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8/18/14

What I Saw (Guest Submission)

This is a guest post in response to the excommunication of Kate Kelly, and the silencing of Mormon Feminist voices within the LDS Church.

(Editor's note: People are often quick to dismiss the concerns of Mormon feminists as a byproduct of "one bad experience" with a male authority figure. Like the "not all men" phenomenon in mainstream feminism, the "not all Mormon Men" response is equally damaging. While there are a great many wonderful Mormon men in the world, supporting a patriarchal institution in which women are denied significant leadership opportunities indirectly supports abuse like the circumstances described below.)

What I Saw

I watched my dad belittle, embarrass, and abuse my mother until the day they divorced almost forty years after they married. I watched my dad be an upstanding church member my whole life. Giving excellent talks, teaching on Sunday, teaching seminary during the week, talking of his mission with fondness. 

I watched my dad pit his children against their mother. I watched my dad zealously love his daughters (until they decided to leave the church and then he called them sluts and whores), while paying next to no attention to his son no matter what he did. I watched my dad gaslight my mother until it drove her this close to crazy. I watched a lot of things I wish I could forget.

In my memory I watch my BYU Sophomore self calling my dad's Stake President and telling him how terrible things were. My mother watched him have a 2 hour interview with the Stake President and nothing more. 

I watched my mother going in and out of the Branch Presidents office trying to get help and I watched nothing happen. I watched my mom give up as my dad would go in and tell a different story that was always taken as truth. 

I watched my dad in his passive aggressive abusive way marry my mothers best friend 2 weeks after their divorce was final. I watched my dad screw my mom over in the divorce. I watched my dad take his new wife to Europe, to Vegas, to shows, horseback riding, to operas, on cross country trips as my mother works 8 hour days at minimum wage to make ends meet. 

I watch my family fall apart, I watch our relationships suffer as my dad sits on the front pew at church telling himself that he was always right, never wrong or whatever self believe thing he does to keep him going day to day. He probably doesn't have to tell himself anything though. He was brought up being told he was always right, that he was always in charge, that he would never be challenged. I watch as he has never uttered an apology, not even a simple "I'm sorry". 

I watch my dad go to the Temple. 

I can't watch anymore. I want my wounds to heal. I wish this experience on no one. I wish for women to be ordained so shit like this will never happen again. 

7/10/14

An Open Letter to my Orthodox Mormon Friends, Family, and Loved Ones (Guest Submission)

This is a guest post in response to the excommunication of Kate Kelly, and the possible excommunication of several other members of the LDS Church, including John Dehlin

Kelli Anderson is a return missionary who blogs about her life and faith journey at Chronicles of She


An Open Letter To My Orthodox Mormon Friends, Family, and Loved Ones:

There is too much shame and guilt in our relationship and just not enough trust. I know how much activity in the church means to you. I know that you really want me to be an active, believing Mormon. I know the idea of me stepping back from the church is scary to you, and I know that's only because you love me.

I just want to let you know that I have deliberately kept you in the loop during this transition of my faith because I appreciate your input and because I respect your opinion and I just plain think you have contributed enough to my faith in God to have earned a bit of openness from me, even though it has been terrifying to open up.

I am inviting you to trust my totally fallible but also divine ability to know what's right for me more than you trust the dogma that says if I'm not an active Mormon I am obviously living my life incorrectly. I am inviting you trust my judgment to know what lifestyle works best for me. I want you to know that I afford you the same trust of which I am asking because I do believe there is divinity in the human intellect--and that includes yours, even if your reasoning and conclusions are far different from mine.

I hope you can trust me because you know I am a smart person. Not a day or hour goes by that I don't ponder church teachings. I am thoughtful and intentional about what I believe and how I live. I hope you can trust me because you know I am a strong person. I am not giving in to temptation or betraying my convictions. I hope you can feel positive about whatever I believe or however I live simply because you trust ME and respect ME and my ability to decide for myself how to live and what works for me.

I am happy where I am. I trust God and I trust the relationship I have with heaven. I trust my idea of right and wrong and how to live my life. It's working okay for me. I am honestly happier now than I've been in my life. I don't think I am lost, but if I am, I trust God to steer me in the right direction.

And maybe, you're right. Maybe I am on the wrong path and I am making a bunch of huge mistakes, but do you know what? It's my path. It's my mistakes to make--or not make.

