Tag Archive | Religion and Spirituality

The things that make us different make us the same.

Yesterday was remarkable.

The fact that yesterday was so amazing leaves me with an interesting conundrum–I’ve been trying all day to organize my thoughts and feelings about what I experiences in a way that feels not preachy and interesting. The problem with these life-changing revelations is that they tend to apply only to the life of the person who experienced it.

So, yesterday, my local NPR station broadcast an extraordinary interview with a man who is both openly gay, and a faithful member–and employee of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can hear it here. This interview led me to Wilcox’s pet project–beyond the film discussed in the interview–The Empathy First Initiative. The EFI Facebook page had this video of a TEDtalk linked to it.

First off–why had no one told me about TED? It’s amazing.

Second, I realize I just linked an hour and twenty minutes of media that, while I found utterly fascinating and life changing, others may not.  What follows is what I found apropos, if you don’t want to watch and listen to those links.  Or, even if you do.

So, here’s how I understood all of this. In Randall Wilcox’s discussion on what it means to be a gay Mormon, he talked about embracing his whole self. When he accepted who and what he was, he became more spiritual–contrary to what Orthodox Mormons tend to believe about homosexuality, and what it means to be gay.

The other thing Wilcox discusses beautifully is empathy.  Rather than looking at a person as an object–oh, he’s gay, or she’s a democrat, or their poor–he encourages us to look beyond, to see the person who has thoughts and feelings and ideas. To not dismiss someone as an abomination or a bigot, for instance, but to try to understand their thought process and the life-experiences that led them to those conclusions.

Brene Brown’s talk is on similar lines, in that she discusses empathy as well. But what stood out to me in her talk was the notion that when we numb the negative in our lives–the pain, the depression, the vulnerabilities–we numb everything. I think I’d subconsciously come to the same conclusion, at least in regards to my depression.  When I started to open up about the fact that I am depressed, and stopped pretending that everything was fine, I started to feel better.

Brown also talks about vulnerabilities–we are all vulnerable. Everybody has something that makes them vulnerable, but it’s the people who embrace their vulnerabilities who thrive, who can love and be loved, while those who try to hide their vulnerabilities struggle, blame others, and spend their lives searching for meaning.

This makes perfect sense, and it’s something that I’ve begun to put into practice.  I’ve been dredging up those deep, dark places within my soul and mind, examining everything and–and I think this is the important bit–not reburying those imperfections that make me vulnerable. I’ve realized that all the self-destructive things that I do are because I feel vulnerable, and I’m trying to either hide the vulnerability, or the shame that comes from being vulnerable.

But, by embracing who I am, the dark scary parts and all, I can become a better person, one who has the capacity to love herself, and by extension, others. I feel like I’m taking the first steps on an important journey.

Now, I do understand that this is all shiny and new, and in a couple of months, the shine will probably have worn off–this post is as much a reminder to me as anything. By getting the words down, it cements the way I’m thinking or feeling. I also know that it might be too much to ask that these few words might help someone else. And you know what? I’m okay with that. Right now, me becoming a better person is all I can ask for.

Conference, Pt 1

LDS General Conference Crowd Photography

Image by JeremyHall via Flickr

Well, it’s the first weekend of October, which, for Latter-day Saints around the world means only one thing:  It’s time for General Conference!

Conference happens twice a year; the first weekend in April and the first weekend in October.  For the general membership, it’s divided into four session, two on Saturday, and two on Sunday, with each session lasting 2 hours.  With a two hour break between sessions.  There’s also the General Priesthood session for the men and youths, with a session for the Young Women in April, and a session for the Relief Society (adult women) in October, usually a week or two before the big weekend.

I wonder if I could shove the word “session” in the last paragraph one more time…

I made a point to pay special attention to this conference, partly because with April’s conference falling on the same weekend as Easter, I didn’t receive as much instruction as was given, and partly because I’m taking a teachings of the living prophets Institute class.

I consider myself blessed, or lucky, or both to have been able to watch the entirety of conference this year–it starts at 10, and I have my Art History classes Saturday Mornings from 8-10:30.  But, luck or providence or a professor who graduated from BYU not to long ago and constantly talks about her time there, let us out an hour early.  She even mentioned that she wouldn’t be able to watch conference because she has another class.

And I have to say, it’s a little surreal to go and hear the words of the Lord after spending an hour and a half studying sculpture from a time when, apparently, nobody wore pants.

So, my impressions of conference:  I’m not going to copy my notes, because if you really want to know what was said, you can go find out for yourself.

I was fully expecting to miss the first talk, so I’m especially grateful to have heard the words of Jeffery R. Holland.  He talked about how each of us is loved individually by our Heavenly Father, and how we are important in the church as individuals.  He talked about service and sacrifice, and specifically mentioned the strength and faith of the women of the church.  If that was the only talk I heard this weekend, it would have been enough.

I should probably mention that topics are not assigned, each speaker is only given a time.  Even within the scope of the Gospel, it’s interesting to see what themes come out.

Today, there seemed to be three:  Faith, family and prophets.  There were two mentions of a devotional given by Ezra Taft Benson in 1980, called “14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet“.  We were told repeatedly that our actions today can affect generations.

This afternoon Elder Neal L. Anderson talked about faith–another talk that seemed to be aimed specifically at me.  He specifically mentioned a trial of faith that I’ve been wrestling with lately.  He talked about how, when our faith is tried, we have a greater opportunity to learn of God’s will, if we turn to Him with our questions and concerns.

Today was an excellent day, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.

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