As It Is or As I Am – the Art of Becoming

A journey … towards … being

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world

January 2nd.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world – Anne Frank

I can’t find much, if anything, to develop here. It seems a thought that is very concise. Although what is meant by “improve” may differ from person to person. We can improve the world in small ways, ways that don’t take time. We can smile. Especially toward someone we don’t know (a shop assistant) or have only recently met.

We can improve the world by volunteering in some way. Many charities and similar organisations are always looking for people to assist. We can become politically active. That will definitely vary from person to person.

There is indeed something we can all do, small or great.

One Year Wiser

The title of this post is possibly misleading. As we begin a new year, it could appear to give the impression I consider myself wiser now, than one year ago. I do hope that is the case, that in some small degree I’ve developed greater wisdom over the past year. Though in regard to this post “One Year Wiser” is the title of a book I received at Christmas containing “365 Illustrated Meditations” by Mike Medaglia.

Each page has a thought, illustrated by Mike Medaglia. I’m not going to describe the illustrations here. If you want to see those, I’d suggest buying book ☺ Here I aim to daily give my thoughts on the thoughts Mike selected for his book. They could be considered “memes” which generally I don’t like, as in trying to distill some truth or other into one or two sentences, they lose or miss out so much. Having looked through several pages of the book, I feel and see these thoughts as indeed having more wisdom and profundity than most memes I’ve seen. So the first page:

January 1
The only journey is the one within – Rainer Maria Rilke

The only journey? We all take journeys – to school, to work, to the shops, to visit a friend, to just walk – all important. My take on the word “only” is implying the main, the most important, the key journey we make is within ourselves, to discover who we are. This then leads to many other journeys of self discovery, self realisation and questions – who am I? Am I of God, of the universe, of eternity, of the earth? Is there purpose beyond myself? This post is not about answering such questions, perhaps through the year, some will be. There may also be a journey into our past, to awaken the little girl or boy who was suppressed due to some early years trauma.

A good meditation to start the year with.

Sacrament talk – life is messy

Introduction:

Latest talk from Church. There have been a couple of others since my last, but those were delivered without notes or being written out. Always a slightly dangerous thing for myself, as I never know where I’ll end up🙂

After delivering a talk there is for me a pause to reflect on changes I might have made. I  don’t feel to alter anything here, though I could have added a lot more about empathy as being a key part of carrying others crosses, plus more about not trying to fix things. Empathy – perhaps a subject for my next talk?

The talk itself:

Life is messy. Things often don’t work out the way we want or anticipate. It would be nice if it were not so. To pretend otherwise is, well, ludicrous and a little bit crazy. And yes, often we do pretend life is not messy. I’m not sure it’s always a conscious, deliberate denial of the messiness. But, facing the messiness can be scary.

Occasionally someone will publicly own and share the messiness of their life. If they are doing so on their own terms, when they will ready to do so, I think that’s wonderful. It’s not something easily done. I recognise not everyone is happy to hear of other’s really personal issues. Whether such sharing is done one to one or more publicly in a lesson or perhaps a fast and testimony meeting, hearing the difficulties of others is an opportunity for compassion and empathy, for unconditional love.

Related to this, Fiona Givens, in September this year, at the 2015 International Affirmation conference in Provo, Utah, reported in the Deseret News, said this:

“But God has not left us alone to travel the darkness…. We as Mormons have made particular covenants at our baptism. In Mosiah 18 they are delineated. The first one is to bear each other’s burdens. Now I’m very visual person, and when Christ says pick up your cross and follow me, I see him out before us dragging his cross. And we’re all spread out behind him carrying our own. There isn’t a single person in this room not carrying a cross. We’re all carrying crosses. As we enter the waters of baptism, we covenant to bear each other’s burdens. Picture that with me. You are struggling along under the weight of your cross, and your friend besides you, or perhaps somebody completely unknown, collapses under the weight of his or her cross. As you bend down to help that person with the burden, of necessity you must touch that cross. It is only then that you understand the nature and the depth of the pain that person is carrying. Platitudes fail. It does not help to say, “Read your scriptures more often. Attend all three services, as boring as they might be, every Sunday.” It is only then when we touch the pain that we are in a position to be able to mourn. To be able to enter that second covenant. To mourn with that person. It is only then that we can truly comfort…. Only then, when we understand the pain, can we offer words of comfort that reach deeply. And only then can we take upon ourselves the name of Christ.” – my emphasis

I find that imagery of the crosses we bear wonderful. If I’m going to really be of any value in helping you, I must touch your cross. If you’re going to really be of any value in helping me, you must touch my cross. With permission, we must touch each other’s cross. Let me extend the cross analogy a little. Picture Christ carrying his cross to Golgotha, having been dragged along, it would have been caked in mud. Also, it would be covered in the Saviour’s blood, from where he had been whipped and beaten, also from the crown of thorns on his head. It would have been dirty. It would have been bloody. It would have been messy. As Christ collapsed under the weight of the cross, Simon was compelled by Roman soldiers to help carry the Saviour’s cross.

The cross we carry may not be caked in physical mud or blood – though it may be – our crosses may be covered in bereavement, depression, divorce, widowhood, failing an exam, missing a promotion, being made redundant, a child or spouse losing faith, or having a faith crisis ourself – this list could be endless …

Some of us may feel compelled to carry other’s crosses, by virtue of our various callings. I’m glad though that a great many just help other’s carry their crosses. I don’t know everyone’s cross. Though, following sacrament meeting, I see people still seated talking with each other. I’m sure some conversations are just regular exchanges. Others, by the hugs being given and the facial expressions, are more than that. I don’t know what’s being discussed and as bishop don’t need to know, unless the person carrying their cross wants me to. What is beautiful to see is crosses being borne, being carried together. And, of course, there are countless acts of crosses being borne outside of Church on a Sunday.

One thing we need to acknowledge about helping to carry or bearing someone’s cross with them, is that, unless the person specifically asks, we don’t try to fix the situation. Simon didn’t fix the Saviour’s situation. The Saviour was still crucified. He bore with him until then.

