Thursday, August 28, 2008

Alles Wohl, "All is Well"

I am absolutely in love with President Uchtdorf. (Can you say that about a General Authority?!) There is nothing about this man that I don't like, admire, and respect. Elder Wirthlin gave a talk at conference titled "Concern for the One" in which he briefly comments on each new member of the First Presidency of the Church. Alles wohl is how he describes President Uchtdorf in his native German tongue. Those words will resonate with me as I try to bring and maintain peace in my home over the next few days and weeks. I appreciate Elder Wirthlin's words about our leaders, but it is the bulk of his talk that I am pondering on this morning.

I think that often times when we consider the concern for the one, the lost sheep, the person that is different, weary, or strayed we consider only how to bring them back to the fold. Because we all have free agency we believe that it is by choice alone that these people have left the herd and are faltering out in the big world by themselves. It is possible, but I don't believe that to be the case for most members who find themselves inactive. Generally speaking I don't believe it really is one isolated event that cases someone to falter; it is not one person's comment that offends; it is not one bad experience that pushes one to the point of inactivity. The one specific incident may be the breaking point, but I know that there is history to the feelings that keeps a member away from church. Elder Wirthlin touches on several of the reasons an individual might be lost. My challenge would be that we not read this talk with concern on how to bring those sheep back, but instead, we concern ourselves with how to keep them to begin with. I'm sure that when shepherds are watching their flocks they see pitfalls that their sheep might fall into; they recognize the baby that might stray and keep a more careful eye on it; they know which sheep does not respond well to criticism and is more thoughtful in the way they approach the herding of that sheep. (Notice how I switched there to make the sheep a little more human?) Shouldn't we be more like the shepherd and strive harder to prevent the loss of a member?

I worry that sometimes in the way we act, or the way we comment we exclude people and their beliefs. I worry that if we state an opinion too strongly, we intimidate people that don't feel the same way. I worry that there are delicate spirits out there that rely too heavily on a Sunday meeting to get them through the week and are overwhelmed by the pedestals that they place other members of the church on. I know that it is not our fault that someone believes we are perfect in all commandments, but what vibes are we putting out there that makes one believe this?! (Please restrain yourself from laughing hysterically at the thought that I am perfect!) Maybe I am a deviant because I find joy in knowing that other people are not perfect, but it is comforting to realize that we all have something to work on. Isn't that what perfecting the saints is all about? But my concern still is with those members who struggle to come to church, RS, and Enrichment events because they find it difficult to measure up to all the other women in the room.

Elder Wirthlin said, "Every Sunday in every meetinghouse throughout the world, we find mortal, imperfect men, women, and children who meet together in brotherhood and charity, striving to become better people, to learn of the Spirit, and to lend encouragement and support to others." I pray that we can all be those people at the end of the statement. I think this is the key element in making others feel welcome in a church where many are viewed as perfect. No, other people's insecurities are not our problem; yes, you should be focused on your own salvation and that of your family; but please, let's not DIScourage anyone because our actions and comments exclude those that may have different beliefs than us. We come from various homes, backgrounds, and childhoods so we inevitably have varying views on how to live the gospel. I worry that we alienate others by default as we proclaim our opinions. Sensitive souls will view those thoughts as mock-doctrine and although we never intended it to be so, the words did come from our mouths. We can say, "that's her problem" but really it's not, it's all of our problem because " all cases, let us ever be worthy of the name we take upon ourselves, even that of Jesus Christ."

And in case you don't know me well enough, or the subject has not come up in one of our online or late-night chats: not only was I a convert at age 18, but I was also inactive for almost 10 years after I joined the church. I'm sure it can all be blamed on my feelings of inadequacies, the comings and goings of an ASU singles ward, and boyfriends, but I was inactive non-the-less and it felt like nobody cared. I tried going back several times, both to the singles ward and the family ward once I got married but I never did feel like I fit in. I felt different, I was weary, and I strayed. There are a handful of members that I remember reaching out to me and an equal number of members that did or said things that pushed me away. I am grateful to my Father in Heaven for being close by me through those years and not letting me get too far off the path. And I am grateful that I can now say, "Alles wohl".


April said...

My, you have been going to the temple a lot. I love it when I get in that zone where every article speaks to me and I hear promptings all of the time. This was a really good post. I needed it. I do worry a lot that my strong personality and opinions can rub people the wrong way, but I'm also concerend about being honest and not a fake. So, then my question is this, do we just not say anything, do we water down our opinions for other people's sake, or do we speak our mind openly and honestly and hope that the other party understands what our intentions are? I simply haven't figued that one out. Obviously, I am on of these flawed people you speak of. Hmmm. Some food for thought and something we can all work on. Thanks! I just felt like I got visit taught!

April said...

PS You forgot to mention how attractive Uchdorf is. Now, can you say that about a general authority? See, there I go again-too honest and opinionate-y!

Crissybug said...

Love this post. Uctdorfs talk was great, and so insightful. Thanks for letting us into your inner thoughts, and reminding us to be more aware of what we say and do.

I had no idea that you were inactive at one point! You are such a wonderful person, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to get to know you. I miss good ol P.P. Ward :)

H said...

I think we can only comment on a GA's attractiveness in the comment zone, and yes, he's a hottie! See, my "church face" was on when I was posting, but now I let loose with those that care enough to check out the comments :)

I think we sometimes have to hold back because we don't know where everyone is in their life, but if the spirit prompts you to speak up, then do! I tend to zip it until my heart is thumping outside my chest. (Not always though, I've been caught with my foot in my mouth on several occasions)Other, very thoughtful people should speak up more often. You know who you are!

But April, you're not flawed, just honest. It's not a bad trait, just hard to get used to in a world of fakers. I think we have to consider each situation on it's own merits and be very careful how we phrase things in group dynamics. I think you are pretty good about beginning statements with, "how we do it...", "I think..." or "This is what I got from that..." I know you won't ever water down your opinions on my account, and that's good (for me). I've also caught you with your mouth shut, possibly grimmacing, but shut none the less.

Glad I could VT you! The lesson was actually about you being a blessed daughter of God, but whatever, this works :)

btg said...

Babe, I think your close to the edge...First there was Hot Brigham...Then ther was Hot Joseph..Now hot Uchdorf? I don't know...April, your honesty is what makes you you. Don't lose it. The good that comes from it far far far outweighs any hurt feelings. We all must be strong enough to grow. There is a difference between friends and acquaintances ...With that said, there are times where we all must watch our tongues around certain people. But never be fake.

Monique said...

I can honestly tell you that it hasn't been until recently that Shaunton and I have felt "at home" in our ward, and we have been members of this ward for about 5 years.

I always try to take a step back and think that other people have issues too, they may look all nice and pretty and church, but that doesn't mean that parenting comes easier, or anything else for that matter, and that they don't have things they struggle with.

I try to reach out when I can, without trying to keep tabs on who has done what for who, just doing it in the spirit of charity and compassion.

Thanks for the great post.


Uchdorf is most definitely a refined, good-looking man. I would look twice...but don't tell Shaun. :)

Crystal said...

I love it when you talk about the time when you were inactive because I always forget that you are a convert and that you were inactive for a time. You just seem so comfortable with the gospel and you seem to have deep insights that people like me who were born into the church struggle with. You have helped so many people with your church service and I know that I have probably offended dozens of people. It concerns me and I do try to watch my mouth but I definitely wind up with not just a foot, but a whole leg in there sometimes. Good reminders Helena. I appreciate this post also!