Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Awkwardness of Service

I have noticed that any time you want to improve something in the Church, or notice a lack, most people immediately answer with, "forget yourself and serve."

That is all well and good, if your service is wanted. But I find it's mostly not. And when you try to serve and are rejected, it leaves you more discouraged and more disconnected from the Church than ever.

So what do you do when what you have to offer in service isn't wanted?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Young Women's Values—Knowledge

. . . [Eve] heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.

~Moses 5:11

I love to learn about the way the world works. I have a tendency to remember random things about just about anything. I have always been a little intrigued by the onus placed on Knowledge by most of Christianity.

Perhaps we, as people, have a tendency to extremes. Either we want to know everything, and thus be responsible, or we want to know nothing and absolve responsibility. But that's not why we're here. When we learn, we also must learn how to use that knowledge, and that is what makes us "as Gods, knowing good and evil."

But knowledge doesn't come easily. We don't value what comes too cheaply. That which we earn through pain (such as through a degree, or significant experience) is indelibly etched on who and what we are.

For example, when I spend time with my children, I treasure every minute because sometimes I don't have them around. I am a better mother now that I know I could have lost them. I know that when I find a good man, a man who honors his Priesthood in righteousness, I honor him even more greatly because I know how easy it would be for him to try to exercise control over me. When I attend the temple, it is exquisite because I didn't have that opportunity for a year and a half while serving a mission. If my garden ever grows, the vegetables will taste divine because last year's yield was almost nothing.

That, I believe, is why the Spirit is so difficult to hear at times. If we always had the Spirit telling us every little thing we should do with little effort of our own, we would be unable to act on our own. Knowledge is the first step to agency, for without knowledge, we cannot act. We become objects of others' agency when we refuse to learn and apply that learning in wisdom.

I am intrigued by the claim that we must know good and evil. As Eve went on to say in the above scripture, without experiencing the bitter, they would not have known the sweet. Without pain and sorrow, we would not value the good.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Young Women's Values—Individual Worth

I sometimes wonder what value I have. I look at what I do, what I am, what I have accomplished and realize that it takes great faith to believe the Lord when He said that my worth is "great in the sight of God."

I have heard it asked why it was necessary for someone else to suffer for us. Was there no other way for God to bring about our eternal life? Why did Christ have to die? But when I read that it was for this purpose that "the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; . . . he suffered [your] pain . . . that [you] might repent and come unto him." I realize that there was truly no better way. That by doing what He did when He didn't have to, He made Himself into a being that I can have faith in, that I can worship without fear or restraint.

He took my pain upon Himself for no other reason than to help me. I can trust Him without reserve.

Knowing that He "tremble[d] because of pain, and [bled] at every pore, and [suffered] both body and spirit, and would that [he] might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink . . ." and did it anyways, for me . . . how could I not take this great gift and believe Him? And further recognize that everyone, everyone for whom He died deserves a level of respect. For when we deliberately hurt another person, one for whom Christ sacrificed for, we reject His gift.

So even if we can't see it sometimes, He can.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Young Women's Values—Divine Nature

I have a very hard time looking at myself in the mirror. I use the mirror to look at my face, my hair, my teeth, but I have noticed that I avoid looking myself (or others, for that matter) in the eyes. I think perhaps I am a little afraid of what I see. When I look myself in the eyes, it is as if I see a vast quantity of unfulfilled potential. I begin to realize that I am "born to privilege," and like all privilege, it comes with "specific obligations." (Queen Marie, Ever After)

When I was a teen, in the middle of surviving the Young Women's program, I had been "blessed" with a very sharp wit and the tongue to voice it. I remember (now with shame) bragging about being able to make a person feel one inch tall in one short sentence. (And I did, many times.) Although in college I came to better understand how precious every soul on this earth is, and have long ago lost most of my desire to wield my sharp tongue, there are times that I am tempted. Culture has glorified pointed witticism and made it funny when in reality it's just hurtful.

