Sunday, May 1, 2011

Finding Zion

Fellow Musers; I am happy to announce a return to Mona's Gospel Musings each Sunday. I hope you will join me again, and as we used to, muse together here. The romantic side of our time overseas (nearly a year now) has been mused upon at Mona's Musings with a Hint of Romance, which blog I will continue - featuring YOUR romances and more specific ideas on strengthening marriage. I have also been invited to become a regular contributor to Mormon Mommy Blogs (at least monthly). However, here we are at gospel musings, and its a Sunday, and so we begin. I love you and look very very forward to your thoughts.

As a new expat in the United Kingdom, I found I could regard people like postcards, idly turning them over in my mind with mild interest: three-dimensional-me did not expect to be included in a
world that felt like a guidebook. At church though, I assumed I would be find instant and comfy assimilation.

Cue the proverbial-culture-shock: we stood on, what to me, felt like an island called the Staines Ward: the most ethnically diverse group of Saints in all of London. Sunday after Sunday, I buzzed round the middle like a flustered bee hitting glass until at last we cross-pollinated: a magic moment that dissolved the window between us.

When I walked into the chapel that morning, I felt drawn to the woman on the other
side of the room. She watched me with a shy smile, perfect teeth and wide eyes glistening against a chocolate face. After Relief Society, she inched her way to me, ready to make contact, her beauty even more breathtaking at close range.

"I love your hair," she said.

What? It took me a split second to process her Nigerian spin on English. My hair? My hair is a mass of coarse curls, once brown, now streaked with unruly silver. I dislike it very much most days.

"I love your eyes and face and make-up," she continued passionately.

Blue eyes, white face, Bare Minerals.

"I love the way you talk -- and I loooove," (emphasis on love), "the way you dress."

Without taking my eyes off hers, I mentally compared a blue blazer and black skirt with her flowing...Flamboyant... FLORESCENT --

Oh my! She thinks I'm EXOTIC!

Sound of break glass.

A week later I
was called as Relief Society President of two hundred women from twenty different nations: a village with too many windows to look like 'Mormonville' to me, but nevertheless, built on the foundation of apostles and prophets; one faith and one baptism (Ephesians 4 & Mosiah 18). My sole journal entry for 11 July 2010 reads: "God help me.God

He did. He showed me that you cannot pack a box with scrapbooks, funeral potatoes, and snicker-doodle props, stamp it "Mormon Women" and ship it overseas. He taught me about the real Zion, a phenomenon that will not be defined or contained that way: it is organic. It breathes and grows and if necessary, shatters silly notions in order to expand (D&C 82:14). The tiny pane from which I used to view the world has, after a year amongst my sisters, morphed into a great glass conservatory and I contentedly dangle like a prism there, spinning in the sunlight.

Muse with me: What does Zion mean to you? What experiences have you had in the church that relate to the ideal of Zion?


ALB said...

Thanks for this beautiful post. I've been trying to put words to my feelings about Zion today. This last week, I participated in what Elder Ballard and other leaders called a historic event: the formation of Young Single Adult stakes and wards in the Wasatch Valley. I can't tell you how wonderful it feels to be part of this organization of this part of Zion. I could feel the gathering together of saints in my stake conference yesterday and am looking forward excitedly to that same feeling in my new ward.

Judy said...

Welcome back to your original blog. RS Pres? Yes, of course. You belong.

Latter-dayVillage said...

The farther I get from Utah, the more I feel Zion in my local ward/stake. I've lived in Ohio, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Florida and Pennsylvania, besides Utah, and definitely that has been my experience. The more of a minority I feel as a latter-day saint, the more I cling to other members of the church - the more I long to meet with the saints, and socialize with the saints and become close friends - the more it means to me when I spot a fellow saint in an unexpected location - and, the more important I feel my example is to everyone else, making my discipleship a more intense feeling. I've been back in Utah now for 12 years, except for an 8 month stint in Ohio in 2005. I have struggled in so many ways in those dozen years, but the most significant way is spiritually. The culture here makes me feel like an outsider because I was not raised here or even LDS. I don't have a huge extended family here - holidays are painful, and everyone is in such a hurry to get home after church that there is little mingling and catching up, so that even though I can walk from one end of the ward to the other in about 10 minutes, I feel very out of touch. I remember being in RS in Olympia, Washington one Sunday, gazing around the room with love at all my sisters and thinking "Ahhhhhhh! Home!!!!! I FIT. No two of us are alike, so being different is status quo." But I haven't a clue what it must be like in a place like your London ward where the diversity was off the charts. You are loved where ever you go, but I daresay, you will never be loved as you have been during your time there.

Anxious to hug you again soon,

Hannah Z said...

I love this post and all the comments so far! I have always loved the feeling of Zion. Ever since I was a child, I loved spending all day at church and in the church building. The building itself became a second home to me. And today, my favorite Sundays, or any day for that matter, is when I get to be busy serving and being with my fellow saints. Large groups of saints really touch my soul. My heart swells with awe, joy, and excitement anytime I partake in a large CES Fireside, a regional conference, stake conference, etc., especially when everyone sings a powerful song like "Redeemer of Israel," or "Spirit of God." I cannot help but weep with the feeling of unity and the strength of the church.

