Sunday, February 17, 2019

Church and Change

I didn't really want to go to church today.

I mean, the long-term part of me did want to go because, importance, but the short-term part of me felt tired and overwhelmed and discouraged at the thought of it.

There is so much change going on in the church, you know, and while I'm excited and passionate and supportive and dedicated, I'm also just tired.

Specifically, tired of trying to make the new home curriculum work well for my family. Because it turns out that children don't really want to sit down day after day and study the scriptures. Mine don't, anyway. It's not that we haven't had success with scripture study in the past, but lately (now that the big kids are going all different directions in the evenings, and the little kids (and me) like to sleep in the early mornings before seminary) it's gotten much harder to be consistent. So our studies are splotchy at best and are squeezed and molded to fill in cracks of time here and there whenever we can manage. And without the consistency, the children feel surprised and often offended when I show up at the table with my bible and the Come Follow Me manual, and I can then expect an unleashing of emotions from them that, honestly, I'd just rather not unleash.

Part of the discontentment that I feel comes from the fact that the idea of studying the New Testament with my children fills me with such passion and excitement, but the application of it has turned out much, much harder than I anticipated.

Earlier in the year a wise Relief Society teacher talked about earthquakes. How some earthquakes rattle beneath our feet without us even noticing, and others are strong enough to shake the plates in the cupboards, and others are so strong that they change the landscape of our cities and destroy things we've built.

"The church is going through an earthquake," she allegorized, "a big one. And the landscape of our homes should change. Some of the strong things and habits we have built through the years should crumble, and as we rebuild we should take care to rebuild according to the blueprints we have been given."

Yes! I thought. I can't wait to build my family back stronger.

But building something out of rubble is actually quite hard. You have to work at it. And I'm feeling a bit discouraged because of all the resistance I'm running into and all the time it seems to be taking, and I'm just not seeing much progress.

For all these reasons I just kind of wanted to shut myself up in my room today and let other people go to church. All the other people who are doing it right and doing it well.

But I kind of had to go, you see, because McKenzie had made the choice to skip all of her volleyball games today and go to church instead. We're in Arizona, she and I, for a three day volleyball tournament and when we found out it would be spanning over a Sunday I left it completely up to her whether or not she would play, watch, or even hang out with her team today. And as much as she loves playing volleyball, she hardly gave it a second thought and was confident and unshakable in her decision to skip all the games and go to church with me instead. I say she didn't give it a second thought, and that's true, but I don't mean to minimize that it was actually quite a hard thing for her to do. Not to make the decisions themselves, but to let the team and coaches know about her decisions. She received some judgement and teasing. Some of the girls aren't religious and they thought she was weird; some of the girls are also members of the church and McKenzie worried what they would think. But she did it anyway.

So with her as my example, I wasn't about to say that it was too hard for me to go to church today.

So we went.

We took the sacrament and we listened to the speakers and wouldn't you know, it was one of the greatest sacrament meetings I've been to in a long time.

Each speaker stood and spoke of the prophet, which was appropriate because apparently last Sunday President Nelson came and spoke in this area (in the very same venue that the girls played their volleyball games yesterday), so the speakers all had fresh testimonies of what that had been like and what they had learned.

They all shared the messages that had been most meaningful to them and I felt so much of the power, even second hand, that must have been there that day. The speakers first offered to me a message from President Oaks's wife who had said "living the gospel is hard," which I appreciated, and one from President Nelson's wife that reminded me that I need to be more diligent in seeking personal revelation in my own life, and that as I do that I will discover how the Lord wants me to handle this new church program in my family. I came away with a message from the bishop who reminded me that I stand behind our prophet, that I believe in him and trust him with my whole heart and that I know he is taking us to higher places if we follow him. The bishop also reminded me that the Lord is asking us to 'forsake all and follow Him' which, put in the words of that wise Relief Society teacher, means He's asking me to change the landscape of my home and my heart and to rebuild according to His blueprints.

McKenzie came away with a message from the prophet who had said, "You can stand for righteousness by being where you are and by not being where you aren't." She felt the spirit confirm that, for her (and her only - no judgement for any of the other girls), she was standing for righteousness by being in church and by not being in her volleyball game. And another message from President Nelson who had also said, "When people call you weird, wear it like a badge of honor."

My heart was so full by the end of the meeting, and when we sang the closing song, I couldn't sing around the lump in my throat.

Savior may I learn to love thee.
Walk the path that thou hast shown.
Pause to help and lift another
Finding strength beyond my own.
Savior may I learn to love thee,
Lord, I would follow thee.

After church, Kenz and I had a really great conversation over lunch and I got to thank her for being such a great example to me. I told her about all the feelings I had been having and that if it hadn't been for her example I probably wouldn't have gone to church today and would have missed out on so much. And when I mentioned to her that I felt like everyone but us seemed to be doing a great job with the home study, her eyes widened in surprise and she said, "Mom, no. I don't see that at all. You are encouraging us, day after day, to study on our own. You're helping us find time to do it and reminding us that it's important. You pull us together for family devotionals more than once a week... I'm not seeing that in other places. You are doing a great job. You're just seeing what you're looking for, and not the reality."

So I'm going to try to reach out and encourage those around me who may be feeling the same way. Maybe we're all feeling that way, and we don't realize that we're not alone. This is hard. Teaching the gospel to your kids is hard. Creating a Christ-centered home in the society of today is hard. But I'm going to do my best to do it for my own family and to help others do it in theirs.

Because it's so worth it.


  1. This was so great. Thank you.

  2. I'm a friend of a friend, married to an MD like you. I want to offer you some advice or brainstorming about "Come Follow Me" tailored to your family. Every family is different and that's why the emphasis on personal revelation is so prescient at the moment, because all we different saints need to lead our different children along the same program to build us stronger families, as you mention. I know families that do study together daily. I know some that do it by age, with discussions/study roughly separated by elementary/middle/high school. In our family my husband and I sit down one on one on Sundays and talking about the Come Follow Me stuff with a Power Point for visuals/videos because there are too many behavioral problems if we do it together. The older children are encouraged to read the selected chapters on their own through the week. For the younger ones I read the illustrated scriptures usually on Saturday or maybe even Sunday before the PPT. We have a family night lesson relevant to the Come Follow Me topic each week. I know families that read these chapters for their normal family scripture study, but we don't. We're still doing our daily column of the Book of Mormon. Sometimes we throw in some meal-time readings, discussions, or church videos and meal-time seems to work fairly well for us as an all-together setting. I hope that some day we'll mature enough as a family (special behavioral needs here) to be able to study Come Follow Me together but we're not there right now.

  3. You know, I was thinking exactly the same thing when we went to church in Morehead City this summer while we were at Emerald Isle. I never want to go, I'm still feeling like I'm in West coast time and it takes a half hour to get to church and they start at 9. 😬 But I almost always feel really blessed for having been there. This year they final speaker talked about the benefits he had seen in his life from having served a mission, and Jared was so moved by his talk. It was amazing!! Now--I didn't go the next week when we were at Topsail because I had almost no sleep the night before. And I decided not to beat myself up about that. But when I do go, it's often really great.