Today’s Sunday Spotlight features Christiane who delves into the spirituality of Mormonism and the power of love.
Mormonism runs in my blood. Every part of my name corresponds with a Mormon ancestor. My family left their home countries because they wanted to practice Mormonism. My namesake left Denmark after her family’s home was blazed because they were Mormon. I think of her often when I consider issues of faith.
I spiritually identify as Mormon. Most of my spiritual experiences correspond with the LDS Church. It gives me language and a community in which to develop my personal relationship with God. It is where I learned that family extends beyond biological relatives and that eternity means patience and perspective. It is where I developed the belief that all humans have divine worth and potential. It is the spiritual place that I call home.
My favorite calling was compassionate service leader in a singles ward. In that setting, my primary task was to reach out to sisters who missed Relief Society (women’s group) to check in and share highlights from the Sunday lesson. It took awhile to find my groove in that role, but ultimately, the calling gave me unique opportunities to reflect on Sunday discussions and become acquainted with women in my congregation.
A college roommate once asked: “Do you realize what you have? When you moved to this city without any family and you got really sick, you did not have to wonder who to call. That’s huge.” Now, that speaks volumes about some of the home and visiting teachers I have had – and I hope to be that person to others.
I have been giving talks, serving in Church callings, and participating in social/community events since I was a kid. Not only has that provided me with wonderful opportunities to develop important interpersonal and professional skills, it reinforced early the principle that being part of a community is a give-and-take process.
As a member of the LDS church, I have been taught both that (1) I have divine worth as an individual; and (2) I am capable of doing better tomorrow that I did today. The emphasis on potential through the lens of love is empowering.
A central tenant of my faith is that we can be perfected through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I am capable of becoming more empathetic, courageous, discerning; change is a possibility – for me and for everyone around me. This possibility motivates every aspect of my life: family relationships, professional advocacy, repeated attempts at team sports, etc. I believe that true change does not occur often or easily. But it does happen. That possibility for change coupled with God’s perfect love gives me hope for the future.
As I have a long way to go individually, we have a long way to go collectively as a Church. There are major issues we need to tackle more aggressively, such as racism – institutionalized and otherwise. But in the interest of brevity, I will comment on one change that I would like to see implemented immediately: temple ordinances. The temple is a sanctuary for me – a place of spiritual refuge and mental clarity. I would like to see language eliminated from temple ordinances that suggests women are subservient to men or cannot communicate directly with God. This language is distracting and incongruent with the gospel as I understand it.
Putting a profile on ordainwomen.org was a prompting that started in, let’s say, March 2013 and continued until February 2015 when I actually posted my profile. You know, like a Jonah and the Whale sort of situation?
Two particular moments stand out to me:
The first one took place in an Institute class at my law school. It was a small group and I was the only woman. The teacher brought up the topic of women’s ordination in the context of pride and power-seeking. The conversation was lengthy and included several comments about women’s roles. Nobody asked my opinion or acknowledged my silence. When I finally spoke up to say only that I could see why a righteous woman might seek priesthood ordination for reasons other than pride, the tension was palpable. I am fortunate that institute class was the first time I have truly felt like an outsider in my own faith community. This experience increased my empathy for sisters and brothers who (regularly) feel marginalized in the Church.
The second took place in a Sunday School class in my singles ward. The conversation had turned to speculation about why women are not ordained to the priesthood. I commented that we do not know the specific reason why women are not ordained and that we should keep our hearts open so that we may be receptive to future revelation, if and when it comes. When I looked down, there was a small piece of paper in my lap that said: “Thank you.” This experience increased my desire and confidence to raise my voice and honestly express my thoughts in solidarity with sisters and brothers who share my hopes.
In a word, I saw my sisters and brothers hurting. I saw that I was benefitting from their courage and doing little to contribute. That felt wrong.
My family and friends have been incredibly supportive. Wonderful conversations have stemmed from posting a profile. Many people have openly supported my actions. For the most part, friends and family who disagree with me have been courteous and tolerant. This has been a blessing and an affirmation of hope.
I had a wonderful conversation with my mom shortly after I posted my OW profile. Talk about a woman I admire for strength, intellect, faith, and pluck. She was hesitant to bring up the subject and seemed concerned that my profile was the beginning of my exodus from Mormonism. We talked for almost two hours about her experiences growing up in the fifties and sixties and becoming a mother of eight children in the decades that followed. We talked about her relationship with other women in the Church and her difficulty finding a place among them. We talked about the contrast between her activities outside of the Church and within the Church. We talked about faith, self-doubt, equality, family, love . . . you name it. I will remember that conversation for a long time. It strengthened my resolve and faith in the future of women’s ordination and gender equality in the Church.