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My bishopric forces me to go through them to ask permission for every little thing for my calling, and they often say no and more often never respond at all. I’ve sent the bishopric member who’s over me one brief email a month with a few bullet points of things I need from him. He hasn’t responded in six months. I finally got fed up and sent an email a couple days ago telling him I would stop performing my calling after the end of next month and to release me. He hasn’t responded.
– ElleK

I was the enrichment counselor in our ward, and I was required to run all of my ideas and plans for enrichment by the bishop for his approval and/or veto. Never had that happen before in any other ward.
– Heidi Alsop

I can’t tell you how many times my calling as ward music chairman was disregarded in the 4 years I served. I was counseled, when I received this calling, that I was only to use hymns most familiar to the congregation. I hadn’t been a member of that ward very long, so I wasn’t sure what those specific hymns were. I relied heavily on the Spirit to figure it out.

Every week, I was led by the Spirit in choosing hymns, despite not knowing the topics the speakers had. I requested the topics several times throughout my first year, and gave up requesting when they honored my request only once.

The worst instances of total disregard for how I magnified my calling were when the presiding priesthood leader would stop the congregation, mid-song, and change the hymn because no one knew the song. This happened on several occasions and it happened at least twice with the stake presidency present, and once when I was out of town. As often as these instances occurred, I would get passive- aggressive texts from the man who held the calling of program printer talking about how he guessed he wasn’t important enough to be informed of the hymn change prior to the meeting itself.

I requested to be released after I approached the bishop and his first counselor to discuss the several permissions I needed for musical numbers over the next few weeks, and instead of just responding, appropriately, to me, they turned to each other with eyebrows raised and disgruntled voices said, not to me, “There sure is a lot of music going on lately.” It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
– E. Parsons

I was asked to be on a committee to plan our Stake Relief Society meeting. We met 4 times and had a great program planned—a lady was going to come talk about her art and what inspired her (she painted women from the scriptures). We really spent a lot of time planning this.

The 5th time we met, the group was informed that the Stake President had insisted that he was going to talk instead, and his topic was “honoring the priesthood.”

I was so furious that I couldn’t come to any more planning meetings. I’ve never felt so worthless and so blatantly disrespected!
– Nicole B.

Years ago, when I was a stake Primary president, it occurred to me survey the presidents, asking some benign questions about primary concerns, trying to get a pulse on things etc. One of the questions I asked was something to the effect ” do you have the ability to freely choose (without coercion) who you call to serve in your auxiliary and do you feel you have a voice in that decision making?” Oh my goodness. Was that a naive question! One of the presidents was really struggling with a bishopric that completely ran her auxiliary and chose who was called to staff it–all the time. So, I was trying to help her get a voice and take back some of the power she was being stripped of. Ward conference day rolls around and my counselors and I are set to meet with the presidency, when who shows up but the counselor in the bishopric who had gotten wind of my threat to his unrighteousness dominion.

The meeting with that presidency lasted all of 7 minutes. He shut me down at every turn so that I actually couldn’t even talk directly to the president. He ‘dominated’ the discussion to the point that I realized the futility of even trying to continue. It was clear that he was not going to let me give any advise or council to this sister unless it was over his dead body. I was released as Stake primary president shortly after that encounter.
I think a lot of it had to do with that one question on the survey.

I saw this guy recently (after 35 years) when I was visiting my daughter’s ward at Christmas. The feelings are still mutual.
– Susan Hall

Pro Tip: Recognize women as authorities who have the knowledge and inspiration to carry out their responsibilities. Do not overrule or micromanage women in your stewardship.

Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)

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by Lori

I have three daughters. The oldest two are LGBTQ and no longer attend church. Their youngest sister, in her mid-teens, wanted to use today’s testimony meeting to talk about them and how she loves them and how she hates it when members of our ward aren’t kind to them. She wrote out what she wanted to say and it was balanced and clear, but I encouraged her not to say it today.

Instead those who spoke in our testimony meeting focused on love and new thoughts began to form in my mind. I wanted to honor my youngest daughter’s feelings, but in a slightly different way. I was still gathering my thoughts when the counselor closed the meeting a few minutes early, but this is what I wanted to tell my ward today.

I am so very grateful for those members of my ward who have reached out in love to all of my daughters. I am grateful for the young man who was my oldest daughter’s best friend growing up in our ward, who doesn’t care that she is now a girl instead of a boy and still wants to be her friend. I am grateful for this friend and all the other friends and family members who call my daughter by her chosen female name and use female pronouns when talking to and about her.

