Friday, April 23, 2010

Love is the answer

Sorry this post has been so long in is about the day I started back to church after a month off, March 21,2010. My goal was to stay the whole time (whether I went to my classes or not) so that my kids would stay.

As I took a shower that morning, I found myself actually looking forward to going, not dreading or nervous for it like I had been for the weeks and months previous to my break.

The kids of course had taken a bit of a break, too, so it was somewhat a struggle to get them up and going.

I turned on "Music and the spoken word" to play in the background while we got ready. I wasn't really paying attention until Lloyd Newel began one of his final message on the program. It was about delighting in the happiness and success of others, even if that success sometimes comes at the cost of our own. An example was shared of a high school girl who called another one to congratulate her for being the valedictorian of their class. The girl who called was second place, and there was only one valedictorian. Instead of mourning her own loss, she rejoiced in the other girl's success.


I really enjoyed Sacrament Meeting. The speakers consisted of two sisters from new part of ward. I don't know anything about their current situations with their spouses, but if they have spouses, they weren't there speaking with them.

The first spoke mostly of her life, her childhood, her siblings, her participation in the Hill Cumorah pagent. Her mission call, which she ended up trading for marriage in the SL temple, her 5 children, sadness in her life losing her dad, then losing her mom. She spoke of each of her 5 children, what they are all doing now. She then added something about their family now being a little bit broken, but how they are still an eternal family. While she was speaking, I felt impressed that I should get to know her better.

The text for the second speaker's talk came from President Eyring in last October's conference, from his talk "Our Perfect Example". Here are Some of the main things I remember, that impressed me the most:

Words from the primary song "I'm Trying to be like Jesus."

"...I'm trying to love as he did in all that I do and say....Love one another as Jesus love you, try to show kindness in all that you do. Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought, for these are the things Jesus taught."

Elder Eyring's message was a simple one of love, "Love is the motivating principle by which the Lord leads us along the way towards becoming like Him [the Savior], our perfect example...Love of others is at the heart of our capacity to obey Him."

"The greatest joys and the greatest sorrows we experience are in family relationships. The joys come from putting the welfare of others above our own."

As she continued to speak about his talk, the words clicked for me and how I should handle the stresses of my life right now. Instead of being frustrated and swayed by others telling me how selfish Scott appears to be, I felt strongly that I just need to love him, and try putting his happiness above my own, even though it seems to many that I shouldn't have to. Don't the scriptures tell us to work on improving ourselves before telling others how they should improve?

Elder Eyring mentions the inscription on a gravestone at a cemetery near his home that says, "Please, no empty chairs." He points out the word "please" and how we Can't force anyone's choices.

I loved his council to husbands and wives, and the words filled my heart with peace: "Pray for the love which allows you to see the good in your companion. Pray for the love that makes weaknesses and mistakes seem small. Pray for the love to make your companion's joy your own. Pray for the love to want to lessen the load and soften the sorrows of your companion."

He continues to give advice to parents, to children, to those who have adopted other people's families as if they were their own. I thought of our many friends, friends that we are currently closer to than to our own extended families, my love for them, my excitement for them as they find love and make plans to "marry", or at least in Utah, to "commit" to each other. Is the love I feel for them not the same Christ-like love that this whole talk is about?

His final message in the talk: "I hope you will go out today looking for opportunities to do as He did and to love as He loves. I can promise you the peace that you felt as a child will come to you often and it will linger with you. The promise is true that He made to His disciples: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." (John 14:27)"

So, if I pray for love, love like the Savior, and put the happiness of my spouse above my own, I will find peace? That is my interpretation, and it sounds like a good plan to me. I seem to remember the speaker mentioning a line from the talk that says Some of us are blessed with love that grows when we need it the most. I have faith that I can be blessed with the love I need right now to get through everything.


Following Sacrament meeting, I walked my children to their classes, and then I saw the lady who had spoken first. We had a heartfelt conversation as I learned a bit more about her situation, and I told her a bit about my struggles. We embraced, and I realized that there are a lot of people in the ward that I don't even really know yet that have a lot to offer to me and my family. I hope opportunities will come for me to get to know them better.

