April 3, 2009

Brand New Blog

Posted in Mormon life at 1:50 PM by Robin

Hey, everyone!  I have gotten such a great response to my last couple of posts that I have decided to create a new blog dedicated to the subject.   I feel like I can address a greater audience and more diverse subjects that way than would be appropriate on my personal blog.  It just didn’t seem right to have essays on the meaning of life and how to strengthen your testimony mixed in with posts about what cute things my kids have done lately or what color I’m painting the boys’ bedroom.

If you are interested in following the religious discussions I have begun, please check out The Stepping Stone.  I have copied over the past several posts to start it out, but I will be adding original content soon. I hope to be posting there twice a week (of course, we’ll have to see, since I am starting a new remodeling project!).  Thanks for your participation and positive feedback! (You know how I love feedback!)

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April 1, 2009

My Interpretation of Fowler’s Stages of Faith

Posted in Deep thoughts, Mormon life tagged , , , , , at 11:44 PM by Robin

garden-stairs

If you happened upon this post separately, please see my introduction and conclusions to the subject first, or it might not make a lot of sense!

I will try to briefly describe the stages and my interpretation of how it relates to my LDS perspective, but I apologize if someone is more well-versed in these theories and understands the psychology jargon better than I did. It’s kind of confusing anyway, since different sources have anywhere from five to seven stages, and it gets a little murky where one stage ends and the other begins. Just remember it is the process that it interesting, not what number the stage is assigned (in case I mess them up!).

The first stage begins as a very small child is taught the beginning precepts of a worldview or religion. This child accepts whatever his or her parents and others teach them as truth. They become acquainted with the ritual and tradition of their particular faith. This would be like teaching your two-year-old to take the sacrament. They learn the ritual, but they have no idea of the meaning behind it. They become familiar with the primary songs and what you do when you go to church. The second part of this stage expounds upon the first as the child develops more verbal skills. They learn the scripture stories and central characters of their religion, and develop their concepts of God. These characters are very real to them and they learn to love them almost as if they were people they were personally acquainted with. This is what we mean when we talk about childlike faith.

The next stage comes as the brain becomes able to process logic and causality (consequences). I’m pretty sure this corresponds with the ability to take responsiblity for your actions. Interestingly enough, this stage occurs around age 8, when LDS children are baptized, and continues on to age 11 or 12. During this stage, children begin learning how to glean additional meaning from stories and narratives. That means that when you teach them a scripture story, they understand that this is story, not about someone they might bump into on the street, but they can also understand a lesson taught through the story and be able to apply the situation of the story to situations in their own lives. In effect, this is the age when they begin to be able to actually “liken the scriptures” unto themselves.

The next stage begins in early adolescence, when the mind becomes capable of abstract thought. It is here you can look back on past experiences, see patterns within them, and gain meaning from them. Perhaps this can be related to a young person realizing that they feel a certain way whenever they are at church or reading the scriptures. The ability to have abstract thought also leads to another part of this stage, in which the person for the first time begins to question their beliefs as an individual, separate from their parents.  Youth strive to know for themselves whether they believe in the church. Many have spiritual experiences that convince them the church is true. Others at this age rebel against their parents and what they were taught and fall away from the church. Anyone who works with the youth can see this happening in both ways. It is also at this age that you begin to identify yourself with the community of your faith; it becomes as much a social attachment as a spiritual one.

The transition to the next stage comes as a person seeks a more personal relationship with God, and begins to spend a good deal of time in personal reflection and meditation (or prayer). I believe this is the time when an independant testimony is solidified. For me, I can see this transition occurring in my first couple of years at college, when there was no one looking over my shoulder, telling me to go to church, when I was separated from my closest friends, had a hard time making new ones, and really had no current social reasons to go to church. I did a lot of soul searching and praying during this time, and had several strong spiritual experiences which provided the basis for a solid testimony.

