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Homeward Bound

Over the past six or seven years our (previous and current) Bishopric has developed and maintained a Ward Vision Statement. It includes the following:

We are homeward bound. Our destination is the Celestial Kingdom. Our journey consists of learning how to live the Celestial Law here and now so that we will be able to abide the glory of our destination. ?

It continues by addressing ways that our ward can help each member in his or her own journey, especially by making it a collective, cooperative journey. This vision statement, along with an emphasis on reverence (particularly in the sanctuary that is our chapel), and on the mantra of our small yet sincere efforts are good enough for now, ? has created a ward family that as a general rule is more unified, more reverent and more accepting.

The phrase homeward bound ? has long struck me as an important principle for me (and for all of us) to understand. I have used it in talks and lessons. I view the image of being homeward bound as an integral part of the plan of salvation. The perspective that this earth life is a journey is one that helps solidify my faith, my hope and my testimony.

A journey, by definition, has a starting point as well as an ending point. Our starting point was as spirit children in the pre-mortal realm. We progressed there, and then came here to this mortal earth to walk by faith and to be tried and tested. We eventually will continue our journey into the post-mortal world, to continue our lives ? lessons, growth and progression. This journey is our attempt to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father, where we were in the beginning having advanced beyond where we started.

In a talk a few years ago, I shared an analogy that Stephen Robinson uses in his book, Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News,that coming to Christ is like getting on a train to a specific destination. If we want to go to that place, it is critical that we get on the train. When we exercise faith in Christ, repent, are baptized, and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, we get on the train so most of us are already on it. And as long as we stay on the train, we will eventually reach the destination, which is eternal life with our Savior and our Father. No one can ever throw us off the train, no matter what we do or don ?t do if we get off the train it will only be because of our own choice to leave. No matter where we feel we are on that train (sitting in the front car or hanging onto the caboose), as long as we ?re on it, we are promised that we will reach the desired destination.

So, for those of us who have been baptized, following Christ becomes a matter not of getting into the kingdom of God, for we are already in it, but rather a matter of staying in the kingdom of God of choosing to stay on the train. In other words, following Christ is accomplished by enduring faithfully to the end.

Brother Robinson says that the scriptural definition of enduring to the end ? has more to do with loyalty to Christ and reliability (with being able to continue or remain) than with suffering, coping, and having enough stamina to just hang in there. ?

This train analogy could be expanded to envision one eternally long train with innumerable cars, for we are each at different levels of gospel understanding, and we each progress at different speeds. As long as we don ?t get off track, ? we can move back and forth from car to car as our knowledge and testimony grow (and, conversely, as we make mistakes and sin, which is a natural part of our mortality). We can help, encourage, and hold onto each other as we work to stay on the train. We will face challenges ? as well as joys ? as we travel on this journey home.

I believe we are each at different points on this journey back to our Heavenly Father sitting in different seats on the train but as we do the best we can to come unto Him, ? we are each homeward bound.

Most of the things I write, think, and feel are directly related to my personal journey home to Heavenly Father. Hopefully, in these posts you can see and feel how my thoughts and experiences relate to your own lives even if your own journey takes different twists and turns than mine.

{ 32 comments… add one }

  • facethemusic December 15, 2007, 7:45 pm

    Wonderful, Michelle!

    I LOVE your ward’s mission statement. That opening paragraph is moving and motivating!!
    Truly inspired! What an awesome Bishopric you must have! I’ll have to show this to my husband!

  • Michelle D December 16, 2007, 1:14 pm

    Thanks for commenting, facethemusic. Is your husband in your Bishopric? Our Bishopric really is amazing, and our ward vision statement is inspired, and has made a tremendous difference in the way our ward focuses on and *lives* the three-fold mission of the Church (proclaim the gospel, perfect the Saints, redeem the dead).

  • east-of-eden December 16, 2007, 2:15 pm

    Michelle,

    That was a lovely essay, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really like the idea of a ward mission statement, I wish our bishopric (who are really great, and we love them) would do something like this. There is a lot of disconnect in our ward, and I think something like this would really help….especially the reverence part, oh especially the reverence part.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 16, 2007, 10:05 pm

    Michelle, thank you for your wonderful contribution to MM. Everyone welcome her!

