Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Heavy and Hopeful Heart

My heart hurts.
I feel caught up in a tumult of hurt, frustration, agony, angst, fear, pride, confusion, guilt, and judgement.
Just to clarify though, none of these feelings are my own.

It's strange, really, how the Spirit works.  I've felt numb to it for months, and completely frustrated by not knowing or understanding what I did to merit such isolation.  Sure I'd have moments of calm, moments of happy, moments of excitement, or even moments of inspiration.  But none of those came close to the deep abiding peace I've felt, most of my life, from being given the gift of the Spirit.

And then, this happened.
  1. Two Activists Within Mormon Church Threatened With ...

    New York Times-Jun 11, 2014
    Two Mormons who have gained national attention for pushing their church to ordain women to the priesthood and to accept openly gay ...
    Kate Kelly, Mormon Women's Group Founder, Faces ...
    -Huffington Post-20 hours ago
All of a sudden, I felt it again.  The deep compassion, the ache of others pain, the discomfort of conflict, and at the same time, a hugely deep sense of peace that God is love, God is in charge, and that love (God) can and will heal all.  I know a lot of people have very strong opinions about the stories in the news, and I'm sure it doesn't help that they are being sensationalized, but I hope we work to see past the rhetoric and hype.

Case in point: Women's rights activist faces excommunication from Mormon church

She faces a disciplinary council.  That is not excommunication.  And if it were to result in excommunication, they would conveniently forget to add that excommunication is a merciful practice in the church, not a vindictive or damning one.  It allows for people who are struggling with their covenants to be released from them until they feel capable of making those covenants again.  Also, they would neglect to mention that if the LDS church has no authority from God, then excommunication means nothing more than 'you are not allowed to speak on behalf of the church.'  And wouldn't it be irrational to let people who disagree with the body and purpose of your organization to speak on your behalf?

There is definitely an angle to these stories.  Most seem to say "Organized religion is a useless, archaic practice.  Anybody who participates in this faith is an ignorant, bigoted, gullible fool."

I know that my participation in the church has taught me more than any self-help book or life coach ever could.  It forces me into situations where I have to learn to love, serve, uplift, and submit in ways that are never comfortable, but are almost always refining.  It hurts to feel something as intimate as my spirituality and the work I've put into it being called into question, disrespected, and marginalized by such a large and outspoken group of people.

Sound familiar?

Yup.  That's cuz we're all hypocrites, and we're all upset for basically the same reasons.  We don't feel loved, respected, or acknowledged in some way.  And rather than creating a good dialogue about how to evolve, love, respect, and listen to one another with hopes of proceeding together as a group with vision and purpose....we're arguing, building up barriers, and giving up hope.

With that, I have three pleas I'd like to make to all my friends, family, coworkers, or random strangers who might be reading this blog and are struggling to make sense of the current cacophony.

Plea #1 - Love God

This is a thing I think most people can get on board with.  That is, at least generally.  I know it's a lot more tricky to get into the "how do you love God," so I'll just say this:

In order to love God, (no matter how you show it) you must trust God.  If you trust Him, then you have no need to worry.  Fear not.  Doubt not.  You may have no idea what the future will look like, but if you trust God, you can know it will be better than the present, so relax.

Really, that's about it.  Keeping all the other commandments dictates that you can only do so out of this loving trust.  If you love God, you will keep his commandments and trust that it is for the best because you trust Him.  But, if you keep them out of fear, shame, or pride, then you do not love or trust God and are probably distancing yourself from Him the more piously you adhere to those tenants.

So, that's my first, and probably most fervent, plea.  Trust God.

Plea #2 - Love One Another

One quick note to all the social media critics out there.  To anyone who may feel the need to belittle, disregard, or criticize these members or the local leaders involved in the Kelly and Duhlin councils, don't check your religion at the door of your facebook/twitter sign on.

