Zion: a not-so-distant view

The Bloggernacle is permeated with a certain level of criticism about the LDS Church and its members — a lot of it mild and affectionate, or at least tolerant, and often meant to be constructive. But a fair amount of it is quite negative, hostile or even scathing. Yet there are weeks like this where I will cheerfully match up Latter-day Saints against any other group of people you care to name. Here’s what took place in the past week or so in our ward:

1) A young married woman in our ward got news a bit over a week ago that her brother (in another state, also married) had disappeared under unusual circumstances. We had a ward fast for her extended family last weekend. Her brother’s body was found early this past week, and several women in our ward pitched in to help her, her husband, and their young chidlren pull things together on short notice to travel out of state for her brother’s funeral and burial. While this family has been gone, the sisters in the wards put together about 10 days of frozen meals for them for when they get back, while the elders spent a good part of yesterday doing extensive yardword and home repairs around their house.

2) A middle-aged member of the Church — who has been inactive since his teenage years, and whose wife and three kids are not members — started coming back to church some weeks back when he found himself unemployed, broke and on the brink of foreclosure. The church provided critical help, while our ward employment director worked with him for three weeks and helped him find a new job and a new place to live. The elders and high priests came out on two successive weekday evening to help his family move all the belongings to their new place; elders from his new ward were there to help unload as well.

3) The mayor of our town (not LDS) has always been friendly and cooperative with the LDS wards here, particularly with the youth activities; I’ve seen him personally attend an Eagle Scout court of honor at our ward. The young men and young women in our ward and another one in our building wanted to show their appreciation, so about 40 of them showed up at his house yesterday and spent most of the morning doing extensive yardwork that he hasn’t had the time to do. He and his wife just watched in amazement.

4) An older couple in our ward were sealed in the temple yesterday, and their 18-year-old son sealed to them. The husband was inactive for many years, and the wife was not a member, but they started coming to church a few years back when their son started investigating the Church and then was baptized. The mother was baptized a year ago, and the parents have been teaching one of the youth Sunday school classes for several months. The temple sealing room was filled to overflowing with both his children (and some grandkids) from his previous marriage as well as members of the ward. All three of them — the husband, the wife, and the son — bore their testimonies in church today, as did one of his granddaughters (a returned missionary).

5) About a year ago, I got a call late one weekday evening from a woman in our ward. A family across the street — not members — had been literally evicted from their house (all their belongings thrown out on the front lawn), and they were slowly trying to load it into a truck to move elsewhere, but were clearly overwhelmed. She asked what we could do. I called the high priests group leader, and within 30 minutes, we had 20 or so brethren from the ward there. We loaded up the family’s moving truck once, followed it about 20 miles away to their new residence, unloaded it, then came back and went through the process a second time; by the time we were done, it was about 1:00 am.

The same woman who called me a year ago took me aside today to say that the wife and children of that family were baptized yesterday, and the husband is working towards baptism as well. She said that they were so stunned by the willingness of 20 or so total strangers to give them such extensive help that they had to find out more about this church.

6) Oh, and the younger son of the Nigerian family that moved into our ward a year ago was baptized yesterday (after turning 8). The remarkable thing there is that there’s nothing remarkable; the husband’s a high priest, the wife is heavily involved in Relief Society, and the kids are, well, kids, and they’re all just part of the ward famly.

During the fast and testimony meeting today, one sister — a close friend of the young married woman whose brother died — got up, thanked all those who had helped, and said, through tears, “I am so proud to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of this ward.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. ..bruce..

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