I am grateful for the woman in my ward who never knew my oldest daughter as she was away at college when this woman moved to my ward and yet when she heard she was moving back home for a time, she asked for her cell phone number and began sending her encouraging messages and letting her know that she welcomed her back home and looked forward to meeting her.

I am grateful for my ministering sister who has a grown LGBTQ child of her own, who not only listens to me as I work through my parenting stress, but understands the particular challenges. She reaches out in love to my daughters, attending their performances and commenting positively on all the pictures of them I post on Facebook.

I am grateful for the women who give me hugs and ask how I am doing every Sunday. I am grateful when they ask how my daughters are doing and rejoice in the good things and listen with empathy and no judgment when things are less than perfect.

I am grateful for the Young Women’s President who taught lessons that were inclusive and not stressful for my middle daughter. I am grateful that she became my daughter’s dear friend, attending her events, taking her out for ice cream, dropping off random treats and notes that never said anything about coming back to church, and even sending her a graduation card after she moved to another state.

And I was grateful to the point of tears when a long-time friend came up to me after testimony meeting today – though I never spoke a word – to ask if my oldest daughter had been assigned a ministering sister. She didn’t think our ward leaders had been that thoughtful and so she said she was assigning herself to reach out in whatever ways my daughter would let her.

Yes, there are still leaders who read the Proclamation on the Family in its entirety when my children are mentioned in meetings. There are still leaders who, when asked to make lessons inclusive and welcoming to LGBTQ children, respond simply with “Well, I still have to teach all the doctrine,” because that’s the only tool they have to respond to LGBTQ sisters and brothers. There are still leaders who insist on using my oldest daughter’s dead male name even when kindly corrected. There are still youth who won’t come to activities at our home anymore and members who no longer engage us in conversation or include us in social events.

Just like me, the members of my ward are sometimes loving and sometimes not as loving. Today I made myself focus on the positives and the love that has been shown to my family and discovered more there than I had recognized before.

Lori lives in the US Deep South. She has ancestry roots in the south to Jamestown and in the church to Kirtland and is firmly rooted in both, yet teaches French, German, and Latin to gifted high schoolers and encourages them to explore the world.

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Three weeks in a row, I left Relief Society in tears.

Nobody had said anything particularly terrible. I didn’t have a falling out with anyone. In fact, I wasn’t entirely sure what was wrong—I could just feel something off. Church had felt like home my entire life, but now I suddenly felt uncomfortable and exhausted. And I couldn’t even articulate why.

On that third week, my husband asked me a question that I needed: “Have you written about this?”

I hadn’t. The question came from someone who knows me well—someone who knows that pen to paper is the way I discover my thoughts. When I’m riding a wave of unarticulated emotion, writing has always helped me reveal to myself truth that I don’t even know I’m carrying. In other words:

I don’t write to record the things I want to say.

I write to discover what wants to be said.

And so, in answer to his question, I went home and wrote from a truly curious and uncertain place about what could be troubling me. As I wrote over weeks, I revealed to myself my heart’s questions about my place in God’s plan as a woman, and I uncovered stories I’d grown up with that had kept me stuck. I wrote for months as I stepped away from church to get my bearings, and the next year, I kept writing through the process of stepping back in again as a different person than I’d been before. Writing—mostly for myself alone, sometimes for other people—was my method of unearthing clarity, connecting with God, and finding peace at a time of emotional chaos.

I’ve personally experienced the way that writing can carry us to a clearer version of ourselves, the way it can illuminate a feeling, elevate a memory, neutralize a trauma, or reveal a truth that we’re not aware of.

If you’re moving through a trial, trying to make a major life decision, or you want to make meaning and beauty out of something that happened in your life, I’ll ask you the same question that helped me:

Have you written about it?

This year, I’ve taught an online personal writing course alongside Ashley Mae Hoiland. The course is called Mine to Tell and it’s 12 weeks of encouragement and insight to help you write the stories that only you can tell.

The writing that came out of the last session of this course stunned me. Women wrote about highly personal experiences with immense power. (Some of them shared their work in an online reading that we did at the end of the course. You can see their stories here. If nothing else, just watch the first story that goes from 4:10-9:44. It will knock you out.)

On June 13, we begin another session of Mine to Tell—the last one we’ll teach this year. And because this course aligns with the mission of the Exponent blog (helping women tell their stories), Exponent has agreed to let me share it with you here.

