I've been fascinated by the discussion and events of the past year surrounding women and the church. The Wear Pants to Church Sunday and Ordain Women's request for tickets to the priesthood session of General Conference this week. I've been dismayed to see the unkindness and condemnation of these groups. I sympathize with both sides of the debates, yes I do. I won't go into that here though.
Sometimes when we hear someone or a group's mention of a source of pain, or argument against the church or our faith, and calls for change - it makes us uncomfortable. How do we respond? Do we retreat? And in what way? Do we deny the source of that pain, belittle it, flippantly dismiss it, judge it, make insensitive comments, or even go to the point of condemning the individual(s)? A wise woman said there are some "for whom the pain seems to define their spiritual lives . . . they measure every element of their church experience through the lens of that pain." (see citation below)
The pain is real. I have seen it first hand on the faces of those sharing their most vulnerable sorrows. I have heard it in the voices of experience.
Are we not called to mourn with those that mourn and THEN comfort those who stand in need of comfort? One does not have to agree with another's position taken on a controversial topic in order to do those two things. But we are called to love one another. It is our diversity of journeys in life that are fascinating - to see how God works with each of us on our own paths back. I believe President Hinckley's words that everyone needs three things - 1) a friend, 2) nourishing by the good word of God, and 3) a responsibility. But a friend first and foremost.
For the past year I have made a casual study of hard topics in the church or ones that make individuals feel they do not belong in the body of the saints. It's those things I have suffered facing in my family or hope not to. Or it's the tough questions beyond the standard Word of Wisdom ones I get often from those not of my faith.
As a youth I felt deeply concerned about friends who felt they didn't fit into the LDS club for whatever reason. I felt I had a responsibility to them. That feeling has grown as life has marched on and the faces around me change with each move. My background is as LDS as they come and I've struggled at times to feel like I fit in, so what does Mormonism look and feel like whose path is not the traditional story? How do they suffer or what makes church participation painful to them? What can I do about it where I am?
A quick list of some of the topics I have looked into are:
- the role of women in the church, women and the priesthood, messaging on motherhood, morality, and modesty
- treatment of and messaging about LGBT and people with colored skin
- challenging family dynamics – part member families, children who leave the faith, infertility, addictions, grief, physical and mental health challenges, abuse, messaging and addiction vs. curiosity regarding pornography and masturbation, LGBT, etc.
- troubling episodes in the history of the church
I know it made Ryan nervous in the beginning as I would share what I was learning and processing. It is hard to process tough things, but I love the challenge to think broader through the lens of a loving God who weeps for and with us. What I have found is a richness and depth in my faith that I celebrate even more now. And the conversations Ryan and I have had together have been so interesting and fun! It’s led to a greater degree of honesty in our relationship we both treasure. We still have much to learn about each other, it’s only been 11 years, but I’m glad he picked me to make the journey with him!
This study has also enriched my opportunity to share the gospel with a few friends in very meaningful ways. My dear neighbor Shana has been investigating and attending church since last December. It is so fascinating to see the gospel and the church through her eyes! And especially to see how God has worked with her on her path through really hard stuff. I am learning so much from her as are the Sister missionaries we are enjoying.
I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love being a Mormon. I love listening to prophets, apostles, and other leaders share inspired counsel at General Conference and other meetings. It enriches my life greatly and I feel God speak to me through them. I believe Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the Sacred Grove. I believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God in companion with the Bible. Reading scripture is often how I feel God guide me to strive for my potential.
Quote above taken from Neylan McBaine's 2012 FAIR address, "To Do the Business of the Church: A Cooperative Paradigm for Examining Gendered Participation Within Church Organizational Structure."