Sunday, January 07, 2007
The Stealth Mormon
I've been in the States since September. I'm now in the Chicago Heights ward. We are a small ward in a big building rolling around like peas in a drum. Apparently we have a lot of in-active members.
Today was fast and testimony Sunday. That means it's "open mike" time for anyone in the congregation to step up to the podium and give a short testimony of how God is working in his life. Mormon cultural etiquette requires new members to use this Sunday to introduce themselves to the ward. I have been here several months and have not done that. That fact has been bothering me lately and yesterday, I decided to pray for the desire to give my testimony. I didn't know why I haven't given my testimony or made any effort to introduce myself to my new ward members.
The councilor who started the testimony session with his testimony talked very sincerely about how this year he hoped to overcome his great fear of public speaking and other trials in his life. He closed his testimony with words to the congregation like this, "Please, come give your testimonies, I need to hear them." Needless to say, his heartfelt remarks spurred many people to come forward and many great testimonies were heard. The podium was always filled, with no time wasted between speakers.
I got to thinking about his courage to admit his fear and yet still give his testimony. Why hadn't I given my testimony? I have no fear of public speaking and I DO have a testimony.
Moving frequently may sound like an exciting life, but it has impared my already limited ability to bond with new people. When you add my embarrassingly bad memory for names AND faces, learning a new ward full of people just seemed like too much work. Even in my younger days I estimate it took me 2 years to learn the names of the regular ward members. I honestly don't think I'll be here two years, so I had hatched an evil plot the first time I attented this ward. I would keep a "small footprint" I told myself. I'd only speak when spoken to, I'd not even try to remember names. I'd come late and leave early. Like all evil plots, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it wasn't and I was suffering from it.
When I was at my mother's house for Christmas, I read a magazine article in the Ensign about how the 15 minutes we spend taking the sacrament is the only time we should think of ourselves. The rest of the time we should be teaching and testifying, edifying, serving, and befriending. I was doing none of that. I was coming and sponging off my new ward and not giving back anything. As I sat in the meeting I remember the stealth bomber airplane. How it is designed to fly undetected by radar. That is was I had been doing, flying under the radar.
The time to close the meeting was nearing. I lingered in my seat wondering what I would say to the congregation. I kept thinking, it's too late now, and one more person would go the podium. Finally I jumped up and rushed to the podium just in time to be the last speaker. I talked about the stealth bomber and introduced myself and the Stealth Mormon.
At the end of the meeting I was greeted with handshakes from the brothers, hugs from the sisters and a calling from the Bishop to serve in the nursery. Unfortunitely, I forgot to give my name, so I may be stuck with the nickname of the Stealth Mormon for as long as I live in this ward, BUT: The Code of Stealth had been broken and I feel great.
Pushing for the Divine
As a rule, I'm not a pushy person, but there is one thing I always push for at church, a prompt setting apart after the sustaining of a calling. For any non-Mormons reading this I'll explain the process and the lingo involved.
When the Bishop has a volunteer position to fill in his congregation, he prays for Divine guidance for the person the Lord wants to put into that position (or the reverse process is often used: the Bishop has a vacant position, he considers who would be the best person for that position and then prays for the Lord's confirmation.) The Bishop then speaks to that person in a private interview and "extends the calling" in Mormon lingo.
The calling is then followed by a show of support by the congregation the next Sunday. By raising our hand, and "sustaining" the person to that calling (position) we, the general membership, are showing that we(collectively and individually)will assist that person to help him succeed in his new position.
After the meeting, the called person then meets with the Bishop and/or his councilors. They lay their hands on the person's head and bless them with Divine assistance to successfully perform in his new calling. This process is called "setting apart".
My "pushiness" is that I refuse to act in a new calling unless I have been set-apart. Sometimes this setting apart step is forgotten in all the many varied small things that have to be done every Sunday by the busy Bishop and councilors, falling through the cracks. I want all the assistance I can get when performing a new church calling so I insist that the setting apart be done the same day as the sustaining.
Today I forgot to remind the Bishop and as often happens that very important step was overlooked. I'll try to remind the Bishop next Sunday. I want that blessing. Lord knows I need it.