But what about the children?

How would you respond to a mother in this scenario: A woman marries a man in the temple, time passes, they have children, raising them in the church. One day the husband tells her he is gay, that he has always known it but tried to do the right thing and married a woman in the temple. He cannot go on in the marriage and they divorce. The couple share custody of their children who they continue to raise in the church. After time the ex husband finds a partner and they live together. Children still go to church every Sunday, they have family home evening every week, pray every morning and night, sing primary songs together on car trips and attend baptisms of all their friends, anxiously waiting for their special day to be baptized. Then this policy is made public. How do you respond to this mother and how does she explain to her children (at next Saturday’s baptism service of their good friend) that they can’t be baptized? How do the children explain to their friends why they aren’t going to be baptized?

This is one of many responses to my recent blogpost about the change in church policy. As I attempted to respond to her I realized that my response needed to be more than what I wanted to put in a comment. So here is a bit more about this policy change. I realize that to those who are asking questions like this to try to poke holes and condemn the church for the policy change will still have plenty to say. There is nothing that could be said that would help that. However, for those who ask genuinely out of concern for those difficult cases such as the one above I hope what I have to say can help.

First we have to look at the root of this problem. The problem is not that a child can’t be baptized until 18. the problem is that these children can’t and others can. And I can see why this would be a concern.

My family doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Growing up there was no Santa, no tree, no presents etc. Most of the time I didn’t really notice or care. When I was about 9 years old I started taking piano lessons and every year around christmas time we would go to group lessons and recitals and people would ask us what we got for Christmas. I was embarrassed to say nothing so my siblings and I would look at the catalogs find some things that we wanted and tell everyone thats what we got. This was just one of MANY ways that I knew I was different from all the other children around me. Honestly, it didn’t hurt me. I got a little envious sometimes and occasionally I felt embarrassed but over all it wasn’t something I considered a hardship.

It could have been different though. If I had a parent or two, or grandparents who felt like this was a major issues and a hardship for me I imagine I might have felt the same way.

Mother and Daughter Talking

Mother and Daughter Talking

I stand by my original position that there are very good reasons for this policy change. How ever there are many that will face some challenges because of it. So to literally answer this woman’s questions: If I found myself in that situation I would tell my children that their situation is unique and that the Lord has asked them to wait a little extra time to be baptized and then we would continue to go to church, attend primary, young men, young women, etc. the same as before. And when times are hard and they feel the difference, because they will; when their friends are getting baptized, receiving the priesthood, passing the sacrament etc. I would tell them stories of others who have faced difficult times in a similar way. I would tell them about the faithful black saints who attended church for years, some of them peeking in a window when they weren’t even allowed inside. They didn’t know when this would change but still they held on faithfully until it did. I would use it as a chance to teach a very important lesson that todays society in general needs to know. That life isn’t fair, was never meant to be “fair” and that we never had a promise that it would be. I would also teach them that those that face difficult situations with grace and dignity are the ones who we look up to and respect. When they ask “but why me?” which they probably will. I will tell them that the Lord had confidence that they could handle it. Just like he knew that Anne Frank could handle her challenges, that the stripling warriors could handle losing their fathers, that Joseph and Emma could handle losing so many of their children. Many people faced challenges that others around them did not and could have asked why me. And maybe they even did, but the point is you use faith and courage and face those challenges and you come out on top.

If they were old enough to understand, I might explain how important it is that the church keeps a clear line on where it stands on certain issues and that this policy really changes very little for them in terms of how they can participate in church, and how they will be perceived. And if that is the price that they are asked to pay to draw a clear line. Its not such a big one.

I’ve been asked to make similar sacrifices for similar reasons and I can tell you its not so hard. Our attitude is everything! We can make or break this experience for our children. Lets use it as an opportunity for them to show what they are made of!

