Posted in I'm a Mormon

To the people coming to our wedding that aren’t Mormons:

It is true. 

There will be no aisle. No processional or recessional. No teary eyed father lifting the veil off his daughter’s smiling face and handing over her hand to her awaiting groom. No little girl throwing petals on the ground or small boy carrying a pillow all tied up with rings. No alcohol induced reception shenanigans. 

There will, however, be a white dress (well…mine is off-white). A marriage license. Witnesses. A bridal party. A happy couple emerging from the building to be met by happy family members. A reception. A ring exchange. A dance floor to rival the 70s with just as many cheesy dance moves. An overwhelming sense of happiness as two people begin a journey through life together as a new married couple. A cake cut and enjoyed with friends and family. 

It may not appear as a typical Christian wedding, but that is because it is not. It is a Christian church, but it is one within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). This is where some of the difference stem from. LDS members believe that temples are especially holy buildings, as with any other religion. Like other churches, the church building itself is where Sunday worship, Sunday school, cultural events, and other fellowship activities take place. The temple is reserved for special kinds of worship and ceremonies, such as a wedding, called a “sealing” within the church. 

In biblical times, God commanded his followers to build temples as sacred places of worship. Similarly, the LDS church builds temples today, beginning in 1836 with the construction of the temple in Kirtland, Ohio. There are more than 130 temples in the world today from the United States to Ghana and the Ukraine. Temples are generally not open to the public after they have been dedicated, however, prior to being dedicated there is a period of open house when tours are given to anybody that wants to come. Recently, a temple was built in Philadelphia and Andrew and I went to the open house, along with masses of people from all sorts of religious backgrounds- including some Amish individuals. After this period, in order to enter the temple you have to possess a Temple Recommend, which is obtainable as a baptized member of the church who is living by moral standards, following an interview with your local church leader.  

Temples are not secret, they are sacred. But you do need that recommend to enter them completely (there is a waiting room for those who can not completely enter the temple). For this reason, there is a reception afterwards to include not only non-church members but also members of the church that for whatever reason can not enter into the temple. This is similar to when couples chose to have a small ceremony and just invite their friends and family to the reception. 

But what is going on in the temple? What happens that I will miss because I am not in that room? Well, an officiator, or sealer welcomes those in attendance and gives advice to the couple. The couple kneels across from each other at an alter and makes promises, or vows, to one another and God. The believe that as they grow closer to God they also grow closer to one another. This is again, a common thought amongst many Christian peoples, and those of other faiths as well. A big difference is that in other churches couples are married until death do them part. In the LDS church couples are married for all of time and eternity because we believe that you are not only married for this life but also the next. The couple kisses across the alter at the end of the ceremony. 

Why would someone opt to have this ceremony if they have friends and family that might not be able to enter to view the sealing room? Well, that is easy if you’ve read the rest of this. It is important. It doesn’t rob anybody of anything, it grants additional happiness. There is a ring ceremony that resembles a typical wedding ceremony at the reception for those who can not enter the temple. The only part that you “miss” by not being able to enter the temple is the sealing ceremony which was explained above. If after reading this you still have questions or need to change your RSVP status, I will understand as some people have chosen not to come based on this information, and that is okay. I will not be upset or angry or hurt. However, if you would still like to come despite the fact that it is different, I know we would greatly enjoy having you and we will all have a ball celebrating this important life milestone because I don’t know about you, but I am wearing my boogie shoes and will tear it up on the floor when the Cupid shuffle and electric slide come on and I would love to have you join us for that experience. 

Thank you for reading this to the end, if you have ANY questions about the church, our wedding, or anything else (short of physics homework…I was never good at that) I will be glad to answer to my best ability or find a resource that can. 

