Tuesday, May 31, 2005 

You've Got The Music In You

Music is my life.

I mean that honestly, and anyone who has spent even the shortest amount of time will most likely agree with that statement. There is something about music that soothes my soul, calms me when I am crazed or moves my feet, brings tears to my eyes, swollows me whole in a memory I thought I had long escaped. I'm not sure if music does this for everyone, but it is what it does for me.

I can measure my life in songs, there is a soundtrack that runs through my memories. Tina Turner will forever make me think of my father, the Beatles "Rubber Soul" album is all my mom, Depech Mode and the Beasties were introduced to me by my older brother, and just the first few cords of any Smashing Pumpkins song makes me think of my little sister. There are songs I have with friends, with family members, songs that are just ours.

My friend Tifferbob and I have the silliest song ever, Blink 182's "M&M's" We would drive around in my little green car with all the windows rolled down and scream that song at the top of our lungs. Even though Tiff is thousands of miles away from me now, when my computer randomly plays that songs I think of her.

I have songs with my sister, my mother, groups of friends and family. I also have songs that are just mine. Songs that help me to remember just how I felt at a certin moment of my life. Songs that in some way have defined me and defined a period of my life.

I am always suprised by how there is always room for another song for me to love. I am amazed how there always seems to be a new song to fill up a new moment of my life. I find myself flipping through the radio dial looking for those new songs, searching for the next soundtrack of to some moment of my life. Knowing that there are melodies silly unwritten that will haunt me, change me, shape my heart with their invisable hands.

Does music change me? Of course it does. How could it not?

Monday, May 30, 2005 

Danke Schoen

“Does music really affect who you are?”

I hate the question: “What types of music do you like?” Totally unanswerable, and it really won’t help you know who I am.

I love music. I can create a timeline of my life by the music I listened to (included at the end so you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to).

For me, music is a tool. I use music to enhance my moods, change my moods, increase or decrease my energy level, create an atmosphere, make me happy, laugh, cry, purify, be sulky, swoon, etc.

My parents allowed us to discover music on our own. We listened to their old records (a ton!), and I am grateful that music had always been a part of our home life whether we were playing instruments, radios, stereos, or singing.

I think about my parents’ music and how it was all pretty wholesome. I can’t really say that for all of my music. Would I just let my kids wander through my music collection? Maybe not.

But, that’s not to say it would be off limits. Music, like movies, is sometimes age/maturity appropriate.

We’ve talked here before about moderation. I would like to see my kids be into music in a big way, but not obsessed. I would love for them to listen to ALL kinds of music, but not only one kind.

I will go out on a limb here and say that for the insecure or immature individual, music can fill a HUGE void. Filling that void with dark, violent, or sexual images can only confuse such an individual. Filling that void with more positive messages sure can’t hurt.

I had a conversation with a friend in high school about music. He listened to some pretty “hard” stuff. (And I realize that “hardness” is a relative term, I am not trying to make a judgment call or single out certain genres or groups…) He told me why he loved this music; because it made him feel something. Otherwise, he felt numb. Not uncommon for a teenager, I suspect. But funny enough, the feelings he described were pretty much the dark, brooding feelings I was trying to avoid as an immature, trying-to-discover-herself teenager.

This is not to say that music is not good for a pity party, a good sulk, or a healthy rebellion. I remember specifically going through a lonely time at college my freshman year. During a break in one of my marathon art classes I blasted Radio Head’s “Creep” (the unedited version *gasp*) at top volume on my walk-man. I stood with my back against the wall feeling so alone and misunderstood. Can it get any more cliché? An art student…rebelling…with music? But I felt purged somehow. I felt better after. I just didn’t make that sort of rebellion a habit or part of my permanent persona.

Music is the heartbeat of rebellion. All the good rebellions and revolts are accompanied by great songs. Music, you see, is a double-edged sword.

I think I will let my kids make music a pleasant personal journey. I would love to be in the quiet background. I hope they, like me, will be excited to share with their parents a cool new song or a group they love. I don’t have to love it. I’m sure I will hit the point where I can’t stand “new music.” But I pray I don’t ever get there!

And I will be heralded out of mortal existence by song; one song in particular, it’s even in my will. I want to be wheeled out of the funeral to Wayne Newton singing “Danke Schoen.” I want to be sitting up in the coffin with some sort of contraption waving my arm at the crowd. Now that’s an exit. (Music swells…lights fade.)

Carrie’s Musical Timeline (by age)

0-4 We lived in Sweden with a limited music collection, but I know we had Sound of Music, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet, and ABBA’s Arrival.

4-5 My Turn on Earth, Saturday’s Warriors, Mary Poppins (the whole idea of Mormon musicals was new then and not so lame… (I still love My Turn on Earth for very nostalgic reasons) Olivia Newton John.

5-7 Back to the parents’ record collection in the states: Beatles, Monkees, Fifth Dimension, Beach Boys, the Platters, Beethoven Sonatas, and a bunch of 45’s. The soundtrack to E.T. and Annie.

8-10 I discovered pop music. I remember Queen on the radio for crying out loud and singing “Celebration” ‘til my lungs would burst. Thank you Bonnie Tyler for giving me a roller skating anthem to “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. About this time I also discovered MTV and VH-1. I became ADDICTED to videos. I would even fake illness to stay home from church so I could watch videos and reruns of “Charlie’s Angels.” During this time I was OBSESSED with first the Beach Boys and then the Beatles. I know every song.

11-13 Dance music. By that I mean music I could make up dances to. My personal faves were The Pointer Sisters and Whitney Houston’s first album. I was now OBSESSED with the Monkees (they were on Nickelodeon by now).

14-15 Introduced to punk and alternative (back when it was really alternative). Tolerated the punk because boys thought it was cool that I listened to it. Had tons of the Cure and began a private delight in They Might Be Giants. Loved Lenny Kravits “Let Love Rule.” Was beginning to get into Opera. We lived near New York so musicals were within reach and listened to often.

16-20 Eclectic. No more pop. Got into vintage stuff. Lots of Bob. College radios on the east coast rock, and gave me a good local education. Grunge happened. Bought a lot of movie soundtracks during this time I notice. Music was changing big time.

20-30 whatever floats my boat. I still love my old stuff (I even have Pointer Sisters on my blessed iPod) but I still thankfully like what’s going on. Still love Radiohead. Am enjoying some hip-hop (although labels like that make me cringe). Love disco for the dancing it COMPELS me to do. Still CANNOT CANNOT CANNOT believe that groups like Backstreet Boys, N-Sync, or people like Brittney Spears were EVER popular! That was some kind of huge fluke or wrinkle in the time space continuum. See kids? That’s why we don’t mess with time travel. It screws things up. I can see how pop can be a guilty pleasure though, so I don’t judge you Brittney CD owning people (you know who you are). I have my little (too embarrassing to mention) guilty pleasures, too.

