Sunday, January 25, 2009

Depends on Your Definition

Ha! I just had to write another post today, because in my last entry I said that I felt like it was going to be a very good day. And, I suppose it has been a good day, but church was pretty crazy!

Everything was going fine at first. Sacrament meeting was great, and after that was over, Sunday School started without a hitch. We were in the middle of the lesson when all of a sudden an older woman in the back row collapsed and began having an epileptic seizure. It was frightening, but the people around her rushed immediately to her assistance and luckily one of them is a trained nurse. Several people called 911, and as we waited for paramedics to arrive, everyone sat quietly, trying not to stare at what was happening, but unable to ignore the situation. Our teacher was one of the men assisting the woman, so class had come to a standstill. As soon as the bishop saw that everything was under control, and that the woman was not dying, I suppose he wanted to divert everyone's attention, so he went up to the front of the room and started making an announcement about a ward trip being planned for the summer--a trip to the Hill Cumorah Pageant. He began describing the elaborate costumes, the artistry of the choreography and how charming the camping facilities are there, and the moment just became even more bizarre. We tried to politely listen, but the woman's seizure continued in the back, the paramedics were storming in, and nobody knew where to look or what sort of facial expression to have. A few minutes later our teacher wisely escorted us to another classroom, which we should have done long before, and our lesson continued where it had left off.

After all the commotion of Sunday School I was anticipating that the third hour of church, Relief Society, would be relaxed and soothing. The lesson was supposed to be on the topic of unity, which turned out to be ironic. My ward is comprised of people from all backgrounds and levels of learning. Some women have only been members of the church for a few weeks, others have come their whole lives, and others have been members but have only recently come back to church after years of inactivity. Unity is a good topic for us to discuss, because such a disparate group can only learn and succeed if they are unified in some way, with a common purpose. Today that common purpose was just to get everyone on the right page at the same time, so we could finish the lesson. After we had read and discussed a few sections of the lesson, I was asked to read a scripture, but as soon as I began to read it I heard a loud voice saying "Excuse me! Wait until we ALL get there!" One woman was very frustrated that when the teacher asked people to read scriptures they were doing it promptly, without waiting until everyone in the room had turned to that page and could read along. I was not offended, but just waited for a few more seconds as the woman found the right page. (Meanwhile, it was dawning on me that although the lesson was supposed to be about unity, all of the scriptures the teacher was giving us to read were about repentance, another thing that struck me as ironic.) A few minutes later, the topic of discussion turned to scripture study and prayer and one lady made a comment about how you can tell God all the things that you can't tell your friends. Another woman countered that with an impassioned statement saying that in our ward you can tell your friends anything and they won't judge you. A short debate ensued, the teacher regained control, and the lesson moved onward. However, the first lady was again complaining that the teacher was going too fast and not letting everyone have a chance to speak. The teacher apologized, and asked that woman if she would read the following passage from the lesson:

"A second principle to guide our progress to become one is to be humble. Pride is the great enemy of unity. You have seen and felt its terrible effects. Just days ago I watched as two people—good people—began with a mild disagreement. It started as a discussion of what was true but became a contest about who was right. Voices become gradually louder. Faces became a little more flushed. Instead of talking about the issue, people began talking about themselves, giving evidence why their view, given their great ability and background, was more likely to be right. You would have felt alarm as I did. We have seen the life-destroying effects of such tragic conflict. You and I know people who left the fellowship of the Saints over injured pride."

It was purely coincidental that we had come to this part of the lesson, but the woman must have felt it was aimed directly at her because when she finished reading, she immediately apologized to the teacher and the whole class for having been loud and disruptive. It was quite awkward, but the good news is that my ward is full of wonderfully kind, friendly, and forgiving women and though they are often loud and opinionated, none of them hold grudges or anything like that. Once the strange meeting ended, everyone lingered together for a while to talk, hug, catch up on news of each other, meet new people, etc. I guess despite the chaotic lesson, we are better at the principle of unity than we might think, thank goodness! And if it had not been for a unified response to the tragic experience in Sunday School, things could have been completely crazy. I'm happy that my fellow ward-members are so quick to help out, quick to speak out, and equally quick to forgive one another and just love.

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