This is a letter I wrote to my Visiting Teacher, I felt prompted to share it here. To friends who are of a different denomination, I am happy to answer sincere questions. Visiting teachers are female members of our congregation who come to each sisters home monthly to share gospel discussion, to visit and, you know, be girls. Most of the sisters in our congregation are called as visiting teachers and in this way we love nurture and care for each other, it is a beautiful concept. Oh and we call each other brother and sister which is also a beautiful concept.
I wanted you to know I appreciate your faithfulness and willingness to serve as my visiting teacher. As I sat watching you Friday and watching your little Miriam who shakily stood where you had placed her between stone hearth and the rockers of your chair, in stocking feet, on a wood floor, within tiny arms reach of a fragile tile proudly proclaiming the belief that we sacrifice our children as missionaries to benefit others of Gods children, I clearly saw what was about to happen. I felt calm and peace and a little amusement as I watched beautiful Sarah climb and play exuberantly in the Dog-Free-Zone of your lap while you fervently expressed your thinly disguised concerns that I am too harsh and unforgiving of individuals and a culture that proudly proclaim the merits of Mormonism.
I remember sitting in a Relief Society meeting many years ago with my own little child using my lap as a jungle gym. My older son was in nursery, I had a five pound diaper bag a four pound church bag, a heart full of determination to raise sons who would happily learn each little LDS principal and then boldly proclaim to all the world that they knew, “beyond a shadow of doubt”, that this was God's true and living church and that the culture, belief's, doctrines and power it taught were the one and only way back into His presence. Then, Sister Carr shared her experience with a son who chose to skip his mission to attend the University of Utah and finish his schooling. As I listened with growing anxiety she told of the struggle it was for her to let him make his decisions and trust that he had followed the spirit ant made the “best” decision for him. I was shocked, scared for her and her son, a little angry and very, very resolved that no son of mine would EVER make a decision that was so obviously wrong. I knew the revelation about every worthy male serving a mission and I firmly believed that it was lackadaisical parenting and shoddy living of gospel truths that had led to this child's decision.
A few months later, again, during Relief Society this same woman's fourteen year old daughter was asked to read a beautifully written script about Mary's feelings upon hearing she was chosen to be the mother of Christ. As she began the room was filled with joy, her voice vibrated with tones of wonder, awe, thrill and passion. Her face was lit with a glow of humble faith and exquisite delight at the blessings and trials that would be hers. I, we all, were moved to tears at the beauty of it. Some of my tears were tears of repentance, this was not the daughter of lackadaisical parents, this was a girl who was carefully taught the majesty of the atonement, a daughter who truly proclaimed the one and only way to the presence of God with all that she was.
Yes, I am harsh and find it difficult to forgive that woman, the one who judged and condemned others for their experiences, for where they were at in life and for what they were learning. Sadly, I haven't come very far in actual practice from those long ago condemnations and judgments. All to often I feel like the baby standing shakily on a slippery floor, between a rocker and a stone hearth. I know it is inevitable that the fragile, proudly displayed beliefs of others will topple as I reach out my hand and seek for the experiences and understanding that will bring the peace and forgiveness I long to find. Friday, during your visit, I found a measure of peace that, just as the tile didn't break when little Miriam reached out and toppled it, I too can be forgiven when my reaching knocks over another persons belief.
You see, that tile and it's message were given to me by a sweet sister who said, “This was given to us when our grandson left for his mission, it has served it's purpose in our lives and we no longer need it, but, you are just beginning this part of your life.” Our beliefs are not threatened or broken by others or by looking at them from a different perspective. My judgments of Sister Carr did not add to nor detract from her experiences. I have become deeply thankful that she shared her perspective even though at the time it was very different from my own. We needn't fear sharing our beliefs, living them or proclaiming them to the best of our ability in each moment of our lives. What we must not do is cling to our beliefs and perspectives. In a Stake Conference several years ago President Young pointed out that those who clung to the rod of iron in Lehi's dream made it to the tree and partook but ended up heads drooping, eyes cast down in shame. It is only those who hold to the rod but keep moving that partake and remain.