Saturday, May 28, 2005 

we are gonna be friends

One day in eleventh or twelfth grade my Dad suggested that maybe my style of dress was not appropriate for school. "Other people dress like this," I said. A couple of days later we were driving down the road, just him and me in the car. The conversation came up again.

"I don't think it's appropriate for you to dress like that at school," he said.
"Other people dress like this," I said.
"I talked to some of the people at your school and they said the only people who dress that way are you and your friends," he said.
"Yah," I said, "what's the big deal."
"I just don't want others to have the same opinion of you that I have of your friends," he said.

That was a breaking point for me. What my father said just didn't jive with my idealistic teenage world and from then on, I chose friends over family. Later, I got my act together and managed to become friends with my family. My closest friends, they are family and I am delighted when I get close enough to someone that they feel like family.

But back to high school. In high school, I was the kid your parents told you to avoid. That went for my friends too. Not that we were bad kids--our reputation was far from deserved but I understand the concern, why parents and other kids are wary of someone with a bad reputation. Some kids from church wouldn't talk to us at school, some wouldn't date any of us. And so we just became closer and tighter, so much so that I do feel closer to those people, most of them, I haven't spoken to them in a year or two but I feel closer to them than my parents and siblings. It was a smashing blow when one of my friends gave in to his parent's wishes and stopped associating with us; a couple of my friends were devastated.

Back then most of my friends were Mormon though we had a general disinterest and in a few cases disdain for the church. But we were spiritual in other ways, flirted with Buddhism and read Ayn Rand and all that typical teenage philosophy; passed notes around with our favorite passages—now that I look back, it was like an underground seminary.

Gradually most of them, including those closest to me, started to Mormon up and it really bothered me. I felt like we were splitting. It would be some time before I would change my tune on Mormonism and ironically, it was my non-Mormon girlfriend that softened my mind and enabled me to honestly look at the Mormon church and how I really felt about the spirituality it teaches.

Most of them are still strong, spiritually. One of them especially, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely dismiss Mormonism as long as his faith holds strong. I so respect his mind and I so respect his heart; I trust him that much.

Of course I have gotten into trouble because of friends, picked up some bad habits because of friends. It’s inevitable. A have a friend in particular, when we get together spirituality is out the window, and I’ve had other friends like that from time to time. On our own, neither of us would get into much trouble, but together, it’s a goofy fun mix. Though we have no focus on spirituality when we are together, those friends are inspiring and invigorating and because of them I feel more dedicated, more spiritual than ever.

Friday, May 27, 2005 

Hello Everybody

I have been lucky in my life to have some really great friends, both male and female. I can say that my spirituality is what it is today because of the people I have had around me. I have been blessed with having some incredible people around me, who I have looked up to, and strived to be more like.
I have had some phasing when it comes to friends, and girlfriends in my life. Till the time I was around 5 or 6 I had just a few neighbor friends, more of the kids whose moms hung out with my mom. When I was around 7 or so I had some people move into my ward that were my first friends. Through elementary and Jr High School these people were my best friends, they mostly included kids from my ward, and scouts, and kids who skied, or were on my swim team. In high school I made a great group of friends, many who I still am friends with today. Most all of them were LDS. I also had my swim team friends, many of whom were not LDS. Of course there was the phase where I had my missionary friends, and that faded into the college group of guys. These days its pretty selective who I am friends with, its hard to have the large group of friends, because time is so scarce.
I have had hundreds of really close friends, and maybe 10-15 “best friends” some of them are still in my life today. I can go back and pin point what it was that these people did to affect my life enough for me to call them best friends. I started to make a list of these people, then decided to back down, it would take to much space to list everyone, and everything. But I can say that each one of these people have helped me grow spiritually. The friends who are Mormon, and the friends that were not Mormon. As I think about this topic, I have been feeling a little down on myself because I have started to become aware of how much the relationships in my life have shaped me, and made me who I am. I have realized how little I have actually put into my own life. I would be a fairly shallow person with very little to contribute if I had not had the immense contributions by my family and by those who I have had relationships with.
I have tried to make a list of what aspects of my spirituality have been affected by my friends. The list got pretty big, so I am including the 5 that I feel are most important to me.

1- My testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2- My love of the Book of Mormon.
3- The understanding of the importance of service, and of serving each other.
4- The principle of honesty and hard work
5- Who I am, and what I am capable of doing.

That last one is the thing I have struggled with most, and thanks to some wonderful relationships and some great friends, I believe in myself a lot more then I could have ever on my own.

I truly have been blessed, and am very appreciative of the the relationships I have had. I thank you all for just being you, and helping me to be me. Love you all, and wish you a great memorial day weekend.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 

What Sarah Didn’t Tell You

I was very touched by Sarah’s words earlier in the week. I didn’t comment that day because I knew once I got started I wouldn’t be able to stop…and then what would I write about when it was my turn?

Last night I had dinner with the greatest friends I’ve always had. Well, at least for the last 20 years I’ve had these friends…and I feel that is close enough to always. Towards the end of our dinner our topic of conversation ironically went to the very reason we survived high school: each other. For any non-Utah, Mormon teen…growing up with other Mormons, especially Mormons in your own ward, is not always the norm. But for me, it was. I was so very blessed to have the most wonderful friends growing up (even at those times that we were evil and made each other miserable) and we did almost everything together. From grade school on to high school and up to today, we’ve been together and our lives were always centered around the church. We went to early morning seminary together. Most of us went to school together. We went to church activities together. We hung out together. You get the picture. Since we were always together, our choices were relatively easy, because it seemed like we always made those choices together. There were moments of bad decisions for all of us, but we were always there for one another to pick the other person back up when they fell. We had a unique and special friendship that allowed us to be very spiritual youngsters, teenagers and now adults. Spiritual in our own ways, that is. Our differences in looks, sizes, colors, etc could not (and still can’t) compare to the differences in our spirituality. But that diversity makes the five of us so darn cool.

What Sarah didn’t tell you is that she played an equally integral role in each of our spiritualities just like we did in hers. She still maintains that important role in my spirituality. I am not active in the church and that really is no big secret. My spirituality has been a bit of a roller coaster for the past nine years, or so. But there is one very big constant in all of those years: My Heavenly Father. I know that Heavenly Father loves me and loves me in incredible amounts even though I’m not active in the church. I know that my choices in life haven’t followed the church’s guidelines, but my spirituality is up to me, not the church I am part of. I think the most important relationship that affects your spirituality is your PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with our Heavenly Father, or whatever spiritual focus that any of you may have.