I proceeded outside to the back lawn. The weather was gorgeous, sunny and warm with a slight breeze. I had snacks to nibble on and a new book to read...

...and now the story of the book...

A few days earlier, I received an email at school. The time on the email was 1:30 a.m. I got the impression it was from a parent, but it didn't say much. All it said was "Please call me at your earliest convenience" and then included a name and phone number. Based on my experience with parents last year, I was nervous that somehow information about my personal life or views had ticked someone off again, although I have been really careful this year not to talk to my classes and students about it. Still, I knew there were rumors circulating from the year before.

Following my two classes that morning, at the beginning of my lunch, I called the number. The man who answered was very friendly and excited that I had called him back, he made sure that I had some time to talk (that I wasn't in the middle of a class or anything) and then he became awkward as he told me that he was the father of one of my students, that he had given me a fake name to protect his daughter's identity because she begged him not to talk to me, that his daughter had told him I was going through some personal struggles, and that he was embarrassed to talk to me about it because he didn't know if it was true or not, but that he could not sleep the night before thinking about me and the possibility of what I was going through.

He then shared with me that he has had homosexual feelings, and that decisions he made previously in his life were really hard on his wife and children. But he found his way back, and he wrote a book about his experience that he wanted to share with me, and that his main message to me was that no matter what happens, no matter what decisions my husband makes, I will be okay. Everything will be okay. I can call and talk to him or his wife any time. "Can I bring you the book? You are in room number ###. right?"

I cried as he spoke, then I went to lunch, in awe of what appeared to be God's tender mercies and this time a parent that was going to be an angel of sorts rather than a trial like last year.

At the beginning of my next class, I was wandering the classroom, collecting papers and helping students with the starting activity when I realized someone peaking in the door. This man and his wife were there with a book and a vase of flowers. They both hugged me and reminded me that I would be okay and that I could call them any time. There was a sweet spirit in their presence--one of love and deep concern, not of judgement or advice or anything like that.

Thus I had this book, and I finally had time to start reading it. I read a few full chapters, then skimmed, and read some more. It didn't take long for me to realize that I disagree with this man in a lot of ways, mainly with the last chapter and gay-rights issues. But it didn't bother me, because the tone of the book was wonderful. It was not preachy, but rather just as he says on the back cover: "Although the solutions for each person who is sruggling with unwanted behaviors will be different, my hope is that my story will encourage you to never give up, always dream and contemplate what seems impossible, and continue to seek solutions to life's most difficult challeges."

Another thing I really liked about it is that even though he is LDS, he does not mention it. He talks about his religion and how it influenced his struggles, both in the guilt he felt and in having God's help with the decisions he eventually made, but the denomination of the church itself was never mentioned.

I want to share a few quotes from the book about his wife, for they are what touched me the most...

From the dedication of the book, which is dedicated to his wife, he says...

"I dedicate this book to my beautiful wife. She has walked this long journey with me for many years...Her only concern has been what is best for me. My sincere wish for the world is that all people could have a spouse (or family members) as understanding, compassionate, and who posses the ability to love unconditionally as my sweet wife has been able to do."

"My sweet companion willingly stepped back and allowed me to make my own decisions in this journey we call life. She has always accepted the fact that this was a risk and that there were no guarantees. She just did it. And now, we are reaping the rewards of her unconditional dedication, loyalty and love."

Later in the book he says, "In the forthcoming years, she had some very difficult days and seemingly insurmountable decisions to make."

He quotes from her journal, "I am very sad at this time. I have been married for many years and have two marvelous children, and I have a great husband, but he has a problem...He is a great father for our children, but as a husband he is making decisions that are destroying our marriage. At this time he is only thinking of himself and what he wants without thinking of the damage he is causing me and the children. I love [him] ... but I don't know to what point I can endure this. This is very difficult for me! I am very sad and I think a lot about him. I know I need to remain calm, just live my life and be strong for my children. I pray that the Lord would bless him with His spirit that as he decides what to do, he might be able to remember the pain I am feeling. I hope he is able to put more emphasis on the most important thing, our family."