We can’t fix someone’s divorce, bereavement, depression, etc. but we can be there with them as they work through things. Some things take a short period of time. Others can take months or years.

as we each share our burdens with each other, as we each help carry each others crosses, it all becomes part of the ward them for this year, becoming one through the sacrament.

How can we cope with our crosses? Yes, as mentioned we have support from those around us. There will though still be times when we are on our own. Going back to Fiona Givens, she makes some suggestions:

The other thing I would like to finish with is our paths are often lonely, even with friends. We experience loneliness. There’s this beautiful scripture in psalms that encourages us to draw cistern water from our own cisterns. We need our own holy places, out of the holy things that nourish our lives. For example, the scriptures may be able to provide a wonderful text, but it is interesting that in D&C section 91 the Lord says, “And are you also studying the apocrypha? Because there are many true things therein.” And it is actually transmitted correctly, something the Book of Mormon actually does not say about the biblical text. And then in section 90 the Lord says study all nations, kindreds, tongues and people. Joseph said if you want to become a true Mormon, a good Mormon, study every faith tradition. Truth is out there. We are not the only repository of truth. Joseph never said that. Truth is to be found in all sorts of places. Most definitely in the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling is a prophetess. She is part of my canon. So is The Hunger Games. There’s a lot of truth in that. I love Virginia Woolf. I love Oscar Wilde. Oh my gosh, that brilliant man! Every thing that he writes is brilliant. And his religious writings, which are covered in children’s literature, are stunningly beautiful, in his knowledge of Christ’s love and his atonement. My favorite band is Metallica. I have Radioactive as my ringtone. I find Macklemore’s The Heist really pertinent with profound truths. I love French rap. I love Vaughn Williams… Now these are my things. This is music that Terryl does not share with me particularly. But what I’m trying to say, beloved brothers and sisters, is if we fill our hearts with those things, the music, the literature, the good books, not scriptures… Those, yes, but whenever the Lord talks about good books, he’s not talking about the scriptures. You fill your lives with beautiful, uplifting music. I do want to remind us that arguably the greatest religious music of our time was written in the heart of the apostasy, where you will find much truth and much beauty.”

I want leave you with a final quote from Fiona Givens, but before hand I want to mention something about God’s love. It is for all. In preparing this talk, I discussed God’s love being unconditional. I was told that there are some members who feel His love is conditional. For me that is heresy. How can He love us with conditions? Perhaps some blessings might be conditional, but not God’s love. Fiona quotes Paul from Romans 8

“I would like to leave this with you because this is my absolutely favorite quote of all time. And it actually is in the Scriptures. It is part of the biblical text. It’s in Romans. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” I so testify in his holy name. Amen.”
– Fiona Givens, International Affirmation Conference 2015, Provo, Utah.

A brave new ending?

A comment following a recent Facebook post I made, asked the question “What will be your new ending?” I’m not sure if the question was rhetorical or not? Anyway, decided to give a longer answer here, as on reflection various thoughts came to me. My status was commenting on a Brene Brown blog post –
“When we deny our stories, they define us.

When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending.”

This reminds me of something Carl Rogers wrote that I have seen occur in so many people and clients lives:

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

For me the two quotes blend or merge together in truth. When we deny things about ourselves, is it not the same as not accepting ourselves, as to who we currently are or where we are?

Accepting and owning our stories is often painful, as well as, initially shaming. How can we admit those things (that happened to us, that we did or still do, that we thought, felt or feel now) to ourselves, let alone anyone else? Yet, if we don’t as Brene Brown writes they will still “define us”. Anger will shape us, the addiction will swap us, the racism, the homophobia will shape our worldview.

Once we acknowledge we are an angry person, that we have an addictive personality, that we are racist, homophobic, look down on others who are different from us, or share any other not so nice quality, we can change. Such acceptance will bring shame. It will be painful to admit such to ourselves. Once we do so there is an inner freedom that comes – a release from the shame that debilitates us and prevents from real change. Underlying this acceptance and facing the shame is a willingness to be vulnerable.

However, such self confession, I believe, does not mean we are a bad or unworthy person. Are we not all filled with mistakes from our past, in our present and will yet make in our future? As we recognise, in our hearts, in our being, not just in our head and mind, that we are not bad, that yes, we may have done something not so good, the shame begins to diminish. Something happens inside us, that allows us to move through the shame and onwards towards change, to a new ending.

It is not so much about being faultless. Can we ever be? Is it not rather about our becoming, our changing, so we can “write a brave new ending” – whatever that ending will be?

Your ending will not be the same as my ending. Our endings may intersect, but we each will have our own ending.

Though, I wonder a little at describing this change as a “new ending“, brave or otherwise. Can we ever know our ending? I’d personally rewrite Beren’s sentence as:

“When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new beginning.”

Ward Conference talk – 22nd March 2015

Introduction:

Well, here we again – me posting another talk – at the request of some people who heard it delivered and others who anticipate it. I must admit to wondering if many will be let down by the content. I hope not! The ward theme is “becoming one though the sacrament“. This talk deals mainly, if not exclusively, with the becoming one part. The “through the sacrament” part will be a later talk.

The talk:

I gave a talk in January, but I was not fully prepared. Today is the talk I had wanted to give then, having since spent more time getting ready. Thanks to KT we know there were 97 people present then. Of course, my ego is happier giving it today, knowing there are substantially more people here. I’m sure B will count today.

The Ward Conference theme is “becoming one through the sacrament“. It is also the theme for the year. As I mentioned in January please don’t forget the previous years’ theme of “never suppress a generous thought“. Let’s keep that ideal in our lives continually. Indeed I consider it foundational to becoming one.

We each, no doubt, have our own understanding of what it means to be one. The scriptures speak of being of one heart and one mind. Was does that really mean? Does it mean we should all think and feel and be the same? My answer to such a question is absolutely not. If we did what’s the point of being? I’m glad that there are some General Authorities of the Church who agree with me.

