Where would I go?

This past General Conference of the LDS church, it was asked:
“If you left the church where would you go?”

_Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what's out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it._.png
(Image from elephant journal’s Instagram)

The truth is, we don’t know.

What we do know is that the belief system laid before us doesn’t work for us anymore. We know that staying in a system where we don’t feel like we belong is sucking our soul dry. We know that we don’t feel loved or accepted for who we are.

Fortunately, as much as the church would like us to believe otherwise, we’re not alone. We will have and find a home where we do belong even if that home is out in the wilds exploring the possibilities of life. Yes, it is scary as f*ck! But not nearly as scary as staying caged.

That is my greatest fear of all (like Eowyn):

“[I fear] A cage. To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recalls or desire.”

And we have people to explore with us. Our fellow question-askers, ex-Mormons, never Mormons, and even some loving, support Mormons. They support us in our exploration. They allow us to ask the questions that so long were taboo. We realize in time it’s okay to not have all the answers. We find the ones that matter to each of us. We find our code of conduct. We find connection with other souls. We curse, we laugh, we cry. Sometimes all at the same time.

Mormon Feminists in Transition will always be a home for those who don’t know where to go or what to do. We will always be a safe place to ask questions and try to figure things out. Because we know it’s important to have a place like that.

Where will we go? Wherever the whims of our hearts lead us.

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Emily Young on her early quest to find a career inside the Mormon paradigm

Emily Young shared this with us recently and was kind enough to grant us permission to adapt it into a blog post. The images below link to info on some of the fascinating women who helped pioneer a place for women inside each of the careers Emily explored. I include them with love- may we each embrace the potential of our shifting paradigms. -hilary

I’ve been frustrated with my fear of returning to school because I couldn’t figure out why I have been so scared. After cataloging my experiences, I have realized that my fear is rational after everything I’ve been through, not an exaggerated emotional response.

Why am I so scared of returning to college? Below are a few of my experiences as I explored various career options:

Dr. Anita Figueredo, cancer surgeon, humanitarian, and mother of nine.

Dr. Anita Figueredo, cancer surgeon, humanitarian, and mother of nine.

1. As a senior in high school I had plans to be a surgeon, but was told by my YW leaders that by the time I was out of school I would only be able to have one child, if any. They told me my greatest happiness would be from being a wife and mom and choosing the life of a surgeon would hurt my true purpose and make me less happy, so…

Charlotte E. Ray, first female African-American lawyer in the United States

Charlotte E. Ray, first female African-American lawyer in the United States

2. I decided to be an attorney. I hadn’t decided on a specific direction to take but I have always loved studying the law. My bishop counseled me that the legal field was a man’s world, a world filled with rotten attorneys and an overall bad environment that is no place for a female. As an attorney, I would not be respected or appreciated. Besides, attorneys are crooked and it’s a job well beneath a righteous, upstanding woman, so…

 Inez Milholland, Suffragist who led three marches riding astride her horse.

Inez Milholland, Suffragist who led three marches riding astride her horse.

3. I changed my major to equine studies. I’ve been infatuated with horses since I was little. But in the first week of classes my professor told me that the horse business (shows, events, auctions) all happen on Sundays and, while It was ok for a man to miss church to support his family, it would be better for me to support my husband by taking the kids to church without him when he can’t be there. Sadly there was no point in an Equine Studies degree. He said it was a waste of time, so…

Women's Land Army, an organization of women who looked after agricultural needs in Britain during WWI and WWII

Women’s Land Army, an organization of women who looked after agricultural needs in Britain during WWI and WWII

4. I changed my major to farm/crop management. But the first day of class my teacher had me stand up in front of the whole class and as the only girl in a class of over 40 men, he told the class that, because of affirmative action, any company would hire me over them as men, even though I knew less and had less experience, just because I was a girl. I stuck it out and finished the semester, but no one in the class talked to me after that horrible first day. I decided I didn’t like studying plants enough to put up with such a hostile environment. I also had a tractor maintenance class at this time and, again, as the only girl in class, the teacher had to force this guy to be my partner because they were all afraid I’d pull their grade down. They (the teachers) said they wouldn’t let me work on a tractor because they’re too expensive, so I worked on an old truck. The teacher made a big joke one day by loudly going out into the shop where we were all working, coming over to my bay, and announcing that he wanted to teach me something. He opened the truck door, opened the glove compartment, and made a big show of pulling out a book and handing it to me saying, “THIS is an owner’s manual.” The whole garage laughed. He didn’t know it, but it was my third year of auto shop and I ended up getting the highest grade in the class. He had me read my final paper to the class because I got the highest grade. Unfortunately, it was not to give me credit; he used me to humiliate the boys by saying, “Look. This GIRL did better than you.” I did not like being a tool for humiliation, so…