The following quotes come from a chapter titled "Love and its incredible power"

"As I felt the power of my wife's unconditional love, I was then able to begin to express myself and figure out what was happening within my sweet wife naturally comes with a very unconditional loving heart...she repeatedly forgave me each time I failed. "Hatred tears down, but understanding builds up" (Howard W. Hunter).

"My wife was able to work through the hatred she felt for my situation, and began to understand my pain. By so doing, we were able to find enough strength to focus on commonalities instead of the differences we felt. Because we were both willing to discuss the issues and never stop trying to figure out the huge puzzle, we ultimately were able to turn this very negative situation into a very positive success story."

Now that I read over these quotes again, a month later, I wonder if I am placing too much hope in them. It still feels right, however, to focus on loving him and rejoicing in his happiness, rather than getting angry and throwing him out so that I don't have to deal with it any more.

I have shared a bit about our situation with three friends (staff members) at school. Two of them immediately reacted with how selfish Scott is. So I was afraid to tell the third. She knew I was avoiding talking to her about it. When I finally did, though, I included telling her about the parents and the book they brought to me. She became emotional and told me that she felt like I was taking the right path with the situation, although not the easy one.

I have felt bad that it has taken me so long to write this post, but it has been good for me to mingle the memories of the peace that this Sabath day in March brought to me with the mixture of other emotions I have been feeling over the last month--sadness, anger, frustration, depression. I am sure that things will continue to feel like a rollar coaster for a long time, especially for the next couple of months until the baby comes. But I need to remember this post and these feelings and allow peace to fill my heart. Not an easy task at all, I must say. But maybe, just maybe, within the realm of possibility.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Priesthood worthiness

In order to help myself be more forgiving and calm of others regarding their judgments on worthiness to use the priesthood, I decided maybe I should research it a bit further. I have mentioned a couple of times in recent blog posts that I continue to ask Scott for blessings on occasion,  and I have not felt it wrong to do so, and he has not hesitated to proceed. In fact, you might remember that I pointed out one of the recent conference talks about the priesthood during which I felt the spirit testify to me that Scott is still the priesthood leader in our home and that it is still completely appropriate for him to bless me and the children.

I understand that when it comes to church-recorded blessings, such as baby blessings, confirmations, and priesthood ordinances, that perhaps the rules are a bit more strict, and perhaps that is appropriate, and my research today on the internet confirms that fact.  I found this website that mentions which types of blessings and ordinances require priesthood leader approval. 

Priesthood ordinances and blessings

It really did not mention any restrictions for personal and private blessings, like father's blessings, or those for healing and comfort.

As Scott and I talked last night about recent events in my family that have brought this topic to mind, his comment was that he feels priesthood blessings to be much more about the faith of the one receiving the blessing and less about the worthiness of the one administering.  He said that there are pioneer stories from early days of the church when women were known to have placed their hands on someone's head and pronounced a blessing with miraculous results.  How does that fit in with what we believe about worthy men and priesthood blessings?

As I continued on my search, I found a talk from President Hinkley in 2002 on the subject.  Here are the specific things that he mentioned would make someone unworthy of using their priesthood.  He starts with a scripture:

“The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and … the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
“That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:36–37).

 He goes on to say...

"You cannot be immoral in any sense. You cannot be dishonest. You cannot cheat or lie. You cannot take the name of God in vain or use filthy language and still have the right to the ministering of angels.
I do not want you to be self-righteous. I want you to be manly, to be vibrant and strong and happy. To those who are athletically inclined, I want you to be good athletes and strive to become champions. But in doing so, you do not have to indulge in unseemly behavior or profane or filthy language."

(I'm sure that ALL worthy priesthood holders are PERFECT in all of the above items, right?)

Of course there was mention of the law of chastity.  And then the focus went to abuse:

"How tragic and utterly disgusting a phenomenon is wife abuse. Any man in this Church who abuses his wife, who demeans her, who insults her, who exercises unrighteous dominion over her is unworthy to hold the priesthood. Though he may have been ordained, the heavens will withdraw, the Spirit of the Lord will be grieved, and it will be amen to the authority of the priesthood of that man.
Any man who engages in this practice is unworthy to hold a temple recommend."

