Melissa’s Question

A week or so ago Melissa packed up her stuff to leave the adjunct faculty office where we’d been working and then asked, “So Jayne, I’ve been wondering. How do you feel about all these things people are saying about your religion?”

I must have looked at her with a quizzical look because then she said, “You know what I’m talking about: the Broadway play, Romney running for president, and that television show about the Mormons with all those wives. Seems like every time you turn around, someone is saying something negative about the Mormons.”

Ah yes, I knew exactly what Melissa was talking about. It’s just that I’m kind of, sort of used to it. Melissa is an educated, open minded person who believes, as I do, that people should be allowed to worship who, when, where and how they feel like it. Neither of us would deliberately attack or make disparaging remarks about other people’s religions, and we don’t understand all the Mormon bashing. Hmmm. Let me correct that. We refer to ourselves as LDS (Latter-day Saints) and not Mormons, mainly because we don’t worship Mormon. Gee whiz. No.

I can’t remember what I told Melissa, but I’m telling you that yes and no, it bothers me and it doesn’t bother me. No one likes to hear her religion, children, fashion, decorating style, etc. criticized, but at the same time it doesn’t make me angry. It makes me sad.

If you criticize one of my children or grandchildren, I’ll probably think you have a few loose screws or that you really know him or her. Then again, I might get really angry. It depends on who says it, what’s said, my mood, and so forth. If you criticize my decorating style and remark that it’s a bit eclectic, I’ll bid you adieu with a gentle reminder that “to each, her own.” If you criticize my religion,  I won’t get angry. Promise.

I’ll feel sad. Then I’ll wonder how anyone could doubt the truthfulness of a church known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. I might add that in line with what our name implies as Christians, we do our dead level best to love and serve others, even when they vilify us unmercifully. I must also add that we, as followers of Christ, never berate or belittle other religions Indeed, the 11th Article of Faith states that “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

About the sad feeling, I might also be puzzled at why you (in a general sense) feel the need to be critical and I can only conclude that you haven’t checked us out for yourself. That said, why not do it at Mormon.org? We have no secrets. We welcome you to follow the Savior’s admonition to “Come unto me.” We don’t care how much money you have or haven’t, the color of your skin, your past, or your occupation. We believe that we’re all brothers and sisters of the same Creator.

 Let’s talk about the three things Melissa mentioned:

The Broadway play entitled The Book of Mormon. Naïve me, I downloaded the music from iTunes only to discover that that it wasn’t something I wanted to listen to, much less see (the musical). I was psyched up to listen to it on one of my daily walk/jogs, and then I heard the F word. And then I heard it again. Then I heard even worse language. Why do intelligent, educated, gifted people have to resort to such vulgar vocabulary? Surely, there are some slang, cool, or hip words or expressions they can employ to get audiences and praise.

I ended up deleting all but one of the songs. I kept “Hello” because I think it’s probably like many missionary experiences. I don’t even want the selections on my iPhone whether I’m listening to them or not. As someone said, if you want to be entertained for an evening, see the play. If you want to feel peace and joy for a lifetime, read the book.

By the way, I think the play has a happy ending in that some of the people of Africa are converted and later become missionaries themselves. Some of my friends say, “Well, no wonder your church is growing so much. Look at all the missionaries.” I can only ask, “Doesn’t your church have missionaries too?” Sure,there are differences. Our missionaries don’t receive a salary, and they only serve a limited amount of time, depending on their age and gender.

Some people look at television shows about people who purport to be LDS, and yet they practice polygamy. The LDS church has not practiced polygamy since the late 1800’s when it was forbidden by the law of the land. “That’s disgusting!” people say. If you’re one of those people, how do you reconcile your feelings when looking at the lives of Jacob, David, or Solomon? Don’t even bother telling me that things were different back in the day. Please.

About Romney, whether he’ll be our next president is hard to tell. I’m no prognosticator. All I know is that whoever is elected to that high office will be there because that’s who God wants to be there at that time. I picked up that way of thinking from Billy Graham who’s been puzzled and almost heartsick at the election of some leaders.

