I was baptized at age nine. I remember being taught baptism washes away my sins and after receiving the Spirit of the Holy Ghost I will be able to know right from wrong. If I sin after baptism, I must repent. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus paid for our sins on condition of repentance. After I was baptized I remember trying so hard to do everything the right way. More than anything I wanted to be an exemplary member of His Church. I wanted God and my parents to be proud of me.
Worthy Church members pay one tenth of their earnings to the Church for tithing. At age twelve I would tend children and clean house for twenty five cents an hour. The family I tended most often had seven children. As soon as I got the children to bed, the house cleaning began…..washing dishes, sweeping floors, folding clothes, dusting, and vacuuming. A dollar earned for every four hours! Tithing on that dollar was ten cents. At the end of the year I had paid twelve dollars tithing. I was so proud of that! My goodness! When I think about it now, I realize the twelve dollars represented four hundred eighty hours of babysitting and cleaning. My wages totaled $120.00…..but the actual experience was priceless!
As a teenager I didn’t miss Church meetings. I had 100% attendance at all my Church meetings four years in a row. There was always something fun to do: dances, camping trips, roadshows, speech contests, hay rides, plays, pizza parties, roller skating, ice skating sleigh rides and many more wholesome activities were provided. I earned every award given to young women in the Church. The activities kept me busy with my friends and my leaders were caring, loving and devoted. I was blessed to have these people in my life. Mom and Dad never forced me to go to Church, but I knew they expected me to go and were proud of me when I went. I went to Church because I loved it.
I was taught to love others, but be careful in choosing my friends. Inactive or non-member friends might be a bad influence and lead me away from the Church. I believed in God as a loving, kind, gentle, forgiving, patient understanding, all powerful, generous, just, merciful, healing, and all things good Heavenly Being. But was sometimes jealous, angry, vengeful, unforgiving, and intolerant and definitely had His favorites. I learned that Satan was always trying to lead us astray and lead us carefully down the path of his evil ways. I prayed I would always be strong and would never displease God. I wanted to be a loving devoted member of His Church.
After graduating from seminary and high school I got a job working in the General Church Officer with Mom. I loved my job and enjoyed the wholesome atmosphere. One day a gentleman approached me at the counter and began a conversation by stating one of the Church’s fundamental documents had been altered and was not as originally written. My boss asked him to leave which he did. But that conversation stirred up me righteous indignation. When I got home I went straight to Dad. “How dare that man spread such lies? Everyone knows nothing has been changed”. I expected Dad to agree with me but was shocked when he said; “How do you know that?” I couldn’t believe my ears and didn’t know what to say. Really, how did I know that? I knew because that is what I had been taught. A simple statement by my loving father let me know it was alright to ask questions to get to know for myself.
Dad worked for the railroad which was near the Church Offices, so he would drop Mom and me off on his way to work and pick us up afterward. Our commute took about 30 minutes. I sat in the back seat and listened to my parents’ conversations. Often they would talk about issues in the Church and occasionally Dad expressed disapproval of actions or policies of the Church. Whenever Dad expressed displeasure Mom always took a defensive position. She made it clear she did not appreciate his criticism. But that never seemed to stop him from expressing his opinion. As I sat in the back seat, I came to understand Dad was not afraid to take issue with the Church if he felt something was not right.
I dreamt of the day I would marry ‘my prince’ in God’s temple for time and all eternity. When that day finally came I gave my heart to Kermit and that has been the best decision of my life. He has always been the love of my life. We’re the same age and were only ten years old when we met. Deep in my heart I instinctively knew there was something very special about him long before he began looking at girls, let alone dating. In the ninth grade he asked a classmate, Judy, to a school dance. Kermit and I hardly ever talked and he certainly didn’t know I thought he was anything special. But I was so jealous I could hardly stand it. We just celebrated our 54th wedding anniversary. I could never have found a better friend and partner. He is my strongest supporter. He loves me and gives me freedom to express myself. For his love and support I say, “Thank you, sweetheart! I deeply appreciate your love and encouragement.” As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote; “I love thee with the breath, smiles and tears of all my life – and if God choose, I shall love thee better after death.” Kerm, you will always be the love of my life.
