Monday, October 15, 2012

The President's Ward?

Not long ago I read an article in The Washington Post entitled "D.C. Third Ward Mormons Welcome Romney, even though most are democrats." The post made me smile because for the last several months, ever since Mitt Romney announced his candidacy, I have been thinking about this ward... a lot.

About six years ago, when Mitt Romney was making his first attempt for the Republican presidential nomination I was in Washington D.C. with a school group. In our group was a girl whose father was serving as a chief of staff to one of President Bush's cabinet members and when Sunday rolled around we left their apartment, which was close to Capitol Hill, and made our way to the LDS chapel where her parents attended. It was a cold day and as we walked towards the church I became a bit alarmed as the streets got progressively less affluent and increasingly more "rough". I was certain that these weren't neighborhoods I would usually wander around by myself. I was glad my friend knew where we were going. I was a bit relieved when we finally reached the church door step.

The church was not a traditional LDS church building (though they will soon be getting a new building) and I will never forget the welcome I received when I walked through that church door. A big African man, with the most contagious smile I'd ever seen, grabbed my hand with both of his and said in a booming voice, "Welcome sister to the true Church of Jesus Christ, we are so happy to have you here today!"  His sincere greeting melted my heart and as I proceeded down the hall, which was lined on both sides by at least four sets of missionaries who all shook my hand, I was stunned. I can easily say that I have never felt so welcome, so quickly, in any other congregation I have ever attended.

After this welcome I  stumbled into the chapel with the other kids in my group and sat down, feeling welcome but a bit out of place. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unique in the fact that members don't get to choose which congregation (called "wards") that they attend. Ward assignments are given by geographical area and members are not (usually) allowed to consistently attend a ward outside of their assigned one. I have lived in several areas where this rule has resulted in some very economic, social, and ethnic diversity. Yet as I sat on that Washington D.C. Third Ward pew and glanced around me I  marveled at the incredible diversity of the ward. Next to me was my friend's parents-- white and obviously well off,  behind me were several young mothers with their little children-- black and obviously very poor, the bishopric on the stand was comprised of three men with three different skin colors, and in front of the sacrament table there was the most unusual mix of deacons I had ever seen in my life-- white and black, Asian and Latino, poor and wealthy, privileged and impoverished,  young and old. As the reporter said in The Washington Post article,
"The ward is known in the area for its unusual demographics and high-energy warmth. Up to half of the congregation is nonwhite, including a large, Spanish-speaking population and converts from French-speaking Africa... its roughly 200 congregants are drawn largely from Northeast Washington and have included deported immigrants, a teen shot dead in gang violence, refugees from African wars, and youths who depend on the church for meals, tutoring for class and support to pay for Boy Scout camp."
That day as I sat in that chapel, surrounded by such an incredible mix of people, I remember thinking, "Wow, if Mitt Romney gets the nomination he might become president.. and this would be his ward."

And with that thought came a warm rush of the spirit that nearly brought me to tears.

Not because I really feel any great love or support for Mitt Romney but because I not only felt, but saw before my eyes, what the apostle Peter understood,

"Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons." (Acts 10:34)

I realized at that moment one of the most beautiful truths that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ offers-- that all men and women have equal status and privilege in the eyes of God. He doesn't care if you are a prostitute, a drug dealer, a refugee, a Senator or even the President of the United States-- your worth in His eyes is the same.

I can't help but feel that is the message that the reporter from The Washington Post missed. That the real story here isn't the fact that lots of the members of the ward are Democrats, but that if  Mitt Romney did get elected he would be worshiping among people from every imaginable walk of life. And that, most importantly, in the eyes of God the President of the United States (arguably  the most powerful person in the world) would have no greater privilege or importance to Him than the poor, struggling single mother sitting on the back row.

"... and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God... " (2 Nephi 26:33). 

And, regardless of who wins the election this November, that is a beautiful lesson.  


Just as an end note, please don't take this post as an endorsement for Mitt Romney. I don't consider myself to be a Republican or a Democrat... I am somewhere in between. I voted for Obama last election, but I am undecided who I will vote for this election, though I am leaning a bit more to the right this time :) Please keep your comments kind and considerate.

30 comments:

  1. I just love your description of the welcome you received! That needs to happen everywhere. :)

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  2. Wow. Can I live in that ward?! P.S. Mitt Romney was my Stake President many moons ago. :-)

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  3. That ward sounds a little like heaven, to me. :)

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  4. Fantastic thoughts! It sounds like a perfect place for the most powerful person in the world to worship. What a great place to spend time remembering the power of Jesus Christ in an individual life.