Jane Addams, pioneer of American social work and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize

Jane Addams, pioneer of American social work and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize

5. I changed my major to social work, thinking this was a more maternal field that wouldn’t clash so much with motherhood and wifedom. But I stayed after class one day and asked the professor why, if he loved it so much, he was teaching college instead of working in the field. He said he was a social worker for many years, but didn’t have time to get to know the kids, let alone make a difference for them, after all his time was spent filling out paperwork to make sure they were fed and clothed and housed. I had chosen this major thinking I could really help people, but I hate paperwork, so…

Theodora Kroeber, Anthropologist and mother of four, including Ursula K. Le Guin

Theodora Kroeber, Anthropologist and mother of four, including Ursula K. Le Guin

6. I dug in deep this time. I was so discouraged and tired of changing majors and just wanted a path I felt good about. I talked to family, friends, professors, and school career counselors and was encouraged to study child development, home economics, or elementary education so that if I was married before I graduated, my academic learning would help me in my real life, even without a degree. I thought long and hard about what to do, and realized the only thing I never tired of learning about was other cultures. I spoke to a trusted teacher I admired and told him about my passions and he said what I was interested in was, indeed, a major called ethnography. Our college didn’t have it, but he thought we could combine sociology with anthropology (a double major) and get something close. I LOVED IT!!!! Loved all the classes! I sat in classes during my breaks because I loved them so much. It was amazing! Then, talking to him later about possible careers with this degree, he told me ethnographers go to other cultures, immerse themselves in the life, and then write about it. This sounded like a dream!!!! I was so excited! But, in discussing this with my a close TBM friend later, she mentioned how it would put an undue hardship on God to find me a Mormon man in the bush in Australia, etc., and that, even if I did marry and have kids, it wouldn’t be fair to my husband and kids to drag them all over for my benefit, and it would prevent my husband from being the provider in our home. To top it all off, we probably wouldn’t even be able to go to church.

I went back to my trusted professor and spoke with him about my concerns. He said that it is very uncommon for ethnographers to have families with them, and that it probably wouldn’t work out and, at best, would be very limiting.

So, I gave up. Totally. Completely.

It was only my sixth semester in college and I felt like I had tried or considered every option available to get my college degree in something I enjoyed and still honor and obey my covenants and my role in the gospel. I just couldn’t do it.

SO, that’s why I’m scared of going back. The feelings of failure, frustration, humiliation, confusion, and embarrassment are all part of my college education experience, and this is just the academia side. I left out all the issues with student life, such as roommate horror stories, honor code pressures, having no money for food, etc.

This is not why I left the church, but it is a huge reason why I’m glad I did. These incidents all happened at a church school, but a lot of the issues were because of what was discussed at home and in church when I was growing up. It is so toxic and wrong.

At least I know now why I’ve been so scared. How to start fresh? Is it possible?

 

The Parable of the Quilt

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Mormonism was my favorite old quilt. I wrapped myself in it, and it kept me warm as I navigated the world. It was a comfort and shelter I could carry and share. Sometimes I tied it around my neck and it became my cape, or draped it over furniture and it became my fort. Sometimes it was wrapped around poles and was a stretcher to carry a friend to safety.

I didn’t study the threads in terrible detail, but I took comfort in the familiar patterns and felt the love of the hands that stitched the pieces. It wasn’t a possession I prized for it’s beauty, it was beautiful because of all the meanings it held for me.

I never felt compelled to question whether the blanket was the one, true, right blanket for wrapping and caping and forting and loving. I noticed the blankets of others, but couldn’t imagine trading for the practically disposable polyester Christian fleece blankets, or the stiff unfamiliarity of non-Christian blankets, or even that lovely traditional catholic afghan that was clearly far too holy to keep me warm the way I wanted. Don’t even get me started on how terribly wrong the minimalist survival atheist blankets looked. I mean, really? Technically they could shelter fine, but there’s no comfort in it!

