Neighbors, Strangers, Pilgrims, Friends

I talked recently with some non-LDS friends and neighbors in Utah Valley. They’ve lived here for years, and they know us Mormons (officially, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) quite well. In speaking of their experience here, they praised us for welcoming their particular religious minority among us. I gratefully add that they were philosophical and forgiving about our occasional clumsiness and outright failures on that score over the years.

Welcome to Utah sign

When we truly welcome others into our towns and neighborhoods – and homes, hearts, and circles of friends – we’re not just being nice. We’re obeying two key commandments. Both are literally as old as Moses.

One Savior, Four Gifts (Easter Thoughts)

Easter

I have known people who thought their lives were wonderful, or at least happy, or at least good enough – until something awful happened to them or to people they love. I have known people who, from an early age, suffered in ways and degrees that convinced them – and others – that their lives could never be wonderful, or even happy, or even good enough.

The message of Easter, the holiest of Christian holy days, is that eventually, through the infinite grace of Jesus Christ, when all our becoming is done, our lives can and will be good enough.

Even happy.

Even wonderful.

Easter flowers

Lorenzo Snow on Leadership (Sometimes the Lesson Is for Me)

Unless I’m teaching, most church lessons stick in my head only until I’m exiting the room after class. Some prompt me to make an electronic note of a thought I want to remember or something I should do; I will at least see these notes again someday, and maybe they’ll do someone some good. Once in a while, a lesson sticks with me for years — like this one from Lorenzo Snow.

Lorenzo Snow
Lorenzo Snow (1814-1901)

A few years ago, we were studying the teachings of the late Lorenzo Snow, fifth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The title of that week’s chapter was “Church Leadership and Selfless Service.” Our curriculum for those classes is different now, but when we studied teachings of past presidents of the Church, the idea was that we’d read and study the chapter in the week before our Sunday discussion, so we’d be prepared to discuss the material and our own insights. Sometimes I actually did that. More often, I read the chapter in class, during the boring moments which can sometimes be had among Mormons.

That’s what I was doing this time, near the end of the hour. If there had been time, I’d have raised my hand and shared what I was reading, though the discussion was focused elsewhere in the chapter. Our classes are informal enough that such things are usually welcome — or at least endured with patience.

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Vertical and Horizontal Thanksgiving

A day to be grateful to all who bless our lives and for every way in which they have done so? If Thanksgiving Day were only that, it would be an important secular holiday. But what if it’s more?

(If you’re certain it should not be more or unwilling to consider that it might be, please just accept my earnest wishes for your happy Thanksgiving. You may not wish to read the rest of this.)

looking at stars

What if Thanksgiving is also a day to be grateful for everyone who blesses my life – that is, grateful to a higher power of some sort, who has caused my life to intersect with these people and their many generous acts and quiet virtues? What if today is for thanking a deity who put me in a place and time in which I have food to eat and work to do, some freedom to enjoy as I’m doing it, some faithful friends around me, and a comfortable place to lay my head?

What if this is a day to invite humility, gratitude’s plain and less socially acceptable sister virtue, to our happy feast?

What if Thanksgiving is inherently a religious holiday?

Casting Call for American Fork, August 25, 26, and 28

Depending on how this goes, you could be locally famous when we’re done. Probably not, but stranger things have happened.

The American Fork Heritage and History Pageant is being revived this year on the evenings of Friday, August 25; Saturday, August 26; and Monday, August 28.

This is my last-minute casting call for one of the vignettes. I’ll tell you a bit about the pageant, and then I’ll tell you the roles we’re trying to fill and some information about filling them.

Circle the Wagons? Or Leaven the Loaf?

Circle the Wagons

Wagon trains crossing the plains parked their wagons in a tight circle at night for two reasons. The circle was a somewhat defensible, makeshift fort, in case the company came under attack. And it formed a sort of corral, to keep cattle and other livestock from scattering.

circle the wagons

The age of wagon trains is long passed, and “circling the wagons” has become a metaphor for the way we sometimes treat outsiders, when we feel threatened by their presence, their choices, or their views. Even in a religious context, we try to keep some people in and shut others out – as if sin were a germ we could catch against our will, and only on the outside.

As if we could fence in our children forever, to protect them, rather than preparing them to live and serve in the world.

As if we weren’t already sinners too.

As if you must agree with me about religion, politics, fashion, sports teams, tattoos, and adult beverages in order to fit the commandment I’ve been given to love my neighbor. (See Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39; Doctrine and Covenants 59:6.)

As if God didn’t have a higher calling for us.

My Mother’s Mind

My mother’s love, her service and sacrifice, her canned peaches that were better than candy — all of these deserve their own essays. But today I’ve been thinking about her mind.

Elizabeth Babcock Rodeback and siblings
Mom and her seven siblings. She’s in the front row, second from the left.

She grew up in Lost River, a tight-knit farming community nestled in a valley just beyond Arco, Idaho. Her dad survived one of the grimmest episodes of World War I, before returning home to start a family and to raise sheep, cattle, and grain. Her mother served an LDS mission to the Southern States, but not before setting an example of sacrifice in pursuit of education.

So my tale begins with Grandma, since it must begin somewhere.

On Writing: “I can’t teach you how to have something to say.”

Here are a few more gems — I know it’s been a while — from Ann Padgett’s “The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life.” You’ll find it in This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (New York: Harper, 2013, pp. 19-60), which you should buy — or borrow from the library — and read.

If you write.

Writing must not be compartmentalized. You don’t step out of the stream of your life to do your work. Work was the life, and who you were as a mother, teacher, friend, citizen, activist, and artist was all the same person. People like to ask me if writing can be taught, and I say yes. I can teach you how to write a better sentence, how to write dialogue, maybe even how to construct a plot. But I can’t teach you how to have something to say. (pp. 31-32)