If you’ve ever felt an urge to write, we’d be thrilled for you to join us. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “writer,” we can help guide you to your own strength and voice on the page.

Come see if Mine to Tell course outline is a good fit for you:

https://ashmae.teachable.com/p/mine-to-tell-session-3-summer-2019

(Exponent readers get $25 off registration by using this code at checkout: EXPONENT)

Exponent blogger ElleK took the previous session of the Mine to Tell course and was so kind to share her experience: 

For the first time, I’ve found myself drawn to writing with regularity. I’m so often prevented from writing by the practical internal voice that insists on knowing what a piece is FOR, but Mine to Tell gave me permission to write the story I needed to write without trying to force it into a preconceived form or purpose. Watching my work evolve and learning to revise effectively was exhilarating in a way I didn’t know writing could be. Ashmae and Kathy are thoughtful and supportive in all the best ways.

Whether or not you participate in the Mine to Tell course, I hope you’ll write.

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing for publication or solely for your own fulfillment; either way, something big happens when you can articulate yourself. Your world shifts when you know that you are capable of telling your own story. And when you actually do the work of writing one word in front of another, you discover something of your own that you wouldn’t find any other way.

For me, writing my own story helped reveal the truth and the beauty hidden in my experience, and showed me a way forward. I know writing can reveal your world for you, too.

Photo by Aaron Burden via Unsplash

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The Exponent by Adelahope - 1M ago

It’s easier to pretend that this is what i wanted.
My life is good. And I did dream
Of this.
I dreamt, too, of more.

But when people ask, I say “I’m very blessed”, because I am
I say, “oh, we can’t control that”, because we can’t.
I say, “maybe!” and pass the question back,
Softly.
Because probably, they are small talking.
And maybe they want to talk deep.
It’s so easy to listen.

I have a good life. I just meant for something else.
I bargained on a world that halfway happened;
I didn’t count on loss.
I didn’t mean for this haphazard whimsy;
A bike with mismatch wheels and a straw basket
Plastic sunflowers and polka-dots with squeaking brakes and slipping gears.

And I’m grateful.
Because I didn’t know how much bikes cost
Or how much I would learn
Or who I would be
(Youthful dreamers neglect minutiae).
Or how excellent the ride is,
Liberated.

And so my life is good. Luck fell on my doorstep
And found me neither deserving, nor exceptional, nor extraordinary.
Just a whisper in time, a whooshing blur
A quiet thought with blue shoes and a white dress
And together we worked this out.

Sometimes they ask me questions.
What’s the plan? What’s next?
Do you think you will?
And it’s easier
(It’s always easier)
To tuck in my rainbow of surprises
dancing like streamers in the wind,
And just pretend.
It’s precisely as I wanted;
I’ve meant it all, all along.

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At the time of Kate Kelly’s fight for women to have the priesthood, I served on our ward’s Ward Council. I am pretty vocal and at one particular meeting shortly after Kate’s excommunication, a Bishopric member asked if I wanted his priesthood keys too. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out his car keys and mockingly offered them to me again. I was so furious and embarrassed I couldn’t think of a response.
– Anonymous

When I was serving in a Relief Society presidency, the presidency decided to serve ice cream to the men on Father’s Day. That Sunday the fridge broke and so we wanted to serve it at the beginning of the meeting before it melted instead of the end like we’d originally planned with the bishopric. We told the bishopric member conducting and he said that we couldn’t make that decision and that the priesthood had a lot of important announcements that day and that we needed priesthood approval to change it. Really, I can’t even decide something as simple as when we serve ice cream without the holding the priesthood? Even when the options are now or never?
– Julia

My husband and I lived in a married student ward for several years. One time during a ward conference, a counselor in the stake presidency taught the elders a real gem of a lesson. It was a general lesson on marriage relationships and one section of the lesson was on finances. The man was saying things like “don’t use credit cards because they’re bad.” Then he said, “Definitely don’t let your wife have a credit card. Women should not have control of the finances in your marriage. Women like to spend money and can’t keep track of what they spend so you [men] need to keep charge of the family budget.” My husband chimed in to say “ My wife handles our finances and we talk about our money. We use credit cards regularly and we’re smart about paying it off. I trust her and we’re doing fine.” The stake presidency counselor pretty much didn’t respond to him and moved on with his lesson.

My husband told me about this later, and I was so proud of him for speaking up. I was also appalled at the message he was responding to!

