Sunday, June 14, 2009

Peggy's Pearls...

I teach in Relief Society and I love it. It is the last meeting of the three hour block where the women meet together. We are able to discuss spiritual things and learn from each other. I learn so much as I study the lesson, and I try my best to present the material to my class without adding in too much false doctrine (unintentionally). Hey, when you have a lay clergy and volunteer teachers, you gotta expect some false doctrine now and again, don't ya? Ha Ha.

Today we talked about the Plan of Salvation. I love discussing the Plan of Salvation which answers the questions Where did I come from? Why am I here? and Where am I going when I die? I love discussing the things that we know and speculating about the things that we don't. I like to think of the gospel this way.... do you remember in math when we learned about finite and infinite numbers? Finite were the numbers we could actually count and infinite were the numbers existed but we couldn't actually count. Even though we all know that there are lots of grains of sand on the beach, we don't know what that number is so it's infinite. To me that means that it's real, but it is just not ours to comprehend.

I believe that the gospel has finite concepts and infinite concepts. The finite concepts we all either get or at least have a chance of comprehending if we are willing to study and search (similar to the help of a calculator!) The infinite concepts are real and true but not understandable by the human brain and no calculator can help. For example:

We lived with our Father in Heaven before we came to this earth. (Finite concept though may need a calculator.)

We were born on earth to get a body and be tested. (Totally finite concept.)

When we die our spirit and our body separate and our spirit goes on to the next life to be judged. (Finite concept.)

Eventually our bodies and our spirits will reunite to form a resurrected body similar to the Savior's and we will live eternally. (Finite concept.)

Where did it all begin? (Infinite concept.)

What does one eternal round actually mean? (Infinite concept.)

Now maybe these concepts are just infinite to me. I don't claim to be the brightest bulb in the family lamp! I love to speculate about the infinite concepts but I don't let them worry me. If we had all of the answers, it wouldn't be much of a test! I didn't coin this phrase but I ascribe to it, "I have many questions, but I have no doubts."

Now, that's not even the pearl that I wanted to share so here's more... Part of the lesson today we talked about baptism for the dead which is the practice in our church of performing baptisms vicariously for those who died without being baptized into the church. We believe that baptism is a necessary ordinance that must be performed by proper authority on earth in order to gain salvation. Since many people never even had the chance to hear the gospel, this ordinance is performed on their behalf and they can choose in the next life whether or not to accept it.

In 1 Corinthians 15:29, we read, "Else what shall they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" While that scripture indicates that it was a practice that was performed anciently, it is not a common practice among Christian churches today. I am sure that some find it quite odd. Baptism surely sounds like an ordinance that one ought to do for oneself, right?

I came across this talk by D. Todd Christopherson that brought a new perspective to baptism for the dead that I had not thought about. He said,

"The principle of vicarious service should not seem strange to any Christian. In the baptism of a living person, the officiator acts, by proxy, in place of the Savior. And is it not the central tenet of our faith that Christ's sacrifice atones for our sins by vicariously satisfying the demands of justice for us? As President Gordon B. Hinckley has expressed, 'I think that vicarious work for the dead more nearly approaches the vicarious sacrifice of the Savior Himself than any other work of which I know. It is given with love, without hope of compensation, or repayment or anything of the kind. What a glorious principle.' "

I had really never thought about the way that baptism for the dead related to the atonement. Hmmm...interesting. Elder Christopherson went on to explain a little more about baptism for the dead:

"Some have misunderstood and suppose that deceased souls 'are being baptised into the Mormon faith without their knowledge' or that 'people who one belonged to other faiths can have the Mormon faith retroactively imposed on them.' They assume that we somehow have the power to force a soul in matters of faith. Of course, we do not. God gave man his agency from the beginning. 'The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God,' but only if they accept those ordinances. The Church does not list them on its rolls or count them in its membership."

I have to be honest, some Sundays church seems like a burden to be endured and other days it seems like a glorious opportunity to discuss things that really matter. Today was one of those days!

MLHS Class of '09

For those of you who have been paying attention, you will be confused by this entry knowing full well that we don't have any kids graduating this year which, I'll admit, is probably only a handful of you. Or more accurately, a couple of you. Okay, let's be honest - even David can't keep track of who is coming and going around here! During family prayer he says things like, "...and bless Kylie as she goes off to college next year." and afterwards Kylie says, "Dad, I'm only a Junior."