Advertisements

Discrimination Against Children From Same Sex Marriages? What Is The Church Thinking?

imagesActually I don’t like to say what someone else was thinking since clearly I couldn’t possibly know. And since I haven’t personally spoken with the twelve or the first presidency about this I honestly couldn’t say. But I can tell you that this ISN”T uncharacteristic of the church. This isn’t NEW or even DIFFERENT from what people should expect. (all things that I have seen a lot on Facebook lately) Let me tell you why. Most people may not be aware but the EXACT same limitations have been in place regarding children from polygamist families for many years. Now having come through that process myself I can say that these guidelines are in place for a good reason.

To begin with, let’s make a few assumptions. Lets assume that the teachings of the church are true and as part of that lets assume that same-sex marriage is contrary to God’s laws. ( I guarantee you this was part of the thinking for the 15 men who made this decision) Let’s also assume that another teaching of the church that the spirit can not reside in the presence of sin is also true.

Now lets imagine that these guidelines were not in place. Imagine that you are a say fifteen year old living in a same-sex family. The missionaries come and teach you that your family is living in sin. The very foundation of your home is an abomination to God. As a fifteen year old that’s a lot to handle. So imagine that you actually believe the missionaries and decide that you want to be baptised. That puts a strain in your family that no fifteen year old should ever have to deal with. Your church, your religious beliefs are saying one thing, your family another and you are caught in the middle without the option of leaving home. Now I realize that  conversion to the LDS church or really any church for that matter would put many people in the same position. The key here though is that this is a pretty MAJOR part of your life. And you shouldn’t be put in that kind of position until you are truly old enough to deal with the consequences. I think 18 is the earliest something like this could be handled. Legally its the earliest that you could make the choice to live a different lifestyle.

Imagine you have just been given the gift of the Holy Ghost but your ability to enjoy that gift is hampered by the fact that you are constantly surrounded day and night by “sin” Imagine your religion tells you to honor and obey your parents and in the same breath tells you your parents are living in sin.

On the other hand imagine you are a member of a same-sex couple. Your child (who is not yet even 18) is being approached by missionaries who are teaching them that you are living in sin, that your lifestyle is offensive to God. I can tell you that I would FREAK OUT on those missionaries. I may even file a law suit. Either way they have NO right coming into my home and teaching MY children those kinds of things.

Looking at it from that perspective I would say that the LDS church’s position on this issue. Is not only typical of the church, it is brilliant, it is kind, and it is absolutely the right decision. If a person from such a family wants to join the church once they are legally an adult, ready to live on their own and take on the consequences of their actions then the church can give them a green light. Before then its NO for a very good set of reasons. I also love that the church gives any person who was a child in these or similar circumstances a chance to meet with a member of the 12 before baptism. They need a little something extra, they need the personal touch of that meeting, they need a chance to have their questions answered and their hearts touched by the men we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators. I love that the church offers this kind, loving, supportive set of guidelines. And I am glad they were in place for me.

My Year of Miracles: A review of my tenth year as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

10 years! I remember it like it was yesterday; the day I got baptised into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I felt so lost and out-of-place I wondered if I would make it through the week. I felt strongly that I had made the right decision…but boy was it going to mean big changes for me; many of which there was no way to be prepared for.

Since that day each year on the anniversary of that day I spend some time alone, thinking, pondering and reviewing my choice, my commitment, and the consequences of that choice, be they good or bad. Every year I look back filled with gratitude, sometimes sadness, but always in awe of what has transpired since that time and most especially in the most recent year.

This year more than any other year I see so clearly how that choice I made ten years ago continues to grow in its impact in my life. Almost every single decision I made this year…and I made some big ones, was in a large way influenced by my decision to join this church.

So here is a year in review:

May 2013

I arrived in Uganda just 1 day before my 9th anniversary as a member of the LDS church. That first week was hard. Really hard. It took some getting used to, it was fun, it was an adventure, it was eye-opening to see a way of life so different from my own. That month I learned to live without so many things. I ate strange foods and even insects (check out the video!)