I could go on and on and on and on but I won’t. I’ll end by inviting you to check us out at www.mormon.org if you want the whole story. You’ll find tons of information as well as profiles of members from all over the world. Mine is there, right along with those of folks from Canada, Africa, and France.

April 6, 2005


This time five years ago I was a nervous wreck. Well, okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but just a slight one.  I was psyched up and anxious at the same time because April 6, 2005 was the day that my son Paul came home from his two-year mission in Torreon, Mexico. Earlier this afternoon, he asked me if I remembered it. All I can say is that there are some things a mother never forgets.

Below is my version of the evening’s events that I’m copying straight from my book. The picture above is one of my favorites. Taken in Christo de las Noas, it’s of Paul (a.k.a. Elder Crolley) with Elders Cabrera, Farnsworth, and Martinez.

Luke 23: 43
“To day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”

Looking at the video brought back all sorts of recollections of the evening of Elder Crolley’s homecoming. Feelings of anticipation, excitement, and happiness accompanied all of his family as we alternately walked about the airport, sat on the hard seats, did our share of people watching, and talked with each other. As friends began to arrive to welcome the young missionary back to South Carolina and the coast where he grew up, the so-called volume was turned up a notch. Listening to the animated chatter, I recalled my few minutes of reflective solitude an hour earlier as I attempted to read a novel in the quiet “pre-storm” hallway, trying to concentrate on the book and yet having my eyes drawn towards the area beyond the security door, the spot where my son would stand  before long.

After two years absence, I’d soon see his face, not in a photograph or in a mini-movie but in the flesh. His father walked up, crossed his arms, and stared at the same spot. Soon his grandmother, sisters, and other family came in from the outside where they had been watching planes depart and arrive. Glancing at the babies he had never seen, I wondered how Elder Crolley would respond to these little ones. Looking to my left, I realized that several people from the two wards where we had been members had arrived. Although it was nearly 10:00 at night, these faithful friends had made the effort to be there. Is this what it’s like in Paradise as our departed friends and family await our arrival?

The din changes its tenor as the moment approaches. His father assures me that I should be the first to greet him, followed by his grandmother, and I stand alone at the entry, alone and yet surrounded at the same time. My eyes looking forward, I see no one around me or behind me as I scan the faces of the arriving passengers. Where is he???

Suddenly he turns the corner and walks towards us, his appearance changed, matured into a young man that I scarcely recognize. Badge on his lapel, there’s no mistaking his identity as a representative of the Church. Putting down his bag, he hugs me and moves towards the others who have gathered to welcome him home. Thanks to Jenny, my sweet step-daughter, all of the embraces and handshakes are recorded. Looking at them tonight for the umpteenth time, I again wonder if this is what it will be like in Paradise. Even now there are loved ones waiting to welcome us home and envelop us with love.

Nourishment in Myrtle Beach

 

When I was a younger mother and had to miss church for some reason or another (sick child, traveling, etc.), I’d often lament aloud that I hated not going. My mother often said, “The church is not going to fall down without you if you miss today, Darling.” I knew that. What I was afraid of is that I would fall down without it. I still feel that way. I need spiritual nourishment just like I need physical sustenance.

 I spent part of the weekend in Myrtle Beach, and this morning was just as busy as the rest of the weekend. When I looked at the clock and realized that I only had 50 minutes to shower, dress, and drive to the chapel, I thought, “Hmmm. Maybe Elizabeth and I can just stay here and watch church on television. Or maybe there’s a local church that I can visit today.” But no, I decided to hustle so that I could be edified and uplifted among some of the people I love.

 I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, the experience was a virtual feast. From the time I walked through the side door and passed the Primary room, memories of a bygone era washed over me. In that very room, my three children had learned stories and songs about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I had served as a counselor in the organization. With a lump in my throat, I continued towards the chapel itself and found it full to capacity. While I was wondering where to sit, Sam, a friend from that earlier era, jumped up and pointed me to an empty seat by Teresa, another old friend.

