Monday, December 07, 2009

Just Because You Are Part of the Chosen Generation Doesn't Mean You Don't Have to do Laundry

Last month at our Bishop's Youth Fireside the topic was "honesty." I can't exactly remember the context, but the speaker pointed out that Heavenly Father loves all of his children, regardless of the mistakes they've made; that he loves the righteous and the unrighteous completely and totally.

"He does?" said one incredulous teacher-aged boy, as if hearing this particular factoid for the first time. When the statement was backed up with an explanation and a scripture, the young man's response was still complete surprise, and, I hate to say it, he acted a bit gypped.

I'm sure that this young man has been taught the truth somewhere along the way. I'm also sure that fifteen year old-boys (and I'm sorry to say, maybe this one in particular) aren't the most compassionate creatures in the world. I'm also sure that you are teaching your children, grandchildren or nieces and nephews that just as they are children of God, so is each and every person they come in contact with. As much as this qualifier makes the words almost meaningless, each person is unique; each person is special.

We get so busy telling the kids that they are amazing, reserved to come to earth at this time and the strongest. spirits. ever, that we sometimes forget to be as forthcoming with the realization that with great blessing comes great responsibility and expectation. And not just with all that they are required to do. I think this is more about the internal achievements of self-control, empathy and sincerity. Who they become. Who they have the potential to become.

While I don't think I am teaching my kids that they are any more loved by their Heavenly Father than their friends or our neighbors, I realize that I have to be careful about my own behavior in this regard. I think as LDS people we sometimes see the world in too much black and white. Now, I'm not talking about what is right and what is wrong here, I'm talking about how we tend to categorize people as "righteous" or "unrighteous," as if there is some magic threshold you cross and BOOM you are righteous.

In nearly every conference, at least one apostle makes mention that the wickedness in our time is worse than in any other time. I'm not sure about this. (Follow me here before anyone protests.) There have been plenty of evil to the core societies throughout recorded history. Many of these civilizations didn't even have a Christian population to balance the more base aspects. Egypt. Rome. The Celtic era in the British Isles. Africa (various nations in every generation). . . . I won't go on, but you get the idea. I would much rather be alive now than, in say, a Hun-conquered territory. It may be true that certain states allow homosexual marriage, but it has to be better than burning sodomites at the stake in the public square.

This weekend I attended a neighborhood Christmas tea and cookie exchange that the ladies in my neighborhood host every year. It was absolutely lovely. The food was nice, the company was delightful, and I didn't feel a whit out of place. The women, many of whom have lived on my street for years, spoke about children now grown and the wonderful memories of when their kids were young together. Many of these women are new grandmothers, and spoke with true affection about how good parenthood had been for their children. A couple of the mothers closer to my age lamented fifteen year-old daughters thinking about dating and how nervous they were for this to start. Several expressed to me how glad they were that a family with young children had moved into the block, joking that it would be wonderful if they could "borrow" my kids for the holiday because they are just so cute. After a pleasant 90 minutes I came to the valuable realization that if I will step outside my front door a little bit more often, and not just to run over to the church again, then I could have a wonderful support system right here.

Yesterday in Sunday School our lesson was about the Proclamation on the Family. During the lesson there was much talk about the evil "out there." I don't disagree that there is evil. I also acknowledge that our media (which has always been at the extreme edge of what is appropriate) has allowed much into our homes that shouldn't be there. But I think that to separate the world into the people we know at church vs. what we think the world is based on what we see on sitcoms and the news, then we are limiting ourselves in both friendship and potential to do good. In one of the Harry Potter books, Sirius Black says to Harry, "The world isn't divided into Death Eaters and members of the Order of the Pheonix." He didn't tell Harry that there wasn't ultimate evil that should be fought, but he was counseling him to be careful about judging people without understanding their experience.

Our Sunday School discussion of worldly evil centered a lot on homosexuality and a re-definition of marriage. One sister, pregnant with her sixth, spoke about how critical "people" had been of her large family. But I bet there are just as many people who look at her and think she is brave and wonderful and cool. Maybe those critics are just the vocal ones. I have to believe that there are still loads of people--atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews--not of of our faith who believe nuclear families are foundational to a functioning society, that unfettered sexual activity before marriage leads to heartache and baggage, that children are to be gloried and celebrated and that responsibility for your family should be at the top of your priority list. If I begin to believe otherwise, despair for raising my little brood will consume me until I'm afraid to leave the house.

Leaders of the Church, please warn and caution, but don't paint things with such stark imagery that I have difficulty looking to others with some measure of trust and faith. I don't want to be defensive when I approach somebody not of my faith. I want to see them as potential friends, mentors and sisters. (Or brothers, as it were.)

