We as members of the church value niceness, which can lead to some complicated issues. One of these issues is that we are not always the best at expressing ourselves in the ways that we should. When issues arise we can sometimes be a little passive aggressive, instead of simply stating how we feel. Sometimes because we want to be kind and nice we do not create and build the healthy boundaries that are beneficial in our daily lives. Our last episode was about empowerment and becoming spiritually independent, and I think that advice applies here as well. We need to recognize that the gospel and church do not necessarily be restrictive in the ways that we assume, and can actually be extremely freeing as long as we are willing to take some of these teachings of the gospel seriously.
Sister Okazaki taught these ideas in a beautiful way while speaking to the women of the relief society, but I feel it is important for all of us to hear it. She taught that “Many Mormon women do not have clear boundaries for themselves. They feel a sense of confusion about who they are, because many competing voices lay claim to them and they try to accommodate them all. For example, when I became a member of the Relief Society general presidency, I was appalled at how many women were tormented by guilt about their responsibilities as mothers. They seemed unable to see a boundary between themselves and their children. If a child deviated from what was expected, it became a burden that the mother bore. . . .
It is a strength for women to be able to cross their own boundaries easily when they are meeting the needs of their children and serving others, but it is a great disadvantage when they feel every call for service as an imperative which they are obligated to meet. Remember, a boundary has “yes” on one side and “no” on the other. A woman who never feels that she can say “no” is lacking an important element of personal identity and, hence, personal safety.”
It has been incredible to have the experience of being a father and watching my son change as he has made it through the last 18 months. It has been so fun to see his personality develop and to watch him change from completely helpless to extremely mobile. Although he is on the very beginning parts of his life experience it is interesting to watch him begin seeking for independence and to learn how to make choices. I am thrilled to be there for him in his life as he continues to grow up and to become the person he is meant to be.
We often talk about how we are all children of God, but in watching my son grow I recognize that he will not be a baby forever and he will grow and develop and change. I wonder whether it is our goal to always be simply children in the gospel, or should we be seeking to become adults of God? Are we seeking that better understanding, and more mature approach, even though growing up comes with consequences? I think it is important to recognize that the gospel teaches us to seek out that growth and independence, especially at those moments where differing questions are particularly influential.
Sister Chieko Okazaki has taught us the value of this growing up and provides some excellent advise of ways to move forward, or even to make our religion and spirituality our own. She said “Be spiritually independent enough that your relationship with the Savior doesn’t depend on your circumstances or on what other people say and do. Have the spiritual independence to be a Mormon–the best Mormon you can–in your own way. Not the bishop’s way. Not the Relief Society president’s way. Your way.”
In the beginning of my faith transition at the point where I least understood my place in the church and whether I would be able to continue as a member of the church, one of the problems that I didn’t feel like I belonged. At that point I was question everything, and to make things worse, I saw and heard many people expressing that if people don’t like the ways things are in the church they should just leave. The problem was that I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to move forward with faith. I wanted to keep trying. I wanting to test whether this path was the right one for me, but I didn’t know how. For example if I couldn’t say “I know this church is true.” Could I no longer teach, participate in testimony meeting etc.
However as time moved on I began to feel empowered as I began to feel strongly that God wanted me to be in this church. With that recognition I began to want to participate more, and as I did that I felt wonderful blessings come to me. I believe that it is important for all of us to always remember that all we can give is what we have, and part of the journey is that seeking to give our own widows mite, no matter how little we think it may be.
Sister Linda J. Burton has taught us that “As true disciples, may we offer our willing hearts and our helping hands to hasten His work. It does not matter if, like Brynn, we have only one hand. It does not matter if we are not yet perfect and complete. We are devoted disciples who reach out and help each other along the way.”
