To my Mormon family and friends:
What I express here does not in the least diminish my love and respect for you. There is so much kindness and goodness in the LDS community. In no way do I wish to speak against that or diminish all the big and small ways that I and others have benefited from being part of the Mormon church. I believe hearing each other’s stories is the best way to open and heal hearts. I hope you can extend love and charity to me as I share some of my story.
“When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending.” -Brené Brown
On November 5th, the Church confirmed it had updated its policies in regards to same-sex couples and their children. Specifically that children of same-sex couples will not be able to get baptized until they turn 18, move out of their parents’ homes, disavow all same-sex relationships and receive approval from the First Presidency. I, like many others, was shocked that the leaders of the Church would choose to put children in this position.
I respect those who believe in the Church. I respect the good that can come from being part of the LDS community. Tragically, this policy will make it harder for many to receive those blessings. I am deeply sad for the pain it is causing, not just for LGBTQ members and their children, but for all of us who take seriously the covenant to “mourn with those who mourn”. Oh, that we all took this covenant more seriously. What if every member of the Church took the time to seek out the stories of those who are hurting, opened their hearts, and listened?
My own story changed nine years ago. I was preparing to get married. My future husband had been previously married in the temple and divorced, but per LDS sealing practices was still sealed to his first wife. In order to marry me in the temple, he had to appeal to the First Presidency for permission. This process involved months of letters and meetings with our bishops and stake presidents. It was an emotional and stressful process to say the least. When the sealing clearance was denied without explanation, we were absolutely devastated. The decision did not make sense and did not feel divine. How could the Prophet of God deny me saving ordinances just because my fiancé was divorced? The God I believed should know our hearts. I came to the conclusion that this decision was merely bureaucratic. That it was not inspired of God. I didn’t understand why, but I tried to have faith that I would one day. Although we were able to be sealed a year later, this experience caused a deep crack in my testimony.
For the first time in my very privileged life, I experienced the pain of being “other”.
When I became a mother, my inner feminist awoke. When I turned that new lens on the church that I loved, I was gravely disappointed to see all the ways that it fell short of equality. This led to a year of intense study and prayer as I tried to find a way to reconcile the community that had always felt like home, with a realization that I no longer believed in its basic tenets. I eventually could not participate because it was too painful. And despite all the good that still existed, knowing what I now knew, I could not raise my children in a tradition that taught doctrines and ideas that I so deeply disagreed with.
In an even more profound way, I was “other”, having woken up to the fact that as a woman, I always had been in the eyes of the Church.
These experiences of “otherness”, of being outside the ideal Mormon box, gave me a deep sense of empathy for anyone who doesn’t fit the mold in their community. My heart and mind opened to the thousands of stories of marginalization and abuse that happen in the Mormon community. I have been lucky in so many ways. I come from a place of immense privilege. But I can listen to someone’s story and let it pierce my heart and change me. And that is what I have striven to do, even though I have lost friends in the process.
My experiences may pale in comparison to the deep hurt and pain that my LGBTQ brothers and sisters have faced and continue to face, but I am so grateful for the empathy I do have. If you feel like an “other” in your community, please know that you are not alone. You are seen and loved by many. I see you. I love you.
As the great Mary Oliver says in her poem Wild Geese:
“You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”
Meanwhile, the world goes on — with all its beauty and tragedy, suffering and goodness. Come, let us find our place in the family of things together.