Tag Archives: community

The Cycle of Good

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Guest post by Eric Maughan

One of my favorite Bible verses is Acts 10:38, which says that Christ “went about doing good.” I often think of the effect his service had on the people around him, how all those acts of goodness must have influenced their behavior. It’s hard to see someone doing a good thing and not want to do something good yourself. This “cycle of good”—being helped and then helping others—is one of the great things about the world we live in.

Sometimes the cycle of good is born out of tragedy. In 2009, twenty-seven-year-old John Jones was exploring a cave in northern Utah when he got stuck upside down. After more than twenty-four hours of fighting and valiant efforts by rescuers, John passed away, leaving his pregnant widow and thirteen-month-old daughter. Amidst the tragedy, John’s brother-in-law and I saw an opportunity to help others, and we organized a cross-country bicycle ride to raise money for young widows and their children, like John’s young family. Since he had lived his life serving and helping people, we were inspired by John’s actions and wanted to help inspire others.

We set out to help and inspire others, but as we made our way across the country we were instead the recipients of countless acts of people “doing good” like Christ did. An example of this was a man named Doug, who offered to let us spend the night at his home in North Carolina. We needed to take a ferry to get there, but we missed the last ferry that would have allowed us to safely bike to Doug’s house before sunset.  We called Doug and told him we would just sleep in our tents when we got off the ferry, but he said he would be happy to come pick us up with his truck and trailer. When we thanked him profusely, he told us a story about a time when he had been the one in need of help.

Doug was taking a group of youth up a canyon when their trailer got a flat tire. Fortunately, this occurred close to a house where a man had a spare that was a perfect match. The homeowner gave Doug a hand and sent him on his way without accepting any sort of compensation. Doug said that he promised himself then to lend a hand whenever he could, which was why he came out to pick us up.

I have 4,000 miles worth of stories of the “cycle of good” in action. I noticed while we were biking that some people thought we were trying to “[go] about doing good” in our own small way, and I hope that inspired them to do good as well. I try to remember every day the people that have gone out of their way to help me, and those that still do, and I try to pass those acts of kindness on as the “cycle of good” continues.

Interested in the LDS church, but reluctant to start attending?

Have you been considering becoming a member of the LDS church, but are reluctant to meet with missionaries or start attending church?  This was a question from one of our readers and I’ve spent some time pondering the question.   As part of my response I’ve decided to include a few thoughts in this blog that might be useful for others.  I realize that there are many reasons why someone would be reluctant to start attending the LDS church even if they are interested in becoming a member.   You shouldn’t feel any pressure by attending a service.  There are usually a few people at a church service held on Sundays that will notice a stranger and will make an attempt at introduction, whether you a member of the LDS church or not.  If they happen to find out that you are only visiting for the first time you may here any number of responses reflecting the hope that you liked what you saw or felt and are welcome to come anytime.  If you are more than a casual observer, you are likely to be invited to meet with missionaries who are full time temporary volunteers dedicated to teaching more about the LDS faith.   You are not required, however, to meet with the missionaries.  Though they are trained to teach and are commissioned to baptize they generally eschew the appearance of pressuring.

I know of instances where members not of the LDS faith regularly participated in LDS activities like organized sports and Scouting.  There are a lot of benefits to attending church regularly.  The church is divided up by geographic regions and members belong to congregations based on boundaries.  The church is very logistical in that regard, but it proves useful.  Congregations or ‘Wards’ as we call them are much like families and no one ward is exactly like another.   As my Ward has changed over the years due to migration of fellow members and/or myself my experience has varied, but I have always felt some affinity for the Ward.  Most of my life’s cherished experiences have been with people from my local Ward, but it sometimes takes an open mind, positive attitude, patience and work – perhaps more on that in another post.  I’m not sure I’ve answered your question about what to do if you are interested in becoming a member, but are reluctant to attend church or meet with the missionaries.   Thanks for the question.  It caused me to pause and reflect on some good times!

My Conversion

The following is from Bev King, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who relates in this blog how she was first introduced to the “Mormon” Faith:

Sixteen years ago I was yearning to find a group of Christians to join with.  I grew up in the Episcopal church, and there was much about the Episcopal church that I loved and still do love.  I found the cathedral-like beauty of the church interior and the sacred music very uplifting.  I liked the fact that my church was interested in social justice issues.  I resonated with the values of love and service of the Episcopal church, but I was looking for something more.   I explored many different religions but didn’t find one that suited me.  I was spiritually adrift.

After many years of spiritual drifting, I prayed to find a Christian group with whom I could continue my spiritual journey.  I had a desire to deepen my relationship with God and be joined with people who shared the same values.  I never dreamed that when I signed on for my first acting job on the feature film, The Crucible, that I would find the answer to my prayer on that film set.   I developed a friendship with a woman I met on the set of The Cruicible.  One night, we had a conversation about religion.   She told me she was Mormon, I exclaimed, “Mormon, I’ve never known anyone who is Mormon.  Tell me what you believe.”  And she did.