  • Michelle D December 18, 2007, 3:12 pm

    This is Michelle’s husband. I just have to say that this is the best post ever on this blog. (I’m not biased. We’ve been married for 21 years, so I simply understand that I “HAVE” to say this.) *grin*

    I’m proud of you, babe. Happy anniversary! (“Thanks for the times that you’ve given me. The memories are all in my mind.”)

  • agardner December 18, 2007, 3:14 pm

    Michelle, sounds like you are “once, twice, three times a lady!”

  • Michelle D December 18, 2007, 4:00 pm
  • kiar December 18, 2007, 5:35 pm

    Thanks, you had me sniffling into my dr. pepper! I miss my hubbie!! wahhh! But seriously, you are so sweet, and what a neat tribute to your eternal marriage!

  • Michelle D December 20, 2007, 6:03 am

    kiar, you said you miss your husband. Is he in the military? I hope all goes well for you and your family.

    agardner, DH, Alison, east-of-eden… thanks for commenting! This is new territory for me, and I appreciate your acknowledgment of my first-ever public blog post. (I usually just blog for myself or for family/friends.)

    Alison, thank you so much for the opportunity to do this!

  • kiar December 20, 2007, 8:41 am

    nope,not the military, he’s just in the police academy and can only come home on the weekends, but this has been a hard week for some reason. he has 14 weeks left. But at least he will be home for Christmas day.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 20, 2007, 3:07 pm

    You are welcome, Michelle, and we are lucky. :bigsmile:

  • Michelle D December 20, 2007, 9:02 pm

    kiar, DH’s brother went through the police academy years ago. He did well, but it is rigorous! Glad your husband will be home for Christmas. My DH used to travel about 3-4 days a week, with at least 2 nights away. So I know how it is to feel like a single parent during those hard weeks. (Luckily, his current job allows him to be home every night.) Sorry you’ve had a rough week. I’d encourage you to hang in there — we all have these weeks. (And my DH would look at me in wonder for just saying that, as I cried on his shoulder last night after my own tough week!) I hope your husband will spend Christmas day refilling your bucket!! Merry Christmas!

    Thanks, Alison!

  • kiar December 20, 2007, 9:45 pm

    thank you! and I will regain a small modicum of sanity by his presence home tonight! Just remind me not to be nice to my kids ever again! I made them popcorn, and put a movie on for them… and then the fun began. I walked out to a white christmas in my living room, and the snow smelled like butter. So when my darling hubbie called me and said he might have to stay the night in the city he is going to school in, I think my silence told him more than he needed to know. He said, “ummm, don’t worry, I will be home in a couple of hours, Umm, I really don’t need to do the stuff I was going to do… Uh I love you Bye!”
    (Don’t worry, the kids are still alive, but they may not get any more popcorn… ever!):devil:

  • davidson December 21, 2007, 5:45 am

    I looked in the living room, and what did I see?
    Popcorn underneath the Christmas tree,
    spread across the carpet far and wide;
    made it look just like it snowed inside.
    I could take my children and do them harm!
    Fill their souls with deserved alarm!
    No, I guess I won’t, but it seems to me,
    Popcorn don’t belong beneath a tree.

  • kiar December 21, 2007, 9:06 am

    i laughed until I cried! thank you so much! I really loved that!

  • davidson December 22, 2007, 8:00 am

    Is this cause for coal in their stockings, Kiar?

  • kiar December 22, 2007, 8:43 am

    nah, But I did have to “call” Santa last night, because they wouldn’t go to bed. “Santa” told me that if I call him on Christmas Eve, and tell him they have been good, he will still make the drop at our house! I am the meanest mom ever!!!!!!

  • Lewis_Family December 22, 2007, 11:56 am

    That is seriously interesting, so when they figure out about Santa, hopefully they don’t remember those imaginary phone calls huh :smile:

  • kiar December 22, 2007, 1:46 pm

    I hope when my kids figure it out that they won’t hold it against me. it could have been worse… they may not have listened to me, and then I would have had to follow through. (I don’t think I could have done that!)

  • Michelle D December 22, 2007, 10:59 pm

    kiar, sorry for your popcorn debacle! But at least your DH is home!