Like me, many people make the transition to this stage  in mid to late adolescence.  It is characterized by a firm, independent belief in the truth of the religion.  For a majority of people, this becomes a sort of plateau state in which they remain throughout the rest of their lives. One source estimated that perhaps 60% of individuals stayed at this point in their spiritual development. This group regularly attend meetings and serve within the church, they have a firm testimony and strive to keep all the commandments and live righteously. They are good, faithful people, but they have a hard time comprehending that anyone might question the beliefs they have come to accept as fact. They do not examine the paradoxes within their religion, and shy away from confronting some of the harder issues. For the remaining 40%, however, there comes a time when events in their life cause them to doubt the validity and strength of their convictions.

According to Fowler, while many late adolescents move quickly through the last stage and into this transition, it is much more common to find people in their thirties and forties struggling through it.  This transitionary period is the most difficult of all stages, usually marked by disillusionment and confusion–the mid-life crisis, so to speak. This transition is often prompted by situations of tension or adversity: conflicts or betrayals in personal relationships (which could be interpreted as anything from divorce to an argument with a fellow member of the church), apparent clashes between authority sources, changes in policies and practices (polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, etc), and encounters with other influences outside of one’s own past experience that lead to critical reflection on where you gained your values and how relevant they are to your current situation. Basically, any emotionally-charged situation that prompts you to call your faith into question could spark this transition, which can go on for several years. It is rare to find someone completing this transition and fully moving on the next stage before their mid-30s.,

However, once the transition is made, this next to last stage is characterized by what seems to be a deeper understanding of spiritual things.  Symbolic meanings are more fully comprehended, such as things taught in Isaiah or in the temple, and there is greater ability to be guided by what some sources called your “deeper self,” but I interpret to mean the Spirit. People who reach this stage understand that others have differing “worldviews”, and can handle conflict between opposing views with equanimity. I think this means that during this stage you have a greater surety within yourself of your personal beliefs. You are not threatened by others who believe differently than you do, but can understand and relate to people at all stages of faith. This is when your testimony becomes truly unshakable.

According to Fowler, the final stage is exceedingly rare. He calls those who reach this stage “Universalists”. These are great spiritual and religious leaders, great teachers, who have a huge impact upon the world they live in and the people they meet. They have an awareness and love for people of all walks of life, all races and religions. Often, Fowler points out, they challenge existing rules and ideas, and in so doing, make a lot of people uncomfortable. As a result, those who reach this stage often are martyred. They are often honored more after their death than during their life. As a Mormon, the first people who come to mind who would have reached this stage are Joseph Smith and many other we believe to be prophets. Some would claim that the Savior himself is the ultimate example of this ultimate stage of faith.

Stages of Faith

Posted in Deep thoughts, Mormon life tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:43 PM by Robin

All right, this will the first official subject in my series for those who are LDS and struggling. It is rather complex, so I have been working on this for several days in order to fully cover the topic.  Most of the other subjects I will be writing about in the future will not go on for so long, so don’t get too scared off!

As I mentioned in my previous post, because of some of the social pressure within our church (although, I would assume that such pressure is not limited to being LDS, and I’m sure manifests in other denominations), often those whose testimonies are wavering feel isolated and alone and unable to find positive support as they work through their confusion.  They feel ashamed that they are having doubts even as they struggle to overcome them.

What I would like to discuss is the idea that not only is it perfectly normal to confront your beliefs, it might actually be a step on the path to a higher level fowlerstagesoffaithof faith. I recently became acquainted with James Fowler’s theory on the stages of faith.  For a brief summary of his work, check out this site, or just Google it–there are plenty of other sources.  I will admit that I have not read the actual book, just heard a couple of podcasts and read some websites, but the concept intrigues me.

From what I understand, Fowler was analyzing how people related to their faith, whatever faith that might be–Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or possibly even Atheist–throughout the course of their lives. After conducting hundreds of interviews and surveys, he found a common pattern that occurred all across the board, corresponding with certain times of life and, I assume, brain development, and categorized this pattern into several stages.

The descriptions of each stage is very complex, with a lot of psychological/ philosophical jargon that is difficult to understand unless you have training in this area.  I do not have training in this area, so I just did the best that I could.  I tried to write a simplified description of some of the primary traits of each stage as I understood them and how I related them to my LDS experience, but it kind of made this post ridiculously long, so I decided to post that description separately.  It might be just as much reading material, but at least it’s broken up a bit!  (And you won’t have to read through the whole thing to get to my point)

I gained a lot of insight from each stage description. One thing I noticed is that the transition from stage to stage is pretty tense.  These transitions are a time of soul-searching, meditation, and truth-seeking.  Each transition moves us from one important stage to the next, from a child’s unquestioning acceptance, to a teenager’s quest for independent belief, to an adult’s strong faith in the precepts of their chosen religion.  Each transition is an opportunity to strengthen faith and progress in our understanding of spiritual truths.