But over time I noticed that my blanket wasn’t keeping out the chill like it once had. I started noticing seams that had split, and did my best to repair them. The batting was getting thin, and the fabrics were worn to threads. I knew I could no longer trust it structurally for things like forts and stretchers, so I limited it’s role and no longer tried to pretend it was capable of lending much shelter to others. I was sad, and didn’t want to give up on it. I did minor repairs, but the holes kept coming. I tried supplementing with an extra blanket, but it wasn’t the same. I eventually set about the task of doing a major restoration with new backing and more batting and everything. It didn’t feel right when I was done. I wanted to get the old feel back.

When my quilt stopped functioning, everything became about the quilt. I studied the individual threads. I suddenly spotted the areas of shoddy stitching that had previously gone unnoticed. I was still determined to make it work. I studied the fabrics, trying to puzzle out why there were holes. I even researched the history of this blanket I had always taken for granted, hoping to find hints of how it might be repaired and remind myself why this blanket was so important and meaningful. I needed to remember why it was the one true blanket for me.

But all I found was evidence of how unspecial it actually was. The original blanket was the product of a sweatshop. I still felt the love in the patches and repairs added by my ancestors, but the quilt was suddenly tainted by a realization that it was the product of a sweatshop full of women who worked to the bone to make the most of difficult lives. They were not stitching love into it. They were stitching survival. And the designer who spurred them along was far more in love with himself than any blanket or worker or future blanket owner.

And finally, one day, I spread the blanket on the grass, away from all the others, and I just studied the visible threads. The ancestral repairs, my own desperate repairs, the little spots where I could still see the shoddy stitches of women who were surviving. Now I could see the original design envisioned by the egotistical designer, and I found it rather uninspiring. I still appreciated the beauty of the patches and repairs, and shed tears as I reflected on my own sweet history with it, and shed even more tears as I mourned that it was no longer functioning. I felt angry for generations of pouring love into repairs on a blanket that now felt, to me, unworthy of that love. But I was also conflicted, recognizing that with generations, it had actually become lovely and worthy of love. But it still fell apart, it still required massive repairs, and the massive repairs had now changed the feel so dramatically that it no longer offered the comfort I had once counted on.

I felt all the feels, and then I folded it up and took it home and set it on my shelf. I will always keep it and enjoy touching the history of it and reflecting on its meaning in my own life, but it is no longer my constant companion and comfort. I’m assembling a new quilt, even as I wear it, and that gets interesting sometimes, but I marvel at the privilege of being able to stitch with love. Sometimes I even sneak over to the shelf and delicately extract favorite patches of my Mormon quilt and reuse them in my new quilt.

I don’t know what it will look like when it’s done, but I’m doing my best, and I’m investing in the best materials I can. It’s such a relief to no longer be consumed by damage control on an old quilt. There’s so much joy in piecing together something new.

It turns out I genuinely love quilting.

ADDENDUM:

I posted this to Facebook and an atheist friend very sweetly offered to show me the rich and beautiful quilt of her own atheism, and it stung to realize how dismissive the portrayal was of the blankets of others who have been very influential in my life, and who I hold very dear.

Below is my response to her and, by extension, to others who shelter under other blankets:

Those impressions were written as exaggerations of a very former and superficial perspective. If I plugged Mormonism into the analogy from an outsider’s perspective, it would likely have been a ridiculously impractical and smotheringly oversized down comforter in an 80’s blue goose and cotton lace duvet. With cookie crumbs. Because, cookie.

Even back then, I recognized that I was missing an understanding of the lived experience inside the other blankets. How could I not? I was surrounded by people under a rich variety of blankets who I (still) greatly love and respect. The idea that you would happily hunker down under anything less than something rich and beautiful and worthy has always run contrary to everything I know of you.

I just had to shed my own blanket (no small task) before I could fully appreciate the experience of taking shelter under the blankets of others, and better understand those blankets for what they are.

Now I find myself shamelessly cutting pieces from other’s quilts for use in my own. Compulsive vandal that I have become, I haven’t been able to pass by the visible corners of your own quilt without cutting away at the edges.

Maybe we should start a quilt block exchange.