    I’d rather have it be popcorn than mashed potatoes! Years ago my kids had a food fight with mashed potatoes in our carpeted dining room when I stepped out for a few minutes. DH wasn’t home at the time… I do not remember what I said, but I do remember being livid — although I obviously maintained control since my kids are still living! It wasn’t pretty (on so many levels), and took forever for them to clean up. My kids (of their own volition) have NEVER had such a food fight again! [IMO, carpet in a dining room is one of the worst ideas ever!]

    Davidson, that is some fantastic poetry!!! It’s all about perspective…

  • davidson December 23, 2007, 12:26 am

    OH, MICHELLE. I am so sorry about your mashed potato episode! Was anything mashed besides the potatoes? (Certain children, maybe?) My MIL likes to tell the horror story about the time her kids spilled a five-gallon can of honey across her kitchen carpet. . . .

    Michelle, I appreciate your kinds words. Thank you so much. And your DH sounds like a great guy! By the way, I loved the mission statement idea, and I would like to show it to my husband. Would you feel comfortable letting us see the whole thing?

    Kiar, how long do you get to keep that man of yours? Is he home for Christmas, or just for the weekend? I thought about him and you, when I saw this on the Internet: type in bringhimhomesanta.com, (and have your Kleenex ready.)

    I hope this won’t sound too weird. Will all of you say a prayer for my sewing machine? I need a miracle. I had twenty pairs of pajama pants to sew for Christmas Eve, and I just finished number 18. Then my sewing machine quit working! My husband is trying to fix it, but it doesn’t look good. I’m not going to sew tomorrow, which means I have Monday during the day to finish the other two. WHAT IF I CAN’T FINISH? AAAUGGGHHH! Everyone will have matching pajama pants–except for two poor family members. Why do I do this to myself? Next year, in October, write me a post that says “NO! DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT! YOU ARE NOT GOING TO SEW TWENTY PAIRS OF PAJAMA PANTS THIS YEAR! TIME FOR A NEW TRADITION!” I will need you to be very firm with me, perhaps come to Idaho and chop my hands off at the wrists (or something.) :sad::cry::sad::cry::sad:

  • spitfire December 23, 2007, 2:57 pm

    Michelle~

    Great article….I love your ward mission statement. With permission, would you mind if I copied part of the article for my Bishop? We are having a joint RS/Priesthood meeting next week and I really think your remarks are timely. I have to speak on “Apathy” as there has been a overiding concern about that in our ward. Some of the others are addressing resolution, not so much NY resolutions but just a general resolve to do better. I don’t mean to “threadjack” but how do you gals think that apathy plays into the “Homeward Bound” mission statement? What have you done to overcome apathy as it relates to your eternal progression?

    Thanx!

  • Alison Moore Smith December 23, 2007, 6:03 pm

    davidson, I’ll pray for your sewing machine. Will you pray for USPS to deliver the long-overdue package I’m depending on??? :cry:

  • Michelle D December 23, 2007, 9:27 pm

    Michelle is working tonight – caring for the elderly in their homes. This is her husband again – and, yes, I am a great guy. :-) I’ll channel my feminine side (her) and pass along what she wants to say (typed in a mature, alto voice):

    The abbreviated version of our ward mission statement that is posted on the ward website is:

    “We are homeward bound. Our destination is the Celestial Kingdom. Our journey consists of learning how to live the Celestial Law here and now so that we will be able to abide the glory of our destination.

    To help us in our journey, Fairfield Ward meetings, classes and activities function as a place of spiritual nourishment and refuge. The spirit of the Lord is present and influences all who attend. Because of that spirit, the members of the ward are perfected (completed and made whole), missionary work is a natural activity and temple work flourishes. In the process, we become Celestial beings.”

    Feel free to use this partially or wholly, since it is not copyrighted, as well as any part of my post you feel inspired to share.

    As to the apathy question, encourage service. Apathy, ironically, is a product of selfishness – a focus on how well one is doing that leads to complacency. Nothing shakes apathy as much as exposure to deprivation and extreme need. If you want to shake apathy at the ward level, suggest calling a ward PR Chairman (if there isn’t one already) and commissioning him/her to find an organization that provides care and service to those with a particularly desperate need (a homeless shelter for families with children, a shelter for abused women and/or children, an AIDS ward at a hospital, a center for those with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia and no family nearby) – those who in the time of Jesus would have been the discarded and marginalized He served. Identify and help support your local “kingdom of nobodies” – those who have no way of repaying or even understanding your service and are ignored by society at large.

