Sunday Best


For the past two weeks we’ve had a small LDS service each Sunday here at the 21st CSH. Our chaplain is not LDS but she’s been very helpful in putting out meeting times, providing space, complementary LDS edition scriptures, etc. Our first meeting was run by a national guardsman who had been set apart as a servicemen’s group leader. The following week, an LDS chaplain from the Utah Guard stopped by and led us. Both meetings were spirit filled and were attended by about a dozen or so soldiers and a handful of civilian volunteers and contractors. This week neither were available and while we had priesthood holders we couldn’t hold an officially sanctioned meeting as none of us been set apart as a group leader—a problem we will all rectify before we deploy to Iraq. It’s interesting how it works, you can read more about it here.

In lieu of having our own service, we manifested a vehicle and four of us drove ten miles or so to the Stake Center where the remnants of the Saints gather here. Your first clue that this would not be your typical block meeting was the tent city set up on the church lawn. I wish I would have taken a picture before the meeting as there were many more than you see here. This photo was taken afterwards and many had been broken down. The tents were the uncertain dwelling places of the brethren from surrounding areas (we met a lot from Texas) who were there for the weekend to help. Each weekend a new group shows up to work, this weekend they estimated about 400 came. As President Hinckley mentioned many were wearing “Mormon Helping Hands” t-shirts. As far as I could tell the work did not stop on Sunday, we came out of priesthood meeting to see grimy brethren in work clothes waiting in the hallway for a chance to shower. The women’s showers adjacent to the baptismal font had been set aside for these brethren as well.
It was surreal. The remnants of the local Saints in their white shirts and dresses mingling in the foyer with soldiers, out-of-town returned missionaries working for contractors in t-shirts and jeans, sweaty brethren in shorts and work boots. It reminded me of a story I once heard about Brigham Young closing a church meeting abruptly so that the brethren could go help in some crisis (I believe it was a rescue operation for Saints trapped on the westward trek). There were other signs as well, boxes of food piled up in the Chapel overflow, the cultural hall floor lined with tarps wall-to-wall and converted into a kind of operations center. A room converted into a full-time employment office.
There were about 100 people in sacrament meeting, not a bad showing I thought, all things considered. Then I was told that this was a joint meeting of the residue of three different wards, which explained why there were so many people on the stand—three different bishoprics! Not being from around here we had a little trouble finding the place and so walked in late, four of us in BDU’s during the sacrament hymn. We stood out, to say the least but were welcomed warmly both by one of the Bishops during his talk and by members afterwards. I was curbsided in the foyer on a brother (one of the workforce) who had gotten bleach in his eye. I felt undeserving of the praise and thanks heaped on us by people who had gone through so much or who were giving service so selflessly. I pointed out to some volunteers that I wasn’t exactly asked whether I wanted to come help and that they were the one’s deserving of praise.

It dawned on me halfway through the meeting that there were almost no children--all the schools are closed. I suppose those with kids will be some of the last to return. Even with schools open, I wouldn’t want my child playing in most of these areas lest they step on a nail, discover a dead dog or worse.

Sunday school was my favorite by far. The lesson was on the trials of Saints after the martyrdom, and many bore testimony that Katrina had taught them just a little bit more about what it must have been like for those Saints to have to leave their homes, to loose everything. There were many more wet eyes than is typical for gospel doctrine, I can assure you.

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This page contains a single entry by John published on October 30, 2005 5:50 PM.

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