Saturday, January 23, 2010

Brother Cooper's House

I clearly remember the hours I spent as a child, staring at the closet door from the vantage of my bed, too scared to close my eyes, wondering if it would be safe to cross to my bedroom door and make a break for my mother's room. Sure, I was young, imaginative, prone to nightmares. But there was something in that closet.

Twenty years later, I still watch for monsters in the closet. I shouldn't be afraid of the dark anymore, but these monsters find me anyway. They haunt the closets of almost any house I enter. They wait for me, fangs dripping, mangled fur pressed against my coats and shoes. They are the specters of internal fears, of threats levied against my fragile sense of belonging. They bring with them a lifetime of fear and insecurity, of never knowing when the next blow would fall, the next safety net vanish.

And so, among the other gifts you gave to me, the advice, the blessing, the bed large enough to stretch my full length upon, I've one more thing to thank you for.

I lived in your house for six full months, and there were no monsters in your closets.

Friday, January 15, 2010

How I found God in the temple of the Goddess.

"Being Mormon, to me, means that no matter where I go, no matter what language or country, there is always someone I can connect with: some one who loves me."

This quote makes me want to cry. It makes me want to cry because I've traveled just a bit (four continents and counting) and it's true. I think this statement has power on two levels.

The first is the most obvious. The LDS church is a worldwide church, existing all over the world in various countries, in dozens of languages, and with wide ranging singing abilities. I've attended sacrament meetings in French, Spanish, and Tamil. I've sung hymns with other members in hotel rooms, cathedrals, and the back rooms of an old house. In the stifling humidity of the south Indian jungle, the glory of spring in Paris, and the bitter cold "lluvisna" of winter in Argentina I've bowed my head to offer thanks to God with other equally sweaty/drowsy/shivering Mormons. And the one thing that carries over through all of these various experiences is that no matter what language they speak or what continent they call home, I love Mormons and Mormons love me. If it has "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" written on the building, I've come home, no matter how far from home I've traveled.

But the statement quoted above has meaning and truth on another level. One of my very most favorite aspects of the true gospel is that all religions have some amount of truth to them and all people have access to the light of Christ. So, for me, being a Mormon means recognizing that everywhere I go I am surrounded by people who, though not LDS, are nevertheless just like me. They seek truth and light wherever they can find it. They yearn to be closer to God, however they understand Him now. They want to help other human beings, whether they see others as children of God or not. They love me, and I love them, irrespective of their familiarity with Mormon Hymns.

I distinctly remember the worst day I had in India. I am certain I always will. For reasons I have struggled with but ultimately forgiven, on that hot day in Tamil Nadu I found myself alone, heartbroken, and lost in a city of almost two million people. On that day I had no LDS members to turn to, no RS president to bring me cookies and no hometeachers to offer blessings. For that one day I was alone, outside the arms of my beloved religion, and devastated. But I wasn't alone, after all. All unbidden a handful of total strangers reached out and held me up. A man on a motorcycle noticed a lost girl and helped her find her way. A business man at the temple approached a strange girl to share the blessings of his religion with her and led her into a circle of faith otherwise closed to her. A woman with problems and pains of her own spent the afternoon speaking in broken sentences and strange new gestures to a girl who, though visiting in that country, did not speak the local dialect and could not communicate with anyone else there. None of those individuals were Mormon, but they are one reason I am glad to be Mormon myself.

Because being a Mormon, for me, means seeing the world for its potential to love and be loved. While I do not believe, as my Hindu friends have told me, that all roads lead to God. I do believe, as my religion tells me, that all humans come from God. And maybe, just maybe, we're talking about the same thing.

Friday, January 8, 2010


The thing about New Year's Resolutions is that a year always seems like the wrong time-frame for a truly effective goal. For example, you want to be more patient and less easily provoked this year? Awesome, but why only for a year? Isn't that more of a life long goal? And if you are using this year just as a sort of measuring device for that goal, well, you can bet you'll forget if you don't break it down into more manageable bites of time. Or, let's say you want to get a gym membership. Umm...if that takes you a whole year to do, you are using the wrong gym. In general, signing up for a membership takes about half an hour or less. Now, they'll take money directly from your bank account every month for a year (at least) but that's more a goal for them than for you, isn't it? I like my goals to fit into one of three categories: weekly, monthly, and lifely (so totally a word, right?). But, if you're the type to set a New Year Resolution, well, I won't look down on you for it. (I'll laugh at you behind your back, for sure, but look down? Never.)

And for the time being, here is my resolution, which I like to think of as a lifely goal:

Eat more fresh produce.

What, you were expecting something deeper and more pensive? Vegetables are the fa-shizzle people. The fa-shizzle.