I have been blessed that my spirituality has a lot to do with the wonderful friends I’ve had over the years. Those wonderful friends and my family were my foundation from the beginning. To compliment that foundation, my spirituality is wonderfully affected by my husband and my two little girls. My husband always encourages me to be better and for those little girls I WANT to be better. It is truly amazing how that alone can affect the spirituality you feel.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend…

Wednesday, May 25, 2005 

For a Guy?

How have my relationships contributed to my spirituality and choices? Let's put it this way... if I'd never met my fiance, I'd probably still be active in the church.

His influence on me in that area of my life has concerned me from time to time. There have been occaisions when I was upset with him, and I thought "I left my whole religion for you." But that's not the truth. Even though I lost my faith as a result of introspection prompted by conversations with him, I didn't leave my religion for him.

I think that the difference between doing something for someone else and doing something because of thier influence on you is distinct, but not always to outside observers. I'm sure that when I was in the process of leaving the church people wondered why I'd do that "for a guy." That's what it looks like from the outside.

On the inside, it felt a lot different. I was spending all of this time thinking about how I lived my life and the choices I made. I was examining my own personal history with faith. I was looking at the future I imagined I'd have as an active member. After all of this thought and consideration, I made my choice.

Now, I would say that my relationships still affect my choices. I think I tend to be quite selfish and self-centered at times and my relationships with others reminds me of the way I want to be. Because of the example of selflessness and generosity demonstrated by my friends and family, I try to live my life with greater charity.

Mostly, I am continuing to learn to be a better person as a partner to my fiance. More than anyone else, his geniune thoughtfulness and generosity inspire me to always make choices that make people feel happy, comfortable and loved in the same way he strives to.

*Sorry for not posting earlier... my computer got sick with a nasty virus.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005 

You've Got A Friend In Me

When I was growing up there was one person I emulated spiritually. That person was JP. I've said it before, and it remains true, but JP is the reason I believe in God. When I was younger (and not so much younger actually) I struggled with my faith in many things, especially my faith in God and in myself. I lived a life where few people followed through, and few things that were promised came to fruition so I had a rather difficult time believing in a God I couldn't see or touch. JP helped me not only find value in the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also value in myself. She was the first person I believed when she told me I was good. She was the first person I believed when she bore her testimony to me.

Over the years JP and I have maintained our friendship, it is a friendship I can't imagine my life without. When I get married in three months she will be my matron of honor, not just because she is the coolest person I know, but because she helped me recognize my husband. Dustin is an amazing man, and I recognized in him things I had become familier with because of JP. I saw kindness, quiet strength, tenderness and faith. I grew up in a life that didn't have many of these things. I wouldn't have known how wonderful I could have it if JP hadn't shown me.

I honestly believe that people are placed in our lives so we learn something. I am horrible when it comes to choosing partners for relationships. I have had bad boyfriend after bad boyfriend, men who have thwarted my spiritual growth at every oppertunity. But I wouldn't change a single one of those experiances because they made Dustin stand out like a lighthouse. My future husband glows with love, with the Spirit, and with sheer joy. If it hadn't had been for the people who have flowed in and out of my life over the last 27 years I would never have recognized him. I would never have been able to see him. I'm so glad for the people, for the relationships, that have shaped me and moulded me for this time in my life.

Monday, May 23, 2005 

Lookin’ for Love in All the Right Places…

Let me think this one through from the beginning…

I didn’t have a choice about hanging out with my mom and dad for the first few years, neither did I have a choice about my siblings. But I have GREAT parents and GREAT siblings. Good examples one and all.

My quintessential good influence and best friend was Elizabeth Utterback. She influenced my young life more than anyone else outside of my immediate family. Elizabeth was extraordinary. She was zany, cultured, smart, imaginative, funny, and talented. We spent entire summers together (I rarely slept in my own house), and spent the school year writing notes back and forth decorated with flowers and toe shoes.

This is Elizabeth and me on the Jersey shore.
Me and Elizabeth

Elizabeth was one of two children. Her parents were both from a small Missouri town and were educated and loving. Officially, they were Lutheran, but I rarely recall their going to church. Her parents were good, law abiding, boundary creating, quality-family-time appreciating people. I didn’t see them as being all that different from my own family.

Contrast Elizabeth with Missy Magee. We were friends with Missy, too, at first. But as we grew into puberty, it became apparent that Missy did not have the same support at home, and her behavior became more attention seeking. Missy chose more rebellious and “grown up” behavior, while Elizabeth and I seemed to cling desperately to being kids. By the time we were in junior high, Missy was hanging out with a fairly “mature” crowd. Our separation as friends was natural, but not without a little malice. Elizabeth and I did not choose to partake in certain activities, and I think Missy always felt a little judged by us. I was grateful to have a friend who understood and supported my standards without judgement, and I think she felt the same about me.

My current “best” friends are people like Elizabeth. While I have friends from all walks of life; people who in are all stages of belief, maturity, addiction, age, race, and even humor, I mean to say the people I spend the MOST time with are people who have a similar belief system (not religion necessarily) as I do.

It is difficult to spend a LOT of time with people in a social/friendship situation who have drastically different beliefs, or who participate in activities that are contrary to yours. Welcome to my entire high school experience… It can be draining. I have always tried to choose friends who were on the same basic path as I was; people who were striving for knowledge, answers to questions, seeking the “better path” or personal improvement.

But this, too, has been a process of trial and error. There have been times when I had to seek other friends because the situation was unhealthy for me emotionally or spiritually or both. “Letting go” of, or decreasing time spent with, friends you LOVE because you know it would be good or healthy for you is excruciating. It’s like being thrown out of your native land while your heart is being ripped out. But spending time with a friend I love who is not good for me is not worth jeopardizing my true desire to have a relationship with my Heavenly Father, and to be worthy to return to His presence.

So that is why my answer to this week’s question is “yes.” My relationships HAVE affected my spirituality and choices. I feel so lucky (read: blessed) to have associated with such great people in my life. I feel like these wonderful people have been put, nay THRUST, into my path so that I may learn something from them or simply enjoy them.

This sentiment goes double, triple, quadruple for my current best friend, Todd. This is not to say that our relationship is perfect. The most insidious thing about our marriage is that we have identical weaknesses. Do you realize how HARD that can be? Sometimes I feel like we are two crabs in a bucket, but on the whole, we are good for each other…in all the important ways. Plus, he’s the kind of friend who writes notes, although his instant messenger doesn’t yet have an icon for a toe shoe.

Sunday, May 22, 2005 

The Ay Yai Yais Have It

The results are in... replacing Book Club Week will be "OxyMormon" week. I didn't make it up... click here to see the results yourself.

Since only 9 people voted for the Q&A option, I fear we'd have trouble getting enough questions to have answered. Instead... we have the option with the funny name.

