Standing for Something

My husband, daughter and I spent some time late last night watching the re-run of a program that was aired in Australia on the Four Corners program yesterday. For those of you who don’t know, Four Corners, in the past, has been recognised as one of the most even handed current affairs programs available on Australian TV. So it was with some disappointment that I viewed their take on Mitt Romney’s US Presidential Candidacy, and his Mormon links. Which I might add, failed to make a connection between what they started out reporting on, and what they actually ended up reporting.

I was a little loathed to talk about this here, as the program, ‘The Mormon Candidate’, is a highly biased representation of the Church. Why promote something so biased? But I was so exasperated that the program, like a broken record, stooped to rehash the age old question of polygamy and the church, as well as rely almost solely on the word of disgruntled ex-members of the church who have long since left it, to justify our so called ‘cult’ status.

I just felt that I needed to make some comments here that might inspire each of us to take a stand for something.

The Australian people deserve much more than what was dished out to them last night. The Four Corners producers showed little respect for its audience when they sensationalised something that has not been in practice in the church for over 100 years. Indeed in one part of the program they went into the home of a practicing polygamist, and held it up as a measure against the church. A family who were clearly breaking the laws of the land were determined to be more ‘normal’ than faithful, law abiding, community contributing, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I believe that each of us has a responsibility to make it known that we are tired of this kind of sensationalist reporting.

There is so much good being done out there by our members. The sacrifices they make daily to serve each other, to serve in the community, and to contribute positively to a very unhappy world that has mostly lost its way. We need to allow the world to be able to understand us with the correct information.

So, while I stop short of urging you to go and make a comment on the Four Corners website, I would certainly encourage you to take every opportunity to ride the wave of conversation that will be out there this week, to demystify the Australian public view on who we are as individuals, and a community as a whole. Don’t be afraid to speak up. We should be proud of our contribution to the world, and we should allow others to recognise that.

Let’s be passionate about it, but calm. Let’s be forthright about it, but show restraint, love and respect.

For those of you who are interested, yes I did post a comment on Four Corners‘ message board. It has not appeared on their website yet, so here is what I wrote:

Four Corners, where is the balance in the reporting? I have to say that at times I felt like I was watching one of those trashy “10 Worst…” television programs that kept getting stuck, like a broken record, on the first two over and over again (for those Millennials out there who don’t know what a ‘record’ is, it is another of those antiquated things of the past that get talked about at boring parties, just like the issue of polygamy and Mormonism).

There is so much more to the religious faith of Mormons than the tiring issue of Polygamy. For future reference here is something that I would be more interested in hearing about:

  • Who were the two men who took time out to visit that young single mum to minister to her after the birth of her child? Even tho’ they did not know her well, and that she was ungrateful. Bearing that same priesthood power that both the Saviour and Bishop Romney bore.
  • Who were the group of men (all married with their own family and work commitments) from my congregation who, for three months, spent several hours a week each, transporting another elderly member to his dying wife’s hospital bedside so he could read poetry to her each night before she went to sleep?
  • Who are the women (many who have children of their own) who volunteer two hours every Sunday to care for 14 small children so their young mothers can have some time to worship and find spiritual nourishment to face the coming week?
  • Who is the young 19 year old who feels so passionate about her religious beliefs that she spends two years saving every penny (while also studying fulltime at university) so that she can finance herself for 18 months on a mission for the church, teaching what she believes?

Please, next time, can you not patronise Australians with the same old, same old, unbalanced reporting and give us something worth viewing? 

You call that an email?

10 easy ways to get your missionary to communicate…

I remember a friend telling me once how frustrated she was that her missionary son only wrote two sentences each week to the family. She felt robbed of a sense of his mission experience and feeling a part of the growth he was undergoing.

While it is important for those of us who are at home to get news from our missionary, the lack of information, from time to time, is probably a sign that your missionary is working very hard, is highly focused, and enjoying the experience.

However, if your missionary finds it hard to write more than a sentence or two every week, or is persistently missing those weekly emails, then there are some things that you can do to encourage a better flow of news and information.

Before listing those things I wish to highlight something that each of us need to remember. In the July 2003 Ensign, Dallas and Marjorie Bradford wrote,

“Once your missionary enters the MTC, everything you say and do should help him or her stay focused on the task and challenges ahead”.

I cannot stress this point more. A missionary’s number one purpose for being where they are is to do the work of the Lord. So all our communications with them should be limited to topics that allow them to maintain their focus. But I will talk more about this in another post…

In doing some research for this post I came across an article from the March 1989 Ensign, under ‘Random Sampler’, that suggested missionaries could purchase, “some loose-leaf paper about half the size of an Ensign page” and slip a piece of carbon paper between a sheet and their journal. Then, by writing in their journal each day, they could also include a copy of their daily journal entry with their weekly letter home.

Well, we have come a long way since then haven’t we?