Kerm and I have been blessed with five children – Troy, Kimberly, Shelly, Heidi and Jenny. WE accepted the responsibility to teach them the Gospel so they would be strong and make choices worthy of the elite heavenly Kingdom. This sobering duty brought with it a sense of worry and anxiety. The thought that our children could make decisions leading them away from the Church was worrisome. We wanted to ensure they would be with us in the elite heavenly kingdom forever. Whew! That was an enormous commitment!
Dad died soon after Shelly was born. His funeral was two weeks after Shelly’s birth. Troy was three and a half years old and was big brother to Kimberly and Shelly. As Dad’s body lay in his casket, Troy touched his grandfather and asked; “Why is Grandpa cold?” In an attempt to explain so a three year old could understand, I said; “Grandpa’s spirit kept his body warm just like our furnace keeps our house warm. Grandpa’s spirit has gone to live in heaven so it doesn’t need to keep his body warm anymore.” Troy looked puzzled and said; “What if Grandpa went to heaven and forgot to turn off his furnace?” OK, back to the drawing board. Let’s explain that a bit differently.
When Heidi, our fourth child was a toddler, Kerm worked afternoons and could not attend Sunday meetings. I believed it was important that our kids got to Church every Sunday. One Sunday morning everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The more things went wrong, the more determined I was to get my kids to Church. The kids started playing with their breakfast and made quite a mess when I went to draw their bath water. When I returned to begin cleaning up the breakfast fiasco, Troy decided to tease Kimberly and threw her shoe in the backyard bushes. While looking for her shoe, one of the kids threw all the bathroom towels and rugs in the fresh bath water. Oh, brother! I became even more determined. I was going to get my kids to Church no matter what! Finally everyone was ready. I loaded the kids into the car and reached to close the door when I heard the sound of my sleeve ripping leaving a gaping hole under my arm. Troy seeing I was at my wits end, put his comforting little hand on my shoulder and said as sweetly as any angel could; “Mom, some days are meaner than others.” That’s for sure! Some days are meaner that others! I quickly changed my dress, re-loaded the car and off we went. Heidi was being potty trained, so as soon as Troy, Kimberly and Shelly were in their classes, I took her to the restroom. As I pulled up her panties and hit ‘flush’ she grabbed my keys and threw them down the toilet. Down they went! The key to Kerm’s bowling bag, the house keys, the car keys…all down the drain. All I could do is laugh. From that day on “Some days are meaner than others” is a beloved expression at the Sheehan household.
Another Sunday I got the kids ready for Church without major catastrophe. That is until we were ready to leave. Kimberly who has always had a sense of style (Or a strong opinion of what she considered style) decided her hair looked awful and was embarrassed to be seen by her friends. I had braided her hair and pinned the braids up in a bun like fashion above her hears. I thought she looked adorable. She had a different idea. “I AM THE PARENT!” I thought. “She is only five years old and I cannot let her dictate how she will or how she will not wear her hair.” So, I took her by the hand and loaded her into the car with the other kids. When we arrived at the Church she refused to get out of the car. She was crying and struggling with me. No matter what I said or how I tried to cajole or bribe her, she was so unhappy about her hair she would not budge. Finally I realized I was defeated and we all came home. I sat her in a chair, unbraided her hair and began brushing it. I was furious and I’m sure I was brushing harder than necessary. Then she began singing a song…..”I am a child of God; And He has sent me here; has given me an earthly home, with parents kind and dear.” Oh, boy! That put things into perspective. I felt so sorry I decided from then on that kids do have opinions and as long as no harm is done I need to sensitive to them. My reason for taking the Kids to Church in the first place was to help them learn to be loving and kind. My insensitivity was based on my ego and I was not teaching my children, especially Kimberly, the lessons I wanted them to learn. Out of the mouths of babes we learn some of life’s greatest lessons.
My next blog will continue the story of my Church activity and the reasons I left the Church.
For now, Earlynn’s just sayin’: “I believe our lives unfold according to a divine plan. God loves us and is over all.”
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