Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why the "Mormon Mold" Needs to be Broken

I read an article today on LDS Living Magazine's website, called "When Your Child Doesn't Fit the Mormon Mold". In this article, the author discusses her teenage son's "unconventional" (by Mormon standards) appearance, and how people can be more accepting and understanding of such individuals. Sounds pretty good on the outside, right?

That's what I thought, too. One of my biggest pet peeves about Mormon culture (not the doctrine, mind you) is the fact that people can get really... concerned about how other people choose to dress/groom themselves. Among other things, but let's focus on appearance for now.

Her skirt is 1/4 of an inch above the knee! Alert the Bishop!
Now, don't get me wrong, there were things in the article that I did actually like. For example, what she said about harsh judgments being one of the things that keep people away from church is 100% true. Feeling like you don't fit in is the worst, especially when you are at the mercy of the self-righteous who don't dig your personal style. She also said some very nice things about being kind to people, which are spot on.

What I didn't like was the unsettling undertone of, "give it time, they will change eventually":

If you are a Church leader, continue to teach the reasons behind the modesty and grooming standards in a loving, nonjudgmental way. Allow our children time to process these principles and come to the decision to change on their own.

She says this as though, as soon as someone accepts the principles of the Gospel, they will immediately decide to get a "missionary haircut" and wear a tie to church. She mentions her son cutting his hair shorter as he becomes more comfortable at church, slowly beginning his metamorphosis into a standard, cookie-cutter Mormon.

Acceptance at church is such an important topic, and I really wish she would have come at it from a more open-minded angle. Love of the Gospel is why we go to church. It doesn't matter if you're a shaggy-haired teenager, a tatted-up convert, or a feminist in pants. We go to church to praise, not to judge others for stupid, superficial things. Diversity is what makes us great! The message shouldn't be "be nice, and they will change eventually", it should just be a simple, "be nice".

It's time to break out of the Mormon Mold -- let's embrace the differences that make us great.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Fourth Day

Now that our spring concert is over and we are truly in the Easter season, our focus in the Chorale has once again turned to Rob Gardner's gorgeous oratorio, Lamb of God. Always the highlight of our spring season, the piece focuses on the last days of Christ's ministry on Earth.

Tickets will be available HERE starting on Monday, March 24 (it's free - just sayin')
This year I've been trying to let myself get lost in the doctrine as well as the music. In addition to making notes on dynamics and rhythms, I've been writing personal notes to myself in the score as we sing: "Who am I representing, here? What is my character feeling? What am I feeling?" Doing this has helped me connect to the piece emotionally, and today in rehearsal it struck me in a very personal way.

We were practicing I Am the Resurrection, and we had the opportunity to talk about Lazarus and "the fourth day". In Jewish cultural tradition, it was believed that the soul hovered near the body for three days after death, but after that time had passed there was no hope for the deceased to ever live again. When Christ came to Mary and Martha, Lazarus had already reached his fourth day. There were few who believed that he could rise again.
He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.
Lazarus rose. Those who had lost hope were absolved - their prayers had been answered. Their trial was waiting: they needed to have hope until the fourth day.

As we talked about this, our director asked us if we could think of any time where we were made to wait until the fourth day. I wrote it down in my score, and immediately knew what I would say if I could bring myself to say it out loud. My "fourth day" was the day I let myself become converted to Christ.

It had been two years since I had been to church. I was bitter and sad - there were so many things about the church that I didn't understand, and so many ways I felt I had been abandoned by God. I was tired of fighting, and I was sick. Very sick. My lungs, which have fought against me for my whole life, were full of fluid; my throat so raw that I couldn't move or swallow without sharp pain. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't even cry. I thought that I was going to die, and I had never felt more alone in my whole life. Suddenly, I wanted a priesthood blessing more than anything else in the world. I called my long-suffering home teachers, and they agreed to come over as soon as possible (privately, I think they probably high-fived each other right after I called).

As I had my priesthood blessing, I was hit full-force by the power of God's love for me. I was immediately aware of the spirit in the room, and of the truth of all the things I knew. The gospel was true, I would get well, and my life would now be full of light. In spite of my struggles, I could, and would be whole again.
He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.
I may have not been as close to physical death as I believed myself to be (and certainly not as dead as Lazarus), but I was hovering on the edge of a spiritual death that I don't think I could have ever come back from. The tiny sliver of faith I showed when I asked for a blessing that night - the faint hope and belief that God would help me - saved my life that night. I had been in a tomb made of my stubbornness and hurt, and Christ brought me back into the light.

There is always hope for us. Christ is our champion of second chances. He died so that we could live again! He lived and loved so that we could learn how to live our lives in the best way that we can.

This Easter season, as we go through the season of Lent (or sing beautiful music) to remember the ministry of Jesus Christ, I hope we can all think about our fourth day. I hope that we will think about those dark times in our lives, and come to know that Christ will always be there to lead us into the light.
. . . but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Mark 13:13)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Empty Rooms

You'll probably notice, if you bother checking up on this blog, that I haven't made a post in almost a year. It's not that I'm short on ideas or material (I have notebooks full of things I could write about), it's that sometimes life throws you some very personal curveballs, and those things tend to be the hardest to write about.

On August 2, 2013, the Mathias clan lost our beloved Matriarch: my paternal grandmother. I don't think anyone is ever prepared for that kind of loss, even though you know it's coming. In the six months that have followed, I have witnessed what it means to come unglued. Other changes, like the recent relocation of my grandfather into an assisted living facility, have reinforced my conclusion that we have all lost an anchor and haven't quite figured out how to stop drifting, yet.

I went into their home the other day, to vacuum and do some more cleaning now that the furniture has been moved out, and I was overblown by how awful it felt to see those rooms empty. The walls there are still radiating with more than 40 years of love, but there is no one there to feel it. I sat in the middle of the bedroom floor and let it soak into my bones. I had a lot of time to reflect on my life and my choices for the future. I could choose to wallow in my grief, or to use it as a motivator to become the kind of person that my grandmother was. I could use my hard times to become a vessel of love.

It's been six months, now. For me, it's time to create an anchor of my own, and become my best self. I am so grateful for the example I was blessed with, and for the 23 years I was able to spend with my grandmother on this earth.

Spring is coming. It's time to begin again.