Sunday, July 24, 2011
In my ward, two older-ish gentlemen were recently baptized and became members of the church. In our faith worthy men are ordained to the priesthood, but they must be ordained in sequential order through various offices of priesthood, beginning at age 12. Young men are ordained to be deacons at 12 and continue on: deacons, teachers, priests. At adulthood they are ordained as elders, and sometime later, as high priests.
When a man joins the church after his teens, rather than automatically being ordained an elder, he must go through the other offices first. As you might imagine, this can be humbling. It plays out in very public ways, as deacons are assigned the task of passing the Sacrament bread and water to the entire congregation, teachers act as ushers of a sort, and priests bless the Sacrament in a public meeting.
Not being a man myself, I don't have firsthand experience with this, but I've been told by men who converted later in life that it's rather humbling to be out there with the 12-year old boys. From my perspective on the outside looking in, it seems like a bit of an act of faith as well. Submitting to the proscribed order of things, in such a public way, is an overt way of staking a claim, of saying, "yes, I believe that this is all true."
I admit, I've been curious how these two new brothers in my ward would cope.
Today they took their place in front of the Sacrament table before the meeting started. From the organ I had a birds-eye view as one by one, other men in the congregation glanced over, noticed, and came to join them. The younger men were excused. Today the Sacrament was passed to us by an army of men who looked quite different from the usual prepubescent boys. Graying hair and no hair replaced the rumpled or slicked back teen version; it was wrinkles instead of acne. Gently and almost imperceptibly the older brothers motioned the new ones in the proper movements and ritual, mentored them in their new responsibilities.
My fears that they wouldn't fit in, would feel awkward or conspicuous were unfounded.
And this, my friends, is why I not only believe the doctrines, but love and believe in the church. We mortals need a place and a company to practice what we believe, and the comfort of each other is the best way to do it.
Practicing our religion often takes us out of our comfort zone. It requires us to do things that are downright humbling. It calls upon us to make both private and public acts of faith. Those things can be scary, unnerving, potentially embarrassing, and uncomfortable.
Being surrounded by friends--by brothers and sisters, even--makes it much more possible.
To my brothers and sisters, who have surrounded me and held me up when I needed it most, for little things that barely mattered and for big things that mattered more than I'll ever know, thank you. Thank you for the practical support offered.
More than that, thank you for teaching me how to be one of the saints.