Yesterday, I attended sacrament meeting for the first time in three years. In all honesty I’ve not been active, with a calling, since 2008. I’ve been contemplating going back for about a year and during this last week, finally decided to act. Sunday morning rolled around; I was rather surprised at my lack of fear (nervousness that felt like excitement, but not fear). This is staying something. I spent all of my twenties existing in a perpetual state of anxiety. After a disastrous attempt to serve a full-time mission, sacrament meeting left me in tears, and interactions with church leadership induced horrible panic attacks. I was afraid and ashamed because of my lack of conventional LDS belief, transgressions, mental state, family situation, educational goals, and adult expectations. Mostly, I was terrified of failing my eternal family. The complex story of how I made it to sacrament yesterday, not in fear but in peace, is a conversation for another day.
I’m still processing yesterday’s sacrament meeting experience, but I have a few interesting impressions to share:
1. While walking to church, my youngest nephew and I found a cracked robin’s egg and the body of a baby bird. I was initially sad to see the lifeless little form. Yet, its silent body was not repellant, but natural. Dying is as natural as being born (I’ll unpack the event’s symbolism, later).
2. My younger nephew purposefully arrived at the church about ten minutes early. I joked that we were serving as a ‘scouting party’ and could save seats. Honestly, I was very nervous and wanted to evaluate my reaction to the building, congregation, and situation. I walked into the meetinghouse and kept telling myself, “Be cool honey-bunny.” (ten points if you get the allusion). In the past, Sacrament meeting always reduced me to panic-laden tears. As I sat down I was still nervous, but surprised to discover a peaceful sense of familiarity.
3. I had the privilege of attending church with my sister, brother-in-law, and their two sons. The day before, I chatted with my nephews and told them about my plans. They were excited to be there with me. After the service, my younger nephew proudly told my visiting teacher, “It my Aunt’s first time at church in three years and I’m here to help her!”
4. Fast and Testimony is wonderfully egalitarian! The youngest kids in the ward have just as much access to the podium as the Bishop.
5. I still don’t trust ‘the suits’ but I refuse to be afraid of them. Walking with other LDS-folks in this year’s SLC Pride Parade helped me learn to see white shirts, ties, and suits as a positive symbol (perhaps for the first time in my life).
6. My younger nephew asked me if I have a testimony. I said, “I believe in eternal families and I’m working on everything else.” He said, “that’s good,” and promptly snuggled into my side. I put my arm around his shoulder, lifted my hand up, and stroked his wheat-colored hair. I also have a testimony of love.
7. Even after a three years, I still want to smack parents who purposefully ignore their screaming babies!!
8. Testimony meeting is not boring. I found sparks of truth in more than one speaker’s words. The fierce love a mother feels for her family, an older gentlemen’s belief in the importance of community service, and a child who expressed her gratitude for her pet dog. I admit, the rote testimony format is perplexing. I can't validate many of the speakers' assertions. Yet, who am I to judge their words, or the intent of their hearts? Also, I need to be mindful of both reactions. Why do some concepts resonate, while others perplex?
9. I adore the inherently communal nature of LDS music. Specifically, I love how my sister and I blend our voices together.
10. The meeting was going into ‘over time’; when the next testimony-barer, a statuesque older women, got up to the podium and simply said, “We’re out of time today, so I’ll bare my testimony in Relief Society, thank you.” Classy and aware of others! Wow, I want to be like her when I grow up.
11. I did not partake of the sacrament. I’m at peace with my choice. I did not cry or feel horribly ashamed, just resolute. My nephew noticed and was worried. Not out of judgment but out of a sense of equality. He said, “Hey, you need to have one too.” I quietly whispered, “It’s alright, I’m choosing not to take the sacrament and that’s okay.” I concluded saying, “Buddy, thank you for looking out for me.” My nephew and I have the type of relationship where if he asks, I can talk (in general) about the ‘whys’ behind my choice to abstain.
12. The rhythms, connected Sacrament meeting, are natural and familiar.
I walked home flanked by my broad-shouldered oldest nephew, who asked, “So, what did you think?” I smiled and said, “I think that I’ll be back next week.”
Thoughts about persistence
4 months ago