(Interesting comment--even when the Bishop and stake president refused to sign a temple recommend for either Scott or I, the stake president was still willing to let the bishop know that Scott could ordain our son to the office of a deacon.)

"I mention another type of abuse. It is of the elderly..."

"Now I wish to mention another form of abuse that has been much publicized in the media. It is the sordid and evil abuse of children by adults, usually men..."

"I quote from our Church Handbook of Instructions: “The Church’s position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form. Those who abuse … are subject to Church discipline. They should not be given Church callings and may not have a temple recommend..."

"Now brethren, I suppose that I have sounded negative as I have spoken to you this evening. I do not wish to. But I do wish to raise a warning voice to the priesthood of this Church throughout the world.
God has bestowed upon us a gift most precious and wonderful. It carries with it the authority to govern the Church, to administer in its affairs, to speak with authority in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to act as His dedicated servants, to bless the sick, to bless our families and many others. It serves as a guide by which to live our lives. In its fulness, its authority reaches beyond the veil of death into the eternities that lie ahead.
There is nothing else to compare with it in all this world. Safeguard it, cherish it, love it, live worthy of it."

So, I guess his talk was mostly focusing on abuse, and how that would make a man unworthy of his priesthood.

I don't have a lot of time to spend researching this subject, and I know that amongst my readers there are current and former church leaders, such as bishops, stake presidents and high councilman.

What do you feel makes a man worthy or unworthy to administer a blessing of healing to a family member? Is inactivity in the church for 6 months an issue? Are opinions on gay rights that are contrary to statements made by the church an issue? Where is the dividing line, when a man is mostly honest (other than maybe a bit of pirated music or software), swears less than I do (and probably has only learned to swear because of my bad example), monogamous and faithful to his wife, does not abuse anyone nor have any history of abuse, engages in prayer and scripture reading with his family, enjoys reading old church books and journals, like Joseph Smith's journal, is an outstanding example of exhibiting love and service toward his fellow men (mostly the gay ones, of course).

I realize that opening this up for comments may result in some painful proof that he really is not worthy, as someone in my family strongly believes. But I am open to learning and understanding what the doctrine really is on this issue.

Thanks for your help!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Blog Lynching

Anyone else want to join the party to lynch my blog?

There are a few people that have been working on it for a long time, like various local religious leaders, my boss and a couple of co-workers.

The most recent recruits?

My parents.

And they don't even read it.

Apparently they called some extended family regarding some news, and were told, "Oh yeah, we already know that from Sarah's blog."

So then they start to fret, as they are so good at doing about everything ( I learned well from them how to stress out all the time about the smallest of things.) And their fretting turns into 20 questions for me this evening. maybe I have mentioned something about "such and such" on my blog that has resulted in an influx of sales calls to my parents for a certain line of products.

...or maybe I have mentioned something that will tell people the best time to burglurize them.

Do I have stupid written on my forehead? Even my last blog post, "Flying solo", was written several days before I posted it because I didn't want people to know that I was home by myself, so I scheduled it to post when Scott was nearly home from CA.

And I have tried to be extrememly careful about listing detailed information about anyone, especially since I was "talked to" at work about FERPA and student anonimity, and therefore closed my blog for a month to clean up a bit, not just for students, but others as well.

It is all so stupid.  And then add to it the other stupid things bouncing around in my head, like friends that continue to hold a grudge against us, making it so that when we see them it is very awkward, seeing them talk and laugh with other people and they won't even look at us, let alone give us the time of day.

Like a priesthood blessing that was not mentioned to Scott and I because obviously ( or at least I assume they think) Scott is not worthy to help and participate, even though it is nothing "official". Just for that, when they all start pushing for our baby to be blessed, I will invite them to a private father's blessing in our home, regardless of whether or not it is approved by anyone in the church or makes it on church records.

And then there is BYU squashing a friend's final project. So stupid.

Yes, I am a very angry woman, hear me roar!

