"Mankind must remember that peace is not God's gift to his creatures; peace is our gift to each other." Elie Wiesel
There is so much I don’t know about the nature of God. However, as my faith transitions and changes I feel empowered when I realize humanity’s capacity for goodness and strength, especially in times of grief. It isn’t surprising to me that the promised Messiah of Christianity commanded his followers to love one another. What does salvation for eternity matter if we don’t love one another? Christ’s actions and messages plead with us to stop for the wounded Samaritans, cast down our stones of judgment, and reminds us that divinity is found in the hearts of the peacemakers. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”
I believe in peacemakers. I believe that divinity is most often found in the souls of flawed and earthbound people who learn to love the souls around them. Religion and spiritual leaders across the world repeat the same message: the answer is love. Buddha teaches us that “The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.” The Talmud’s Rabbi Hillel urged his followers to be kind, “What is hateful to yourself, do not do unto your fellow man. That is the whole Torah; the rest is just commentary.” Humanist AJ Ayer defines morality as “respect for one another’s rights and feelings; awareness of one another’s needs.” Atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair claims fulfillment in life comes from easing the suffering of others, “An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated.” Lastly, Mother Theresa warns us that “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” The further I move from dogma and orthodoxy, the more I believe in the goodness of people. We all want to learn how to love better.
Yet there is no peace in Mormonism today. Reading the announcement that John Dehlin and Kate Kelly are facing church discipline and possible excommunication for their role as LGBT and feminist activists fills me with sorrow. The possible excommunication of people who believe like me reminds me that my church has forgotten me, and that I can never go back as my authentic self. This is an old and familiar sorrow, one that I've spent years writing about, but I never cease to be surprised by the intensity of its sting. I feel like shouting “I belong to you!” to the religion of my youth, the one that first taught me of Christ’s great commandment to love. At my baptism I promised to take Christ’s name upon me and to mourn with those that mourn, to bear the heavy burdens of those forgotten by the world. Despite all my faults, despite my scarlet robes, I believe my decision to live as an LGBT ally and a Mormon feminist is a fulfillment of that promise. By excommunicating those who believe differently, and by defining their unique relationship with God as apostate, church leadership breaks Christ’s commandment and encourages members to forget each other. There is no peace.
But I still believe the answer is to love better. I still believe the answer is to mourn with those that mourn. As a Mormon by birth, I feel powerless and hurt. I feel like there is nothing I can do to be a peacemaker.
I do remember how meaningful this blog was for me throughout my faith crisis. The sense of community and love that I felt reminded me that I am not forgotten, and peace is our gift to each other. I wrote, and you wrote back, and I was healed. Thank you for being my being my balm of Gilead. We belong to each other.
I know that in the coming weeks the bloggernacle will be flooded with words of hope and inspiration, as well as a healthy discussion on what it means to be Mormon. But I want there to be a space for those who might need a place to mourn. So I am offering an open invitation to those who would like to guest blog here. You can write as anonymously or non-anonymously as you like. You can share hymns, scriptures, fears, stories, essays, and questions about what it is like to belong and not belong in the Mormon universe.Posts can also focus on words of love and support for Kate and John. Please send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org, with “guest post” as the subject. Please keep posts fewer than 900 words. Short posts are welcome but may be grouped with other posts.
Note: I will be moderating the comments of guest posts here, and will determine which posts are submitted for publishing. Please allow this space to be an opportunity to mourn with those that mourn, even if you do not agree.