Sister Chieko Okazaki, a former counsellor in the Church General Relief Society Presidency wrote:

“Here’s one of my favourite proverbs: ‘If both of us think alike, one of us is not necessary.’

I’ll repeat that sentence –

“‘If both of us think alike, one of us is not necessary.’

Continuing on with sister Okazaki’s words – “Well all of us are necessary. We all think different thoughts, have different perceptions, enjoy different opinions, and rejoice in our diversity. Diversity means uniqueness and difference. It is a cause for celebration within our Church membership. Diversity is not a danger to be stamped out, a broken thing to be fixed, or a sin to be repented of. We’ll be stronger, healthier, more interesting, and more capable when we learn to enjoy differences instead of feeling frightened about them or angry because of them.” – Chieko Okazaki, “Aloha,” p. 97

Similarly, President Uchtdorf, in April 2013 General Conference, said that we are not expected to be clones of each other:

“… while the Atonement is meant to help us all become more like Christ, it is not meant to make us all the same. Sometimes we confuse differences in personality with sin. We can even make the mistake of thinking that because someone is different from us, it must mean they are not pleasing to God. This line of thinking leads some to believe that the Church wants to create every member from a single mold—that each one should look, feel, think, and behave like every other. This would contradict the genius of God, who created every man different from his brother, every son different from his father. Even identical twins are not identical in their personalities and spiritual identities.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences.

The Church thrives when we take advantage of this diversity and encourage each other to develop and use our talents to lift and strengthen our fellow disciples.”

Part of any diversity is having different opinions and views. And that is okay. Unfortunately, some members of the Church become afraid when things are questioned. They somehow think doubting and seeking answers is akin to apostasy. Hugh B Brown, an earlier apostle and member of the First Presidency wrote:

“I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent – if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression.” (Apostle Hugh B. Brown, “A Final Testimony,” from An Abundant Life, 1999)

We are not meant to be the same. If someones says otherwise I will vehemently disagree. Yes, we are seeking to be like Christ. He, and only He, the Saviour of the world is my ideal,who I seek to be like. The life’s of others may be stepping stones of examples towards Christ, but it is only Christ I follow. It is a misnomer to feel that following Christ means we should all think and feel and be the same.

As an example of appreciation and love for difference, I will share an experience a member recently had watching a television program. I have asked for and been given permission to share this person’s experience. It showed a young man who had had many surgeries to shape his body as he felt it should be. I will speak in the first person, using the person’s own words.

“My first reaction is that I found the young man grotesque and unnatural. My next thoughts were disapproving and self-righteous, thinking what a wrong path he had chosen for himself and how he had messed up his life by going so far down that path. Then I felt I saw his heart, and that he was only seeking beauty, perfection and self-affirmation. We all seek those things, one way or another, but the only place they can truly be found is in divinity. I felt I understood at that moment that, deep down, he just wanted to recapture what we have all lost when we left our Father’s presence. All my disapproval disappeared and I felt a deep love for him and with it a realisation that I mess up too, and that God had not rejected either him or me. It happened quickly, within seconds of watching him speak to the plastic surgeons. I learnt how inappropriate it was of me to judge (i.e. disapprove). His life experience had been very different to mine, so why should I expect him to live like me and disapprove of him when he doesn’t?

A lot of people will start as this person did and stay fixed in their revulsion and feelings of righteousness. We need to feel for each other, the way Christ and our Heavenly parents feel about us. This I acknowledge is not always easy. Yet, it is the only way. Christ says He is the way, the truth and the life and that no man comes unto the Father, except by Him. What did he do? He loved us. He does love us. Paul speaks, in Romans 8 that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

So the injunction is we love each other here today and everyone else, in our families, schools, colleges, universities, workplaces, neighbourhoods, communities, nations, countries and the world. There ought to be no exclusions.

I occasionally get criticism for supposedly singling out supporting the LGBTQ community. No one should be or feel excluded. A while ago I quoted sister Sue Bergin, a relief society president in the States about having no exclusions. Rather than just repeat her words, I have taken and extended them:

“I don’t care if you smoke, drink, abuse substances, are unchaste, hate relief society or priesthood meeting, don’t sustain church leaders, don’t have a testimony, don’t know if you believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, have had an abortion, don’t love your wife or husband, don’t like being a mother or father, think women should have the priesthood, are gay or lesbian or transgender, don’t know if you believe in God, don’t relate to Jesus Christ, don’t want to go to the temple, wonder about polygamy. Continuing, I don’t care if you’re single, married, divorced, childless, bearded, beardless, have short hair, long hair, no hair, wear a suit or wear jeans and a t-shirt to church, wear a white shirt or a coloured shirt to church, whether you’re a member of this church or not, whether you come every week, or once a month or once a year or somewhere in between”.

I’ve tried to think of all the ways that we sometimes exclude people, or if we don’t exclude people, that people sometimes themselves feel excluded for. And even if the exclusion is not connected with anything others may be doing, saying or not doing or saying, it does not give anyone permission to say “oh, well, sad they feel that way. Never mind. It’s all their own fault, they just shouldn’t feel that way.”

I do not believe the Saviour would respond that way and do not believe He would like us to either.

No doubt I’ve forgotten or missed something or someone. Oh, one more. I don’t care if you’re politically right wing, left wing or centre. I’m not sure God cares either. In fact I’m not too sure if God is happy if we try to use Him as a means of carrying support for any political belief. It’s so easy to do, which ever way we lean.

The main thing is that, as sister Bergin said, we all belong here, we need each other. We really do need each other. We cannot be one or a Zion society without each other. Everyone belongs here.

That surely must be the same for a whole ward, stake, area and worldwide church and the whole world.

Being one we love and accept each other. We may not always agree with each other. And that’s fine. Love and acceptance is not always about agreeing.

Now, no doubt, some here will be sitting thinking, but…, but…, but…, but the Church teaches we should be chaste, we should keep the word of wisdom, we should do certain things, etc. etc.