Everything she told me resonated with me.  She told me that there is a Spirit World where we lived with God before we are born.  Families can live together forever.  We live with God after we die.  That life on earth is a time where we can grow and change and can become more like Christ.  She told me many other things that made sense to me.  One important thing that she told me was that each person is entitled to personal revelation directly from God.  My interest was piqued.  I wanted to learn more.  I started going to church events with her and then started to go to church meetings, and three months later converted to the LDS faith and was baptized.

In the LDS church, I have found something very precious.  I have found a group of people who live their religion. They don’t leave their Sunday values in church.  They endeavor to live them 24/7.  I learned that God does hear our prayers.  God is real, and I can have a personal relationship with Him.  For this and so much more, I am so very gratedul for the restoration of the gospel and the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that espouses these precious teachings.

Instant Community

A few weeks ago, I was driving home from running Saturday morning errands when I started to feel some abdominal pain. Over the course of the twenty minute drive, I went from, “I’ll just go home and rest,” to, “PAIN! HURTS! SWEATING PROFUSELY! NAUSEA!”

Long story short, I drove straight to the ER, where the doctors diagnosed me with appendicitis. Arriving to the ER at 10:30 a.m., I was in surgery by 3:00 p.m. An appendectomy is not exactly what the 6th day of Christmas ordered, and I was pretty nervous and frustrated about the flights and days of work I would surely miss over the next week.

Between my arrival and the surgery, I could have been very alone and scared were it not for several church members who showed up at the hospital. Turns out, my mother in Texas had called my friend from church in Boston, who called the relief society president, who called the bishop, who called my home teachers, all of whom came to wish me well before the surgery*.

(*relief society president = leader of women in each congregation. bishop = leader of the congregation. home teachers = each person or family has two individuals assigned to check up on them and visit them at least once a month)

One purpose of the visits was to receive a priesthood blessing of comfort and health, a common practice in the Mormon church. We closed the curtain of my ER room while my bishop and home teachers laid their hands upon my head and gave me a priesthood blessing that I would be healthy, calm, and safe. There, in a dreary hospital room, these men called upon the power of God to give one of His daughters much-needed peace.

During the terrible night after the surgery, more church members showed up and kept me company as the effects of anesthesia took an uncomfortable hold. The next day, even more church members came to visit me in the hospital. I never once felt alone. Rather, I was reminded of how much church members deeply care for one another.

The nurses and doctors kept commenting on the continuous stream of visitors, saying things like, “wow, you are really popular,” and, “where are all these people coming from?” This phenomenon isn’t new to me. Growing up, my mom always visited church members in hospitals and cooked meals for families who needed support. My dad was always ready to give priesthood blessings, and many times would do so at all hours of the night.

The sense of love and community is one of the many things I treasure as a Mormon. From Cairo to London to Boston, members in my congregations cared for and supported one another with sincere Christian love. The Mormon ward (or congregation) system is truly inspired. The community is not just a social structure, but also an instant family where members strive (we’re all human after all) to selflessly serve one another.

Do you run this Church?

I was pleased when my post on General Conference led to a conversation with a good friend who gave me a fresh perspective on my own church leadership.  Among other things, she kindly observed that it was nice that our leaders were able to speak to us in a televised fashion every six months.  It had never occurred to me that this was unusual until my friend pointed this out, and I was led to ponder on some of the other ways that the church leadership is unique.  One of these differences is that of a lay ministry, which is not very common today, and moreover, it parallels the one that Christ had set up when he was here on the earth about two thousand years ago.

When Jesus walked along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, he saw fishermen working on their boats and he called out to them. His simple words, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew. 4:19) were taken seriously by his apostles, and they dropped what they were doing and followed him.  These men walked with Jesus, taught with Jesus, and administered with Jesus.   They never asked how much such a living would gain or if there were any health or dental benefits included.  I assume that they did it because they felt that it was the right thing to do.  It was not an easy, luxurious lifestyle they led, but they were often the first to witness miracles performed by Jesus, and to come to know personally that he was the Savior of all mankind.

Today, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, there are prophets, apostles and other church leaders who travel all over the world, from Boston to Kenya, from Alaska to Australia, teaching and administrating to everyone, not just members of the Church.  They receive no income from this work because they don’t see it as work.  At the local levels, individuals who are old enough are asked to serve in one capacity or another, whether as teachers, speakers, sacrament blessers and/or passers (the list goes on and on), and no one draws a salary.  So why do we do it? Why put in your time, money, efforts and talents towards something without remuneration?  I’d like to hope that everyone gains something, but perhaps not monetarily.

