I am fascinated by aspects of Mormon culture and traditions recently as I’m figuring out how to frame my thoughts on the gospel and how I live and share it with my family, as a teacher in church, and to my friends. It is interesting to see how culture and traditions shape how we as Mormons understand, teach, and try to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.
My Mormon heritage doesn’t go back generations like it does for some. As a kid, I longed for Mormon pioneer heritage and the stories of ancestors sacrificing all for the gospel and trekking West to follow the prophet of God. Ryan is blessed with that heritage and I find it fascinating, wanting to learn more about them. But I've always been intensely proud of Grandma Honey, and then my mom and my dad for choosing this faith to live and raise our family in.
|Bob & Lorry, Engagement|
My Grandma Honey (maternal grandmother) who recently passed away this summer was the first to join the church in my family. She joined as a young mother in the midst of the same season of life I am in. I'm sure she was very busy, in fact there's a story in her conversion to the gospel about how she felt directed by the Holy Ghost to do something about her growing faith while on her knees cleaning gum off the floor. She felt like there might be something in religion that would help her raise her family. I feel so blessed by that choice! As a result, my mother was raised by in the church and was influenced by many good church leaders. (This doesn't downplay in any way the strong role my Grandpa Bob played in supporting and leading his family too.) As for my Dad, my mom and a few other young Mormon girls caught my dad's eye as a young man, and while in college he investigated religions and joined the LDS church. This is amazing to me, nothing short of a miracle I feel.
|Us Bares in 1994|
Home is/was in the Tri-Cities of eastern Washington where there is a large LDS community. My dad's family are wonderful people and are not members of the church. My mom's family is scattered between Washington and California and while all are not LDS, they too are great people whom I love. In Kennewick, about 10% of my high school was LDS and we even had release-time seminary rather than early morning seminary. (This is still rare outside of the Utah-Idaho LDS corridor I believe.) It was great to live in this pocket of the Mormon diaspora (I love that term and idea)! I'm still grateful for it and the fact that my kids also are getting the chance to grow up in it.
This past summer while home, I was so surprised to see how much my family’s ward boundaries have shrunk to accommodate growing membership in my home community. With ward (congregation) size usually in the 200-300 range, the boundaries of my ward when I was young now comprises at least four if not more wards! This is so awesome to see! I loved seeing the flow of people entering the 11 years young temple there, taking advantage of that opportunity to serve and align themselves with the Divine. There were and are so many fabulous people there, righteous and strong men AND women! I am so grateful for their good influence on me growing up! Good people are magnets for other good people. I hope to be a Mormon magnet, in all that's fabulous about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And here we all are this summer, just shy of two weeks before Grandma Honey passed away. I come from a strong heritage of such good people! All of these people have been influenced by Grandma Honey's choice to seek God and have Him in her life. I have parents and youth teachers who did their best to live and teach the gospel to me and I am forever grateful for that foundation. However, I did and still do feel some of the tensions within LDS doctrine, culture, organization and such which I am still making sense of.
I am often limited in my understanding and use of words to express what I really mean. For some reason, I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the word “command.” It’s in the scriptures a lot, commandments and all, and as my dictionary confirmed, the word often denotes a power structure, authority, and domination. But when I read that word in the scriptures, I don’t think of the Lord trying to wield power over me. My Heavenly Father has a plan of happiness, a plan of Salvation for me. I believe synonyms for “command” are truly, more accurately His way -- to invite, to instruct, to direct, to persuade.
In my early morning scripture study lately (going on 3+ weeks diligently! YAHOO!), I have loved being reminded of the basic principles of the gospel – faith, humility, guidance of the Holy Ghost, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, forgiveness and repentance. I am reminded of a Heavenly Father and Savior that love me, and all of us. In my desire to share the peace and perspective this knowledge gives me within my family and circle of friends, I often feel like I don’t have the vocabulary I need to express all these thoughts, let alone the brain-mouth capacity to vocalize it.
It makes me sad when friends and family members feel like the church isn’t a good fit for them, that they don’t fit the cookie-cutter ideal and therefore don’t feel welcome within the LDS community or beliefs. The church, like the gospel of Jesus Christ, should feel inclusive where everyone, no matter where they are on the path, feels welcomed and not judged. There’s a two-way street of responsibility and accountability.
As a mother and when I teach my bright Primary class of 10-11 year old girls each week, I want to be sure I stick to the basic, life-changing principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am finding that sometimes Mormon culture has gone beyond the mark to prescribe more than is needed. These prescriptions are sometimes perpetuated by us not individually examining the gospel principles of agency, learning and teaching doctrine. Our intentions are good, but perhaps a bit complacent and lazy in our effort to go to the source. I am often guilty of this but determined to do better.
Rather than set family rules, give youth set guidelines, and share practices of our church, I want to facilitate a more open discussion about why rules and guidelines are in place so we can align ourselves with principles and not judge others who may not have yet examined them. I want to be able to discern between gospel principles and culture/tradition, advocating for change in a Christ-like manner when opportunities arise and are needed. I hope Ryan and I can continue to openly share our life’s experiences with our family and friends so we can form our ideas together about how to apply principles in how we think, speak, act, dress and present ourselves to the world. I want to persuade and invite, rather than command those I love to live the principles that have helped me be happy and feel fulfilled.
This requires more of me as a disciple of Jesus Christ. I fall short regularly, more than once an hour usually. But there’s so much room to get it right - whether it’s keeping my cool "inviting" my kids to do chores, trying to communicate with Ryan amidst the chaos of our young family and career, choosing friends and entertainment, living aspects of the Word of Wisdom, modesty in all its facets, and so forth. These are daily choices and challenges to my faith that come up in my little bubble of a world.
Last night for Family Home Evening, Ryan and I decided to help Easton pass off a portion of his Cub Scout Duty to God requirements because he needs to finish his Wolf badges in the next month before his birthday. We discussed as a family what our duty to God is. We used Easton’s recent school presentation to help give us some ideas. Each of us picked something to work on for the next week that will show our Heavenly Father that we love and honor Him. I am so grateful for Family Home Evening! I love this forum to discuss things of real importance within our family. I don’t take advantage of it enough, I get lazy real easy come Monday night!
I have sometimes let myself get overwhelmed with all that I feel is required of me as a wife, a mother, a homemaker, and a member of the church. I fight the urge to declare aspects of my martyrdom regularly on FaceBook. But what purpose would that serve? Does it edify others or perhaps keep them wallowing like myself. I’ve decided that in this full season of my life, I can choose to be overwhelmed and mired in it or be proactive, hopeful, and pleased with my efforts to be “enough.” I always loved how my Grandma Honey was so quick to laugh and literally danced through life. She didn't seem to stay mired in the hard things life threw at her. She lost her 11 year old daughter, Judy, to leukemia. I can't think of many things in life that would be harder to endure and move forward after.
I feel I am honoring my Grandma Honey's legacy of faith by taking the time to dig into the gospel with my morning study and trying hard to live my faith. I also feel I am honoring Mormon's legacy, the prophet who's name is our faith's nickname. He abridged the records of the Nephite people in America before being killed in battle leading armies defending his faith and family. They gave me this gift and it's my turn to make something of it. Starting with changing Jake's diaper! Onward and upward!
Recent Soul Food:
The God Who Weeps – How Mormonism Make Sense of Life by Terry and Fiona Givens