Yes, from one viewpoint the Church does teach that. Yet, I will say that from one perspective the Church does not teach that “we” should do anything. If it teaches anything at all, it teaches what I should do or what you as an individual should do. Though, I personally think the word “should” does not help much. I hope I’m using the right words to convey what I mean here. Don’t you worry about how the person next to you is living. Worry about how you are living. As President Uchtdorf said last general conference we need to ask ourselves “Lord, is it I?” What or how Lord, do I need to be different?

Now yes, there are certain standards to adhere to for baptism, for going into the Temple. We teach the principles and as Joseph Smith said, we let the people, we let each other, govern ourselves.

If and when people ask for help then we give it as freely as we are able. Imposing help just doesn’t work. Imposing, or in other words, compelling someone to do something, will bring change in behaviour though not internalised change. It will not be lasting change. Forcing people to do right sounds more like the plan of the adversary. I think we forget that when we feel we must get people to do what we term “good things”, using guilt to get someone to do something is really akin to force. Not to be used. Years ago I’d do that. I hope mostly now I’ve given up that way of trying to get people to do things.

If any changes in anybody’s life is warranted it will come when the person is ready to make that happen. When we feel loved, we are more likely to ask a person who loves us for help. Change only comes through love – the love of Christ and the love of those around us.

Accept people and change may come. Don’t accept people and change won’t come or will likely only be short lived. We generally know whether a change is required in our lives or not. We don’t often need to be told.

If you really love someone, accept them, try to understand them, have empathy for them, love them.

I need your compassion, your understanding, your empathy, your acceptance, your love. As does everyone else here and elsewhere. If you find it hard to love someone, spend time with them, get to know them, listen to them. Really listening to understand someone is a hard thing to do. It means being vulnerable, being open, because listening to someone else might change the way you then think or feel about something. And often we just don’t want to change. During the munch and mingle after the meetings today, take the opportunity to be with someone who you know thinks differently to you on a particular subject. Ask them to share their feelings and then just listen to them. Don’t think about a counter argument or point of view, just listen to them. It could be on politics, it could be on gender, it could be on football, or another sport, it could be on teaching, it could be on employment or benefits, or rape or divorce or sex or birth control. Remember this is to listen and the person speaking is sharing not debating.

The main thing to guide us in how we approach each other is the Holy Ghost, the Spirit. Listening to the Spirit will help us listen to each other better. And listening to others to understand will help us to listen better to the Spirit. It will be upward spiral of understanding. Out of that understanding will flow a greater love for each other.

As Henry Chadwick, wrote in his book, East and West. The making of a rift: “Division brings evils in its train – evils to which we become insensitive by habit. Patient listening can uncover deep and wide agreement concealed by the polemics of the past.

As we listen with understanding we will find there is less disagreement than we previously thought and the oneness that our heavenly Parents seek for us, we will all be closer to.

If someone says “I love you“, following those three beautiful words with that ugly word “but” any love becomes slightly tainted. “But” might be considered one of the most destructive of words.

Mark Lowry wrote:”Love the sinner, hate the sin? How about: Love the sinner, hate your own sin! I don’t have time to hate your sin. There are too many of you! Hating my sin is a full-time job. How about you hate your sin, I’ll hate my sin and let’s just love each other!

Let us remember what Elder Wirthlin said in April 2008 Conference:

Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.
Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.

Everyone is wanted and needed. Perhaps not everyone here feels that. As I said earlier:”We need you and you need us.

We need each other, no exclusions. Let us become one, as we love each other without conditions of worth.

President Uchtdorf said at a BYU fireside:
Church members are wonderful in their desire to be obedient and follow the Lord. But sometimes, in spite of our good intentions, we delay doing what we should do or we misunderstand what we were taught. As a result, inspired words of counsel might not have the promised effect.  Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t seek revelation or answers from the scriptures because we think we know the answers already.

Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit.

How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?

Whilst we can quote scriptures and the words of Latter-day prophets and Apostles, the real and full source of truth is within ourselves, coming directly from our Heavenly parents. We must be careful not to set ourselves up to fail by falsely worshipping men or women, even though they may appear to have authority. I hope never to forget the words written by Joseph Smith, in section D&C 121. In our interactions with each other let us remember these principles and attributes:

… the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Let us remember that anyone who says we should do anything solely because of their position (priesthood or otherwise) is going counter to Joseph Smith’s counsel and I include myself as bishop in this. Remember:

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by

persuasion,
by long-suffering,
by gentleness and meekness, and
by love unfeigned; (real, genuine love)
By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.”

Finally, “Let our bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith… ” to become one.

I believe I have taught truth today. Our Heavenly parents are real. Christ is real. The Holy Ghost is real. Of all this I witness in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

“So we shouldn’t judge and we shouldn’t fight”

Last Friday we were scanning Amazon Prime, looking for a film to watch. We can across “What we did on our Holidays”. It had no description of what it was about. Starring David Tennant, Billy Connolly, Ben Miller and billed on IMDb as comedy we thought we’d try it. Additionally, being set in the Highlands of Scotland, was a bonus for me, as well as being written and directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin. The IMDb summary is “Explores the meaning of life and suggests how best to live and love.”

“Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) and their three children travel to the Scottish Highlands for Doug’s father Gordie’s (Billy Connolly) birthday party. It’s soon clear that when it comes to keeping a secret under wraps from the rest of the family, their children are their biggest liability…”

I find the beach scene quite poignant – particularly the words of Billy Connolly, voiced as the granddad. The words spoken are below, with the video of the scene further down the page.

On the beach –

Grand Daughter Lottie McLeod: “Mum and Dad lie so much. I just don’t trust them any more. They make me so angry.”

Grand dad Gordie McLeod: “Well I used to feel that about my lot too. Until I suddenly realised there was no point in being angry with people I loved, for being what they are. I mean so what if your Dad’s a complete and utter bloody shambles, or your uncle Gavin’s a bit of a tight arse … or a social climber. He can’t help himself. Any more than his wife can help being scared of her own shadow. Or your mum can help being a bit mouthy. The truth is every human being on this planet is … ridiculous … in their own way …So we shouldn’t judge and we shouldn’t fight. Because in the end … in the end, none of it matters, none of this stuff.”

