The Bright Side
Sometimes the church seems truer in small, struggling wards and branches. Well, maybe not truer, but less encumbered by The Unwritten Order of Things. There is an organic feel of people just trying to get by and do their best, where somehow traditions like white shirts and ties just don’t seem to matter that much. There are difficulties, too, when most people don’t know the conventions of church operation. Efficiency goes down, and sometimes it feels like we keep reinventing the wheel. I’ve been reflecting on some of the moments in church in my inner-city units that I’ve loved and I thought I would share:I love the older man who has been courting the church for nearly a year. In a Sunday School lesson about the Word of Wisdom he is completely perplexed (as am I) about its finer points, particularly why some tea is okay and other tea is not. I love that the written and unwritten rules are not already obvious to everyone and therefore I’ve been opened up to seeing things from a new perspective.
I love the woman who went up to the stand wearing jeans and a tank top to bear her testimony. Basically, she joined the church because everyone in her family told her not to, and she has somewhat of a contrarian personality. She then goes on to recount her experiences of telling people she’s Mormon and subsequently being called a polygamist. “Well I guess I am a polygamist now,” she says. I wonder if she knows what that means.
I love the women who show up to church in their traditional colorful African dresses.
I love the man who shows up in bright orange from head to toe; orange hat, orange suit, orange dress shirt and tie, orange socks and shoes. He is dressed to the nines and proud. And it’s beautiful.
I love the man who wears a lot of bling, including a large gold bust of Jesus around his neck each week to church.
I even love the elderly man, despite the pain his statement also gave me, who testified that getting the priesthood now is his reward for all of the good he has done in his life.
I love the newly converted gay man who doesn’t know what the church has to say about his sexual orientation, because in our little branch we have much more pressing issues to worry about.
I love the potluck Thanksgiving dinner that features beans and rice, jerk chicken, homemade mac and cheese, and fried plantains, with nary a jello or funeral potato dish in sight.
I love the bright little girl in primary who asked me why girls don’t get the priesthood. I love that she hasn’t learned, like I had by that age, that one shouldn’t ask that question.
I love looking out over the congregation and seeing faces of people from several different countries.
I love that so many people here don’t have the same ideas about modesty, have never heard of the cultural prohibition on R-rated movies, and haven’t learned the same catch phrases for prayers and testimonies.
I love hearing a hearty “Amen!” shouted out during Relief Society.
I love the thoughtful questions that a man who converted from Islam to Mormonism asks during Sunday School and the interesting perspective he brings.
What do you love about your ward/branch?