Chaplain Training, Day One

Angels, seen and unseen, have brought you here.

That’s how my morning started, very early, a blessing even before breakfast, at the church office building.

All day today and tomorrow is chaplain training for the church.

The Very Reverend Father Nabil Haddad, from the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center, spoke this morning during chaplain training.  He spoke about being a minority in Jordan, and how Christians are called as witnesses.  Christians failing to be witnesses, he said, have caused problems and unknowingly kept their communities in the minority, so that now when they do try to testify it agitates those around them until whole countries are in crisis.

We, all of us, belong to God, he said, and so it is time for us to be godly in our relationships.

We cannot be in relationships if we isolate from each other.

We cannot isolate ourselves by failing to witness, or by failing to participate in our communities.  The people who need our testimonies are endangered, and we endanger ourselves as a people when we cut ourselves off.  As chaplains, we have the responsibility to spread a message of peace, even unity, to our families, our communities, and our people.  Our message is one that God is love, and so we must also love our neighbors rather than hating them or avoiding them.

My role as chaplain is not restricted to a specific assignment or calling, but who I am, all the time, and who my voice invites the people to become.

Dr. Yahya Al Batoush, the Grand Mufti of the Jordanian Armed Forces, was also here and wanted dialogue.  He said that terrorism is a construct that has become an industry, and that industry cuts off life and happiness while many benefit from it – but that this brings the wrath of God upon us.  He spoke about Islam, and that pure Islam is not about killing people.  In pure Islam, he said, there is no killing or oppression, but that the enemy infiltrates the religion in order to destroy it.  He urged us to work together to protect covenants, families, and respect for women.

RADM Margaret G. Kibben, Chief of Navy Chaplains, also spoke this morning, though I did not speak to her individually.  She said there is a divine aspect to intuition, and we must learn the language of a people to better serve them.  This “language” is often not about a spoken language, so much as meeting people where they are and speaking with them about things they know rather than engaging in theological battles.  Even when our theological perspective is counter to the language of the people, we are still called to meet them where they are and invite them toward God – isolating them by demanding our own agenda means we have already blown the privilege granted to us.

There are still only a handful of women LDS chaplains, but also only a roomful of men.  We are few, but strong, they say.  One of the other women is Dr. Barbara Morgan, the Director of Institute in Boston and a chaplain for Harvard/MIT.  She spoke to us at lunch, and encouraged us to remain up to date on the prophet’s teachings.  It is good to know the past discourses, and a solid foundation to study the other prophets of this dispensation.  But the Lord needs us to know what is true for us right now, and while the principals of the gospel do not change, the application of them to our lives is critical and the whole reason we have modern prophets and apostles.  She also reminded us not to drown in our work and callings, that we put the Lord first, and then our spouse, and then our children, and then the work.

The afternoon was spent in orientation, since the church just endorsed women chaplains this year, so we all had to be here.  It turns out we have to be here every October for the rest of forever.  I don’t know if we can always bring the whole family, because it seems so impossible and not practical, but that is not a worry for today.  I am just processing so much.  My mind and heart are full!

The orientation was simple.  It covered the different categories the church endorses (military, healthcare, institutional, public safety, education, corporate, and civic), and the requirements (active in the church, temple worthy, Bishop interview, Stake President interview, Endorsement Committee interview, psych eval, General Authority interview, 2 years of CPE and educational experience, monthly reports, annual Stake President interview, annual interviews and training in Salt Lake).  Types of ministries include moral, ethical, and spiritual advisors; deliver talks and sermons; offer prayers in community settings; conduct memorial and funeral services not at the LDS chapel (which are conducted by Bishop), provide ministry of presence, provide pastoral counseling, assist the sick and dying, and perform casualty and death notifications.

I do not do infant baptisms or marriages.  I can accommodate namings, blessings, communion services, and last rites by adapting what is being requested into prayer, song, or non-ordinance service, or by connecting them to the appropriate priesthood leader, or by facilitating the appropriate leader of another faith.  The details of all this, far more in depth than would make interesting reading, was given to us and clarified in depth and also sent to my stake president.  We also went over the code of ethics for chaplains and the applicable laws.

The closing talk was then given by Elder Wood, who is also on the Military Advisory Committee.  He spoke about the Sabbath, which I loved since we have studied it so much this year.  He said that creation is purposeful, and neither random nor accidental.  He said that civilization is based on cultivation, construction, and production. The Sabbath, then, is to cease from civilization and to consecrate creation, so that all that is Good is rendered holy permanently.  This, he says, is what consecration means.  All of the good that we do becomes consecrated as holy when we keep the Sabbath and attend the temple; it is nothing without these things.

These were the talks in chaplain training today that entirely blew my mind.

Then, as if there were any room left in me, I had private interviews and blessings that so thoroughly prepare me and so carefully instruct me, as they always do.

You are called here to learn the bounds on your left and on your right, so that you will not stray even while you press forward in faith, breaking known boundaries of time without stepping out of bounds on eternal principals.

Heavenly Father has prepared you, and this was foreordained. He wanted you to be a chaplain.  He wanted you among the people, to live the things you have lived so that you know the things you know.  He wanted you to be a woman, even a leader.  You are His daughter, and He knows you, and He loves you.  All this is already prepared, and all that is left for you is simple obedience.

You are loved.  You are an ambassador of Jesus Christ.

You understand the distinctness of the priesthood, and the uniqueness of women.  On the question of  (not) ordaining women, speak by the Spirit of your role and your experience and all that you do, and women already within the veil, rather than comparing ordinations with those who say they ordain women but have no authority to ordain anyone.

You have been blessed with the courage of Moses, and the inspiration of Esther, and the conviction of Paul, and we bless you again with the assistance of angels on both sides of the veil and the atonement power to overcome the opposition and affliction that will surely try to stop you.

Enough affliction, already, I said!

They laughed.

I did not wear my hair today, just a hat.  I am not ashamed of my bald head, but it gets cold.  Someone asked me if I was muslim or doing chemo, and I said I got ovarian cancer last year, but probably had it for awhile before that, but found it and had surgery last year.  This lady had it three years ago!  She also has to have a mastectomy in a year or so, and also got to wait a time between.  I also met another mother of a PRS baby!  She spoke at the wives’ luncheon, where Nathan attended so that it is now the spouse lunch.  He said there is pink tile in the bathrooms, over in the Relief Society Building.  That made me laugh.

It was a very packed day after a very packed weekend of conference, and we have more tomorrow.

I am trying to process it all, and Nathan is trying to survive children.

My cough is still here, but since the blessing I can suddenly breathe again and everything is cleared up.  I am also holding down my food, and feeling much less fatigued, though I am certainly worn out.  But I am excited to continue to study and process all I learned today, even that which was not written here, and the more private things, and to soak in more tomorrow if I can.

And I feel empowered to do what He says, instead of just overwhelmed.

I feel ready to try, instead of it just feeling impossible.

Because He says so.

Now, if I can just figure out how to help other people believe it, too.


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About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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