Part of becoming a true disciple of Christ is to not only learn to look ourselves in the eyes, to bear the divinity in ourselves, but to also look others in the eyes and respect their divinity. Christ demonstrated many times in scripture how He could not only see the divinity in people others thought worthless, but He could reach in and quicken that spark, bring it to life. If there was one spiritual gift I could have, it would be that: to recognize and feed human divinity.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Young Women's Values—Faith

White is the color of faith. Blinding, harsh, sharp enough to cut. Lonely. Cold. Like one who is in possession of a tiny candle in a limitless black, moving forward with faith can be terrifying.

When I was a Young Woman, we had a rappelling activity. (See, it wasn't all fluff and nonsense!) With an abiding fear respect for heights, I was more than a little reluctant. My German nature, however, doesn't allow such things to overcome, so I was game to try. After taking a few minutes to gaze in awe and respect at those who were spidering up and down the 100 ft. cliff nearby, I headed to my nice little (little?!) 30 ft. beginner cliff.

Setting my jaw in true German fashion, I screwed up my courage for the plunge. And then I peeked over the edge. The person holding the rope (the "belay" is the proper term, I believe) was none other than Brother Ham*, our resident ward clown. Brother Ham was a nice guy, one who appealed strongly to my practical joker side. However, Brother Ham was NOT the person I wanted for my belay on my very first attempt at conquering one of my greatest respects.

Despite this, I was determined to go ahead with it until he cracked a joke. I can't remember what he said, something to do with letting go and no need to worry, but I did not learn to rappel that day. Brother Ham was not the person I could put my faith in.

"Go, gather together all the Jews . . . and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish."
Esther to Mordecai, Esther 4:16

Although faith can be cold and lonely at times, I have found it to often be like a warm, white down comforter. When my life is difficult—sometimes so difficult that giving up on my goals seems tempting—I know that when all the stress and loneliness is swept away, my faith in my Savior will always be there, like a white pearl at the bottom of a murky river bed. Unlike Brother Ham, He will not let me fall. (And if He does for some reason, I know He can heal me, literally and metaphorically.)

So when I think of the white of faith and my Young Women's experiences, and "when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die," (LDS Hymns #86, How Great Thou Art) my faith in such a God and such a Son wraps around me like a warm down comforter, and I know that, come what may, my Savior lives and loves me. That faith gives me the courage necessary to take my tiny light and walk out into the darkness.

*names have been changed to protect the untrustworthy

Friday, March 4, 2011

Stand for Truth and Righteousness

As a tomboy, my experience in the Young Women's program was somewhat . . . frustrating. So much of Young Women's was about baking scripture cookies, learning to guard one's virtue, sewing hope chest items and fulfilling Personal Progress. I lived for camp. Every time I got to attend YW camp, I threw myself into hiking, learning to shoot arrows, build fires and, of course, playing pranks.

But beyond all that is the core of what I feel the Young Women's program should be.
"We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him.
We will 'stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places' as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:
Divine Nature
Individual Worth
Choice and Accountability
Good Works
Integrity and
We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values,
we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation."

I think that when I was a Young Woman, I concentrated on the values. It was easy to do so, with their pretty colors and memorability. But if you cut out the list of values and really look at what is being said, you touch on something truly beautiful.

Each and every woman is a daughter of God. That comes with an immense responsibility. Divinity lives in each of us. When we, as one of His daughters, approach Him in prayer, truly trying to connect with our Father, He will show us who we are and how He feels about us.

When we feel that, it is a gloriously humbling feeling. And with it comes an intense sense of the immensity of God, a small understanding of how He feels about each of His children. His children who are all around us, who are the imperfect us, walking around in our clouds of Me. It inspires you to help them, to heal them, to show them that they are better than what they are doing to themselves.

And that is why we "stand as witnesses" of Him, by mourning with those who mourn, comforting those who need comfort, bearing their burdens, testifying to them of His love and of those things which bring true, lasting joy.

If I could, this would be the spark of desire I would try to light in our Young Women—and Young Men—dedication of a true disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. A person who is not afraid to "Stand for Truth and Righteousness" whatever the consequence, wherever truth and righteousness are found.

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