Guest Post: I am a Child of God

by Christina Taber-Kewene

Today our congregation held its Primary presentation, a program for the children ages 3-11 to perform the songs they have been learning all year and to share their fledgling testimonies about Jesus. I know the program was a labor of great love and effort this year especially, because my friend Jill was left alone as Primary president for the previous several weeks when her counselors were unexpectedly placed into new callings. Many of us volunteered our efforts to help her, but in the end, the direction was on her, and she spent countless hours preparing the children for their moment to shine.

The meeting went long overtime; our congregation holds Primary with a Spanish-speaking congregation, so both groups joined for the sacrament meeting and presentation in the chapel today. It took twice as long as usual to get through announcements, first in English and then in Spanish, to bless the sacrament, again in English and in Spanish, and then to pass the trays of bread and water through the hundreds of hands who wanted to receive them. By the time the presentation began, we were already half an hour behind schedule. The children sang song after song, and classes stood up in turn at the microphone for each child to share her thoughts on Jesus and the Holy Ghost. After nearly an hour, the air was thick with fatigue and parental love. When we finally sang our closing song, the oxygen level in the room was getting low and so was the three year olds’ ability to stand still. I found myself checking the clock more than once, eager for the meeting to end.

And then I experienced one of those moments of unity that reminded me of why I keep showing up to this building. The Primary children sang the first verse together:

I am a child of God, and He has sent me here.
Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear.

My eyes scanned the children. The littlest ones stood in front, and the older children arced in a semicircle behind to span the back wall of the platform. My youngest daughter, blonde and blue-eyed like her paternal grandmother, covered her ears at the front of the group while her friend Henry belted the words out at the top of his lungs. I looked to my older daughter in the back, as dark with her Polynesian eyes and hair as the three Latina friends standing next to her. My son mouthed the words while his neighbor, a Utah transplant, sang with the same verve his mother always displayed when she had been Primary chorister. My friend’s non-Mormon husband, a professional composer and pianist, played the most beautiful organ accompaniment you will ever hear to that simple Primary song.

Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do, to live with Him someday.

I looked across at the men nominally in charge of this scene. In theory I hate that they sit on that stand. The patriarchy rankles daily, in idea and in practice. But our bishop, one of those Utah transplants, is a good man who serves humbly and accountably. We have had our differences, and he has been flexible in seeing my perspective. Next to him sat a stake high counselor, another white man who is a partner in a New York City law firm. I know that world well—I used to work with men like him—but he is a good soul who stopped me earlier this morning to ask after one of the teenagers I have been helping and to offer his financial support for anything the family might need. A third man on the stand is our dear friend and former bishop, an immigrant from Ghana, as gentle in his leadership as a hummingbird. They are the patriarchy, and the system is flawed, but they are good people who serve our community diligently and without pulling rank.

I glanced at my oldest son, thirteen years old and sitting beside me. He is currently very angry about church. He gave me the silent treatment all morning yesterday when I made him attend the youth service project, and he rolled his eyes in the car when we reminded the kids about the program that day. But as the deacons’ quorum president, he is the one who graciously found a place for the differently abled young man from the Spanish congregation to serve in the sacrament line today and who stood up to hold the microphone for the confirmation blessing for the men blessing the new convert.

All through that room sat both people I have known for years and people I have never met before. I was reminded of the love and gratitude I have for those who have taught my children, served alongside me, led the music, helped the needy, wrangled children in the nursery, organized wedding receptions and funerals, and visited the sick and lonely.

We began the second verse together, half of us singing in Spanish, and the other half singing in English

I am a child of God, and so my needs are great.

 The needs in our congregation are great. Within those walls today sat those who struggle with poverty, disease, recent death of a loved one, divorce, and chronic pain. That is probably true of any group of people gathered together anywhere on earth. And when I hear the words of that anthem of Mormonism, the gospel could not be simpler:

Help me to understand His word before it grows too late.

All the adults in that room, from so many walks of life, have gathered together as a community to teach our children that the great project of this life is to recognize the humanity of others, to love them, serve them and, by doing so, grow closer to God.

 Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do, to live with Him someday.

And so, for all the things I find challenging about being part of this community—the heterosexism, the cultural imperialism, the gender discrimination and ossified leadership structure—there are so many others that feed my soul. What more can I say than this: if all I can accomplish by raising my children in this church is to teach them that we are all children of God, working and serving and loving together, saint and sinner, black and white, female and male, queer and straight, then I may have done what matters most.

 

Christina’s short bio:  I am a lawyer, entrepreneur, writer, mother of four,  and wife to a saint who is very patient with my cynicism.

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1 Response

  1. Melody says:

    Beautifully expressed. These transcendent moments are everything. And you’re description put me right there. Thank you.

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