DSC00367

This was my bed.

I went way to long without showers because of a lack of water, met so many new friends, learned to sleep in spite of the lizards crawling on the walls, and the mice and rats fighting over food remnants in our kitchen. I used pit latrines, carried water in a jerry can, was smothered in love and dirty hand prints by dozens of children who all wanted to hold my hand and have a piece of my attention. I felt completely overwhelmed by all of it. Especially the stifling heat. Oh and I didn’t know it then but I met someone who would change my life forever. It was a good month!

After adding a few of my things and scrubbing vigorously!

After adding a few of my things and scrubbing vigorously!

June 2013

I agreed to go on a date with Joseph Ssempala. That date colored the rest of my month. I saw him or talked to him every day after that. When he told me he loved me after just a few weeks I responded by teaching him a new phraze…”take a chill pill.” fortunately he isn’t one to give up easily and while he did give me the little space that I needed, he continued to make me feel like the most amazing woman alive. He showed me so many things and we had some amazing adventures that month. I realized I was falling in love in a strange country with a strange and wonderful man who took my breath away. It was a great month!!

Joseph and I on our first date.

Joseph and I on our first date.

July 2013

After traveling to Rwanda and having some crazy adventures there. I accepted a proposal of marriage from the man of my dreams and after only dating just two days shy of a month. Joseph and I began planning our wedding. At first we planned for the wedding to take place in October. But it wasn’t long before we realized that, that plan wasn’t going to work and we moved the date up to the 27th of July. It gave us two crazy weeks to plan for the day I had waited my whole life for. It was nothing like I had imagined but all the important elements where there with the exception of the attendance of family and friends. I was head over heels in love with the man I was marrying, I wore a beautiful white dress, and the end result was that I found myself a married woman and so blissfully content that nothing else mattered. What can I say, it was a phenomenal month!!!DSCF1436

August 2013

As July turned to August I learned many new skills. Like how to shower outside with a bucket of cold water, how to cook on a charcoal stove, and how to have an argument and still stay friends with your new husband. I planted a garden, created a home, met some wonderful new neighbors and took a pregnancy test that turned out to be positive! What more can I say…My joy was complete and it was the month of my dreams.

September 2013

September came with its own challenges and joys. I learned that morning sickness is NOTHING like being car sick but just in the mornings like I used to think it would be. I ate less and threw up more than I would have dreamed was possible. I spent most of my day resting and trying to help my body create another human being! I started teaching piano lessons, getting more involved at church, and just tried to survive being really sick. I also got to travel to South Africa where my new husband and I went through a very special ceremony where we were sealed together for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord. One of the most sacred and special moments of my life was when this man who I love so much took my hand and led me through this process that would bind us together for eternity. Eternity wouldn’t be long enough for me. It was a legion…wait for it….dary month!  (a little How I Met Your Mother reference for those of you that love Neil Patrick Harris).

October 2013

With the blush of spring and the warmth of summer past, October saw me traveling home alone. I needed to eat and rest and get strong for the baby growing inside me. I needed my family and I needed to be back in America. I would come, work on getting Joseph a visa, finish up my last two semesters of school and prepare for our coming baby. It was a long and lonely month.

November 2013

I turned 32 this month and being married took the sting out of being another year older, the day passed and aside from having a wonderful Skype session with my husband I hardly noticed. I prayed for a mild winter, worked and waited and waited some more. I found an apartment for us to start our lives together in and my mother graciously helped me to furnish and make our little two bedroom apartment feel like a home.

December 2013

Began to realize that Joseph wouldn’t be coming as soon as we had imagined and tried to adjust to a new kind of loneliness. With Morning sickness easing up significantly and the second trimester under way I felt like a new woman and I couldn’t believe my growing body. We had an ultra sound and discovered that our baby was a boy. We agreed to name him Preston Joseph.