The part I find most interesting about all this is that the most difficult transition Fowler describes is characterized by disillusionment, doubt and confusion after the stage where a firm, independent, adult testimony is obtained.  This transition can be brought on by exposure to conflicting ideas, betrayal within a relationship, or an issue with authority figures within the religion, among other things.  I was surprised that these were specifically mentioned, because aren’t these problems the basis for many people’s loss of faith? Acceptance of anti-mormon arguments, a grudge held against a bishop, a difficult divorce, or feeling unaccepted by a ward or branch are often leading causes for members to question their faith.

The amazing thing is that the next stage is one of peace and greater spiritual understanding.  Those who make it past the stressful transition period reach a stage when they are firm and secure in their beliefs and find deeper meaning in the scriptures and in temple worship.  This is the point I think we are all trying to reach,where we have truly examined our belief system and found that it holds up, after all. However, we cannot reach this stage of unshakable faith without the trials faced in our transitional stage, whether that transition was marked by physical, emotional, or intellectual struggles.

I think this is why these stages of faith speak to me so much.  I have come to believe that each of us must face an Abrahamic trial of some sort in our lives. It might not be as obvious as a one-time test of our obedience to a one-time commandment, as Abraham’s was. But then again, it might be! This “test” is different for every person. It could be a medical problem, the loss of a spouse or child, recurring financial stress, intellectual conundrums, not being able to get married or have children, or any other number of earthly trials.  In effect, it is any situation which shakes you to the core and makes you firmly examine whether your faith is built on a foundation of stone or of sand.  It might be something that is over within a few weeks, or it might be a lifelong problem.  Those whose faith cannot stand up to the test fall away.  Those who realize that their faith is strong enough to carry them across that gulf rarely need to question it again.  It makes me think of the story of the Martin-Willey handcart company, and the lore that not one of the people who went through that terrible experience ever left the churchstumbling-block1.

I have often shared the analogy of the stepping stone in lessons and talks I have given.  If you are climbing a mountain, and you come across a large rock blocking the path in front of you, you have two options: you can either see that rock as a stumbling block that will cause you to fall or stop your progress, or you can see it as a stepping stone, which, if you go to the effort to climb it, will bring you up to higher ground.  The nature of the rock itself does not change, only the way you choose to see it.

Personally, I don’t think I have gone through this kind of trial.  I’d say I’m somewhere in the solid testimony stage with the occasional glimpse of that transition period.  I can’t say that I’m really looking forward to it!  But I hope that I can pass the test, when the time comes.  My main purpose in sharing all this information with you who feel that you are full-fledged in the middle of that period of disillusionment and confusion is that you will remember that if you can just get through this difficult time, there is peace waiting on the other side.

“My peace I leave unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

March 29, 2009

LDS and Struggling?

Posted in Deep thoughts, Mormon life tagged , , , , , , , , , at 8:49 PM by Robin

This is a subject that I have been pondering over for some time now.  I have been hesitant to write about it, partly because I don’t know if my blogging audience wants me to write about something this serious, partly because I don’t want anyone to think that I am setting myself up as a religious authority of any kind who has the definitive answer to anything, and partly because I am a little afraid of the response I will get from the internet at large. But, nevertheless, I have found over the last few months that I have become increasingly aware, through conversations with friends and family, or comments written by people online on message boards or Facebook, of a number of people, some who I know well, and many who I don’t, who are active members of the LDS church that are silently struggling with their faith.

WorryMost of the people who fall into this category are longtime members who still attend church regularly, but who, for whatever reason, have started to question whether they truly believe everything this religion is asking them to accept.  Some are struggling with church structure, or have heard some disturbing  facts about early church history.  Some have gone through difficult trials that praying doesn’t resolve. A few have given into temptation, secretly experimenting with pornography or drugs or alcohol. Some have lost their faith entirely, but can’t imagine leaving the church completely because of the social and familial ties it would require breaking.  Many feel conflicted that they are questioning their faith in the first place, as if that act alone were a sin.

