Wednesday, August 29, 2012

because I still believe what I believe... Part 2

In an attempt to not leave anyone in suspense (and to distract myself from the things I really need to do, but do not want to) here is part 2, a continuation from my post yesterday.

Where last I left you it was past midnight and as everyone in our cabin snoozed away I was trying to keep my eyes open and the pamphlet "Are mormon's christians?", as well as try to understand all the big words they were using to prove their points. There were three main points that really struck me (to recap incase you don't remember) namely that mormons are not christians because... 1.)they believe that God and Jesus Christ are two separate beings with bodies (not in line with the traditional trinity), 2.)they do not believe that they are saved by grace alone (I have issues with this one), 3.) they believe we can become like God. So I read as much as I could, feeling confused and having so many questions, I gave into sleep and turned in for the night.

The next day went much like the first, but this time I had so many questions in my mind it was hard to focus on what the man what saying without firing back a question every time (mentally of course, but very distracting none-the-less). The workshop continued into the flaws of mormon doctrine, the flaws of Joseph Smith and other things that got the audience as a whole nodding their heads in agreement. Things were not sitting right with me, I couldn't quite put my finger on it, and then it hit me. Between the things this man was saying was wrong with mormon doctrine and what the pamphlet said, I was hearing a lot of what is wrong, but nothing telling me what exactly was right (other than it was not the LDS church).

After the workshop finished I waited around to talk to the speaker. I'm not sure exactly what I was trying to accomplish, but I knew that I had questions about what I had read and that this man could answer the evangelical side. I also knew that I wanted to tell him I was LDS, I did not want to sit silently in the back over the course of three days and say nothing (although in hindsight, people probably knew Daniel and I were mormon form the BYU sweatshirts we were wearing the whole week). There were several other people who wanted to talk to the speaker before me, I stood back and listened to their conversations, and mustered up the courage to continue to wait (instead of giving up and going back to the cabin were everyone was eating lunch and subsequently worrying about where I was). When it was finally my turn the whole place was basically cleared out.

I started off by saying, "Hi i'm Michelle and I live in Utah as well, and I am a mormon." As you can imagine intrigued filled his face. I started off by asking the questions I had from reading the pamphlet, basically, was I so naive to think that the differences in doctrine meant that we were not christians? And if what we believe is so wrong, then what church is right? I shared with him my conversion, and he shared with me why he left the church. And upon analyses we had quite opposite experiences. I was a person raised (starting about age 8) in a a christian environment, then at the age of 18 converted to the LDS church. He was someone who was born and raised in the LDS church and left it in his teen years. His main reason, he told me, was because as a teen he saw evangelical christians who talked about Jesus on a personal level, they had a personal relationship with Him, and this man wanted to learn more. I shared that I had grown up around mormons (my best friends are members, I went the church dances with them, even met with the missionaries once out of curiosity) but was never interested in their doctrine in a way that made me want to join their church, until I graduated from high school. In high school I went to christian summer camps, I did bible studies, and youth group activities twice a week. But when the church my family attended shut down, I was confused as to how that could happen. My friend Soren invited me to family home evening, ward activities and eventually to meet with the missionaries. I was skeptical still when I met with them, but everything that I did not understand about the church suddenly made sense. Everything they talked about, made sense. God and Jesus Christ are separate beings with bodies, that made sense to me (I could never quite grasp the concept of the trinity). The priesthood is Christ's authority on the earth today? Made sense. To my brain (which can be overly logical at times) it all made sense. I already knew who my Savior was, I already knew what the Holy Spirit felt like, I already knew God was always there watching over me, but now I  could know the rest.

The rest of the conversation I learned more about his point of view, but the differences seemed small, and I was still confused why others thought they were so important (me being naive again?). When asked the question I really wanted an answer to, I received a very disappointing and underwhelming answer. "So in reading the pamphlet it said that those were the things that we got wrong, then who has it right?" (to paraphrase, of course). **I will add this, even growing up in a christian church I struggled with why all the different sects were so, different. What is the right way to be baptized? Sprinkle or dunk? How often do you take communion (the sacrament)? Every week or special occasions. What happens to people who were not baptized and die? What about children and babies?** I was fully reading for some sort of grand answer but what I got was, "I don't claim to know who is right.....". He added something else but I do not remember what he said, but it did not answer my question.