As the Bible teaches us, there are countless blessings in store for those who comes when Jesus beckons. It’s this idea that we are all helping each other, so that we can come closer to the Savior and become more like him.  Our lay clergy helps remind me that I don’t have to be a professional or divinity school graduate to help build the Kingdom. Who runs this church?  We all do!

Hearts Knit Together

I’m totally panicked. It’s hard to get air. I’m on the passenger side of a car that’s barreling down the road to Urgent Care. I need my husband to breathe with me, “Out through your mouth. In through your nose.”

In the end, it doesn’t look too serious. Aside from one scary night, I’m doing fine. But this experience reminded me of what it means to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Loaves of BreadAs Lindsey explained earlier, being Mormon means more than just attending church on Sunday. It’s about being part of a community. When we become a member of the church, we promise to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.” We seek to have “one eye, having one faith and one baptism” and have our “hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:8-9, 21).

During the week I saw this in action. I was given rides to where I needed to go. Somebody cleaned up our garden plot. And two women offered to bring me and my husband dinner on the same night. That made me laugh. I’m not sick, I don’t have kids, and my husband is perfectly capable of cooking dinner (and does regularly). Food is just one way Mormons show love and support. And you know, it works.

What it Means to be Christian

Sometimes it gets a little frustrating when everyone feels entitled to define your religion for you. There has been a lot of talk about whether Mormons are Christians or not, whether we are a cult or not, and why it actually matters. As you can probably imagine, I have a few thoughts on the matter. But, I feel like it would be a waste of my time to write my own thoughts on this because I just read an article that I think explains it so wonderfully and already includes everything I was thinking (except Jeffers, the author, enjoys politics and I am quite the opposite :)).

I really enjoyed this post because I felt like it explored all the different sides of what it means to be a Christian and how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fits into that. For me, Christ is the center of everything I do. He is why I strive to be a good wife, mother, neighbor, citizen and human.  If you have any questions about Mormons’ stance on Christ (or even if you don’t and you just want a good read about what it means to be a Christian) I highly recommend reading this article from our friends over at mormonperspectives.com.

Gay & Mormon

The congregation I grew up with in Chicago.

The Modern Mormon Men (MMM) blog has become a guilty pleasure of mine over the past couple of months. I feel there’s a good balance of entertainment and insight albeit at times with a frustratingly male perspective. 🙂 What was I expecting, right?  Point is – I think the blog is great.

Yesterday, blogger Scott Heff posted an interview with Mitch Mayne, an openly gay Mormon recently called to a church leadership position in San Francisco.  As Scott mentions, there’s been quite a bit of media attention around Mitch’s calling and understandably so given the church’s historical stance on homosexuality.

I suppose I’m a “straight ally” as Mitch calls them and I was struck by the love of his Bishop in San Francisco. Mitch says:

My Bishop’s direction is this: The doors of the church in San Francisco are open to any and all, regardless of where people are in their lives; partnered, single, monogamous, dating, celibate—there’s room for everyone in our congregation. Bishop Fletcher said the other day that he wants our biggest problem to be lack of seating in the chapel on Sunday, and a challenge in keeping people from talking to one another during Sacrament Meeting because they are so darned glad to see one another. What a great goal! How could I not want to be part of a team like that?

I agree. What a great goal!

I encourage you to read the full interview over at MMM and leave a few thoughts for discussion.

What I Like About Being Mormon

I was thinking today about what I really enjoy about being Mormon. There are a lot of things but I decided to go with a pretty practical one. We just moved, not a big move, just across the city but big enough where it has been an adjustment. Since we moved we’ve been traveling a lot and as I divulged a few weeks ago I was pretty sick so getting to know people in our new neighborhood has been very slow moving. And, if you’ve ever been to the Boston area you know that when something is just a few miles away it translates into a 30 minute plus commute due to traffic and just the general layout of the city. So if I wanted to I could easily go a long time (like weeks probably) without seeing anyone I know besides my husband and son. This is where being Mormon comes in.

I’ve talked about Relief Society before, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints women’s organization. In addition to providing spiritual needs for the women in the ward there is a very practical side to the Relief Society as well. My chapter of the Relief Society has been doing park days/outings throughout the area every week as well as meeting together at church on Sunday. Because of these outings and meeting together on Sundays it gives me the extra nudge I need right now to get out of the house and get together with friends, which for stay-at-home moms is really essential to maintaining sanity. This is one thing I love about being Mormon. The Church helps us with our practical needs as well as our spiritual needs, because really they are all interconnected. I love having something to be involved in, no matter where I am currently living or what my present situation is. I will always have a congregation to be a part of, a natural way of meeting people and making friends and a natural way to serve and contribute to something other than my own home.

The gospel of Jesus Christ does not coincide with isolation and it’s not about just bettering ourselves. It’s about being a part of a community and serving each other and loving each other, no matter our current needs or situation. Have you experienced a time when being a part of an established community helped you?