done any good

A few months ago, on a Sunday morning, I sat in my living room. While my husband got ready for church, I sat on the couch in my pajamas. Like many other Sundays, I planned on staying home. Attending church hurt. When I did attend, I came home with a heavy heart.

Out of curiosity, I looked up what lesson I would miss in Relief Society. From the Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, Ch. 2 "Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself."

I felt a sudden desire to go to Relief Society. My cynical brain wondered at my sudden enthusiasm. Did I want to go to see how badly my sisters would screw up this lesson? Could a congregation that seemed to focus more on the" Us versus Them" rhetoric more than the commandment to "love thy neighbor" spend  an entire 45 minutes talking about the Savior's greatest message?

 I hoped so, so I put my unwashed hair in a ponytail and went to church.

Through the opening song, I prayed for an open heart. To see my Relief Society sisters as the Savior saw them. I kept praying, please don't screw this up, please don't screw this up. I don't know who I was praying for. 

The instructor began the lesson with a quote from George Albert Smith:

“I do not have an enemy that I know of, and there is no one in the world that I have any enmity towards. All men and all women are my Father’s children, and I have sought during my life to observe the wise direction of the Redeemer of mankind—to love my neighbor as myself. … You will never know how much I love you. I have not words to express it. And I want to feel that way toward every son and every daughter of my Heavenly Father.”

The remainder of class was spent talking about ways we could love each other better. Women shared stories thanking the people who loved them despite their flaws. We talked about ways to love our neighbors, even when they are different from us. We talked about the pain we felt when people judged us harshly, and how love and forgiveness managed to heal that pain.

We didn't screw it up. Not that time.

It is a terrifying thing to feel forced to choose between two parts of your soul. To choose unconditional love, or the teachings of the religion you were raised in. I understand that many people do not feel the two are at odds, but from the moment my church supported Prop 8, I've been fighting an impossible battle.

But for one day, during that lesson, I felt like I could be a Mormon, and stand on the side of love. Two pieces of my soul came together again. 

When I heard that a group of LDS people would be marching in the Pride Parade, I felt that same sudden desire to participate. I needed to walk in that parade. I made my husband drive us early, and rushed him to our place in the parade. I waited in the hot sun. I wanted to feel my soul come together again. 

Our group was asked to dress in our "Sunday Best." I dressed more conservatively for the Pride Parade than I do for church. (Especially since "church" for me often involves sitting on my couch, reading the internet in my underwear.) I struggle to identify myself as a Mormon, but when we started walking, and the crowd started cheering, I was Mormon again. Look how much we can grow.  

People cheered for us as we walked. People stood on the street crying and thanking us. I cried too. Please forgive us, I thought, for taking so long. Forgive us for moving so slowly. We should have been here all along.

I will be Mormon again whenever that title allows me to do good. I know my struggle is not over. I know my church will let me down again. It is run by humans, steeped in patriarchy and tradition. Humans, social hierarchy, and tradition will always let us down. 

But I can't deny the power I felt as a Mormon, allowed for the first time, to publicly stand on the side of love. I've done it in writing. I've done it in church. Last Sunday, I did it in person.

I can't wait to walk again next year. 

PS: I want to thank my Mom for watching Clara while I marched. Next time, there will be three generations of Nielsons in the parade. 


Mary said...

As someone who watcher her younger brother torture himself because he was homosexual, I really loved this post. I was so excited about the parade. I could not attend myself, but I want to in the future. Thanks.

Emily said...

"I will be Mormon whenever that title allows me to do good"

Thank you for what will be my new motto! Sometimes when we are so steeped in some really horrible church culture, it is easy to forget that through mormonism we can still do much good. I want to be better about finding those opportunities the way you have!

Michael M said...

"We should have been here all along." Amen, sister.

Claire said...


Brittany Terry said...

I like this post, a whole lot!

evangeline said...

Beautifully stated.

Nicole Holloway said...

This literally gave me chills! I was just talking to my sister about living the two greatest commandments while still trying to find peace within the church. I was sadly out of town for the parade, but so moved when I heard about it! My family hopes to be there next year! Such a lovely post from you, thank you!

