Let’s Talk About Church

The Stake Talent Show That Wasn’t

A few of months ago, a sign up sheet made the rounds in Relief Society for a Stake talent show. The date seemed so far away and I thought this would be a good challenge for me to have to draw something. I had this idea in my head that I would work on a handful of one-panel cartoons, all “Mormon humor”, then mount them on black paper and put them on little easels. So I signed myself up.

Good intentions.

Then we went house shopping.

That turned into house purchasing.

The next steps were painting, boxing, cleaning, DIing, garbaging, etc.

This last Saturday, I woke up and remembered: “There’s a talent show tonight.” I hurriedly drew two cartoons with a pencil, sketched over them in pen, cut them out, spray-glued them to black construction paper and glued that to the cardboard that came off the back of a pad of drawing paper. High art, I tell you.

We had a frantic day trying to accomplish it all and eventually arrived a few minutes late to the talent show. They had displays set up around a hallway and in one of the classrooms, all with a card labeling the artist/contributor. This card had the same hand writing: almost-calligraphy-but-more-cursivey. We found a pile of these cards on a table and searched through it for “Lauren Elkins, Springview Ward.”

No card.

I guess that they forgot about me and my amazing art.

We left and went to dinner where Dom sat in the train at Shiver’s.

Since nobody at the church function saw the cartoons, I scanned and colored them in just so that I could share them with YOU. What do ya think?



On Belief


With the Ordain Women movement jumping up in the news again today (excommunication on the horizon, perhaps), this has brought out the opinions on my Facebook feeds. I usually steer away from debates that involve religion and politics. At least, I steer away from those more now than I used to, because people hold these things too close to their hearts. But I just wanted to say this…

I experienced shifting theological ground in my life. One I can think of right now was during a semester at BYU. Here I was, attending a church school, and I never once attended the student ward. I couldn’t even tell you where they met. I needed this semester, though. I needed it because I hadn’t found my OWN ground to stand on yet. I was still standing on others’: parents, grandmas, YW leaders, seminary teachers, and friends. The truth that I found for myself is the kind that doesn’t become nervously defensive and isn’t afraid of questions.

It hasn’t been all rose petals and glitter since then. Faith is vulnerable. Faith depends on hope. Faith can be susceptible to fact. I’ve seen this first hand in friends that have lost their faith. However, I wasn’t blind to the evidence they had unearthed, the things they learned that shook their beliefs; and my friends are my friends because they are intelligent, kind, and just good people. So why haven’t I followed their paths away from the Mormon Church? Why am I still here? Why is it that the evidence that eroded their foundations actually strengthened mine?

If you think that the answer may be that my faith, my foundation, my truth, must then be too Pollyannaish, then I simply say, don’t. I find my beliefs through honest doubt; through choosing NOT to ignore negative evidence. The difference for me is my EXPECTATIONS. My faith means that I can ask questions. That I can wonder aloud. That I allow the winds of possibility to blow.

I’m not trying to say that I am better than those unbeliever friends, that my intellectual rank is higher, or that their feelings and choices are insincere. But I do want to share this quote from a most-excellent BYU professor I had, Steve Walker: “The pattern in every loss of faith I’ve observed is not overreaching into too much learning. It is, rather, uninformed expectations. It is an insistence on perfection in anything religious that sets up overidealizing believers for inevitable disillusionment.”

I am currently teaching Gospel Doctrine in my ward. Here’s how I prepare:

  1. Open the teacher’s manual to the lesson assigned and see which scriptures we’ll be reading
  2. Open up my other bible: The Oxford Study Bible, and read the scriptures there first
  3. Turn back to the lesson manual and read through the lesson as outline by Church Education
  4. Write up an outline for our discussion
  5. Use the King James Version of the Bible in class

The reason I share this with you is to simply say that there is truth, there is God, EVERYWHERE. I find God sometimes at church. I find Him often in nature: just sitting in the backyard listening to the sound of water, pulling those drasted weeds out, watching the birds at the feeder. I find Him in the Bible (and when I find him there, it’s more amazing because the Bible is hard, it’s angry, it’s very bare with the sins and wickedness of men). I find God in books. I find Him again and again when I’m not looking or expecting and am filled with amazement each time. The spirit is good to feel. I love finding God in the real world: at work, in academics, in the mundane of every day. And if I feel like I’ve missed out on it for a while, that I have been blind to finding God everywhere for whatever reason, I know that one of the most accessible places I can go for this is the Book of Mormon. Just the act of opening it up changes my day.

