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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?”

6/24/14

The Errand of Angels (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.


The Errand of Angels

by Gabriella Anne


                        You told me I was an angel
                        You said it was my gift
                        My role, assigned along with the
                        length of my hair and the
                        curve of my breast
                        To be gentle and loving
                        in every deed and word
                        and thought
                        It was an honor
                        (all mine)
                        with my full lips and long lashes
                        to fill the world with peace, love and kindness

                        You told me the errand of angels
                        was given to women
                       
                        But you were wrong

                        The errand of angels was given to people
                        Black women and Hispanic men and
                        The lesbian (human) being mocked at the mall
                       
                        The errand of angels was given to humanity
                        With acceptance and goodwill
                        With understanding and openness
                       
                       
                        “The errand of angels was given to women”
                        You lied
                        Or maybe you didn’t know
                        (Or maybe you just didn’t tell)


                        Either way, I am not an angel.
                        And if I were I’d be an angel made of fire
                        With teeth and talons like steel
                        Sharp and unyielding as truth
                        With wit and a brightness
                        That crumples mountains
                        And dries seas
                       
                        I would be an angel
                        seeking and finding the
                        purity of God and
                        breaking my way out of prejudice and hate
                        looking at hearts instead of faces
                       
                       
                       
                        If I were an angel
                        I’d smite those who would
                        bind me
                        with white wings
                        and a soft heart

6/23/14

Mean Girls


When all is lost, Mean Girls explains everything. (And distracts me from dealing with really complicated emotions.)

First:

personally victimized by - raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by the church pr department


Last year, President Uchtdorf was all, "Regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church." So even the feminists, right? Even the ones who want ordination, right? Big Tent Mormonism:

Mean Girls


But Jessica Moody was all, "OW! Stop trying to make female ordination happen! There is no Big Tent!"




And Mormons who don't understand why people who support Ordain Women don't just leave are like:

original


And when Doug Fabrizio suggests that the guidelines on what constitutes apostasy seem a little blurry, Ally Isom is like:

Mean Girls

And then Doug's all "Where does it say in Mormon doctrine that women cannot have the priesthood?" and Ally Isom is all "It Doesn't." And then everyone up in the COB was all:

tumblr_m6e0yzqopn1rys4czo1_500

So everyone (and by everyone, I mean some dudes,)got together, and decided how to define apostasy. Something about "some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the Church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs." Because everyone has agency and access to personal revelation, but if people start agreeing with you, and adding their voices, then the Church is all:

aahhh__meangirls

tumblr_m724kcZt6Q1rvbafdo1_500_large

So even though Kate Kelly/Ordain Women agreed with Elder Oaks when he said only God can change church doctrine, by stating, "I appreciate this acknowledgement that priesthood is God’s power and understand that only God can make changes to its administration. I believe this affirms the LDS belief in continually seeking further light and knowledge from God, and I trust our leaders do so daily," suggesting that God might someday agree with a message of egalitarianism over patriarchy is really why Kate Kelly doesn't get to be Mormon anymore. Apostasy according to Mormonism: Not agreeing in the right way. 

tumblr_mbcmwkEzai1r1x67e_large

As for women hoping for the Priesthood, Mormons are passing it out to preteen boys like 

mean girls animated GIF


And then walking by faithful women all...

tumblr_ly6080Kgb51rnr4cho1_500


Meanwhile, Jesus/Tina Fey is like:




And by "sluts and whores," I mean "apostates and less-faithful." And by "guys," I mean "other Christians."

The first sign of being a Mean Girl? Not knowing your're a Mean Girl. Gretchen Weiners   Mormons are like, this is a Court of Love! Excommunication is a process of inclusion, not exclusion!

gretchen weiners lacey chabert gif

But really, they're all:



And by "stab Caesar," I mean "excommunicate Kate Kelly."