Sometimes going to church is about faith and sometimes it is about fear. Honestly, if I were going to church right now, I think it would be more about fear than faith. I have faith in God and I trust God. I don't for a second expect you to fully understand my choices or thoughts and feelings, but I do hope you can trust me. I hope you grasp the trust that I have in myself and in God and that you believe me when I say I trust your decisions for your life, too.

I have no plans to turn you away or shut you out any time soon. I really love you. I can't express how much your unwavering faith in God has blessed every part of my life and will continue to. I can't imagine not having you in my life. I hope our relationship can evolve to be less about matching beliefs and more about friendship and trust. I love you.

All my best,

Kelli

7/7/14

"I'm in Here" (Guest Submission)

This is a guest post in response to the excommunication of Kate Kelly, and the possible excommunication of several members of the LDS church. 

"I'm in Here"

I cannot remember the last time I have felt such crushing sadness at all times of the day. I guess this is what depression feels like? I've offered some pretty angry prayers at different times of my life--screaming at God in my head--and many lately. I have little to offer by way of eloquence, but as I was listening to music the other day, this one by Sia began playing. It's called "I'm in Here", and it neatly summarizes where I am right now.



I'm in here, can anybody see me?
Can anybody help?
I'm in here, a prisoner of history
Can anybody help?
Can't you hear my call?
Are you coming to get me now?
I've been waiting for you to come rescue me
I need you to hold
All of the sadness I cannot live with inside of me
I'm in here, I'm trying to tell you something
Can anybody help?
I'm in here, I'm calling out but you can't hear
Can anybody help?
Can't you hear my call?
Are you coming to get me now?
I've been waiting for you to come rescue me
I need you to hold
All of the sadness I cannot, living inside of me
I'm crying out, I'm breaking down
I am fearing it all, stuck inside these walls
Tell me there is hope for me
Is anybody out there listening?
Can't you hear my call?
Are you coming to get me now?
I've been waiting for you to come rescue me
I need you to hold
All of the sadness I cannot, living inside of me
Can't you hear my call?
Are you coming to get me now?
I've been waiting for you to come rescue me
I need you to hold
All of the sadness I cannot, living inside of me
I'm in here, can anybody see me?
Can anybody help?

7/2/14

Worthy (Guest Submission)

            This is a guest post in response to the excommunication of Kate Kelly, and possible excommunication of several LDS church members.  

Worthy   

by Kati Price


                “Your husband does not believe in the Gospel. He had no business taking you to the temple in the first place”…The bishop spoke just inches from my face and placed his hands on my shoulders while shaking me like a young child being scorned, trying to get me to see something I wasn’t ready to face. I was two weeks postpartum with our last child and the bishop had decided my husband was not worthy to bless his only baby girl. He was essentially correct about my husband not fully believing, although his actions were completely wrong. No man should ever speak or touch a woman like that. My husband had always struggled with his own belief, but tried hard to make it work for him. I fought like Hell to continue to belong to my religion. I fought like Hell, pleading with my father in heaven to fix our family. Please, make us worthy. I needed a priesthood leader to be worthy. By association, I was unworthy. We were now labeled “part member family”. My husband was no longer worthy to hold callings. No longer worthy to be a part of the ward member club. This all came about because he expressed doubt in Joseph Smith as a prophet. But no one would listen to his questions. He was only punished for asking.  He did everything he was supposed to do. He just had questions. Questions no one could answer for him without ending in “have faith”.

                I spent the next 5 years in denial. I silenced my husband and forbid him from telling our children he didn’t believe in our religion. I begged him to lie so he could perform ordinations on our children and just try harder. Pray harder. Read more and plead with the Lord to give him a testimony. I was ready to leave my marriage. I was encouraged to leave. I was depressed. I was broken. With other family problems going on at this same time, I lost my own family and felt like my life was in a spiral downward. This was only the beginning of our problems.

                I began to realize I also had a son that was struggling with his own belief. Not because he wanted to be like his dad. He had no clue his dad was also struggling. They were his issues, he was discovering on his own. As a new 4 year old sunbeam, he proudly expressed his disdain for the missionary program in primary one Sunday. “That sounds stupid, why would I go 2 years without talking to my mom?” Everyone laughed. I cried. I knew he meant it. I knew he would never go. I knew I would be disappointed in him when he turned 19 and didn’t go like all of his friends. He wouldn’t be fulfilling the list that was required for him to be worthy. When he turned 8, he begged me to give him the option of not getting baptized. I ignored his pleas. I forced him to become a member of the LDS church. I told him he had no choice, even though we pride ourselves on free agency. I figured it would pass. It didn’t. With each new Sunday school teacher came the questions and comments from the teacher. “Your son asks a lot of questions.” “Your son doesn’t understand the Gospel”. “Your son doesn’t believe.” “You need to teach your son more at home about Gospel principles.” I was mortified. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I began to silence my son the same way I did my husband. I begged him to “keep his mouth shut” in class. “Do not ask questions. Just go and listen and you will believe!” 

