First things first: join me on January 10th for Reading Day! (I know; as if I need an excuse to read.) It'll be fun!
I skipped a few Scavenger Hunt items Thanksgiving week, so today I'm going to try and combine a few so we can end this whole NaBloPoMo thing gracefully tomorrow. I think it will work out. I apologize in advance the contributors; I certainly don't want anyone to feel like I have given them short shrift.
One of my BBFFs (Best Blog Friends Forever), Brillig, thought I should write about being both active LDS/Mormon and politically liberal, which is a somewhat unusual combination, for some unfathomable reason.
Goofball, a darling Dutch friend who has given me invaluable help with research on one of my novels, had two requests: 1) give the details of my weirdest travel experience; and 2) tell more about my faith.
And Jenna, my fellow recovering Mary Kay Sales Director, and one of the best women I know personally, wanted to read more about my church mission experience.
I can see a bit of a pattern there, so work with me as I answer in rather non-linear fashion.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed 'Mormons' over 150 years ago) are Christians. It's very important that you know that; apparently there are groups out in the world who claim we are not Christians. But Jesus' name is in the middle of the name of our church for a reason: He's at the center of every aspect of our religion.
We believe that God speaks to people today through prophets just as He spoke to prophets in ancient times. Joseph Smith was the first of these latter-day prophets; he organized the church in upstate New York in 1830.
Here are our official Thirteen Articles of Faith, written by Joseph Smith in 1842 in response to questions from John Wentworth, the editor of The Chicago Democrat.
Here are other facts about our religion and members of the church.
Here's a great explanation of the LDS view of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Goofball, if you have any other questions, please email me. I can go on and on about this subject; it's very dear to my heart.
My 'weirdest' travel experience was definitely my mission for our church. I've done a fair bit of traveling, all of it very positive (except for our family cruise a few years ago; we'll never do THAT again). But my mission was unusual for many reasons.
LDS missionaries are mostly young men and women. 19-year-old boys are strongly encouraged to go on two-year, full-time missions; if they choose, women may go for 18-month missions when they turn 21. Missions are a highly structured, ascetic experience. Missionaries are expected to forgo dating, television and movies, most music, and reading of anything other than the scriptures. In addition, they are expected to be with their assigned companions all of the time.
Missionaries have one day off per week, called 'Preparation Day' (or 'P-Day'), when they do all of their housecleaning, food shopping, and laundry, with a little time left over for limited sight-seeing and physical recreation. At all other times, from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., they are supposed to be sharing our faith with people in their assigned area. They may be knocking on doors, holding street meetings, or meeting with people referred to them by other church members. They also spend significant amounts of time every day (they wake up very early) engaged in prayer, meditation, and scripture study.
You may wonder how many young people could possibly be willing to take up such an arduous and monkish existence in this day and age. Well, in 2006, there were over 53,000 LDS missionaries serving all over the world.
When you put in your paperwork for a mission, you have no idea where you will be sent. You could end up in Hong Kong or Helsinki, Guatemala or Ghana, Connecticut or Korea, Uganda or Utah. If you'll be learning a foreign language, you typically spend two months in one of several Missionary Training Centers (MTC). If you are going to an English-speaking country, your time in the MTC is just two weeks.
In addition to proselytizing missions, there are also humanitarian missions, family services missions, family history missions, temple missions, and church historical site missions. As I mentioned before most missionaries are young single men and women, but senior couples and senior single sisters are actively encouraged to serve as well.
Missionaries pay their own way as much as possible. When they have not saved enough to support themselves for the length of the mission, their families and congregations (called 'wards') contribute as well.
Why did I go on a mission? I had been wanting to all my life; I had been raised thinking that it was the right thing to do. I thought I'd probably be pretty good at it. It's a concrete, measurable way to serve. For Mormons, it is a rite of passage, one of the ways we come of age. Like running a marathon, it's a significant accomplishment. But the biggest reason I went is because I wanted to share the good news of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible.
I was called to go on a French-speaking mission to Montreal, Canada. I was thrilled; I had studied French since first grade and was anxious to put it to good use. At the end of March 1989, I entered the MTC in Provo, Utah. After a great learning experience there, members of our group flew to Montreal and were assigned to various areas throughout the province of Quebec.
My area was Laval, an island suburb of Montreal. My senior companion was fantastic; we hit it off right away. She'd been out for over a year, and she was the perfect mix of enthusiasm and energy tempered with a lot of experience and wisdom.
I met people from all over the world in Laval; Quebec takes in many French-speaking immigrants, so we talked to people from Haiti, Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, and Egypt, as well as many native Canadians.
I woke up every day excited and happy; there is something unique about giving up worldly concerns and devoting yourself as fully as possible to serving in a cause greater than yourself. I learned new things about myself, my relationship with God, and the world on a daily basis; it was the greatest spiritual experience I'd ever had up to that point in my life.
Unfortunately, in October of that year, I got horribly sick and had to return home from my mission. Doctors determined that there was no way to know when I would get better, so I was honorably released after only six months of service. I was crushed, but I believe these things happen for reasons we sometimes can't see for a long time. It took me over a year to convalesce fully.
I would go again in a heartbeat; in fact, Patrick and I plan to serve as many missions as possible once the kids are grown and on their own. I very much hope all our children will decide to serve as well. It's an experience I recommend highly.
As for my political beliefs and how they mesh with my religious beliefs? Let me be as tactful as possible; I have no wish to alienate the very large portion of my readers who belong to the party I actively oppose.
God gave us the earth and commanded us to take care of it; therefore, preserving the environment is a crucial issue for me.
Jesus asked us to take care of our fellow man; social and governmental programs that make taking care of the poor and disadvantaged easier and more efficient are a natural outgrowth of that admonition.
Our eleventh Article of Faith allows all men the privilege of worship according to the dictates of their own consciences; therefore I believe in a clear separation between church and state.
The Book of Mormon (which I believe, along with The Holy Bible, to be the word of God) clearly teaches that defense is the only reason sanctioned by God to take up arms; I have never believed that the conflict in which my country currently finds itself embroiled can be rationalized as 'defensive' in any way.
Whew! We've covered a lot of ground today. If you're still reading, thanks for sticking with me. You're the best.