Musings of an Institute Attender


It’s a bit obnoxious how long it’s been since I’ve posted and I wish I could say that anything fascinating is happening in my life since I moved back to Massachusetts. Before I reflect on lessons learned from my first night in Franklin Institute, I want to do a brief catch up on what’s happening in my life. Ready, team?

1. Back at the YMCA working as a lifeguard/swim instructor/ comic relief for the overly scheduled. I mostly work “The Bird,” or 4:45a.m. – 1:00p.m. I have to admit, I kind of like it. I work with Brigit, another post grad looking for meaningful and degree related employment. We rock out at 5:00 a.m. like we’re the only people awake in Franklin. And we very well might be.

Bottom line, I need a real job. While I look for “the real job,” I’m grateful for what the Y has done for me over the past 15 years and especially for taking me back whenever and why-ever. Is that a word? No questions asked, I always have a job. Sometimes that means waking up at 4:00 a.m. for said job, but it’s work and I’m glad for it.

And I work with a British woman, Heather, who giggles and rolls her eyes anytime I say fanny pack. I really elevate the maturity of the joint.

2. Called as a Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society teacher. I hope they don’t regret this decision. First week on the job I’ll be discussing Elder Christofferson’s Doctrine of Christ. I’ll post my thoughts later this week as I prepare for Sunday.

3. Building family relationships. Leaving Massachusetts at 17 years old and coming back at 26 gives you a lot of time to change as a human being. Your family changes and morphs and grows and is a little bit different than what you thought you remember. Perhaps that’s just me, though. I know, for one thing, I’m a lot different than who I was 9 years ago and I have some relationships to rebuild around that newness. I’ve had fun spending time with siblings, nieces/ nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles. It’s nice to be so close and to just be here. I humbly submit that it will take some getting used to the fact that they are all so close and are able to take care of me and help me out when I need help.

4. Meeting new people has been a smidge of a challenge as a post graduate, but being back at work and finding all the young single people in my area at least made it interesting. At work, Brigit and Heather are my go to people for conversations that have absolutely nothing to do with getting licenses and starting junior year of high school (what can I say? I have a 16 year old’s job). I was .. kind of?… “seeing”… a guy (Handsome Chef Guy) who has recently dropped off the planet and went radio silence. Me thinks “seeing” is now a story of the past. I’m not entirely sure what warranted this, but live and learn, I suppose.

5. I’m dealing with stuff. I’m still going through that “post-graduate-what-do-I-do-now?” phase and it’s scaring the crap out of me. I know that now is the time to define and plant myself firmly in this state and carve a little place out in order to move forward. Because I have the music cultural capital of a 15 year old girl, pop music speaks to my soul. This song, by the man with the same first and last name, has made some serious sense to me this month.

All caught up? Okay, let’s carry on. To Institute!

Tonight was the first night of a new session and we are studying Doctrine and Covenants. Let me begin by saying that the instructor is extremely well spoken, a great teacher, and engaging. And also made three Mitt Romney references. If you know anything about me, dear readers, that’s usually a recipe for shutting down and shutting out. I refuse to learn and refuse to consider anything the person has to offer as valid. This approach has not served me well in the past and does nothing to promote civility in discussion or even the ability to speak to different experiences in the church. I have to recognize that in my want for my story to be considered valid, I have to stop invalidating others’ experiences, no matter how much I cannot stand Mitt Romney.

You know what, I can testify that “He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.”

Anyway, tonight’s Institute was a brief introduction to the class. Obviously, we’re focusing on Doctrine and Covenants. We discussed the meaning of testament in the context of covenants (and that they are each other’s definition). The New Testament, while not new as in modern revelation, it’s the New Covenant of Christ’s ministry in which he pretty much flipped the Old Law/Covenant/Testament upside down and upset every cultural and political construction and said, “Things are going to change around here. Love each other. K? Thanks.”

I am, of course, taking liberties with communication styles.

When we read the standard works, and as we study DC, it’s important to remember that every verse in every book is intended to testify of Christ in the language, cultural, political, and historical context in which it was written. The New Testament is only New because it speaks to the history and happenings of the Old Testament. It cannot be fully understood independent of its social context.

I wrote in the margin of my notebook: MLK Jr’s Dream Speech can be best and only understood in the context of the national cultural history.

Context, context, context.

The teacher discussed DC as a combination of revelation, letters to saints, and narrative. He presented it as the FAQ section to the story that is the BoM and Bible. The DC can’t stand be read unless it is understood in the context (sick of this word yet?) of the rest of the story.

This makes sense to me. I can appreciate this.

Brother Teacher used Mitt Romney, again, to provide an example of the narrative that is Doctrine and Covenants. That we can point to pieces of it as quick answers to quick questions. Like, for example, when news reporters and debate moderators pester Romney about that silly little part of church history where early saints practiced polygamy and that other time when Black male saints could not receive the priesthood. DC provides a quick reference to that FAQ! Just read Official Declarations 1 and 2! Okay, I’m getting snippy and need to tone it down. My point is that when we read the scriptures, every verse in every book, we must read them in their political, historical, and cultural contexts as much as their spiritual context. Pointing to these Declarations as evidence that “we’re not racist polygamists” does not acknowledge the history of the church. It does not erase hurt or confusion. It is necessary to read these Declarations in the context in which they were revealed.

Context. Is. Important.

So is being kind and patient.

One of the last things Brother Teacher said tonight was “being in this class will change you.” I’m looking forward to the opportunity to really challenge what I understand intellectually and spiritually. Christ’s ministry was to challenge the status quo and expected to create a space for love, faith, fellowship, service, understanding, and kindness. And love.

Here’s to a few months of studying Doctrine and Covenants, learning more about faith, daring to stand for what I believe in, and becoming a kinder person.

So much love,

The LadyMo

ps – shout out to my pregnant friends back in Kansas! Marie is due any breath now and Maren is expecting her Penelope Jedediah for Christmas. Both families have an excellent track record for producing fascinating and beautiful children. Happy thoughts to you who are building humans! Woohoo!


3 responses »

  1. You refreshed my hitherto repressed memory of that AWFUL feeling of “what-do-I-do-now?” that hit when I had reached the end of my academic road (at least for the time being) and was supposed to do . . . WHAT? . . . next. I had forgotten how terrible it felt, and now my heart goes out to you. I offer you the consolation of my retrospection: I believe now that it didn’t matter a lot what I did or where I went next, as long as it was always in keeping with my values and interests and therefore in the general direction of my life’s path. Then . . . I just kept adjusting my compass heading and kept going, re-adjusting at frequent intervals, and that is how I eventually ended up where I am now, which is supremely happy, satisfied, accomplished, and still excited about my future, because I know that whatever I’m doing, I can change and improve and continue in the direction of my choosing. You can, too. I hope this comforts you to know. You’re already on your path, just still too close to the beginning to know where it ends, but as long as you’re true to yourself, you’ll end up where you’re meant to be!! You didn’t know when you were 5 that you would be who you are now, but you got to this place in your life anyway. Does that make sense?

  2. Interesting and provocative. You write so well. The expression used a lot is go with the flow, whatever that means. I come from another ere. Marriage, stability, and so much more. I built my own career after all my kids were grown. Acting was my dream. This I did professionally until my voice developed an unusual disorder and I had o change careers. Now I’m a published author.
    I wish you the best. My stories are about survive&thrive. Romance/Suspense. I have a feeling you’re a major survivor!

  3. Best wishes. I remember when I was done with school (nearing 26) and it was deadly. I had to get a real job and decide what I wanted — and it was rough. Glad you’ve got a job while you’re looking for the next step

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