Tuesday, February 06, 2007

What Community Means To Me

This is from a testimony I shared at the Vancouver Community of Christ congregation in Vancouver, British Columbia on 28 January 2007 as part of the Young Adults of the Puget Sound worship service on the theme of "Many Voices, One Community."

I have a confession to make ...I attended Brigham Young University instead of Graceland College. Part of my reason was because tuition was a lot cheaper. It just goes to show that I can be bought for thirty pieces of silver.

When I was at BYU, I didn't volunteer information that I belonged to the RLDS church because I wanted to know what Mormons really thought about our church and I received quite an education that way.

One professor, I remember, explained the differences between Shia and Sunni Islam to our class by comparing the differences between the LDS and RLDS churches. I didn't agree with her comparison, so after class, I told her: "Actually, the better comparison between our two churches would be like the USA and Canada. The LDS Church is a lot wealthier and has more people, while ours is less conservative and the people are a lot nicer."

When I told fellow students of my church membership, the question was always, "Why BYU?" I asked myself that same question every day that I attended. The honest answer was that when I had prayed about where to attend college, the answer came back unmistakeably BYU. It was not even on my radar screen. Whenever I told that to Mormons, they would get excited and saw that as a way to convert me to their church. They tried to convince me that God had sent me to BYU to become a Mormon, and to that, I would say, "if God really wanted me to become a Mormon, He would not have sent me to BYU."

At BYU, I learned a lot about their beliefs and my faith was challenged, but it was a necessary experience for me overall. In my last semester, I was on the intern program in Washington, D.C., the only non-Mormon on the program of about 30 students. We lived in the same apartment complex, so we hung out in the evenings and weekends. We debated politics and theology and some of them couldn't understand why anyone would want to be a member of the RLDS Church. One girl in particular always asked me what it was about the RLDS Church that kept me loyal, and it was hard for me to answer.

One Sunday, I took her (Janell Cerva) and one of my roommates (Matt Baker) to church with me at the Washington D.C. congregation on Massachusetts Avenue. During the service, by serendipitous luck, the congregation sang one of my favourite songs: "Pass It On." To my amazement, my Mormon friends had never heard it before. Neither had they heard my other favourite, which we'll sing at the end of this service: "We Are One in the Spirit." I was actually surprised by this.

Last year, I attended the Young Adult retreat at Samish Island and met for the first time Erik, Sean, Aaron, Shannon, and others. When we sang songs from memory, including the two I had just mentioned, it finally hit me what it was about this church community. No matter what congregation I attend, I'm almost guaranteed to meet someone who either knows someone I know, or we had met before.

I feel connected to church members through our common knowledge of songs and our experiences at reunions, retreats, and World Conference. I love the smallness of our church and I've never found the same kind of connection with others outside of this community. To me, that's what community means. As for what I mean to the community, I would hope that people would find value in my experience at BYU. What I most admire about Mormons is their ability to keep young single adults active in their church and it is something I would like to help foster within our own community, because we have something unique to offer the world.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this great testimony of your spiritual journey! Glad to have you as part of the Community of Christ family!

Mandalynn said...

BYU wasn't that bad, was it? After all, you were able to meet some fantasic people - like me!!

Sansego said...

No, in retrospect, it wasn't bad...but it was the Washington Seminar that made the struggles of the previous 3 years worth it. I went through a lot of loneliness there and not really fitting it. It would've been great if I met you, Jantzen, Janell, and Matt B. and others my first semester at BYU and then we all did the DC seminar. The truth is, I believe God had directed me to attend BYU for whatever reason and it was only years after my experience did I only begin to appreciate what I went through. For one thing, my level of spiritual experiences and knowledge increased. And of course, no experience is without merit if I meet some fantastic people in the process. So thank you!

Sean Langdon said...

Thank you for sharing this with us up at the service in Vancouver! It was great to have you apart of it!! I think the Vancouver congregation really liked your comparison of the LDS and Community of Christ faith to Canada and USA!