Tuesday, March 27, 2007

So, it happened. . .

A few years ago on a conversational whim, I developed list of church callings I hoped never to get. It included Primary Music Leader (this since has fallen from the list; it’s not so bad in comparison), Nursery Leader, Ward Missionary, and Ward Organist. It should also have included Ward Facilities Cleaning Director and Visiting Teaching Coordinator. The top spot, the most objectionable position, however, was reserved for Relief Society President. Of all the callings on the list, I dreaded this one the most, while also figuring this one was really the safest for me never to receive. At not yet 30 years old and living in a large ward—not to mention being a Democrat with the yard signs to prove it--I felt perfectly justified in the assumption that that particular job would go to someone older, more conservative, more seasoned, wiser.

Not so.

Several weeks ago the bishop called me into his office and extended just that calling. I’m sure my jaw dropped, and I felt tears spring immediately to my eyes. In my family, you don’t say no to callings, not even the audacious ones. The bishop kept talking after that, and while I don’t remember what he said, I do remember thinking, Oh, no. At some point I have to tell him yes. Am I going to tell him yes? Do I have to tell him yes? He stopped speaking and there was a significant pause. What finally came out of my mouth was, I think, “Um, okay?”

This meeting with the bishop pretty much incapacitated me for the rest of the day. When we got home from church, Bryan treated me like an invalid--I think I must have developed hunched shoulders and a psychosomatic limp walking out of the bishop’s office. Bryan made dinner; he put the kids to bed; he spoke in soft tones.

We told our families that night on the phone. My mom thought it was cute—she was put in for the nth time as RS prez in her ward in December. Mother-daughter callings. Adorable. My dear dad was supportive, as usual, “You’ll be great.” My father-in-law gave my favorite response: “Tell them you’re too young and too small to be a Relief Society President.” Agreed.

It’s been an interesting month. I’d feel perfectly happy and carefree for a few moments, only to be brought thudding back to earth by a sing-song voice in my head: You’re going to be the Relief Society President. Since my call was extended, I caught a nasty cold and lost my voice for three days, had my husband travel out of town for a weekend, and contracted the stomach flu/food poisoning. I’m trying hard not to see any of this as a direct cursing.

Now I recognize that all this dread is really just a simple fear of the unknown. I’m a Primary/Young Women’s kinda gal. Everyone’s said so. Since I graduated from Young Women’s 12 years ago, I’ve spent only 3 unconnected years in Relief Society. Nine years serving the youth and loving it. I’m not entirely sure I know everything a Relief Society President does. And tell me who wouldn’t fear this: I read in the manual that sometimes the RS prez has to dress corpses for funerals. There’s a nursing home in our ward.

I’ve been the president already for three days now, and already I’ve been party to two personal tragedies I wouldn’t have experienced in the same way without this calling. My heart aches for these sisters. It must be true that as time wears on, I will ache in response to more and more tragedies—large and small--involving more and more sisters. What I hope for myself is this: that as my heart aches, it also grows, and my ability to love and serve them expands. Please God, I need a bigger heart.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

March Madness

Well, the month of March is now almost over. March has always been one of my favorite months. I remember racing home from school to watch the early rounds of the NCAA tournament, or even watching some games in class at Bonneville Jr High. It is also the first month of Spring, and usually there are at least a few nice days -- always a welcome relief after winter. March is now special because it is the month of Nora's birthday and my wedding anniversary.

Nora turned four on March 15. The day was filled with food and activities. We decided we are only going to have "friend" birthday parties every other year. This year, it was just a family party and Nora was not happy about it. Last year, she had a princess tea party where all her friends dressed up in their princess dresses. This year was not merely so fun. I think she got enough toys and treats to make her happy. It was also great to be able to video conference with grandparents. It was almost like having them there. Nora has turned into a wonderful little girl. She is always concerned about others, helpful, and eager to make friends. She must get her sociality from her mother!

Ellie and I also celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary. We didn't do too much. We went out to dinner at Red Lobster since I've been hankering for some coconut shrimp lately. I gave Ellie flowers and she gave me Barry Obama's book. I can't believe I've almost been married ten years now. This year's celebration was quiet, to be sure, but next year we have set the goal of celebrating our anniversary in Paris. Wish us luck!

In other news, I went to a conference in Atlanta last week. I had a fairly good time, I suppose. It was the Philosophy of Education Society conference and I read a paper entitled "William James, Meaning, and Educational Significance of Film." I turned William James into a film theorist and had him analyze the film "A River Runs Through It." I won't bore you with the details, but I thought it was a good paper. The bad part of the conference was the constant mingling that is expected -- I'm not very good at that. Plus, I don't think my bowtie lends itself to conversation. A bowtie says many things, but it does not say "I'm ready to party."


Thursday, March 01, 2007

How people see us Mormons

A reader of Andrew Sullivan writes the following:
On paper, anyone who would call himself a Mormon is divorced from reality and reason. I must admit that I have atheistic biases, but even if I didn't, Mormonism still stands with Scientology.

On the other hand is my personal experience. I have never met a Mormon I did not both like and respect. They have all been academically respectable and generally more worldly and accepting than your average religious type. They have been immensely and genuinely friendly and helpful. Responsible, upstanding, well-meaning individuals. I must admit that even as a liberal, atheist, drinking, pot-smoking guy, I have always enjoyed their company and valued their friendship.

But always in the back of my mind there is a voice: "This guy is a delusional lunatic."

This made me laugh. To be honest, every once in awhile, I myself wonder if I am a delusional lunatic.