I got to teach in RS again! It ended up being great for the class and for me, since I am working/out of town for the next two Sundays. I really enjoy teaching so I was bummed I would miss a month. At first I was nervous taking on the topic of "The Latter-Day Miracle of Missionary Work", but it turned out really well.
I began with describing my small level of ambivalence towards traditional missionary work: my dad joined the church at age 19 but didn't serve a mission, my brother stopped attending church regularly somewhere in junior high-high school, the church has always been "central" in our family but we've also missed a lot of "milestones". So that set the stage well for introducing some differing perspectives.
I explained the idea between the church as an organization and the gospel as a set of principles/doctrines, and I even used Curt's tag line of the core principles of the gospel being love, belief in the unseen but hoped, self-reflective change, symbolic cleansing, power in divinity, never giving up. That these are principles that most people believe in, despite their religious affiliation. There was a lot of discussion about meeting other people where they are, whether that be needing the organization of the church, the social structure of the church, or the doctrines/meaning of the church, and how in order to legitimately help people we need to understand them on some level, otherwise we're just talking about our religion because it makes us feel good.
I moved onto the 11th AoF and asked how are we to reconcile letting ourselves and others worship according to the dictates of our consciences while attempting to fulfill missionary work. This sparked a great discussion about talking about religion at work because one woman found her co-workers to be very walled off from organized religion, but that she hoped someone would feel comfortable coming to her during a difficult time because they've seen her example of peace and endurance. That prompted me to share my opposite experience at my workplace, where the phrase "melting pot" is an understatement. There was a particular lunch break that some colleagues were talking about traditional/cultural foods and how meaningful it was to them that despite their cultural backgrounds from slavery, that their ancestors were able to endure and create delicious meals to share with their families that brought joy and comfort despite their terrible conditions. I also mentioned that despite me being the only white person on the unit, that they included me in the conversation and explained their thoughts with great emphasis and care. I told them that that moment felt like heaven.
There was also conversation about how our needs and relationship to both the church and gospel fluctuate over time. How sometimes we need more structure and social/community life instead of spirituality from church. And how other times we desperately need the meaning that comes from spirituality instead of programs and friends. It was emphasized from many women that sometimes we take and sometimes we give; that coming to church helps in different ways both for us and others, and that it's important to come because sometimes we don't attend church for ourselves. I also related a story about a pending heart transplant patient that I worked with last year and the guilt he felt for needing and "taking" another person's heart. I tried to comfort him and also iterate that for the family of the deceased who is able to give the gift of a heart, it helps them with closure and their grieving to know that their loved one helped someone else. We all give, and we all take.
We discussed a little bit about "holy envy" and how other churches have many practices or focuses of doctrine that we love. The Passover was mentioned specifically, and one of the women explained "Well, if you love Passover so much why don't you celebrate it?!" We also, later via text, tentatively planned to have a RS activity for Passover at a Jewish synagogue, if enough women are interested.
I closed by saying that despite anyone's church membership status in this life, there are always opportunities afforded to everyone in the Plan of Salvation. That we needn't fear as to anyone's membership because there are so many opportunities for them to join (if that's really how it works out), and that we can be missionaries unto ourselves, ensuring that we get our needs met through church and other means and to connect with others around our similarities.
It was an excellent lesson, and I'm happy to have had the opportunity.
It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. -Dumbledore
Roll away your stone, I'll roll away mine. Together we can see what we will find. -Mumford & Sons