Our gradutes this year were our two exchange students, Tricia Kuo and Belen Navarro. Coincidentally, they have both actually graduated from high school in their home countries and came to do another senior year here for the experience.

This year MLHS held their graduation at Lion's Field after a 30 year hiatus. Normally it is held in the Big Bend gym which has no air conditioning. So depending on the year, the forecast is generally sweltering with a chance of unbearable. The good part about the gym is that seats are limited and tickets are rationed. So even though we would loooove to go see our favorite nieces, nephews, neighbors and ward members graduate, there just aren't enough tickets to go around - darn it all! The weather turned out pretty good for the first outdoor graduation, but it did manage to rain for a bit with some distant lightening. Wouldn't you know it? It wasn't bad, though.

There is a long standing tradition at MLHS graduations (at least for the 17 years that I have been here) of students hiding beach balls and silly string underneath their robes so that they can bring them out and bat them around make mischief during the talks which are supposed to be inspiring and memorable. (Yes, I used the word mischief. I am that old!) I have to say that I am not a fan of the shenanigans. (There goes another word that shows how old I am getting.) I know that not everyone agrees with me and I know this because of the hooting and hollering done by the "supposed" adults in the audience when the beach balls appear.

The school does not condone this behavior and every year the staff tries to stop this by checking the students before they go in. This year they even sequestered them in the Frontier gym prior to walking on so that no paraphernalia could be smuggled to the students. Have they ever once been successful you ask? No. Not even close. One year there was even an inflatable woman that was passed around - full size - I kid you not! And the only thing worse than these things being swatted around is watching the teachers run around and try to catch them. It's a huge game of keep away and I only wish that I was describing the latest hugely inappropriate PG-13 rated movie that was out, but I'm not - this is real folks. Now some of you may be laughing - shame on you! (Probably not as hard as David laughs, but shame on you!)

Blake Roylance was giving a perfectly wonderul graduation talk (and trust me, they aren't all wonderful so this was a pretty good moment) and the beach balls came out and several adults around me started cheering (grow up already!) and the principal had to stop things and take back control. So much for that special moment.

I don't actually know what the administration threatens the kids with but it can't be much. No one seems worried about getting caught. Apparently that rule is listed right under the other rules that seem to have no apparent consequences like:

No immodest clothing
No PDA (public display of affection)
No smoking on school grounds
No inflatable women at graduation

If I were in charge, I would say that whoever dislodges an inflatable toy from under their graduation robe (perpetrator) or bats it around (accessory) gets their diplomas suspended pending a mandatory summer school sentence. Or better yet, I would reign down some discipline Singapore Style! I think a good public caining would do the trick!! Suffice it to say, even after 17 years, I am not amused.

There are certain rites of passage at graduation ceremonies that should not be messed with. One of these is marching in in heighth order and getting the luck of the drawer as to who you marched in with. Is it someone cute and popular (oh please!), someone at least normal (you'll do) or someone nerdy/freaky/drunk or in some other way embarrasing (please no!) Tall girls and boys at the end of the line knew there was always a strong chance that they would not even get to walk with the opposite sex. It's all part of graduation.

Well MLHS, in their wisdom, instituted a new tradition at graduation proceedings this year. (You'll love this.) The graduates got to choose who they marched into graduation with. Initially the students were told to choose someone of the opposite sex that was around their same heighth. Apparently, that was a little too limiting for the more popular kids. I am not sure when exactly they dispensed with the heighth match, but basically they marched in with whomever they were lucky enough to get asked by in whatever order they chose. Now whoever hears this and thinks that sounds like a good idea was obviously among the few lucky ones who were popular in high school. For the other 95% of the student body (present company included) who dealt with rejection on a daily basis, it sounds like one more chance for high school to make you feel like a loser. What a brilliant idea! I would love to know whose brain child that was!! (No offense) (... ummm... come to think of it, I guess I do mean to offend here.) Okay, I'm done venting about graduation things I don't like.

Luckily, this new marching order worked out well for Tricia and Belen because they got to walk together. We have had such a great time with these girls in our home this year. Belen went back home to Hermosillo, Mexico yesterday and Tricia goes back to Taipei, Taiwan on June 21st. They have both become just like family to us and we will really miss them. Happy Graduation girls!


Tricia and Kylie