Look for the first installment in 3 weeks time. Thanks for voting!

Saturday, May 21, 2005 

in between

As a little kid I hated hated hated church. For a long time I used to sit in primary wishing that some giant mythic bird would swoop down and rip through the roof right above my head. Everyone would run screaming and I could look straight up through the hole, crossbeams and shingles dangling and falling, look right up into the blue blue sky and church would be over for the day! Off the hook! Sometimes sitting in Elder’s Quorum, I still picture the giant talons crashing down through the ceiling.

As a teenager I played the game but had absolutely no interest in the church. Of course, I had to go to church but if I could slip off to the donut barn with one of my partners in crime, I did. I looked forward to my eighteenth birthday when I could walk out of the house and out of the church forever and that's what I did. But that didn't last long. I had an epiphany of sorts, a dash of the prodigal son, repentance conversion mission, temple marriage, callings kids and more callings, temple trips reading pondering praying. I believed everything, hook, line and sinker. Not long ago, in a short period of time, I went from believing a lot to believing just a little, if anything at all.

I come from the Southwest. I was raised in the church, father was a bishop, family home evening every week family prayer every day Book of Mormon every day. Shortly after my epiphany I started reading scripture everyday on my own, usually the Book of Mormon. That was more than twelve years ago and I still do it. Maybe this is a trial of faith and someday my faith will return. Life would be easier then, for sure. Do I have a house built on a rock or a house of cards? I wish I knew. I don’t know that I believe in God anymore. I do believe in the act of reading scripture, in the act of prayer and in the act of living the gospel. Could I do those things and not be Mormon? I don’t know that I want to know. Doing those things has “blessed” me, has brought focus and strength so I guess that’s what I believe.

That’s my story. I thank the VSoM veterans for letting me join the crew. I really appreciate the respect they show for each other and the respect shown by those who comment here. It seems to me that the attitude isn’t concerned so much with proving and convincing but with understanding and learning and that appeals to me. Though I can’t replace Rebecca, I hope I can contribute in a positive way.

Friday, May 20, 2005 

Same old me

So my introductory post stands. I still love the church, and I still love my family. We are as tight as ever, and I imagine we always will be. The thing about my family is that we are a very functional-dysfunctional family. Where one is missing, another makes up. I am really glad to say that all our ducks are in a row.

I really do not have much to add. Any of you that know me know that I love my family, I love our togetherness, and I love each individual member of my family for all the little things they do for me. Its fantastic going out to my mail box and getting a hand draw note from one of my nieces thanking me for something. Its awesome going to a family dinner and being the only one who did not bring anything and no one says anything about it. The funny thing about our family is that we are not a super affectionate family, and sometimes we fight and bicker, but the love never dies. A lot of people ask why I do not move away or travel more, and I have to answer everything I need in life in right here. A good family, my church, the mountains I love so dear, and of course the skiing.

So like I said there really is not much to add, life is pretty good for me, and I am fairly content. Even when life is kicking me in the teeth, and dragging me by the neck, my family and my church are always there for me.

Sorry this is such a short post. My work load has sort of tripled over the last 8 days so I have been crazy busy, in fact I have not got to see my nieces since last week. But I still love you all, and hope you have a great weekend, and be happy.

Thursday, May 19, 2005 

Me - Unplugged

I’ve reread my Introductory Post several times not knowing what I would write about. Even if I wanted to, I can’t change what happened. I did have sex before marriage, got pregnant, had a beautiful daughter, and then got married. Not your “normal Mormon order.” I can’t change the way I was treated or how much I hurt friends and family. I learned who my true friends were. I learned how many “fake” Mormons were out there and how many more that just did NOT know what to say…so they said nothing. I felt like an outcast. And yes, I stopped going to church. But all of those things are pieces of my life that can’t be changed. And I don’t think that any of it should be changed.

For the past five months I have loved writing here at Various Stages. I love this forum. I love learning about these amazing people. I love sharing our opinions and our differences. I love that I’m not judged for my opinion or for not going to church. I am honored to write with people who are so wonderful.

My brother is preparing to go on a mission. I can’t even describe how proud I am of him. Even though I’m not active in the church and I don’t think that I’ve been the best example, I’m excited for the choice that he’s made. Several weeks ago, he took me to lunch and it came up that he read my Introductory Post here at Various Stages. Being that he was only 10 or 11 when I got pregnant, he really didn’t see all the drama that went on. But that day at lunch, he told me how sad it made him how other people had treated me. I agree with him…it is sad. But I can only change how I feel about what happened in the past. I’ve learned so much about myself from writing here at VSofM about that time and I love the perspective it has brought me. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 

My True Identity

Sorry, folks... this isn't where I spill the beans on my name, rank and serial number. Being part of Various Stages of Mormondom over the past five months has allowed me to connect with part of myself, though, that I had been in denial of.

After I left the church, I stopped having contact with any church members outside of my family. I stopped because the people I was friends with were all really sad about my choice and felt obligated to try to bring be back into the fold. Unfortunately, when they did this, I got this used-car-lot-salesman vibe (when they went into "missionary mode") that made me uncomfortable.

Over the next several years, I had occaisional interactions with other former mormons (whom the faithful members call "less active members"), but they were just acquaintances. I realized that I missed an aspect of the culture.

I've described it like this before, and will again, but I felt like an immigrant to a new world. I still knew so much about the culture I came from... I speak the language, I know the customs, when the first Sundays of April and October roll around I know what it means. Just because I know all of these things, though, it doesn't mean that I want to go back.

What I've loved about Various Stages, and through it, the entire Bloggernacle, is reconnecting with my old culture. I'm able to be friends with Mormons who don't try to get me back to Sacrament meeting. I like discussing things from my oh-so-liberal viewpoint, because I'm practically a rebel in this media market.

It's also nice examining the beliefs I used to hold from my current perspective. I'm able to understand and come to terms with myself more.

Basically... Various Stages of Mormondom has been good for me. And let's face it... with Rebecca out of the picture... you all need someone impartially agnostic around here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 

It Feels Like Home To Me

I have re-read my introductory post several times over the last couple days. I wouldn't change a word. What I wrote then is still true, because my testimony of the gospel hasn't changed one bit. I have changed profoundly since I wrote that post though. I have evolved on several levels, and sit at this computer a happier woman than I was five months ago for several reasons.

At the beginning of this year I had done a fine job of forgetting who I am, who I always have been, who I am meant to be. I had thrown up my hands and given up hope for any kind of future worth having. I was depressed, so much so that getting out of bed was almost impossible. I was unhappy. I was lonely. In short, I was not much fun to be around. So, I slowly began making changes in my life. I started therapy and went back on meds. I began praying again (a habit I had abandoned in my angst), picked up my scriptures and read a little here and there. I started staying for all my church meetings and actually doing my calling. I stopped staying in bed and got back out into the real world. I shut off the computer and the dvd player and opened my door and my heart.