To you who find yourselves in this situation, I would like to share with you some of my thoughts and experiences on this struggle.  I don’t do this in a condescending way, as if I am the eternally faithful one who is so much more spiritual than you, but as one whose faith has also waxed and waned at different times.  It’s a little scary coming out and saying that, since I know that there are members of my ward that read this blog, and I am the wife of a member of the Bishopric.  Mormon culture discourages us from showing any external signs of doubt, especially if you are in a highly visible position within your ward or stake, but I think that does us a disservice, by not giving us a chance to help strengthen our fellow Saints who are feeling lost and confused.  If we express our doubts to friends or loved ones, we are often met with fear or concern for our spiritual welfare, or with answers that just don’t seem to resolve anything. Although we are encouraged to discuss concerns of this nature with our Bishop or other church leader, many are reluctant to do so, afraid of being judged as not worthy or even apostate.  Often, they turn to sources outside of the church to find their answers, but what they find only serves to increase their confusion.  I want you to know that I have had occasions when my faith has been rock solid, and times when I really doubted whether any of it could be true.

Basically, what I want to do is open a forum for discussion where members can help strengthen each other, where they can share their thoughts on subjects that they have been struggling with, and hear experiences of others who have gone through the same thing and who have actually come out the other side stronger in their faith.  There are far too many sites on the internet created by those who have begun questioning their testimonies and have fallen away from the church.  I want this to be a place where people can find that you can question your testimony and actually end up strengthening it.  Obviously, this is not a forum for anti-mormon arguments coming from those who have already closed their minds to the church.  If I receive any antagonistic comments, they will be immediately deleted.  But those who are honestly seeking answers about their concerns are always welcome to join the discussion.

Obviously, I don’t think I will be able to express all my thoughts on this subject in one post, so I will probably be making this subject into something of a series.  So much for lightening up the content on my blog!  I apologize if this is too deep for anyone, however, I just really feel that I need to get this out there.  There are things that I want to say that I never have to opportunity to say to those who really need it most.  I hope that the things discussed here will help someone else out there.  I promise once I get this off my chest I will start being funny again.  Or maybe I’ll be funny in between serious posts.  We’ll see!  Thanks, all!

March 15, 2009

The Big Bad Word

Posted in Days of my life, Deep thoughts, Family life, Just thinking..., Mormon life, Parenting tagged , , , , , , at 9:38 PM by Robin

swear

An argument between Lily and Brianna yesterday over computer rights ended with a very distraught Lily pulling on Bri’s hair and saying,” Get out of that chair, you…you b@#$%! (expletive rhyming with a popular Halloween costume.)”  Andrew and I were both standing right there, and instantly we both looked at each other in surprise.

“Did she just say what I think she just said?” we asked each other almost at the same time. Yes, friends, our darling, sweet, innocent little four-year-old girl, had just mouthed a common obscenity.  Now, being a product of our somewhat liberal generation, I suppose, rather than being shocked and outraged, we both had a hard time not bursting out into laughter.  Not that we are trying to encourage our daughter to have a foul mouth, but it just sounds insanely funny to hear a little girl trying out her first swear word.  You could tell she knew that it was a bad name, but I’m sure she didn’t think it any worse than calling her sister an idiot or stupidhead or any of the other charming names my children like to call each other.

Of course, we immediately took her aside and told her that particular word was not a good thing to say and that she shouldn’t say it anymore.  We didn’t punish her or anything, because the concept of swear words is itself a new one for her.  I mean, this is my third verbal child and I know by now that they are just little parrots at this age. If my nine-year-old started spitting out obscenities, there would be a bit more a punishment involved, as he knows full well what words he isn’t supposed to say. My two older kids have of course said swear words before, but I really don’t remember either of them using one in context in that way (although I do remember babysitting one of the girls from my ward when she was about four and she went around the house one day for about two hours straight saying, “Damn you! Damn you!” over and over again. Another time I had a hard time not laughing).

