Sunday, November 7, 2010

No More Strangers

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.
~Ephesians 2:19

Last week, I went to a J. Reuben Clark Society dinner. (I hate networking, but it's the only way to get a job, and since I'm the vice president of the student chapter, I kind of have to go to these sorts of things.) It was at the end of a really long day and I had a migraine, so I really really didn't want to be there. I'm so glad I went, though.

The guest of honor was Judge Thomas Griffith, a judge on the D.C. Circuit. After dinner, he gave a few remarks. I figured he would talk about what it's like to be a judge and give some friendly advice to the 50 or so law students present.

He did give some advice, but it wasn't law school related. He talked about the problems with retention of young adults (both married and single) in the church. Then he said he was going to give us advice that would help us not be the ones to fall away. He said that there will be times when we will feel alienated at church, when we feel like we don't belong, and when people do offensive things. The church is made up of imperfect people. Then he shared the secret to rising above all of that.

He said that if we focus on the Savior and make partaking of the Sacrament the most important part of church, it will change our lives. If we focus on the Savior, it doesn't matter if we feel alienated from the church because we'll have a place in the gospel.

Last Sunday, I decided to give it a try. I have a firm testimony of the Savior, but I struggle with the church culture. I often feel like I don't belong. I'm not married, I have no children and may never be able to have any, my political views differ from most church members, I plan on always having a career, I'm a vegetarian, and I don't scrapbook.

I came to church and sat down. The meeting started. When it came time for the Sacrament, I got misty eyed as I listened to the prayer on the bread. Then it hit me. All I have to do to be welcome is to be willing to do these three things:
1. Take upon myself the name of Christ
2. Always remember Him
3. Keep His commandments.

That's it. I don't have to conform to some particular culture. I don't even have to like green Jell-o! It's all about Jesus. Jesus hung out with the misfits. He didn't tell people to go away. He told people to come to Him. There's no commandment to marry at age 19, be a Republican, have 6 children, eat meat, and cut pictures out to stick on colorful pages. Christ's commandments can be summed up in two injunctions: Love God, love your neighbor. (See Matthew 22:34-40) I can do that.


Jessica said...

I wish you were in my stake so we could be real-life friends. I do so enjoy reading your posts.

TopHat said...

I had him as a Book of Mormon teacher my freshman year at BYU. He was very Christ-centered and I grew a lot in that class. He was always reminding us to re-center ourselves. I think that advice is wonderful.

Kress said...

Very cool.

I was just sharing this concept with a friend of mine who currently holds no affiliation with any particular faith. He says things to me like "I can't stand organized religion, but hanging out with you makes me wonder if there's something I'm missing to it all. How can you stand all those hypocrites?"

He came to church with me, which was awesome, and I tried to share through word and deed how my goals in participating in my church are to 1) Further develop my relationship with Deity and with my Savior and 2) to help others do the same, regardless of whether they are ethical, moral, fun people - they are all children of the same Heavenly Father and they need help just as much as I do (whether I care to admit that or not).

That's a powerful thought in my life, right there. Church isn't about us "fitting in" or "feeling comfortable," that's such a self-centered view of the world, imo. It's about polishing the rough edges we all have and learning to serve and love when it ISN'T easy or convenient, or even pleasant. I struggle with that, and I hope one day to improve...

Oh, and I know at least a few successful, intelligent LDS women who are strong career women, are also awesome mothers, and who may not fit the typical "mormon groove." I think they eat meat, though, so you may be straight outta luck... =P Just kiddin'

Stephen said...

I really liked how you came to this as a bottom line:

Then it hit me. All I have to do to be welcome is to be willing to do these three things:
1. Take upon myself the name of Christ
2. Always remember Him
3. Keep His commandments.

You are right, that is how we retain ourselves as a part of Christ's church and what he wants of us.

For what it is worth, I've been the president of a JRCLS Chapter (in DFW), appreciate the efforts of persons such as yourself.

river song said...

Excellent post, interesting blog, thanks!