All content on this blog is copyright by Marci Andrews Wahlquist as of its date of publication.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Times Fails Thomas S. Monson

Never did I ever think I would agree with Donald Trump on anything major, nor on anything I thought was silly, such as his constant criticism of the New York Times. But my Church president died last week, and when I read his obituary in the Times, I was shocked to find that I felt that the obituary’s writer and the editorial staff in charge of such things had failed the standards of mainstream journalism in favor of sensationalism. Could Donald Trump be right? Yikes.

President Thomas S. Monson, late prophet and leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was known internationally as a humanitarian figure. Yet the obituary in the Times takes 21 paragraphs to highlight the failures of the Mormon church and its leader to ordain women and to accept same-sex marriage, before the obituary even begins to mention the vital facts of the man’s life. Someone on Twitter mentioned that this obituary was not nearly as kind to its subject as was the obituary for Fidel Castro. What a concept!

There’s a scripture in Isaiah that says a time will come when the wisdom of the wise will fail and the understanding of the prudent will be hid, and things will be turned upside down (see Isaiah 29). This is what I think about this obituary: that a fundamentally good man is treated as if he were the evil one, and his good works, while not precisely hidden, are not mentioned until paragraph 25, well below where one would expect a fair and impartial journalist to balance his article with their placement. I wonder if those kinder paragraphs are even included in the print version. I bet they were cut because of space issues. So all that people reading the print version would see were the controversy. Maybe it sells papers, but it is not fair and balanced journalism.

But even as late as he mentioned Thomas Monson’s regular visits to 85 widows and weekly letters to 23 servicemen serving in Korea while a bishop in the early 1950s, the writer of the obituary included only one other solid fact of humanitarian service in paragraph 27: “Awaiting his turn for the presidency, he embraced humanitarian causes with Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups supporting homeless shelters, food banks, nursing homes and disaster relief efforts in the United States and abroad.” I take exception to the modifying introductory clause, “Awaiting his turn . . .”, since it is misleading. Thomas Monson was not waiting to be president of the LDS Church. Without getting into a lengthy explanation of how presidents are chosen in this church, let me just say it’s not a sure thing that anyone will be president, even the so-called second in line. So he simply lived as he thought he was supposed to: in service to humankind. That is another fact that this sentence in paragraph 27 hid: that most of Thomas Monson’s service was personal, one-on-one, not part of multi-faith group efforts as though he couldn’t be bothered to start anything himself nor do anything himself. Where is a mention of his nearly daily visits to people in hospitals? Where is any description of the countless humanitarian works that *just* the LDS Church did under his leadership?

My own Thomas S. Monson story is that when I worked for the Church as an editor in charge of various pieces of curriculum, I was doing a project to produce a welfare booklet one time, and Thomas S. Monson was the advisor. I had final say over the design, the text, and all the aspects of printing, but he would give approval from the ecclesiastical side. The designer worked with me to come up with the colors and graphics, and we thought we had a lovely piece at the end of all our work. But President Monson’s word came back to us: “No, this won’t do.” He was concerned about the colors and about the audience of the text. He said that elderly people with vision problems wouldn’t be able to read colored print on even light-colored background easily. I looked into it and of course he was right. Readability does deteriorate with less contrast between words and background, and the greatest readability remains black text on white background, with a serif font. He asked us to redesign, which of course we did, and we were impressed that he was so concerned with the minority of the target audience who might have vision problems.

In my interactions with him (and others in the highest leadership) I was personally impressed with his personal goodness. Thomas Monson sincerely loved the Lord and wanted to do what He wanted him to do, as best as he could.

I never was treated as less than an equal by any of the highest leadership when I was working there. A few in lower positions were annoyingly backward for the times, but they were paid employees, not ecclesiastical leaders. It’s a slow thing to effect blanket social change, and to change a religion is fraught with difficulty, especially when the religion relies on actual revelation. We get personal revelation all the time, but for the entire church, the revelation has to come through the prophet. Those of us who are faithful and believe wholeheartedly in this truth wait for the Lord’s timing, and His timing is different from the world’s. I don’t know what will happen about gays and about women in leadership, but I do know that the Lord is ultimately and absolutely fair, and when we get to the other side of mortality, we’ll all say, “Oh, so that’s how it works. I see. Right!”