The thing that is troubling about this incident, of course, is trying to figure out where Lily heard that word.  Andrew and I never swear in normal conversation, although a mild expletive has been known to escape both of our lips on rare occasions when we are frustrated.  But neither of us ever uses that word in that way.  I didn’t think we were letting Lily watch any adult shows that included such language, but it’s almost certain that she heard it from some TV show or movie at some time (unless her preschool teacher has a really nasty mouth).  I mention this incident not because I am worried about my children being verbally corrupted by watching TV, as I believe that they learn appropriate language from their parents’ example more than any other source, and even then, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think swearing is really high on the list of terrible sins, but because it really reminds me how even the most careful parent can’t completely protect their children from all negative wordly experiences.  It’s a little bit scary.

So, what it is a good parent to do?  Obviously, we can’t raise our children in a bubble. They will be exposed to negative influences, sooner or later, and inappropriate language is definitely not the worst of that sort of thing.  It c-young-soldiermakes me think that the best we can do is really teach and prepare our children to face the evils of the world.  Ignorance will not serve them well in the battle ahead.  If you are in a battle, you try to educate your soldiers about the enemy’s tactics and strategies.  Your armor is built to withstand the specific weapons of your opponent.  In the same way, as we put on the armor of God, we should educate our children about the most vulnerable areas that Satan will be aiming for, and how best to deflect those blows. We have to start young, because the enemy starts young.  It’s sad, but it’s true.

I wish I could raise my children in perfect innocence and not open their eyes to the evils of the world until they are more mature.  However, I don’t think this world will allow me that chance.  I am not afraid for them and the future they will face, but I do plan on preparing them and strengthening them for the battle ahead.   My kids are going to hear swear words, whether I want them to or not.  But I as a parent am the stronger influence on them, and my teachings and example are more likely to be what determines whether they will choose to follow the ways of the world or to rise above it.

January 14, 2009

New Year, New Me? Let’s hope…

Posted in Days of my life, Family life, Girl Stuff, Mormon life tagged , , , , at 2:59 PM by Robin

 

Like 95% of Americans, I have resolved to lose weight this year.  Again.  It really hit home when we gathered together with the Lambert family last weekend to watch the 2008 DVD collection of everyone’s pictures and home videos.  Despite mydesperate attempts to avoid all cameras this year, occasionally someone did manage to capture me on (digital) film. I really hardly recognized myself.  I mean, I know it’s me, but it doesn’t look like me.  My face seems all distorted and strange-looking.  I don’t even really care about my body in these pictures, I just hate that some fat person keeps jumping in front of me whenever someone takes my picture.  It’s kind of distressing to me to know that I will still be overly large in all the pictures from our upcoming Disney World trip and that I probably won’t like looking at those pictures, either.  We have some pictures on our wall from when Andrew and I went to Disney World on our honeymoon, eleven years ago, and at the time I thought I looked terrible in them because my hair was way frizzed out and flying all over the place, but now, I can only hope to get back to looking as good as I do in those pictures.  I really don’t want to spend the rest of my life running away from cameras.  And I don’t want my children to grow up remembering me at my current size.

I’ve come to terms with not looking like a supermodel long ago, and I really don’t expect  or need to get down to a size 6, but it would be nice to downsize from moderately obese to pleasantly plump.  For one thing, I’m sick of having to shop in the “Women’s” section (which by the way, is a very annoying way of saying “Fat Ladies”.  I mean, the “Men’s” section is for men of all sizes.  But women have to shop in either the “Misses” or the “Women’s”, which kind of gives the impression that once you grow up and get married, you automatically double in size). It seriously limits your fashion options.

It’s not just about looks, either.  I’ve been having a few minor health problems that would probably be alleviated if I were able to lose a few pounds, like insomnia, sinus problems, and (worse than usual) varicose veins (I know–Ewww).  I would like to take care of that before my minor health concerns become major ones.  They say that just losing ten percent of your body weight can drastically improve your overall health.  So, that’s going to be my starting goal. I hope to lose 10% of my (currently undisclosed) weight by Lily’s birthday, May 3rd. That should put me back at a little less than my pre-James weight, which is certainly not ideal, but is a heck of a lot better than where I am now.

