Thanksgiving is, IMO, the perfect holiday: good food, a day off work, and no presents to worry about. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to post 10 Things I’m Thankful for about the church and ask that each of you share what you are thankful for.
While there’s a tendency at times in the Bloggernacle to pick scabs and focus on the things that drive us nuts or that don’t make a lot of sense, I thought this week’s holiday was a perfect excuse to share what I love about the church. Here’s my Top 10 (in no particular order).
- Tithing. It’s egalitarian, like a flat tax. No matter how little or how much you make, you can feel like you are contributing proportionally the right amount.
- Fast Offerings. OK, not a big fan of fasting per se due to headaches and grumpiness, but I love the concept of understanding hunger in a personal way once per month and using that money to help those who don’t have enough to eat. What a great principle!
- Sincerity. I seldom encounter a church member who is not trying very hard to live a good Christian life, to raise a strong family or to live what they believe. People are just so gosh darn nice and earnest. While outsiders may be skeptical of that, I think most insiders see that it’s a byproduct of the lifestyle.
- Helpfulness. I love that no matter how menial or repetitive the task, members are willing to pitch in and do whatever is needed: putting away chairs, cleaning up after a social, helping in the nursery, and cleaning the ward building are just a few, to mention nothing about the humanitarian and service projects.
- Human potential. I love the concept that we are God’s children and can become like Him in a very real way. It’s a genius concept! Far more compelling than sitting on a cloud strumming a harp listening to instrumental soft rock.
- Word of Wisdom. OK, so it’s not perfect – we’re probably over-reaching a bit – but I love the idea of all of us forgoing what is harmful to “the weakest of the Saints.” And I love the original intent of the Word of Wisdom–that through keeping our minds free and bodies healthy and not indulging in things that are harmful or addictive we can achieve more spiritual enlightenment.
- Pantheon of Leaders. There are so many different church leaders with different perspectives and styles that if one of them rubs you the wrong way or fails to inspire you personally, there are many many more to choose from.
- Personal Revelation. Not only are we given ongoing revelation from leaders, but we are entitled to our own personal revelation, making it a church of prophets in essence. Everyone has the ability to receive inspiration for their own lives, families and responsibilities. That also helps us stay open-minded.
- Callings. While it sounds like some sort of shangri-la to go to a church where you are one of thousands in the congregation, church is over in an hour, and there are coffee and donuts afterward, there is nothing like a calling to take you out of your comfort zone and make you grow. The hardest callings are often the most rewarding in terms of the skills you gain, and even just giving talks creates a ton of personal and spiritual growth.
- Open Canon. The concept of ongoing revelation and that scripture continues to be revealed (even if it is in the more fluid form of General Conference talks now vs. new sections to the Doctrine & Covenants) means that change is inevitable. Doctrines continue to be revealed and reinterpreted. Change happens. Our understanding evolves.
These are just a few of the things I would hate to do without in my religious worship. What things are in your Top 10? Any similarities? Differences? Discuss.
That is a neat post, thanks Hawkgrrrl.
Bear with me.
I’ve been out of the Church for over 15 years, but I can honestly say I am grateful for the time I was in the Church because I’ve taken many positive things away. I have also unwittingly learned many things that helped me leave, and helped me to the path of happiness that I enjoy now with my husband and children. Let’s see if I can make it to ten. :0)
1) I’m grateful for the basic bible lessons of primary. My kids never got them, and so to speak of something from the bible other than Noah and the Ark is foreign to them. I think the bible is an important text in our culture, not for any ‘truth’ it holds, but because it is a commonality we all share.
2)I am grateful for the YW leaders who took me under their wing. They saw me struggle, they heard my doubts. Many of them couldn’t answer my questions–but they loved me and delighted in my rebellious soul and individuality.
3) I’m grateful for the music that infused the meetings; even now when I attend family members’ meetings for blessings, etc., I belt out the hymns because they bring back the solace and comfort of my childhood, when my parent’s sat next to me and harmonized beautifully to the songs.
4) I’m grateful for basic principles taught to me that include loving my fellow man, being anxiously engaged in a good cause and learning not to judge.
5) I’m grateful for the many associations I made, the many friends and the feeling that, even if it was superficial because I felt like such an outsider, I belonged to a community.
6) I’m grateful for the many opportunities the Church afforded me to serve and perform charity work.
