I went to my ward in my home city today, and it was kind of nice. I like the ward because people are always very welcoming, something I haven't always found in some wards I've attended in my life. All three of the bishopric came up to me at separate times to welcome me, and two of them (the bishop and one of the counselors) remembered me from when I had attended before. The guy behind me struck up a conversation with me, and we chatted for a bit. So it was just nice to be fellowshipped. Of course, I feel that way in Mom's ward, too, since many people there know and love me, but some wards haven't been so friendly. For example, I attended the ward in another town for almost eight months, and not very many people ever acknowledged me. I even remember times when the bishop would go out of his way to talk to people he was already acquainted with who happened to be sitting, respectively, in front of me and behind me, but he would skip me. I thought it was odd, and I was also surprised that people in such a relatively small town - people who seemed to know one another well and had a reputation for friendliness - would not acknowledge me. On the other hand, I was freshly excommunicated when I started attending and didn't really want to get to know people or have them know me, so God probably knew that's what I needed at the time and thus didn't inspire those members to get to know me better.
But in this ward I'm attending right now I have always appreciated how outgoing the people are here and how they seem to go out of their way to welcome visitors. Anyway, I felt very welcome, and that was nice.
Then when the meeting started (Sacrament Meeting is first), the bishop reminded the congregation about reverence and the importance of the ordinance of taking the sacrament, and I appreciated his words and how he set a more sacred tone for the meeting.
One things I don't like about the ward (and many wards) is how lackluster the singing can be. This ward in particular is not very loud or enthusiastic, in my opinion, when it comes to hymn singing. That's actually one of my favorite parts of church, and I can be rather exuberant when I sing. I felt like I was too loud today, that's how soft I feel everyone sings in this ward (and it's not a small group of people, either!)
After the sacrament, there was a youth speaker (his talk wasn't too memorable) and then a woman spoke. Her talk was pretty good. It was about freedom of religion, and it got a little political at times. I didn't agree with everything she said, but I thought it was a well-constructed, well-spoken talk, and I appreciated that.
There was an absolutely gorgeous musical arrangement of "I Believe in Christ" played by a pianist and a cellist. The pianist also told us to read the words to the hymn while they played, and that did make it more meaningful. But it was such a beautiful, moving arrangement, and I really felt the Spirit.
The first lady who had spoken had given quite a lengthy talk, and so the meeting was nearly over when the second speaker got up. He kind of accused her of only leaving him with five or six minutes, and so he said he would just tell a story. He ended up talking for ten or fifteen minutes, and based on his talk, I was glad the woman had taken some of his time.
The story he told was about some famous hockey coach who had taken some kids who hadn't originally gotten along and turned them into an Olympic-winning team. When they won the gold medal, they said that was their proudest moment. When the coach was asked what his proudest moment was, he said it was taking this group of 20 young men with different attitudes and beliefs and goals and making them "as one" and turning them into a unified team. This story would have been well and good if it had had anything to do with the rest of his talk, but then he started talking about food storage and 72 hour emergency kits, and I couldn't see what one had to do with the other. It wasn't a very organized (or terribly interesting) talk, but maybe that was a consequence of his not having had enough time to give it. Anyway, I was nonplussed.
Sunday School was pretty good. No one in this ward knows I've been excommunicated, and so I considered "cheating" and giving comments on the lesson. It's not like I would say anything divisive or controversial, and they wouldn't know better anyway. But honestly, I didn't have anything noteworthy to say and "cheating" didn't seem right to me.
The lesson was about miracles that Jesus had performed, and it was interesting. One lady made a comment (I can't even remember what it was in response to) that sometimes the Lord gives us what we actually need and not what we're told we're "supposed" to need, and that comment touched me a lot because I feel that's exactly what the Lord has done for me - he's given me what I actually needed; not just what the Church told me I needed to be happy. I guess, bottom line, is it reaffirmed what I already know: God knows what I need better than any man or institution does, and for that I am grateful; however, I continue to love and sometimes defend the LDS Church even if I don't always fit in the "Mormon box."
There is a lady in this ward (actually, she's the one I made the comment I just wrote about) who often gives the Sunday School lesson (she didn't today), but I love her energy and personality. I like her and what she has to say, and I was glad she was still in the ward. I hope she's still a Sunday School teacher because I enjoy her lessons. Anyway, I was glad she was there and grateful for her contributions to the lesson (as well as the others in the room - another thing I like about the ward is there are a lot of people who contribute to the discussions in Sunday School class).
I didn't go to Priesthood. I don't attend Priesthood regularly. In fact, two or three weeks ago was the first time I had attended Priesthood in several years. Unfortunately, this did little to make me want to go again, so I think it will probably be some time before I go back to Priesthood meeting.
Jonah's nephew-in-law had a birthday today, and we celebrated with Jonah's extended family at our house. I'm getting to know his family better, and they have treated me very kindly. I know some are aware of our relationship, although I don't know to what extent, and I appreciate that they have treated me like a family member. It means a lot.
I bought Jonah some special Valentine's gifts, and I am eager for him to open them tomorrow. I am also really grateful that we will get to spend both Valentine's Day and my birthday together this year. I'm really, really happy to be with him. I've missed him so much, and it's so nice to be home and not just feel like I'm visiting.
Anyway, Happy Valentine's Day to all.
Love you lots.