 Everything about the meeting was memorable, and I especially enjoyed mingling with old friends and talking with some of them afterwards. Carol and Greg are expecting another granddaughter any day, Elder Servin is enjoying working in Myrtle Beach (he was recently in Camden), Eric is looking chipper, Patty is embarking on a new career, and Cora Lee’s little red haired granddaughter is adorable. Tiffany, my daughter-in-law’s sister, gave the opening prayer, and her husband offered the closing one. Afterwards, he joked that it was the only time he’d ever had the last word.

 After talking with Teresa about her college-aged sons, I scooted out the same way I had come in.  By then Primary had begun, and while the “cast of characters” has changed, the message is the same. I’m so thankful for the teachings and guidance that the LDS church gave to me and my children. And I’m also grateful for my fellow and sister saints. No matter where I go or what ward I visit, I know I can count on love and acceptance and unity within the church.  

 In the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Unity is the hallmark of the true church of Christ. It is felt among our people throughout the world. As we are one, we are his.”

Monday Morning Memories

We’re heading home after lunch, and I haven’t actually seen the ocean yet. I’ve felt its presence, but that’s not the same as seeing it. Elizabeth and I rode down the boulevard after church yesterday, hoping to catch a few glimpses, but we struck out. The fog, even at that time of the late morning, was still so dense that we could barely make out the outlines of poles and palm trees. Today’s another day, and I plan to walk on the strand shortly.

It’s been a super weekend, just what the doctor ordered before becoming totally immersed in the semester. In addition to shopping with my lovely daughter and sister-in-law, there were some fun dining experiences, lots of shared laughter, a movie (The Book of Eli), a leisurely stroll through Barnes and Noble, and attending church in Myrtle Beach. And lest I forget, my hubby and I hung bamboo shades in the bedrooms and curtains in the dining room. Dining room is kind of a misnomer since it’s actually an area at the end of the so-called living room, but still….

What I’ll probably remember most is going to church in Myrtle Beach yesterday. That’s where I spent so many of my younger years, and the memories of that place and time are more than a little dear. Yesterday as Elizabeth, her father, Jeff R., Sister Franklin, and I sat on the back row, I remembered the Sunday that a 12-year-old Carrie stood and bore her testimony. I sat quietly listening and thought, “She’s one brave kid.” She was and still is brave and valiant when it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I remembered the first time I ever spoke in Sacrament and how nervous and downright shaky I was. To control my butterflies, I looked to the right where my family was sitting and to the middle section where Dennis Stalvey was. I knew that he’d be pretending to listen even if he wasn’t, and that gave me encouragement. I remembered Gail and Tom and their precious little children and how we were all friends “back in the day.” In fact, all of the people there were and still are  dear to me.

I recalled the Sunday when we got the word that several of the MB families would be thereafter attending church in the newly formed Conway branch, and we were one of them. I was in shock. How could I leave this edifice that I loved and the people within it? Little did I know how much my children would grow and reach more of their potential in that tiny church in Conway. Now that small congregation is a large, thriving, ever growing ward, and it too has friends that I enjoy worshipping with. At the moment I’m remembering the “farewell” talks that Paul and his father and I gave on his last Sunday there before leaving for the MTC and then Mexico where he served his mission. The congregation sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” because that was one of his favorites.

I didn’t mean to get so carried away. I only meant to write briefly about church yesterday and the primary message I took away: Listen to the Spirit. I’m capitalizing that because of its importance, not because of what some people might perceive as “a weird Mormon thing.” Sometimes it’s hard to discern the still, small voice from all of the other voices that vie for our attention. So how can you tell if it’s the spirit trying to get your attention or not? It’s simple. The spirit of God is going to direct you in ways that are good, good for you and for the people around you. Plus, it makes you feel serene, calm, and at peace. If you hear something like,

“You need to get revenge,”

“You should stay and gamble just a little longer,”

“It’s okay to cheat on this test,”

“Let someone else help the people in Haiti; I have my own problems.”

