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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Celia

My favorite thing about this blog has always been the comments that follow each post. That's where my real learning takes place, as readers share their knowledge, opinions, interpretations, and insights gathered from their own studies. Often they'll mention helpful links to other online resources, all of which serves to give both me and the other readers a fuller understanding of the subject under discussion.  Sometimes we'll veer far from the original topic, but I don't care.  I like watching the conversation go wherever the readers want to take it. Discussions are not always orderly or on-point around here, and often things go wildly off topic. But that's fine by me. 

Over the years many regulars have become friends here, not just to me, but to the entire Pure Mormonism community of regulars. So today this post is going to be a bit different from my usual entries. This one will be a tribute to a departing friend.  The commenter originally known by the username "LDSDPER" will soon be crossing over into eternity.  She has, at best, only a few days left on this planet, and so before she goes I wanted to share with her what her friendship has meant to me. My hope is that I'll get this written in time to have her husband read it to her before she's gone.

LDSDPER is without a doubt the most readily recognized commenter on this blog -and the most prolific. She often posted several comments a day, sometimes simply expressing herself, other times engaging in conversations with other readers.  Eventually she announced she was going to change her username to something a bit more pronounceable, but then she admitted she couldn't readily come up with any ideas. To those of us who had come to know her, somehow that seemed entirely in character.

So, not being able to think of anything better, for the time being she dubbed herself "NoNameForNow."  The name was intended to be temporary, but now it is enshrined as the permanent name of a good friend who did not know her last comment would be her last one when she wrote it in July. Now that she has no further need for anonymity, I have been permitted to reveal the identity of this woman who has become a friend to many here. Her name is Celia. Celia Scheinost.

Celia had become increasingly frail and helpless for some months, until pretty much the only thing she could do was sit at her keyboard and type.  The cancer had taken over her body in these final months to the point she could no longer walk outside, or stand in her kitchen, or even hobble her way through her own home.  But she could still sit at her computer and manage to type.  So she expended what energy she had engaging in this community. This blog, and the people who frequent it, were her friends. This was her community, the people with which she had so much more in common than anywhere else. And so she stayed here and chatted until she could manage to chat no more.

Celia's husband, Craig, took her to the hospital when things got so bad that even she no longer protested about going. When everything that could be done for her there was done, Craig brought her home Saturday to spend her remaining days in her own bed. Craig wrote me on Sunday that her first day home, she asked him to read aloud to her from the Book of Mormon, which he did for 45 minutes.  Then she asked him to read a few pages from my book, which she had started before she got too weak to finish.   They are three quarters of the way through it, and Celia is determined to finish it before she goes.  I told Craig to tell her she should focus on the Book of Mormon. I mean, really. What difference does my silly book mean at this point?

Celia and I have been corresponding by email ever since she learned my own wife had been somewhat of an invalid herself.  A year or two ago we spoke on the phone, and after I handed the phone to Connie, the two of them became fast friends and spoke for hours.  Connie can clearly identify with what Celia has been going through.

Until recently, Celia gave no hints to the other readers of this blog that she was experiencing such serious health problems. In fact, most readers didn't even suspect she was a woman. She was cryptic and protective of her privacy, and one reason she embraced this community was because her family had come to feel misunderstood and ostracized by their home ward.  Over time she came to mention in her comments that they had adopted their three children, at least one had been a special needs child, and that sometimes members of their ward in Wisconsin had difficulty coping with one or all of them.

The children were either "special needs" or extremely precocious -take your pick. Their oldest daughter was not shy about voicing her objections in church when she saw the official narrative they were feeding her didn't gel with the scriptures. She came to realize early on that the Church history she had been taught had been largely whitewashed and bowdlerized. As a teenager she brought things up in class that teachers did not know how to react to, and so she was made to understand that her "doubts" were dangerous and she should keep them to herself. Craig and Celia had found another daughter in a Romanian orphanage, malnourished and neglected at five years old. The oldest boy has high functioning autism, and was often a challenge to Sunday School teachers   Ward members did not know how to handle him, so they would often end up treating him badly.

Celia's sister told me the entire family was eventually treated like they were the ward weirdos. "It's like 'well, you're not like us, so we don't know what to do with you.' "

In time, feeling shunted aside, the family withdrew to their house in the woods and relied on their home ward less and less. Celia found the caliber of Mormons who read my blog more to her liking, and we became her church community. Before long she was engaged in stimulating conversations here with many of the other readers. Like many Mormons similarly disaffected, she was finding fulfillment in a spiritual community in cyberspace that did not seem to exist inside a chapel.

Celia frequently apologized to me for the length of her comments, and how she often strayed off topic. But like I said, I like watching the conversations go wherever the readers take them.  A lot of my readers prefer things free-form as well.