Women are viewed as children who can’t be trusted with adult responsibilities. Benevolent patriarchy belittling women under the guise of “caring for them”. Ugh.
– Marjorie

One time I was leaving a single adult activity at someone’s house and this much older, frail, man insisted on making sure I got to my car safely. It was a nice neighborhood and I don’t think it was even dark. I had to walk slow because he was so frail. But sure, you’re going to defend me. At that time I lived in Phoenix and worked and shopped in really not great areas all by myself just fine.
– Sarah

In my stake, women aren’t allowed to have their own meetings in the building without a priesthood holder present. Including for volleyball games: the wards trade off who is in charge of bringing a “priesthood holder” to babysit the women.
– ElleK

Pro Tip: Women are generally responsible adult humans who can make administrative decisions and take care of themselves.

Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)

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The Exponent by Tophat - 1M ago

With Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix, I finally decided to read her book and fold my clothes up tiny and pass along my unused items. Our whole family is participating and it’s definitely going to take a while. We can can only work on our tidying on weekends that are empty, and in the past two months, have only finished clothing and books.

I have been really impressed with the seriousness of my children in this endeavor. I watched them as they held each clothing item, hugged it to see if it “sparked joy,” and folded those that did or said thank you to those that didn’t. We’ve also narrowed down our book cases and found homes for old picture books in the Little Free Libraries in our neighborhood.

“Books” is a large category that also encompasses papers and magazines. Last week I sat with my magazines: mostly Exponent II magazines from the past 8 years. My internal dialog went back and forth. On one hand, I will probably not read each of them again. Also, all of the recent Exponent II issues are available online if I have a subscription. I don’t need the physical copies. I do, however, like to keep some books and magazines around for my children to stumble upon. Much of the literature I read as a teen came from my mother’s literature anthologies from her college days that were on the bookshelf in our family room. I would read while eating breakfast before seminary every morning. It’s how I was exposed to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. I’d like for my children to stumble upon a book or magazine and be similarly enriched.

But. My oldest daughter doesn’t want to go to Church anymore. I support her in that, but it means she will grow up breathing different cultural waters than I did. On one hand, it’s great that she won’t internalize the sexism of the Church and question her worthiness as a person. That’s wonderful. On the other hand- will she cherish the stories found in the pages of my Exponent magazines? Will she relate to it? Or will she read it, perplexed that anyone could have this strange life of growing up a Mormon girl and being a feminist Mormon woman?

I sat there, sad that it’s true: she won’t treasure and love these magazines as I have. They are a part of my life in a way that they’ll never be for her.

Suddenly, at that moment, I felt yet another twinge of empathy. As I looked at my magazines wishing my children will love and cherish Mormon feminism as I have, I realized that this is the same feeling that my more traditional Mormon family have about their own children and grandchildren, except instead of The Exponent II, they hold in their hands their temple experiences and feelings of hope towards a family together in the celestial kingdom. Will their children value the things they hold close to their hearts?

I’m keeping my magazines, just in case my kids do end up stumbling upon them. And my traditional Mormon family will keep their family reunion temple trips and “So what’s your calling in your new ward?” conversations because that’s how they relate to each other. And we will all watch the next generation choosing what they will cherish, hoping they’ll revere the things we love.

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The Exponent by Pandora - 1M ago

The server walked up and surveyed our table.

“What do you think of this?” she asked.

I had my head down trying to sort out what seemed like a byzantine list of options. To assemble my custom burger, I had to choose from five different categories of exotic ingredients. I was overwhelmed on page two of a four page menu.

“It’s a lot to read,” I mumbled.

“Not the menu,” she barked, “This. What do you think of this?”

I looked up. She jerked her head and waved a large hand with glittering fingernails toward my son and his boyfriend. She pointed directly at each of them in response to my blank expression. “This,” she repeated, “What do you think of this?”

The server was about my age and over six feet tall. She was a powerful presence dressed in drag – broad shoulders, pink sequined sweater, bejeweled cropped jeans, and impossibly high heels.  She was acting a part in the whole experience, the sparkling outfit, the tough demeanor. But the sassy tone could not mask a deep weariness in her voice. Our eyes met. She waited.

We were at a diner that called itself the “Gayest Place to Eat” in our city. My sister had searched for a fun place to have lunch. And so here we were, my sister and I sitting on one side of the booth and my son and his boyfriend on the other. We had been laughing over the menu, teasing my son that he should order the “gayest” drink or the “gayest” appetizer. All four of us were trying to outdo one another in creating the perfect combination of entrée, side and beverage from the endless flow charts. We had been oblivious to the server until now.