I remember gathering with family in one of the sealing rooms at the Mount Timpanogos Temple, we were there to witness my sisters wedding. The sealer recognized my mother, and brothers as temple workers, he had known my father, a temple worker for twenty-eight years and knew of his passing and so took some extra time and taught us all a beautiful lesson. In the room were several beautiful windows designed to represent water. In a pattern through out each window were small. colored squares of glass. The sealer invited three different people sitting in three different locations throughout the room to name the color they saw in the particular square he pointed to. One saw blue, another believed the color was purple, and the next proclaimed the color to be red. From where I sat, I thought it looked pink and the sealer said he saw violet. Each of us were looking at the same square of glass but our height and eye sight, our location in the room, the angle of light coming in, and even our concept of color names made the square appear differently colored to each individual viewing it. “And,” he said, “each of them is correct.” “This is how truth works,” he taught us, “Truth flows to us like the water these windows symbolize, our perspective and view is as varied and changing as are the colors we have each seen in this small square today.”
That day in a temple of God our sealer drew a beautiful comparison to the ordinance of marriage. He taught that as this young couple came together they would each bring different but equally beautiful truths to their marriage, and that each child and stage of life, each relationship and each experience would add new perspectives, colors and understanding to their view. He counseled each of us to view life and this beautiful gospel with open eyes and hearts, and to delight in the change and play of the color. He gently cautioned us that if we viewed one little square of glass determined the color then closed our eyes and stubbornly clung to that truth only, we were damned. Lastly he drew our attention to the whole window and reminded us that there were in that single window many colored squares, that were part of a window, that in the room were several windows, that each window was set in a slightly different location,, could be viewed from many different locations and that the number of possible angles both of viewing and penetration of light and times of day and seasons created infinite and eternal perspectives that were always dancing and flowing like the living water the windows represented.
As we wander through the mists of life we may wonder at the wisdom of a father placing his children in such a seemingly harsh and dangerous environment with so many possible ways to become lost and confused. I know that he observes us with deep peace and love. He well knows what will happen next, that the beliefs doctrines and knowledge we cling to will fall and possibly break, He knows, despite our shaky stance and the inevitable bumps and bruises, that we are in a safe environment and that he is nearby and will not leave us comfortless. Our wise father doesn't baby proof our environment, he doesn't group us in careful little viewing areas based on our height and visual acuity and understanding of color; in fact, He doesn't place us at all, we do. Our loving father thrums with the exquisite joy of the blessings and trials that will be ours.
Dear Sister, I thank you again for your faithful service as my visiting teacher, for your concerns and fears and even a little anger at my perspective. As I watch your sincerity and earnestness I find forgiveness and gentleness for the woman I was many years ago and more importantly for each of us as our childish hands touch the fragile beliefs of others. “We are each correct!” Our perspectives and visions are sweet and pure, they are Godly. I appreciated the scripture you shared from Doctrine and Covenants Section 1. I took the time to read the entire section and to ponder the meaning. I was struck again by God's answer to those who,”walk in their own way after the image of their own God, whose image is in the likeness of the world”. The answer was, “To call on His servant Joseph Smith from heaven and to give him commandments”. We each must look to Father and seek our commandments from Him. I am thankful to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, to know that I am a child of God and to know that he is, “No respecter of persons.” I understand that I can and must with the wisdom of Eve, Abraham and Moses, in the pattern of Samuel, Ruth and Nephi, with the faithfulness of Mary and Joseph and the patience of Anna and Simeon, seek to know God and to recognize Christ and the light that illuminates my little square of uniquely colored glass.
I claim the gift of agency given to each of us in the garden of Eden and thank you for teaching me greater love towards each of my brothers and sisters, which love God requires as a token of our accepting that gift. For one glorious day we will each realize we are part of a window, which is but one window in a temple, created from the elements of mortality. A filled with and surrounded by light and dark, water and land, heat and cold, joy and sorrow, sacrifice and blessing, beginnings and endings, eternities and singularities. That we are members of a true and living church and that we have been called to share our peace and joy with all who seek and that they also are called and chosen of God and may receive their truth, I bear testimony,
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.