So we shouldn’t judge and we shouldn’t fight. A nice summary of how to live, if we want peace together.

On the way, driving to the beach to his granddaughter – “You need to live more and think less

Are we too concerned sometimes about tradition and mores than letting go – than living and being in the moment, in the now?

The Curious Paradox – a poem

The Curious Paradox

can I accept myself just as I am, so then I can change?

to do such, seems unlikely, to accept something so strange…

perhaps, though, if you can accept the strangeness I feel within,

the silliness, the faults, the weirdness, the wrongs I feel, even the sin,

real or imagined, felt or imposed, they all lie within,

myself… just as I am,

as you accept me as I am,

so I am able to accept myself just as I am

as you listen, as you accept me, just as I am

as you feel as I feel, just as I am,

at least, a possibility of change becomes real,

thus change encircles me as I heal,

as I embrace you fully in return,

together we change, as from each other we learn

as, both of us, the healing encircles,

changes come, as unrecognised miracles

so then I change?

so then we change?

one type of strange,

to another type of strange

to yet another type of strange,

from a moth, to a chrysalis, to a butterfly,

from where I was, to where I am, to where I will be,

yes, for as was once written:

“The curious paradox is that

when I accept myself just as I am,

then I can change.”

so then will change come?

yes, if … you desire

yes, if … we desire

yes, if … I desire

The Art of Asking, Changing and Becoming Me

I love having a bath. At least, usually, once a week I take a bath. Generally I soak for at least an hour. During which I may read, meditate, ponder, dream, imagine, pray, visualise, compose poetry. Being secluded brings more ideas and feelings, than come at other times. Which is where a large part of this entry comes from.

I’ve not blogged very frequently the past year or so. A while ago I changed the blog title thinking it would prompt more entries. It has had the opposite result. There have been things to blog, yet as they didn’t seem directly related to counselling I’ve not made them. So today I’m changing the blog title again. Now it will simply be “The Art of Becoming Me – Neil”. Or perhaps, “The Art of Becoming Me”, or maybe “The Art of Becoming Neil”? Or even “The Art of Becoming… ”

The idea being the door is open to blog about anything, not feeling limited to purely counselling matters.

There is always though an overlap. Being a person-centred counsellor embraces all I am. Being more open about everything, is consistent with the concept of congruence, one of the three primary qualities of a person-centred counsellor – unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence – ideals I aspire to each day. Aspire to, yet no doubt never completely reach. A line from Amanda Palmer’s book “The Art of Asking”, my bath reading, fits here, about the purpose of life being for:

Trying…..

I didn’t take note, at the time of reading. Note taking not too easy in the bath 😇 If I later find it I’ll edit this post to add an exact quote here.

A lot of thoughts have risen from the book. Recommend it.

image

Can the essence of the book be summed up in a word? Perhaps, connection is one word I’d choose. Another, vulnerability. Trust and faith are others. And of course, asking:

Some days it’s your turn to ask
“Some days it’s your turn to be asked

     “Asking for help requires authenticity, and vulnerability.
     Those who ask without fear learn to say two things, with or without words, to those they are facing:
     I deserve to ask
     and
     You are welcome to say no.
     Because the ask that is conditional cannot be a gift.”

Some other words or phrases that stand out for me:

“Conditional love is:
     I will only love you if you love me.
     Unconditional love is:
     I will love you even if you do not love me.
     It’s really easy to love passing strangers unconditionally.
     They demand nothing of you.
     It is really hard to love people unconditionally when they can hurt you.”

“You can never give people what they want, Anthony said.
     What do you mean?
     We were lying by the side of Walden Pond in Concord, two towns from Lexington, where we’d crested a ritual of ambling around the circumference of the water, then lazing under the trees with a picnic for a nice long grok.
     People always want something from you, he said. Your time. Your love. Your money. For you to agree with them and their politics, their point of view. And you can’t ever give them what they want. But you —–
     That’s a dreary worldview.
     Let me finish clown. You can’t ever give people what they want. But you can give them something else. You can give them empathy. You can give them understanding. And that’s a lot, and enough to give.

On their own the words quoted above may not mean much. Read the book and hopefully they will. You will no doubt take different things from it than I did. And that is okay. And perhaps that’s another principle, idea, concept, of the book – difference is okay.

Not everyone will like Amanda’s writing style. If you have read and valued Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly”, then the ideas in “The Art of Asking” should resonate with you.

Sacrament talk on love

Introduction:

A talk given in Sacrament meeting, today, the 26th October 2014. As on a previous occasion, a few people requested a copy. So I’m posting it here for easy access.

The talk itself:

Often the General Authorities begin their talks with a personal story. I sometimes wonder why. Maybe it’s to get people’s attention concerning their subject? So, I’m starting with a story, of where I was last weekend. Apparently, some people thought I was ill. No, I was in good health and enjoying myself. I was on a counselling course, on the Saturday and Sunday. I have two more such weekends, to complete this course, in mid November and December. The course was “Essentials in Gender and Sexual Diversity”. Brilliant stuff. Why so? Well, there was all the information shared. I’m not about to share it all here. Though, I don’t think that would do any harm. Maybe that could be a topic for a fireside? What was really brilliant was the acceptance and love felt. I was one of five so-called “straight” people there. As might be expected, due to the nature of the course, the other ten students, were a mixture of different genders and sexual orientations. What was wonderful was that even after sharing that I was a Christian, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that love and acceptance did not lessen, change or alter. In any thing it increased.

How does this relate to the theme of the last few months, where people have been asked to speak on parts of the sermon on the mount, as xxxxx did before me.

6 verses, in particular about love. The last verse often being used completely out of context. It has even been the title of a Priesthood manual. It sets everyone up for false expectations, for failure – both of themselves and of others. It leads to inappropriate guilt and even to the destruction of families and individual lives.