We also talked about being saved by grace alone, as opposed to grace plus works. I still don't understand all the differences. I believe I am saved by grace alone,  but I need to do my best and do everything I can do to be the best I can be. If this is grace plus works, then yes I believe that, I guess. But I do know there is nothing I can do on my own the be saved. His explanation only made me more confused.

So what did I learn from all of this? I learned that people still do not think mormons are christians and why they believe that. I was exposed to the way some evangelicals look at mormons and at mormon doctrine (not all may think this way, but a lot do). Above all else I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the only true church on the face of the earth, I believe that because it has all the things I wanted answered, it a wonderful and divine way. I am so thankful for this whole experience. Going to Mt.Hermon with my family for this vacation I fully expected to have fun, to relax and to grow closer to those who I was with. But I never imagined I would question what and why I believe what I believe, and then come out the other side with a strengthened testimony, because now I can say, I still believe what I believe.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

because I still believe what I believe.... part 1

I'm back... again. It has been a while, life has ben busy (lame excuse I know, also because life is about to become exponentially more hectic). This post is one I've been mulling over and thinking about for a while, then it was kicked into motion by our recent (wonderful, relaxing, fun, amazing) vacation to California. So fair warning for those who want to turn back now, this is a blog post about religion, so be prepared for views that may not be fully aligned with your own. My goal is to portray my experience, and is in no way meant to offend anyone. So proceed and read at your own risk.

Our vacation had been planned a year in advance. My mom and her best friend made all the reservations and my sister and her family, and me and my family, had a year to prepare and to make it all work with various schedules and such. For 5 days we stole away to the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains (to be more specific, the town of Felton), surrounded by truly inspiring redwood trees, we stayed at Mt.Hermon. Mt.Hermon is a christian family camp. As a youth for 3 years I attended its high school branch, Ponderosa for a week long summer camp. I knew (and told my husband ahead of time) what would be our daily routine when we arrived. In the morning there was a chapel session (akin to a devotional) that included announcements for the day, sometimes a skit relating to the week's theme, praise and worship music, and a speaker. A short break then several workshops were offered. The afternoon was left up to us campers, and filled with much fun and relaxation. The evenings had a chapel session as well (almost the same as the morning but with a different speaker) and then activities available afterwards. I knew Daniel would probably be bored with the chapel sessions (he did not want me to interpret for him, so I honored his request), but other than that I had no qualms with our daily routine. The first night we arrived, there was a fun and yummy barbecue for all the families to enjoy together, information was given to everyone to let them know of the activities and workshops for the week. One workshop being offered was about Mitt Romney and Mormonism, I was interested in going and seeing what they had to say. My mom commented, "they probably are not going to say nice things", I responded "well, then maybe I can educate them". What followed was my own personal enlightenment.

The workshop was a three part series, over three days a man (who grew up in the LDS church and left in his teen years who still lives in Utah and his the founder of "Standing United Ministry") taught and lectured about the history of mormonism, what they believe ( and consequently how it is doctrinally 'wrong' as it is not a sect of christianity) and how to bridge the divide and talk with them (and convert them). Over the course of three days, I sat and listened with my mom, my sister, my brother-in-law and family friends (all of whom are evangelical christians). I will be honest, I felt out of place, I felt like a black sheep. For the most part, everything that man said was true, some of it may have been presented in a skewed light, but it was true none-the-less. My emotions ran the gamut, I was angry, confused, and defensive. I felt vulnerable and unsure.  He said things about the LDS church and Joseph Smith I had never heard (most  of which was entirely unflattering), he said things I did know, but when spoken aloud to a room full of skeptical evangelicals sounded awful. The man threw our names and dates so fast that it was hard to follow. He name dropped the boost his credibility, evangelical theologians and LDS general authorities alike. I will admit, the time he has spent in the company of so many general authorities of the church, makes me wish I could do the same. With the connections he had, it was obvious that he was at the forefront of this discussion. Day one ended with admonition to have this discussion about religion with love and openness, without defensiveness and hate. Some of the things and way he said things did not sit right with me, and I was not entirely sure why.

