Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Conversion to More than the Gospel

I just got back from a ward FHE about being thankful. President Christiansen and his wife asked that we focus on the thanks we feel for others and experiences. After they spoke they asked that we share any thanks we felt for others or for experiences in our lives. I couldn't really think of one that involved others. After hearing a couple of other people share theirs, I thought of a great one! (The following is the extended version of what I shared.)

I was 19, had been away from home for a over a year, and had finished my first semester of school. I was back in Maine working for the summer at Jordan Pond House Restaurant & Gift Shop. My schedule was beyond hectic, bringing in over 66 crazy hours a week, which gave me only Sundays and late nights to keep for myself. I lived in the dorms provided by the company, which sat about 2 minutes away from the restaurant, walking ... slowly. I looked forward to Sunday when I would be able to relax and hang out with friends that I didn't work, eat, or sleep with. I was the second counselor in the Primary, and was put in charge of sharing time. It was a lot of fun, but required a lot of enthusiasm. Those late nights to myself were often spent at least partially in coming up with some lesson/activity that would keep the more energetic portion of the church's membership entertained.

I had never been visit taught. I had been an active member of the Relief Society in three different wards by this time, Saipan, Ellsworth, and the BYU-I 62nd ward. In Saipan they just never gave me anyone to teach or to teach me. In BYU-I, they gave me people, and I would spend the whole first half of each month seeking out my companion and we would finally get together with our girls and teach them, but I only remember being taught maybe once, and it wasn't a private meeting like it's supposed to be, but rather it was my roommate and I (who shared visiting teachers) thrown in together. In Maine, my first summer, although I had asked for a companion I never received one, nor was I taught. My second summer, I asked again, and finally in August I got teachers - no companion, but I did get teachers.

The whole ward knows my family, and of all the kids they probably know me the best. I always figured that the reason I never got home- or visit-taught in Maine was because of two reasons. First of all, I was fine. Everyone knew that I had a testimony, no major problems, and that overall I was a cheerful, active young woman with an extremely busy schedule. The second reason was because I was just so freaking far away from everything. When I say I lived in the woods, that is exactly what I mean. By August, I had moved into the nearest town, Seal Harbor, with a friend's family. They weren't LDS, and neither was anyone else in the village. The closest members were probably 20 - 30 minutes away, and that was if - if the traffic wasn't bad. (I lived on a scenic drive, so it was pretty much always busy with buses, bikers, and tourists who insisted on driving slower than death in order to watch anything from blowing leaves to pesky sea gulls.)

One Sunday, as I was getting ready to leave church with my friend/chauffeur, Carol B. and Anne D. ran up to me.
Carol: "Mallory, Anne and I are your visiting teachers. We were wondering if there was any time that we could come by the dorms and teach you?"
Me, a little surprised: "Uhh, yeah. Yeah, sure! I don't work Sundays at all, or Mondays before 2. Anytime then would be fine with me."
Carol: "OKay, how about we come by next week on Monday?"
Me: "Yeah, that'd be great!" I was shocked! A little surprised, and a little less than faithful that they would actually pull through with it. Anne and Carol are both amazing women, but they are both very busy. Carol is a mother with a daughter very active in her extra-curricular activities still at home. She is also a grandmother. Anne has two boys still at home and two more home for the summer. She and her husband have a small house in Bar Harbor that they let out for tourists in the summer, and have to clean every couple of weeks in order to ready it for the new tenants. I had complete faith in their intentions, but not so much in their capability to find time nor energy to come all the way out to my dorm.

Sure enough, Monday rolled around and they called.
Carol: "Mallory, we actually can't come today. Is there any way that we could come tomorrow? I know you work all day, but we only need 10 minutes."
I had a break between working at the gift shop in the morning and working in the kitchen night shift. It was only about two hours, sometimes less depending on how much prep I had to get done for dinner. I usually spent this time trying to catch up on my already much-deprived sleep schedule in one of the beds upstairs on the girl's floor.
Me: "Yeah, if you want to come about twelve tomorrow, I'm sure it'd work out fine."
Again, I didn't expect them to be able to show. Still, I sat out in the sun reading a book, keeping an eye open for them, just in case.

I was kind of dosing off when I heard a car pull up in the parking lot. Out climbed Carol and Anne. We went inside and had a short meeting upstairs in one of the rooms, away from the few co-workers that were spending their day-off lounging around the dorm. I don't remember what the message was, but I do remember what must have been most important for me to know. Those two sisters helped me to gain a testimony of visiting teaching that I have since taken a little for granted. In fact, it wasn't until last night that I finally realized that it was that meeting that marked my conversion to Relief Society.

Visiting teaching is not for the infirm, the unfaithful, nor the unknown sisters of the church. Rather it is for any and all sisters. I was not going through a rough time spiritually, and there was nothing their visit could have done for me that would have helped me in any physical way. When they left I did not feel immediately closer to either of the women, and in fact barely had time to think on them at all since I had to hurry over to work. Now though I realize just how thankful I am to them for helping me to gain that testimony of RS and of the relationship the women in the church not only should have, but can have. Neither of these women were remotely my age, and aside from knowing each other rather well, we didn't share too much in common. Yet they still made time in their schedules to come and look in on a girl who not only gave the appearance of being fine, but who really was. That is sisterly love.


ML said...

I gained a love of Relief Society through visiting teaching, too...many years ago at BYU...

Anonymous said...

Pres. Christiansen said I should write it down and send it to the Gen. RS presidency for them to use in their next conference talks.

ave said...

I think RS is a hard auxillary to work and be in a lot of times. I am back in RS on Sundays after spending 5 years in primary. Children are so much more fun and easy to be around. I think you are right about visiting teaching helping to strengthen us as women. Even if it is just once in a blue moon, a visiting teacher who really cares and goes out of her way at some point for you is a spiritual tonic.

Auntie Lee said...

Nice story. I have only been in RS myself for the past year. I have always been in other callings. I must confess I don't quite get it yet but then I have to spend most of the time translating and not participating. I do take visiting teaching seriously. You never know how you will find someone or what just a smile will do. It is more powerful than any lesson given.
Our branch is the highest in three stakes in VT visits and we're pretty proud of that.

Seal Harbor a town? Hee Hee

Calandria said...

i have to admit something here. v.t.ing is torture for me. i'm always given people who don't especially want me there, or who are hard to talk to, or with whom i have nothing in common. i hate small talk. thank heavens for the message or i would never survive these visits. but i do it.

thank you for writing your testimony of it. it's inspiring.