To those upset that there are people trying to 'change the church':

First of all, calm down.  Remember how the church is not your church, my church, Joseph Smith's, or even Thomas S. Monson's church?  That's right.  It's Christs, so stop trying to be a backseat driver.  He's got it.  Women proposing they should hold the priesthood or men proposing the acceptance of homosexuality WILL NOT PUT THE CHURCH IN JEOPARDY.  They may be loud, they may have a large audience, they may bring a degree of persecution, and they may even have a good point, but they will never deter or interrupt God's plan for His children.  We don't know know or understand the complexities of that plan any more than those individuals do.  I'm sure it's different than any human, thus far, could conceive.  Have faith in God, have faith in His abilities to inspire His leaders (as well as ALL of His other children), and focus your energies on obeying the God you are probably trying to advocate for in your harsh rhetoric.

That's right.  Whatever response you have, your words will make you one gigantic impotent hypocrite if you don't respond as God has commanded you to....with love, patience, kindness, etc.

While we may think we are defending God by chastising those who express doubts or criticisms, I would like to point out that God's most powerful tool of illumination is love.  So, if you're hoping to make a case for God, put away the defensive stances or the urge to argue over written doctrines.  Try to love, empathize with, and even understand one another first - ESPECIALLY with those who are struggling with the church.  Doubt is not a disease to be avoided or ignored.  It's an internal wound to be tended to and healed with love, prayer, and compassion.  If you are not physically or emotionally feeling some of the turmoil Kelly and Dehlin and their followers have endured trying to internally rectify incongruous fears, frustrations, and inspirations.....then hush up, kneel down, and pray for that opportunity.

Christ feels it, and He knows how to help you feel it, and when you feel it, you will no longer have a desire to act out of insecurity, impulsive pride, or confusion, but you will feel an overwhelming sense of peace and compassion for every single individual involved.  Then, and only then, will you will act in ways aligned with the Lord's will.  Then you will show the Lord that his children can be trusted to love one another even in the learning process, and then we will be ready to be taught the next line or precept He has in store for us.  Personally, I have no idea what that's going to look like, but I know it's coming, and I'm definitely excited to see what that is.

For those upset that the "Church isn't changing":

Look around.  The church is changing friends.  Perhaps you'd like it to change faster or in more 'official' way, but the Lord does not work in our millennial paradigm of "Demand and ye shall immediately receive."  The Lord's church is an ever evolving body of imperfect and dynamic individuals, and trying to coordinate all of those fickle, fallible, and frustrating personalities is not something that can be done by a church policy or practice.  It requires a loving God and the right time.

Like a good bread (since the nice wine analogy isn't going to hold weight here), it requires the ALL internal elements to be ready before progress can be had.  You can't persuade dough into rising by writing scathing articles or declaring it unjust.  You can't get it to bake with guilt trips or threatening to throw it in the trash.  You can set the right conditions (at least the ones you can control), nourish the yeast appropriately, set the oven to the right temp, and probably most importantly, wait.

I highly advocate the more open and honest discussions that both Kelly and Duhlin have initiated through their struggles.  I love that people are more willing to explore the depths of discomfort and darkness in order to better reach out to and support those they love.  I love that we are creating a language and habits around those struggles, thereby making it easier to care for and connect with others in the same boat.  I love that we are asking questions about our cultural vs doctrinal habits, and asking our leaders and God if there is something else in store.  These are all great conditions for good bread.

So please, though it may be hard and exhausting, continue to ask questions, empathize (with both those in authority and those who struggle with it), and pray.  Pray to see the truth through all the fog.  Pray to understand the pain and anguish of those who feel marginalized, conflicted, or abandoned by God.  Pray that those people will be comforted by the Spirit.  Pray to understand the pressure and purpose of authority in the church.  Pray for the strength to buoy up all of these people, that you may become better, stronger, and happier, together.  Many of you are already doing so, and for that I applaud you.  But, as is equally important, remember to pray for those who hold responsibilities to act on God's behalf as well.  Love them, support them, engage with them, and help them feel safe enough to acknowledge their own fears, frustrations, and imperfections, so that they can come closer to Christ as well.  That way, the revelation they do receive can be clear, concise, and most importantly of all, centered in a love of God and others.