Ex-Mormon in Savasana

Tucking my tailbone, adjusting my shoulder blades inward, I exhale audibly as my body comes to rest on the mat after a strenuous workshop. Every muscle that had flexed, stretched, pushed, tested, now lay dormant. My breathing is thick and placid. My mind, so often a stormy ocean of worry, to-do lists, and half-formed ideas, levels into a clear, ebbing tide.

As I drink in this tranquility and keep my attention on my breath, the cerebral pulsing waves uncover some emotions I have been sorting. Prepared for some emotional pain, I allow the feeling to wash ashore in my consciousness. Since leaving the belief system of my childhood, many pieces of myself have been refined, redefined, destroyed, and created out of thin air, all while juggling relationships, a new career as a therapist, and returning to school for my PhD. I inhale deeply and sense this emotional surge begin to subside. Clarity. My traits and talents are my own, whether understood genetically or environmentally. The notion of being “blessed,” while it had not entered my conscious mind for years, now washes ashore. I take this word, “blessed,” and discard it. Breathing in again, emotions surge, the waves swallow this adjusted concept. Peace, joy, contentment overwhelms me. Exhale completely.

This moment was hard earned, in many ways. My first yoga experience was with Rodney Yee, on a DVD in my living room in Sugarhouse, Utah. There was something strangely peaceful and invigorating about the whole thing, but my Mormon vocabulary could not explain it. Something that invited me to trust my own instincts rather than God’s, and did not credit its peaceful effects to the Holy Spirit could not possibly be worth much. So I set the DVD aside and went along with my life, occasionally pulling it out and following along, wondering how he could possibly hold up his whole body with his hands.

Several years later, I was reeling after having been through the harrowing ordeal of a monumental perspective shift that prohibited me from continuing to believe in the Mormon faith. A full-blown skeptic agnostic, I was grieving the loss of a personal God, a culture, a community, and damaged family relationships all within in a short time. Anything religious, spiritual, or new age was met with a scornful snort and prompt dismissal. Answers to problems would come from science and reason.

A fellow ex-mormon invited me to a class at a yoga studio. Hoping to make a friend and find some form of exercise, I agreed. Chanting “om” was strange, but also comforting – different from singing a hymn, but still joining my voice with others for unity and mutual uplifting. The music was soothing, and the guidance in the poses and my breathing seemed to increase that sensation of peace tenfold compared to my DVD in the living room. Understanding how to breathe into twists and through difficult poses was fascinating to me intellectually, as my understanding of other forms of exercise was to act instinctually or respond quickly. Yoga allowed me to work slowly, listening to my body and breath, no matter what others in the room were doing, although sometimes they were intimidating in their advanced poses.

Chakras, energy flow, toxins, and mudras eventually turned me off again, however, and yoga faded away as something nice, but weird. After many years of trusting ideas and people faithfully without evidence, these concepts would simply not work for me. Too many vegans and women with hairy armpits who shop barefoot at Whole Foods anyway, I told myself with a snort. Besides, how could yoga be helpful in my new career as a therapist at a psychiatric hospital? I focused my efforts on learning about traditional, scientific medicine and signed up for a personal trainer. I made an appointment with a neurologist for my increasingly frequent migraines, as I had returned to school for my PhD and needed to be able to function better.

Surprisingly, personal training seemed to increase my anxiety. The gym, with its loud music, weight lifters, and spinning classes may as well have been another planet. I did not lose weight, my migraines persisted, and I was miserable. My PhD coursework was inspiring, however, and really began to open my eyes to new philosophies about the world, relationships, societies, cultures, and multiple perspectives existing at the same time. Through this familiar language of academia that I felt comfortable in, the waves of my unconscious mind brought forth an important concept to be discarded: black and white thinking. My religious upbringing had taught me to categorize people and things as good or bad, right or wrong, useful or not useful. A common church lesson comes to mind, in which the teacher hands each student a homemade cookie and tells everyone, “Don’t worry – I only put a little bit of dog poo in the dough. I’m sure they’re all fine.” The lesson usually goes on to use the cookies as a metaphor for how a movie or book with one “dirty” sexual scene should be avoided for the same reason – one bit of something unwanted spoils everything it’s associated with.

I’ve come to find that this metaphor really only applies to baked goods though. While I still don’t eat cookies with a little bit of dog poo, I have watched a lot of movies with an R rating that I had missed as a Mormon and found them to be enlightening, uplifting, and inspiring, in spite of the cursing or nudity, and sometimes because of these elements as they add to the intensity of the film. I had to work to completely abolish the allegory, however.