Taking this back to Facebook, what I see in some of the discussions is people using this current news to either falter their own faith or give them an opportunity to present to others possible knowledge to undermine faith. Instead of fearing facts, I have learned to take doubt as an ingredient of faith. If you are to know courage, you must know fear. If you are to know faith, don’t you need to know doubt? So this discussion in the news, the comments on Facebook: they are not liabilities for my belief. They help my faith to expand.

A Short Thought From Conference Weekend: A Nugget, If You Will

A few months ago, I spent an hour or two trying to find a talk or article on LDS.org covering one person in particular: Abish. Do you know her story? (It’s in Alma 19.)

I found a few things here and there, but I didn’t find anything new. I already understood, from reading the scriptures, that she had basically practiced her faith in years until Ammon showed up on the doorstep of her king and queen as a missionary. Impressive right there, right? That she learned from her Dad about the gospel and held on to that quietly for years and years. But I was hoping for more.

That’s why, when my Dad asked us on Sunday to share ONE thing we learned from Conference Weekend, I picked something from Sister Dalton’s talk.

Did you catch her reference to Abish’s story?

Here’s what Sister Dalton mentioned that I hadn’t ever heard before:

Because of Abish’s testimony, which she learned from her father, the women who would later become the mothers of the strippling warriors would be converted.

Am I the only one that thinks that’s awesome?

Mormons: A Talented, Peculiar People

I found this random list in a sketchbook I scribbled in my freshman year at BYU. For this entry, I remember writing it while sitting in one of the desks at the back of the lecture room in the Joseph Knight Humanities Building where my student ward held sacrament meeting. I was sitting next to my roommate, Ruth, and we put this list together. What do you think? Did I miss something important that we Mormons are good at?

Sunday, November 12th, 2000

Things Mormons do best: folding chairs, eating bread, crying, singing the melody, lowering & rising pulpits, drawing on programs, resting their heads on the row in front, never sliding to the middle of the row, graciously leaving with screaming kids, making jello, trading in station wagons for suburbans, reading First Nephi, trying to start their talk with a joke, showing off a clever tie, arranging flowers, always having tissues on hand, praying to find their missing sock, braiding up 12-year old girls’ hair in corn rows, reciting Articles of Faith, praying for 5 minutes at the end of a too-long meeting, eating cheerios while sitting on padded benches

My Baby Brother’s Profusion of Religious Beliefs

This is a long quote, but I had to post it. I was so impressed with my younger brother, James’s convictions and ability to put it down in written word. He is currently serving as an LDS missionary in the Dominican Republic and wrote this as his commitment to himself and to the Lord for the remaining year of his mission. The very last part is my favorite, but I think it’s worth the time to read the whole ‘quote’ in its entirety.

“I commit to live after the example of Christ that I may receive the Spirit and completely fulfill my purpose.

I will fight with a perfect brightness of hope, an abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to me. This hope will fasten an anchor for my soul. With this brightness of hope I will strive to help and feed those who have moved away from the hope of the gospel. My hope is that through the Atonement of Christ and the power of the resurrection I will be raised unto eternal life because of my faith in the promise. With the hope for that which I see not I must have patience to wait

I have the capacity to endure delay, trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated, or anxious. I will patiently accept God´s will and God´s timing with a calm disposition. Problems will not be fixed instantaneously, but as I exercise patience, Christ will make everything alright. I will be patient in long-suffering and afflictions to show forth a good example, and thus the Lord will make me an instrument in His hands unto the salvation of myself and others. For happy are counted them which endure. As I wait patiently I still must work diligently.

I will diligently work in what the Lord would have me do and avoid the distractions of the world which simply waste His and my time. I will put forth a steady, consistent, earnest, and energetic effort to show my love for the Lord and the work that He has done for me. Inasmuch as I bring to pass much righteousness, and if I might redouble my efforts, I shall in nowise lose my reward. I will be counted worthy because I will not be slothful, rather I will labor diligently in the office appointed unto me. As I exercise my agency to diligently work with faith, the Lord, in His mercy, might grant me to be laden with many sheaves, but even be it so I must abide in humility.

All honor, whatsoever I may receive, will be submitted to the Lord. I understand that I constantly need the divine help of the Lord to accomplish what I have been called to do. I will humbly follow and trust the counsel I receive from Him through my leaders. I will become and remain stripped of pride, for it is the opposite of humility, and the prideful are not ready to meet God. For whosoever is lifted up in his pride shall be knocked down, while he who is found in the depths of humility shall be lifted up and exalted. I will retain in remembrance the greatness of the Lord and my own nothingness. But as I put my nothingness in the Lord´s strength I am able to do all things. As I am humble I must let my will be swallowed by the Father´s, therefore becoming obedient. Following the example of Christ who, “being found in the fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death.”

