My husband left the church 7 years after we were married. We had two young kids and one on the way. We stayed married through his apostasy despite advice from many church members to do otherwise. I was there for him as his entire family disowned him for no longer believing. I held him when his Mother called as told him he was dead to her. I turned a deaf ear as he struggled through his anger phase. I cried myself to sleep the first time he tried alcohol. I had faith even when members of my own ward shunned our family and would no longer let their children play with my daughter because of her Daddy’s loss of faith. I held on to the goodness of Mormonism as people in the halls pitied me and my situation as though it were a fate worse than death. I prayed and continued to devote my entire heart to my callings and my ward. We fed the missionaries almost weekly and gently reminded them each visit to not try to reconvert the returned missionary. I did scripture study every morning with my kids as part of their homeschool day. I played the piano as they sat around me singing primary songs. We memorized the Articles of Faith and every Sunday I dressed them all up and sat with 3-4 kids through Sacrament, sitting alone and feeling alone and as hard as it was? I was confident in my abilities to lead my kids by example, by faith.
When my young daughter turned 8, I fasted every Sunday for a year in preparation. I pleaded and bribed my husband in preparation for this day. I knew it would be hurtful to him both to be left out of such a momentous moment in their lives and to have his children join a faith tradition he no longer valued and even considered hurtful. But it was my faith, it was my faith community, and it was something I knew was right. I asked my big brother to baptize her, and my father to confirm her. Since they both live out of state, we scheduled and planned for months to make this day go seamlessly. My Mother hand-smocked a beautiful baptism dress for her. I designed the perfect program and deserts for her, and as much as I wanted to be involved I knew that this day wasn’t about me, it was about her and the commitment she was about to make. I was just happy to be there with her through it.
After the program I walked her into the dressing room, I pinned her hair one last time and gave her a teary hug. I encouraged her as she dipped her toe in the water and lovingly pointed her to my Christlike big brother waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs… and then my heart dropped. I realized that the had stepped forward in the font, and from my view at the tops of the steps in the dressing room I could not see and could barely hear what was happening in the font. I panicked and ran outside the dressing room, through the bathroom, around the hall and into the cultural hall where the font was viewable from the front…… I ran into the room to see my daughter underwater, she came up, searching the crowd for me. I smiled at her and ran back around to dry her and get her ready for her confirmation. I was too shocked to cry.
When the time came to welcome my daughter into her own religious community, the faith of her mother’s, I wasn’t only not needed, but my absence wasn’t even noticed. Yes, everyone double checked the bishop had made it into the room, and the witness had a spot to view but her mother? Her mother wasn’t relevant. The mother that fasted for this day, prayed for this moment and taught her children to choose the right.
It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that my own faith didn’t even have confidence in my abilities to lead my children. My leaders may not have faith in me but, I am ready. I am ready to Stand as a Witness.
Ready to Witness.
Joanna Wallace, the author of this post, is on Ordain Women’s Executive Board as Social Media Chair.