I've been tracking this blog for a while, its my sister's friend who lives in Provo (I think). The postings are incredibly infrequent, but this last one is particularly good.
Please read it, it's right here. It details the author's experience serving in a branch at a mental institution.
" Spirituality is not an extra. It's not superstructure. Spirituality is something that many of our patients crave in a visceral way. "
" I have learned that many of the formal aspects of the church don't matter that much, and that once those aspects are gone or are in flux, it can be very disorienting, yet liberating and uplifting. You get so that you focus on more basic things. I have been very interested as an artist lately in intimacy as a means to reach the unseen, as opposed to pageantry, which I think sometimes blinds us to the unseen by providing a kind of surrogate."
"I think the thing that I have learned most is not to judge other people. This is a hard fought lesson, because I have a problem with judging. This particularly comes up in the Forensics Ward where we have people who have killed people and committed sexual crimes. We also have people who have committed pretty minor offenses while a bit loopy, trespassing, petty theft, etc. Because of the unusual nature of our branch, we don't have disciplinary councils and we don't withhold the sacrament from anyone. At first it was a little strange, but then I came to find it very liberating and it helped me to realize that God is the only judge and that we don't need to worry about other people's worthiness."
"I think I replied that it was hard not to feel the spirit there. The people that attend the Forensics meeting are very humble and often want to bear their testimony and express their gratitude. They are reaching out for deliverance from pain, and, I think, struggling with complex issues of accountability relating to their own actions vis a vis their mental illnesses and mistreatment they have gone through as children and adults."
" It has taught me that, while obedience is better than forgiveness, forgiveness is more miraculous than obedience."
I must interject, I just thought that line: "forgiveness is more miraculous than obedience" was so darn beautiful and true it brought tears to my eyes.
"Wards are too big to really do the kind of service for their members that is needed. It is hard not to shake someone's hand in our branch. If you have something to say, you will get a chance to say it. If you have a concern, it will be heard and answered by a friendly, helpful person. All of the fancy programs that are enabled by the economies of scale inherent in large wards are of little benefit, compared with the personal interaction afforded by a small unit."
A little critique here, and I understand how impractical it would be to dissolve all of our wards into much tinier branches, but I understand the challenges being in a large ward is. Its pretty easy in our ward of ours, for example, to dissolve inside the shadows if you want to... Sunday School classes are large, and its tough sometimes to interject a comment in the discussion because there are so many people and so little time...
"Fast and testimony in any ward or branch is usually an opening for nuttiness. But maybe that's the way that God intends. Maybe the crazy run-on testimonies are what we need to hear. Well, as you can imagine, testimony meeting at a mental hospital is extra nutty, but I think it goes over the top to a new sort of transcendent level."
Its funny, in our ward, there is a lot of emphasis on short, concise testimonies and for good reason. But I know for myself, its just so easy to psyche myself out of getting up to share a testimony, or to censor myself too much when I do get and and share. And the constant harping on short testimonies ends up being a barrier of entry for me personally. I'm glad they do it, and its something I must overcome personally. But its nice to hear a perspective that "crazy run-on testimonies" are exactly the way "God intends" them to be.
On my mission, in our zone conferences, my first mission president would not limit our testimony meetings. He would let them go on as long as people were willing to get up. On a mission, we really emphasized testimony meetings. We would have them in every zone conference, and if I remember right in our district meetings as well.. They were extremely spiritual 100% of the time. Experiences I have not had to that level since.