So what is this awful verse?

Matthew 5: 48 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”

What is so wrong with this verse?

Firstly, the word “perfect” is mis-translated. The original Greek means whole or complete. Our current usage of the word “perfect” has become very different. The Latin has a similar meaning. In Latin it reads “having been finished or completed.”

So we are looking at something to be achieved later, not necessarily now. We often look at it as doing something absolutely correct, as in I’ve always paid a 100% tithing. I’ve never smoked. Never been in debt. I pray and read the scriptures 365 days a year. We have weekly FHE. Of course, I’m not saying these things should not be done. Nor am I saying they are true for myself.

This scripture verse, taken on it’s own, sets not only us up for failure as individuals and families, but also creates a problem for or perhaps with the church. Amongst many there is the thought that the prophet and apostles are perfect, that all they say is absolutely from God. Not only is that not the case, it can create a false sense of security.

Joseph Smith once commented “freedom of speech”

Joseph Smith’s imperfections and that of the current Brethren, actually increase my testimony and faith in our heavenly Parents and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. If they can work through such imperfect people, who achieve so much good, surely the same is true for you and me. As I’ve mentioned several times, don’t look for perfection in me. I mess up. I try not to, but on occasion things still go wrong. Yet, I hope I’m still able to do much good. And that will be and is the same for each of us. Most of the good I do here is in conjunction with others. Again, the same for all of us. A lot of the good achieved is as we work with others.

Of course, the greatest good we accomplish is working with the Saviour, as through His atonement we are enabled far beyond our own natural talents and abilities.

As I continue hopefully the context of my thoughts will become clearer. Maybe not. If not, come and see me after and let’s have a discussion.

Secondly, and for me more importantly, when this verse is separated from the preceding verses it is out of context. Now, I’m not a grammar expert. But I understand the word “therefore” is an adverb. I think that is the right term, which means there is a connection to what comes before. So what is happening here? I submit that verses 43 to 47, coming prior to verse 48 are what makes one perfect or whole or complete. What are they about?

Let’s read them. The reason for just taking these verses and not all of chapter 5 of Matthew is what is known as a pilcrow mark by verse 43. The pilcrow mark depicts the beginning of a paragraph. It’s kind of like a backwards P with two legs. This makes verses 43 to 48 one paragraph.

Let’s read through the verses:

43 and 44 ¶Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Okay. Four things are admonished here:
Love your enemies
Bless those who curse you
Do good to those who hate you
Pray for those who despitefully use you

Quite straightforward statements – but not always easy to fulfil

Now who are our enemies? Who are these people we are supposed to be praying for? Do we as a Church or do you as an individual or family really have any? Perhaps you do have some enemies. I’m not sure I do. There are some people I do not agree with about some things, but that doesn’t make them my enemies. I have close friends who I do not always agree with, nor they with me.

Sometimes I think these days we try to create enemies. It can kind of make us feel good about ourselves, if we can point out that there are enemies out there against us. In a way having enemies can give us a sense of superiority of being more righteous than others. But, of course, it’s a false sense of security and righteousness.

Sure the early church had people being violent against members and who stated they were enemies of the Church and therefore did persecute individuals and families. But today? Some say the family is under attack, from gays and lesbians who want to marry. How is that an attack? It’s people the church disagrees with. They actually want to get married, to increase the number of people who are married. No one I’ve heard of is trying to get rid of marriage. If anything it seems we are trying to create enemies were there are none.

Are there those who curse you? Again, who is it that really curses us? Some people might think we’re a bit crazy for our faith. But that’s not really cursing us. Anyway, if anyone does, let us bless them.

Who is it that actually hates you?

Do good to them.

I  think it easier to think of those who might despitefully use you. Again, pray for them.

I think the whole object of these verses is to get us to look outside ourselves, to get away from the victim mentality. If we do find ourselves in a bad situation, let’s bless and pray and do good for those people who are trying to hurt us.

However, I must bring in some words of Elder Oaks:

“As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. there are exceptions to some rules … don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this same thing in another way. When he was asked how he governed such a diverse group of Saints, he said, ‘I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.'”
(Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, June 2006)

The result though of living in such a way results in the following, in verse 45:

45 “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

The next two verses I see as a rebuke for those who don’t live this way. The Saviour said:

46 and 47 “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?”

If we’re only kind to those who love us what reward should we expect? Well, I’m not sure we do such things out of expecting a reward, either a reward now or in the eternities.

President Marion G Romney in 1984, but then published again in 2009 said: “Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made.”

We cannot limit our service or love to our families, our Ward, to members of the LDS Church. We must reach out to all.

Then we come to that perfection verse!!

48 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”

“Be ye therefore” – therefore links what has been spoken before to what comes next. “Be ye therefore perfect, because you have done what I’ve just said. Tyndale’s 1529 translation words it this way: “ye shall therefore be perfect”.  This perfection spoken of, is not an injunction to do something. It is describing a result of us being something.

As we love we shall be perfect, remember – whole or complete – as you do what I – the Saviour – just said. Again, it is the love we have that makes us whole or complete.

Often in the Church we have myriads of tick box like activities that we can do:

Quite straightforward statements – but not always easy to fulfil

Now who are our enemies? Who are these people we are supposed to be praying for? Do we as a Church or do you as an individual or family really have any? Perhaps you do have some enemies. I’m not sure I do. There are some people I do not agree with about some things, but that doesn’t make them my enemies. I have close friends who I do not always agree with, nor they with me.

Sometimes I think these days we try to create enemies. It can kind of make us feel good about ourselves, if we can point out that there are enemies out there against us. In a way having enemies can give us a sense of superiority of being more righteous than others. But, of course, it’s a false sense of security and righteousness.

Sure the early church had people being violent against members and who stated they were enemies of the Church and therefore did persecute individuals and families. But today? Some say the family is under attack, from gays and lesbians who want to marry. How is that an attack? It’s people the church disagrees with. They actually want to get married, to increase the number of people who are married. No one I’ve heard of is trying to get rid of marriage. If anything it seems we are trying to create enemies were there are none.