“It’s fine to flirt with this sexy babe or handsome hunk; my wife/husband/beloved will never know,” then you’re listening to the wrong messages. Satan’s static is interfering with the Spirit’s efforts to communicate with you. It will always direct you for good.

Enough of a sermonette. One of the best things that happened yesterday is that I reconnected with Elder Servin, a young elder who’s recently left the Camden area and is now serving in Myrtle Beach. He’s one of those especially special missionaries who going to leave his influence for good no matter where he is. I hope the folks in Myrtle Beach treat him well and that they’ll listen to his message.

As for yours truly, I’m trying to “Be still and know.”

April 6, 2005

 la20union1

 

April 6 is a big day in more ways than one. It’s the day the LDS church was organized, and it’s the day that my son returned to SC after serving a two-year mission in Mexico. As we chatted on the  phone for a few minutes Monday afternoon, he asked, “Do you know what today is?”Of course I knew. There are some things that a mother never ever forgets. Seared into my long term memory are memories of the day he left and of the day he returned.

 

April 6, 2005 was a sunny day with moderate temperatures. It was also a long one that seemed to drag on forever as his arrival time kept moving back. Originally set for 4:30 p.m., it changed to 7:30 and finally to 9:50. The last phone call letting me know about the later arrival came while we were at Chili’s in Myrtle Beach, and I remember how funny/weird/good it felt to be able to actually talk to him. For two years, we’d talked on Mothers’ day and Christmas with weekly emails to fill in the blanks, and now that restriction was lifted.

 

Above is a picture of him taken somewhere in Mexico (Fresnillo, I think), and one of the reasons I like it is because of the way he’s looking down the road. In my mind, I imagine him wondering, “What’s down the road? What’s next?” That was probably five years ago. Since then, he’s made two trips back to Mexico, one of which was on his honeymoon. He’s also graduated from college, moved to Atlanta with his lovely bride, and begun graduate school.

 

Below is my version of the night of his homecoming that I’m cutting and pasting from my book. Any parent of a missionary can identify.

 

Luke 23: 43

“To day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”

Looking at the video brought back all sorts of recollections of the evening of Elder Crolley’s homecoming. Feelings of anticipation, excitement, and happiness accompanied all of his family as we alternately walked about the airport, sat on the hard seats, did our share of people watching, and talked with each other. As friends began to arrive to welcome the young missionary back to South Carolina and the coast where he grew up, the so-called volume was turned up a notch. Listening to the animated chatter, I recalled my few minutes of reflective solitude an hour earlier as I attempted to read a novel in the quiet “pre-storm” hallway, trying to concentrate on the book and yet having my eyes drawn towards the area beyond the security door, the spot where my son would stand  before long.

 

After two years absence, I’d soon see his face, not in a photograph or in a mini-movie but in the flesh. His father walked up, crossed his arms, and stared at the same spot. Soon his grandmother, sisters, and other family came in from the outside where they had been watching planes depart and arrive. Glancing at the babies he had never seen, I wondered how Elder Crolley would respond to these little ones. Looking to my left, I realized that several people from the two wards where we had been members had arrived. Although it was nearly 10:00 at night, these faithful friends had made the effort to be there. Is this what it’s like in Paradise as our departed friends and family await our arrival?

 

The din changes its tenor as the moment approaches. His father assures me that I should be the first to greet him, followed by his grandmother, and I stand alone at the entry, alone and yet surrounded at the same time. My eyes looking forward, I see no one around me or behind me as I scan the faces of the arriving passengers. Where is he???

 

Suddenly he turns the corner and walks towards us, his appearance changed, matured into a young man that I scarcely recognize. Badge on his lapel, there’s no mistaking his identity as a representative of the Church. Putting down his bag, he hugs me and moves towards the others who have gathered to welcome him home. Thanks to Jenny, my sweet step-daughter, all of the embraces and handshakes are recorded. Looking at them tonight for the umpteenth time, I again wonder if this is what it will be like in Paradise. Even now there are loved ones waiting to welcome us home and envelope us with love.