As for me, I'm all:

tumblr_m7ixzuaQbb1rwbl7wo1_500_large

But my church is like:

tumblr_mqe4reYH5b1s59ot0o1_500


So....

tumblr_m9zj6zMNMZ1r4n0j3o1_500_large

6/22/14

Question and Answer (Guest Submission)

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


Question and Answer

Is revelation akin to interpretive dance
or the precision of a marching band?
Is it ordered?
Straightforward?
The finger of God
writing a definitive “Thou Shalt Not”
on tablets of stone?
Or is it a fountain of living water?
Fluid,
able to adopt the shape of each vessel
into which it is poured?
Are we temples, all?
The mere beat of our hearts and
breath of our lungs enough?
Or is the house of God encircled
by gates of iron
with carefully rationed admittance?
Pureness of doctrine or pureness of heart
the pinnacle of salvation?

What God worth knowing would deny us and damn us
while providing so little on which to go?
You want me to say, “I know, I know.”
I only know
we are each of us, all,
engaging a mystery.

I choose to dance, not march.

6/20/14

A True Story about Birth, Football, and Mercy for Kate Kelly (Guest Submission)

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

A True Story about Birth, Football, and Mercy for Kate Kelly

It was my first baby.  At the end of a 12-hour labor, my feet were finally placed in the stirrups,the equipment arranged in the delivery room, and my body draped and prepped for that exhausting, arduous finale that is birth. My husband, a registered nurse with an advanced college degree, stood by my side while the male physician took his position. Mustering strength and resolve amid emotional weariness and profound physical fatigue, and being more than ready for nine months of gestational discomfort to end, I began to push.
That was the moment when my husband and my doctor struck up a casual conversation about football: players, teams, scores, championship games, and odds of winning and losing.
It would be accurate to say that even on my best dayseven when I am at the top of my game and in an extremely good mood, I care nothing for football. I don’t like it. I don’t watch it. I don’t talk about it. Ever.
Yet there we were, the three of us, working collaboratively to achieve the safe arrival of oneprecious 6-pound baby girl as stories of touchdowns and penalty kicks were tossed back and forth. My fury was contained only because I didn’t have enough energy to push a baby out of my body and verbally harangue them for what I perceived as blatant disregard for what should behappening. The passing of fourteen years since that night has proven to be a cooling off period for me, leaving me with a better understanding of the situation.
Notwithstanding their professional training, advanced medical degrees, and technical knowledge about the processes of birth, these two men were having a vastly different experience than I that night. Yes, we were in the same room. Yes, we were working toward the same cause. Yes, we were all educated on the nature of the event.
And yet 
And yet we were not experiencing things the same way.
And yet we were not interpreting things the same way.
And yet we were not suffering the same way.
And that is the place that I believe we are at with the issues that feminists have raised recently.As a religious community, we are in the middle of an intense, tiring labor in which we are all sincerely invested its precious outcome. Men and women.  Members and leaders.  Supporters and non-supporters of Ordain Women. Are we not all trying to work on big issues as best we know how, but we just don’t know how to negotiate all of it very well?
Admittedly, there have been mistakes. There has been fury.
Admittedly, I have made mistakes. I have been furious.
Maybcooling down period is necessary nowMaybe reflecting and perspective-taking could help all of us understand one another better. Maybe we ought to work toward repairing, repenting, and restarting.  Maybe we could take a lesson from children who allow each otherdo-overs when first attempts at game-playing don’t go well.
Are we not all trying to understand this somewhat messy and confusing conglomeration of culture, administrative policy, and priesthood doctrine so as to better delineate where one ends and another beings? Isn’t this an honest, meaningful quest worthy of attention, wrestle, and discourse? Isn’t it essential that we do it together peacefully as a religious community? Is this not a fitting moment to apply the atonement of Jesus Christ to our collective questions, struggles,yearnings, conversations, interactionsmistakes, and pain?
If ever my words reached the leaders who intend to hold a disciplinary council for Kate Kelly, I would plead mercy for Kate, our sister in the gospel.
Mercy for Kate means that we all have ownership of this struggle. One person didn’t cause it. One generation didn’t cause it. One can’t fix it. One shouldn’t be blamed for it.
Mercy for Kate acknowledges that this problem is a complicated, historical intertwining of culture, policy, and doctrine that a lot of people desire to untangle and understand better.
Mercy for Kate acknowledges that our religious community needs ministering and productiveconversations, not another purging. Not more fear.
Mercy for Kate acknowledges that men and women in the church may not be experiencing things the same way, interpreting things the same way, or suffering the same way; therefore, more understanding, not punishment, is needed.

