April 5 2009 peculiar
Last Sunday, after returning from our trip to Kansas City and Nauvoo, followed by a two day Mormon Arts Retreat, followed by the Young Women's General Conference, I made myself wake up and get myself to church Sunday morning, pretty hammered with exhaustion. After our Young Women's opening exercises (I am YW president, by the way, a fairly new church calling) I went to sit down and listen to the lesson. While I was gone they had released one of our Laurel advisors, who had been scheduled to teach. I had spoken briefly with one of our teachers and had thought another advisor was covering the lesson, so when she said "You are teaching, aren't you?" I replied, "You are kidding, aren't you?"
Ali suggested we spend the next 45 minutes just gabbing about nothing important (in her own words), and many of the girls, ages 16-18, were tired from Prom the night before. The lesson manual said the lesson that should have been prepared was on families working together, or something like that. Instead I felt to teach them something about the Holy Week which began today with Palm Sunday. For the next little chunk of time I reviewed aloud the gift and beauty of the events of this week we celebrate, the week before the Savior took the steps that empowered all mankind, which ends with the most important of all holidays, Easter. I started by talking about Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, and Lent. A lot of this was newly arranged information to many of these girls, as we do not have formal religious services that celebrate these events in our church, though we do believe in the importance of the events themselves. When I told them about Lent I mentioned this little "personal sacrifice" I selected for myself during Lent: my word of the day writing. This exercise is demanding for me (this shows my general lack of discipline) and many days I wish I had not made this commitment. "But", I said, "I have seen some interesting and insightful things about myself through this exercise. First of all, I have proven to myself that I can actually do something uncomfortable. Repeatedly. Even on vacation and when I'm sick." That was a big thing for me, and really quite empowering. "Secondly, looking back through what I have written the last thirty something days, I have discovered that I am...odd." They giggled, and I tried not to be too offended at their nods. "Maybe a better word would be 'peculiar'", I pondered aloud. We Latter-day Saints are a peculiar lot. If I did not believe in earnest I would not be this way. But I do.
"I find", I told them, "that often what I write about is my faith, or my struggles with faith, or my gut feelings which involve by nature religious beliefs. Or I write about peculiarities having to do with the organization of the church, because that is so much a part of my daily life. And besides, simple things turn spiritual to me. Things are symbolic to me. They always have been. Ask my poor sisters, who could never watch a late-night-movie in peace because I had to note what things were symbolic." I wonder if they got what I was saying.
Part of me wants to be world-wise-normal, to think those thoughts that make it possible for men and women to live together before marriage, which make it ok to have a glass of wine or to have a beer at the ball park. Things that are completely expected these days, so much so that one becomes "odd" when they behave or think otherwise. Peculiar. Yuh, it is different, and those who would shake all persons through a homogenous mixer would attempt to criticize. The irony is that so many people think of Mormons as over-homogenous. I just tend to think that things like the ten commandments are commandments, not suggestions. And if I have peculiar beliefs about other things I think the Lord asks of me, that should be ok. I still like to listen to the radio. I like to shop in normal stores and see normal movies and cheer for normal ball teams. I laugh at most normal jokes, if they are not degrading to humans or animals. I read with interest most of the newspaper and watch Oprah when I have an afternoon at home. I cry at Hallmark commercials and think Jack Bauer is indestructible. So excuse please, what you might consider odd.
Please, call it peculiar.