So here are the 10 top suggestions on how to get your missionary to write more interesting and newsy emails each week. You can try one, or all of them:

  1. Keep your emails simple. Don’t overload them with so much information that your missionary can’t work out where to start to reply to them.
  2. At the end of each email to your missionary, list three specific questions you would like them to answer in their reply email. This is for two main reasons:
    1. Firstly, by separating the questions from the body of your email, it becomes apparent to your missionary what you most want to know about.
    2. Secondly, by putting them at the end of the email, your missionary will be more likely to remember to answer them.
  3. Encourage them to keep a journal if they are not already doing it. Even if it is just a couple of sentences a day recording what they did.
  4. Ask them to bring their journal with them the next time they write an email to you and share one thing they have recorded in it over the last week.
  5. Ask them to attach at least two photos they have taken over that week and include a quick comment about each one.
  6. Ask specific questions, such as:
    • Where did you work this week
    • Name two people you contacted, and what were their responses
    • What is their apartment like, or what do they see out their bedroom window.
  7. Keep your emails brief so they have enough time to answer.
  8. If you can’t get them to write weekly, then get a loose-leaf binder for them to write in as their journal. Then get them to send home some of the pages each month through the mail…that carbon paper idea is looking better every minute.………
  9. …….
  10. …….

Ok, so I didn’t make it to 10 as promised. But I am sure that there are some great ideas out there. PLEASE share them with us here.

What is it that you do to encourage your missionary to write more?

In memory of my life…a vision of the future

Not long ago I went on an overnight sailing trip with several of the Young Women in my ward. We moored overnight in a small cove within one of the many beautiful islands surrounding Auckland Harbour.

In the morning we decided to explore the tiny island that had been our shelter for the night. As we climbed to the highest point we noticed a single row of white headstones. Their etched inscriptions facing toward their destinination, but not quite making it. Each of them told a story of tragic circumstance, of lives cut short, and reminded us of our brief mortal presence here on earth.

As we gathered around to enjoy the view I asked each of the girls to tell me about the vision they had for their future. Tho’ there were many of them who had not yet formulated a full vision of where they wanted to be in the next 10 years, it was a reminder to me of how important it is for each of us to understand the plan that the Lord has for us.

Elder O. Vincent Haleck, in the 2012 Sunday afternoon session of General Conference suggested that, “If we are to prosper rather than perish, we must gain a vision of ourselves as the Savior sees us”.

I remember contemplating this very thing over 30 years ago when a tiny seed of an idea was formulating in my mind. I was 20 yrs. old, had just arrived back in Australia after spending almost a year in the UK with my parents, and wondered where my life was to take me from  that point. I had the world at my feet as a 20 yr. old, but I just couldn’t get a grip on what I needed to do.

I had never contemplated the idea that I could, or would, serve a mission. Indeed, as a child the idea never entered my mind, and certainly as a teenager it was the last thing I would have addressed. But at 20, it began as a tiny seed of enquiry.

This was the first time I considered the scripture that Elder Haleck read out recently in conference, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 21:18). It was also the first time in my life I considered my future with the realisation that I could actually really mess things up if I didn’t have some kind of vision of what the Lord wanted me to do with it.

My journey of enquiry took me to many places that year. In my mind and heart I considered  many options, and in the end I turned to my patriarchal blessing for some answers. I began to create a vision in my mind as to what my purpose was, and what the Lord would have me do.

Tho’ I couldn’t predict my future, there were certain truths that I couldn’t deny.

  1. This life is so short, and we don’t have time to indulge ourselves in selfish pursuits.
  2. The choices we make now will have a lasting effect, not only on us, but upon the lives of others.
  3. The Lord knows us even better than we know ourselves.
  4. To act on vision we must apply faith.

This journey of self discovery took me to places that allowed me to glimpse the possibilities. It was that year that I truly understood the wisdom of Solomon, “Where there is no vision the people perish”. I discovered that I could obtain a vision of my future, and that vision would allow me to prosper.

But, even more importantly, that vision allowed me to prepare for the day when I could fulfill things I thought I could never do. Through missionary service I was able to sew the seed of faith and vision in the lives of many individuals and families. Through my life as a mother, I am far better prepared to sew the seeds of faith and vision in the lives of my children.

Unlike those tiny headstones that were perched on the top of that island – in sight of the city of their destination, but cut short by tragedy – I prepared myself for the journey of life. In choosing to serve a mission I know that I was fulfilling a purpose that the Lord had set out for me. From that point on it didn’t matter how long or short my life would be on this earth, my path was set and it would lead me in the direction that the Lord wanted me to take.

I know that I will arrive at my destination no matter what this mortal existence involves, as long as I maintain that vision and exercise faith.

Mormons in Australia

From MMM I would like to wish each of you a happy Easter, and hope that you can take time over this weekend to ponder on the significance of events that took place over 2,000 years ago. I am so grateful for the sacrifice of our Saviour, who has allowed us the opportunity to live again.

I have  included a video here on the 2012 World Report on ‘Mormonism in Australia’. So if you have some time please have a look at it. Missionary work here in Australia has come a long way, and I am proud to be a part of it.

Some of those people highlighted on this video are personal friends, and my families associations with them have extended back to well before my childhood.

Thanks for visiting…and I look forward to reading your comments.