Things didn't magically get better over night. I still struggled, I still hurt, I still wanted to make mistakes. But I put my faith back where it belonged, hoped for the best and just kept going. In all of that going, I happened across not only more amazing people who I now call my dear friends, but I met my husband. The past year of my life has been a test of sorts. Looking back, reading my journals and posts, I see it clearly. I did not pass my test with flying colors as I always hoped I would. I did what I could, probably not the best I could, but it is what I did. Through all of it though, the lesson I learned over a decade ago remains the same...

Behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from Hell; I have beheld his glory and I am encircled eternally in the arms of his love.
2 Nephi 1:15

Monday, May 16, 2005 

Me: Revisited

Ahhh…my favorite subject.

I re-read my introductory blog, and was surprised that I broke one of my own testimony rules by saying “if it weren’t for the Gospel, I would be a [loose woman who smoked a raw and highly addictive narcotic derived from the coco plant].” (I am not trying to be prudish; I’m just trying to keep this site from being blocked as [indecent and illicit material].

Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything I said. I have really enjoyed writing for this blog, I have really enjoyed the other writers and their perspectives on the various topics. I love that we are all SO very diverse and that we can freely share beliefs with neither prejudice nor malice. Our commentators have remained mostly respectful, intelligent, and provocative.

It is not at all uncommon for someone’s post or someone’s comment to stick with me for a few days. I am a ponder-er, you see. Words and ideas stick with me and roll around in the old noggin bumping into old “What Not to Wear” episodes and song lyrics and the Anthropologie catalog.

Here are some of my fave topics discussed so far:

Calling yourself a Mormon and the baggage that comes with
Marriage and Mormonism
Why are we self-conscious
And many more, but I am using a foreign computer in a foreign land and don’t have my archives at my disposal…

But I think about VSoM a lot. It comes up A LOT in our Gospel Principles class at church. I re-tell your stories from your perspectives; understanding where everyone is coming from has strengthened my own testimony and resolve. While I have been forced to really think and examine my beliefs they have not changed, not my religious beliefs. But thinking and examining is what got me into this position in the first place.

Sunday, May 15, 2005 

Various Stages of Mormondom...Revisited

We'd like to announce a few changes here at Various Stages of Mormondom. As you may have read, our dear sweet Rebecca has decided to leave our little group. She promises to be a very diligent reader and commenter, though, so we forgive her.

And, we'd like to introduce our newest member, JLS. JLS will introduce himself properly this Saturday. We've decided that Carrie Ann will now have the Monday posting slot and JLS will be relagated to the Saturday post. (Sorry... new guys have to pay their dues?)

Since it's been a few months and Various Stages really has been an experience for us, we going to spend this week revisiting our original introductory posts, since some things have changed for some of us.

This week is usually our "Book Club" which, apparently, very few people could participate in, so we've decided to change this week's general topic. Our current weeks 1-3 include: Mormon Culture, Morality, and Personal. We need a broad catagory for our fourth week that is different.

Although we managed to come up with those very broad categories... we're having trouble getting a 4th one. We are inviting your contributions. Here are the three that Rebecca and I came up with (everyone else failed in their suggesting duties). You may vote on them... or add a suggestion of your own.

Saturday, May 14, 2005 

Bingo!

I did not know about Testimony Bingo until I was in college. Some people find the concept of turning testimony meeting into a game a little sacrilegious. I think it can’t hurt to keep things light every once in a while. I mean, I’m not going teach my kids to play it, I think it’s for more “mature” adults, if this can be considered mature at all.

Here’s how it goes:

Make a chart (like a Bingo chart) of common phrases and occurrences five across and five down. Tailor it to your own situation or ward. When someone says or does something on your chart, you mark it off. When you complete a row, THINK Bingo really loud, and let your friends know with a thumbs up. If you shout BINGO, that’s going a little too far, and you might be escorted out by the Ushers.

Here are some suggestions (Note: you can tone down the sacrilege by avoiding using actual testimony or religious reference in the game. Stick more with the kitsch…):

“…with every fiber of my being…”
“…without a shadow of a doubt…”
“…I promised myself I wouldn’t cry…”
“…it says in my patriarchal blessing…”
“…I have had a revelation…”

You see the beauty of this game is that it actually helps you separate real testimony from the frivolous phrases. If you hear “I know the Church is true, without a shadow of a doubt…” you can listen to “I know the Church is true”, and then you can tune out the rest as you search your card.

But seriously folks…

What is a testimony? Let me back up to my old standard: the Holy Ghost. But then let me back up further by asking:



Do you believe there is a God?



Well? What did you feel at the split second when you read those words before your brain kicked in to really analyze it? Did you feel that there was a possibility that there could be? Did you feel that there definitely is? When you ask yourself those questions, the job of the Holy Ghost is to TELL you the answer (often by a thought in your mind that feels like it came not from yourself). Most of the time He confirms what you already know or suspect. But that feeling you get when you think of those questions, no, the combination of thought/instinct/feeling is the influence from a higher source.

I know nothing about God that the Holy Ghost hasn’t told me or confirmed to me. I have never seen God. I have never met Joseph Smith. But through the influence of, and through experiences of listening to the Holy Ghost, I can honestly say that I believe. I really feel that God lives and that he knows me individually. I really believe that Jesus Christ lives; that he actually suffered pain and death on MY behalf so that I could repent of my wrongdoings and be resurrected, as he was. I have had the experience (many times, too many times!) of sinning and repenting, and I know that the Atonement is real. It is a miracle. Even as I type these things, I feel that old familiar feeling, that peace of mind, that these things are so. I feel so content.

And that is only the tip of the iceberg.

There’s a lot more we could talk about. But I think that’s enough for now. I’ll be seeing y’all on Monday from now on. Have a great weekend.

Friday, May 13, 2005 

Its a crying shame

It’s hard to talk about testimony meeting without talking about a testimony.
For me a testimony is the most important thing I posses. I developed a strong testimony as a very young child. I had several experiences on my mission that helped me understand that testimony of the truth. These experiences not only helped me understand what my testimony was about, but what I was supposed to do with it. During my "low point" in my life, when some, if not all my choices were not the best that I could have made, it was my testimony that brought me through and brought me out. It was my understanding of what I know to be true that helped me become who I am today, instead of becoming what I was trying to be during that time. To this day I rely on my testimony as a large source of my strength when things are not going well for me.

