Writing My Life

Now and Then


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… Sunday reflection: “Read until you learn something” …

If you know me or have followed this blog for a while, you understand that I am an avid reader of young adult fiction, historical fiction, fiction fiction. I also like to read “trade books” about my profession – teaching and literacy. As a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons), I am admonished to read the scriptures daily. For a variety of reasons, this isn’t always easy to do.

While I won’t go into ALL the excuses I’ve used over the years to rationalize why my Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price gather dust as they sit on the book shelf or bed table, I will say that it often boils down to “mood.” These books of wisdom are NOT easy-reads! The verses, stories, and lessons require engaged thinking, reflection, and questioning. That means work, work, work.

One of the reasons I enjoy reading is because of the escape, and the idea of “getting away” is often more appealing than “getting into.” But I also LOVE learning, and that is what draws me back to these texts that teach me lessons that go beyond this worldly existence.

Because I know that readers glean more from reading if they set a purpose, I find I cannot study the scriptures just because I am supposed to. The first time I read the Book of Mormon, for example, was to learn for myself what was in it. I belong to a church that claims the book is a record of ancient peoples, and that its pages testify of Christ. So, back in 1962, I attended a seminary class in 9th grade where the teacher assigned us to read every verse, page, and chapter.

Since that time, I’ve read the Book of Mormon a few more times for several different purposes. Once I underlined every reference about Christ’s birth, ministry, death and resurrection. Another time, I studied what the Book of Mormon taught about a variety of topics: adversity, relationships, life after death, repentance, the nature of God, and the role of evil, etc.

Sometimes I study for hours – usually when preparing a church talk or lesson; sometimes I read for a few minutes and many times I don’t study at all. Because I felt guilty during those times of omission, I asked myself why I didn’t feel like diving into the body of scriptures. Realizing it was more than being too tired or busy to study for a few minutes that kept me from my reading, I experienced the aforementioned epiphany of needing a purpose. But then I struggled with finding a motivating purpose!

While mulling over all this personal struggle, I picked up my dusty Book of Mormon and pulled out a card tucked between the pages. On one side I had written these words:

Read until you learn something.

“Light bulb!” I decided that would be my purpose –  until I found something better. So far there has been nothing better than that noted advice from Andy Barlow, a near-by acquaintance. With that thought in mind, I told myself I could stop if I learned something after 5 minutes of reading.

While this happens once in a while, I find that when I learn a little here or a bit more there, I don’t WANT to stop. Interesting, isn’t it? And paradoxical. Because I give myself permission to close the book and snuggle under the covers after ingesting just one thought-provoking morsel, I feel free to continue. I’ve also found that I take greater delight in what I am learning.

... read until you learn something ...

To track these illuminations, I scrawl the “big ideas” gleaned from one or more verses in bright red ink over those printed lines of inspiration. The act of “writing to read or learn” cements thoughts more solidly in my mind and heart. And a quick look back over the pages helps me remember or review my lessons learned.

I love it, look forward to it, and grow from it.


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… HaPPy BiRtHDaY, dEAr ReLief SoCiEtY …

As a female member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I also belong to the largest women’s organization in the world, the Relief Society. Officially organized in March of 1842, Relief Society is “an auxiliary to the priesthood.” In its earlier beginnings, women of the church envisioned their society as a service organization, as suggested by Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball’s idea of establishing a constitution to formalize the community’s sewing circle.

Within the confines of the Mormon Church, the rest of the story is well known: Sarah’s friend Eliza R. Snow wrote the document and took it to Church President Joseph Smith who praised its contents but added that the Lord had something better in mind for the women of the church. It’s my understanding that the “better part” included organizing the women as an auxiliary to the Priesthood AND adding teaching to service; thus the sewing circle also became a learning circle.

While church leaders, including Joseph Smith and Newel K. Whitney, attended early meetings to teach “new things” to the women, the organization eventually turned to its own members to teach one another. And so it continues today.

Yesterday, March 19, 2011, the women of the Eagle Mountain Utah North Stake celebrated that occasion by meeting together at the nearby church. As women do, we adorned the “cultural hall” in springtime pastels; we sang, prayed, and lunched together, and we taught one another. As in  times gone by, a priesthood leader shared his thoughts, but it was women serving, teaching, and inspiring one another that lay at the heart of the occasion.

I know today’s Relief Society may not be my grandmother’s Relief Society – her social would have been the annual bazaar, complete with quilts and pot luck dishes instead of a celebration featuring balloons and a catered buffet – BUT it is still a most amazing organization whose past and present fascinate me.

NOW and THEN …