I will be willingly obedient to what the Lord commands, even when I do not understand why, for obedience is the first law of Heaven. I will hearken unto the word and obey so that I better understand His doctrine, and am built upon His rock, so that I prosper and become free. My disciplined use of agency in obedience will make me clean and armor me from the enemy just like the heavenly armor given to the strippling warriors who did, “obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness.” They did not doubt, nor did they complain. As I obediently keep the commandments I will receive truth and light unto what I must obtain and share, knowledge.

I will continually seek the enlightenment of the Holy Ghost through study and prayer so that He increases my inner peace that comes with spiritual knowledge. I will continually search the scriptures that my understanding may be sound and my teachings clear, with an accent of power and authority. I will serve the Lord in righteousness that I may receive the promise of wisdom that is great and understanding that reaches heaven. I will continually ask, seek, and knock to receive line upon line and precept upon precept, for one progresses only as fast as he gains knowledge unto his advantage in this world and the world to come. Receiving knowledge is not all. I must then apply it by acting in faith in correct principles and in the Savior.

I believe that Christ is the Son of God, my Savior and Redeemer. I believe that my sins can be forgiven through His Atonement. I trust Him and am certain that He loves me. Though I may not see these things, they are true. I will show my conviction through my actions. Thus the Lord will be able to work by power, through me, according to my faith. Thanks to Christ´s living example and testimony of love and perfection I can put forth unreserved confidence in His promises of redemption. I will fight to forsake doubt and fear, that my faith not be deterred, but will flourish. Through this faith I can feel and see that my abhorrence towards sin is greater, my desires are more pure, and my heart is changing. As my heart is changed through faith and repentance I must protect my mind from Satan and let God enrich it with virtue.

Due to my virtue and discipline, what I choose to think and do will be righteousness, whether I am alone or not. I will continue to keep my thought pure with my hymn of choice: “I´m trying to be like Jesus, I´m following in His ways. I´m trying to love as He did, in all that I do and say. At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice, but I try to listen as the still small voice whispers.” As my thoughts are submersed in virtue, my confidence before God and His Holiness will wax strong, the doctrine and priesthood will distill upon my soul and the Holy Ghost will be my constant companion, that I may follow His divine guidance, “Love one another and Jesus loves you, try to show kindness in all that you do. Be gentle and loving in deed and in though, for these are the things Jesus taught.“ Which carries me unto the purest attribute that we all must possess: charity and love, the great commandment.

I will do all I can to cultivate this attribute for I am worthless without it. I am a son of a Loving Heavenly Father. I have the capacity to earn this love as I study it, work for it, pray for it, and then live it with all the energy of my heart. Thus my love for the people will increase and I will have a sincere concern for their eternal welfare and happiness. I will give of myself physically, mentally, and spiritually, and in so doing the Lord will only fill me with more to give. I will sacrifice myself as I have covenanted to do, so that I earn compassion and know how to help and succor the people. I will live and learn that which my mother taught me, “You love that which you serve.” I must love them as He loveth me.

I will strive to live these attributes and walk in the path and example that Christ left for me to follow so that I will be filled with the Holy Ghost, whose protection, comfort, and guidance I need and desire.

He will instruct me through revelation as I ask, seek, and knock. I will be valiant and follow His will as I listen earnestly with spiritual ears to hear and be guided by His voice of perfect mildness. By following the Holy Ghost I will be fulfilling the will of the Father and acting as Christ´s hands here on earth. I will thus earn the trust of the Lord and He will have the assuring confidence that I will do what He needs done and I will diligently nourish and edify whatsoever stewardship that He might entrust to my care.

In the lessons I will testify of the presence of the Spirit, for it is Him who guides us to all truth, who teaches us all things that we should do, and who testifies of and glorifies the Father and the Son.

By living and teaching by the Spirit I will be able to fulfill my purpose as the Lord would have me do it, as He showed us how to do it with His very own life. I will invite others to come unto Christ through true faith in Him, His restored gospel, and His Saving Atonement.

My calling from the living prophet of God gives me authority to do this and my righteous living through the keeping of my covenants will give me power.

I will not bury my talents, I will not be a fruitless servant, I will thrust in my sickle with all my heart, might, mind, and strength, laying up in store a treasure which does not perish, bringing salvation to my soul and those who I find with an open heart.

I will do all of this to show my deep gratitude for one Great Act of pure love, the Infinite Atonement of my Redeemer Jesus Christ. Through my faith and His profound mercy and grace I can become even as He is. Christ is my Strength, He is my Song, He is my Hero, He also has become my Salvation. He gave you and me His all, the least we can do is give Him ours in return. And that is what I will do, for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey.”