Mercy for Kate signals that we are all willing to make real progress in not seeing each other as the enemy.
Mercy for Kate means that we can do harder things than suffering through another high profile disciplinary trial and its resulting fallout.
Mercy for Kate provides an opportunity to grow in our ability to understand and apply the atonement of Jesus Christ to problems that are deeply rooted, widely felt, and collectively experienced.
Mercy for Kate means we can model this process for the world.
Mercy for Kate provides a much-needed do-over.
May we all do our part to speak kindly, write softly, listen patiently, and consider deeply.

6/18/14

I still want to be Mormon, but... (Guest Submission)


This is a guest post in response to the possible excommunications of Kate Kelly and John Dehlin. 


I Still Want to be Mormon, but...

by Jessica Brinkerhoff

Jessica is my cousin, neighbor, and friend. She blogs about life, including her faith, at She Picked the Left: Jess the Mess.



When the church decides it doesn't want people like John Dehlin or Kate Kelly, two people who have helped me stay connected to the church, they are saying they don't want me. I have many of the same questions and issues they have, and if they don't fit then I don't either. 

One of the most devastating realities of John and Kate facing church discipline and possible excommunication, is that they have created spaces that felt more like the Gospel for me than the church has. 

I feel like I fit in the Gospel.  I hoped that I could fit in the church and the Gospel at the same time.  But now I wonder if church leaders remember what the Gospel means.  The Heavenly Parents I know welcome hard questions.  They welcome different ideas and interpretations.  They give constant revelation and answers.  I know because they made me, and they made me to ask hard questions.  They made me to think for myself and come up with my own ideas and interpretations.  I am a daughter of Heavenly Parents, and this knowledge empowers me to be authentic and brave. 

But the church seems to be uninterested in sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents who do not conform.  If I have to choose between being authentic about my faith and staying in the church, I will choose authenticity.  I hope I never have to make that choice, but it seems like church leaders have asked John and Kate to do just that.  Is it just a matter of time before I have to make the same choice?  

My heart breaks at the thought, because even with all my issues, I still want to be a Mormon.  I want to have callings, go to the temple, listen to my kids sing in the primary program, do visiting teaching, watch conference in my pajamas with my family.  I want to be a Mormon.  This church is my spiritual home, and I don't want to have to give it up.  

I ask church leaders to please not make me choose.  Please don't make me choose between being me and my spiritual home.

I keep wondering how many times my heart will be broken by a church I love so much.  And I wonder how many times I will let my heart be broken before I leave what I hold so dear. 

6/17/14

They were right all along. (Guest Submission)


This is a guest post in response to the possible excommunication of John Dehlin and Kate Kelly

They were right  all along.  

by Liffey Banks


                                     
Since the news that the church was pursuing discipline against Kate, I have many friends and acquaintances that have been patting themselves on the back for being right about me and my feminist sisters and allies. At first this made me angry. But then it made me really angry. Why? Because they’re right! Everything I believed and have trusted in is non-existent. The emperor has no clothes.

I believed that the church was inclusive. I believed that the Gospel net gathers fish of every kind. You can be any kind of person with any kind of opinion and be a disciple.

I believed that the restoration was ongoing. That there were many great and wonderful things yet to be revealed. So many scriptural and historical clues pointed to the eventual ordination of women to fulfill our divine role as priestesses in the heavens.

I believed that petitioning the Lord through His leaders was a prayer not "to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.” I believed the lesson of the brother of Jared: sometimes the Lord leaves it up to us to figure out a way forward, and then ask for a miracle.

I believed that there could be theological pluralism, that even among the top leaders of the church, there is amicable disagreement, and that was okay.

I believed that admitting your doubts was a sacred step toward Christ himself, who didn't withhold mercy and miracles even for the father who said, "help thou my unbelief."

But I was wrong about everything. This isn’t a big-tent; that’s just our PR campaign. Tiny administrative changes are our modern substitute for “revelation.” Petitioning is fine, as long as it’s private and has no chance of being heard by anyone else. Pluralism is unacceptable. If you think differently, fine, but don’t open your mouth. And for heaven's sake, don't doubt. Ever.