Posted in I'm a Mormon

Mind the dash

I was asked to speak about my conversion or goal setting, but I am a sucker for a good challenge so I am going to fit both into this talk if you’ll bear with me for about 15 or 20 minutes. I talk pretty fast so it will be closer to 15. 
There is a saying “Mind the gap” it is usually a visual, but can also be an audible warning issued to rail passengers to take caution while crossing the horizontal spacial gap between the train door and station platform. 
I am going to go with “Mind the Dash” today though. Our lives are short, they essentially are made up of a start, an end, and a dash. The dates are 24 hour periods of time that the government say matter because it helps them keep track of how much time we are taking up here. What really matters is that dash, that dash, as Linda Ellis worded it, “represents all the time that they spent alive on earth. And now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth. For it matter not, how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash, what matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.” 
So how are we spending our dash? Are we sitting around waiting for things to happen or are we setting goals and making things happen? Are we setting goals and letting them go to the wayside because “well it’s a hard goal and it isn’t going the way I wanted it to?” I have struggled with goal setting and achieving just like every other person on the planet, but joining this church has helped me immensely. We have been challenged to create a goal for ourselves in the area of missionary work and I can’t begin to explain how much of a difference this has made in my life.
Imagine, if you would, an 18 year old me. I was a college sophomore at SUNY Brockport, I was studying history, education, and military science and I was volunteering full time hours with overtime at the local ambulance agency. One night, I was out in the bay washing the ambulances with my headphones in, singing along to the song “All-American Profit” from the musical The Book of Mormon, when I got a tap on the shoulder. I thought for sure that someone was going to tell me it was late and I was singing too loud or to pick another song. Instead I was told “That isn’t how it happened!” And I was confused to say the least. David then went on to tell me that him and Nicholynn were actual Mormons, not stage ones and that the musical, while striking interest with people and having catchy tunes was not very accurate. David did not know it at the time, but I am a very inquisitive person. I think that “Why?” And “How?” Are the most used words in my vocabulary besides “please don’t be a STEMI” and thus began the bombardment of questions. Dozens of questions a day until I got my first Book of Mormon, then dozens about that leading to my first time seeing the hill cummorah pageant. Then it quieted down. I hung out with them regularly but we didn’t talk about what it meant to be a Mormon anymore. 
Elder Jeffrey R Holland said that “If something is buried in the past, leave it buried” but I’m about to unearth a little bit of my history to make this talk a little more personal. 
“Diagnosis: Major depression, single episode (unspecified) Anxiety disorder (unspecified), Overdose (intentional, non-opiate), Renal damage unknown extent” and I was sent on my way.
If you had asked me on November 27, 2015 about my dash I would have told you it was pretty dull, pointless, uneventful, and coming to a close. I found myself in a hospital with a lot of bad stuff most people have in their kitchens running through my system and a lot of nurses and a few doctors walking quickly around me mumbling things I couldn’t really hear to each other. Checking EKG strips, labs, and breathing status. My parents sat at the door of the room periodically being allowed in as stability fluctuated. I was in a rough spot to say the least, but I was pretty sure my dash was coming to a close, the pen would be lifted and that end date would begin to be written. 
I didn’t want to do anything at that point. So setting a goal was definitely not on the radar….at all…literally nowhere in a million mile radius. Slowly but surely I got back to “normal” but something was still missing. In the words of Mrs. Incredible to her children “Don’t worry. If the time comes, You’ll know what to do.” I thought back to the year and how that summer I had gone to the pageant with Nikki and David Harrel and how the goosebumps were constant and it was such a calming feeling to be there. 
So I shot nikki a text and was like “hey so can I come to church with you guys on Sunday? Is that allowed? Is that ok with you, I get if it’s not I just have a few more questions so I figured I would kinda see what this whole thing is about.” To which I got a very enthusiastic yes of course you can come to church with us! And now I’m here, in Geneseo , giving a talk on conversion and goals! Without their missionary work, I would not be here, but I might not also be HERE the impact they had on helping me find a place and purpose in the world and showing me that although I couldn’t see my worth all the time there were people and a Heavenly Father that did, every day 365 24/7 and I needed to surround myself with that energy. 
And with converting comes opportunities to set goals, like to get a temple recommend, doing temple work, getting endowments, getting married, reading the Book of Mormon the whole way through, working on personal progress, and in the words of Hercules, “I am on my way. I can go the distance.” But in the words of President Thomas S Monson “Wishing will not make it so,” goals take work, effort, and commitment to the outcome. You can wish for a million chocolate chip cookies, but if you don’t get the ingredient, mix them together, scoop them out, and bake them- you’re not going to get cookies. 
Diagnosis: Dyscalculia: severe difficulty in making arithmetical calculations, as a result of brain disorder….basically dyslexia with numbers.
Goals are outside of the church as well, currently I am attending the paramedic program at MCC, perusing my associates in paramedicine after obtaining my BS in history. College was something that was expected but was not easy, it would have been so simple to pass off the opportunity to go with the excuse that it was hard, but “We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner” Dieter F Uchtdorf, spoke that and it couldn’t be more true. That doubt can be trying to obtain a degree, reading the Book of Mormon, going for temple work, speaking at church, asking a friend if they wanted to go to church, or whatever your goals are, don’t let the doubt and fear of failure hold you back.