A Convert's Gratitude List
It's Thanksgiving Week here in the US. This is a very special time for us when we name all the things we're grateful for - and then eat more food than we need; and spend money on more stuff (presumably that we're also thankful for?) In honor of this week, I present to you the top 10 things this convert is grateful for about the church (these are not about Jesus or the gospel specifically, just the church.)
1. Openness. I'm told that in the past some of the historical facts of the church (polygamy, racism, violence) were taboo to talk about. Now the church talks about it on their website. If I had tried to join the church at some other point in history, I think the glossing over facts that might have been done in the past would truly bother me. I totally get it when long-time members are sent for a spin over these essays (or other facts), and really believe the church is going in the right direction by offering more information, not less.
2. The Relief Society. Not the bi-weekly meetings, or the occasional social gatherings specifically, but the spirit of the thing. The women of the RS have often been figuring out how to meet the needs around them for 7 generations. I know without a shadow-of-a-doubt that if the worst thing were to happen to me, there would be a whole army of women from the RS at the ready to help.
3. Mental Health Awareness. I don't know what it's like in other places, but in my Ward it is rare to go a single week without someone mentioning the link between good spiritual health and good mental health. My profession is being a mental health therapist, so I love this.
4. The Big Families. It seems like huge families are not as popular as they were, but there are many in my ward and I adore them. Most Sundays you will find me piled into a pew with one of these families (who I love beyond words), with 1 or 2 kids on my lap and just enjoying the sweetness they bring.
5. The Nontraditional Families. The single people, the divorced people, the lbgtq people...pretty much any configuration that is not the norm. I have found them to be deeply thoughtful people who are working out how to stay in a very family-based religion, while not exactly fitting the typical mold.
6. Confession. Oh, my Evangelical friends will fall apart over this, I'm sure. But I've lost track of the number of times a friend (either from my ward, or in the larger community) has mentioned going to the bishop for help with repentance and confessing sin. No, the bishop doesn't stand as intermediator, and yes there is potential for abuse in this. But the reality is that we frail and weak humans sometimes need help. I'm grateful that it's available.
7. The Atonement. Or rather, the way people talk about the atonement. In Protestant/Evangelical circles, every conversation about the atonement devolves into a debate about the various atonement theories. And it doesn't ever go anywhere else. In my ward it's not uncommon to hear something like, "I've really been struggling with having patience for my small children. I'm just overwhelmed and at my wit's end. I really need to apply the atonement here." A sentence like that, often said off-hand, would never happen in an Evangelical setting. It wouldn't even make sense.
8. Digital Resources. The Gospel Library app and LDS Tools app make my life easier. I especially am fond of the ability in the GL app to highlight a passage from scripture, a talk, or a book and tag it with my own pre-determined tags. I've gotten a little obsessed with it.
9. Callings. We all do the work together and it doesn't matter how important you are outside of the church, you can still get called to teach the 5-year-olds.
10. Having an Open Canon. Again, sorry Evangelical friends, I know you are clutching your pearls over this one. But I love the idea that God is not done teaching us yet, that each generation deserves teaching for their own time, and the possibility that the things which are not quite right about the church today can be corrected tomorrow.