And please just let me be angry for a while.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Flying Solo

Because of the baby coming this summer, we figured that a family vacation would most likely be out of the question, so we decided to plan a trip for Easter weekend, when the kids and I had several days off from work and school.

As the time for the trip neared, I began to worry about our plans for several reasons. First, my pregnancy symptoms could only be worse from a long ride in the car, and then when we were at our destination, I would only slow and limit what the rest of the family could do while we were there, especially since we were going to meet up with some friends. Second, we were having a hard time finding a place to stay for a reasonable price for a family of 6, and right now, finances are definitely an issue. Third, I discovered that my dad would be having open heart surgery in the near future, and I was afraid that it could possibly fall during the time we planned to be away.

As I suggested that I and possibly at least our youngest child should stay home and send the rest of the family on the planned trip, Scott seemed shocked. It made me feel good that he thought it would be weird for me to not be there, and he was not sure he wanted to be away from me for that long.

Besides, I suggested, it could be a good trial "separation" for our marriage for a few days. Scott seemed to agree. So very soon, the possibility seemed reasonable, and plans began to be made for the two oldest children to vacation with their dad while I and the youngest two would relax and celebrate Easter from home.

Here are some observations:

1.  It is more difficult to sleep with a 4 year old and 9 year old in my bed with me. :) Although I still think it was preferable to sleeping by myself.

2.  I am just as miserably pregnant with or without Scott around.

3. I have some wonderful gay friends and I feel incredibly blessed to have them in my life and to feel their true love for me and the kids.  Over two evenings in a row they fixed us dinner one night and colored Easter eggs with us, then the next night made and frosted sugar cookies, and enjoyed my deviled eggs, claiming they were the best.

4. Scott's emotional attachment to me has always been less than mine to him, but still it hurt a bit the first night when I sent him a text saying "I miss you" and he wrote back "I know" instead of "I miss you too." I don't know why I let it bug me, though, since it has always been that way with us. I guess I am hypersensitive to anything that has anything to do with our relationship right now. :(

5. I knew it would be hard, and I am not suprised that each of the first 3 days I had meltdown moments when I just sobbed and said horrible things to myself. But I'm pretty sure that they all happened when I needed to eat, and instead of eating I just sat and felt sorry for myself that there was no one around to fix me some food. Boy do I take Scott for granted.

6. I am suprised at how strong I really have been, despite the meltdowns. In the past I would have panic attacks from being essentially by myself for even one day, let alone several. Depression off and on, yes. Panic attacks and anxiety, no, not really.

I guess I could get used to this if I had to, but I don't want to.

I wonder what Scott's observations would be? Actually, maybe I don't want to know. Being away from whiny me and rowdy boys for a few days has probably been heaven!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Conference Report 2

I loved, loved, loved Elder Uchtdorf's talk today. We are Christ's hands, and so therefore we must show unconditional love toward all of God's children. It is not our place to judge anyone.


The topic of an upcoming blog post that has been in limbo for 2 weeks...

Didn't take notes through the rest of conference, slept through some more of it this morning (oops! That is what I get for being awake until 2 a.m.)

But overall, I loved it. The gospel is true, we can all make it through adversity, parents and others who work with children and youth can step it up in really helping them to learn the gospel and make good choices, we can let the atonement work in our lives.

I am inspired to be more hopeful, to be a better mom, to serve and love and forgive. Oh, and to download a free geneology app for my iPhone tomorrow (one day only!).  :)

Don't forget to vote in the baby-naming poll! (see left side of blog page)

Conference Report 1

Conference has been a little nerve-wracking for me since Scott came out and my eyes were opened to the harm the church had done with the gay-marriage debate.  But today I was actually looking forward to it, hoping that it would be a good experience for me. I gleaned something from every talk this morning, and I was not uncomfortable with anything that was said. I enjoyed and felt admiration and love for each speaker.

Here is my own summary/highlights from the Saturday Morning Session.

President Monson was just down to earth, letting his human side shine through as he spoke of his wife. Even though we put him on a pedestal as the Prophet, it is nice to know that he is just like the rest of us, saying things that might get him in trouble with his spouse later. It makes him even easier to love and respect when I see this side of him, and for that I was grateful this morning.

