When Kate Kelly was excommunicated this summer, I found myself crying so hard over the phone that my husband offered to leave work to come home and be with me. I told him no, that I would be all right, but I knelt down and offered one of the most sincere prayers of my life. I prayed, “Is this my answer? I don’t belong here anymore, do I?” I wrote the opening paragraph of a resignation letter that afternoon but never finished it. If I’m being honest, I still don’t know if I will or not. I feel often like I am balancing on a narrow precipice, and I can see goodness and beauty in either direction that I choose.
I found Ordain Women just one year ago, almost to the day. The idea of women’s ordination was actually new to me, but the feelings of frustration, discomfort and pain in my Church membership had been building to an almost unbearable level internally for years. Only two months prior, when I was extended a calling to the new ward Primary presidency, I knelt and said, “I can’t take this anymore, but I don’t know what to do or where to go. The church I have been part of since birth is causing me far more pain than peace. I know You understand me, so please, help me know what to do.” The feeling that I experienced was to wait just a little bit longer. I accepted the calling.
When I found Ordain Women shortly after, it reignited a fire in me that had almost burned out. I felt like I had found my way to stay. I felt genuine hope for the first time in years. I believed that the Church could be a place of comfort again and that continuing revelation was a real thing that I might be able to experience in my own lifetime. I knew I was doing everything possible on my part, and I knew God knew it. I also knew that my questions were okay, even though there were no answers for them yet.
This recognition and my experiences this past year have brought me indescribable joy and almost unbearable pain. I have often left Sacrament Meeting in tears, attended other denominations, and had my own private Sunday School and Relief Society lessons at home, by myself. Some days I want to stay and make it work, and other days I really want to walk away and close this chapter of my life. I never could have predicted this, but I wouldn’t take back any of it. I am a different person than when I started this journey. I have more compassion and more openness to others. A terrible side of me that used to be rather judgmental and self-righteous seems to have slipped into the background so far that I hardly see her anymore. This year has been a refiner’s fire for me, and while I don’t wish to relive it, I feel nothing but gratitude for the understanding and experience I have gained.
So why am I going to attend the General Priesthood Session on Saturday with others who also hope for women’s ordination?
I’m going on Saturday because I see that what we did this past year made a difference. When I was about to give up hope, the faithful women I met leading Ordain Women extended a life line to me and said, “Stay with us, and we’ll make it better together.” I’ve heard more talks, discussions and lessons on women in the Church in the past year than I had heard in the past decade. I’ve seen policy changes that benefit me and all women in the Church–from the missionary age change and women praying in general conference, to a beautiful general conference sermon about women exercising priesthood power and authority in their callings.
I know that attending one specific meeting might not be a big deal, nor is it the point for me. The point is the discussion it starts and continues to move forward. I want other Mormon women like me to realize they are not alone, whether they live in Utah, Nebraska, Australia or South Africa. I don’t know if lining up for a meeting is the best way to reach out and encourage change for the better. It’s up for debate. Clearly, it feels antagonistic to some, no matter what our intentions are. All that I can see is that it worked. It worked in my personal life to find solace and comfort in knowing that I am not alone, and it worked in the broader Church by bringing very important, yet often overlooked, issues to the forefront of our collective conversation. So I’m doing it again, and I’m trying, I’m really, really trying, to find a place in the Church for a woman like me.