Jun 6, 2008

Becoming The First Mormon Nun

That's what I remember only half-jokingly telling my mother I wanted to do back when I was about 17 or 18. I was seriously heartbroken over a Baptist friend who didn't want to get involved because I was a Mormon. I was through with men and pretty sure at the time that I would become an old maid. As it turned out, once I met my future husband I decided that I wasn't quite through with men. Still, though, I was reminded this past week about why I wanted to become a nun.

I'm currently reading "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light" by Brian Koloddiejchuk. It's a collection of her private letters, including her long and intense struggle against spiritual darkness and emptiness, which the world never could have imagined. If you're not familiar with it, I encourage you to check it out. I've only just started it, but her story just humbles me to the point that I can barely look at myself in the mirror, as I knew it would. I have my days where I feel like I'm living in a spiritual desert, but I'm not sweating away my days in poverty, tending to the sick and dying in a place like Calcutta. It definitely puts things into perspective.

Back in the days when I wanted to become a Mormon nun, I was definitely more pious and conservative than I am now. I was probably more concerned about rules and following them, than about the reasons behind them. I've always had that dissident streak within me and I did ask questions, but I was more content with the belief that if I just did everything I was told to do, then I couldn't go wrong. I'm not that trusting anymore, which either means I'm not so naive or that I've let pride get the better of me.

One of the reasons that I found a nun's life so appealing (and in a way still do) was that I felt that a person who takes that route and is able to dedicate their life completelely (Mother Teresa being the best example I can think of) to a cause that Christ would undoubtedly approve of, would be guaranteed a one-way first class ticket to Heaven. Basically, a huge sacrifice resulting in an even bigger reward. Mother Teresa gave up a happy and comfortable life with a family that she loved in order to travel abroad by boat at age 18 to become a missionary, and then a nun, to places that she probably knew very little about, all the well knowing that she would probably never see her family again. Indeed, she never saw her mother or sister again. Those were the days before plane travel, web cams, and Skype, which makes it all the more mind-blowing to me.

When you read about someone like Mother Teresa, you start to question the value of your own life -- or at least what you do with it. Sure, we can do good deeds on a daily basis. But is it enough? Is the Lord satisfied with our input into making this world a better place? Mother Teresa obeyed the call that she felt she was given, to literally sacrifice her life for the absolute bottom of society's pit and all the while feeling like God had abandoned or rejected her, which shows the strength of her faith on an even deeper level. Why doesn't God call us to make that kind of sacrifice? Or maybe he does and we're just ignoring it? That's something that I've always wondered and it's perhaps the main reason for my wanting to become a nun. After all, who has done more to help the hungry, thirsty, sick, and lonely than Mother Teresa besides Christ himself? She has set the ultimate example for Christlike love, compassion, charity and all at the same time enduring to the end while feeling she had so little to go on. For that reason, I think she will always be the person that I admire most.

In conclusion, I hope that Mother Teresa did get that one-way first class ticket to Heaven. But if any of us Mormons find her to be waiting outside the Pearly Gates without a ticket while we're on our way through, I for one would feel compelled to give her mine.


Sanford said...

In an article in the New York Times earlier this year, Professor and author Steven Pinker asked this question:

Which of the following people would you say is the most admirable: Mother Teresa, Bill Gates or Norman Borlaug?


We know Mother Teresa and Bill Gates, but Norman Borlaug? He is credited with developing agricultural methods that have resulting in the savings of millions and millions of lives. The article made me wonder if I had overvalued Mother Teresa’s contribution to the world. But what I concluded is that Mother Teresa’s greatness lies partially in the fact that she just gave herself to service. She was not a one in a million genius inventor or one of the richest people on earth. She was a regular person who gave her life to helping others. She chose a life that we could choose if we wanted to -- i.e. your desire to become a Nun. It’s a very doable goal. Not many of us could save a billion lives or be a billionaire and seek to stamp out malaria, but each of us could live a life of service. And I do by the way think that that is what Christ asks us to do. We just don’t really do it. Instead, we live watered down assimilated lives in which we give some real service and a lot of lip service. But maybe that is all you can really expect from most mortals – i.e. me.

Zelph said...

We already have Mormon nuns, they are called sister missionaries.


The Faithful Dissident said...

I think it's kind of unfortunate that young missionaries can only go on proselyting missions. I know that older couples go on humanitarian missions sometimes, but I haven't seen or heard of any young Elders or Sisters doing so. I'm guessing that the opportunity doesn't exist? When I was that age, I found the thought of a full-time proselyting mission to be daunting and I never thought I could do it. However, a humanitarian mission through the Church probably would have greatly interested me. Who knows what could have been...