When I was growing up there were various individuals that I would see in church who I would idolize. I felt that these people had it all figured out and I was inspired by their incredible examples. However later down the line I got to know some of them a little bit better and I was shocked to see their humanity come through. I was puzzled by the different ways these people would present themselves at church. While they were there they were incredible, but in real life they seemed to turn that off and act in ways that were shocking to me. Since these experiences are prevalent I think President Thomas S. Monson’s advice is very relevant. He said “Brethren, are you the same person wherever you are and whatever you are doing—the person our Heavenly Father wants you to be and the person you know you should be?”
With that said I think we all also need this reminder because this trap can be so easy to fall into. Are we always seeking to treat those around us as Christ would treat them, or are we simply doing so when it is convenient? I know that I this is something I can do better. I believe that as we are seeking to reach our goals in our lives, we must be extremely careful to always be making sure that we are living according to our best selves.
As you have probably come to expect from this program, I often focus on topics that relate to diversity, harm, and changing our paradigms. That is simply because this is the place I am in my life, and even though I may focus on things that others may not, I feel it is just as valuable to share my testimony and experiences as I seek to learn, grow, and reach towards becoming what God would have me be.
However one thing that I struggle with is how to interact with those who engage in behaviors that I feel are harmful. Today I read a letter written to a child who had recently left the church. This letter included various rules that would be enforced with this child, and sadly within these rules I felt that there was little to no love being demonstrated. During these types of moments that can be so very painful I simply want people to be kind to each other, which can make it easy for me to judge.
However I think back on my own life and experiences and recognize that there are so many harmful things that I have done out of the best intentions of my heart. I remember sending harsh letters to family members who were not living in the way I felt they should, which I feel was not done in the way that the savior would have done it. I have been mean, judgmental, petty, and inconsiderate in my life, and as I ponder my need for repentance and change, I recognize that perhaps I need to have a little more compassion for those who may not be behaving in the ways that I feel would be the best. I think it is still important to be open and to perhaps help point harmful actions out in order to help us all be better, but this should always be done in loving empathetic ways. I believe we need to be patient with others by seeking to forgive, while we simultaneously seek to change through repentance.
Elder Henry B. Eyring has taught that “As you pray for forgiveness, you will find yourself forgiving others. As you thank God for His kindness, you will think of others, by name, who need your kindness. Again, that experience will surprise you every day, and over time it will change you.”
Elder Uchtdorf opened one of his talks by discussing the story of rip van winkle, which is a story of a man who sleeps through his life, and misses an incredible period of time. He then followed up this story by asking each of us whether we are sleeping through the restoration. We live in an incredible period of time in regards to the church, and I feel that it would be such a shame to miss out on the wonderful developments occurring in our world and church simply because we are too busy, or worse because we think we have it all figured out already.
Elder Uchtdorf stated that “Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us— Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized. In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.”
Do we forget this sometimes? Do we settle in with perhaps too much self-security feeling that we have every answer to every question, while we may be missing out on the fact that this is a true and LIVING church which is growing as we speak? Truth is being revealed, and we are to be in the middle of this process. What a wonderful time for us to live. My hope is that we won’t sleep through it.
There is a fairly esoteric topic from LDS history called the law of adoption, which I find to be fascinating. I will leave the opportunity to you to look up that history in order to learn a little more about this practice, but my understanding and simple explanation is that as God had provided us with the ability to become sealed in families through the temple, the exact mechanism of the way this was done has changed throughout the years. Individuals used to be able to be sealed to differing leaders of the church who they were not related to in order to provide these valuable connections with each other.
Later on it was revealed that the way we should be doing sealings should be by us simply becoming sealed to our fathers, which will then eventually connect us all. Again this history is fascinating, but I bring it up quickly here to share the fact that most of what we have in modern Mormonism has evolved and developed. Even something as important as the mechanism that helps us to be able to be sealed to our families forever has developed through the years. Quentin L. Cook shared a thought in his talk that I feel relates to this idea. He said that “The essential doctrine of uniting families came forth line upon line and precept upon precept.”
We are a part of a church that believes in continuing revelation, which I believe is extremely exciting to ponder.