Posts Tagged preparation

A lesson on caring for single sisters

This past Sunday, in the meeting we have of those ordained as an Elder, we had a special topic and teacher for our lesson. The lesson was on how we can better serve as Home Teachers to the single sisters in our ward, taught by one of these single sisters. Home Teaching is a program where the Elders and High Priests of the ward are put into pairs and assigned to met with each family, in their homes, once a month, to share a spiritual message and to try and help the family wherever we can. Usually, Elders aren’t assigned single sisters (by policy, probably because single sisters are perceived to have more need), but since we have 60 in our ward, we’ve all at least one family that consists of a single sister (sometimes with children), rather than a married couple (also sometimes with children).

Our ward may be a bit high on the number of single sisters, but I don’t think it’s all that high. There was a recent New York Times piece on women in the Church, A Growing Role for Mormon Women, that had an interesting infographic, showing the ratios of single men to women of different age groups in the Church. What particularly surprised me was that, while there were more men than women in the under 30 group, each group older than that has progressively more single women than men. Over 60, the ratio of single men to women is up to five women for every man. Some would say that the ratio of 12 men to 10 women under 30 is an indicator that young women are “leaving in droves” over perceived inequality, and that this ratio will continue. I think with the increased numbers of women serving as missionaries the ration will continue to skew younger, it becoming more noticeable earlier that the women who remain in the Church will outnumber the men, even below 30.

I’m kind of conflicted about the numbers of single women in the Church, especially those I see around me. I know they are strong women, many of whom are dealing with impossible circumstances of trying to raise and provide for a family on their own. They do not technically “need” someone else to share the load, but it certainly would make life easier if that were the case. I do not want to ever infer that these women are less than, incomplete people, or anything of the sort, but I do know that beneath it all there is a vulnerability, a need for the Priesthood power only available to men, that they feel in their homes and lives. I don’t think ordination would solve this (even if it may relieve it for some), but some things can only be helped when you can see yourself moving toward that next step of becoming like our Heavenly Parents, in a committed, equally yoked, sealed marriage.

That brings me back to the lesson. The lesson, as I said, was on how we can better serve the single sisters in our ward and was taught by one of these single sisters. She’d done a great amount of work, polling and talking to the single women in our Ward so she could communicate with us the special needs that were there. She’d asked the sisters what the top needs were for Home Teachers. The answers were not terribly surprising, as they tend to apply to all of the families we teach: 1. Show Up, 2. Make an Appointment, 3. Be Consistent.

There were a few comments from the men on how we were needed, especially to help with what I’d refer to as “moving big stuff” (y’know, manly man work) that I wanted to push back against, but I felt that I both couldn’t and shouldn’t. I was there to learn from someone who is one of the women in this group, not to lessen her time to teach by pushing back on this minor misconception. Thankfully, she put in some points that helped put these ideas down. She has her own home, in which she’s done her own yard work, tiled her own kitchen, done her own upkeep. There were also times when she needed an extra hand, like in removing a stump from her yard. She was glad of her Home Teacher who not only got together the people to get the stump out, but went the extra mile of filling in the hole and getting sod to grass the new bald spot. It wasn’t an absolute need, but she was very, very grateful for this service.

She also talked very passionately about the need of having the Priesthood available in times of need. She talked about how we need to build the relationships with those we are assigned to watch over so we’ll be one of the first people they think of when they need help, whatever that help may be. No one is going to call for help someone they barely see once a quarter, not even when something as seemingly simple as a blessing or just a shoulder is needed. These women keenly feel the lack of Priesthood power in their homes, and yet they are still strong in their faith and in the Church.

Priesthood holders are not here to “rescue” these women. We’re not supposed to be swooping in to make everything better. These women are not helpless children. When I attended Young Women’s camp as a Priesthood holder, it was not to be over anyone, to be the “manly man” to keep everyone safe, or to be the body to move the heavy stuff; it was to be simply available when a Priesthood blessing is needed. Yes, this could have been done by any Priesthood holder in the area, but it was important to have someone from each Ward, someone familiar to those being served.

That’s the key, really – familiarity. Knowing those we intend to serve is the only way we really can serve. Familiarity helps remove the broad misconceptions we may have about any group. I hope I can do a better job of being there for the families of every size and shape around me, especially for those I’ve been assigned.


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Bringing our best to the Temple

There have been two new versions of the presentation they show in the temple recently, taking advantage of new technologies. When I saw the first one, I had a real hard time. I’d been feeling especially resentful of the inequality of some parts of the ceremony (which I’d blogged about before), and felt that some of the interpretations just made things worse. Afterward, I was just in bad spirits, nearly getting into a heated argument with my wife over the interpretation.