And after quitting my overly stressful job at the hospital and starting a regular yoga practice, I have found that it is really very simple to listen to ideas about chakras, toxins, and souls as metaphors, with a respectful ear for what the concept means to the person speaking. Visualizing a green chakra is a rather peaceful way to start my practice, though I have absolutely no literal belief in it. Nor do I believe that chanting “om” at the end seals my practice or sends any literal positive energy to anyone, but I enjoy the feeling of joining in a union of voices and feeling connected to people who I am sharing a piece of my day with. I doubt there are any real toxins that twisting poses relieve my body of, but they feel great for my back, and visualizing breathing out negative thoughts or anxiety has been beneficial at times. There are a lot of things I enjoy about yoga and the more I practice, the more benefits I find. Yoga is something that does not demand purity, like Mormonism did. I can make it my own, without asking anyone permission. If some part of it doesn’t serve me, I can discard it. This type of freedom to create my own rules is refreshing and freeing. I rarely have migraines anymore, and as I accept the invitation to listen to myself and trust my instincts, I find that I am gaining much more than physical strength each time I come to rest in savasana.

“Is there anything the church could change to make you want to go back?”

Last night a friend asked me, “Is there anything the church could change to make you want to go back?”

It struck me as an interesting thought experiment, so I brainstormed a short list and then put the question and my short list up for discussion in the MFiT group. We’re pretty well-practiced at hashing out our frustrations, so it didn’t take long for us to flesh out a fairly extensive picture of changes the church would need to implement in order for many of us to actually want to return. Our individual lists may vary a bit, but we were fairly unified in the overall feel and direction.

General leadership:

  • Ordain and open all priesthood leadership roles to women.
  • Make each seat in the Quorum of the 12 Apostles specific to a region of the world, and fill the seats with members from each of those regions.
  • Actively implement a plan that would allow church leaders (including the president of the church) to retire before the demands of their positions exceed their capacity to meet them.
  • Create more direct lines of communication between members and top leaders.
  • Completely dissolve the current Public Affairs department and rebuild it as a much smaller operation charged exclusively with the task of handling communications with the general public. They should never be utilized for proselytizing or as a means for communicating with membership.
  • Emotionally manipulative HeartSell tactics must stop.
  • The diversity of church members should be reflected in the general leadership of the church. This means putting women and people of color in top leadership roles.
  • Leaders should be selected based on their capacity to love and understand the members they serve above all other qualifications.

Local leadership:

  • Switch to paid and trained clergy. While it doesn’t need to be considered a full time job, being a bishop is very demanding and the role really requires more training than bishops currently receive.
  • Ward callings should be filled on a voluntary basis with more dialogue between leaders and members regarding strengths, desires, and reasonable burden. Some members may not be in a position to serve, and some less essential roles may go vacant. That’s ok.
  • Loosen ward boundaries. It doesn’t need to be a free-for-all, but it should be easier for members to shift their records to a different ward if they have personal need to do so.
  • The CES system should shift toward training for leadership roles, including advanced courses on topics such as ecclesiastical counseling, local finances, gender studies, and sensitivity training.

Finances:

  • More transparency. Allow members full access to information on church assets and finances.
  • Scale back recommended tithes in order to allow members to take care of their most basic personal needs first.
  • Given the substantial nature of the church’s existing investment portfolio, tithing funds should no longer be used for anything that isn’t directly tied to the day to day needs of running the church (including salaries, facilities, program funding, and local budgets) and humanitarian work.
  • While it is important to prioritize the use of limited resources, humanitarian and charitable aid should not be contingent on membership, faith, or subjective standards of moral worthiness.

Practices relating to gender and sexuality:

  • All advocacy against same sex marriage must halt.
    • No more veiled references over the pulpit.
    • No more political advocacy by individual apostles.
    • No more framing it as an attack on the family.
    • No more playing the victim.
  • Abandon the Proclamation on the Family and foster a more fully accepting environment for those who don’t fit the standard family model as laid out in the document.
  • Fully embrace the diversity and complexity of human gender and sexuality.
  • Extend the full blessings of eternal marriage to gay and lesbian couples. (Note: I don’t advocate for churches to be legally compelled to do so. The change should come from within because leaders feel that it is the right time and the right thing to do.)
  • Allow women to be sealed to multiple men in their lifetime, just as men are allowed to be sealed to multiple women.
  • Adopt as an official policy that an individual’s sexual expression is a profoundly personal matter that leaders should not discuss with members unless the member explicitly requests a leader’s counsel on the matter.