                He was about two weeks from turning 12. The age a boy receives the priesthood. One late night he came into my room in tears. He expressed his desire to die rather than receive the priesthood. He could no longer be a part of this church. It was killing him and forcing him to believe in things he just couldn’t believe. He expressed his love of evolution and the big bang theory. He passionately expressed his love of science and how the science of the earth did not match up with the teachings of the church. He was studying a lot of Egyptian theology at the time so he told me about how the Book of Abraham had pictures of Egyptian hieroglyphics that were not correct and that bothered him. He used words that were so mature and so well thought out that there was no way I could ignore him this time. I was changing who my son was meant to be. I was forcing him to be something he could never authentically be and he wanted to die because of it. At 12 years old. My son wanted to die. At that very moment I saw my husband in his sweet eyes. I finally had empathy for my husband and his entire life of being forced to believe something he never could make any sense of.

                I went in full mama bear mode. I requested the immediate termination of all church contact. No home teachers, no visiting teachers and I also requested to be released from my calling in the Young Women. A calling I truly loved. I kept everything private. No meetings. No explanation. I feared disciplinary actions. I fiercely needed to protect my son until he was ready to tell his own story. Until, he truly understood his own story. I no longer cared about our family being worthy. I no longer wanted to be a part of the club. The club was tearing apart my family. The desire for worthiness was forcing us to have disappointment and anger with each other. It was causing contention in our home and breaking us apart. I had to heal our family. I had to leave all expectations of who I wanted them to be and let them be who they were MEANT to be.

                3 years later we are still trying to make sense of all of our differing beliefs. We are a home with atheist views and agnostic views. Some of us are still very spiritual and cling to the belief of God. Some of us are still too young to know. But, we all respect and love each other. We allow each other to be who we know we were meant to be. No judgment, but most importantly no disappointment. None of us practice Mormonism in the organized sense. We spend our Sundays hiking or going to the movie. We use our extra time to be together as a family.  We still teach our children the same morals and guidelines we did when we were Mormon, but now we explain why instead of using the fear of sin or God to teach our children right from wrong. Worthiness is no longer based on a list of things you have to accomplish. Or a list of ordinations that have to be completed.

                Leaving was the only option for our family because as a “part member” family we were never completely accepted. There were always things wrong with our family unit. We were always missing a primary ingredient to make us worthy. I truly wish we could have stayed a part of the church I loved so much. To be able to be welcomed and loved as we were. For the people we were individually. For the people we were together. In our experience and our area, that just didn’t happen. Yes, there were those that loved us “anyway”.  But, I was tired of being loved “anyway”. I was tired of being pitied or talked about as “the part member family”. We are a whole family. A wonderful family with nothing wrong with us. We deserved to be seen that way.

                Living in Utah County is certainly not easy being the odd ones out. Especially still living in the ward we “left”. There have been rumors and awful things said. There are people who will not speak to us. There are people that wish we would leave for good. There have been ruined relationships with friends and family that don’t understand what we believe and the choices we have made. At the end of the day, our little family is all that matters. My children are thriving beyond all my expectations. I am so proud of my son that stood up for his own beliefs my heart could burst at any moment. He is about to enter high school and let me tell you, his future is bright. He is living life to the fullest and is happy and complete.  I love being a mother to children that are open and honest. They talk to me about everything. They are not afraid to believe what they choose and be who they want to be. It makes motherhood so glorious and rewarding. I know that when my son turns 18, I will be proud of him and not disappointed. My expectations are no longer tied to worthiness for him.


                When members say “They should just leave”…don’t worry. Eventually they will. You leave them no other choice. Just remember, we are real people. With real feelings and reasons for making the choices we make. It’s so easy to judge. Just remember one day it might be your child. Your own spouse, maybe even you might have doubts one day. When that happens, our family is here. With open arms and hearts. We know your pain. We’ve been through it and came out better for it. Truly love your neighbor. You never know the burdens they carry or the choices they are forced to make. Never force someone out. What a beautiful religion this could be if we were more welcoming to all. More accepting of those we don’t understand. Loved without the hope of one day changing them to believe the way you do. There only being ONE right way. That is a religion I could be a part of. I hope one day my religion and heritage will get there. I believe it can. When it does, I will embrace it fully. 