As the first workshop ended and I was confused and unsure of what to do. Afterwards the man had a table set up with pamphlets and books and dvds pertaining to the subject (mainly, how doctrinally mormons are not christians, and the success his ministry was having in Utah spreading the evangelical word) I bought a pamphlet that was titled "Are mormons Christians?". My immediate answer, yes! Of course we are! We believe in Christ, we are saved by Christ, we talk of Christ, the cornerstone of the LDS church is Christ! That night as everyone else was asleep I read the pamphlet. What I was faced with were the the doctrinal differences that supported the claim that we are not christians, and a lot of big words to explain and support that fact. I do not claim the be a scholar of any kind, least of all of religion, but I feel as thought I am fairly intelligent and well versed. It may have been that I was fighting off sleep and midnight had come and gone, but the words and terms the author used were way over my head, and I struggled to understand what I read. What I did understand was this: 1.) Mormons are not Christians because they believe that God and Jesus Christ are two separate beings with bodies, 2.) Mormons are not Christians because they do not believe that we are saved by grace alone, 3.) Mormons are not Christians because they believe they can become like God.

Once again I will state, I do not know everything LDS doctrine, but I do know some things and those statements hit me. Maybe I am just very naive, but do those things mean we do not follow Christ? Or Is the definition of Christian something that alludes me? The second reason mentioned was something I do not even believe to be true. However at the end of that day, and after reading that pamphlet I was entirely exhausted, confused and bewildered, not to mention all the questions swirling around in my mind. But I did still know that the Church was true, and I did still believe what I believed, but now I was confronted with the why and how, and that was something I would find the following 2 days.

To continue to blog would be entirely too long winded, so join me back here for part 2 for a date yet to be determined.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

because I worry... a lot

I'm back!!! I hope you did not think I gave up on writing in my blog (that probably won't happen until school starts and I get super busy again), I've had a good reason this time, I promise! Last week we took our long awaited and much needed vacation to California. For 9 glorious days we enjoyed the incomparable weather that the Bay Area and Santa Cruz montains have to offer (when we arrived saturday morning I was so cold I had to put on a sweatshirt!), spent time with friends and family, celebrated birthdays, went to the beach (Leo's first time seeing the ocean!), and ate lots of really yummy ice cream.

We needed this vacation in the worst way. Daniel has been so busy with work and school and his internship that we (Leo and I) spent more quality time with him during those 9 days than we have in a month. And even though I had been looking forward to this vacation for a year now, I did not realize how much I needed it either. It was probably our third or fourth day into the vacation when I honed in on the reason I was enjoying this vacation so much (besides the obvious aforementioned reasons). I realized before going to bed one night that I was not worrying about anything, and that was such a peaceful and relaxing feeling. I knew I worried a lot, but I never realized how freeing it would be to not worry.

If worrying was an olympic sport, I could compete with the best of them (my mother-in-law would probably win the gold, but I could be a contender). This summer has been particularly worriful (pretty sure not a real word). Between not having a job, figuring out my job for the fall, trying to be certified as an interpreter (to get a job now), car problems and everything with Daniel and his schooling, I have been on worry overload. Most of this worrying is tied to money (I hate money, dealing with it, trying to get it, not having it, etc.).

The problem with worrying is that I'm pretty sure it is genetic, it is so ingrained in me I don't know how to not worry. When my husband sees me getting stressed out he tells me not to worry. I love you honey, but that is the worst thing you could say to me in that moment. Telling me not to worry is like telling me to not blink, the more I try not to, the more I do it. I often try to recite the serenity prayer to myself... God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. It helps in small situations, but often I have this underlying worry that is always with me, even when I am not actively worrying about something, it is there with me.

Having said all of that, the best unexpected part of our vacation was that I did not have to worry. I knew that no matter what I did or how much I worried, I could not change our life in Utah while we were in California, so I did not worry. I know that rationally worrying does nothing for me here in Utah either, therefore I should use the same reasoning and not worry, but it does not work like that. So while I miss my family and friends and want to go back and have another month of vacation just to spend time with them, the part I miss is the peace I had when I did not have to worry, because I worry... a lot.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

because some people need to be educated

**disclaimer: this post is in no way meant to offend anyone or is aimed at anyone in particular, but something that is directed more a society as a whole and something I need to get off my chest, so to speak**

This whole this started with a video going around on facebook of an 8 month old baby hearing his mother's voice for the first time, via a cochlear implant. The thousands of comments on this video were all to the effect of ,"oh how wonderful!" and "this made me cry!". I went to the facebook page where this particular link was shared from, curious to see if anyone else had a different reaction to this video. And someone did have a much different reaction, and then all mayhem broke loose (not really, but it felt like it at times).