7) I’m grateful for the people I met who were judgmental, mean and intolerant of my struggles. They taught me what I didn’t want in my life and they helped me distinguish between ‘people’ and the Church.
8) I’m grateful for the colossal mistakes made by my leaders. I was blamed for being sexually assaulted as a teen by my bishop and stake president. The crime was committed by another bishops’ son. It was quashed and covered up and the boy went on to serve a mission; I was dis-fellowshipped. It was a turning point for me as I realized these men were fallible and were not truly led at all times by the Spirit.
9) I am grateful I was shunned by my ward when, during my first marriage, I was vilified for leaving my abusive husband. My bishop’s exact words to me: “Do you know how difficult it is for a woman with two children to get remarried?” This was a gift because I realized that the Church could no longer be my community if I was going to survive and teach my daughters to survive and thrive.
10) Funeral potatoes. I am grateful for funeral potatoes.
The smiley face was a mistake…sorry.
Since I subscribe to everything and everywhere my wife writes on Google Reader, I saw this post and wanted to add my ten grateful bits — briefly. Ultimately the Church is about people and it is the people from the Church that give us the ideas, beliefs and comfort that shape our lives.
10. Pioneer ancestors that got me here.
9. Neil LaBute, Walter Kirn, Brian Evenson
8. Eugene England
7. Lavina Fielding Anderson
6. Paul Toscano
5. JulieAnn’s siblings.
4. My siblings.
3. JulieAnn’s Parents, who I never had the blessing to meet.
2. My Parents
1. JulieAnn: In a very real and important way, JulieAnn and I are together because of funeral potatoes. Happy Thanksgiving All.
You have what I lack, the ability to express yourself so well! As I read the top ten things you are grateful for in the church, it helped me recognize how grateful I am for the same things you listed.
Here are some others that I am very grateful for:
1. Knowing that we are God’s children. The fact that I am a child of God has made all the difference in my life.
2. Knowing that the Godhead consists of three separate beings. I love knowing this and I love being able to pray to a God that is relatable to me.
3. Temples. During one of the most difficult times in my life I went to the temple every week and it brought me great comfort. I have also loved going to different temples when I travel, especially to the temple in Nauvoo. What a cool experience.
4. The old ward outings we went on in my youth. We went snowmobiling and waterskiing as a ward when I was young. Because my family didn’t do much else together, I have very good memories of those trips and I am grateful they used to do them back in the old days.
5. Dance Festivals. I recently heard that some stakes were doing a Dance Festival again, but it has been over 20 years since I was in one. I met some of my closest friends in my youth at the Dance Festival I performed in and they helped me through some rough times.
6. Trustworthy people. I love the people who understand the importance of keeping things to themselves. It is hard to find people who don’t blab everything you tell them. I love those who choose not to gossip and give others the benefit of the doubt. I think those are the people that God trusts and I do as well.
7. Short haircuts, suits and white shirts. Maybe it is the military in me from my youth, but I love to see a man with a sharp haircut, a white shirt and a suit on.
8. YM and YW programs. I am grateful for Scouting and for Personal Progress programs. I have seen my children blossom within these programs and they have made a big difference in their growth and development.
9. LDS and other Christina artists. I love LDS and other Christian artists who use their talents to uplift and edify. I love the fact that people are trying to make a positive difference in the world and I am grateful that there is good music that I can turn on in my home or on the radio that will teach goodness to those who hear it.
10. Mormon Matters. Without the church, Mormon Matters wouldn’t exist. I am grateful that I came upon this blog and have been able to come to understand others better. I love people and I love getting to know how others feel about important matters in their life. I think the Lord has led me here to open my mind and heart to some of the the bigger issues in and out of the church. It has been a great learning experience for me and one that I will utilize throughout my life.
Thanks for the post Hawk and Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂
Oops….#9 Christian artists, not Christina!
Julie Ann, KW, and Jen – thanks for sharing your lists! Happy Thanksgiving!
C’mon, “The smiley face was a mistake…sorry.” is an instant classic. Respect!