Youth and young adult programs and practices:

  • The youth should no longer be subjected to worthiness interviews.
  • End the official affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America.
  • Create more equal and overlapping programs for the young men and young women.
  • Abandon all use of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.
  • Issues of modesty should be left to the discretion of parents and should not be made the topic of talks, lessons, handouts, etc.
  • Any rhetoric that suggests women are directly responsible for the thoughts and behavior of men must stop.
  • Honor code policies at church schools need to be adjusted and largely abolished.
  • Young women should be encouraged to have aspirations.
  • Young men should be encouraged to be nurturers.
  • Seminary and institute should be considered completely optional in spirit and practice.

Missionary efforts:

  • Just stop.
  • Put an end to heavy pressure on youth to serve missions.
  • Put an end to proselytizing in favor of service missions.
  • Every member a neighbor, not a missionary.
  • Just stop. Please.

Church meetings and culture:

  • Scale back programs and time demands.
  • Cut out the third block in Sunday meetings. Divide the second block into a wide selection of class options which may be attended by any member, regardless of gender. Class offerings could include Scripture studies, discussion groups, priesthood training, parenting classes, lectures, and special panels.
  • Encourage more musical variety and cultural expression in Sunday meetings.
  • Combine visiting teaching and home teaching. Emphasize visiting and being neighborly and do away with monthly lessons and calls for formal prayer. Allow members to opt out of participation or request specific assignments.
  • Ease up on homogenous dress and grooming standards. One size does not fit all: some men can really rock a beard, and many women find skirts to be wildly impractical.
  • Stop making specific recommendations for appropriate Sabbath day activities and let each member make that determination within the context of their own lives.
  • Family Home Evening is fun for those who wish to do it, but no member should be made to feel that holding it is an essential priority.

Temple:

  • Completely separate weddings from sealings, and/or…
  • Allow all family to attend sealings regardless of recommend status.
  • End or completely deemphasize the cultish ordinances in favor of making the temple a place for meditation and reflection.
  • Overhaul any remaining ceremonies and ceremonial clothing to reflect gender equality.

Doctrinal and historical approaches:

  • Lay off on making exclusive truth claims.
  • Discuss the teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other early leaders only within honest historical context.
  • Openly discuss and take lessons from historical issues such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Joseph Smith’s polygamy and polyandry, and the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society.
  • Remove all apologetics from lesson manuals and replace them with more accurate historical accounts and contexts. This is especially important for topics like polygamy and Joseph Smith’s entire life story.
  • Formally renounce and apologize for past bigotry.
  • Emphasize ethics over obedience.
  • Take a more philosophical and less literal approach to doctrine (both Christian and uniquely Mormon).
  • Put a stop to preaching the dangers of so-called apostate individuals and literature.
  • Encourage members to study and teach them how to think critically on historical, religious, and philosophical issues.
  • Disavow every horrible thing Oaks and Packer have ever said. This task might require its own official website.
  • Replace the Word of Wisdom with a general encouragement to engage in practical and scientifically supported health practices.
  • Make the 11th Article of Faith a centerpiece of what it means to be Mormon.
    11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

Jello:

  • Eat more of it while fully embracing the diverse manifestations of the holy dish.

As we hashed it out, we went from describing a reformed type of LDS Church to something closer to today’s Community of Christ, or even Unitarian Universalist. I even wondered at times whether we were actually describing a church or a neighborhood social club, and, even still, the idea of returning to full participation felt a bit unsettling to me and outright unfathomable to others. I really wanted to imagine something I could fully embrace, again. I swear I tried, but I must be too far gone.

I guess it’s a little like asking your fully wise teenager to play along with Elf on the Shelf. Some teens are able to get lost in the magic in spite of the myth, but there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find yourself watching either a very unconvincing performance or excessive eye-rolling while s/he barely goes through the motions. The church has simply lost its magic, and all that remains is a heap of frustrations and heartache with a side of Jello.