In order to be successful at this endeavor, I need to figure out what’s holding me back.  I have just signed up at a small gym close to our house that is opening up this week (about time–Riverton has been gym-free since we moved here almost nine years ago), but that’s only the first step.  This gym doesn’t have child care, and it is ridiculously difficult to find a time when Andrew can stay home with the children–seriously, he has something EVERY SINGLE NIGHT this week!  (You guys wonder how I can stand having him do plays?  Well, it’s not a whole lot different than normal life at our house.)  Fortunately, his mornings can be flexible sometimes, so we’re going to try to get me over there a couple of mornings a week and on Saturday. 

I’m hoping just getting some actual exercise will give me an initial bump, but I’ve got to figure out how to resolve my nutrition issues.  There are several problems here: first, I’m at home all day with immediate access to all the food at any time. Second, I have to make like ten meals a day, since everyone here seems to need to eat five or six times a day, and I just get really tired of having to prepare stuff that takes time, like chopping vegetables.  Third, nobody in my family will eat anything with vegetables in it.  I would be much  more prone to eating  more salads and stir-frys and salmon and other healthy stuff if I wasn’t the only one who would touch them. Fourth, times are tight for everyone, and I can never (and I mean NEVER) actually manage to keep my grocery spending to the budget that Andrew expects me to.  I simply can’t afford to eat as healthy as I would like.  Especially if I have to make my meals in addition to whatever I have to make that my family will actually eat.

I want you all to understand that I am not trying to make flimsy excuses here.  These are real, difficult obstacles for me.  Believe it or not, I actually do enjoy exercising.  I have missed working out for the past two years.  And I like eating healthy food–I don’t drink soda, I’m not a real big cheese fan, I love almost all vegetables, and I’m not too big on fried foods–so I don’t fit the stereotypical fat American profile.  I can’t just cut soda out of my diet and lose twenty pounds when I only drink soda once or twice a month.  I do snack a lot during the day, and I have absolutely no resistance to sweets. So, there are all my issues laid out for you all to see.  I write this not to complain or whine, but because I could really use some help figuring out how to overcome these problems.  Online diets are not for me.  Keeping track of calories is really annoying and just won’t happen.  I need to find a real life solution.  I would love to be able to post before and after pictures next January and say, “Wow, I can’t believe I ever looked like that!”  If that happens, I’ll be happily jumping in front of any camera that comes my way.

November 2, 2008

“I Could Hear You Over Everybody Else!”

Posted in Days of my life, Mormon life, Something exciting! tagged , , , , , , , at 1:53 PM by Robin

Last night I had the awesome and amazing experience of singing in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.  For those of you visitors who might not be familiar with this building, it is not only one of the most historic and sacred non-temple buildings to our LDS faith, but also an incredible feat of acoustic engineering.  The high domed ceiling and oval shape of the hall make every sound from the front resonate beautifully throughout the entire room, which can seat up to 2500 people.  Used for many years as the location of the LDS General Conference and other meetings, I believe its main use today is more of a concert hall than anything else.  Many musicians hope for a chance to play or sing in the Tabernacle, and lucky me, I was able to enjoy that opportunity as part of “We Also Sing.”

The ironic part of this is that my debut in the Tabernacle was in a women’s chorus, because you know what?  I’m not really much of a singer.  I played piano and violin for many years, and most of my performance oppurtunities earlier in my life were as part of an orchestra.  So, although I have plenty of music training, I have absolutely no actual vocal training.  I have no problem reading the music, and can carry a tune and hit the right pitch more often than not, but when it comes to all the various nuances that combine to make a truly beautiful singing voice–vibrato, breath control, vowel shaping, etc–I am really at a complete loss.  Fortunately, you don’t have to audition for this choir, so even the unexperienced like me can participate. That doesn’t mean that the music was easy.  On the contrary, some of it was very difficult.  But that’s what made it so fun, to me.  I need things to make me stretch and try harder and learn new things.  I really thrive on that.