The church I thought I belonged to, the church I loved, does not exist. I do not recognize the LDS church anymore.

6/16/14

Leaving the Herd (Guest Submission)

This is a guest post in response to the possible excommunication of John Dehlin and Kate Kelly

Leaving the Herd

by my friend, Natalie Andrews



I was a rule follower with every fiber. I trusted those rules and I trusted those guidelines. I didn’t Google, I didn’t question. 

And then I did.

And there were no answers.

And then my world fell apart.

I knocked on hollow doors and bounced around rooms devoid of answers until my heart gave out and I stopped trying. I stopped speaking out. I attempted conformity. I stayed silent, attempting to focus on the good, but then that was hard to see among the fog of other things.

So I sought higher ground. A connection with a God that would love his children regardless of sexuality, race or gender. I believed that a God all-seeing and all-knowing would not create a place so unsafe for so many. Feeling like the one in 99, I left the herd behind. 

The herd did not come looking for me.

At first, I missed the community of the herd, but then I found new people who offered a listening ear and who brought me soup when I was ailing. They didn’t judge the pain I was experiencing as a wrong feeling. They encouraged me to stop trying to fit the round me into a square hole. The path was rocky and unknown but gradually I found my footing. 

I missed the music, but there was YouTube.

I realized that my God will always be the characteristically loving Mormon God and when I prayed to that God at night, I often wondered if I could come back. Would the herd ever change? Could I rejoin and still feel true to myself? 

That longing caused me to avidly follow people staying in the herd, trying to put cushions in hollow rooms. Trying to make that empty feeling a soft, welcoming space it was supposed to be. I followed their journeys and sought them out because they were courageously following their truth. They believed God did not want me silenced. If they were accepted, could I be? Could I follow my truth and join them? 

And then on Wednesday, that door slammed shut. Those rooms with carefully placed cushions of progress were emptied once again. The ones that spoke out – that said things my heart wanted to say – are being silenced.
And people cheered. 

“If you think differently find a new church.”
“If they were true Mormons, they wouldn’t be pushing for these things”
“Maybe now they will repent!”

And those were just the comments I saw on Facebook. It’s as though they were watching Jesus clear the temple and celebrating. But this doesn't feel like a decision from the loving God that Mormonism taught me about. The God that gave me a voice to speak. And the God that welcomes my pain.

So I write to say a formal goodbye to that herd I left many years ago. Officially knowing that I can never rejoin. That herd is fine. I have friends and family in that herd that I love dearly. I will always miss that herd, and sometimes I will miss it in a painful way. 

But that is not my herd. I have sought higher elevations. And while at times it is steep and bruising, it remains to be the hardest and best choice I’ve ever made.

It's OK to Leave (Guest Submission)

This is a guest post in response to the possible excommunication of Kate Kelly and John Dehlin.


It's OK to Leave

by my friend, Meredith Hudson LeSueur

There is stuff going on in Mormonism. And a lot of people are hurt. Some are hurt because they don’t belong and some are hurt because others they love don’t belong and want to leave. I’ve read some compassionate pleas for those who feel cast out to stay. Although, I chose to leave the Mormon Church two years ago, I have never advocated for anyone to choose the same path. How could I? I want people to trust that I know what is best for me, and so I must trust that they can do the same for themselves. But now I feel called to add my voice to the discussion. Not a plea, not an argument, but just a calm assurance that despite the fear, the sadness, the heartache, it really is OK to leave.

It’s OK to leave.

I know you probably feel lost, or as if your core identity is shattered, scattered, and broken beyond repair. Who will you be without Mormonism? But what you don’t know yet is that Mormonism may not be your core identity, it may just be the iron rod that has connected each beautiful part of you until now. The rigid back brace supporting and strengthening, but also sometimes realigning and restructuring, the ever-emerging pieces of your eternal identity. Now that the brace is broken, you will eventually heal your backbone. You will find a way to connect the scattered pieces of your heart into a whole. And the whole will be freer to grow, to explore, and to rejoice.  It’s scary, it is. It means accepting you as a mosaic of tiny gems, instead of one perfect, polished stone. And it’s a lot of work. But it is also amazing, thrilling, beautiful, complex, and the only way to really know who you are, every bit of who you are.