Although she had startled me, I knew by this point that she was not asking about the menu. But I didn’t have a ready answer to her question. No one had asked me this before. My son came out at the end of his freshman year of college. He is a very verbal, open person and we are close to him, so there was no long, drawn out secret and reveal. He talked to us a few months after he knew and we shared in many early and ongoing conversations; listening as he worked through his own understanding and self awareness.

I confess my initial reaction was not tidy. I was a liberal parent forced to apply her declared values in an actual and not theoretical situation. No one rehearses for this. He told me at 10:00 pm one night. I said a bunch of ridiculous things (“Will you still bring someone home for Christmas?”) and left on a business trip the next morning. I flew three hours in a daze and then sat in a parking lot for three more hours. I cataloged all the narratives that might be shifting, all the decisions made and unmade, calculating exponential loss and fear and worry.

Then I thought of my son. Was he any different than he had been at 9:59 pm? Was his future any less dazzling? I could see him in my mind, the delightful boy he had been and the amazing man he was becoming. His story, the one he would write on his own, was just getting interesting. My part in his story had evolved into a more supporting role, but the script to our relationship hadn’t changed. In fifteen hours I had moved through a million possible scenarios and ended up the same proud mom of the same great, gay kid.  

The server was still looking at me expectantly. I thought later of all the things I should have said: clever things, Eleanor Roosevelt things, enlightened-earth-mother things. But this whole reverie was happening in seconds and too soon after my menu confusion. So I blurted out: “I think it is wonderful.” She made a “humph” sound and glared sternly at the boys. “You are young, pretty and lucky. You have no idea what it was like” and walked away. Assumptions, reality, difference, similarity, change, no change – the past flashed forward, the future looped behind. For an instant, an ocean of history lapped like waves at our toes and then receded. 

I turned back to my menu because I really had no idea what I was going to order. 

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by Elle Mae

“The Sermon on the Mississippi”

I will look elsewhere for God.
I don’t know if She is here anymore.
But I remember seeing Her in the flickering fireflies swirling around my head as I ran through the damp dark grasses by the Mississippi.
And I think I saw Her the other day in the new florist down the street as she slipped money into the register for flowers to take to her newly divorced friend.
Maybe She slept in the palm of a nurse holding his patient’s wrinkled hand for an hour after his shift was over.
And maybe God is found where She said She would be all along.
“With them.”
the spiritually homeless
the private mourners
the meek misunderstood
the goodness hungry
the mercy givers
the transparent hearts
the wall breakers
and those who are “too much.”
So now when I have lost God
I wait for Her by the Mississippi.

Elle Mae is a queer Mormon feminist who believes everyone has a spark of the Divine within themselves. She is a poet, singer, and student

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The Exponent by Trudy - 1M ago

The Ten Commandments are taught at a young age as a way to live rightly. They’ve even gone beyond the religious sphere and into popular culture such that just uttering the words “thou shalt not…” and then finishing the phrase with any set of instructions can give either a serious or humorous level of extra gravity to the instructions. We love our rules and we love to hate our rules, and we have a lot of them.

When I was in seminary, I remember that my teacher said that there were over 600 commandments listed in the Old Testament. This factoid was used to highlight the impossibility of keeping all of them with exactness and the need for grace because none of us could measure up on our own. It was also used as a jumping-off point to a discussion of the words of Jesus when He outlined the two great commandments.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he responded:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:37-40

The phrase “the law and the prophets” is a term of art that refers to the majority of what we now call the Old Testament. [1] So, basically, Jesus was distilling all scripture extant at the time to a two-fold instruction to love God and love one’s neighbor – and that loving one’s neighbor is like unto loving God.

This is explained further in other parts of the New Testament. Jesus teaches that whatever we do to others – such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, etc. – is the same as doing it to Him. [2] And the apostle John gets even more clear when he says “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” [3]

So in the end, instead of hundreds, ten, or even two, we have only one commandment as Christians. Love our neighbors.

The simplicity of this commandment obscures how challenging it can be. It’s the work of a lifetime. It can feel a lot easier to live by a list of “thou shalt nots” instead of to live by a principle of love. It requires us to evaluate our motivations for everything we do. But in the end, it’s the only way to become like God, because God is love.