Plea #3 - Love Yourself

Brene Brown, a guilt and shame researcher (AND INSPIRED GENIUS!!) makes a powerful assertion:

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves

In my experience, this is true. You can't give what you don't have, so to be capable of loving others, there is a subtly written prerequisite that you love yourself. Many of the people I know, especially those who feel marginalized, powerless, or disrespected struggle with this commandment. Shoot, we all struggle with this commandment. If you ask me, it is, by far, the most difficult.

Others, you can give the benefit of the doubt. Others, you can feel compassion and empathy for without balancing the weight of responsibility, accountability, and consequence. When dealing with don't have those options. You are a hot mess, and you're commanded to love that hot mess. Excuses, ignorance, and distance - three things we often use to buffer the difficulty of loving others - are not effective here. You have to love all of you, and there is simply no way around it.

But I think that is part of the genius of this commandment. It's a lot like an internal quality control for love. Love is only real, uplifting, nourishing, and true when that internal quality control of loving yourself is present. If you work your whole life to serve others, but do so purely out of shame, fear, or pride, then the internal love control will fail because you don't love yourself, and all of those efforts and energies will prove invalid and eternally fruitless. Want proof? Look at the correlation between self-loathing and codependency. Those in codependent relationships claim to love one another...but the destructive nature of those relationships is the fruit of that tree, and proof that the 'love' expressed is not uplifting Christ-like love - aka charity.

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, 
ye are nothing, for charity never faileth" 

Whether or not we love ourselves verifies the reality of the love we seek to build with others. It takes a raw and powerful faith to face your own imperfections and shortcomings, have faith in the ability of atonement to improve everything, and believe that Christ loves you NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO/THINK/SAY. Christ loves you no matter what ANYBODY does, thinks, or says, and you should too.

If you are feeling unloved or overlooked, I'm sorry. I apologize if I ever actively or passively played a part in that feeling. It sucks, it's harrowing, and it's lonely. I understand the desire to shut down, withdraw, and give up on ever finding safety, peace, hope, or joy. But I reiterate my plea, that before you give up, look to see if there's is room for Christ to heal your relationship with you. Take whatever time you need for that process, and don't let shame, fear, or peer pressures derail you from that endeavor. Please, just learn to love yourself the way a child of God deserves to be loved. When you do, I have no doubt that your ability to love others will expand in kind. I have no doubt that the more you work on loving yourself, the more you will feel God's love for you, and along with that, the more you will feel the peace and power of His gospel and the church that tries to teach it.

Ultimately, everyone wants to be loved, understood, supported, and heard (both those leading and being lead). All I would ask, is that we consider those needs when we write and respond to the worries, concerns, backlash, and even hatred that will be spewed all over news and social media outlets for the next week or so. The Priesthood leaders involved are not corporations or lifeless entities. They are men with families, insecurities, testimonies, and good but fallible/vulnerable hearts. Most importantly, though, they are our brothers. Likewise, the men and women advocating for Dehlin and Kelly are not apostatic monsters. They are mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, and friends that have seen or experienced deep pains, confusion, and heartache, and are looking for relief. Nobody wins when you pit siblings up against one another. We are an eternal family, and as such, there will be conflict, but we can navigate the conflict with compassion, curiosity, and consideration.

I know that the more we work on loving ourselves, others, and God, the more the church (and humanity) will continue to evolve and gain access to greater and more comprehensive revelations and understanding. I testify that the solution to this 'problem' is to listen, engage with, and love one another more. I feel like this controversy is a test, and the only way to pass that test, is to fight the urge to react and argue, but instead, turn the other cheek and reach out with compassion to everyone around us. And I mean everyone...


  1. Cherie, thank you for taking the time to put the complexity of the situation in such a faith promoting and inclusive perspective. It seems likely that it is going to be rough; I'll follow your lead of primarily being loving and understanding and leaning into the discomfort of this with as little judgement as possible. I love you. Thank you so much for your thoughts.