A part of me feels guilty when I hear of what many of my brothers and sisters go through in their wards. I've heard some ward members will actually snitch on others because they are not in agreement with a comment they heard in Sunday School or Relief Society or in our other meetings.
Sister Blamwell said "We shouldn't follow the prophet blindly without praying for our own confirmation of what the prophet speaks about, because that's how Hitlers come to power"
Even Nephi asked his brothers if they Prayed for understanding and truth of what Father Lehi spoke to them about.
Sometimes I feel this is the difference growing up LDS in Utah vs Outside of Utah.
Which brings us to our ward Families. The beauty of our ward families is that they are compiled of members who come from different backgrounds, cultures, life experiences, countries and perceptions. The problem with our ward families is that they are compiled of members who come from different backgrounds, cultures, life experiences, countries and perceptions.
Our church congregations and meeting houses should be considered a neighborhood home away from home and a place of comfort. Not just for it's members but for anyone who needs a place of respite and energizing and most of all love.
I've heard and seen some horrific things at church. Things that come of a holier than though and elitist nature. Things that folks can leave at the country clubs and other "Society affiliates." Things that should definitely be spoken within the walls of the House of the Lord.
It is hard to walk into a building with the purpose of learning the Word of God when those teaching it an have stewardship and fellowship over you aren't practicing what they're preaching.
We should all be able to go to church, stand in our truth, no matter how good, bad or ugly it is and feel the glory of God within ourselves and within others. Sinners don't need the judging eyes and pointing fingers of those within who have overcome sins of their own. They need the encouragement and the support of love and kindness. They don't particularly need to be reminded they smell like smoke, their clothes aren't clean, they haven't been their in years and suddenly they're here because they need help.
I remember two distinct situations that solidified my idea of what a church congregation can and should be.
I can remember one day when my daughter was younger I was in a depressed state for what seemed like months. She would go to preschool and I would spend my days just sobbing.
I walked into the door and down the hall to the Relief Society Room. Ignored the greeter and sat in the 2nd to last seat in the 2nd to last row. Those who came in looked at me with a smile and a wave and I bushed them off with a "don't you dare talk, sit or even look at me today or I'll slap you!" Oh there was such an anger in me for having to come. I sat by myself with my arms and legs folded as if to close myself off from everyone else. I was clearly sending the message... "I Don't want to be here so pretend I'm not here.'
The sister conducting stood up, made the typical announcements an turned the time over for the opening Hymn:
Our Saviors Love.
I had heard the song for years. Decades. So many times. Something in me that day was so desperate it opened me up to receive that song in a way it never had before and I would never hear that song again without choking up.
By the end of the first verse I felt a tear down my cheek.
By the end of the second verse I was sobbing and recognized 3 sisters had come and sat by me. two on either side and one behind me and they were crying with me, for me. Holding me so tight so I wouldn't fall apart. I was so grateful for them in those moments. By the end of the 3rd verse most of the sisters in the room with crying. It was a great unification of Sisterhood that day. No body knew what was going on with me. Nobody asked me to explain what I was going through or why such a disruption. No body needed to. All they knew was that I needed solidarity of some kind and they did what they could even if it was just crying with me. And it pulled me out of a 6 week depression.
It's literally 20+ years later and that experience lives permanently on my heart. And I share it when I can. Because it demonstrates to me the importance and difference a ward family can make in the lives of those in it.
Another tough time I had been having in a different ward. I had to see the Bishop and his counselors o guide me out of this experience. It was difficult and humbling. I could have easily not confronted the situation but know I couldn't live one more minute in the truth of it.
My ward leaders gathered around me. They acknowledged my fear and my desire to run away. They took me in and asked me to trust them, and to trust the Lord. They followed up with please don't run from us. Please let us love you and support you and keep you strong through it. Our purpose and the purpose of the ward is to love you through it all.
I was awestruck by this. The more I share this experience I find it to be a rarity. This particular ward couldn't give a rat's tail what you look like, how you smell, what you're wearing they would welcome anyone at anytime with open arms and smiles. And it wasn't just those who were assigned to fellowship your family it was everyone, even the children. When the president of the Women's Auxiliary asked you for a "Fast & Testimony Bingo Card." so she could play during sacrament you KNOW you are amongst good people.
Just like any other family, Ward/Congregation family has all kinds. Gossips. Snitches. Liars. Beggars. Feminist. Abusers. Users. Manipulators. Praisers. Encouragers. Cheerleaders, those who strengthen. Followers. Leaders. This is why it takes us all being close to the Lord and working toward his spirit upon us to have that inspiration of how to create a loving and inspired ward family.
Our attitudes towards each other in the ward can have a lasting affect on a person for the whole week. We can be so energized from our Church experience that it carries over into all areas of our lives. We can also be so traumatized by our church experience that it carries over into all areas of our lives. When Thursday come around are you dreading looking forward to Sunday or are you excited to gather again with your ward family? Are you the reason someone doesn't come? Are you the reason someone stays? Even though our Lord should be the number one reason we go to worship in these buildings with these people we would not be honest with ourselves if we didn't recognize that being surrounded by certain people does have an effect on if we want to be some place.
Church is not the place to air your dirty laundry with your neighbor. It is not the place to voice or share your negative experiences with Sister Blamwell. It is not YOUR home and you shouldn't run it as if it is your home. KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT and accept anyone who enters into the House of the Lord. Our job is to make sure the all who enter feel the Love of the Father in Heaven through our interactions with each other.
There's no better place to heal mentally, emotionally, physically or spiritually than a place where people are going to be loving on you. Church should be that place.
Ain't no love like family love.