And besides, Celia's diversions were part of her charm. She had an eccentric style of writing that made her posts instantly recognizable to everyone on the board; just about every time she wrote a single sentence, that sentence was followed by double spacing, as if each and every sentence was a paragraph of its own.  Frequently she would do this with sentence fragments, too, framing a loose phrase with double hyphens front and back, as if to give it emphasis.  So with her posts, there was lots of space between each thought. If you were going to read a comment posted by LDSDPER, you had to be prepared to do a lot of scrolling.

Other readers would engage with Celia in stimulating theological discussions, some that would continue for days, and all of us would benefit from the wisdom of the collective conversation.  It will surprise none of the regulars, then, to learn that Celia has no fear of dying. She is excitedly looking forward to moving into the next phase. Her biggest regret will be leaving her husband and children behind.  But she almost can't wait to meet Jesus again, and to see her young niece, Delsa, who died nine years ago after a difficult struggle with cystic fibrosis.

Regular readers will be familiar with the commenter who often posts here under the name MajorJohnButtrick. Major John is the husband of Celia's sister, who is Celia's closest friend and confidant. Delsa was their daughter.

All of Celia's children are now grown, and all are accomplished musicians. Her son, the one with autism, is 29 and a brilliant pianist. Eldest daughter, 25, is a harpist who provides atmosphere at fine restaurants and special events. And their youngest, the girl Craig and Celia rescued from that orphanage in Romania, is a brilliant First Chair violinist currently in high demand. I'm told she could work in any orchestra she chose to. So although these children had their difficulties, they were raised in a very loving home and rose above their challenges.  Sometimes the best thing one can do for one's children is to get them away from adults and teachers who see only their limitations.

Here's A Story You Won't Hear In Sacrament Meeting
Major John told me an interesting story on the phone yesterday. He and his family live in Texas, where there's a state lottery. So recently he was in the shower when he received distinct instructions from the spirit that he should drive to a particular Shell station and buy a lottery ticket.

He thought "that's bizarre, because I don't play the lottery." He is, after all, a devout Mormon, and it is not in his makeup to gamble, not even once in awhile. Still, he was told quite clearly to go to that location and buy a Scratcher. He saw in a vision the precise look and colors on the particular Scratcher he was directed to buy.

(For those who live in states where there is no lottery, a Scratcher is a ticket sold at gas stations and convenience stores, usually for a dollar each. There are up to a dozen different varieties of scratchers with different themes, just like you'd see different themes on slot machines in a casino. The buyer scratches off the numbers on the card, and if three numbers come up the same, he wins the amount shown.)

The spirit told John to first tell his wife what he was supposed to do, then take her with him and together they would buy the ticket. So John got dried off and went and told his wife what he had heard. She looked at him for a moment, then grabbed her purse and said, "Okay, let's go."

When they got to the gas station, John asked the attendant for two scratchers of the type he had seen in his vision. He immediately heard a voice say, "I only told you to buy one."

So John bought just the one.

This wouldn't be much of a story if it didn't turn out that ticket won. It did. That one dollar Scratcher hit at $500.00, which just happens to be the highest amount you can win if you want to get paid instantly. So they cashed it in and got paid instantly, and on the way home of course they began to wonder what the money was supposed to be used for. Was it to go toward Delsa's significant medical bills? That was the obvious explanation because even nine years after their daughter's death, no matter how much they paid toward that massive debt each month, it seems it would never be paid off. They couldn't quite get confirmation about that though, so they decided for the time being they'd take the money home and sit on it until they got some kind of answer.

Two hours later, Linda gets a call from her sister Celia. Celia's in the hospital. The cancer is stage four, having completely taken over her body. She may not last a week. Celia knows John and Linda don't have much means to do so, but is there any possible way Linda can come up and be with her before the end comes?

The purpose for that lottery money instantly revealed itself, and Linda was on her way. She is with her sister now. Celia is fortunate to have the comfort of her husband and children with her as she exits this life, as well as the only friend she has in the world who truly understands her.


Celia discovered this blog during the height of the 2012 presidential election season when a piece I wrote was linked at The Daily Paul, a sort of clearinghouse for those with libertarian leanings that was then receiving a million hits a day. She was delighted to learn there was an entire universe of fellow Mormons who shared her outlook, and she Private Messaged me.  Afterward, when she commented on my blog, she reminded me she was "the LDS Daily Paul-er" who had written me previously, and she subsequently used a form of that as her username, shortening it to LDSDPER.  I'm sure most everyone here has wondered why she picked such an awkward moniker. Now you know what it means.