It is under these thoughts that I have to agree with some of the things that have been said this week about testimony meetings. I have sat in testimony meetings that I have been so utterly disgusted with the travel logs that have been shared, that I have had to stand and share my simple testimony, that I know that God lives, and I know that Jesus is our savior. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s really sad that we are given this chance to tell those people around us that we have a testimony of the many wonderful aspects of the gospel, but all too often it ends up being stories about the car trip to Aunt Kelly’s house.

I do think that people need to actually think a little bit about what they are going to say. I don’t mean that people need to plan out a talk to share, but I do think they need to realize what they are going to say.

I got to a point where I did not like going to fast and testimony meeting. I did not feel the spirit was there, and I felt that most people were making fools of themselves. Then I made my first visit to Chicago to see my buddy Ed. Ed lives near the University of Chicago. The ward he is in picks up some very wealthy areas, like the homes of Louise Farrakhan, and Muhammad Ali. It also stretches into South Chicago. If you are not familiar with it, look it up online. It is the exact opposite of the beautiful neighborhoods and campus of University of Chicago. I have made a couple of trips out to see Ed, and some how they always fall on a fast Sunday. The ward is the most eclectic group of people you have ever seen. The testimonies were chaotic, there were people in the back yelling Amen through the whole thing, there were people getting up to merely say "Thank you Brother so and so for coming over to my house yesterday, amen". There is a brother who has shared his testimony each time I have been there, and he tends to get a little emotional, and tends to raise his voice up, and wave the Book of Mormon around. Honestly Chaotic is the only word to describe it. However....The spirit is always there. The Lord in some small way shines his grace down on that small ward in Chicago. I have learned a lot from being in those meetings.

I guess what I am saying in my rambling way is that sometimes we need to ignore what is said and pay more attention to what is felt. I have made an effort lately, and it has made a difference. I am not saying that I do not cringe from time to time. Like when a lady said a few months ago that sometimes the priesthood may not work, so that’s why we have things like mystics. I do cringe, and I do still think about my idea of putting railroad crossing arms up at the podium to keep people from going up as the time is running out. But I definitely look more for the spirit. And I definitely feel it more.

It was said earlier in the week that it’s not a good idea to bring a non-member to a fast and testimony meeting. I thought back to my time in Brazil, and all the crazy things I heard from the pulpit. Non-members still came back, people joined the church, and church members still pushed forward on the path of righteousness. I now understand that the spirit was there, I was just focusing on all the insanity coming from peoples mouths, and completely missed the spirit.

Well that’s my two bits on the subject, sorry to be too serious on this one, I could have broke out some doozies on this subject, just ask Becca about the messed up ward we grew up in. But I decided to share these thoughts instead.
Hope everyone has a great weekend, and think of me as I am killing myself in my triathlon Saturday. Love ya.

Thursday, May 12, 2005 

Testimony on Repeat

“I’d like to bear my testimony. I know the church is true. I love my mom and dad. I’m thankful for the prophet…"

Sound familiar? Well, of course it does if you’ve spent any amount of time in Primary on Fast Sunday…or really at any Fast and Testimony meeting. It’s the old stand-by. It is somewhat expected. But do members of the church rely on repetition and “the standard” testimony? Do they take the standard testimony, dress it up and make it their own? I’d say a good many members do. There was a youth leader in our stake that would often bear their testimony and say, “if you can’t seem to find your testimony, that’s okay…you can borrow mine.” While that is lovely of that person to want to share, doesn’t that defeat the purpose?


In the May 1975 Ensign, O. Leslie Stone wrote, “To a Latter-day Saint, a testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel is the most precious possession he can have. It cannot be purchased. No one can give it to him. It can only be secured by prayer, by study, by faith, by repentance, by righteous living, and by listening to others bearing their testimonies, and through the manifestation of the Holy Ghost.

If we have a testimony of the gospel, we know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and our Redeemer. We know that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. We know that the Book of Mormon is true, that it is indeed a second witness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. A testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel is the motivating force that helps us live the commandments and carry out our responsibilities.”


My experience with testimony meetings (and I’ll admit I haven’t been to very many in the past few years) is that there are too few people that actually bear a testimony that fall into the description by Elder Stone, above. There are some Sundays that feel more like Group Therapy than a testimony meeting. You almost want to answer back with “and how does that make you feel?” or something of the like. You start to feel like you should be getting paid for listening to those folks. (Especially because they did take the entire hour.) But then maybe there are just things for folks in the congregation to learn…like patience, understanding, acceptance, etc. Maybe there needs to be more of that, too.

But I must note, for the record, that I am totally against the singing testimonies...that’s just wrong. ;)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 

Say It Again, Sam

A couple of weeks ago I related a story on my personal blog that occurred in my parents' ward.

A man, who bore a grudge against my father because he took a hard line when it came to the Boy Scouts of America, bore an interesting testimony. He said that he'd received revelation that there was an evil man among us and named my dad (his first and last name) right there, over the pulpit.

My mom walked out, angry and unsure what to do (she now wishes she'd just laughed at it), but my dad thought it was humorous. The bishop stepped up, ended the testimony, and later forbade that man from bearing his testimony in our ward any more.

Then the meeting turned into sharing your testimony of why my father was NOT actually an evil man.

Even though there are occasionally these types of testimony-meetings-gone-awry, they are the exception and not the rule. What does qualify as "the rule" are a lot of people with good intentions who speak for 10 minutes and testify for 15 seconds of that OR people who use phrases that are so trite that they’ve lost all meaning or effect.

I know that much of testifying is for the testifier, and not those in the audience. What I don't understand is how can people can use the same phrase used again and again and again which can no longer retain it’s intended meaning? Some common phrases are just plain offensive and others come off as insincere. Here are a few that I take issue with:
  • "If it wasn't for the church, I'd be a..." I know you can end this with a number of things (whore, alcoholic, flaming homosexual) because I've heard it in 95% of all youth testimony meetings I've ever attended. It does also crop up on the first Sunday of the month, though.
  • "If I've ever offended anyone here, I didn't mean to and I ask for your forgiveness." I should probably mention that the man above, who called my dad evil, used to utter this phrase each and every fast Sunday. I always disliked this because it is insincere and will not actually result in anyone forgiving anyone else.
  • "I want to tell [insert name] that I love them..." A testimony meeting is a time to speak of what you believe, not time to tell people that you love them. You can do that any old day. The same goes for turning your "testimony" into an "thank-a-mony" or any other permutation.
  • Any singing at all during a testimony. There is a time and a place for singing... and this isn't it. I honestly believe that anyone who sings while delivering a testimony is just after glory for themselves.
I'm sure I'm missing some more here... feel free to chime in.

The thing is, there is a part of me that always hated Testimony Meeting. Maybe it's the part of me that makes all of the meetings I run as short as possible. Maybe it's the part of me that doesn't allow my students to lead me off task while I'm trying to teach them about non-linear functions. Maybe it's the part of me that just hates to have my time eaten away by something that doesn't apply to me.

