Sunday, September 6, 2009

Called To Serve

my baby sister CTR 9 Mattea Salamina Sete
Eagan Ward Primary - Summer 2009
Jessica, Mina and Nater building marshmallow temples

Today I was given my first calling as an 'adult' leader. I am the new teacher to the CTR 9 class. STOKED! Funny thing about that is I still consider myself to be a kid. I have my moments and know when times are appropriate and call for complete maturity. I believe this calling was granted me for a few different reasons. I am sure the Lord knows that it will be a great building tool as I prepare for my mission. I also thought long and hard if I should even post my thoughts on another reason I strongly felt I was called to be the teacher for the CTR 9.

I honestly believe another reason I was called to teach the CTR 9 class is because my favorite sister in the entire universe is in that class. Ok, I only have one sister and even though she's bossy and acts up with me sometimes, I had a major part in her upbringing. I couldn't imagine my world with out my sister Mattea Salamina Sete or better known to everyone as "Mina". When she was born, I was the second person after my mom to hold her and tell her how much I loved her. I was and still am thankful she entered my life. I believe in private, she is just like my mom; quirky, funny, decisive and extremely direct. Around people, she is alot like my dad; reserved, athletic, soft spoken and humble. To say that my sister is a very important part of my life is absolutely an understatement. I have always felt compelled to protect my baby sister and until now, I have always done that, silently.

I have never been confrontational. I do not talk back to my elders and I try to show everyone the utmost respect regardless of how people treat me. I was raised to do the right thing even if it was not my first plan of action. I am far from perfect and I continue to work on improving those areas within me that I know are somewhat challenged. After long and quiet consideration this afternoon, I feel compelled to write of this very sensitive matter. Fast, search, ponder and pray. With that being said, I know I must deal with one of the demons that I need to address before a mission could be served honestly.

There will be many great opportunities that will assist me in my progress along my way towards my actual mission calling, but the adversary will work just as hard to make sure that I won't fulfill that goal. If I am unsure that my actions will help me with my goals, I feel I am completely within my rights to choose a course that will. Today those actions included a fast and like the lyrics of a Primary song, I searched, pondered and prayed. This will be my guide in addressing a confusing and shameful situation. I say shameful not for me or my family, but because in an era where I believe we as a people in the United States have evolved as more intelligent from the lessons of our past, there are still stragglers that are too afraid to learn and teach the principles of true love and tolerance. What you have left to give are ignorance and false fears. Let me first pass on this statement:

"When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else."

-Elder David A. Bednar
Ensign, November 2006

For quite sometime, I along with my family went 'less active' in our ward for months. We harbored feelings of anger and disgust towards a few members in our ward for not only the way they treated us, but the actual words said. More specifically, words said to my father and my sister confirming that we attended church with a few bigots. It was awful how my father and sister were blatantly treated by these members. My mom, my cousins and I were treated 'not so nice' as well, but instead of my parents acting out their first plan of action, we quietly stopped coming to church. It was easier than trying to stop my mother from confronting and possibly clobbering the mess out of certain members in our ward. The words were not only unkind but IGNORANT! In case someone missed that, members that let such evil fall from their lips, YOUR WORDS AND ACTIONS ARE IGNORANT!

My father and sister are African American (2 of the 3 African Americans in our ward) and my mother, my cousins and myself are proud Samoans (one of the two Samoan families in our ward). My sister Mina is the only African American in our ward's Primary. We love everything about who we are from our traditional upbringings to the color of our dark skin. Needless to say, in the States, the majority of members in the LDS faith are Caucasian. For many years and even now, my family have been accused of being prejudice against Black people because of our religion. Many Black people have accused my father of being a sell out and an Uncle Tom in the Black community because he chooses to practice in his faith. Can you imagine what we feel like to be accused of being in a prejudice church and we are the minorities there? Now can you imagine us showing up to a faith we believe to be the one true restored gospel on earth and getting treated equally as bad by a few members? We are not ashamed of who we are and I no longer wish to have my sister cry about not wanting to go to Primary because she is told "I don't like you because you're Black" or "Why is that Black girl in our Primary?"- in those EXACT words. I can assure all people both inside and outside of our church, I will NOT tolerate ignorance or bigotry and I will never be silent should someone try to make my family feel less than, because those people are inferior and do not know what it takes to be a decent human being.

If it is a church member's choice to make ignorant statements aloud, especially to my family members, be assured my family will NOT be offended but will make the free choice to address these members accordingly from now on. I have stood silently about this topic that is like some embarrassing secret and because I watched my sister cry again this Sunday about not wanting to be in "that" church, HER church, I must speak on this now. Know that if ANYONE feels the need to try and offend my baby sister (or my family) again and make her another church statistic of complete inactivity, I WILL feel the need to defend her (and my family) and hopefully I will be in tuned enough with the Holy Spirit to choose my words wisely. I am human and when it comes to my family, I just might fall short of the 'wisely' part.

I believe in free speech. I believe in being straight forward and being direct. I believe in 'calling a spade a spade' even though it is very rare I use that method myself. I believe there is a thoughtful way to get your point across. I believe cooler minds and thoughtful words prevail in the long run. I believe the impression you leave with people of you should be one of happiness, kindness and honesty.

I do NOT believe that saying crude things are in the best interest of anyone. I do NOT believe it is a trait of a good LDS member to speak aloud such moronic thoughts so freely. A decent human being never speaks to be hurtful. I believe hatred and ignorance are taught. I believe if ignorant behaviors are not addressed, they fester and grow and will be passed on to future generations. I do NOT believe that being deliberately hateful and hurtful are Christ like traits. At this point in my life, I am not yet mature enough to want to feel sad for those that are bigots or just plain ignorant and dishonest.

In a few weeks, we will be holding a world wide General Conference. I pose a challenge to the members in our church that during these meetings, be the kind of member that secure the teachings and the true meanings of the lessons taught by those who preside over our faith. Learn to embody the teachings of Christ our Savior and of our living Prophet, Thomas S. Monson. Resist from being that 'display only' type of member that knows all the right scriptures to quote, or shows up every Sunday ready with the perfect prayer and speaks with only the small circle or clique of friends that have the 'perfect credentials', but extend yourself and be a humbled member of this church that assuredly knows how to love everyone and observe past your own angst. Be about what you say your about. I don't know that the commandment to 'Love One Another' was ever amended to include the thought of 'especially those who look and act just like you'.