Anna said...

I don't really watch the news or read the newspaper (NPR is my news source), so I didn't hear about the LDS group that marched at the parade. That makes me happy. Thanks for marching, representing those of us who love all of our brothers and sisters with Christlike love, regardless of sexual orientation.

Samsara said...

I love everything you say. I almost wish I lived in utah so I could have been at the parade.

Ashley said...

Thank you for sharing such personal feelings in your beautiful post! I know that cynical feeling. But I'm really happy you were able to find some genuine comfort and assurance. I so wanted to be in that parade, but we don't live in Utah anymore. But, we've got a group of Mormons getting together to march in the parade here in San Diego in July. One step at a time. I think that people like you, who want to do good and still be involved but also have a vision beyond the shell of hierarchy and tradition are the ones who will help the Church move forward the most. Well done.

Wendy said...

That was lovely, and I'm glad you found some momentary peace between the two parts.

There's a ways to go, obviously, but I find experiences like this remind me that there's hope - most days that's enough to keep me wanting to stay and fight for the future. (Although I still find church lessons frequently aggravating!)

Bethany said...

As someone who was standing in the crowds, watching all those LDS members marching in the Pride parade, I couldn't help but sob uncontrollably. As a former Mormon and bisexual woman in a same-sex relationship that is not supported by my strictly LDS family, seeing that support meant something so different to me. I needed to see that. I needed to remember that there are LDS members out there that don't hate me for being true to myself and allowing myself to love and be loved. Thank you for being there with your support.

Emilie said...

Loved this post. Loved watching all of the news and personal reports from the parade on Sunday. And I love seeing so many positive comments about it from random, active LDS folks out there.

Maggie said...

"But I can't deny the power I felt as a Mormon, allowed for the first time, to publicly stand on the side of love. I've done it in writing. I've done it in church. Last Sunday, I did it in person."

Thank you for this. It's time I stood on the side of love - in person. After reading your post I decided to join the Mormons who are marching in the Pride Parade in DC. It's about making amends and showing love!

Gretta Whalen said...

it's nice to know i'm not the only person with a divided soul. i keep it a secret from everyone but my dearest friends, but i feel this split every day.

ChristyLove said...


This post made me so happy.

MJ said...

Is there a group in Denver? Cuz that would be AWESOME.

Stephanie said... has information about all the events. I don't see one in Denver yet, but keep checking.

LC said...

I once sat in an institute class where the instructor mentioned that we are all "hyprocrites striving for perfection." It's stuck with me for about 10 years now, and I remember it often when I am feeling judged or am tempted to judge.

McGee said...

Well said. I struggle with the same division between my heart and my heritage and haven't been to church since Prop 8 first picked up momentum. You've said exactly what I've felt and I'm excited for you and envious that you were able to participate in such an awesome march.

AzĂșcar said...

See, all the reasons you feel like you've been half out, are all the reasons why I'm ALL IN.

If not us, then who?

Who else will be there to lovingly offer the other side, to remind, to temper, to REPRESENT?

Is it hard to be the standard bearer for everything you hope the church will be? Sure, but the hell I'd let some dude's issues clog up my testimony.

I'm all in.

All in.

I'll fight the good fight until everything is right (and it never will be perfect, so I'll be fighting forever.) I'll take my cues from above. I'll put that Obama sign in my yard. I'll bring you all, kicking and screaming, to church with me, because WE NEED YOU.

They all NEED YOU.

So I'll be there every Sunday, with a smile on my face, love in my heart, ready to do battle for my gospel, willing to represent, happy to fight for truth.

(Come in with me, the water is lovely.)

Stephanie said...

this is a test..

@emllewellyn said...

Thank you for this post. My husband and I were there too and I've been struggling to find words for our feelings and our experience. This sums it up beautifully.

Heather said...

Thanks again for your words and your kindred spirit. I feel the same way about the divided soul and keep wanting to write about it, but the words aren't coming.

I wanted so badly to be in the pride parade this year. You bet your bippy I'll be there next year!

JustMe said...

Stephanie, please delete my post. Thank you for your help