January 2014

Started my final semester of school!! A degree 8 years in the making finally looking like it was coming to an end. Began a new job at Cedar Fort planning events. Life began to settle into a routine.

February 2014

As I moved into the third trimester, things began to get a bit more difficult. Preston became heavier, my belly got tighter and I felt sure my skin was going to pop! The miracle that takes place in a pregnant woman’s body on a daily basis never ceases to amaze me! Our baby was moving and growing and I was experiencing sweet moments that I had only ever dreamed about. I never dreamed that I would feel them alone, and experience my first pregnancy in such a way but I learned some good lessons about love, communication, patience and not taking things for granted. I learned about disappointment as Joseph’s application for a visitors visa was denied and we continued to wait for his immigrant visa.

March 2014

After passing out at work, and showing significant signs of impending labor I went on bedrest to keep from having our baby prematurely. This month I learned about accepting help even when you want to do things yourself, about exchanging independence for kindness, about learning to let go of expectations and about trust as I had to realize that this baby was going to be born without Joseph being here. My entire pregnancy was going to come and go without Joseph getting to be a part of any of it. On the other hand my exhausted body was grateful for the rest and the time spent with family. It was a very long month.

And Finally April 2014

And now we have come full circle. With my baby 13 days over due I find myself sitting down to write this review of what might possibly be the most eventful year of my life so far. April was long and exhausting, Big changes in our family. Joseph still unsure of when he will be able to join me and the anticipation of the nearness of a new life have left me a bit of an emotional basket case. I cry almost daily for no good reason. I sit, I stand, I walk, and I lay down in an effort to find a position where something doesn’t hurt. Then I give up until 5 minutes later when I will try it all again.

I am eternally grateful for the child growing within me, for the husband that I trust, love, and adore with every part of my being, for a family who has carried me through this incredibly difficult time. But more than anything else I am grateful that I followed my heart, the direction that I felt from the spirit that day ten years ago. I am so grateful that because of what I know and love about the gospel of Jesus Christ, this year and everything I have experienced in it has been worth it. It has been so wonderful, hard and overwhelming. But I have grown and never once have I doubted that my Father has a plan for our little family, that he brought us together and he can keep us together if we draw close to him. I haven’t doubted that he loves us, that i am exactly where he wants me to be and that I can approach him in peace knowing that in spite of my imperfections he is proud of me and so willing to help me. I love my Lord, I love his church, I love my husband, my baby my family and my life. Every year so far has seen blessings and adventures. But this year, this year that marks a full decade in the church…This year was big…

this year was beyond description!!!

 

 

Introduction to our home…and it’s guests.

Ellen showed up to pick me up from the hostel this morning. I had tried to reach her by phone and not had a lot of luck. I was sitting on the patio outside the dormitory reading a book and having some bread and cheese with Nimrod when I saw her blond hair and big smile walk through the door. I was so happy to see her that I gave her a big hug. I think she wasn’t expecting that from me and I certainly don’t often hug strangers that readily. ’Fred was the driver. He is married to Tina the manager at Musana, When I got in the car Fred asked me if I was a Latter Day Saint. I assured him that I was and asked if he was, as well. He gave me an enthusiastic yes with a little fist pump to accompany it. It made me think that we should all be so open with our enthusiasm. He told me that he knew several people from Utah and he started giving me various first names as though I should know these people. “Do you know Grace?” he asked. I told him I didn’t know her. “Grace is a man,” he answered with a laugh He told me that he served a mission in Johannesburg. I thought it was a long shot but I asked him if he knew Sundy. His face lit up and he answered, “Sister Peterson? She sings like an angel and she married a doctor?”

He told me that they served together in the mission As he talked about her sunny disposition and beautiful voice I knew we had the right Sundy, As if there could be another. It made me so happy to know that he knew and loved her too. I thought how strange life is that through a twist of fate I had met Sundy by giving her a ride somewhere and now this man had come to my rescue to give me a ride. Even after that long flight I could laugh at what a small world we live in.

