I attended church sporadically after we moved to Boise. In Wilder, we had lived next door to an American Baptist church, and I walked over every Sunday with a nickel knotted into the corner of my handkerchief as an offering when they passed the plate. My mother had grown up around Southern Baptists and found many of their teachings too restrictive of human agency, and there were no American Baptist congregations in Boise, so she kept looking.
For a few weeks after our move, I attended a Methodist congregation that met in the chapel of a mausoleum several miles away. The adults were kind, and several of the children were little snots who went to my grade school. In less than a month, I had had enough, and I told my parents that I no longer wanted to attend.
I remained unchurched until high school, when I began to attend a Friends church to which one of my girlfriends belonged. It was not due to any great religious feeling on my part. I had a crush on one of the guys (who, this being high school, had a crush on a different friend). Again, the adults were kind and welcoming, the kids my age significantly more friendly than the ones at the prior church, but I remained unconverted. I retained enough affection for that congregation that I married FirstHubby from that church, much good it did us.
The first Christmas and Easter after my conversion and baptism were revelatory. Christmas had always been as much about the music as about the presents, so being in a place where we sang Christmas carols all month long felt like my own little piece of Heaven right here on earth. But Easter? Easter was amazing. It had always been about a new dress and hat (as long as I was attending church someplace) and eggs and chocolate. Very much the secular trappings, with zero attention to the reason why we might be celebrating. (I do not blame my parents for this in the slightest. They were two of the best, and quietest, Christians I have ever known. I was just your basic self-centered child, and I remained in that phase well into nominal adulthood.)
I was baptized in August of 1975, and I began taking Institute classes along with my college classes when school resumed in September. I was hungry for gospel knowledge, and I devoured everything I could get my hands on. So I was definitely better prepared for Christ-centered holy days than at any previous point in my life.
I’ve been in the Church for forty years now, and some Easters have been more spiritual than others. We are blessed to focus on Christ and the Atonement every Sunday: in the sacrament prayers, in the music and the talks, in the Sunday School and Relief Society or Priesthood manuals. Anyone who thinks that we LDS are not Christian, is clearly not paying attention. Still, there have been (too many) years when Easter for me was just another lovely Sabbath, with the bonus of Easter hymns.
I am now blessedly past the years when I had to divide up the color-coded M&Ms to make sure that nobody got one more than a sibling. I’m not one of those grandmothers who goes bonkers creating Easter baskets for the grandchildren. I have the freedom to study as much, or as little, as I choose without interruption.
But I had a prompting either late last year or at the very beginning of this one, that I needed to ramp up my scripture study and deepen my discipleship, and so (me being me) I made a spreadsheet, laying out the lessons for Sunday School and Relief Society. As I’ve completed the lesson for each week, I’ve marked them off by color code. I just finished reading some of the background material I found on Book of Mormon Central (an e-book by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute of Religious Studies on the culture and history of the Holy Land at the time that Lehi and his family left for their own promised land). I’m enjoying the KnowWhy tidbits, although I am seriously behind on those, as the one which led to my reading the lengthy e-book was a link from KnowWhy #6 or thereabouts, and when I checked the other night, we were up to #60.
For years, I’ve been cycling through an audible version of the Book of Mormon on my morning commute. A month or so ago, I decided to listen to the parts that would be the subject of the following Sunday’s lesson in Sunday School, and to listen over and over as often as I could before it was time to move on to the next lesson. It’s weird, but it’s working. I’m definitely being obedient in terms of class preparation, and I’m getting more insights as to personal application. It’s even begun to influence my prayers, which cannot help but be a good thing.
I’ve done the same with the last two lessons for the fourth Sunday in Relief Society, when we study and discuss a talk from General Conference.
I will also say that the veil is significantly thinner since Beloved passed on, and since I’ve resumed family history research. It’s easier to feel the Spirit, and the spirits of my loved ones. And to want to dig deeper into the scriptures or my study materials. I am grateful for a heightened appreciation for, and understanding of, the Atonement: how it’s not just for the big stuff like my personal sins, or the sins which might be committed against me and mine, but also for the spiritual equivalent of pebbles in my shoe: the recurring respiratory nonsense; the financial surprises; the bruise on my arm which is now a ghastly yellow from the second failed IV attempt two weeks ago; the slow-to-heal abrasion from my mammogram last month; the need to take not one, but two naps this weekend; the necessity for a second prescription which I am likely to be taking for the rest of my mortal life; my frustration at having more to do in a given amount of time than is possible for any mortal to accomplish without Hermione’s time turner.
You know: just life. The Atonement covers it all. I am so thankful for His willingness to be a part of the details of my messy human life. And that He shares my joy when something goes right and I’m smart enough to recognize it, as well as being there for me when things go mildly or excruciatingly wrong.
He lives, and while He lives, I’ll sing. (Hymns No. 136)
- Four years into widowhood, after one year of incredible happiness and nearly 14 years of single blessedness. Have given up perfect manicures and pretty hands in order to resume playing the soprano recorder and to see if I can figure out how to play bluegrass banjo. Singing in the shower. Still really, *really* love to knit!