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Playing Catch-Up

DAY TO READ campaign

First things first: join me on January 10th for Reading Day! (I know; as if I need an excuse to read.) It'll be fun!

I skipped a few Scavenger Hunt items Thanksgiving week, so today I'm going to try and combine a few so we can end this whole NaBloPoMo thing gracefully tomorrow. I think it will work out. I apologize in advance the contributors; I certainly don't want anyone to feel like I have given them short shrift.

One of my BBFFs (Best Blog Friends Forever), Brillig, thought I should write about being both active LDS/Mormon and politically liberal, which is a somewhat unusual combination, for some unfathomable reason.

Goofball, a darling Dutch friend who has given me invaluable help with research on one of my novels, had two requests: 1) give the details of my weirdest travel experience; and 2) tell more about my faith.

And Jenna, my fellow recovering Mary Kay Sales Director, and one of the best women I know personally, wanted to read more about my church mission experience.

I can see a bit of a pattern there, so work with me as I answer in rather non-linear fashion.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed 'Mormons' over 150 years ago) are Christians. It's very important that you know that; apparently there are groups out in the world who claim we are not Christians. But Jesus' name is in the middle of the name of our church for a reason: He's at the center of every aspect of our religion.

We believe that God speaks to people today through prophets just as He spoke to prophets in ancient times. Joseph Smith was the first of these latter-day prophets; he organized the church in upstate New York in 1830.

Here are our official Thirteen Articles of Faith, written by Joseph Smith in 1842 in response to questions from John Wentworth, the editor of The Chicago Democrat.

Here are other facts about our religion and members of the church.

Here's a great explanation of the LDS view of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Goofball, if you have any other questions, please email me. I can go on and on about this subject; it's very dear to my heart.

My 'weirdest' travel experience was definitely my mission for our church. I've done a fair bit of traveling, all of it very positive (except for our family cruise a few years ago; we'll never do THAT again). But my mission was unusual for many reasons.

LDS missionaries are mostly young men and women. 19-year-old boys are strongly encouraged to go on two-year, full-time missions; if they choose, women may go for 18-month missions when they turn 21. Missions are a highly structured, ascetic experience. Missionaries are expected to forgo dating, television and movies, most music, and reading of anything other than the scriptures. In addition, they are expected to be with their assigned companions all of the time.

Missionaries have one day off per week, called 'Preparation Day' (or 'P-Day'), when they do all of their housecleaning, food shopping, and laundry, with a little time left over for limited sight-seeing and physical recreation. At all other times, from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., they are supposed to be sharing our faith with people in their assigned area. They may be knocking on doors, holding street meetings, or meeting with people referred to them by other church members. They also spend significant amounts of time every day (they wake up very early) engaged in prayer, meditation, and scripture study.

You may wonder how many young people could possibly be willing to take up such an arduous and monkish existence in this day and age. Well, in 2006, there were over 53,000 LDS missionaries serving all over the world.

When you put in your paperwork for a mission, you have no idea where you will be sent. You could end up in Hong Kong or Helsinki, Guatemala or Ghana, Connecticut or Korea, Uganda or Utah. If you'll be learning a foreign language, you typically spend two months in one of several Missionary Training Centers (MTC). If you are going to an English-speaking country, your time in the MTC is just two weeks.

In addition to proselytizing missions, there are also humanitarian missions, family services missions, family history missions, temple missions, and church historical site missions. As I mentioned before most missionaries are young single men and women, but senior couples and senior single sisters are actively encouraged to serve as well.

Missionaries pay their own way as much as possible. When they have not saved enough to support themselves for the length of the mission, their families and congregations (called 'wards') contribute as well.

Why did I go on a mission? I had been wanting to all my life; I had been raised thinking that it was the right thing to do. I thought I'd probably be pretty good at it. It's a concrete, measurable way to serve. For Mormons, it is a rite of passage, one of the ways we come of age. Like running a marathon, it's a significant accomplishment. But the biggest reason I went is because I wanted to share the good news of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible.

I was called to go on a French-speaking mission to Montreal, Canada. I was thrilled; I had studied French since first grade and was anxious to put it to good use. At the end of March 1989, I entered the MTC in Provo, Utah. After a great learning experience there, members of our group flew to Montreal and were assigned to various areas throughout the province of Quebec.

My area was Laval, an island suburb of Montreal. My senior companion was fantastic; we hit it off right away. She'd been out for over a year, and she was the perfect mix of enthusiasm and energy tempered with a lot of experience and wisdom.

I met people from all over the world in Laval; Quebec takes in many French-speaking immigrants, so we talked to people from Haiti, Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, and Egypt, as well as many native Canadians.

I woke up every day excited and happy; there is something unique about giving up worldly concerns and devoting yourself as fully as possible to serving in a cause greater than yourself. I learned new things about myself, my relationship with God, and the world on a daily basis; it was the greatest spiritual experience I'd ever had up to that point in my life.

Unfortunately, in October of that year, I got horribly sick and had to return home from my mission. Doctors determined that there was no way to know when I would get better, so I was honorably released after only six months of service. I was crushed, but I believe these things happen for reasons we sometimes can't see for a long time. It took me over a year to convalesce fully.

I would go again in a heartbeat; in fact, Patrick and I plan to serve as many missions as possible once the kids are grown and on their own. I very much hope all our children will decide to serve as well. It's an experience I recommend highly.

