Community, From the News, Uncategorized

Refugee Relief — No More Stranger

Just reading and watching stories about the millions of refugees makes my heart hurt.

So when I heard our Church leaders focus on it in our General Conference recently, my heart rejoiced.

A friend texted me during Elder Patrick Kearon’s talk and said, “I just LOVE this new emphasis on refugees in the church! So much need. So Christian. Makes me proud of my church!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Sixty million refugees is unfathomable. 

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It’s one thing to watch the news and read the stories about groups of people fleeing a country because of war or persecution. It’s another to know and try to understand their individual stories.

My Mormon history is full of stories of my ancestors being driven out of their homes by people who opposed their religious views. 

For me, personally, I can hear references to the persecution experienced by the Mormons in the 1800s and feel quite removed from it, but it becomes a lot more real when I consider the impact that persecution had on my family.

In 1844, Mormons built the city of Nauvoo, Illinois into a prosperous and beautiful city. But, people worried about the political and economic power being amassed by this growing group of people.

This led to Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, and his brother, Hyrum being wrongly accused of treason and sent to jail.

Both were murdered by angry mobs that stormed the jail.

Hyrum was my great, great, great grandfather.

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Hyrum and Joseph Smith

He was shot in the face and killed by a bullet that was fired through the door of the jail.

I cannot forget the stories of how his wife, Mary Fielding, took the news or how his three-year-old daughter, Martha Ann, my great, great grandmother remembered being wrapped in a blanket and carried to see her dead father and uncle.

Because of the continued violence, Mary and her children were forced to leave Nauvoo.

Martha Ann said, “We left our home just as it was, our furniture, and the fruit trees hanging full of rosy cheeked peaches and apples. We bid good-bye to the loved home that reminded us of our beloved father everywhere we turned.”

This is not unlike what is happening across the world.

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Depiction of Mary Fielding crossing the Plains

Mary Fielding and her children crossed the Mississippi River and huddled around a campfire on the bank of the river as they listened to the bombardment of the city of Nauvoo.

Maybe it’s that heritage that makes me so sympathetic to the plight of today’s refugees.

 

One of our leaders, Linda K. Burton, recited the history of the LDS women’s organization, called The Relief Society, saying it was organized “to do something extraordinary.” She conveyed the message that we are expected, as members of the Church, to do the extraordinary by answering the pressing calls to help.

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Refugee Camp

In response to that reminder, church members immediately searched for ways to help.

This week, in my role as a public affairs representative for the Church, I met with local leaders of Catholic Charities, an organization that is doing amazing work to help the refugees.

They told us they were a bit overwhelmed with the calls from Mormons, asking what they could do to help. “A good problem to have,” they agreed.

I think we were all moved by Linda Burton’s question, “What if their story were my story?”

In many ways, the stories of today’s refugees are our stories. Many of us have stories in our families and our cultures of people fleeing their homes to escape war and religious persecution.

And, we all have a responsibility to help.

I loved Elder Patrick Kearon’s comment, “This moment does not define the refugees, but our response will help define us.”

I hope this moment will help define me in a positive and powerful way as a disciple of Jesus Christ who responds to the call to serve.

How will it define you?

In the Washington, D.C. area, you can find out how to help here and here.

To listen to Elder Kearon’s talk click here.

 

 

Uncategorized

My Mormon Easter

Easter is coming and I’m almost as excited as when I’m waiting for Christmas.

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I have family coming (Annie and Josh and their friends) for Easter weekend, which is, in itself, something to celebrate because our families are spread across the country these days.

AND, it’s General Conference weekend.

For those of you who don’t know about Conference Weekend, it’s going to sound dreadful, but trust me, for Mormons, it’s one of the best weekends of the year.

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Conference weekend is when our Church broadcasts HOURS of meetings featuring talks from our Church leaders.

And, believe me, it’s an event. It happens at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, which is a 1.4 million square foot building that will seat 21,000 guests.

The five conference sessions this weekend will be broadcast live around the world. (You can watch it here and here.)

I’m already wondering what we’re going to learn.

Mostly, I’m excited about the warm, beautiful spirit of Jesus Christ that will fill my house during Easter weekend.

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That spirit begins to seep in as soon as I hear the organ music coming from the colossal 7,667-pipe organ at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.

This is no ordinary organ. It’s a pipe organ with 160 stops spread over five manuals and pedals.

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And since I don’t have a clue what any of that means, I had to look it up.

I learned a “manual” is basically a keyboard and the pedals are keyboards for your feet. The stops control the pipes 7,000-plus pipes.

All this together makes for some amazing sounds.

Add 360 singers to that from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and it’s quite a musical experience.

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And then there are the speakers – about 30 of them spread out over five two-hour sessions.

(In case you’re worried that all those speakers might be a bit much, we’re heavily into beautiful music too so there are a lot of lovely songs between all those speakers. AND, you get to see some gorgeous displays of spring flowers, a few videos, and even hear some pretty good jokes sometimes.)

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I know, I know. It sounds long and boring — sitting for hours and listening to one Church speaker after another.

But I love listening to words on hope, faith, light and truth, parenting, building strong families and improving marriages, making wise choices, receiving personal revelation, sharing the light of Christ, and becoming a better person.

“Conference,” as we call it, is a uniquely Mormon experience, and being the odd bunch that we are, we relish every moment of it.

When it’s over, we feel some mixed emotions — buoyed up because we’ve been given a heavy dose of counsel and encouragement and spiritual rejuvenation, but sad because we have to turn off our TVs and move out of the warmth of our conference bubble and get back to real life.

While most Christians will be attending Easter services on Sunday, Mormons will be home watching television.

Something about that doesn’t seem right, but for us, it’s a form of united devotion. It happens the first weekends of October and April every year.

This year, it happens to fall on Easter Sunday.

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While it might seem wrong that our chapels will be closed on Easter Sunday this year, we will be tucked into our cozy nests listening to every word from our leaders—all of which will testify of our love and devotion of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.

In a way, we will get to enjoy the most intimate kind of Easter worship of all – surrounded by our families in the warmth of our homes.

We might not be in our Easter dresses, bonnets and white gloves this Sunday, but you can be sure we will be honoring our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and loving every minute of it.

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Happy Easter.