Today church made me sad

I woke up this morning with a sigh.  I don’t every morning.  But today I did because it’s Sunday, and on Sunday I go to church, and sometimes church makes me sad.

 

But I do recall one wonderful Sunday, when I was about 23.  I was volunteering with a local disability support service and we were on a camp in South Canterbury that included a Sabbath outing to the Ashburton Trotting Club.  This took place in my more orthodox period and I battled with myself over this decision to ditch my friends in wheel chairs, or to attend the local LDS meetings.  Perhaps because it seemed a bit counterproductive  and churlish to abandon someone who couldn’t feed themselves so that I could take the sacrament, I went along  with everyone else to the race meet.

 

Halfway through the afternoon I found myself in the track bar, as an increasingly inebriated, and an increasingly vocal crowd of folk with broken bodies cheered along their picks and slurringly swore as their race tickets turned up nags instead of winners.   I was still uncomfortable with my decision to break with my normal Sunday tradition in order to be an accessory to all manner of moral debauchery.  That was until Peter.

 

I was Peter’s carer.  Peter was in his 20’s and was born with severe cerebral palsy that had confined him to a wheelchair for his entire life.  Notwithstanding,  he had a lightening quick wit, and what he lacked in physical ability he made up in his intellectual and emotional acuity.  When he placed has twisted hand on my arm, managed a crooked smile and an awkward,  “Thank you for being here”, I felt the warm embrace of heaven descend upon me, and whisper an absolute assurance that I was where I was supposed to be at that time, on that day.

 

I have felt an unqualified proximity to the heavens on four occasions in my life.  This was one of them.  As I looked about me at this group of tipsy and rowdy invalids I got a sense of the purity of Christ’s mission to lift up the feeble knees.  I had felt Christ’s love for me on many occasions.  My Mormon upbringing had done a good job of giving me a conviction as to my own potential and my own divinity.  But up until then I didn’t have a strong sense of Christ’s love for others, in and out of the church,  and their own divinity.   At the race-track I felt it in such a wave of coherence and knowing that even now when I recall its power over me, I am still moved.

 

As I slipped on my shoes today for church, I was still sighing in anticipation of some moment that might catch my heart, and cause a stab of pain.  Sometimes I feel the heavy weight of the irresolvable that makes it difficult to breath with the expansiveness and depth that I felt on that day when Jesus visited me at the races.   And so, today I was confronted by a woman visitor to our ward who charged me, after my lesson, with being spiritless and contentious.  And today the combined Relief Society and Priesthood meeting viewed a First Presidency training video which was chock full of men talking to men, about men – leaving my friend Suzy to wonder who she was in a church that both discursively, and structurally silences and denies the power of women.

 

Freud aptly describes this conundrum as ‘the narcissism of minor differences’ that relates to those who occupy ‘adjoining territories’ and ‘who are engaged in constant feuds and ridiculing each other.’    Sometimes in the church, our close proximity to each other causes us to flail and fight and fume as we grapple to mark our territory, or to find authentic belonging, meaning, identity and transcendence in a faith tradition that sometimes doesn’t deliver exactly what we need to heal our spirits.  Whatever this problem is, it made me sad today, and caused me to wish for another moment at the Ashburton Races, just to feel once more the indelible impression of the presence of Jesus.

  • Aj70

    Hi g ,today was the first time I had been to church in around a month.and I got what I needed. I was inspired by an awesome gospel doctrine teacher.i received a blessing from my home teachers and I received words of comfort, affirmation from a trusted friend. Although my body is not broken when I came to church to day, my spirit was and you helped to make it feel healed. Never underestimate the effect you can have on other people.i am sorry that the visitor was rude to you, you deserved better.as for the phood video I spoke to Suzy tonight and we discussed why in our church there is so much disaffection and disconnect unless you are one of the people who is 3M( middle class, middle aged, Male) take heart this is christ’s church and regardless of your 3m status he can work through and with you and I witnessed that today. Aloha nui AJ

  • JohnH

    I don’t know if it would make you any happier but you may want to check out the other sections of the training video, not all of them are all men talking about the priesthood, one had men and women and one is all women.

    Your whole post reminds me of Alma 5:26 “And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?”

  • Blackie

    I wondered why they picked Easter for a training video and why they chose that part of it to show. Tom says there are part that do include women. SInce I was in primary I missed it, so can’t really comment.

    I WAS however in Sunday School and can’t figure what the fuss was about. I gather the criticism came from the person whose baby was so noisy all during Sunday School. Couldn’t understand why she didn’t feel the need to at least take him to the back so people could hear.

    Have no idea why she thought the lesson contentious; I thought you were putting the lesson into the larger context of ‘religion’ and where we fit. I think at this point you need just to consider the source and get on with it. While I may not always agree with your take on things (usually do though), at least you give us a topic of discussion with our TBM husbands for Sunday afternoons.

  • Bob Folkman

    In our Utah ward on Easter Sunday, we watched segments of the Training videos. Time only allowed about half of the segments to be viewed. Three of the four we watched included women, as I recall, including the one where all of the participants were Sisters. One of the sisters was a great- grandmother, three were LDS leaders, one was a single mother, and one was a relatively young and new mother who was not “white.” Most of the oversights that local leaders (and General Authorities) make are not by intention, but when faced with so many needs, responsibilities, and expectations, it is difficult for every decision, large and small, to be fully inspired. For the most part, they believe in Christ, they follow Christ, but they are not Christ.

  • http://OneFamilyManyFaiths.blogspot.com Y

    One word: Wow!

  • Jennifer

    Your words help soothe my soul. All the way over here in Idaho, USA I am reading your blog and feeling understood. Please keep writing so honestly! I need your words, your perspective.

  • Sue

    I am a Pagan just reading your blog to get some perspective on the Mormon point of view. I think in any religion, the members are striving to be the best they can be within their faith, but we are all human and humans are not perfect. I am glad to hear that Mormon women would notice they weren’t being represented by the training video you viewed. I tend to think of my religion as being much more fair to women and empowering of women, and I tend to think of Mormonism as pushing women backwards. It was nice to read your blog and see my thinking corrected.

  • Darren

    Gina;

    Hats off to you, mam. I think it takes a specific / special soul to participate as you have with disabled folks. My cousin got her masters in Special Ed and quickly became head of her university’s Special Ed department. She was initially inspired by my hearing-impaired sister and my cousin found her “calling” in pursiung special education. I too once felt raptured by the testimony of a disabled person in a wheelchair. She simply let out a very loud grunt during a youth conference testimony bearing and the Holy Spirit was very powerful when she did . God bless you, Gina, and your efforts.

    Now, am I the only one here who did NOT see a First Presidency training video on Easter Sunday?

    • Zefram

      I didn’t see a training video on Easter. My Seattle ward had a sister teach a special Easter lesson in the chapel to the combined Priesthood and Relief Society group. The sister was one of our former Gospel Doctrine teachers, who had just moved back into the ward. Her lesson was deep, scriptural, and heartfelt.

  • fejoas

    Gina, you might show this short video to the lady who attacked you after your lesson.

    http://www.lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/unto-all-the-world/lord-i-believe?lang=eng


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