~Elder Campbell

Full of Rhetorical Questions

DOC: You don’t seem excited to be here.

LRE: I’m more distracted than in attendance.

DOC: Why are you distracted?

LRE: It’s no biggee. I just am.

DOC: If you won’t talk to me, what good am I to you?

LRE: Too bad I’m not paying you. Then maybe I’d be more into these appointments.

DOC: You mean to tell me that paying patients are better than imaginary patients?

LRE: That’s a rhetorical question, right?

DOC: As was that one, right?

LRE: Good answer.

DOC: Do you have examples where you worked harder because you were paying for it?

LRE: Sure. Well, kind of.

DOC: Okay. Share the kind of’s.

LRE: Okay. School.

DOC: Right. That is expensive, isn’t it?

LRE: Another rhetorical question. Currently, I’m paying for my Publications Management class and not paying for my institute class?

DOC: Institute?

LRE: I know-that’s usually where you send the loonies. Or, it’s where all the Mormons go to get all churchy together.

DOC: Okay. So you have a school class and a church class.

LRE: Yep. I go to the school class many times a week. It’s online so I’m usually “in class” every evening, even if for just a few minutes to check in. I’ve been to the church class twice this year.

DOC: Did you go to your BYU religion classes?

LRE: Yes, of course. Those were much better than my institute class even though I paid for those.

DOC: It’s good to go to class.

LRE: Pretty much. I should go to the institute class more often.

DOC: But you don’t.

LRE: No. Instead, I go to the gym and to school classes. I pay for those.

DOC: Do you feel good about that?

LRE: Was that a rhetorical question?

If you’re not a regular to this blog and have NO CLUE what just happened above, check out this page explaining the nuances of this blog and of me, Larrie.

I’ve Left the Island

I hate to break it to ya, but I can no longer tell you about misfit toys on Sundays. The area of the island I was attending these past few months was a rather unfriendly area and after nobody ever gave me something to do (a.k.a. a calling), I decided it was time to bail. I went to a new singles ward on Sunday and found myself in a world of normal toys.

I can’t say that I really fit in with ordinary society, but in comparison to the last ward, this new ward was like walking into Cheers. Okay, well, not quite. Everybody didn’t know my name… so they asked me. Lots of people, too. And before I knew it, I was in a little hiking group and have dates lined up for the rest of the year. (Oh right, I may have fibbed a little about that last part, but whatever… I think I’m funny.)

The new ward needs a name. Any suggestions? No, not really? I have to come up with it all on my own? Fine, we’ll go with The Mighty Functioning Singles Ward (MFSW—and we’re not talking about Multi-Function Steering Wheels).

So I pulled into the parking lot of the MFSW and just as I got out of my car, I saw a friend from work. Turns out, he’s a member of the MFSW and gave me his permission to attend. We wander into the chapel where I stand at the back while he talks to someone and I look around at the congregation… there they are: the P Brothers. They’re my neighbors and the older brother called me on Saturday to tell me about the MFSW and tell me to come, too. They saved me a seat so I took it just as the meeting began.

The chapel was packed. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a meeting with a packed chapel. It was amazing singing with such a large congregation—I didn’t feel like I was singing a solo anymore. Hooray! (Nobody really wants Larrie singing solos… just in the choir is fine, thanks.)

Shortly after the meeting began, a girl came in and asked if she could squeeze in next to me so the P Brothers moved over a bit and we made room. Turns out, she went to my old old ward (Hillside) for ONE Sunday, but being that I was the mighty prez, I remembered her and who her roommate was, her full name, her birthday, her SSN, etc. So now she’s in the MFSW with me and I don’t have to assign her visiting teachers.

After the first meeting ended, the P Brothers went off to Sunday School while I was talking to some other women who came and introduced themselves to me. Several of us then wandered over to a smaller room for the “new member” meeting. No, this is not a meeting for people who are new to the LDS faith or investigating. I don’t know that this ward sees many of those. This is a meeting to make sure that you are “appropriate” for the ward (apparently, they don’t want married people in the ward because we don’t actually allow polygamy no matter how much a guy thinks it should come back). In this meeting, I added to my list of people who asked me my name and more (things like my status, sign, and SSN).

By the time I made it to the last meeting (Relief Society), I had a handful of new friends to choose to sit by. It was a tough choice and I could see in the expressions of the women that I didn’t sit by that they were rather crestfallen that I didn’t choose them. Keep your hopes up, new friends… there’s always next week.

So after the very first week at MFSW, the final tally of new pals (or at least people that sincerely introduced themselves to me) is 14. It’s a good start. And if I make it to FHE tonight, maybe I can get all those dates lined up.