Boy, it’s been a crummy couple of days to be a Mormon on Facebook hasn’t it?
I’m referring to the recent releasing of the LDS news that same sex marriage is considered apostasy and their children will not be allowed to be baptized until age 18.
I’ve seen my LDS friends becoming increasingly polarized the past two days over the issue: those who stand firmly with the policy and those who are struggling with it (and yes I see the irony in what I just did there given the title of this post, stick with me here).
Me? I see myself on both sides. I feel like I have too deep a conviction about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon to ever leave this church and I will stand with the General Authorities fully acknowledging that I don’t know everything, but my heart is ACHING, breaking in a million pieces for those whom this new policy affects.
And I think we could all benefit from making a concerted effort to see the other side on this issue.
To those who stand firmly with the policy:
I’m concerned that in our efforts to demonstrate that we stand firmly with the issue, we won’t research, read or empathize with those who don’t.
And we ABSOLUTELY NEED to make much greater efforts to understand where they are coming from, to see their side. In order to fully love, we have to gain a greater understanding of what they are going through. AND WE MUST FULLY LOVE!!
I do believe so many people will leave the church over this issue and my heart grieves for that. But we who stay can do so much to ease their grief, to offer an understanding heart instead of preaching or dismissing their concerns away. Fellow members, I believe now is the time to stand firm together and reach out with nothing but love to those who struggle with this. Please before you testify, just let them grieve and show love.
I alluded to this in my last post (so ironically) about how to not judge your spouse’s spirituality. My husband has taught me so much in this regard and I feel I have had a great change of heart.
Because I’ve worked hard to gain a testimony, I generally unquestioningly stand firmly with the church on everything. And I think that’s right and good to stand by a church you believe in. But until recently, because of this stance, I wasn’t taking the time to really try to put myself in others shoes who opposed church doctrines and stances. My knee-jerk reaction was to defend my beliefs without seeking to mourn with them or even understand their feelings. That is not ok.
Largely because of my husband, I made a real effort to do this recently (before the policy change came out). I took a week where everyday I took a chunk of time to read a lot of things from people’s perspectives I formerly had a difficult time understanding or unfortunately dismissed without even trying to understand. I was dealing myself a great loss before I made this effort.
I read about what it would be like to grow up same-sex attracted. About their deep internal conflict as a member with same-sex attraction. I read about what it would be like to be a parent to a gay child. The isolation that includes. I read about what it would be like to be an African American member of the church and how invisible they feel. I tried to understand how women struggling with the inequality in the church must feel. I read about the impossible choice LGBTQ members with testimonies face of either living a life of solitude and celibacy or leaving the church they love. I read and sympathized with what it is like to be a member experiencing some seasickness on the good ship Zion. I understood why it was so unhelpful for hundreds of well-meaning members to email Nikki (a now former LDS blogger) with their testimonies the day she announced she would be leaving the church.
And my heart just broke. I cried and cried. I wanted to send apology emails to everyone who has ever left the church or has been hurt by its policies or doctrines or members. I saw how frustrating it must feel for none of your LDS friends and family to ever really believe you when you say you are happy without the church. I saw how distancing it must be to have people you love believe that you just wanted to sin or didn’t read your scriptures enough. I saw how being preached at when you’re down would make it seem like no one understands you. I saw the damage we do when we fear or dismiss people with questions and struggles.
I felt so sad. But also resolved to be better.
Fellow members of the church, we cannot let these dear brothers and sisters go while we stand by preaching at them, dismissing them. We have to figure out a way to understand and love them whether or not they choose to stay in the church. Testify if you really feel prompted to, but otherwise do nothing but love and offer sympathy. We have a long ways to go in truly loving and understanding those who choose to leave our church.
Throughout all these experiences, I’ve been surprised at how stringently my mind wants to make these us vs. them mentalities. Before this experience, I unconsciously drew “us vs. them” lines all the time. Inactives vs actives. Supporters of same-sex marriage vs not. Traditionalists vs progressives. I was surprised to find that while I was reading through these stories, I flipped my stance on the us vs. them line I had drawn. I found myself siding strongly with these individuals (Aw man! Mormons can be the worst!).
But then I felt a stronger voice say, “No! There is no them, only us.” We are all children of God. We are all struggling. We are all falling short. We are all making mistakes and misjudging left and right. And when I sought out examples of people helping each other on both sides of the “lines” I found them. Let us please extend help and understanding and love to others. Especially those we are struggling to understand.
There is no them, only us.
To those who are struggling with the new policy:
First off I say I am SO sorry. I am so sorry for the hurtful (intentional or not) comments made by other members of the church. I’m sorry you are feeling misunderstood and misjudged and crushed and heartbroken. I am SO sorry to those whom this policy affects directly. SO. SORRY. I know my apology isn’t enough, but I have to offer it. I’m sorry. We love you.
I would only ask that you try to forgive those of us who seemingly blindly and unquestioningly stand by the church we love. Forgive us for when we don’t make enough effort to see your side of things. It is difficult to see the gospel and church we love so dearly unabashedly attacked from the whole world and then from within our church as well. Its crushing to read such a world-wide onslaught of hateful comments towards the church that forms our very identity and towards the prophet whom we love. Please forgive us when we are less than couth with our defenses.
And to my non-Mormon friends who are wondering why I would stand with a church that makes policies that at times sadden and confuse me, I say that I’m blessed to have had way more positive experiences within the church than negative.
But it isn’t about a tally of positive vs negative experiences. I’m reminded of a conversation I had when a dear friend of mine was baptized after having to change her life pretty dramatically to do so. A few weeks after her baptism, we were chatting with another friend who is not a member of our faith and she asked, “So you joined because this church makes you happy? Because you feel a deep joy here?” Fully expecting her to say yes, I was surprised when this newly baptized member immediately said, “No! My life has gotten harder in every way since I accepted this faith. I got baptized because it’s true. I know it’s true.”
Does the church make me happy? Almost all of the time, yes. This week? I’m not so sure. Thankfully that is not the purpose of church. I stay because I, like my friend, know the doctrines and the Book of Mormon to be true.
I believe the purpose of religion is to teach truth, to help people return to God and to create a community of different people united in faith and purpose. It can be a very beautiful thing. It can also be a very difficult thing, but I will continue to stand by the church I love while praying to understand those who don’t.
Let’s all try to remember we are all children of God, and He loves us all equally and unabashedly with a love so big, none of us can even understand. May we all try to love one another with this same love. May we try to unite instead of divide.
There is no them, only us.