And most importantly, leaving doesn’t mean abandoning your past self. It doesn’t mean denying your Mormon experiences. Even if you had powerful and meaningful experiences that brought you into faith, every step in life has brought you to where you are now. Don’t question or regret your past, because life is always moving forward. Just because it was true before, doesn’t have to mean it is true now. If we grow, why can’t truth? Or rather, maybe the same truth just looks different now. If you had clear eyes open to new experiences and interpretations then, why should you close off your instinct now?  The only solid truth you have is your own heart and your own vision. Most likely the spirit you felt then and the spirit you feel now are the same. Because they are you. God is you. God speaks through you. I’m confident the spirit and god are bigger than Mormonism that teaches of them– just like love and life are bigger than the words we have to describe them.

It’s OK to leave.

It is scary and may seem insane to leave a community of saints that take care of each other, especially when they do it as practically and purposefully as the Mormons. It’s daunting to leave a community where people cook you dinner, teach your kids, and help you move. It’s ok to be afraid to live without a ready community or instant social group waiting for you wherever you move. But unsurprisingly those communities exist outside of the church as well. There are hundreds of communities waiting to embrace you and love you for who you are, with no questions asked. There are neighbors, other church groups, political action communities, PTAs, health and wellness communities, intellectual and creative communities. They may take effort to find, they may take more work to maintain, but in my experience they will be deeper and more rewarding precisely because of this.  

And these can be places where diversity of thought isn’t just tolerated, but encouraged. There are places where being different isn’t a “quirk”, a marketing piece, or something to be fetishized by a group drunk on conformity. There are places where difference is celebrated, even praised. The LGBT community is a rainbow of acceptance. The world of science depends on conflicting ideas. The world of art and culture applaud difference, uniqueness, individuality. You are not alone. You are human. You are beautiful.

It’s OK to leave.

If you have kids, they will be fine. It is hard to imagine your kids growing up not understanding where you came from, something so much a part of who you are. Take heart in knowing it’s a sentiment you share with giants. You share it with brave immigrants and their first generation American children. You share it with families with first generations attending college. And you share it with all parents, since every generation loses something in translation from the past.
And they will probably be better for it. Think of all the time and energy you will have for positive development when you don’t have to “de-program” the negative messages of body shame and judgment. Your kids will be lucky to learn early how to look to themselves and the humanity in others to find truth--an important asset in the even faster-paced future. If you love god, teach them about god. God is in your heart. If you love Jesus, teach them about Jesus. Jesus is in your actions.Your kids will be OK.

 It’s OK to leave.

You might feel like leaving the judgmental, rigid group will mean it will only retrench and tighten without you. Maybe it will. It’s a monument to your love for Mormonism that you want to stay to teach others, to serve. You may fear you are their only access to empathy and open-minded Mormonism but enlightenment is actually all around them. They will have a gay grandson one day that will open their eyes. They will have a feminist daughter-in-law who will force them to see the world differently. They will start to soften their heart to the Uchtdorf talks without you, or maybe because of you. Because they will ache when you leave. But they will be OK.

And so will you. Even though you’ve learned charity by serving ward members that challenge your patience, you don’t have to be Mormon to surround yourself with opposite-minded people. Your ability to love others who are different than you will still be challenged daily by family, neighbors, your children’s teachers, your coworkers, and your best friend from high school. You can nurture real Christ-like love for them, build a strong and purposeful community with them, and enjoy the wisdom and growth that comes from confronting differences daily and moving beyond them.

It’s OK to leave.

You are not giving up. You’ve been told all of your life there is one way to stand up for righteousness, but that just isn’t true. Standing up for things you believe in will always be hard and will always be right. Mormonism doesn’t have a patent on integrity. More than likely the constant struggle to fit what you instinctively believe into a pre-determined theological narrative is just slowing you down. Plus, all the injustices you’re already fighting against within the church also exist outside of Mormonism and you are more than ready to fight them globally. Global feminism needs you. The global environmental movement needs you. LGBT people around the world need you. You’ve trained by fighting against the voice of god, or against those who think they speak for god. You’ve spoken your truth against eternal odds, and that takes real courage. Think how much easier it will be to fight opponents who only have history, or opinion, on their side. You’ve practiced by moving mountains.