I still hold a soft spot in my heart, from my days as a Ward Clerk, towards fast offering collections and their generous distribution from a non-discriminating Bishop. Probably due to the somewhat dominant conservative political culture of the Church, in Utah at least, it seems that a prevailing attitude among members is to be opposed to many forms of social welfare. I recently attended a stake conference where a presiding Stake authority made some strong remarks in this vein, which has always rubbed me wrong. I am also aware of some cases where incredible generosity was displayed annonymously from within wards. I always sat and watched weekly as a good Bishop would distribute funds to needy inidividuals within our Ward boundaries, who frankly weren’t really interested in the Church for much more than source of assistance. This left a strong impression on me. I am grateful for the Church’s encouragement that we help one another also.
What a great list for one who is on the outside to read. I have my doubts about this church, and I realize that people are fallible (including prophets and apostles) but the uniqueness of the LDS sect within Christianity is what has kept me interested and reading more about the church. I am thankful that there are resources like mormommatters on the web so that those who are seeking more info about the church are able to learn a side of it that is not produced by it’s missionary aparatus or its public relations department. Though the doctrine of this church seems to have won my heart it is the people I have met at the Ward and online that have really made the difference in my understanding that this is the Lord’s Church imperfect though it sometimes is…happy t-day
The good people in the church. Even though I attend sacrament meeting only and hold no callings, I encourage my sons to attend church. I hope they find LDS spouses. They are good people. There is comfort in being friends with Mormons and having your kids do likewise.
Mormon Matters. I like hearing both sides of the issues.
” I have my doubts about this church” should be “Have had” 😉
Great list Hawk. It will likely be no surprise that my list is similar.
1. Good people. No matter what opinion you hold as to why LDS people act the way they do, the fact is, most Mormons (I associate with anyway) are great people. I love to be around such great people who love, care, and try their best.
2. WoW. What Hawk said. And additionally I’m grateful because this principle possibly kept me out of a lot of trouble.
3. Callings. What a great mechanism for helping each member grow and develop spiritually. One of the biggest reasons I’m a member of this church.
4. Whatever is in the culture, doctrine, organization, etc. that has helped lead me to where I am today, including my disaffection, and then reconciliation. I have grown immensely in the past year, and although there has been much pain and suffering as my world collapsed there was light at the end of the tunnel of anger and as I exited I found a seemingly much different Mormonism on the other side!
5. Focus on community, while preserving individuality and a strong work ethic.
6. Open canon/continuing revelation. A brilliant mechanism for avoiding the stagnation that so many others deal with as they try to reinterpret greatly flawed, over-analyzed ancient materials.
7. God’s in Embryo. Brings God into us either/both literally and metaphorically. We can, naturally, learn to emanate that God within and eventually become (in some sense) that which we worship.
8. A rich theology in which, really, anyone can find something to relate to. There are so many facets, allegories, parables, myths, concepts, and doctrines that almost anyone could be satisfied with many parts of it (despite the cultural misgivings in Utah).
9. Missions. I loved my mission, I really did. I was a hard-core, rule keeping, orthodox preaching jerk, but I did learn and grow a lot, and met many wonderful people.
10. BYU. I loved my BYU experience. I was largely aloof of the culture at that point, and I loved the devotionals, classes, professors, and work I did there.
Thanks for the great reminder Hawk!!
Great post and well-written; food for thought to go with the feast tomorrow. Thanks. ..bruce..
Your positive vibe is something I am grateful for. Now if I can only learn to portray it in my current situation. Keep up the posts I enjoy reading what you write.
Almost all of you – almost all of the time. 🙂
Not in order of importance:
1) What I call “pure Mormonism”. I’ve never found anything as mind-blowingly awesome, and I’ve been exposed to just about everything imaginable.
2) The concept of eternal unity. Being married to your “split-apart” is wonderful, but the belief that we will not be split apart again is even better.
3) The WofW’s clear warning about addiction peddlers in the latter days. The rest can be debated ad infinitum; the focus is prophetic to the core.
4) Our own family’s Christmas star experience. (Sorry, no details here.) God truly does know the major events of our lives before they unfold.
5) Our children, both biological and otherwise.
6) My parents. (I have shared the story of my father’s sacrifice for my mother, and I can’t express adequately my thanks for that legacy that is uniquely Mormon.)
7) Some very difficult challenges that only make sense in hindsight; hence, the concept of enduring to the end.
8 ) The chance now to wake up each morning excited to go to work. (While my work is not LDS-related, getting here to it absolutely was – in a weird way.)
9) The chance to teach Seminary to our daughters in our home – and the secondary effect on our younger daughters.