Traveling by car through Kampala is taking your life in your hands I have never seen anything like it. So many times I thought that we were going to hit another car or a person. I couldn’t see any rhyme or reason to how or where people were driving. There were no lanes and cars just squeeze in wherever there is room and sometimes when there really isnt. The people just walk in and out among the cars as though they were not even moving. I was already feeling rather sick and by the time we arrived in Lugazi I felt as though I would lose my stomach.

Ellen took me out to eat. As we walked through the streets I marveled at this place that is so different from anything I have ever experienced. It’s hard to imagine that I will ever get used to it here. The food tasted good but my stomach would not let me eat much.

 

As Ellen and I walked several people shouted Mazungu! (Foreigner) as we passed. The children ran up to us and held Ellen’s hands and walked with us. They acted a little shy with me and at Ellen’s encouragement attempted to pronounce my name. It’s hard to know what to say about this place. I felt so lost and sick and afraid to touch anything for fear of germs. We went back to the house and I began to settle in. The house is part of a small compound surrounded by a wall and topped with barbed wire. Its much nicer than most in the neighborhood and even recently got running water!

This is our kitchen

This is our kitchen

I pulled out my computer and attempted to access the internet. As I sat on the floor in our kitchen messing with the computer I though I saw something run under the shelf against the wall. It moved so fast I wasn’t sure so I kept working. A few minutes passes and I thought I saw something about two inches long and an inch or so wide run across the wall, again it went so fast I wasn’t sure. I asked Ellen who was just laying down for a nap and she told me that is was probably a cockroach. I didn’t think I was afraid of them but I didn’t like the way I was feeling about the thought of that thing in the house while I sleep. She told me that there is a rat living in the house with us as well. She said that she allows it because he helps with the roaches and she thinks he is kind of cute… I don’t know what she is thinking We have a small refrigerator and a table and a little gas burner. My room consists of a squeaky bed and a shelf. Nails on the walls give me some place to hang some clothes and my towel. The bathroom ha a toilet of sorts and a showed head that allows for a cold shower. I should feel blessed as I know it is much more than many others have.

My first night in a strange place usually leaves me feeling homesick and wondering why I have come. I didn’t feel that way last night but as I sat in our little house feeling hot and sweaty, dirty and sick, I felt it. For just a second I wished I was at home where I could take a nice bath in a clean tub, and familiar food to calm my stomach. I decided now was as good a time as any to to out the shower. As I stood underneath it wearing my sandals for fear of having bare feet on that floor and letting the cool water run down my body the smell of the clean soap and the feel of clean hair made me feel as though I could face the rest  of the day. I put on clean clothes and lay down on the bed. I had just put my fresh clean sheet on it and sprayed the whole room down with Lemon oil. It felt so good that I soon fell asleep.

When I woke it was dark outside. Davis a neighbor boy who is a friend of Ellen’s was helping Ellen cook us some dinner. They were cooking Catoga (no idea if I spelled that right) It is basically a type of stew with beans, onions, green peppers, and a root comparable to maybe a turnip or potato that is called Casova. It was warm and delicious. I think my stomach is settling. After dinner, Ellen and I went for a walk and she showed me around the village a bit and I got to meet several of the Musana women. As we walked a man shouted at us and asked where were were going. She answered “We are here” I was confused what she meant by that and she explained that the boda boda drivers will ask where you are going to see if you want a ride, If you answer we are here the know that you are where you want to be and are not looking for a ride. I feel as though I will never learn all the strange words and how to do things here, I remember feeling like a child in Japan because there was so much I didn’t know and I felt a little helpless but it was nothing compared to this. I hope I can be as comfortable and confident as Ellen is before long.

A view from my bedroom window.

A view from my bedroom window.

What’s in a name?