Whenever Elder Packer speaks, I get a little bit nervous. But today I enjoyed his talk on the Priesthood, and the importance it has specifically with regards to family. One of the questions I asked the bishop in January when I met with him was whether or not Scott would be able to bless our new baby.  He said no, not if he is not attending church at least somewhat regularly. So this has made me wonder if he would be considered worthy of using his priesthood for other things, since I have continued to ask him for blessings on occasion.The stories that President Packer shared today, though, brought peace to my mind.  Scott is still the priesthood leader of our home. He still assigns out prayers over meals and at bedtime. He still leads us in our nightly scripture reading (with reminders from the kids and I, as has always been the case. :) And I feel it is still appropriate for him to give blessings to the kids and I, even if he may not be allowed to do so in an "official" setting because of his inactivity.

(I hope that our unborn child does not resent his blessing later in life. A blessing is not a saving ordinance, so maybe we should just skip it entirely. I don't think grandparents will let us get away with that, though.)

The next talk was Sister Beck from the General Relief Society, speaking on how busy and challenging it is to be a woman, and especially a mother, with everything we have to deal with in our lives. She encouraged us to seek personal revelation for ourselves, our children, and our families, saying that it could even come when the children are rowdy, as long as we are in the right frame of mind to receive it (by not yelling at the children. :). She reminded us that prayer and scripture study are a must in helping us to be more in tune to inspiration, and that Relief Society can also be an important place for the strength and sisterhood we need to endure everything in our lives. She made an interesting statement about how life will not always work out the way we want it to, but we will find peace and satisfaction in knowing that we have lived the best we could, despite the results. Yep, all good messages for me. Although the Sunday Relief Society thing is going to take some time. ;)

Next came Keith McMillan of the seventy.  He talked about the book "the hiding place" (which was an incredible book to read, so mentioning it really got my attention!) and how the surviving sister (and author of the book) later spoke to groups about forgiveness and how "God forgives". After one of her presentations, a former guard from the prison camp she was in came up to her, held out his hand, and asked her to forgive him. She had to pray for strength to lift her hand to meet his, but when she did, she was filled with the love of God and true forgiveness for this man. Forgiveness.  Something I really need to work on, that will also help me with the going-back-to-relief-society on Sundays issue. :)

Wildford Anderson, of the presiding bishopric I think, spoke about hope in adversity. Hope can always be found through faith in Jesus Christ, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem. No matter the adversity we must endure.  If we need hope, we need to work on our faith. Noted.

Elder Ballard spoke to mothers and daughters, of setting and following good examples. Of learning from the past experiences of others, of listening and learning from each other as parents and children. He mentioned two specific things that mothers should work on as an example to their daughters.  The first was gossip, refraining from speaking ill of or judging others. (oops--she's non-judgmental when it comes to gay issues, but I obviously have not set a good example when it comes to people at church that I have let upset me.) The second was keeping covenants, helping our daughters to prepare for the temple, and specifically discussing sexual messages that young women will pick up from the world around them. Interesting issue to face in our house at the moment as we consider a nontraditional marriage and family structure. Hm, I am a bit worried, especially as Scott feels it is time to let the children know what is going on. Not sure what to do...

He quoted Joseph F. Smith with a statement something like we live now, but we don't live just for now, but also for eternity. The relationships we form with family now will be with us forever. (sigh). Not sure if this is good or bad for me to think about right now.

Last was Elder Eyring, who spoke on how it is the responsibility of each of us to help God's children to return to him, especially when they are young. He says when we see them begin to stray, they must be rescued quickly. I have a big responsibility on my shoulders with regards to my children. But I think I am doing some things right.  It was when I realized that they were no longer interested in attending church without me that I began to go back.

In fact, the afternoon session seemed to have a lot of talks and focus on parenting and spiritually guiding our children.  I have to admit I slept through most of the session, so I will have to replay the recording or read it later.  But there was definitely an overall theme of strengthening children and family.

Sounds like a good focus for my life right now.