10) The fellowship of the Saints, flawed though it may be.
I have seen conflicting recipes about how to make funeral potatoes. Is there a definitive, official, correlated version?
I love your list.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
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There is no official correlated version of funeral potatoes, but I like all the different variations. Anything smothered in cheese is really good!
I think it is always good to count our many blessings. Thanks Hawkgrrrl! Too often we focus on negative, and it is nice to accentuate the positive.
1. I am thankful for the Seminary teacher who pulled me through High School and prayed with and for me.
2. I am thankful for a best boy “friend” in High School who was an excellent example of a worthy priesthood holder. I never had to worry about boundaries with him. He respected the moral codes and stood firm, even when I tried to tempt him to test his character. I only pray my girls have friends like him.
3. I am thankful for the Book of Mormon. Even as my faith gets tested on principals I don’t like (polygamy) my testimony of the Book of Mormon has never wavered.
4. I am thankful for my husband, who was worthy to marry me in Temple and who has sincerely tried to serve our family by using his priesthood properly.
5. I am thankful for Relief Society, especially for my RS president when I was young mother with 3 wild children. She was married to a lesser active man, and her grown children had major struggles. She even swore a time or two in front of me. I loved her humanness and she showed me what it was like to be a LDS mother in the real world.
6. I am thankful for the good church leaders I have watched from afar. Many people in leadership callings give insane amounts of time and emotion helping their fellow members. I appreciate their efforts, even when I disagree and I secretly pray my husband and I are never called to any of their positions.
7. I am thankful for the way the gospel has something for everyone. Family History, Scouting, RS, Primary, Young Women, Temple work, Welfare and more I can’t think of right now. For anyone who feels driven to investigate a prinicipal, there is a whole program already in place.
8. I am thankful for our perspective on the Atonement. I am a critical, snarky woman who struggles with many imperfections. I need to know that I am a work in progress and my Heavenly Father understands that.
9. I am thankful for our commercials. Hands down, I have never seen any other church produce better commercials than us. We are definately the funniest, most touching church on the the planet.
10. I am thankful for every calling I have ever had, even the jobs I hated. The miserable callings made it easier to judge the good callings. I am thankful for every crazy, mean-spirited person I have had to deal with in callings. They reminded me how great everyone else is.
I had an unexpected brush with mortality a few weeks ago. When I was lying in a hospital room 2,000 miles from my home, I very reluctantly asked my Bishop if he would hold a ward fast for me, which he did without hesitating. I don’t know how many people actually participated, but I think it was a significant number. I firmly believe the fasting, prayers, and faith of my ward brothers and sisters turned a probable two or three week hospital stay into a six day stay.
I am thankful to be alive (one of my doctors said that the fact I’m still alive was “almost” a miracle), and I am grateful that people I’ve really only known for a few years, and probably haven’t been that nice to, were willing to sacrifice a few hours of personal comfort for me. I can tell you without a doubt that it worked.
I am sincerely glad you are alright, Robert. Truly.
What tends to raise my eyebrow is this: I know plenty of atheists who have had similar experiences. Would you say that because people sacrificed personal comfort for you, God had mercy on you? Are you saying that because you are Mormon, or a Christian, that God ‘blessed’ you over someone who perhaps doesn’t have people to miss a meal for them?
I don’t believe there is anything wrong with feeling grateful. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking people to pray for you (if you believe in that.) My perspective is this: to attribute a person surviving or getting better to God’s whim is somewhat insensitive–What about the child who didn’t survive? What about my friend’s husband, a really wonderful man, who died recently? Did they not pray enough? Were not enough MEALS forgone? Or is it simply the “God works in mysterious ways” card?
See, if your answer is that the child was SUPPOSE to die, or my friend’s husband was supposed to die because it was ‘their time’, then you also have to concede that you WEREN’T supposed to die; so the fasting and prayers were nice sentiments, but literally did nothing to aid in your recovery. If you say that the fasting and prayers were really what did it, changing God’s mind about your destiny, then your God is a cruel being indeed.
The thing I think you can be truly grateful for is that you have a loving and kind community who cared enough for you to send their prays and thoughts your way in a time of need. I think we could all use that kind of support.
You make an interesting point. It is definately something I have wondered about. It’s the old question of how involved is God in our lives. Does He care who we marry? Does He care what our job is? It goes on and on. When I meet Him someday, I plan on having that question near the top of my list.