It’s also, of course, OK to stay.


If you still feel called to stay, for your unique and deeply personal reasons, you have a world outside Mormonism cheering you on. I’m honestly cheering you on. I live in Utah, so any positive change in the church only benefits me, but mostly I just want you to be happy. But friend, also understand that if your heart changes, there are people waiting to welcome you and help you find your way in the greater world beyond. We will rejoice to have you with us. You are already with us. Because you are human and we are all family.


6/15/14

What if it was Me? (Guest submission)

This is a guest submission in response to the possible excommunications of Kate Kelly and John Dehlin.

What If It Was Me?

by Carrie


I didn't grow up here, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m a convert. I've been a Baptist, a Presbyterian, a Methodist, an Episcopalian, a Non-Denominational Protestant Christian, and an Atheist. I even have cousins who are Catholics. I still have a bit of an outsider’s perspective, when I remember it. Sometimes it’s easy to get comfortable and forget. But every so often, something makes me stop and think, “What if it was me?”

I like questions. I always have. It’s one of the reasons that the other churches and I didn't get along. I like delving, questioning, listening to the opinions of others. I think the times when I’m growing the most in my relationship with Christ are when I’m asking questions. It took two years for me to be baptized because I questioned, tested, and pondered everything I learned. It’s how I developed my faith in my Savior. I love to learn good things everywhere I go, and I believe every person has something good to give.

It’s been nine years since my baptism and about eleven since I started coming to church, and the shiny new-ness of the Gospel is wearing off. Can you guess what I've finally started to notice now?

It’s the people.

They’re everywhere.

Sweet, snarky, kind, cunning, struggling, confident, loving, learning, gossipy, compassionate, talented, power-hungry, know-it-all, humble, generous, selfish, honest, lying, faithful, cheating, judgmental, questioning, imperfect people.

I hear cruel, hurtful comments. I hear gossip. I hear people give talks in Sacrament Meeting about the love of a “forever family” and then see them screaming at their children and throwing them around. Occasionally, I hear about Christ. The example He set, the life He lived of sacrifice, and service, and generous love to those who struggled. Christ said the two most important things we can do are to love God and to love our neighbors. Our neighbors are not just the people in playgroup, or the people on our Visiting Teaching list. They’re not just the people in Relief Society every week or even those who have “gone astray”. We are to love EVERYONE. The judgments hurt, even when they’re not directed at me. Because every time I hear it, I think,

“What if it was me?”

What if it was me, your friend, struggling with a question? What if it if was me, your sister, carrying the weight on my shoulders that influenced my decisions? What if it was me who dyed my hair blue, or wore my favorite dress pants, or wanted to know why the Sunday School Presidency doesn't include women?

Would you still judge me?

Would you look at me, like you look at pictures or an article about someone on the internet, and tell me that I’m ugly? That I’m “too feminist to procreate”? Would you tell me that I lack faith, or that I don’t understand the basics of the Gospel? Would you judge me, my life, my faith and my family on a 200-word blog post written by another? Or if you heard I was struggling, if you heard I had doubts, if you heard I was lonely or depressed, would you seek me out, because you love me?

Why are hurtful and cruel comments coming from us, who claim to follow the example of Christ? He, who would not condemn an adulterer, who spent His time with the people who were rejected by society, who showed kindness and compassion to all those in need? If it was me that had been dragged into the crowd and labeled an adulterer, would you have thrown the stone? If the face of someone with questions and doubts was suddenly very familiar, would you lash out at me with words of hate? Condemn me? Cast me off?

What if it was me?

Let’s stop this hate, this judgment, these horrible words of condemnation. When we look at others, let’s see them as a person of value with good to give. Let’s love them the way Christ loves them and support the heads that hang down, the feeble knees that tremble. Perhaps, every time you see a struggle, or hear a question, or see a need, you could stop before the judgments, look at your neighbor with love in your heart, and think, “What if it was me?”


