sure know about that. Glad you got a refresh. Hope you get back in the saddle soon, Joan.

LDS Pride said...

For about the last month I have been waiting for a post from you saying that you were officially done with the church. Thanks for this post :)

El Genio said...

Having met you, I can now understand why Alan always refers to you as Joan of Arc. I just wanted to drop you a little you are awesome note and remind you to enjoy your Sunday :)

Sarah said...

Alan, I am doing well, thanks. Sorry I sound too young on the phone--you are not the only one who thinks that. :)

LDS Pride, I am pretty sure that I am more firmly rooted in the church than some of my blog posts sound. Thanks for your concern and encouragement.

El Genio, so good to meet you as well. It is always nice to put faces with names. Thank you so much for your comment, and I have enjoyed my Sunday, thank you! (No choir practice due to performing today, and the "Bishop's topic" today was on service and was good. He even mentioned reaching out to people, like our neighbors and such, and referred to Christ's words of "let he who is without sin cast the first stone.")

Scot said...

While not the place for my family, I'm glad the LDS church has people like you counted in its numbers (also glad to have your company the other night :-)). While I know you do good in softening and educating that community; I'm also sure it's knowing members such as yourself that keeps the gay community more hopeful, less strident, and less apt to assume every LDS they meet is against gay rights.

Beck said...

"Cheesy" was right! I sat watching it with my wife and daughter, and though I understand the audience was for 12-18 year old young women, even my daughter thought some of the talks by the YW presidency were pretty "cheesy" and she saw through them very quickly.

I don't know if I'm influencing her, or if I am changing and less respectful of "cheesiness" in all its fluffy forms or whether my coming-out has become a step toward more cynisism or what, but I'm glad she saw through my smirks and felt courage and commitment to live a moral life as a 17 year old.

The church is "cheesy", and my gay-eyes see it as "cheesier" with each passing season, but there is still a lot of good to glean from gospel teachings.