Last week I heard L. Whitney Clayton speak to graduation BYU students, the talk has had me contemplating almost nonstop for days.
I was raised Mormon. Born in the church, attended every road show, ward potluck and pioneer day bike parade there was. It was the best childhood ever. Our neighbors loved each other and we served each other. I learned what service was when my Mom brought over meals to her close friend who had a baby that was born the size of my 8 year old hands. I learned what addiction was when a neighbor and friend was admitted into rehab and the entire neighborhood held a weekly fast for months. I learned what forgiveness was when the young men in the ward shot a BB gun at the neighbor. I learned what patience was when our YM/YW group walked through the deserts of Utah in pioneer skirts. I learned what compassion was when my Mia Maid group visited a widow every week during Christmas. I learned who Christ was when I was struggling with depression in high school and everyone in the neighborhood rallied around me to stay alive, and stay positive and told me daily that I was loved.
Fast forward 15+ years, 3 wards, 10 callings, 4 kids and 1 husband leaving the church…. As much as I’ve struggled with my questions about women (lack of) equality in the church, I feel like I’ve always had the privilege of a firm foundation and strong childhood. Examples of how to do life and religion and relationship-with-the-Savior right. Leaders who loved me exactly as I was and taught me that I was valuable. Neighbors and ward members who looked after each other and prayed for each other and supported each other. I don’t know a lot of people in this world who are doing religion 100% right all the time but, I was lucky to be surrounded by amazing people who were always trying. I was surrounded my a ward that never lost faith in each other.
So imagine the punch in the gut feeling when Elder Clayton said in front of thousands of BYU graduates and their families….
“A few of you may have run into some who cease to hold fast to the iron rod wandered off the straight and narrow path, and have become lost. …. We should disconnect immediately and completely from …those who have lost their faith”
Really? This? This is what we need to do? This is the example Christ gave us? To disconnect from those who might not agree with us completely? Did Christ teach us that we are superior to those with different trials then ours? Please tell me NO! Christ was the example of rallying around those in need, of listening to those with tears, of leaving the body of the church to reach out to the one.
So here I am…. BEGGING you not to listen to Elder Clayton. and yes, I see exactly that many will read this and say, “See, she’s the one he’s talking about in his talk.” and maybe I am…. but I need you. I need the members of the church to have faith in me as I struggle to be a better mom. I need my Bishop to have faith in me as I struggle in my calling. I need my visiting teachers to have faith in me when I’m crying to them about how hard going back to school is. I need my siblings to pray for me and my kids when they see us hurting. I need to be a part of the body of Christ. I might be wrong, women might not be part of the restoration but I want to get those answers from The Lord. I want to feel The Lord answer my prayers and I want my kids to see that it’s okay to ask. I want my kids to see that just like Joseph Smith knelt in a grove with his questions, they too can go to The Lord with their questions. I want my kids to see that the people in their wards and neighborhoods are never going to lose faith in them when they stumble. So here I am- a sinner and a liberal and a feminist and a women and a mormon – begging you, my fellow ward member, not to lose faith. Begging you not to judge. Begging you to see my trials as just that, trials. Please don’t label me as inferior because we are different. Don’t disconnect. CONNECT! Don’t lose faith in the gay or lesbian or Trans members in your stake. Don’t lose faith in the ward pants wearing feminist. Don’t lose faith in the Chain smoking, inactive Dad of your primary kids. Don’t lose faith in the single Mom who doesn’t make it to church every week. Don’t lose faith in those of us wanting to make the tent a little bit bigger. Don’t lose faith in the people struggling to hold onto the church they love so much. Please, don’t lose faith in those of us that are struggling. We need you.
“It matters not how completely ruined our lives may seem. It matters not how scarlet our sins, how deep our bitterness, how lonely, abandoned, or broken our hearts may be. Even those who are without hope, who live in despair, who have betrayed trust, surrendered their integrity, or turned away from God can be rebuilt.”
Ready for Revelation
Joanna Smith, the author of this post, is on Ordain Women’s Executive Board