Souvenirs for the year to come

Tomorrow night is our Relief Society Opening Social. As RS President, I asked all the ladies (many of them new here as graduate schools begin) to bring souvenirs for conversation starters at the tables. It’s always nice to have something to break the ice. Afer we’ve all had a tasty supper and shared our souvenir stories, the members of our presidency will introduce ourselves. This year we’re following the format of the NPR program of short essays called “This I Believe”. We’ll give pithy statements of our own about something we believe. Not an encyclopedic listing of our private theologies. Not the same-o same-o recitations you might expect at an LDS meeting. I’m hoping for short, a little sassy maybe, and to the point.

Unless something drastic changes between now and 8:15ish tomorrow night, here’s what I’ll say.

I believe in souvenirs. I believe that otherwise random items can be invested – by us – with the power to recall the thrill, the goofiness, the joy, the “essence” of the moment in time it represents.

I believe in sharing the stories of our souvenirs in a place of good will and trust. I believe that in the sharing of our stories – not just about our souvenirs, but about our lives, dreams, doubts, and hopes – we will no longer be “random items” to one another, but sisters.

I believe that we can do more to remember the lives and stories of our sisters in the scriptures. We know few of them by name. Back in the day perhaps their names weren’t deemed significant enough to remember. I often wonder about the women behind the scenes or even “in front of the scenes” – leading in and hosting home churches in Paul’s day, for example. I believe that thinking about them with whatever fragmentary information we have — as we do about people for whom we do proxy work in the temple — connects us through all generations as sister disciples of the Savior.

I believe I need reminders. I need to remember to schedule a mammogram, to make time for creative things, to keep in close contact with my family members. I need to recall the reasons why I decided after long study to join the church; the reasons I stay; the reasons I have covenanted to take Christ’s name upon me.

I believe that I do NOT need to be reminded to obey as often as we tend to be in our meetings. I believe I am too well aware of my inadequacies that harping on the word “obedience” inevitably leaves me feeling confused about the nature of God’s unconditional love for me. I try to avoid the “O” word (though not the practice) and emphasize the meaning implicit in 1 John 4:10: In this is love, not that we love Him but that He loved us and sent His son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

I believe that the “Divine Souvenirs” we have at church are valuable and imperative to the fitness of my faith. The bread, water, even having scriptures I can heft in my hands remind me, remind me, remind me of the love of the Lord.

In Old Testament days, the Lord’s people were instructed to build altars of stone, not just for sacrifice, but also for a memorial to God’s work of delivery in their lives. Here, are the words to a song called “Altar in the Field” by Bob Bennett which contains so much of what I believe — and what I believe about “souvenirs”:

Altar in the Field
By Bob Bennett (from “Small Graces”)

I build an altar in the field
so I’ll remember
Back to the time when its so real
that I am loved and not alone

And if I pass by here again
I’ll be able to see
My life was scattered like these stones
Until the Lord began to gather me

I build an altar in the field
so I’ll remember

I build an altar in this field
in honor, in memory
of the many graces I’ve been shown
and the ones I’ve yet to see

And so I leave this symbol
fashioned by my hands
the marker of a love
that I will never understand

I leave an altar in the field . . .

And when I’m lost inside my sorrow
overtaken by my fear
when I am wandering in this wilderness
Perhaps the Lord will lead me here

To this altar in the field
where I’ll remember
Oh, I will remember

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  1. AmyB says:

    That opening social sounds like it will be wonderful.

    If I were attending, the souvenir I would bring is a beautiful drum that my father-in-law made for me. The drum represents a part of my identity as a music therapist and musician. The effort and love put into making it also reminds me that I am valued and loved by my family, and the fact that he knew it would be the perfect gift for me makes me feel that my voice is heard.

    I believe that since I don’t know what the future or afterlife holds for me, I need to focus on now. One of the most important things I can do with my “now” is love.

  2. Caroline says:

    Linda, I really enjoyed reading your post. I think your opening social sounds WONDERFUL. It seems like my own R.S. goes more for structured programs – almost always a speaker followed by dessert – so I love how fluid, how discussion-oriented, how personal your plan is. It will really give your sisters a chance to get to know each other better.

    By the way, I love This I Believe. It’s one of my very favorite things that NPR does. And your thoughts about obedience absolutely resonated with me.

  3. Jess says:

    It sounds nice, only it seems a bit too long for my taste. Some of the intriquing thoughts are lost in the flood of others.

  4. EmilyCC says:

    This does sound like a great activity. It’s such a nice way to start the year, especially for the more transient wards. I love the idea everyone bringing a souvenier because it gives me another way to remember a person besides just hearing them introduce themselves one week in RS.

    I also love This I Believe; they so often express profound spiritual sentiments that really touch me.

  5. Caroline says:

    Linda, how did your activity go? Was there good participation?

  6. Kiri Close says:

    cool idea! can i steal it for our next YW activity? I’m serious.

    If i were attending, i think i would bring one these things below:

    1. a great book
    2. travel photo album

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