Meanwhile, rest in peace, Thomas S. Monson, and may your grieving family be blessed with peace.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Images

My sister-in-law taught me the art of decorating a Christmas tree with all the ornaments possible for a tree to hold. I have three large apple boxes of ornaments and all three boxes are stuffed full. Everything in them goes on my Christmas tree every year. I used to have a nine-foot tree (we bought an artificial tree after years of real trees that were increasingly dried out, and we decided that contributing to the growing and cutting of real trees, especially when they were cut as early as midsummer, was not a good thing). The ornaments used to fit comfortably on that tree.
That tree wore out after almost twenty years and the tree we bought to replace it is seven feet tall. I still put every ornament we own on it. Here is what it looks like, basically, from a few years ago. Pretty full, huh?

I love taking out the ornaments and looking them over. Each has a memory attached to it, whether it was something from my childhood, from my husband's childhood, or was given to us by one or another of our family members or friends, or was made by or for one of our children, or was one of the ornaments I used to buy every year from a special store we used to visit each Christmas season, I go through all those memories as I decorate the tree.
Shell fish from Auntie Vi

Some of our many nativity-themed ornaments

Swan from that glass-blower in Scotland .  .  .

Glass violin from 75 years ago

The tree my mother made, and the figures that
remind my husband of his years in Germany

Ho ho ho. Here I am in the Harlequin ball

My teapot collection

The train collection because my son loved trains

Another nativity, and all those apples my daughter loved

My sister-in-law gave me lots of gold things, such as this
Noah's Ark. My mother and I attended a Christmas party
thirty-some years ago in Oregon where I got a set of these
Renaissance angels

Look out, you mice, that cat is watching

One of my mother's nativities

This was from that Christmas shop

Because every tree needs a glass pickle

The partridge from the Christmas shop,
with his expensive gilded pear

The last set of glass ornaments I gave my parents the year
that we had to move them to my house and they didn't get
to be home for Christmas even though their tree was up

The set of drums is about 80 years old now

I put the oldest glass ornaments inside the tree for safety

My sister-in-law always has a live tree. Her friends from Montana used to go out and get her a tree and bring it all the way here. Those friends have since died, and one of the children still runs a Christmas tree lot locally every year. I think they still get her a tree, but it is never as fresh as in years past. Here are a few of her things from the tree last year.
The 2016 tree

She collects stacking dolls

An interpretation of the
partridge in the pear tree

Nothing like a carriage drawn by horses

Her tree is always full of pretty things

Every Christmas she fills the shelf above the piano with stacking dolls, about thirty sets or more I think. Many of them are Christmas themed, but a few are out all year. The largest stand about a foot high, and the smallest are smaller than a grain of rice. Because I love her stacking dolls, I want to include some of them here.
This is the largest set
A cute take on Father Christmas
Winter ladies and one of the tiny sets
The tiny set, close up
One snowman set, with a pen for perspective
Here are the two snowmen sets, with the smallest of each the size of a seed
You have to see those smallest snowmen magnified!
Understandably, my sister-in-law gets very nervous when the younger relatives come over and want to unpack these snowmen. She is sure somebody some day is going to lose the littlest members of the set. She herself never unpacks them anymore; she says her hands are no longer steady enough.

Now here are some of the sets she has given me over the years.
Not the nutcracker. That was from a friend. She gave my son the Irish-
themed Father Christmas set the year he chose Ireland for us to visit.
These are first set she gave me, and they are all wooden bells.

Another Father Christmas set.

Well, Santa has nine reindeer, but who is here besides Dasher, Dancer,
Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen?
Surely Rudolph would not disguise his nose?

She found this Jim Shore nativity set to add to my collection.

I appreciate Santa and Father Christmas figures for the gift tradition that is tied to the religious Christmas story, but since I am religious myself, I like best to have Christian nativity figures as decorations all around my house. My mother started me collecting nativities (some people call them creche sets), and now that she lives with me, together we have dozens. Here are few images of our sets.

I love Christmas. I love to think about the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who came into the world as a tiny babe, willing to undergo all that mortality entailed in order to fulfill the will of the Father in all things. Because He came, because He completed His full mission, including the Atonement for our sorrows and sins, He knows how to succor us in all our trials and troubles, and He can heal us from everything we suffer in this life. Nothing can be outside His experience; we literally cannot get beyond His grace unless we simply choose to separate ourselves from Him. He will never interfere with our ability to choose. I choose Him, and though I am inevitably flawed, I know that in Him I have a chance to realize perfect happiness. Therefore, I wish you a happy Christmas.