Zelph said...

That is a good point, or even young men. Some people were just simply not born salesmen. Maybe they have other skills and uses for the church.

Some people might be extremely shy, but exceptionally talented musically. Maybe they can find a place to help them with church music programs. A company doesn't expect EVERYONE to start out as a door-to-door salesman. Some people are good at it and others are great accountants

I know I know it will help them overcome their shyness. But maybe someone might find greater happiness doing humanitarian aid if they could so choose.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I agree with you, Zelph. Some people are just not cut out for a proselyting mission. I never really felt I was, so I never felt compelled to go on one (of course the pressure was less on me since I was a girl). However, I think that if I had been given the opportunity to go on a strictly humanitarian mission through the Church, say for a year, I just may have taken them up on the offer. When you think about it, why are we not doing this as a Church? OK, some older couples do go on humanitarian missions. But think of the potential with kids who are 18, 19, or in their early 20's! It would open up a world of possibilities to them and who knows what it could lead to! Perhaps we would have more Norman Borlaugs in the world, as Sanford told us about. At the very least, we would have poor people reaping the benefits of service and what a missionary opportunity that is in itself! As well, the Church could be working together more closely with other churches or charities, many of whom are very active in humanitarian projects, which once again is a missionary opportunity in itself. All the nasty myths and prejudices against Mormons could be erased through acts of service. This could even lead to new proselyting missions being opened up in areas of the world where it's not yet open.

What if girls were encouraged to serve such a mission, the same way boys are encouraged to become missionaries, and yet leaving both opitions open to both sexes?

Does anyone see any disadvantages or reasons for not organizing such missions?

Anonymous said...

FD- What a wonderful and inspiriting idea!

I'd say more but it really seems to take my breath away.

anonymous alice

Kelli W. said...

I enjoy your thoughts. You know God doesn't require us to become nuns to serve him with all our heart, might, mind and strength. I appreciate that that was her choice and she did it amazingly well. I'm not serving the poor in the worst of living conditions and haven't dedicated my life as a nun so I hope to learn all I can from Mother Teresa and try to cultivate the compassion that she had in my life. I have however dedicated my life to something I feel is as equally important, yet different and that is to being a mother and wife. I find I still have abundant opportunities to serve, show compassion, teach, love, and try to represent the best I can the teachings of Jesus Christ.
For me personally, I probably wouldn't quite "get it" meaning understand the magnitude of the Atonement in my life without the experience of marriage and children and all the challanges for personal growth that brings.
Just my thought.

Fifthgen said...

I do not want to trivialize Mother Teresa's work (as if I could). But, it is interesting that one of the things I liked about my mission experience is that it was simple: I had one job and one focus, and I was charged with essentially forgetting everything else for a short period of time. Mother Teresa's sacrifice was arguably similar in simplicity and focus, though incomparable in magnitude.

Kelli makes an interesting observation about how some of us serve. By being a father, I think I learn many of the same things I would learn through service to others. But, it is not, or should not, really be about me. I always have a sneaking feeling that I use my "service" as a father and husband as a way to equate the pinewood derby with extending myself to those in more desperate need. Am I just lazy? How do you balance the important work of raising a family and serving your neighbor?

Mormon Heretic said...

FD, here's your chance. I saw this in the Deseret News on 6/7/2009.


Experience what life is like in a monastery

Published: Saturday, June 7, 2008 12:04 a.m. MDT

The Holy Trinity Trappist Monastery in Huntsville, Weber County, will offer a live-in experience June 11-15.

There will be no cost to work and pray with the monks on their 2,000-acre farm.

For more information, call 800-221-1807.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Wow, Heretic, that would be a great opportunity! If I lived in Utah I'd definitely try to go to that. It'd be fascinating to try it for a few days. I bet it would be a real challenge for me to live that kind of lifestyle. I'm such a fidget with a short attention span.

MH said...

FD, there's always next year.... :) It sounds like a cheap vacation...... You should call and see if they do it every year!

Anonymous said...

I am over 2 years late in finding this post, but I just wanted to comment...

As a Catholic and as someone who worked closely with some of Mother Teresa's sisters, I can tell you that she would say, "Serve Jesus by being the best wife and mother you can be. Unite all your daily struggles with those Our Lord went through. Holiness is doing God's will in every moment. If that means running out to buy diapers, do it with joy, if that means making dinner when you would rather lay back and watch a tv show, make dinner with joy--unite the task with Jesus."

Holiness is found in all the tiny details of whatever state of life we're in. Whether it's a mother, a bishop, a nun or whatever you station in life is.

Catholics call this simply, "Doing your daily duty."

Your post was very inspiring. Thank you.