[1] “The Law” is the first five books of Moses. “The Prophets” refers to most of the rest of the Old Testament, with the exception of poetic books such at Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.
[2] see Matthew 25:34-40
[3] 1 John 4:20-21
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The Exponent by Allemande Left - 1M ago

I had a dream I was talking with Prince William (of England), who was a counselor in my ward’s bishopric.  (I dream big).  We were sitting at a round table in a nondescript room that seemed like a lunch room.  He told me he had heard I was not attending church regularly. I assured him I had been at church each week.  He reflected a bit and said that’s not what he was hearing.  Just then an elderly woman in my ward emerged from behind a curtain revealing a recess in the wall.  She approached us, apologized for interrupting us, said she had not heard anything we were discussing, and then shared that her husband, who was lying on a stretcher in the recess of the wall, had cancer. She was seeking support.

I believe dreams are a way for our Inner Consciousness to communicate with our Outer Consciousness. This dream has sat with me for several weeks as I contemplate it’s meaning.   The first question is this, which ward am I not attending?   You see, I belong to two wards and have for a while now. One is my Geo Ward, located in the geographic area in which I live.  My Other Ward exists wherever I am, whatever I am doing.

My Geo Ward is full of friends, some I have known for decades. It’s the ward where my children grew up, where I gained a testimony, where I served and was served.  I can call upon these good people (and vice versa) in a moment’s notice and we are there for each other.

My Other Ward has been around for ages, but only recently discovered by me.  This ward is also full of friends and acquaintances.  I’m new and getting to know people.  I sense these people would be there for me in a similar, yet long-distance sort of way, when and if I needed them.  They are also good people.  The members of My Other Ward are both living and deceased.  I read their words and hear their stories. My Other Ward consists of people and ideas I access via books, blogs, podcasts, journals, phone calls, emails, websites and lunch dates.  We are Mormons, Buddhists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Evangelicals, Jews, Agnostics, Atheists and Mystics.  We live all over the world.

So, why do I need My Other Ward? Until recently I didn’t! I was content in my Geo Ward, that is, until I wasn’t. To borrow a phrase from Eliza Snow, “oft times a secret something whispered you’re a stranger here.”   I longed for more.  I wanted deeper, more authentic, less scripted, more expansive discussions.  I wanted more in ways I can’t fully explain.

To some extent I have found what I was looking for in My Other Ward. It’s open, diverse, unscripted, tender, strong, gentle, and bold.  It is like a kaleidoscope unfolding a large universal consciousness. Each day I find something new to contemplate, something else to ponder.

I’ll share a metaphor that might help explain what I am feeling.

Imagine a small, self-contained rustic resort at a mountain lake, with a small beach. Picture a 3-sided dock, called The Crib, creating an enclosure for small children to play in under the watchful eye of a lifeguard.  Picture a youth, passing the swim test and now allowed to swim and play outside the confines of The Crib. Picture the older children and adults gathered further out at the floating dock.

Picture others in row boats, sail boats and motorboats gliding by the dock experiencing other parts of the lake.  Picture them exploring the island and sailing around the bend.  The lake is beautiful. There is an inlet and an outlet for the fresh (living) water to enter and exit the lake.   The outlet leads down a mountainside to an even larger lake.  Following the outlet of that lake leads to a river which leads to the ocean.  The ocean! The ocean is wildly expansive and full of life.  It is so big and deep and unknowable.  It is mesmerizing.

Living water refers to water that is in motion and flowing.  It is not stagnant.  I want to swim in living water, outside The Crib, past the floating dock, past the island, around the bend, all the way to the large lake, the river and the ocean.  I want to experience the ocean. I want The Divine to be revealed to me, in me and through me.

Back to the dream.

Prince William represents hierarchy and authority.  He was kind but didn’t know about me directly. He only shared what he heard about me from others. Yes, I am attending my ward, but not fully present.  I’ve shut down in some ways. When I do speak up there is a mixed reaction of support and attack.  Some days are better than others, but mostly I have stopped trying.  I don’t want to come home bedraggled.

The nondescript lunch room represents a mediocre place to be nourished and fed.

The older woman in the dream represents the collective wisdom in the ward.  She is gentle and polite.  She is not ease dropping.  Her ailing husband represents a problem.  She is asking me and the hierarchy to help.  She is valuing what I have to offer.

Where do I go with this?  Maybe I need to attend more fully. Maybe I need to keep trying. Maybe the nourishment I get from My Other Ward is sustaining me right now while I figure things out. Maybe I have something of value to help the problem.

Discussion Questions:

Do you feel fully present in your family, friendships, wards, and community?

Do you have a metaphor for how you visualize your quest for The Divine?

Have you had a dream that helped you make sense of a situation?

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