6/30/14

The Pulpit and the Purple (Guest Submission)

This is a guest submission in response to the excommunication of Kate Kelly. 

The Pulpit and the Purple
By Anna Fisher
June 23, 2014

In a room filled with gold, and the seats velvet red
Stands a pulpit of black walnut wood
And the pipes burst behind as the music unwinds
And the crowd carries on as they should.
They all sing aloud, “The Spirit of God,”
Then they all fold their arms, shut their eyes,
And a man at the front, at the pulpit he stands,
And asks heaven to be by their sides.

Then he looks at the crowd, and says soft, but loud
If they doubt, they can knock at the door
Then he turns away quickly, hopes no one will speak,
But one woman in yellow implores
She raises her hand, then on her feet stands,
But the gentleman just walks away,
Then she turns to the crowd, finally asking out loud,
How many more feel the same way.

A cautious few join her, they make a small group
And the others like them shortly follow,
In purple they pray, and to leaders’ dismay
They don’t disappear on the ‘morrow.
Soon they’re waiting outside with their hearts full of hope
Asking men at the pulpit to meet,
But the men stay inside and together confide,
They will silence the group on their feet.

But the purple keeps walking, and standing, and waiting
And the woman in yellow speaks out,
She won’t disappear, to her heart she’ll adhere
Then the men in black ties kick her out.
And some people cheer, while the others shed tears
As thousands have scars on their hearts,
And the purple might bleed, while some will be freed
Even several who don’t want to part.

And the men at the pulpit will think they have won,
Many women will stand by their side,
The group wanting change has been called all the names
They’ve been told to be quiet and hide.
But the woman in yellow still holds up her head
Though the tears seem to rip her apart,
And those who don’t know her will cry on their own
This is all over gender instead of the heart.

In a room filled with gold, and the seats velvet red
Stands a pulpit of black walnut wood
And the pipes burst behind as the music unwinds
And the crowd carries on as they should.
They all sing aloud, “The Spirit of God,”
Then they all fold their arms, shut their eyes,
And a man at the front, at the pulpit he stands,
And asks heaven to be by their sides.

6/29/14

Who will we be without us? (Guest Submission)

This is a guest post in response to the excommunication of Kate Kelly, and the possible excommunication of several other members of the LDS Church. 


Who will we be without us?

by Genavee

"We are so damn Mormon" I said to my husband today, as we bought a 50 lb bag of wheat and chatted about our fall canning plans. Which might seem a little off to some of you, what with the swearing and the shopping on Sunday, and the coffee I'm sipping while I type this. We haven't been to church in forever, and our beliefs are complicated. And yet, after 20+ years of living Mormon and generations of Mormon blood coursing through our genealogy charts, aren't we Mormon? 

That's part of the weird conundrum of modern Mormonism. On one hand, it very much is a religion, with a fascinating tension between a theology built as much on open and personal revelation as it is on firm standards and ecclesiastical authority. But it's also a culture, essentially an ethnic group. It's just as much the shared heritage of roadshows, girls camp, white shirts, pioneer stories and funeral potatoes as it is about what's in the correlated lesson manuals or said in general conference. The people, the culture, the doctrine, the structures - it's all Mormonism. 

Especially the people. It's a church where members do everything, rotating in and out of positions, so who is there on Sunday to teach and preach and just be, what they think and believe and focus on - that probably makes up Mormonism more than anything. It makes this a living church. What we say, what we do, what we preach, all of that can and does change as we change. It makes us. Except more and more there are less and less people, especially my age, especially people who's conscience or experiences don't line up with current orthodoxy. 

The June purge of some high and low profile Mormons, including my friend Kate Kelly, who is one of the most truly and best Mormon people I've ever known, is a pivotal moment in what this living church wants to be. The first time I met Kate was in our law school cafeteria. She was the only person who truly listened and comforted me, a stranger, while I dealt with my faith crisis. She understood, she told me it was ok, she told me that I was loved, that I was ok, but she also told me there was a place for me. She gave me hope that I could come back then, and later she gave that hope to thousands more, only to be told by the church that she might not be welcome for doing so. 