The next time I went, I decided to go in with a different spirit, trying to concentrate on the good things I saw in the presentation and the experience of doing work for one of my kin. I went with specific questions of my own in mind, and actively worked to leave behind feelings of resentment of how things weren’t how I would have done it. At some point during the presentation, it hit me.

The people who had created these presentations, all of them, actors, directors, visual effects people, musicians, were simply bringing their best to the Temple.

It’s not how I would have done it, but I wasn’t asked and that’s okay.

Some people complain about the costs and work that goes into building and maintaining a Temple. I’ve talked to people who have worked building Temples and some who help provide materials (like stone), and I’ve come to one solid conclusion. It’s not about the cost, which can be expensive. Providing the best is going to be expensive, but the best is also not the most expensive. It’s about bringing the best to the Temple. From the time we have recorded of the first Temple, the Temple of Solomon, we have been asked to build the Temple with only the finest materials. Could the money to do this be put to a better use? I don’t think it can, actually. Yes, we should be working hard to help those in need, but it’s also important that we both honor God (as He has commanded) and honor our ancestors by helping them share the joy we’ve found in being connected eternally.

So, since I’m not likely to be asked to do construction work or help create a new presentation for the Temple, what can I do to bring my own best to the Temple? This is what I’ve come up with, some obvious and some not:

– Do my best to be spiritually clean. No one is required to be perfect to go into the Temple, but we do need to be trying. We all go before God as imperfect children, but we can go knowing that we are covered by the Atonement, and are still His daughters and sons, who will be welcomed in no matter how meager our best may seem.
– Find work for someone that needs to be done. This does not mean you need to have something of your own, as you may not have the resources, time, or inspiration to do so, but I can assure you that there are hundreds of names being held by the members of your Ward that need work done. Find your Ward Family History Consultants and use this as another way to serve not only someone’s ancestors, but someone in your own Ward as well.
– Bring the best in our own Temples, our physical bodies. This is not only being washed and clean, it is adorning yourself with clothing that is simple, clean, and well cared for. This especially includes the robes that are used in the Endowment and Sealing ceremonies. Learn how to wear them properly with the help of someone who can see how it looks and provide suggestions and adjustments that need to be made. I’ve seen too many men with the robe barely hanging on them, askew and in constant need of shifting to remain on. You are not restricted to wearing your robe only in the ceremonies that use them. You should try it in the privacy of your own bedroom, keeping in mind the sacred things they represent.

For men especially (since I’ve only experience with the men’s clothing), two things. First, it’s a sash, not a belt. It’s not supposed to bunch up around your waist like a piece of rope. Second, learn how to sit, stand, move, and kneel in a robe. You likely don’t have experience wearing a dress, but the mechanics are much the same. If you can, get tips from someone who has worn skirts on how to sit properly, so you don’t end up with a wrinkled mess every time you sit down.

I look forward to when I can go to the Temple again, to do work for and honor the dead as well as my God. I will do my best to not only bring my best to the Temple, but to better appreciate the best that others have brought. Are there still issues? Sure, but I can take heart in knowing that God will compensate for and heal all hurts, will make us and our offerings perfect, and will be waiting with open arms for when we return to His physical presence.

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Girls Camp Helper

This year I tried a new experience – volunteering to be one of the two required Priesthood holders for a day and night at Girls Camp.  For those who don’t know, Girls Camp is a week-long retreat for the Young Women of the Ward/Stake, ages 12-18, with their adult leaders and other women asked to help.  Church policy is that each Ward needs 2 Priesthood holders on site at all times during the camp, in case there arises a need for Priesthood blessings for any reason.  I was glad for a chance to help, even in a small way, the women of our ward, so I went ahead and volunteered for a day and a night there at camp.

The planning meeting I was asked to attend went very well.  It was interesting to have the meeting conducted by one of the Laurel Presidents from the Stake – a 17-year-old young woman rather than one of her adult advisors.  They seemed to have everything well planned, though I really had no idea what I was to be doing there.  The camp itself surprised me, as somehow there was a large refuge of beech trees amongst all the scrubland that makes up most of Utah.  I’d wondered idly on my way there if I should have packed sunblock, but it wasn’t really needed.

The problem really came with me.  I’d not been camping in at least 20 years, had never been to a Girls Camp, and though I knew what I should pack.  Aside from a sleeping bag (a canvas tent with cots was provided for the Priesthood at the camp), I’d decided to pack only a spare change of clothes and some pyjamas.  Didn’t even occur to me to ask anyone what I would need.  I think part of the assumption was that the men who had volunteered already knew something about camping.  Unfortunately, I’m one of those who is just glad to help, hopeful someone knows what they are doing, and really had no idea what I was doing.