By the way, two big differences between an orchestra concert and a vocal concert: in orchestra, we got to sit down the whole time!  After a two hour rehearsal and two performances, standing almost the whole time, my feet were quite sore.  Second, nobody really cares what your face looks like when you’re playing the violin.  Nobody cares if you’re looking down at your music the whole time (you develop your peripheral vision pretty well in order to read your music and keep an eye on the conductor at the same time).  Our choir director, Merilee Webb, would often emphasize to us in rehearsal to “share the love” and spirit of the music we were singing through our eyes and facial expressions.  So, I really made a valiant effort to summon forth my emotive acting skills and tried to look like the singers you see on taped BYU concerts (the ones that the camera always comes back to, because they have their eyebrows up the highest, or a touching tear trickling down their cheek).  By the second concert, I was really into it, too.  But afterward, my mother-in-law mentioned how cute I was up there and that she had been watching me, and as I often do, I started fretting about it more than if she hadn’t said anything at all, wondering if I had been overdoing it and making an idiot of myself.  The last thing I actually wanted to do was stand out from the other 360 some-odd women up there!  Fortunately, it wasn’t taped or anything, so I’ll never really know if I looked absolutely ridiculous or not.

Speaking of standing out, there is a long-standing joke in Andrew’s family, who have all participated in many different choirs:  “You were great!” they like to say to you after a performance, “I could hear you over everybody else!”  It might sound like a compliment, unless you are a choir person, and you know that the ideal as a choir is to blend together with all the other singers, so that you all sound like one voice.  I’m sure this inside joke originated with Andrew’s dad, Kent, commenting on one of Andrew’s early performances, since he has never been shy about singing out, as anyone knows who has ever sat next to him in sacrament meeting.  (Parley follows pretty closely in his footsteps, as anyone knows who has ever sat through a primary program in our ward.)  So, the funny thing was, as I went up to greet my family after the concert, my beaming mother (who has sat through more band and orchestra concerts of varying levels of musicality than I can possibly count, but who has not seen any of her children perform in an actual choir up until last night) came up to me and hugged me, and said, in full sincerity, “Oh, I was so proud of you.  And maybe it was my imagination, but I was sure that there were times when I could hear you over everybody else!”  Andrew’s family members were standing right there, and of course, they got a real big kick out of it. 

Anyway, it was a wonderful experience, and both performances went really well, and I had a great time.  I don’t know what excuse I’m going to be able to find to get out of the house and away from my family once a week from now on.  Suggestions, anyone?

October 7, 2008

Free Concert!!! Please Come!!!

Posted in Days of my life, Mormon life, Something exciting! tagged , , , , , , at 11:45 AM by Robin

OK, everybody, I would love to see you all come out and support me and my sisters-in-law, Liz and Holly, by attending the performance of our choir, We Also Sing. (For those of you in my ward, Camille Bergstrom is also in it). We Also Sing is a 365-voice all-women choir led by Merilee Webb, and we will be singing in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Saturday, Nov. 1st.  We are one of the largest all-women choirs in the country! There will be two performances, one at 5:30 PM, and one at 7:30 PM.  Tickets are totally and completely free, but they do go fast, so don’t wait too long to get yours.  You can either arrange for me to get them for you, or you can order them online at http://www.lds.org/events/info/0,8197,726-1-676,00.html  or by calling 801-570-0080 (locally) or toll-free 1-866-537-8457 (1-866-LDS-TIKS).

This will really be an awesome concert, guys.  All of the pieces we are singing are wonderful, and some are absolutely incredible.  There is quite a variety of music, from arrangements of hymns, to Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up, to selections from Mass by Leonard Bernstein.   We will be singing in Latin, French, Hebrew, Italian, and Hawaiian.  There are some extremely talented people in the choir, and then there are some, like me, whose love for singing maybe outpaces their ability for it, but Merilee helps us all come together and sound great.  I promise that if you come, you will be inspired and touched by the music that we sing.  And it’s free!  What more could you want?  It’d make a great date!  You would be supporting me and the others in the choir of course (and come on, I NEVER do stuff like this anymore, right?), but I believe that it will be a truly great experience for you, musically and spiritually.  If you have any further questions, just ask!

(Normally, they ask that you don’t bring children younger than eight years to performances in the tabernacle, but they will make an exception in our case for the 5:30 performance.  If your child is over five and you feel that they are capable of sitting quietly for a ninety-minute performance, go ahead and bring them, but if your experience with them in sacrament meeting tells you that doing so is a near-impossible task, you might want to get a babysitter.)