As Celia's health continued to fail, the family's circumstances declined also. Craig's work hours have been reduced to 35 hours a week -every other week. When I announced the availability of my new book, she excitedly commented on how she was counting down the days -eight- until they would have some money so they could order a copy.  I would not allow it. Although I didn't have any hard copies of my own to give her, I immediately emailed her a pdf copy I converted from my final draft.  No way was she expected to shell out for my stupid little book.

Besides, I recalled that Celia was not even able to hold a book any longer. She had mentioned previously the difficulty she had holding up Daymon Smith's first book. It was just too heavy.  Craig has been printing out the document versions of those books, which she would then read by holding up one page at a time.  So now Craig was able to print my book out on her printer, which she picked up and read page by printed page.

Among the many things Celia has written about here in recent months, the thing that has clearly made a difference to both her and Craig has been the decision to follow the advice of Daymon Smith and give the Book of Mormon a fresh reading, without thinking about it in terms of its relationship to the bible, and unencumbered by Sunday School manuals, commentaries, Church teachings, and other filters.  Just the pure Book of Mormon, as given to us in 1830 before the first converts corrupted it with their muddied interpretations. Celia has exclaimed many times what a difference that has made in her understanding of what the Lord's purpose was in our reading of it.

She has come to realize that the Book of Mormon as it was originally given to us is really the only thing we latter-day Saints should be concerning ourselves with for now. Not "the Church," not all these claims of priesthood authority, not the counsel to follow the leaders, not the countless rules and checklists that have become stumbling blocks that get in our way. Not the conference talks and articles in the Ensign. Not even, for the time being, the Doctrine and Covenants.  Before all else, even before we pick up and read the other Standard Works, it's necessary for us to go back to our roots and read just the Book of Mormon in it's simplicity. If re-examined by itself, independent of the noisy trappings piled onto it by the LDS Church, that book will lead us to Christ.

Celia has been reading it the way it was meant to be read. And she's ready. Any day now she will be in the arms of Jesus Christ.

The rest of us can only envy her.

                                                               *****
One Final Request
Actually, two final requests. First, this is your chance to say goodbye to our mutual friend. I'm certain many of you feel the same as I do; that Celia has been an integral part of this community, and she will be greatly missed. I honestly don't know how I'll get used to her absence on this forum.

But if we're lucky, she'll stick around long enough so that her husband has the chance to read aloud some of your final words to her. At this time, Celia is lucid and aware, so please feel free to share your feelings in the comment section below.  Most of us don't usually have a chance to pay tribute to our friends while they're still around. This time we do have a small window of opportunity while our friend is still with us.

Here's my second request: Celia's family does not have the means to cover funeral and medical costs. Naturally we can't expect to cover everything, but we can make a dent. I know my readers are a generous lot; many of you need merely hear of a need, and you're on it. So if the Lord happens to inspire you to send a few dollars to this family to assist them in this difficult time, I hope you will do so. I know Celia will rest much easier knowing the family was given a leg up by her friends.

MajorJohnButtrick has assisted Craig in setting up a Paypal account into which contributions can be deposited. The email address to use for that is  cscheinost@charter.net

For those who would rather send a donation by check, the address is:
Craig Scheinost
909 S. 10th Ave.
Wausau, WI 54401

Just a few days ago I happened to make mention on Facebook that my bank account had been hacked and my rent money stolen out from under me. I mentioned that just to point out how foolish I had been because I felt I was immune from that sort of thing. I thought that because I almost never had any money in the bank, thieves would find nothing to steal. I was wrong. They can always take the rent money.

Days later, some donations from virtual strangers appeared, which caught me by surprise because I was certainly not soliciting donations, nor seeking pity. Connie and I had, however, prayed that the Lord would assist us in getting us out of this fix so we could make the rent, and as these offers of help came in, I immediately recognized this was His way of answering our prayers.

The amount we were short was $500.00. We ended up being blessed with more than that, so now that  our immediate needs have been met and the rent paid, I have sent the excess on to Craig and Celia.

I will tell you something I believe with all my heart, and it's a belief I have arrived at through my own experience. Those few people who sent us assistance will soon find themselves blessed for the kindness they showed to us. Most likely that blessing will arrive in the form of added prosperity on their heads.  That's how the Lord works when you are generous with your means. Money flows out, and then it flows right back in, often in greater abundance.  But here's what is more exciting: Their kindness has multiplied by my having forwarded their gifts on to those more worthy than us.  The givers may as well brace themselves, because they're going to be blessed with even greater abundance.  It may not always work out like this when you give to an institution, but it does when you give to individuals. That's how the universe works, my friends. You ALWAYS come out ahead.

Now go thou and do likewise.