It started out fairly well.  I helped with odd jobs and mostly stayed out-of-the-way.  I probably should have brought a book for the few times I’d have nothing to do, but it was nice just to be in the outdoors in those times.  The girls even invited me to join in with their tie-dying activity they had between dinner and Family Home Evening (since it was a Monday night).  The talks and songs of the FHE were really cool, as I always enjoy hearing the experiences and learning of the women and get it less often than I’d like.  No, the trouble started when the sun went down.

For those who don’t already know – in the mountains, when its dark, it starts to get cold, even in the Summer.  In my confident planning, I didn’t even bring a jacket.  I spent some time shivering and wondering if I’d freeze to death before being offered a share of a blanket some of the adult sisters were using and the use of a spare jacket the Bishop had left earlier.

Between my arthritic body always acting very adversely to cold, settling in of panic attacks because of my lack of planning, and the added concern over my 2-year-old son who had been taken to the hospital the previous week (they think it was from the fever he had), I couldn’t make it.  I worked out making sure Priesthood would be covered with a member of our Stake Presidency who was there, let the women in charge know that I needed to go and they were still covered, and headed home in tears, feeling a massive amount of personal failure on the mountain roads home.

No one has said anything about it since.  The Young Women still gave me a “thank you” card for coming to help, and it seems to have passed on without any real comment.  I was glad to help with the next youth temple trip, in any way they needed me, and will continue to try to help where I feel I can.

We’ll see how next year goes.  I hope that either my wife will get her dream of being able to go to Girls Camp herself, or I’ll at least be a little more prepared for a night in the mountains than I was this time.

I’m glad they have Girls Camp.  I do wish they had more opportunities for Scout like things for the Young Women for those who would enjoy more time and learning outdoors, but I am glad they at least have Girls Camp.  I think if my Scout Camp experiences would have been as well-organized and directed, I would have enjoyed spending time in the outdoors so much more.

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Boy Scouts, camping, and learning independence

Last Sunday, the Scout leaders in our ward went to the Relief Society and brought out the following factlet – “97% of missionaries who leave their mission early do so because of homesickness”.  I don’t know where they get their data, but the usage of this statistic bothered me because it was used as a rationale to guilt the mothers into sending their scout aged sons to a National Scout Jamboree.  Little details: the trip is three weeks long, takes place in West Virginia, and costs $2500 per boy.  To me, the cost is much too high, but that is beside the point.  The thought seems to be that campouts (and especially things like this extended uber-campout) fosters independence.  We don’t want our boys afraid to leave home, do we?  Send ’em on a three-week trip, completely chaperoned, where they get all of their meals, travel, entertainment, crafts, and housing without any significant effort on their part!

When the local high school marching band had an opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl Parade (held on New Years Day in Pasadena, California), the money had to be raised to get them there.  Each student had a significant amount of money they had to come up with to be able to go.  So, they had several fundraisers, one of which was door-to-door sales.  They worked together to raise the funds so that every member of the marching band could go.

The young women in our ward are currently having a fundraiser to pay for the costs they have in going to Girls Camp.  The cost per girls is nowhere near the amount being asked for the Scout camp, and it is likely that the cost of sending just one boy to this camp could pay for several years of Girls Camp.  Maybe I’ve been reading too many feminist blogs, but this doesn’t seem right.

You want to encourage independence?  Have your kid get a job and make decisions on their own as to what to spend their own hard-earned money on.  Help them learn the value of the money they are earning.  Trips and campouts can be fun, but just throwing in money isn’t going to foster independence; quite the opposite, in fact.

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Being guided to where I am now?

This week I’ve started a new job for the Church History Department, working on the library catalog systems.  As I’ve been learning more about the work I will be doing, it caused me to wonder if there wasn’t some hand in building me up to be ready for this position.

  • Five years ago, I worked as Quality Assurance for a law database called CourtLink.  It was the testing side of a process similar to this job; creating import and normalization scripts for importing library information from other libraries into our own database.
  • Four years ago, I moved to Utah (as I needed to be closer to my sons) and got a job with Ancestry.  It was my first experience as a developer, and the work I was doing revolved around tools and processes for data normalization.
  • Six months ago, I got a contract working for the Church, working with the Facilities Management system.  It got me introduced to the culture of working for the Church, and an added toe into being able to get other work within the Church.
  • Now I’m working on the Chuch History Library catalogs (which include a catalog for Family History), building import and normalization scripts to add data to the library database.

Am I just seeing patterns that are not really there, or did I end up on a path that prepared me for this job? The jobs I had before these (in telecommunications and desktop gaming) don’t really seem related, but at those times I wasn’t yet married again, and didn’t really need to provide for anyone but myself (and keep up child support).  Is this just another step leading me to somewhere I can’t see, or is it all a cosmic coincidence?

I don’t know.  I do know, however, that I will do my best to do this job well, no matter where life is taking me.

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