Maybe that's what some people want. Maybe it's necessary to demand purity of belief and action, maybe preserving the parts of the church they see as essential means telling the ones seen as different or dangerous to change, be quiet or get out. I can't entirely begrudge them that. After all, I want to shape and change my faith home too. I don't know how or if it's possible to make Mormonism a place for all who can lay a claim to it. But ultimately through our actions Mormons will choose what Mormonism is and what it isn't. Mormons like me can't change who we are (believe me, most of us have tried). We can choose to try and expand Mormonism to fit us, or we can choose to walk away. Other Mormons have to choose whether they are willing to let the church grow to fit us in, or shrink to kick us out.

It's not a choice for it to stay the same. Living things don't do that, they don't stand still. They especially can't stay the same after excising a limb. Our choices are always shaping what this church and this community are. And I have an inkling of what kind of church is being created. Already, even from the outside looking in, I've noticed a greater focus on those wedge issues. More time spent talking about women's roles, same-sex marriage and GLBT people, and the like than on what I grew up thinking of as the heart of the gospel. The more we choose to focus on protecting the boundaries, the less time we can choose to focus on charity, salvation, Christ. What is said and what is done is shrinking as the people shrink, and with it so is the church.

I'm fine. I know who I am. I'll be Mormon whether I'm wanted or not, in my own way. I will always say and do and be shaped by my heritage. I'll buy my bags of wheat, I'll wonder about eternity, find ways to serve and hum the occasional hymn. No one can take that from me. But the "good" Mormons can take themselves away from me. They can make it so they never have to listen to my voice, or hear my questions or ideas. They can hit unfriend. They can can tell us with a smile that doesn't meet their eyes that maybe we should go find some other place. They can say hurtful things about apostates in the hope that we'll notice we aren't wanted and leave quietly. And they can excommunicate us. They can choose to be the kind of people that make things pure. I just wonder if that kind of church, the one without all of us all together, so different from what it could be and sometimes has been, is what they really want.

6/25/14

How Can I Be Selfish? (Guest Submission)

 I went to church and asked God if he loved me. “Of course I do! I need you,” he said. And then he took my hand and led me to a house. “Here is a house where you will find out just how much I love you. No greater happiness can exist than in a home.” Thrilled and excited and dreamy, I get to work. I marry, organize, weed, plant, clean, harvest, laugh, play, learn, eat, love, cook, wonder, and dream again. 

This is a guest post in response to the excommunication of Kate Kelly, and the possible excommunication of several members of the LDS Church, including John Dehlin.

How Can I Be Selfish? 

What will I be when I’m done? An architect? A curator? A professor? I sit down to catch my breath and saw God again, “Don’t be idle. Look at these beautiful spirits. They need to come to earth.” I love babies. So I had 4. And my body loved carrying them and felt too heavy at the same time. And when I told God that a part of me became too open and vanished every time I pushed one out my body, he said, “Mortality is for testing. Children bring joy. Have faith. Don’t give up. They need you.”

 And the days went by and years came and went, me too busy to think straight, pushing out the scary thought that this isn’t making me happy like He promised. But his promises are sure so I must be wrong. And one day I looked in the mirror and couldn’t see me anymore. I don't know who was looking back. She was tired. And alone. And doubting. And too afraid to say anything. “If you’re unhappy, it’s because you’re not serving others. Get to work. You are so blessed. Look at all the people who have it worse than you.” Embarrassed, I went to work. I soothed children, kept them safe, cooked, cleaned, worked miracles with the budget, loved my husband, gave him my heart and my body, moved, laundered, drove, watched and taught. 

But the emptiness grew. And grew. And festered. And one day I broke. Finally not caring how it would look, I opened my mouth in agony, “I can’t do this anymore. I keep going and I keep going but I have nothing left in me. I gave it all away to everyone around me and they want more. And I’m so hungry but every time I eat someone is more hungry. And I have so much to say and every time I speak someone reminds me I’m not listening. And I wonder so much and when I ask I'm told to be more obedient. And I’m so tired but every time I lie down someone had a bad dream. I want to cry but my child is crying. I’m so angry but I don’t want to be unforgiving. I’m empty but don’t want to be ungrateful. I need answers but I’m told to have patience. If this is life, then I’m not sure I want it anymore. I’m confused. I’m hurting. Do you see me?” And I hear God say, “I need you. There are people to save and meals to cook and hearts that need mending. Selfishness destroys the world.” 

And I think, “How can I be selfish when I don’t even have a self?”