Nauvoo Thoughts 2 – I Want You! (conditions may apply)

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As I was walking around Nauvoo, idly daydreaming about the area, I thought that it might be a cool place to go on a mission. I entertained this thought for a while, but then a question interrupted my reverie: could I serve a church mission as an older single man?
In all of my time in the church, I’ve never, as far as I know, seen an older, single man serving a mission alone. I know women can be companions and serve together, and, of course, couples can serve together, but can men serve in the same way?

After a brief internet search I found the missionary handbook. Appendix A is called “Guidelines for Couples and Senior Sisters.” The body text makes it pretty clear that only couples or sisters can serve missions. I’m sure there’s a reason for that somewhere, but I have no idea what the reason is. To me it would make sense to send older men on missions, particularly to areas where they need more priesthood.

Regardless of the reason, it was an interesting experience. Let me preface my comments about this by saying that I try to be widely read on a lot of topics, and I often read opposing viewpoints on things because frequently both sides have some legitimate (or at least legitimate-sounding) points. In that spirit, I follow some of the Mormon Feminists online.

The reason I thought of them is because I was contemplating a situation in which I was part of a group where I wouldn’t be allowed to serve in the way that I wanted (they would call it being marginalized), and it kind of bugged me. It’s not a situation that I’m used to, since I’m a straight, white, male. I once jokingly called myself “Captain McPrivilege” in a class when discussing modern sociology. So while I’m not whole-heartedly endorsing the Mormon Feminist message and movement, I think I can see maybe a little bit better where they’re coming from. It can be a difficult pill to swallow if you want to serve, but are told that you can only serve in a particular way.

I’m not interpreting this as a call to action, or even a call to agreement. Perhaps there can be such a thing as a call to understanding? Or a call to compassion? That’s something I could definitely get behind.

Nauvoo Thoughts 1

Allison familyphotos 0614 050It’s been about a week since we visited Nauvoo, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it. Our whole trip had nice weather, except for the day we decided to spend in Nauvoo. It rained. Lots. We took a covered wagon ride around the town, and even though it was covered, everyone still had to wrap up in several layers of blankets in order to stay dry and warm. While there were dozens of old houses and other attractions to visit, the one thing that I really felt excited about was the brass band’s hymn concert.

Before each hymn, a band member would stand up and give a little information about the hymn and a short testimony.We haven’t had too many Sundays since Bonnie got her most recent diagnosis, so I wasn’t really prepared for how much the hymns would affect me. The hymns talk about faith and hope, but those virtues are often described in the context of exercising them while experiencing loss, pain, and death.

Praise to the Man is all about the martyrdom of Joseph Smith.
How Firm a Foundation talks about God being with us in our trials. Sickness, fear, fiery trials, poverty–all of those and more get a mention in this song.
Lead, Kindly Light takes us through encircling darkness so thick that you can’t even see one step ahead.
Be Still My Soul describes all of us as burdened with a cross, which is not immediately lifted. The advice given is to have patience and bear your cross along thorny ways.
Brightly Beams our Father’s Mercy talks about people stuck in sin and being lost and alone in life’s storms.
Come, Come, Ye Saints is especially poignant in Nauvoo when it talks about dying “before our journey’s through” because of all the people who lost their lives before making it to Utah.

Listening to all the hymns, I was struck with a sense of how much the composers understood life. These hymns deal with difficult subjects, and they’re not meant to be simple platitudes or lip service to faith and endurance. The people who wrote these words understood. Bonnie’s cancer is an overwhelming, heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, soul-crushing experience.

But (and here’s the important part) this experience won’t break my little family if we don’t let it, and the way to get through is to cling to God. I find comfort in one of the other hymns that the band played: If You Could Hie to Kolob. Pain, sorrow, and heartache-even death-are all temporary things. The things that really matter are eternal.

There is no end to virtue;
There is no end to might;
There is no end to wisdom;
There is no end to light.

There is no end to union;
There is no end to youth;
There is no end to priesthood;
There is no end to truth.

There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is not end to being;
There is no death above.