Why the church needs to be doing more in helping the elderly

This is a guest post written by Holly Whitman. Holly is a freelance writer and journalist, originally from the UK but now based in Washington DC. You can find her on Twitter at @hollykwhitman and more of her writing on her blog, Only Slightly BiasedTo submit a guest post, email ourthoughts@gmail.com.

Kids are the future.

This is the sentiment of many education programs in North America. As this is rightfully true for education, it also tends to be true within churches. Youth groups are among the most popular parts of the foundation of the church, with the hope that many will stay or return after college to evolve into the adult congregation and leaders of the future.

With a significant amount of time and money being funneled into these youth groups, it seems that another is being left out. The elderly population of churches doesn’t get nearly as much attention from the church as the youth. If you log onto any church’s website, you’ll probably find a section dedicated to events and activities involving their youth group. You’d be hard pressed to find any activities involving the seniors.

This needs to change.

Give them a sense of community

One of the focuses the church, as a whole, can hone in on is giving the elderly a safe haven. The church is already known as a safe environment where people can talk out their problems. If people who are elderly understand they can go there anytime, they may be more likely to visit.

Even if it’s just for a friendly chat, the church can advertise free group meetings for the elderly. These meetings could simply consist of seniors meeting and talking about their problems and experiences. Not only does this help people who are elderly express their feelings, but it also gives them a sense of community and attention in their lives.

Members of the church can also visit with elderly congregants if they live in a nursing home and are unable to find transportation or are too frail to leave their facility. This, too, can help build their sense of community, as they can keep in touch and socialize with other church members. People visiting a nursing home should keep in mind that 50 to 70% of nursing home residents have dementia, so they should consider how best to interact with them. Providing this type of supportive community is one of the best ways to reach out to these individuals, in whatever way is best and most suitable for them.

Give them a gift

Churches have an obligation to create a safe and positive environment for the older generations. Besides creating a group atmosphere for the elderly to share their experiences, it would do the church wonders if they not offered free food and drink as a thank you.

This may sound like an odd idea, but it makes sense the more you think about it. With all the respect the older generations deserve, it’s only fitting they get a free doughnut or coffee. Perhaps anyone over the age of 65 could stop into their local church on a specific day of the week and pick up a complimentary snack. It’s less about the actual food and more about the giving of a gift to a generation who has worked so hard to pave the way for the younger generations. Rather than unintentionally ignoring them in favor of youth, churches must actively play a role in building relationships with seniors in their communities by making them feel valued, as Christ instructed us to serve and love everyone.

Give them opportunities to serve

The church must move away from the idea that the elderly in their congregation are reluctant to change and thus a burden in pushing the church forward in new ways to reach the lost. In many instances, this is not the case.

Talk about the vision for the church with seniors and involve them in projects that best suit their spiritual gifts. Help those who are interested in becoming a more active part of the church, whether that be in greeting guests on Sunday mornings or passing out bulletins during the service. Purpose and engagement are crucial to building this section of the congregation.

The church has a responsibility to society. Caring for, respecting and building up our elders is one of these responsibilities.

6 poems about faith crisis

I just found out yesterday that this month is #OctPoWriMo (October Poetry Writing Month), a play on #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which occurs every November.

Coincidentally, I’ve written 6 new poems over the last few weeks. I had planned to write only one poem, but it started to go in a different direction. I knew that I had to write another. Then another. And another.

Then Gina Colvin interviewed Lindsay Hansen Park on A Thoughtful Faith in an episode called “Critiquing Progressive Mormonism”, and all of a sudden, I had loads of ideas for future poems.

What started out as a single poem about my recent faith crisis has morphed into a series. So far, I have just 6, but I plan to write a few more exploring various aspects of faith crisis, especially in a Mormon context.

Anyhow, I wanted to share what I’ve written so far, so here they are (with a brief summary of each). Keep in mind that I typically like to use a lot of symbolism, some of it subtle and some of it obvious. See if you can find all the symbols I’ve used. Continue reading 6 poems about faith crisis

My friends are leaving the church, and it makes me sad

I just listened to a podcast of a friend of mine discussing some of her life in the LDS church. Towards the end, she mentioned that she stopped attending church. This on the heels of several other friends of mine cutting ties this year with the church.