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  5. Thank you! I served my mission in Washington D.C., and the diversity of people was what I loved most about it. While tracting we would meet so many people from different countries at every single door. How wonderful that we are "all alike unto God".

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  6. My favorite ward ever (it's not like children, I totally believe you can have favorite wards) was the most diverse. We lived in a medium sized city and in our stake there were several branches. We were in one of the only wards around. The ward encompassed the entire city plus some of the surrounding towns. The insights that were brought up by class members in Relief Society and Gospel Doctrine were some of the best I've sat through. I wish every ward could be that way.

    The D.C. ward sounds like an incredible ward for anyone to be a part of. And certainly for a high-powered leader.

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  7. During college I spent a semester abroad in Vienna, Austria, where they have four German-speaking wards and one English-speaking "International" ward. The bishop of the International ward was an old friend of the family, so I often attended that ward in addition to the German-speaking ward I was assigned to, and I loved the diversity! There were dozens of nationalities represented, all across the social and economic spectrum, and the welcome I received was very similar to the one you describe in DC. It's good to get out in the world and see just how different - and how similar - the Church is everywhere you go. We Mormons are a diverse group of people in so many ways, all bound together by our love of God and each other.

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  8. I'm in MD, not far from the DC ward you are speaking about. Our ward is, as are most of the wards in our stake, very diverse. We even have French speaking branches, and two Hispanic wards in our stake. You would feel just as much love at any of these wards.

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  9. I was thinking about this the other day, and I was wondering - if Romney gets elected, how will he be used in his ward? "Brother Mr. President, we'd like to call you to be our nursery leader" And what would it be like to have the President come each month to be your home teacher, or to go do your home/visiting teaching in the White House? Those are the stories I'd really like to hear if he gets elected!

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  10. I love your blog. It's my kind of news. I'm not a big news watcher, but this interview, passed to me by a friend was worth watching.
    http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/politics/2012/10/10/piers-bts-stacy-dash-romney-supporter.cnn

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  11. Brittny, I think the same thing! I'm sure he wouldn't get a very demanding calling... nursery leader would be perfect :)

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  12. Would he be able to go to a normal ward as President? I would imagine that wouldn't be very safe... but I have never really thought about it before. That would be amazing.

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    1. I have been wondering the same thing. I don't know what the logistics are but many of the past presidents consitently attened churches in Washington DC. I don't think that Obama has gone more than a handful of times (according to article I read) and neither did President Bush. But Bill Clinton and his family were regular members at one of the DC churches, and other presidents depending on their faiths have also gone to church. SO I am sure that he would probably be able to go, but I wonder about a calling? Maybe they would give him an exception on that one :) He might be too busy. But I am almost certain he would get home and visiting teachers, who would pass up that opportunity!

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    2. What about going the temple? I wonder how that would work with the security protocols.

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    3. The Obama's attend St, Johns Episcopal Church in DC. I have no idea how often they are there but my Mother's good friend also attends this same church regularly. That is an interesting question about SS at church, or if they are going to the Temple. I wonder how they would work that out?

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    4. Well, if he has his guards with him, it'll be a pool of instant investigators! :)

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  13. Enjoyed this post, and your description of Third Ward - sounds lovely.

    I'm betting Romney wouldn't have a calling for the duration.... seems like he'd have a pretty full plate already!

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  14. Reading about this ward, I felt the Spirit telling me how true this was. How our church is a diverse mix, and we are all treated the same. what a wonderful feeling it is!

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  15. Oh Heather, I loved this post and your eloquent thoughts so much. Growing up in the Chicago area we had quite a bit of diversity in our ward too. I am grateful for that experience, to have learned about the love of God for all his children-- not just in a theoretical way, but tangibly manifest each week as we worshiped side by side at church. It's something I really want to teach my children.

    (And just so you know, I voted for Obama last election too! I'm leaning more towards the right this cycle... but like you I haven't made up my mind 100%. Political moderates unite! ;) )

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  16. I must say I am surprised at your last comments about voting for Obama and considering him for this time around. To me, it seems clear cut as far as which candidate adheres to the moral standard of our church. It is hard for me to understand active LDS people who would vote for Obama. Of course this is your blog and you have every right to say who you are voting for without worrying about repercussions and of course I respect your right to vote for whomever you choose. I am just surprised, since I have been a loyal reader of yours for over a year, I was truly surprised to read your last paragraph of your post.