6/14/14

The Match (Guest Submission)

This is a guest post in response to the possible excommunication of John Dehlin and Kate Kelly.

Cadence Woodland is a freelance writer and personal friend. I met Cadence (online, like all true 21st century friendships,) and we met in London a few weeks ago for tea (like all true 19th century friendships.) Now we are pen pals. You can find Cad's other writings about a million fascinating subjects on her blog: Small Dog Syndrome.

The Match

Like Jacob, I have been wrestling. For a decade now I have be grappling with the question of belonging, sustaining, disagreeing, changing, loving, and harming.

My match has lasted a long while. I started BYU in 2004 when Proposition 8 was just gathering steam and I disagreed. In 2007 I was volunteered to sit on an Honor Code hearing as a student representative and I was the dissenting voice in the ruling. I married in the temple in 2009, disliking and disbelieving many of the lessons of the temple ceremony to a wonderful man who loved me because of my contrariness, not in spite of it. In 2012 I wore pants to church when what started as a small idea to show solidarity turned into an international news story when the vitriol was ugly enough to involve police protection and death threats against other participants. In 2013 I joined Ordain Women and posted a profile – which raised not a few questions in the BYU department in which I worked. In 2014 I took off my garments and folded them away carefully and thoughtfully.

Two nights ago I “came out” to my parents about my inactivity. I was scared to tell them, to cause them pain, or even (a small part of me feared) to belong to them a little less in their eyes. I needn’t have worried. I did pain them, they are disappointed, but they love me just the same. We’re still a forever family, in spite of my doubts and unbelieving.

The next day, I read that Kate Kelly and John Dehlin are going to face church discipline. I waited for the rush of anger to come, the sucker punch of disappointment to land in my gut again as it has done so often over the past few years, for the indignation to rise, and the fear to tickle the back of my neck that it might be me next. I waited for the shake that would leave me feeling emotionally raw and spiritually bruised.

It didn’t. None of it came.

I was certainly sad. I was absolutely dismayed, I don’t know John but I do know Kate and admire her tremendously.  I was honestly a bit annoyed, because I think the church has made a series of bad PR and information management decisions in dealing with individuals like Kelly and Dehlin, and with Ordain Women particularly (ranging from innocent misunderstanding to outright mischaracterization). But I was not harmed.

I was done.

I have been wrestling for a decade now, walking the line between conscience and loyalty, feeling unable to betray either lest I should lose myself. I have fought, first to defend the church, then to stay loyal to it even in opposition, then to fix it, and finally just to talk with it. At every stage doors have been shut in my face. I have lost count of how many people have told me to leave, occasionally with a sneer, but more often and more painfully with a sad smile. “Maybe you would be happier somewhere else,” is the nicest version of this sentiment, but to Mormon ears it is still a curse. To leave is to be cut off, from God, from family, from blessings, from guidance. No matter how gently it is phrased, telling someone to leave is a damnation. I have wept to hear my brothers and sisters damn me, especially nicely.

And so, I am done. I am choosing conscience over loyalty. The choice is a painful one, because either way I lose. I don’t know how to have honor without both, but I have chosen. It hurts; in fact I do not expect I will ever fully recover. My wrestling has left injuries, sprains in some places that have healed, joint damage that will never bend a certain way again. But I have been swimming in hurt for 10 years now, and even though this is a new kind, I find it is not as unbearable as I had been led to think.


I have given a decade of my life to a struggle but finally, I have come to the end of it. Once I was awash with righteous fervor, but I wore it out. Later came righteous indignation which I used up, followed by righteous anger which I came to the end of as well. I am done. And is not the depletion of self that I feared, or even the loss of identity that terrified me to contemplate. It was the unclasping of arms from around an opponent that wore my own face and saying, “You do not need to push me out, I will go if you ask.” And then, when they gestured sadly to the edge of the ring where my friends are now sitting, having been thrown, stepping out of it. And feeling, that in spite of the injuries and the new hurt and the discomfort of seeing a room without the troubling but secure embrace of struggle,  that I am not damned after all.