Carry neither purse, nor scrip…

The suitcase of Faith

Our missionary outside the MTC with her suitcase of Faith

It was almost 12 months ago that our family crammed into the family car and drove out to the airport to bid farewell to our daughter, the newest missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Preparing for that day involved, not only concerted spiritual readiness, but also foresight into what clothing needs she would have. Gone are the days when missionaries were expected to embark with, “…no purse, nor scrip, nor shoes…”(Luke 10:4)

For us, that preparation took on quite a unique nature.

While our missionary daughter was already well prepared with much of her personal clothing needs, coming from the fairly temperate climate of the pacific, she was not ready for the possible sub-zero weather conditions of mid-western USA.

As all mothers do, I panicked. My daughter was going to die from hypothermia on some quiet Utah street. Four months out from her departure, and from our humble abode in Sydney, Australia, I could not imagine how we were ever going to kit her out with enough warm clothes to avoid this outcome.

Typically, my daughter seemed to think that she could survive on what she had…

This was probably the first time I had to contemplate the principle of ‘faith’ as the mother of a missionary. But, desperate times require desperate measures…well that’s how I saw it anyway.

Coincidentally, my husband and I were heading out on a trip to General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah just three weeks before she departed. So a plan was hatched…

With shopping list in hand, my spare time while over there was spent ticking off each item. With the help of my husband, and lots of size guessing, I managed to fill one middle size suitcase with winter-ready clothes. Part one of my plan was complete.

Part two required that faith I was fast acquiring…I left the suitcase there. That’s right, I didn’t take it home with me.

My daughter had a total of one day, upon arrival in Utah, to try the clothes on and make any exchanges or adjustments needed. How’s that for an exercise in faith? I say, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).

I am pleased to report that I not only managed to please her with my design choices, she actually survived the freeze of her first winter in America.

I am sure many of you were faced with similar decisions when helping your missionary prepare for their adventure. I would love to hear your story here.

Respect and Protect

The Privacy of OthersWhen my daughter received her mission call in the mail, that is not all she got that week. A few days after opening her call, and after she had broadcast to family and friends where she was going and when she was leaving, she received another interesting letter in the mail box.

It was addressed to her as a sister missionary. Upon opening it, she was surprised to find that the letter contained literature that was not favourable to the church. In fact it was clear that she had been targeted by an individual, or group, because she was a newly called missionary for the church. While the contents of the letter found its way to the bin very quickly, it highlighted something that we should all be very aware of in todays connected world.

Be very careful about what you share online…

Not just what you share about yourself, but what you share about others, including your loved ones. Now, I don’t really know where this person or group got her contact details from, as I’ve taught all my children from a young age to be very careful about what they share online, but there are multiple ways that people can find details if they really want to – both online and offline.

So, when developing this blog, I was very sensitive to the privacy issues that could arise from such a site. For that reason I have created a page, ‘Terms of Service’, in which I outline the privacy policy for this blog. This is for two main reasons:

1. We need to be mindful of the privacy of those who don’t participate in this blog. Particularly when we are discussing various conversion stories, or the personal lives of investigators. These people are on the brink of discovering who they are and seeking change in their lives. Let’s allow them to make this change on their terms, not on ours in a public space.

2. There are individuals (and groups) out there who will go to any means to thwart the work our missionaries are doing, including personal attacks directed towards them through letters, emails and other means. Opposition will come to them in many forms, not just at the door.

Hence, I direct you to my ‘Terms of Service‘ page so you can understand that I have the interest of your missionary sons, daughters and their investigators at heart, and a hope that we can all respect and protect those we love. Indeed, my motto is:

“Think before you share, and ask before you post…”

What you can expect…

It seems that every month or so I will get an email from my daughter that reflects some kind of discouragement she is experiencing. Whether it is with those she has been teaching, a lack of teaching opportunities, or just discouragement about her personal progression, there is always an opportunity for us to give her some added encouragement.

This is one of the reasons I started this blog. I am sure there are plenty of mums out there who have had similar feelings, or similar questions.

So the other day I sat down and started jotting down some ideas. Just some ideas of things I can talk about on Missionary Mum’s Meeting Place (MMM). Before I knew it I was up to about 50.

So here are a few from what I have come up with so far…just to wet your appetite.

  1. You call that an email? Ways to get your missionary to write better…
  2. Mum, I think I landed on another planet! Handling culture shock
  3. When your mission is cut short. Perspectives from a mother.
  4. Why is it that father always knows best? The importance of a father’s counsel.
  5. When marriage takes precedence. This one’s for the girls…
  6. Carry neither purse nor scrip. The lengths we go to, to dress our missionary.
  7. The Romney Affect. A quick call out for how Mitt Romney has affected missionary work.
  8. 10 things I love about missionaries. From my precious YW

But, what is motivating me the most is that I get to have lots of guest writers. I certainly don’t have all the answers or all the experience, so I am going to mix it up a bit and invite lots of friends and fellow bloggers to contribute their perspectives.

I am really excited to start. So I will sign off now and get writing…