    At least, that’s what worked for our ward and family – and for me. I have had multiple people pass away while I cared for them, and they have touched my life in inexpressible ways. It’s hard to be apathetic when you are serving others with real needs.

  • davidson December 24, 2007, 2:30 am

    Thanks, Alison! Prayer said and heard! My sewing machine is working fine now. I’ll pray for your package to come, and boy, I feel for you. One year all of the kids’ Christmas presents were coming by way of USPS, and when they hadn’t come by December 23rd, we went out and bought new presents (which we couldn’t afford.) The packages came on December 24th–so I’m hoping for you, dear. Let us know what happens.

    Shifting gears. . . .

    Thank you for your comments, Mr. Michelle (for lack of a better name.) Good ideas. Spitfire, my dad is not a member of the Church, but I consider him to be a wise man led by the Spirit in most things. He told me once, “The opposite of love isn’t hate. The opposite of love is apathy.” So then I had to look up the word apathy. It really is true, isn’t it? The opposite of caring a great deal is not caring at all. Our Savior Jesus Christ is notable because He cares so much. Joseph Smith taught that Jesus would have completed His atonement for you, even if you had been the only one on earth to accept it. (Oh, it is wonderful to me! And so hard to fathom.) On the other hand, Satan has been known to be incredibly disloyal to his followers, even those who sacrifice so much to follow him. He just can’t care about anybody but himself.

    My greatest resource for producing caring when I feel none is to hit my knees and be brutally honest with my Lord. (He knows anyway, so it is futile to try to hide it.) I tell Him how I can’t feel the caring I so want to feel. I ask Him to bless my heart to heal and feel again. I bear my simple witness that when we ask, He helps us care. It really can happen.

  • spitfire December 24, 2007, 7:28 am

    Thank you so much for your comments. I think both of you are right on target. Apathy has evidenced itself via teachers not showing up to teach classes or serve in their callings, people disregarding their church obligations & the HT/VT is happening but it is with an attitude of “have to do” & “now I can check that off”. I’m seeing a new or different attitude; one that church efforts are “optional”. So if you have a chance to go out with your friends or need to sleep in, it’s ok to totally abdicate your church responsibilities. Again, not to threadjack but I think much of this is sourced is being way overcommitted in our personal lives & having incorrectly placed priorities. So any perceived “free time” is spent on temporal or secular things. Those individuals we are dealing with are those who will probably not be @ our joint meeting as they will not find it important to attend or an opportunity to get out early! But the focus is going to be re-commitment. Thanx Mr. Michelle, I’m going to copy/paste your (and Michelle’s) comments & send them to our Bishop. Will let you know his response, also will continue to pray & ponder my remarks on Apathy for Sunday!

    Merry Christmas to all!!

  • spitfire December 24, 2007, 7:32 am

    Oooops meant to say this in m comments. I do believe the source of apathy is a lack of focus on the Saviour & not just mis-placed priorities. So, whether it be “Homeward Bound” or some other way of re-committing to Christ & renewing our convenants, that’s where we need to be!!

  • Michelle D December 24, 2007, 3:32 pm

    Davidson, honey would be worse than mashed potatoes! Your poor MIL! At the time of our food fight, the oldest kids were about 7, 5, and 3. They are now 19, 17, and 15. They still like to have fun, but they have NEVER again used mashed potatoes to do it!!! (And we have 3 more kids, so there wasn’t any lasting “anti-kid” drama attached to this debacle!) And I’m glad that your sewing machine is working again. I think it’s not so much the TWENTY PJ bottoms (wow!) but the timing. Next year start in Oct!!

    “Mr. (or Bro.) Michelle” really is a neat guy! He posted our ward vision statement. It is on our ward website, as well as printed in our weekly sacrament meeting programs. Our bishop who started this focus was the best bishop I’ve ever had!

