A Christmas card above all others
This past Christmas, we received a lot of Christmas cards and Christmas letters. It was good to hear from friends, to catch up a little on what was happening in their lives. And in those Christmas letters, my wife and I could hear voices of those we used to converse with. What an exercise in nostalgia!
But everyone will understand, I think, when I say that there was one Christmas card that stood out above all.
My older daughter, Emily, delivered it by hand. We had been hearing about it for some time, since the making of that card had been her big project for the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Entitled "For Unto Us ...", it consists of thoughts and tributes to the great-but-humble participants in the Christmas story, and, above all else, testimonies of Christ.
Usually I have great resistance to commercial Christmas cards that attempt to say something "spiritual." Mostly because the Christ they talk about has so little to do with the Savior we love and teach about and try to follow in our lives as Latter-day Saints.
The group that created "For Unto Us ..." consisted of the members of the singles ward in the Santa Monica Stake. Under the impetus of Bishop Larry Eastland, a group of young unmarried women and men got together and created something moving and beautiful.
When I read it, I decided at once that instead of our normal Christmas Eve scripture readings, this time we would read the testimonies and look at the moving, artful photographs.
You can look at them, too, and read what they wrote and see all their names, by going to the website of the photographer, Rachel Thurston: http://snipr.com/forunto.
These young creative people poured their testimonies into the work, and without knowing anything about them, I think you'll find it moving and filled with truth and beauty.
But I do know something about them. Not necessarily about each individual who wrote, but about their generation of Saints, and about the young singles in that ward. I can tell you: They have earned the right to speak of the Savior and others in the Christmas story, because they have sacrificed for his sake.
These young people, though themselves as yet unmarried, were asked by the Church to devote a considerable amount of time in the fall of 2008 to contact people and work for the passage of Proposition 8 -- the proposed law banning a legal redefinition of "marriage" to include anything that is not, in fact, marriage.
Their generation is the one that we raised to rise above the prejudices of the past. Almost all of them were born after the 1978 revelation on the priesthood; they grew up in a Church that no longer gave bigots any cause to think that they would find shelter among us.
Many of us in the Baby Boom generation -- their parents -- went to great lengths to teach our children to reject bigotry. They went to integrated schools and refused to join with those who rejected others because of any of their outward attributes.
Now, living in the Los Angeles area, many of them work in the entertainment industry, and most of them have associates and friends -- often very close friends -- who are either gay or have very strong feelings about the urgency of allowing marriage to be redefined so that gay couples can have the same social support as married people.
It is a very hard thing to explain to such friends why you believe that this should not happen -- that it would be a bad thing for society as a whole to remove from reproductively-oriented marriage such remnants of support as our decadent society still gives it.
To their friends, these young Latter-day Saints seemed like any other bigots, and friendships ended or were severely damaged. Sometimes harder to bear was the self-questioning, for during their many phone calls to strangers, they ran across vehement supporters of Prop. 8 who were haters and bigots.
What am I doing on the same side of the issue as these pitiable people, these young single Saints asked themselves.
Yet they had faith in the gospel, in the prophets, in the Proclamation on the Family. And they acted on that faith, at great personal cost.
I am not wrong to compare them, or some of them at least, with Abraham who was asked to violate everything he had fought for by sacrificing his son, or with the early Church members who were shocked to find that they were expected to practice plural marriage.
The world saw their position as bigotry, though they knew it was not; they had to bear the slings and arrows of the hatred of the most fanatical of the Prop. 8 opponents, and the disappointment, grief, or anger of many of their friends.
But they did it. And, partly because of their sacrifice and service, marriage was protected, at least for a little season.
Yet the wounds in their lives from their sacrifice needed healing. They longed for an affirmative message, and in "For Unto Us ..." they were able to give voice to it.
This is what we believe, they say: In love, in trust, in faith, in atonement, in God's promises fulfilled. Here are some of the talents the Lord has given to us: We give them back now, magnified.
They had almost no budget for the project. They donated their own services, their own money, and begged favors from friends in order to make the book as beautiful as it could be.
It was the spirit of the early temple-building Saints: They had a vision of what they were making, and did every worthy thing that was required to make it come true.
So when you go to the website and read their testimonies, realize who it is that is speaking, and that they speak for many, not just in their ward, but of their generation in the Church, who have done what was asked of them, at great cost, and came through it stronger in the faith, and brimming over with love of Christ, and with a yearning for their hearts to be understood by the world around them.
When you come to the last page of the booklet, look closely at Jared Purrington's design. It contains the spires of many of the Latter-day Temples, and speaks to the aspirations of all Latter-day Saints who must live in the world, yet try to keep themselves unspotted by it.
Copyright © 2010 by Orson Scott Card
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