Whatever it is, I think that testimony meetings should be reformed. I don't think they do what they are meant to, for the most part, and that the church as a whole could benefit from an overhaul of 23% of the Sundays in each year.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005 

If It Makes You Happy, Why The Hell Are You So Sad?

I LOVE Starve and Tell Your Story Day. Testimony meeting is usually one of two things, highly uplifting and spiritual or a comedy of errors. More often than not, I've seen it be the latter. But I love going to church on that fated Sabbath of each month. Sometimes I walk out wanting to be a better person, sometimes I walk out with a hilarious story to tell. It's a toss up sometimes as to which is better.

One of my favorite games to play is called, "From The Pulpit" I can't tell you the countless times I have sat around with my fellow Mormons and shared the tales of the shocking things we have heard people say over the pulpit in sacrament meeting. It is in the spirit of this game that I will share with you some of my top favorites and ask that you feel free to do the same in the comments.

Once while attending a family ward I watched a woman make her daughters boyfriend (who just happened to NOT be a member of the church) stand up and then told the congregation that he had been fornicating with her daughter, but she was confident he would join the church one day. Yeah... after that kind of public humilitation, I can't think that him joining the church would be the easiest of choices.

In the ward I grew up in, there was a sister who bore her testimony EVERY fast Sunday without fail. Usually it was fine, and sometimes even inspireing, but my senior year of high school she quoted Sheryl Crow's song "If It Makes You Happy" WORD FOR WORD... FROM THE PULPIT!

But hands down my favorite story was told to me by my old buddy Lyle. When he was serving his mission in Florida a woman stood at the pulpit and bore her testimony of how grateful she was that all of her children had been concieved through the hole in her one peice garment.

There you have it ladies and gentlemen, the reason bringing non-members to the first sunday of the month takes more moxie than any other. Feel free to share some of your favorite From The Pulpit stories... I'm sure there are MANY that are better (worse?) than mine.

Monday, May 09, 2005 

Not an easy post to write:

Really what do I say? I've been trying to figure it out all weekend, but really there isn't much to say. I guess I should begin by explaining that I am leaving Various Stages of Mormonism.

In the last four and half months I’ve learned a lot about myself and a lot about others through VSoM. I am leaving because I no longer feel that I am learning. I’ve stopped putting myself out there, I’ve stop thinking about the issues as much, I’ve stopped enjoying posting and began looked at it as a chore. This is not fair to the other writers. I am grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to post and the wonderful people I’ve met in this group and from our reader response.
Thank you VSoM for being so wonderful and providing an open forum to discuss such interesting and often difficult issues. I’ll be back every day to read and comment.

Sunday, May 08, 2005 

shyness can stop you

Thanks to Rebecca for inviting me to guest-post at VSoM. I’m relatively new to the blogging game. I quite like VSoM and I am afraid to post here, which is part of why I agreed to do it, but more on that later.

Sins of omission? Forget about it. I can’t do everything, so don’t even think about it. And a sin for everything I didn’t do? How do you repent for that? How do you feel Godly Sorrow for that? And just what is Godly Sorrow anyway?

I don’t use the word “sin” much. The great concern with “sin” easily jumps the tracks into a circle of guilt, mediocrity, stagnation. Most of the guilt or shame I used to feel was bogus, home-made. That kind of guilt gets you nowhere; Godly Sorrow, most of the time it can’t be anything more than forget about it, move on.

I used to be incredibly shy and still fall into the habit. I used to think shy people, introverts, they were cool. They get their own legitimizing name, "introverts." Being introverted, my greatest sin of omission is not doing stuff I want to do because I’m afraid to do it, afraid of the social interaction necessary to do it. Staying tucked away, not going to the party, or going and not talking to anyone; not meeting the new people or inviting them over to my house to see if we could be friends. Now I see that, at least in my case, shy people usually are scared people, socially dysfunctional people. I believe people derive much of their joy and happiness from interaction with others, and I greatly regret the chances I had to meet someone or build a better relationship with somebody and I didn’t do it because I was too shy.

Pick your battles; do what you can with your talents; figure out what you should do and from that what you can do and do it. My battle is shyness. I started doing things (within reason) just because I’m afraid to do them. I make a game of going to parties and talking to everyone there, everyone. It still scares me. The battle has led me to volunteer in political organizations, service projects; I’ve ended up organizing social functions, throwing parties, bringing people together. It’s scary but it’s been a lot of fun and I’ve met all kinds of people, people with whom I never would have conversed, otherwise.

So if there is something you really think you should do, dive in and do it. There is no other option. You have to do it. Sometimes it is reading a book to your kid or baking cookies for the neighbors or throwing a party; whatever it is, you do it and get to everything else afterward. All of that stuff church and society says you should do, let it wait. And if you can’t get to that stuff later, forget about it.



Posted by Guest Blogger: JLS from my west

Saturday, May 07, 2005 

Oh, I Nelgected to Tell You...

I’d like to justify myself by saying that all the things that were mentioned earlier this week…about not helping people when we should have, or not doing all that we know we should…are not really sins of omission.

A sin of omission…..wait…I just Googled “sin of omission” and it pretty much came up with everything you guys talked about earlier this week.

Crap. I got nothing.

Friday, May 06, 2005 

Me Me Me

I had a nice discussion yesterday with a friend about how crappy our world, and more specifically our country is becoming. People are becoming more and more self involved. We only care for one thing, taking care of ourselves. Everything about our culture is centered around gratifying our own temporal needs. There are of course those small glimmers of hope that are trying to reach out and help people, like the United Way, and other service organizations. But as a whole our society is a very self indulgent people. You may say that sins of omission are more of a trend these days, rather then an oversight on our part.

That is the beauty of the gospel. Everything Jesus taught was to give up yourself for everyone else. One story I have been thinking a lot about lately is the story of the rich man who asked how he could inhert eternal life. It was a simple answer, give up all that he had and follow Christ. I was thinking the other night if I could do that. If I could give up everything and take up the cause. I would like to think I could, and that I would. But in reality I would have to say that I would fall short. I can say that because of the sins of omission. If I can not give of myself in the little things, how do I expect to give up the big things.

It’s a horrible pattern we are in. We have become so focused on everything but what is really important. I do not think it is irreversible. I think that there is a lot of good out there. I do not think that the good in this world is the minority. I just think it is being overshadowed. It’s the small things that make a difference. It’s the everyday caring and love between neighbors, communities, and our society in general that can over come sins of omission. All we need to do is start with ourselves. Start giving and caring a little more, and pretty soon the world will start looking a little better.

And having said that I wish you all a great weekend.