Are there those who curse you? Again, who is it that really curses us? Some people might think we’re a bit crazy for our faith. But that’s not really cursing us. Anyway, if anyone does, let us bless them.

Who is it that actually hates you?

Do good to them.

I  think it easier to think of those who might despitefully use you. Again, pray for them.

I think the whole object of these verses is to get us to look outside ourselves, to get away from the victim mentality. If we do find ourselves in a bad situation, let’s bless and pray and do good for those people who are trying to hurt us.

However, I must bring in some words of Elder Oaks:

“As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. there are exceptions to some rules … don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this same thing in another way. When he was asked how he governed such a diverse group of Saints, he said, ‘I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.'”
(Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, June 2006)

The result though of living in such a way results in the following, in verse 45:

45 “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

The next two verses I see as a rebuke for those who don’t live this way. The Saviour said:

46 and 47 “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?”

If we’re only kind to those who love us what reward should we expect? Well, I’m not sure we do such things out of expecting a reward, either a reward now or in the eternities.

President Marion G Romney in 1984, but then published again in 2009 said: “Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made.”

We cannot limit our service or love to our families, our Ward, to members of the LDS Church. We must reach out to all.

Then we come to that perfection verse!!

48 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”

“Be ye therefore” – therefore links what has been spoken before to what comes next. “Be ye therefore perfect”, because you have done what I’ve just said. Tyndale’s 1529 translation words it this way: “ye shall therefore be perfect”.  This perfection spoken of, is not an injunction to do something. It is describing a result of us being something.

As we love we shall be perfect, remember – whole or complete – as you do what I – the Saviour – just said. Again, it is the love we have that makes us whole or complete.

Often in the Church we have myriads of tick box like activities that we can do:

Daily Scripture study
Daily prayer.
Weekly Family Home Evening
Keeping the Word of Wisdom in not smoking, not drinking alcohol, or tea or coffee
Researching our family history
Getting a Temple recommend and attending the temple
Doing a 100% home or visiting teaching
Attending various meetings

Such a list could go on and on and on, but we don’t have the time for that.

President Uchtdorf recounted an experience of a friend of his, that relates to such a list:
“An acquaintance of mine used to live in a ward with some of the highest statistics in the Church—attendance was high, home teaching numbers were high, Primary children were always well behaved, ward dinners included fantastic food that members rarely spilled on the meetinghouse floor, and I think there were never any arguments at Church ball.
My friend and his wife were subsequently called on a mission. When they returned three years later, this couple was astonished to learn that during the time they were away serving, 11 marriages had ended in divorce.
Although the ward had every outward indication of faithfulness and strength, something unfortunate was happening in the hearts and lives of the members. And the troubling thing is that this situation is not unique. Such terrible and often unnecessary things happen when members of the Church become disengaged from gospel principles. They may appear on the outside to be disciples of Jesus Christ, but on the inside their hearts have separated from their Savior and His teachings. They have gradually turned away from the things of the Spirit and moved toward the things of the world.
Once-worthy priesthood holders start to tell themselves that the Church is a good thing for women and children but not for them. Or some are convinced that their busy schedules or unique circumstances make them exempt from the daily acts of devotion and service that would keep them close to the Spirit. In this age of self-justification and narcissism, it is easy to become quite creative at coming up with excuses for not regularly approaching God in prayer, procrastinating the study of the scriptures, avoiding Church meetings and family home evenings, or not paying an honest tithe and offerings.
My dear brethren, will you please look inside your hearts and ask the simple question: “Lord, is it I?”
Have you disengaged—even slightly—from “the … gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to [your] trust”?6 Have you allowed “the god of this world” to darken your minds to “the light of the glorious gospel of Christ”?7
My beloved friends, my dear brethren, ask yourselves, “Where is my treasure?”
Is your heart set on the convenient things of this world, or is it focused on the teachings of the diligent Jesus Christ? “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”8
Does the Spirit of God dwell in your hearts? Are you “rooted and grounded” in the love of God and of your fellowmen? Do you devote sufficient time and creativity to bringing happiness to your marriage and family? Do you give your energies to the sublime goal of comprehending and living “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height”9 of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ?
Brethren, if it is your great desire to cultivate Christlike attributes of “faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, [and service],”10 Heavenly Father will make you an instrument in His hands unto the salvation of many souls.11″

Am I saying such things are not important? No, of course not. They are good things, important things, things that bring blessing to ourselves and others. I’m hoping the message is similar to what the Saviour said, when speaking to the Pharisees:

Luke 11:42 “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”

What I am saying is don’t get too stressed about the minutia of the Church. Particularly don’t get caught up in the church culture that certain things are expected. Because a lot of time it is the traditions of men in the church that need forgetting. Love must be supreme in all we do. Forgiveness is part of that love.

My hope is for the Ward to be a place of full inclusion.

Sometimes, members of the Church, it seems, feel as if loving someone gives them the responsibility to tell others what to do or perhaps more accurately what not to do. For example, using the list just cited, a brother or sister may visit someone and say “you know sister or brother Smith, you really should stop smoking.” Does that really help? If anyone is not doing something right, they invariably know that already. They don;t need to be told. Perhaps they need to be offered help, but even that can hurt.

