Monday, October 12, 2009

There Am I In the Midst Of You

I just read an article about former Latter-day Saints who have begun to gather.  One reason, they say, is to help them with their loss of the culture.  They don't miss the gospel, but miss the culture.  I found it interesting, because I lean a bit in the opposite direction.

For five and a half years, I've served in the Branch Presidency at the local Juvenile Detention Center.  Our gatherings are simple and I have often described them as the gospel without the culture.  We don't have much in our little Branch that resembles a typical Ward, but what we do have is the sweet, comforting, need for and companionship with the Savior.  During that five plus years we've served under two Stake Presidents.  Each of them, in an expression of love and encouragement has told me of his conviction that if the Savior were here, He'd be ministering at the Detention Center.  On both occasions, this was my reply, "President, He is and He does."

This is not to say that the Savior is not actively present in a typical Ward.  I'm sure He is.  But sometimes, I've found the clutter, commotion and flurry of activity around programs and meetings and expectations and disappointments and anticipations and meetings and competitions and rumors and reports and guilt trips from the pulpit, and comparisons and cliques and did I mention meetings?.........

I've found it what?  Disconcerting?  Disappointing?  Unfulfilling?  Can't really put my finger on it.  Can't really even criticize it.  Don't really miss it.  Can hardly bare to live without it.  I guess it's kind of a love/frustration relationship.  Both, I suppose because, despite that earlier list, there is love and service and compassion and friendship and inspiration and meetings and brotherhood and companionship and fellowship and meetings and encouragement and understanding and rejoicing and testimony and refreshments and meetings and instruction and spirit and Spirit and did I mention meetings?.......

I attended my home Ward yesterday for the first time in months.  It was all there, including the gospel.  It was a joy to greet and worship with old friends and new ones.  It's amazing how a Ward can change in five and a half years.  Wards, like people, have their imperfections and their flaws.  This is how it was intended.  Wards are like hospitals only the doctors and nurses and paper pushers and custodians are also patients in every sense of the word.  If your doctor has a cold, is his diagnosis and treatment any less needed or precious?  Of course not.  If you gave him a mug of chicken soup would the service you return be of any less value than what he offered you?  Probably not.  We each bring ourselves to the table of the Lord by participating in a Ward.  Inevitably we each bring our strengths as well as our weaknesses.  Who's to say which is the greater blessing to the whole.  Both are God given (see Ether 12:27) and both bring a dynamic to the Ward that invokes the necessity of the Grace of God, not only in our individual lives but in the entirety of our Ward, our Stake and indeed the Church.

In our own lives, weakness is an opportunity to learn, grow and be strengthened.  If it frustrates us it is because we have excluded God from the equation.  The same is true of a Ward.  Weakness, there too, is an opportunity to learn, grow and be strengthened.  If is frustrates us it is because we have excluded God from the equation.  His Grace is sufficient for all men and all Wards too.


di said...

Disconcerting? Disappointing? Unfulfilling? Yup

My words is.....distracting

Sometimes I feel like all the 'extras' are the true test. Are we capable of Zion? Are we?

I think I can love the Lord my God with all my heart, but loving my neighbor as myself??? That is much harder. I have to constantly remind myself that we are all struggling toward the same goal and no one is getting there alone.


Candleman said...

I like DISTRACTING best of all, thank you for your insight. Like the wind and waves that distracted Peter, when walking on the water, much of life, even in Church, has that effect.

Thanks again, for the clarity your simple comment added to my understanding.

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