Similarly, outside of my family, my greatest and closest relationships come from the people I experienced Zion with. While living in Florida, most of us didn’t have extended family around, so what did we do? We created a family with our wards. We all through our efforts into raising each other’s family in the gospel and church. We sat across the plastic tables at Christmas potlucks discussing the scriptures, family troubles, politics, etc. We drove each other’s children and friends to mutual and seminary. We taught each other how to cook, sew, and budget. We worshiped, prayed, and fasted together. We served in every capacity and beyond. Now we are tied together as sisters and brothers, in a bond that has crossed time and distance. Likewise, my years as a young single adult in Vancouver fostered relationships with friends that became my greatest support and facilitator of joy. My relationship with members of Zion has strengthened my connection to the gospel and church, than any Sunday School lesson.

Zion, or the feeling of Zion, is something that I have been trying to figure out how to describe in words. I can feel it in my heart, but I can't describe it. Maybe that says something about the true meaning of Zion - it starts and ends with the heart. Our heart connects to God and to others. We can, are, and should be all different, yet there is one thing that ties it all together - Christ. Like the spokes on a wheel, each line comes from different directions but points to one center. Christ is our center. And as we all focus on Christ, and work together in love, THEN we experience Zion.

There is no greater joy than being in Zion. There is no greater joy than raising and being in a family that is tied together in the unity of Christ and love, and then coming together with fellow saints in the unity of the faith. And there is no greater joy than serving in Zion. When we can look past the differences and focus on the similarities or the common dedication to Christ, and work TOGETHER to raise each other up, then we can become as Christ would have us be – his people.

Mona said...

Now we're musing! I am grateful to each one of you for being the first to contribute your thoughts at the "refreshed" Mona's Gospel Musings. Love you!

Elisabeth said...

So glad you are back to posting on this blog! I have missed it and enjoyed this post and the comments. Looking forward to reading more!

Domestic Diva said...

I love this post. I appreciate all the comments I've read. I agree that the concept of Zion is really so much a feeling of unity among the saints. Since I've been married I've moved each year and have experienced and fallen in love with many wards. But the most miraculous feeling of Zion I've felt, was this last Sunday, miles from the "Home ward" of my youth in an entirely new home watching as my sweet little three year old trotted happily between families I've befriended here, sharing books and trains, during sacrament meeting.

Maybe I should have been struggling more to keep him still, but honestly, all I felt from my ward members was an understanding of a busy energetic toddler and a love for me and my little family here.

I am grateful to be apart of Zion. And I am anxious to help create it wherever I go.

Bonnie said...

Oh Mona, I'm so glad you are back on this blog! I love this post. Your thoughts make my heart swell with my love of this church and the Lord! Thank you! Oh Zion! How I love Zion! There is so much I could write about this subject, but I have written so much lately I'm near burnout! When you find out about my "new project" you'll understand why.

Welcome back dear friend! It is, to me, like you are already home. My husband and I had the opportunity to visit London in 1997, and we visited the Hyde Park Ward, just one Sunday. I am certain you have been such a blessing to these dear people! I look forward to herring more.

Lois Brown said...

So glad you've started this one up again. I am following both and love both, but missed this one!!! Glad you will be back in the states soon! Can't wait to hear about Hannah's wedding and grandbabies and all!!! Love you More!

Valerie said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog and of course I wouldn't mind a link if it fits in to your post. I'm sure you are getting lots of blessings as RS President, but I can't believe they didn't even let you get used to everything before they threw you in. :) I guess that's the best way to learn. So glad you'll be writing here again.

Diana C said...

Wonderful to have you posting here again, though I have loved following you on your other blog. It just means I'll have to spend twice as much time with you and your thoughts.(wonderful thought) I love this post it brought to my mind memories of my venturing out from the world of a small windowed Mormon girl from Utah to the world of 'the gentiles' when Tom and I first moved from 'Happy Valley' (Provo Utah) to Iowa City, Iowa. I felt like a fish out of water. And even though I had spent 18 months out in the world as a missionary this was different because I knew as a missionary I would be returning 'home' in a few months. But this time when my family drove off back to Utah after having helped us move all our belongings to the 'strange' land of Iowa I had no idea if I would ever return to my beloved Utah for more than a visit.
As it turned out this was one of the best move I ever made. It became a strengthening time for my marriage as Tom and I learned to rely on each other for strength, but more importantly I learned that in the Lord's kingdom where his people are is our home, our safety and security; that Zion is not a place but a feeling, a people, and an ideal to reach for. How I grew to love those saints in Iowa who open their homes and their hearts to us and taught this simple Utah girl that the church is home no matter where you live. I love that Zion feeling knowing, that no matter how diverse we may seem, we are home and part his fold when we belong to Christ's kingdom. He makes us one. A Zion People.

Sarah said...

Zion is a very bright place with light cleaving to light, virtue to virtue. It's feeling happy not because you got what you wanted, but because someone else got what they wanted and you feel their joy. Zion is crying because your neighbor is crying. It's extending yourself in a way you would for your siblings/parents/spouse even though it's someone you've hardly spoken to. It's exploding with warmth, acceptance, forgiveness. It's happiness in my heart. It is REAL family.

That is a BEAUTIFUL place!!!

I love you and thanks for sharing a tiny fraction of your experience overseas!

I'm looking forward to more!!!!!

Mona said...

Thank you all for your insights and enthusiasm! Tune in tomorrow!

ldsjaneite said...

To me, Zion is the epitome of the song "Where Love Is."