In the deaf community, cochlear implants can be quite controversial. At what age are you forcing a child to have it vs them choosing it. By giving them the implant what is the hope? That they will be a 'normal' child, they can hear therefore there life will be better than if they were deaf? Will you use sign language with them at all? Or will you think a CI is enough for them to communicate verbally and no sign language is needed. The debate goes on and on. In the hearing world, CIs are seen as an amazing technological advance to help deaf children not be disabled anymore, end of story.

To understand part of this argument you must realize that CIs are implanted into a child's skull and can be incredibly invasive. They also do not miraculously make a child hearing. In some cases, when children receive an implant at an early age as they grow they decide they do not want to use it anymore.  There are also adjustments that constantly need to be made, as well as hard work with speech therapists, batteries that can be very expensive as well. CIs are not a quick, permanent, or all encompassing solution to being deaf.

Now this whole situation stemmed from the video posted on facebook, but the later events where in no way related to it. So as I looked on the facebook page that shared the video for any adverse reactions to the video, I found it. (Paraphrasing the comment) "Why do parents give a child so young an implant, i think they should wait until age 4 or 5, it seems like the parents are not accepting that their child is deaf". The comments that followed were nothing short of rude and borderline ignorant and demeaning. Most people were 'outraged' that he would suggest waiting 5 years, why would you make you child disable if you did not have to? Another quipped that the first years of life are the most important for language development, and delaying a CI would impair the child. The quote that literally made me tremble from being so mad, insinuated that the mentality the women had was uninformed and such a thinking was probably indicative of a person who also refused to vaccinate her children. I do not get angry or upset about very many things, but this is something that made (and is still making me) have a flurry of emotions. The ignorance of all these people was so frustrating to read, and really opened my eyes to the ill educated world that we live in. I had to post something in defense of the real problem, the view that deafness must be fixed for a child to have language and have a good life. I was so riled up I fear my comment may have come off as offensive, but it was so hard to contain myself. I added that deaf is not a disability, and that young children learning ASL is a wonderful and beautiful thing, and that CI are not always the best option. These people just didn't get that! The next commenter called me rude, and said if I have nothing nice to say, I shouldn't have said anything at all (where was her almighty judgement when the others were attacking the women who started this post.) If you want to see the full post go to Brio Birth's facebook page and scroll down to Nicola Lumpkin's post.

The posting got worse from there, there were some well meaning people and one friend of mine who commented and gave a wonderful perspective. I tried to figure out why this was all making me so mad. I have of course seen people being rude to each other on facebook before, but perhaps it was never such a personal topic as this. I realize now that my anger is directed at a two-fold problem: 1.) hearing people with the opinion that hearing is superior to being deaf (so why wouldn't you choose for your child to be hearing if you could?) 2.) and the general lack of knowledge about early language development and how wonderful and beneficial ASL can be (this relates to this first problem in the fact that speaking with one's voice is superior to signing). There was a time recently when I did not think such a point of view still existed about the deaf, today I was shown to be wrong. Here is a very poignant example, straight from my own experiences. Someone I barely knew asked if Leo was hearing or deaf, I told her casually that he was hearing (I am so used to the question, I understand the curiosity factor involved), and then the woman gave me a high-five complete with an "Oh great!" comment. I was so shocked I did not know what to say (definitely not a reaction I have ever received before). I wondered later what would have happened if Leo was deaf, would that same woman have given me a hug and told me she was sorry? I realize now that the majority of the people that have never had any exposure to deaf people would probably have the same reaction. It makes me mad (yes I really do feel mad about this) that people would think this way! There is so much more I could put into this post (obviously I guess i'm a little passionate about this), but I will end this now by saying this: assuming someone has a lesser or impaired quality of life because they are not the same as you, because they are 'lacking' in something which you believe to be vital to who you are and how you live your life, is the saddest and most infuriating thing I have ever encountered. Because some people need to be educated.