International Series: The Trumpet Shall Sound

We are thrilled to feature new voices and new perspectives, many from women who are posting for the first time in English. Their voices have been missing from the conversation about gender and Mormonism, and their posts highlight the diverse experiences of LDS women throughout the global church.

Today’s post comes from Rahel.

How it eluded me for 35 years of active church membership, I do not know. In a recent conversation in my current ward in Pittsburgh, USA, I discovered that brass instruments are deemed “not appropriate for sacrament meeting” churchwide (Handbook 2, p. 115). Possibly, this personal discovery was avoided for so long through a succession of rogue bishops in my old ward—Basel, Switzerland—who allowed members to enhance the meetings on a variety of instruments with “less worshipful sound” (ibid.). I left the conversation with a tongue in cheek comment: “How else are you supposed to instill in people the fear of God if not by the piercing sound of trumpets?” (It might help with staying awake too.)

I am somewhat perplexed by how much this discovery affected me. Even though I like jazz and other music that involves brass instruments, I would be just fine with never hearing brass instruments during sacrament meeting again. Maybe I would have never even noticed the lack of trumpets and trombones in my new ward if it were not pointed out to me specifically. Why, then, do I feel the need to dwell on this seemingly minor point? I wonder if my discomfort might not stem from the content of the rule itself but rather from its apparent arbitrariness.

There is no universal principle stating that certain instruments are not worshipful. Arguably, certain sounds are more calming and soothing, while others are more stimulating. However, reverence does not equal calmness. It is possible to worship God in many differing states of agitation. I’m reminded of the case of Saul, who was given the following promise by Samuel:

After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, at the place where the Philistine garrison is; there, as you come to the town, you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the shrine with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre playing in front of them; they will be in a prophetic frenzy. Then the spirit of the Lord will possess you, and you will be in a prophetic frenzy along with them and be turned into a different person. (10:5-6, NRSV)

If Saul could be at his most worshipful in a “prophetic frenzy” accompanied by tambourines, there must be a range of moods appropriate to the worship of God. Besides, we already have many songs in the hymnbook that elicit exuberance appropriate for those “other” instruments. Should we get rid of those songs as well? Somebody might get too exited! If calmness truly were a measure of worshipfulness then being asleep might be the most worshipful state of all.

Generally, Mormonism seems to have adopted a certain idea of worship that is not only expressed in its use of specific instruments. It is also conveyed in the style of its music, in the particular way the melodies flow and the tones merge into one indistinguishable sauce. Or you might recall instances of talks given in very aspirated voices, the “spiritual voice,” as my husband calls it. Aren’t you glad that they are not mandated by the Handbook?

I have come to refer to this particular style as the Walt Disney brand of worship, a brand where no dissonances, abrupt sounds, or unhappy endings are allowed. This is not to say that there is no merit to this kind of worship. Personally, I have found myself manipulated to tears by meetings in this vein. But, as someone who leans towards a more Lars Trier-oriented style, I also want a turn.

I find arbitrary rules harmful, and not just out of a belated teenage angst. They cause the power imbalance between those creating the rules and those having no part in making them to be more tangible. Of course, rules will only seem arbitrary to a person who was not part of creating them. In terms of the Church, I believe that the arbitrariness of certain rules is more blatant and therefore also more bothersome to people from cultures other than that of the rule-setters.

If the leaders of the Church ever come to me for advice about the handbook—and I’m sure they will—I will counsel them to allow more flexibility to the rules by being less specific. These rules are not about the Truth, so there is flexibility to be had. And if I was already at it, I would suggest less micromanaging and more self-determination. If the Church is big enough to accommodate the Swiss as well as the American, it is big enough to accommodate the horn as well as the organ.

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International Series: The ‘All or Nothing’ Mormon

We are thrilled to feature new voices and new perspectives, many from women who are posting for the first time in English. Their voices have been missing from the conversation about gender and Mormonism, and their posts highlight the diverse experiences of LDS women throughout the global church.

Today’s post comes from Crystal.  

At 16 years of age, I graduated from The Church College of New Zealand* with academic honors and armed with a fairly solid testimony of the gospel. Upon enrolling at my local university and in my first class, I befriended two Catholic girls. The three of us were inseparable from that day onward.all or nothing

 

Like most Catholics I knew at the time, and unlike the Mormon friends I’d had previously, these girls loved to drink (substantially) and immersed themselves in a student culture of parties and clubbing from around Wednesday night (student night) through to Saturday night, as finances would permit. Yet more often than not, come Sunday, off they would toddle to their Catholic mass to satisfy their spiritual inclinations, free of any burden of a bad conscience.  I held out a good year and a half, before succumbing to the same social ideals and once I had, attending church felt way too hypocritical after participating in the same sinful activities throughout the week.

For many Mormon teenagers in this boat, the alternatives appear to be ‘all or nothing’. ‘All’ meaning full adherence to the ‘strength of youth’ booklet and ‘nothing’ meaning everything to the contrary. With those two options before me, I turned my back on Mormonism and chose ‘nothing’ for the next 10+ years– much to the sadness of my family.

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International Series: Egypt, A New Adventure

We are thrilled to feature new voices and new perspectives, many from women who are posting for the first time in English. Their voices have been missing from the conversation about gender and Mormonism, and their posts highlight the diverse experiences of LDS women throughout the global church.