Our excellent teacher allowed people their various comments and incorporated them into a a positive discussion, yet at the same time she helped us see the "big picture" with this sacred document. Defining marriage, encouraging child-bearing and the specifics are only a part of it. At its heart, the Proclamation is about the love and responsibility we should have toward all of God's children, if for no other reason than they, like us are children of God. Obviously my husband and children should take my first priority, but I think I need to consider a little bit more closely who my neighbors are.

Our generation (or the one before, or the one after . . . ) might be "chosen," in that we are here at this time in the history of the world because we have been saved for a time of wickedness. But if I am to truly embrace this birthright with the humility it demands, then I must likewise choose to serve, love and do to the best of my ability. Or maybe better, trusting that the Lord can expand my abilities beyond what I can currently see.


Anonymous said...

Ah! I love this! It is exactly the way I feel- you'd think we're related or something.

My best guy friend is gay and it has been so difficult for me to talk to different people about it because they automatically want to devalue him as a person just because of one particular facet about his life. I would go to the mattress for him any day of the week and twice on Thursdays.

Through the whole process of this with him, I have realized that my job is to see him and everyone else whose lives I may or may not agree with as the children of Heavenly Father that they are.

Love your blog!

FoxyJ said...

I totally agree! I hate it when I listen to people in Sunday School going off about 'the world' and how evil it is, because we live in the world and we are just as much a part of it as anyone else is. I know I'm also more sensitive because most of my family is inactive, but they are still good people and not trying to 'destroy' things in any way. I also hope that our youth will not be too afraid or too complacent to engage with the world--there is so much good out there it makes me sad when people assume that everyone else has some kind of hidden agenda.

Scully said...

I think perhaps we too often put a full stop after the word 'chosen' when in reality every generation through the eons has been chosen to do SOMETHING. And any discussion of being chosen should quickly be followed up with the fact that where much is given much is required. If we are chosen by the Lord to do something, He blesses us with the things we need to do it. But we have to use them to do it, not to sit around exhibiting it as proof of our chosen-ness. Which is where I know I, I would guess a lot of other members, can get stuck sometimes.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Scully--YES! Chosen to do something. Not just to get a gold star on your forehead! I think you said in a sentence or two what I was trying through my whole rambling post to say. Thanks for that.

Karin said...

I think a big part of the picture for me is evil "out there". It's just as bad "in here". Much of the criticism of my "large family" has come from members. I have to explain to my children why people who have been baptized continue to make wrong decisions and then fulfill responsibilities at church. I think often of part of the last days is separating the wheat from the chaff. Both of those are *members of the church*. Sometimes I have to be careful because I often choose friends outside of church because I don't feel like I get the support I need there.

I also agree that every generation is chosen for something. And just because you have that calling, doesn't mean that you get to walk around with a gold star on your head. It comes with responsibilities. Not so easy to swallow when you want to hide your kids in a cave. ;-) I'm sure many generations of parents felt the same way. ;-)

Sorry, a little (ok, a lot) rambly. Just some thoughts.

Yankee Girl said...

I've just finished reading The Hidding Place by Corrie ten Bloom. I was so continuously amazed at the love she and her sister had for their (often cruel) guards while they were in a concentration camp in Germany. The most amazing part was that they felt this love in the moment of oppression not years later after they had time to "get over" what had happened to them.

tamathy said...

Love this post. I've read all or parts of it to three people so far.-t

JennyMac said...

ahhh...this resonates with me. We have a mixed bag of religious vs. spiritual people in our families and we have true Christians as well as the biggest hypocrites I have ever met. I think its not always "out there" as much as it can be in your own backyard.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

"Religious vs. spiritual." Too bad that is so often a dichotomy. Thanks for finding application JennyMac, though I know our beliefs don't exactly match up.

Cathy said...

While I was on my mission, my comp and I were stopped one night by a young man on a bicycle--no one we knew. Turned out he was an active member in another area, traveling home after having gone to a bible study class with another friend. He stopped us because we were obviously missionaries and he had a serious question: why had he felt the spirit when not with a gathering from our church?

It was so easy to solve that particular dilemma. He'd been talking about things that are true. The spirit testifies of truth, no matter where or who we are. I am so stregthened to know that God loves all his children so much that we do not have a corner or monopoly on truth--it's in so many places and forms.It would be a poor father indeed who expected most of his children to live on scraps and crumbs while others were"chosen" to feast. And I am so impressed by the good that others accomplish. I wish I were doing as much.