    As far as apathy goes, it is an individual choice to make changes. But as ward leadership trying to focus on helping others be motivated to make those changes, I would say remember it will take lots of time and lots of baby steps. Treat others as Christ would — without condescension or ridicule or guilt. Focus on the positive and the “will you…” aspects (what you want to have happen), not the negatives that you want to change. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Believe they can change, in their own way and time. And remind, remind, remind!

    Reverence is a good example for our ward. It came by frequent reminders to visit in the foyer before/after sac. mtg, to keep the chapel as our weekly “temple-like” sanctuary — different than the rest of the building. My DH was a counselor for part of this time, and he would turn off the lights in the chapel after sac mtg to help get people to move out of the chapel and talk in the foyer! It was a simple way to remind people to take it “outside” without having to say a word. The change was so gradual that we really didn’t notice it until my sister came to visit and was amazed at how reverent our sac mtgs were — and until we visited family and went to another ward, and realized how accustomed we had become to the reverence in our meetings!

    Another example: for the past few years, our bishoprics have emphasized brief, gospel-doctrine centered testimonies (rather than thankimonies, travelmonies, etc). Sometimes we still get those who ramble, but we have seen changes in the spirit-filled depth of our testimony meetings. Two years ago at girls camp, the 3 YW from our ward who chose to bear their testimonies at the fire-side testimony meeting were some of the shortest, most Christ-centered testimonies of the entire girls camp. It’s the little things that you don’t always notice on an ongoing basis, and then suddenly you realize just how much it trickles down and affects every member of the ward.

    I guess I’m saying that you might not see desired results on a weekly basis, but looking back a year from now, you will likely see some amazing progress.

    Take what you want from my Homeward Bound post, our ward vision statement, and whatever else, and work together as a ward council + under your bishopric to decide what will work best for your ward. Put a plan in place (and who will follow up on which aspects of the plan, the EQ, the HPGL, the RS Pres, etc) and then take it one step at a time. Remind over and over and over. And then let the Spirit take over and help change hearts!!! That’s the process I witnessed in our ward.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 27, 2007, 1:08 am

    davidson, bless your heart. My packages arrived at 3:00 on Christmas Eve, just as I was driving out of the driveway to go get impossible replacements.

    So glad to hear about the sewing machine. It did feel odd to pray for a sewing machine in another state, but I followed through!

  • mlinford December 27, 2007, 2:41 pm

    I finally read this essay. Beautiful! Thank you and welcome!

  • davidson December 27, 2007, 5:35 pm

    Alison, every time I look at my sewing machine now, I think of you and my Christmas miracle. That sewing machine was in really bad shape! Now it’s running perfectly. I know it’s a little strange to pray for a sewing machine, but it meant so much to me that you would do that, and I think it is sweet evidence that God hears us when we pray for each other.

    Remember Sugar Daddy suckers? I got a good deal on Sugar Daddy T-shirts for the men and “Who’s Your Daddy?” T-shirts for the women, and I made Sugar Babies things for the grandkids. Everybody got a pair of red plaid pajama pants to go with them, and I got a good deal on red fuzzy slippers for the women and black knit slippers for the men. (I hunt for bargains all year long.) I even found some Sugar Daddy lipsmackers for the teenage girls. I put the pajamas in red striped gift bags along with the some Sugar Daddys and Sugar Mamas and Sugar Babies candies. My dignified dad came out of the bedroom wearing his Sugar Daddy pajamas with an elf hat! We laughed until I nearly wet myself. We took a fun family picture and played a family trivia game. Might seem a little corny, but I’m always looking for ways to build family unity. We really had a good time. Worth every minute spent sewing.

    I’m glad your packages came! That’s high stress, isn’t it! Was everything in good shape when it got there?

    (End of big long threadjack.)

  • Michelle D December 28, 2007, 3:29 pm

    Alison and davidson, glad that things worked out! Last minute stress is never good, especially when it concerns Christmas!

    mlinford, I think you are a Michelle, as well. Thanks for commenting and being so welcoming!

    spitfire, I hope things go well with your combined meeting and working together with your ward leadership to combat the apathy in your ward. Please let me know how that goes. I’d be interested in knowing how the Homeward Bound concept and ward vision statement is integrated and used with other ideas to address needs in another ward.

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