I just returned from the annual Midwest Pilgrims Retreat outside of Rockford, Illinois. It’s always refreshing to be in the company of good women. This band of sisters has been meeting for 24 years or so, and like the Exponent II retreats, we are beginning to see some second generation Pilgrims gathering with us. Even if I only get a few minutes of re-connection with the many kindred spirit gals there, I feel renewed, nourished and motivated.
For intellectual stimulation – and for stirring up stress levels – the topic of this retreat was polygamy. Kathryn Daynes, Professor of History at BYU, presented a detailed, articulate historical analysis of polygamy from 1840-1910, emphasizing the Utah period in Manti. Fascinating stuff! (Her book is “More Wives than One”, published by University of Illinois Press.). I feel much better informed and significantly more sympathetic for the families – men and women – trying to “live the principle” back in the day.
There were also discussions around HBO’s series “Big Love.” Since I’d reviewed “Big Love” for beliefnet.com, I’ve been ruminating over the polygamy issue for a while now. At one open question/discussion session folks batted around the conclusions some have drawn about the life hereafter regarding polygamy. Jana Riess – scholar, overall cool person, and co-author of “Mormonism for Dummies” and selector and annotator for “The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated and Explained” – mused that she found it startling that women would set aside the scriptural promises of the next life that speak of peace, joy and rest but assume instead that God plans to consign them to a state of eternal life that they dread. I found that a very juicy observation.
I felt that throughout the weekend comments and conversations often traveled toward the notion of how little we really know. In a very moving testimony at Sacrament Meeting, Kathryn Daynes shared her convictions that what she does know about God is that God loves her – and each of us – beyond even our wildest abilities to comprehend. In our limited understanding we should hold on to the hope and promise that, above all, God loves us. Being a Mormon of minimalist theology, I felt “to sing the song of redeeming love” with her reminder.
This is a little report of the weekend. Some questions linger.
Many feelings still arise around the complex issue of polygamy. (I’ve maxed out on pondering that topic for a while, but have at it if you will!)
Relative to the rejuvenation I receive from attending retreats, here’s something I’d love to know your thoughts on:
When your current ward or branch is so drastically different from your comfort zone, how do you cope?
Where do you get your spiritual nourishment?
Or maybe your current ward is terrific (sounds like Pittsburgh is a little Utopia!), but concerns with the institutional church are confusing and confounding you, how do you make peace?
Especially, if this is the case for you, how do you make peace and stay committed to the Restored Gospel?
What supplemental sources do you have to feed your spirit?