Thursday, May 05, 2005 

Ooops...My Bad

In my opinion, we live in a world where it is always “somebody else’s fault” and there is MUCH justification (or rationalization) for our daily actions. While this may not sound like two things you would find on any list of sins of omission…I think that’s kind the point. I think that we all live in our own little worlds of NOT accepting responsibility for own actions or NOT dealing with the consequences. By default, these really are sins of omission.

My life is crazy-busy and I find myself a culprit of these sins often. If you’ve watched any Reality Television at all or talk shows or even the news, you’ve seen all these bad habits or Sins of Omission in action. Or better yet, if you’ve taken a look in the mirror (a good hard look) you’ll see them in yourself too. I know I do. Whether I like it or not, they’re there. I could say that I’ve seen people that are much worse than I am, but then I’m heading into “judgmental justification” and that’s just not good territory…even if they were on Jerry Springer blaming their Mama that their in jail pregnant with their second cousins baby. Okay, so I don’t watch Jerry Springer, but that totally sounds like something that would be one there. Or what about the people who are suing McDonalds or the tobacco companies? Or what about the burglar who was robbing someone’s home and fell and then sued the owners of the home he was burglarizing? Those people were not FORCED to do any of those things that are now causing them pain in injury. It was completely their choice of actions. However, society today is all about blaming someone else instead of putting the responsibility back where it belongs.

I think I’m going to “go after” NBC. They have those shows that I was glued to weekly. I am seeking damages for the time I spent watching those shows and not doing something else that I should’ve been. It is ALL THEIR FAULT!

Okay, no…it is not always so dramatic or far-fetched. But how many of us have blamed traffic for being late to work, even though we know full-well that we could’ve left 20 minutes earlier when we heard the bad traffic report? How many of us complain over and over about how busy our lives are yet will spend an evening in front of the TV because we’re so “fried” we just can’t do one more thing? How many of us have blamed the jerks that smashed our passenger side window and stole our purse when we know full-well that YOU JUST SHOULD NEVER DO THAT and taking full responsibility for not being more vigilant?

Or what about blaming our mood on the bad day we’re having instead of taking responsibility for how we are reacting to things that happen to us or around us?

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right…I have taken a different approach to discussing sins of omission. But I think not accepting responsibility or rationalizing one’s behavior falls right into that topic. Not one of us is perfect, no matter what your belief system or religion is. It’s our job to be the best that we can possibly be on a daily basis. This is not easy, nor is it ever going to be easy.

Remember, accepting that you have a problem is the first step. ;)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005 

Omit This!

I'm going to come right out and say it. Writing about "Sins of Omission" this week was all my idea and I don't think anyone else is really going to want to write about it... but since they let me make the chart... they got it. ( And for the record, I think Sarah Marinara is just trying to be ironic by not posting.)

Why would I want to talk about "Sins of Omission," which are quite possibly the most daunting sins of all? Because I don't think they're fair.

In the final episode of Seinfeld, the cast was found guilty of NOT helping someone in need in a court of law.

I could have been found guilty of this yesterday. I was approached by a woman who told me that she was "stuck" and needed money for a motel. I told her I had no cash on me and apologized.

But I've been reading How to be Good by Nick Hornby, and I couldn't help but think of what I COULD have done. It would have been simple to drive her to a cheap hotel and pay the $35 for the night. I could start carrying the cards of agencies who help those in similar situations... shelters, soup kitchens, etc... but I don't. I could have gone to the ATM, given her $20, and asked if she needed more.

The point is that I didn't. I did nothing at all. I had alternatives available to me, that were inconvenient, expensive, possibly dangerous, ...but they would have helped her. So... why didn't I overcome my issues and just help this person?

The same reasons why most "Sins of Omission" are committed: Fear. Selfishness. Greed. Unrighteous Judgment. But also out of self preservation. Is "Self Preservation" a sin when it results in you becoming those who passed by before the Good Samaritan came along?

Maybe. But where's the line?

At what point do you go from being "charitable" and "caring" to "crazy" and "destitute"? It's a slippery slope, this "charity" thing. When is it enough?

I like the example of helping the homeless because it's something that anyone in an urban area sees daily. And if you see it, you have guilt over it. Most of us have nothing more to offer than spare change to the average homeless person.

But this is just one example of a "Sin of Omission." There are actual checklists out there set up to make you feel like you haven't done enough... there are even hymns about it. Where does it end?

It doesn't end. There is literally no end to the number of "sins of omission" you could commit each and every day. If your eternal salvation is dependent on what sins you have and have not committed/repented of... well... I guess you had better start praying now.

Maybe that's the real reason why you're supposed to always have a prayer in your heart.

Monday, May 02, 2005 

Halfway between the gutter and the stars

In my house I was taught that you are lying if you are not telling the truth. Of course as I re-read the above that sounds obvious, but what I mean is that I may not actually say anything false, but if I know the truth and withhold it, then I am lying, or at least will be punished as if I am. When I think of sins of omission this definition of lying helps me understand sins of omission more clearly. Of course there are the acts that are sins, but then there are the things I know to do but fail to do - my sins of omission.

But what are these sins of omission? Sin, from a non-religious standpoint, is something that is "regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong." While I am sure you would like me to, I am not going to provide a long list of the shameful, deplorable and utterly wrong things I've done in my life or even a short one for that matter. I am sure our readership would increase tenfold if I would, but still not going to do it, not even for the numbers. To be honest I just don't want to know how long or short that list is. Although, I will admit that I am sure I have more sins of omission then I do straight out sins. They are easier to have because I don't actually have to do anything and I've sinned with out even being aware and I come out guilt free. For example, as long as I have lived in San Francisco I have not volunteered for a single activity that assists my community -- oh wait, that isn't true... I just thought of one thing I've done (more for social reasons and less for the good of the community). I don't know if I would say this is utterly wrong of me, but I think it is a shame. I think it is shameful that I don't do more, or anything really. Of course I didn't think about how little I've done for my community until the topic of sins of omission came up. I guess that would mean that not thinking about the things I should be doing that I don't do is another of my sins. I wonder why it is that I don't think about these things?

A while back at my own blog I wrote about how the longer I lived in the more seedy part of San Francisco the less afraid of it I became and the more comfortable I became walking around the neighborhood. Another individual at his blog wrote on a similar topic. He explained that this is because we no longer see what is going on around us, but become blind to our gutters and sidewalks, glancing just above the sadness to make ourselves more comfortable. Choosing not to see the true state of affairs of things that are going on around me in all aspects of my life, in all of our lives, is sad. Life is much easier when I only think about me, when I only see things the way I want to believe they are. I guess it wouldn't kill me to pull my rose colored glasses down just a little on my nose and peek above the rims, I guess it would be shameful if I didn't.

This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

Various Links

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