And it makes me sad.

Continue reading My friends are leaving the church, and it makes me sad

Did Heavenly Mother introduce Jesus?

When Jesus was baptized, those present heard the following:

“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17)

A similar event occurred when Jesus appeared to the Nephites:

“Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.” (3 Ne. 11:7)

Typically, we assign the words to Heavenly Father, although in both cases the text doesn’t indicate who the speaker is. We can certainly infer that the speaker is a parent of Jesus, given the use of “my beloved Son”.

Even the most widespread First Vision account doesn’t mention specifically that it was God the Father introducing Jesus:

“When the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS–H 1:17)

If the texts are silent on who the actual person was speaking, does that mean we are projecting our own biases onto the story?

What if it wasn’t God the Father who introduced Jesus on these 3 occasions? What if it was God the Mother instead? The texts certainly don’t preclude Heavenly Mother from being the speaker.

If Heavenly Mother did speak at Jesus’s baptism, if she did introduce him to the Nephites, if she did appear to Joseph Smith, how would that change our perception of her and the role she plays in the eternities?

The prohibition on praying to Heavenly Mother doesn’t make sense

I’ve been thinking about the female divine recently, although I can’t remember what prompted these thoughts.

In Mormonism, we often refer to the female divine as “Mother in Heaven” or “Heavenly Mother”. We know little about her, but we know that she is apparently equal to God. Well, except in one important way:

We don’t pray to Heavenly Mother. Continue reading The prohibition on praying to Heavenly Mother doesn’t make sense

Let your light so shine before men

A few weeks ago, I decided to start studying the Gospels for my scripture study, and earlier this week, I started the Sermon on the Mount. Then I came across Matt. 5:16:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

This is a scripture I’ve commonly heard, particularly as a youth growing up in the church. I had always given it a superficial treatment. But when I was reading it this week, I gained a few insights I hadn’t considered before.

Take the phrase “so shine”, for example. That phrasing suggests that the way to let our light shine had been previously mentioned. Let’s look at the previous two verses:

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

I believe the latter half of the quote indicates the method by which we let our light so shine: on a candlestick. We don’t hide the light we have; we bring it into the open and share it, or—more specifically—we give it away.

And why do we let our light so shine? So others may see our good works and glorify God. I find the connection to our works interesting. When we share our light with others, they will notice our good works. Maybe that means that the way we let our light shine is through our good works. As we do what is right, they will see that light within is.

For some reason, I thought the end of the verse—glorifying God—was something for us to do, but I realized during this reading that this is something done by those who see our good works. In other words, we are encouraged to have works so good that they encourage those who see them to glorify God.

Is it any wonder then why Jesus taught that the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. If we love others to the point that such love permeates our actions, speech, and even our thoughts, maybe it will prompt others to glorify God.

What do you think?

Someone isn’t taking the sacrament; do you judge or support?

I was recently listening to a A Thoughtful Faith podcast episode with Nathaniel Givens. Toward the end, Nathaniel discusses how the sacrament within the LDS church is an open experience, as we share it with one another. He explicitly mentions at one point that he was not encouraging others to watch for others not taking of the sacrament.

That idea of watching for others not taking the sacrament got me thinking.

It’s probably something each of us has seen: someone not taking the sacrament. Perhaps, even, we have been one of those who hadn’t taken it.

When we do notice someone not partaking of the sacrament, even if unintended, what is our first impulse? Do we start wondering to ourselves about what sin it might be that this brother or sister committed? Do we find ourselves judging them?

I wonder if, maybe, we should be mindful to taking another approach. One alternative, if we happen to notice someone not taking the sacrament, is to remind ourselves that perhaps this brother or sister is struggling with something. We should remind ourselves that they’re trying. We should ask ourselves what we can do to offer a hand of support without prying. We should take note of the covenant we’re making at that exact moment to take upon ourselves Jesus’s name and find a way to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort.

Remember, the energy we devote to judging others is energy taken away from being more like Christ.