Today’s post comes from Dorothy, who is a retired middle school teacher, and who got to go to the place where author Elizabeth Peters set her Amelia Peabody stories.  It was her first chance to live in a foreign country although she had traveled throughout Europe during the summer.  She was born and raised for the most part in the Los Angeles Area, so these six years in Egypt were an opportunity to make a dream come true.

The Kahn, or ancient marketplace in Cairo.

The Kahn, or ancient marketplace in Cairo.

I had the opportunity to move to Egypt when my husband took a job with an Egyptian company in 2005. Being in a Muslim country was quite an experience since we could not talk about the Church in any manner. If questions were asked you answered briefly and left with the comment that we were Christian.

Egypt is a country where you could hide from the church since it was a difficult process to contact the Middle East Desk to find information about the branch or talk to someone who had been there or find a new friend who was already there. Members knew of military and embassy people who were not interested in attending Church, but they had to be careful talking to them about the gospel and or inviting them to attend church.

The branch population averaged between 45-100 members depending on who was posted there. The numbers increased when the BYU group came in the summer. Unfortunately this is no longer the case because of the unrest in the country. The branch was fully organized with a branch presidency, priesthood quorums (small but mighty), Young Women, Primary, Young Single Adults, extra Sunday School classes such as temple preparation, family history, marriage and family and of course Early Morning Seminary. The Boy Scouts worked with the local school, Cairo American College (college is K-12th grade) to advance towards an Eagle award.

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International Series: A Call for Tolerance, Self-Awareness, and Temperance

We are thrilled to feature new voices and new perspectives, many from women who are posting for the first time in English. Their voices have been missing from the conversation about gender and Mormonism, and their posts highlight the diverse experiences of LDS women throughout the global church.

Today’s post comes from Anne Lawrence.  Anne was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She has lived in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, North America, Europe, and Oceania. Her passion for travel started at an early age with one of her first words being “go.” By 21 she had visited over thirty states, a US territory, and had literally been “around the world.” After graduating from college she was sealed in the temple and moved overseas to work and discover what the world had to offer. She still works overseas and enjoys traveling the world with her husband and what she affectionately refers to as their “troupe.”

CebuTemple

When I asked my non-American mother in-law if she ever felt like she belonged to an “American” church she instantly replied “no, because the church is true” and continued on by explaining that all of her leaders had always been locals. I respectfully disagreed with her opinion, so I went along to some other English speaking non-Americans and asked them the same question anticipating that they would think that the church was American. To my surprise they consistently said no, that they did not feel as though they belonged to an American church. My Australian friend told me “it [the church] only feels American during General Conference, I mean let’s be honest that is a good American show! You have the old lady voices going, people getting emotional, and lots of references to things that only Americans understand… but when you’re in Australia it’s all us baby.”

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International Series: My Story

IsabelleWe are thrilled to feature new voices and new perspectives, many from women who are posting for the first time in English. Their voices have been missing from the conversation about gender and Mormonism, and their posts highlight the diverse experiences of LDS women throughout the global church.

Today’s post comes from Isabelle. Isabelle lives in Sydney, and is the mother of three grown children and two grandchildren. She is happily divorced,  lives with her cat, and is ‘so happy on my own.’

When I first joined the church, I was a 14 year-old teenager.  I had heard an advert on the radio, and ‘these people’ (Mormons) called him Heavenly Father. I had felt out of place my whole life from having French as a 1st language in an English-speaking country, and also by the fact that I was bought up Catholic. I was dubious about the ‘vengeful and horrible God’ taught to me, because He always showed Himself to me as a heavenly version of my earthly father.

The people didn’t impress me much, and I didn’t impress them either.

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International Series: The Blessings of Distant Temples

We are thrilled to feature new voices and new perspectives, many from women who are posting for the first time in English. Their voices have been missing from the conversation about gender and Mormonism, and their posts highlight the diverse experiences of LDS women throughout the global church.

Today’s post comes from Sandrine.

Sandrine

When I lived in France I was jealous of Americans who lived close to temples. I lived in the south-west of France and was in the Swiss Temple district – about an 11 hour drive. Now that I have lived in the United States for about 13 years I can see that I had no reason to be jealous.

It is really nice to be able to go to the temple anytime you want to and I’m sure it has been an amazing blessing for a lot of people. But, for me personally I have never experienced anything memorable at the temple since living in the U.S. Let me explain.

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International Series: American Mormon Abroad

We are thrilled to feature new voices and new perspectives, many from women who are posting for the first time in English. Their voices have been missing from the conversation about gender and Mormonism, and their posts highlight the diverse experiences of LDS women throughout the global church.

Today’s post comes from Bridget.  Bridget has a BA in Linguistics from BYU and an MA in TESOL from the American University of Sharjah. She has lived in Japan, Russia, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and (currently) the UAE, ending up with a husband and three children somewhere along the way.  

Bridget

 

I grew up Mormon in Portland, Oregon. My husband and I have three young children. For most of our marriage and most of our children’s lives, we’ve lived outside the United States. I’ve been an American Mormon overseas for seven years now. I’ve been Primary Pianist in Kyoto, Young Women’s President in Moscow, Primary President in Sharjah, and co-leader of a two-woman Relief Society in Damascus.

They say the church is the same no matter where you go, but they are wrong. The church is very, very different. It’s the essence of the gospel that remains the same. In the overseas wards and branches I have been a member of (and the “stick,” as we called our six-person group in Damascus), I have seen the church stripped of its cultural baggage – or at least of its Intermountain West cultural baggage. And I’ll be honest – it’s a beautiful thing.

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