As for my political beliefs and how they mesh with my religious beliefs? Let me be as tactful as possible; I have no wish to alienate the very large portion of my readers who belong to the party I actively oppose.

God gave us the earth and commanded us to take care of it; therefore, preserving the environment is a crucial issue for me.

Jesus asked us to take care of our fellow man; social and governmental programs that make taking care of the poor and disadvantaged easier and more efficient are a natural outgrowth of that admonition.

Our eleventh Article of Faith allows all men the privilege of worship according to the dictates of their own consciences; therefore I believe in a clear separation between church and state.

The Book of Mormon (which I believe, along with The Holy Bible, to be the word of God) clearly teaches that defense is the only reason sanctioned by God to take up arms; I have never believed that the conflict in which my country currently finds itself embroiled can be rationalized as 'defensive' in any way.

Whew! We've covered a lot of ground today. If you're still reading, thanks for sticking with me. You're the best.

Reader Comments (15)

This. Is. Awesome. Well done! You have a way of wording things and tackling issues that I just can't possibly do. LOVE IT!! And, of course, I find myself nodding my head and saying YES! to everything you've written here. So glad to have an ally...

And you called me your BBFF? Hahahaha. I love it! Thanks!!!

November 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBrillig

Hmmmm, nicely done. Got me thinking, which I like. Not like my brainless posts about teenage drama and off-beat oddities.
I agree with Brillig, you have an excellent way of writing down your thoughts about anything. Wonderful post!

November 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAlice

I'm the best. Nice.

Like Brillig, I found myself nodding in agreement as I read. What a talent you have for expressing things not only beautifully but clearly.

November 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

So clearly put. No, YOU'RE da best.

And I'm hereby marking off January 10th as a special day that NO ONE better mess with! How fun!

November 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette Lyon

A good post again, and I must say, I have learnt a lot again. Sounds like a good experience in our country, albeit shorter than expected.

November 29, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdawn

Thanks Lady L for joining in the party. And how much you covered in one post! WOW!

November 29, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersoccer mom in denial

Wonderful post! I learned a lot and now want to learn more. I'll e-mail you after we both have time to breathe after the Na... month ends!

November 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJen of A2eatwrite

Loved reading all this, Luisa. You're a great missionary.

I just found some very cool videos of interviews with Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which I've posted on my sidebar. They're all short, easy listening. Hope the church soon makes lots more like them.

November 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Bradshaw

I really enjoyed this post. I grew up in a very politically conservative home. Most my siblings are still very conservative, one I'd call radically conservative. I agree with your reasons for political liberalness. I moved from Las Vegas where my version of liberalness was considered conservative, to Utah where my same exact version of liberalness is considered on the verge of crazy talk.

I feel like most liberal stances are in complete harmony (moreso than others) with the Gospel teachings.

I didn't serve a mission, but my husband and I plan on serving several when our kids our gone.

November 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

I remember thinking you were quite exotic for serving a foreign mission! Thanks for outlining your views in such a user-friendly way. While I claim no particular political party/agenda, I agree with a lot of what you said.

November 30, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteranjmae

Well done. Politics is not something I've been able to figure out yet. There are other issues that I haven't been able to reconcile yet but I agree with every thing you've put up here!

November 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDedee

Yes yes, I still stuck around to the end and even clicked your links open and did reading in there as well.

Thanks for taking the time to answer. I was interested just because I realised my knowledge of "mormons" restricted itself to 3 stereotypes that might not even be true (hmm they have missionaries walk around in blue blasers/ There's something with polygamy in Utah/ they are experts in genealogy). Since I hate it when other people reduce my faith (catholicism) to a more or less banal fact eg: "oh you are catholic? I think the pope is wrong in forbidding condoms". (oh yes, that's all what my faith is about: the use or non-use of condoms, it involves nothing more).

That's why I was interested to learn some more about your church, about what you love about it, by what distinguishes it from other religions, by what makes your faith unique etc...
The articles are already very interesting (hah...and polygamy is not permitted by the church!). Interesting were the facts why other Christians would claim that the LDS are not christians (the trinity God etc): all those facts did honestly not seem the most relevant to me. I think the message of the Bible and Gods love for us is much more important than those high top theological discussions.

Those missionaries seem very very tough! Wow. I honestly I don't think I could live such an ascetic live at all. I'd lack discipline and motivation. But it must definately be a life time experience, without any doubt!

December 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGoofball

VEry well done!

I'm a new reader here (found you via Brillig ans SOS).

Many of the things you say ring so true for me... I'm a Lutheran, and I get bothered by the "who is or isn't a Christian" attitudes expressed by many who claim to be Christians.

As for the ascetic life... I could have lived that... but life turned out different for me, and I came to my faith as an adult.

Likewise, I agree with your brand of liberalism... which I adhere to... and I get no end of grief from people that I work with (I'm in law enforcement... the field is rife with knuckle-draggers)

December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGunfighter

That IS a lot of ground...thanks for sharing it! As I've traveled the world, its always been fun to pick out the well dressed pairs of LDS kids on their mission nearly everywhere I've ever been...I enjoy taking to them since 1. they're typically Americans, though not always I realize and 2. since my family is all in Salt Lake.

December 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

I'll definitely be reading on Jan. 10th. And for many days before & after. I'm hosting a Winter Reading Challenge on my Inksplasher blog. Come check it out and join up if it sounds like fun to you.

P.S. What happened to you over on Cre8Buzz? All of a sudden you disappeared.

December 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKarlene

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