The aim of all Stakes and Wards I would assume is to become a place of Zion. That is why we sometimes get very enthusiastic about having everyone do everything that we feel is right. “Brother so and so or sister so and so is not ….” and here we can put anything from the list I gave above and/or add a multitude of other things. But, you might say, didn’t the prophet just say something in General conference about doing x, y or z? Probably he did. Maybe though, we should take on board what President Uchtdorf said in the Priesthood session of Conference. As a side note, I’m not sure why we have separate priesthood and sister meetings anymore. Isn’t most, if not all, that is said in each applicable to both male and female? Anyway, President Uchtdorf said the following:

“It was our beloved Savior’s final night in mortality, the evening before He would offer Himself a ransom for all mankind. As He broke bread with His disciples, He said something that must have filled their hearts with great alarm and deep sadness. “One of you shall betray me,” He told them.
The disciples didn’t question the truth of what He said. Nor did they look around, point to someone else, and ask, “Is it him?”
Instead, “they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?”1
I wonder what each of us would do if we were asked that question by the Savior. Would we look at those around us and say in our hearts, “He’s probably talking about Brother Johnson. I’ve always wondered about him,” or “I’m glad Brother Brown is here. He really needs to hear this message”? Or would we, like those disciples of old, look inward and ask that penetrating question: “Is it I?”
In these simple words, “Lord, is it I?” lies the beginning of wisdom and the pathway to personal conversion and lasting change.”

I really don’t believe that Zion is all about keeping the individual commandments. As we are all sinners, in a very real and literal sense, under the definition in Moses 7:18 where “the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” if we take “dwelt in righteousness” as being how good we all are in keeping the commandments, are we not thus doomed to failure in building Zion?

Zion in the way I see it, is in having love for each other and ourselves. It is a place of diversity where everyone feels accepted and fully loved regardless of who they are. My hope for the ward is a place of inclusion. Sue Berlin, a recently called relief society president, at the conclusion of a lesson she taught, summarised my feelings, as she said:

“I don’t care if you smoke! Drink, abuse substances, are unchaste, wear pants (trousers) to church, hate relief society, don’t sustain church leaders, don’t have a testimony, wear tank tops, don’t know if you believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, have had an abortion, don’t love your husband, don’t like being a mother, think women should have the priesthood, are gay or lesbian or transgender, don’t know if you believe in God, don’t relate to Jesus Christ, don’t want to go to the temple, wonder about polygamy – you belong here. We need you and you need us.”

She “said this in the context of women supporting one another as we try to receive Christ in our lives and let Him heal us. We talked about building a ward relief society that is a ‘No Judgement Zone’ and a ‘Safe Zone’.”

We will become a Zion Ward when, both literally and figuratively, we can put our arms around someone and say “I’m glad you’re here. Thank you for being part of Bracknell Ward” and when they reply, “but I smoke, I drink, I’m unchaste, I don’t have a testimony, I don’t believe Joseph Smith is a prophet, I had an abortion, I don’t read the scriptures or pray every day – in fact I hardly pray at all, I’m gay, I’m lesbian, I’m transgender, I’m bisexual” or anything else we might feel not quite in line with how we see the world or the church, if we can truthfully say in reply “That’s okay. I love you and am glad you’re here”, then I think we will be approaching Zion.

We love each other not in spite of who are we but because of who we are. I hope we can love each other not in spite of the things we see in each other that we may not appreciate, but that we can love each other because of them.

If we fully love each other, then if any change is supposed to come, it will come from within an individual. If needed, they will then ask us for help in making any changes. Change made from within will be more significant and lasting than if coming from feeling they have been judged as lacking. Making a change just to be accepted is not the right reason.

Let us become whole or complete as we love unconditionally.

Let us forgive each other when this does not happen. And it won’t happen everyday. As an example, as much as I love everyone here I mess up. Sometimes spectacularly. No doubt, I’ve offended some people here. Let us forgive each other our mistakes and sins and try a little harder to love unconditionally that we may become “the children of [our] Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” and closer to becoming whole and complete.

This is what the atonement of Christ is about. Helping us to love as He and our heavenly Parents love us.

In  the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

ACC (Association of Christian Counsellors) Summer School 2014

Elim conference centreThursday evening arrived at the Elim Conference Centre, nestled in the heart of the Malvern Hills. Reason being there to help a friend teach Focusing-oriented therapy Friday to Sunday, inclusive. This was part of the ACC (Association of Christian Counsellors) Summer School 2014.

I was there supporting John Threadgold. The teaching went well. Great feedback was received at the end of the course. As it was a Christian environment I was a little concerned about my being as a Latter-day Saint. The organisers knew and were happy with that, with the proviso that I did not use the opportunity to “proselyte” in any way. Such a stance is only to be expected, a request though not necessary for myself, as there is nor would be a feeling to do so, as a counsellor it would be unethical to use any similar environment to do so.

The course had six people on (five women and one man, consisting of one married couple)  from various parts of the UK.

So we come to Saturday evening, following two days of intense teaching and experiential work, it was thought a “cheese and wine” evening to relax a bit would be in order.  I turned up with John (a Quaker), having brought  some fruit juice.  The question inevitably came: “What Church do you go to?” My answer “The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons.” Greeted by a “Wow” – a friendly wow, not an offensive one. Then went on to have some great conversations with the man, who was a minister. I’m not quite sure if he was once a lay minister or a full time one, but he now working in “regular” employment. Unlike past times, this was a very welcoming experiencing. So much so the next day, Sunday, attended the worship service, held after breakfast. Having planned to go from arriving, the evening experience cemented that decision.

It was great. After a brief introduction,  followed by a prayer, we started singing, being led by a guitar playing man, with all the words displayed on an overhead projector.  Not just the one opening hymn, we would usually have in an LDS Sacrament service, but three. The meeting was then open for anyone to pray out loud. I suppose this would be similar to sharing of testimonies on a Fast sunday, though not for so long. Communion was then available. Four people (two women, two men) stood at the four corners of the room to distribute it. This was said to be a practical solution, rather than the usual passing it down the rows, was due to the type of room the meeting was held in. Bread was broken from a loaf in front of those who approached them, which included myself. And before anyone goes off about this bring disrespectful, I was invited to do so. After communion, further singing, a wonderful 20 minute sermon based around Peter walking on the water. Interesting comparison to most talks in an LDS Sacrament meeting, the only quotes were from the scriptures, whereas additionally we would usually throw in one or two quotes of the Brethren. The meeting was concluded with more singing, then a prayer. An hour in total. Wonderful. Anything to learn? I think the simplicity was wonderful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“If it irritates you, perhaps you might prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to show you why”

 

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