General Conference weekend

~A guest by Cami Alex Thurman Ashby,~

I have taken notifications off of all LDS facebook sites so that I do not receive updates on the Mormon church while I find peace in my life. I want to live outside of the context of what the church is doing that is so incredibly painful to my brothers and sisters. I need reprieve and have found it by doing this.

Yet, I feel this incredible anxiety slowly creeping up as I sub-consciously know that General Conference is here. And priesthood session.

I feel as if an army of smiling thugs are marching on, seeing their own people not only cast out, but stripped of all raiment for their different thoughts. This army that I called brothers and sisters my whole life, looks on with strained smiles, not always liking what they see but all the while singing to themselves, “Follow the prophet. Follow the prophet. He knows the way.”

I vomit up all my training to be a good Mormon girl, releasing it’s toxins and ponder, “How? How did I ever allow this to happen to me? And why? Why do so many good people allow themselves to stay silent in the face of oppression and hatred?” I feel so cold, knowing that my people have closed their doors to us, their own people, while displaying bright cinematic lights to the world and shouting “Meet The Mormons!”

I WAS A MORMON! I was one of them all my life! I was diverse and colorful and they cast me out. Like a mother who has thrown away the child she suckled into a garbage can and then begs Family Services to let her adopt, the church has done so to millions of us while crying to the world, “Come! We welcome you!!” Even as a corporation, can’t they see that keeping “customers” is by far more cost effective than acquiring new ones?

I guess that is all they are to me now. I felt used up and spit out of the corporate machine under the label of Faith. I found the man behind the curtain and I would have given anything to have had him say, “I’m sorry I deceived you, my daughter. Is there anything I can do to help you? You are my child and I love you” I never lost my faith. My trust was betrayed. I am healing. I am transferring that faith onto truths that withstand critique, questioning, doubting and time. It will take some time to do this – my entire life, I suppose. But I will always keep faith in myself. That is one thing I will never let go of again.

So, as those tabernacle doors close and the garbage truck bars the way, know that I love you, Mormons. I hope that you will seek for truth rather than proof that you’re right. I pray you’ll allow the vehicle that is this church to enhance your spirituality rather than become it. I bless you to continue upon the path of personal progression rather than corporate. And when what you thought you would never find is found, when you see a man behind the curtain and are cast out, when the faith you clung to breaks your heart, I will be here ….. we all will. And you really will be welcomed here. Exactly.as.you.are.

Namaste.

Pioneers

I thank MFiT members Rebecca Sirrine and Kelly Phipps Grove for the words and inspiration in this post.
Pioneers

 by Rebecca Sirrine

From my secure perch
I watch them
struggle down the trail.

It is a hard road they travel.

All along the verges
are treasures,
not dropped
to lighten the journey,
but torn from them.

They glitter
like discarded jewels,
loves, friends, children.

And for every gem
forcibly removed
they take on an equal weight
of pain.

Weeping, I watch them go,
burdened, but enlightened,
bereft,
and yet free.

Unlike the pioneers of the church or of that or the Oregon Trail [or similar], too many want not to hear their tale. Instead of facing the threat of death in their travels, their relationships and reputation are put in jeopardy. Their doubts and then subsequent journey from the fold make them frightening and untrustworthy to those still within the confines of the church.

Yet the pilgrims understand the pain of those left behind. They understand that current members don’t want to hear the words and experiences that would contradict the church’s approved material. Also there’s the fact that hearing that that someone or something that you love hurt someone else you love is never easy.  But because just because an experience is uncomfortable to hear doesn’t mean it should be silenced.

The thing is those doubting or those who have left don’t expect current members to agree with the current position to the church.  The doubts didn’t suddenly occur overnight, and not too long ago the wayfarer didn’t want to hear it either. There likely have been issues slowly stewing in the excursionist’s mind for quite some time.

What the journeyers are looking for when telling the tale, past loves, and struggles within the church is empathy.

Just as you would never tell a freed slave not to discuss their difficulties as a slave, or tell a freed prisoner not to discuss the condition of the prison, or tell a woman who has escaped an abusive relationship not to discuss her abuse, or a tell a returning astronaut not to talk about space, do not tell a person leaving a life encompassing religion to just move on and not talk about their experiences within the religion. To do so is asking them to deny and hide a fundamental piece of their story.

Please, listen to our stories.