Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Increasing Pain of Going to Church: It's Just Getting Too Embarrassing!

Boy, I've about had it with going to church here in Shanghai, China. Not sure if I can endure much more of this. Almost every sacrament meeting here with the Shanghai Branch so far, today especially, has been a zinger that brought unwanted embarrassing tears to my dry, manly eyes. I'm not sure if I and my male ego can stand much more of this. I was wondering if it was just me and then I heard the Branch President today also talk about what an am amazing branch we have here with such powerful talks and such a strong spirit in the meetings.

It's been the most puzzling thing, though. I've wondered if it's the foreign setting, the increased sense of reliance on the Lord that being a stranger in China brings, or if it's something unusual about the mix of people we have here. Our Branch President did point out that the people giving talks in our branch take it seriously and prepare thoroughly. Perhaps the unusual setting we are in and the diverse personal circumstances of people in our branch might inspire them on the average to put a lot into their preparation. I don't think that explains it all.

I've also noticed that I pay attention more, and I was intrigued to hear our Branch President say the same thing about his experience with the branch and its meetings. I've tried to be distracted and not pay very much attention, as normal, but I keep getting hit with thoughts from these talks and suddenly I'm hooked and can't let go. By listening and pondering as the talks are given, I think that allows the Spirit to touch me in new ways and remind me of more, teach me more, humble me more--I just wish the Spirit would do it without bothering my eyes.

Today started off with a talk from a 16-year-old girl who has been largely raised in Shanghai with roots in Singapore (as I recall). In spite of being raised in Asia, the thoughts she shared about life, faith, God, sacrifice, and early morning seminary sounded exactly like the views I've heard from the most exemplary and faithful Latter-day Saint youth in Wisconsin, Utah, and Georgia. Actually, a little more so. I mean she was amazing, speaking with wisdom and maturity far beyond what I'm used to from teenagers, sounding a little more like a returned missionary. She shared the faith that it had taken for her to get up early to attend early morning seminary, in spite of the very high demands of education in Asia (American kids have it easy, I think). She shared the blessings that she has seen in showing her faith in God and the progress and joy that comes from listening to the Spirit and keeping the commandments. There wasn't an adult in the room who couldn't learn something from this marvelous young lady. And that was just the first talk of 3 powerful and beautiful ones.

I'll be back in the US for a couple of weeks soon and hopefully I can recuperate and somehow brace myself for exposure to more of the intense spirit present in the Shanghai Branch. Not that it isn't great in Wisconsin--for some reason, it's easier for me to shield myself there and miss out on what is being offered. We'll see what happens.

2 comments:

Amy said...

I really related to this post. My husband is in the military and we lived in Europe for 8 years. Now that we are in a large States-side ward I feel an obvious difussion of the Spirit. I think part of it is the distraction that comes from having a lot of people, especially children, in the meeting. I also feel less attached to the members in this large ward. In a branch you know each other more intimately and have a more personal interest in the speakers.

Ultimaletly this is superficial to what I believe is the true reason for the increased spirituallity of a branch; That the Lord brings together the strongest people he can to help build the kingdom in that little corner. At one point in our time in Europe my mother asked how many families were in our branch; 12. "How many have been to the temple?" All of them. "What! That's unheard of!" she cried. We were soon integrated into the local branch and the spiritual growth of the local members was incredible and noticable. Every meeting, every lesson, every talk, hymn and prayer brought the sweet, warm glow of the Spirit. I think in those struggling areas the people need that extra assurance to keep going.

Manda said...

Thank you for the post! Thank you, Amy, for your comment, too. My husband is also in the military. He's considering going active duty next year after being a reservist for 9 years, and I think we'd like being in a different place which would probably have fewer members of the Church. When he attended LDs church meetings in Afghanistan there were usually only 4-6 people in attendance!