If you would like a preview of some of the songs, I have found some youtube performances by other people (different arrangements), so you can get an idea of what to expect. (I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but Andrew always says that he enjoys a concert more if he is familiar with the songs).

How Beautiful 

Sure On This Shining Night

Cantique de Jean Racine, by Gabriel Faure

October 3, 2008

Getting Kids to Listen to Conference

Posted in Days of my life, Family life, Mormon life, Something exciting! tagged , , , , , , , at 3:38 PM by Robin

Well, folks, it’s General Conference time again, and I don’t know about you, but I’m girding up my loins to face the epic battle ahead.  Is it finding a parking spot in downtown Salt Lake City over the weekend, you ask?  No, I believe I have only once actually attended conference dowtown in person, sometime during my BYU years.  Is it trying to figure out how to stay awake during the second half of the Sunday afternoon session?  No, although that will probably be a minor skirmish.  No, my friends, the battle that lurks on the horizon is that of getting my kids to sit still and watch at least some of conference without claiming that their parents are the minions of Satan and are taking away their free agency by forcing them to be righteous (yes, Parley has actually tried using that argument, if not in those exact words). 

Now, I’m a realist.  I know that a seven-year-old’s attention span does not last for the duration of a thirty-minute talk by a member of the First Presidency, and I realize that the majority of what’s being said will exceed their listening comprehension abilities.  But Andrew and I are still determined to get them to listen and understand at least a portion of the words of our prophet and other leaders of the church.  Does anyone have any suggestions that have worked for you with your kids?  Do you remember something your parents did that helped you enjoy conference more?  For now, I’m going to search online for some sort of worksheets (there’s got to be something out there), and employ good ol’ bribery. I’m going to try getting some Halloween candy, and giving them one piece for every talk they sit through.  Hey, we’re operating on a pre-telestial level here, right?  There is that saying about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar (we’ve tried the vinegar, i.e. commands and threats, and it doesn’t produce the desire effect).  Anyway, I’m open to your good advice here, folks!  Help me out!

January 30, 2008

Blogging about the Church

Posted in Deep thoughts, Just thinking..., Mormon life tagged , , , , , , at 12:23 AM by Robin

gordon-b-hinckley.jpgI’ve been spending a lot of time the last couple of days reading blogs about President Hinckley.  What a wonderful blessing we have in the internet in being able to share our thoughts and feelings about him and the church with so many people.  It is so much more personal, so much more uplifting and inspiring, to hear other people’s thoughts on his life, than it is to just read a press release and its accompanying biographical sketch.  There was remarkably little about President Hinckley’s death on the main media outside of Utah.  I didn’t get a chance to watch the national news yesterday—does anyone know if they actually mentioned it there?  I saw some brief headlines on MSN.com and Yahoo, but they were quickly replaced by more breaking news on whether or not Mary Kate Olsen would be interviewed concerning Heath Ledger’s death.  Shows you where the rest of the world places their priorities, right?  Not that I really blame them.  I mean, seriously, if you weren’t a member of the church, you probably wouldn’t have any idea who the mormon prophet was, if he’s not that guy who was arrested for polygamy. 

Anyway, I have found it to be a fitting tribute to President Hinckley to read the many memorials posted about him.  Many of them quote his testimony from his conference addresses, many share their own personal witness of his calling and his effect upon their lives, many express their sadness that he is gone, but their joy that he is reunited with his beloved wife.  One began hers with a link to a talk given by Elder M. Russell Ballard  (excellent, please read) at BYU-Hawaii at their graduation last December in which he urged us as members of the church to use the internet and our blogs to share our testimonies and information about the church.  My favorites are the experiences of those who met him in person, like this essay written forty years ago, and this post by a young man who was a missionary companion of his grandson, and this one, who posted some wonderful, informal pictures.

This has been a great reminder of the blessing that technology can be when used correctly.  It makes the world a smaller place, as I can share in these deeply personal thoughts and feelings of members of the church on the other side of the world.  It’s almost as if we were all in one big room, having a sort of informal wake, sharing our memories of this man who has blessed so many lives.

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