I do have a question for you. I read on #2 your comment that you have been out of the church for 15 years. That brings up something I have noticed happens quite often on the ‘net. Why do you read and post on Mormon Matters if this isn’t your faith anymore? I had a conversation with a friend the other day about this practice. I guess my thought is if I left the church I wouldn’t be interested in thinking, reading or commenting on it. Are your intentions to come back to activity, or is it hard to leave the church?
Some people would contend that I am here only to be a rabble-rouser. But it isn’t the case.
I was born and raised (by goodly parents) in the Mormon faith; I have a Mormon family with whom I have a great relationship. I live in a Mormon state. I have many Mormon friends. I am, for all intensive purposes, a Cultural Mormon. Mormonism isn’t just a religion, it’s a culture, a way of life and this entire state is STEEPED in it–for those who haven’t lived here their whole lives, the experience can range from quaint to out and out creepy.
I believe that Mormonism began with something all together different than what it is now. The Church of today is Brigham Young’s Church, not Joseph Smith’s. Joseph was a bit of a mystic; I daresay he was quite esoteric in his beliefs. I think if he had lived, this would be a very different Church today, one that is not so fundamental. My problem is this (with all religions): they take everything so darned literal. If people would stop adhering to the absolute letter of the law and grasp that the stories and ‘commandments’ are metaphorical, I think it would solve many problems, including judgmental attitudes, self-absorption, the obsessive need to ‘keep up appearances’ aka be perfect, and separatism–also the whole “One and Only True” business.
Joseph Campbell once said, “Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.”
This is how I feel exactly. This is why I believe Jesus spoke in parables–things are not meant to be taken literally.
So to answer your question, I have a deep and abiding love for many Mormons and for the Mormon religion; it has given me many good things. I believe I could have stayed a Mormon if I had met people from this site and felt more free to question and doubt. And I believe that if more people like you existed within the Church, it might be a catalyst for change, the kind of change necessary to bring it to a place where more people could find acceptance, belief and associations with fluidity rather than with stringent rules and dogma.
I haunt this site because, at heart, I am still that doubtful, incorrigible, vocal Mormon girl wanting to voice my quandaries in a Church I desperately want to hear me.
“My problem is this (with all religions): they take everything so darned literal. If people would stop adhering to the absolute letter of the law and grasp that the stories and ‘commandments’ are metaphorical, I think it would solve many problems, including judgmental attitudes, self-absorption, the obsessive need to ‘keep up appearances’ aka be perfect, and separatism–also the whole “One and Only True” business.
Joseph Campbell once said, “Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.””
Joseph Campbell rocks!
Just a couple of things-
No. 3 “Sincerity” is right about 90% of the time. There are a few Seinfeld characters.
Looking over the other comments, Most have to do with the church but some relate only to the culture in what Mountain Westerners call Zion and the rest of us call Happy Valley. They just dont play everywhere.
God bless you all!
Didn’t the brethren oppose the flat tax in Utah?
The flat tax is not egalitarian because of the law of diminishing returns. That means that the first dollar you earn is worth more than the millionth. You need the first dollar for essentials such as food. The millionth dollar, you can afford to spend on a Ferrari.
That’s why a progressive tax, which is a conservative innovation, by the way, is more egalitarian than a flat tax.
I am grateful that the brethren understand that.
1. I am thankful for the knowledge that I am the child of a loving Father in Heaven who compensates for all mankind not just those that say “Lord, Lord”.
2. I am thankful for my wife. I wish it had not taken so long for me to understand what an incredible individual she is.
3. I am thankful for my loving parents and in – laws. They are my modern heroes!
4. I am thankful for the depth that this gospel has in regards to the nature of God and the atonement of Jesus Christ. I hope that I can humble myself enough to let it work completely before I leave this sphere.
5. I am thankful for the wise teacher who taught me that my ability to follow will be what will “exalt” me if I can master the principal.
6. I am thankful for every Bishop I have ever had.
7. I am thankful for the many teachers and leaders that I had in Primary, Sunday School, Young Mens, Seminary, Priesthood and my mission.
8. I am thankful for most of the callings I have had.
9. I am thankful and amazed by those who constantly sacrifice tirelessly.
10. I am thankful for the temple and the unique possibilities it offers to all.
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