I’ve been reading a number of column’s, articles, and blogs lately that have to do with Polygamy. Since Mitt Romney is running for president there seem to be a lot of people interested in his religion and what exactly it is that he believes, and rightly so. It’s brought to mind for me several things that are rather a pet peeve of mine so I figured, what better place than here to put in my two cents worth and see if I can help clarify some really common misunderstandings that people seem to have about Mormons and Polygamists.

Probably the most common theme that I seem to see is people trying to figure out where the Mormon church ends and polygamy begins and just how they all fit together. It’s really common to read an article such as this one written by a non-mormon writer, who actually is pretty accurate in a lot of what he has to say. http://www.delsjourney.com/close-ups/us/travels_sw/mormons_and_polygamy.htm

He say’s this however

“There are several ultra-orthodox offshoots of the Mormon Church though, especially in rural parts of Utah, which quietly practice polygamy today basically under a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.”

Which ia misleading because the literal definition of offshoot is

a branch or lateral shootfrom a main stem, as of a plant.

and if you look up branch it will say
“a division or subdivision of the stem or axis of a tree, shrub, or other plant.”
so when someone refers to polygamists as an “offshoot” or as I have seen in some cases, a “subgroup” it is easy to assume that the Mormon church consists of “Main stream” Mormons and then several “offshoots or branches who practice polygamy.”
Lets look at it this way.
In the 16th century Martin Luther led a reform group within the Roman Catholic church. Those who followed him were referred to as Lutherans. Today if you were to suggest that Lutherans were Catholic both parties would protest that, that is not the case. They are two separate and distinct religions. And yet the Lutheran church could be considered an “offshoot, a branch, or a sub group” of the Catholic church. So it is with the Mormon’s and the polygamists.
In the early days of the Mormon church, its leaders taught and encouraged the practice of polygamy. Later for various reasons (which could be an entire post of by itself) the church changed its position on polygamy and outlawed its practice, excommunicating any members who continued its practice.
So why, you ask, is there so much confusion in the case of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints and the polygamists? I’ll tell you why. It all has to do with the name.
You see the Lutherans and others like them were happy to separate from the catholic church and be called by a new name. The polygamists arent.
In the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants which both the Polygamists and the Mormons view as scripture, Christ tells the only name that his church will be known by; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Since both groups believe in those books and both groups claim to have the truth they both want access to that name.
The nickname that the LDS church has been given; “the Mormon’s” further adds to the confusion as since it is just a nickname it is easier for both groups to claim, especially since they both believe in the Book of Mormon the nick name in all fairness applies. This is why the leaders of the LDS church encourage that their members use the given name.
In fact recently one of the 12 apostles of the LDS church said the following,

“Our members have been called Mormons because we believe in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Others may try to use the word Mormon more broadly to include and refer to those who have left the Church and formed various splinter groups. Such use only leads to confusion. We are grateful for the efforts of the media to refrain from using the word Mormon in a way that may cause the public to confuse the Church with polygamists or other fundamentalist groups. Let me state clearly that no polygamist group, including those calling themselves fundamentalist Mormons or other derivatives of our name, has any affiliation whatsoever with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/the-importance-of-a-name?lang=eng

Having come from one church and converted to the other, I feel that I have an understanding of this issue more than most. I have personally heard polygamists claim that they were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints. I have heard them insist that they are Mormons. I have heard them claim that the differences are cultural. The truth is…and even they would agree with me on this;
1.) They believe that the official leaders of the LDS church do not have authority from God, are not inspired and directed by him and they don’t listen to or respect their teachings.
2.) They believe that the LDS church has given up the fullness of the gospel and their beliefs about several of their teachings (more than just polygamy) are quite different.
3.) They attend totally different church meetings.
4.) Neither organization would accept the baptism of the other and both would require a denial of former beliefs in the case of conversion.
I don’t know about you but to me this sounds like more than cultural differences, more than a “branch or offshoot”. It sounds to me like a different religion.