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    1. Heidi, I am still a bit undecided about who I am going to vote for. Though I think it is safe to say that I am swinging more to the right this time. I actually think that Romney is more of a moderate at heart and so I like that. I have a hard time identifying with a party because I really dislike and like things about both parties. I think if I could describe my political identity it would be something like this : Conservative on social issues like abortion, education, gay marriage, gun laws, etc... and Liberal on international issues like war, foreign relations, etc...

      Last election foreign relations was a huge issue and after listening to John McCain's republican nomination speech where he stressed continuing the war in Iraq and Afghanistan I didn't think I could go for that. I am really an anti-Lehi-Nephi at heart and to me fixing international relations and the war was my biggest concerns. I think that Obama has actually done a really wonderful job on that front-- really as much as he could do-- so much that foreign affairs is hardly a topic at all for this election. So I like him for that, but I don't really like his social policies very much. I do like knowing that Mitt Romney shares my same values and beliefs but there are platforms of the Republican party that I don't much care for... so... I am still torn.

      I hope that if we have different political views that won't influence your opinion of me :) Having a diversity of opinions and viewpoints is what makes our country unique and wonderful!

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    2. Of course!! =) I enjoyed hearing your points of views and reasonings. We all have different opinions and that's what makes this country so great! I didn't mean any offense by my response, just to say I was genuinely surprised! =) As far as international issues, I am not anti-war, but definitely not pro-war...I do feel it is necessary sometimes to protect your land, family and stand for what you know is right. That is why I loved George W. Bush so much, he stood up for what he believed and he didn't care if people didn't like him for that! McCain, yea he wasn't much to vote for, more of voting against a certain person that time around! =)
      Thanks for sharing your opinions, I will always be a faithful reader of yours, whether we agree on politics or not!!

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  17. I love this post! I have two brothers that live in DC and they are both in this ward! I hope that Obama wins this election, he is who this LDS individual is supporting and I know that he and his family would be welcomed to that ward as well if they decided to attend. The Romney's are welcome, all are welcome! This is what is so awesome about the gospel, there is a place for everyone. There is a Face Book group that I am a member of called "Mormons for Obama" we are not a Mitt Romney bashing group and that is prohibited, we consider him to be Brother Romney. All are welcome and invited to join, we have members who are Republicans, members who are supporting Romney and are just curious to learn why an LDS individual would support Obama. Its an awesome group, if anyone is just curious about the other side of the aisle and wants to meet some super nice awesome people then please join us! I normally wouldn't have said this either but I feel that it goes with this post. Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. Of couse you have brothers that attend this ward. You are just that cool. I look up tp you so much!

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  18. It would be so interesting for you to post about why you are still undecided. I don't understand how anyone could be. You either think Obama has done good for the country or not.
    Is it a question of supporting a fellow member of the church that is pulling at you?

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  19. I am stunned that people think being an active member of the Curch automatically puts you in Romney's camp. This is not what we are taught by our leaders and there is a wide variety of people from different backgrounds within the Church so it's only natural that we could vote either way. I am still undecided myself, and did not support Obama last time, but I don't believe that he has been this awful President Republicans make him out to be, which is why it's still not clear to me who I am voting for as I am usually more of a conservative voter, but there are a few things I don't agree with that Romney stands for. Political elections are not always clear cut, since both sides can have things you agree but also disagree with. Being a member of the LDS Church doesn't automatically put you on either side of an issue. To me it's a matter of looking at what matters most to me personally and then seeing which of the two candidates comes closest to my personal beliefs and values, and those can be different even betwen members within the Church.

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    1. I definitely wasn't implying that all active members vote for Romney because he is LDS...I was just surprised because TO ME this race has two clearly different candidates...one who clearly stands for what we believe and will lead our country the way the Lord blessed it to be and another who hasn't! Obviously Romney isn't perfect but when it comes down to choosing a candidate, you choose who has the most qualities you agree with. I totally respect others opinions...politics is obviously an issue that always has different opinions and I can listen to others views without getting upset. I was just genuinely surprised and expressed that. No harm done.

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  20. My husband shares a Great Aunt with Romney, so he likes to joke that it is a family voting issue.There is alot to joke about with this election.

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  21. I found this tool again today and thought of you trying to decide who to vote for. I like it because it gives you the actual issues and the different stances that you could have on them and then matches you to different candidates. If you still haven't decided I'd recommend checking it out! As you go through make sure you see the links at the bottom of each section that will show you more questions (there are a lot of good ones) and even if you look at a question and think it's really just yes or no, click on the "choose another stance" option and see what those are. I found the first time I did it I'd actually missed a lot of questions, and the answers I *really* liked were under the "choose another stance" more so than just yes or no. Hope it helps! http://www.isidewith.com/presidential-election-quiz

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