What a giant mess. As I approach the ten-year mark of my baptism, I realize more and more clearly that conversion is not a succinct pinpoint in time. It’s a grand, messy, ongoing, trying process. Becoming something aside from our easy, default self requires the constant renting of the shell we build around our hearts and selves, and the process is uncomfortable.
There is a lot I’m uncomfortable with in my Church. There is a lot I’m uncomfortable with in myself- but only one of those do I have any real power to change. That fact, in and of itself, is something I am uncomfortable with— the invisibility and institutional impotence of women in my church is something that causes me ongoing and continuous discomfort. The discourse of “modesty”, ad infinitum, makes me feel ill, particularly when I look at my own children. The constant and firmly entrenched conflation of the culture of my church with the Gospel of Christ creates an environment alienating to converts and infuriating at times.
Then I receive a letter from a friend who is concerned that my feminism has put my soul in jeopardy. I sit down and cry. Where did we go so far off the rails as a people and a church? I wonder. How did the church Joseph restored, where women had voices and were the first suffragettes, where Utah gave women the vote first and my prophet Joseph welcomed all into his home, become so… narrow?
Then, like a whisper, I hear (or feel. or something)… “there is no other way.”
This grand mess we have is the best we have, and like my conversion, it’s a work in constant process. Learning to sort the culture from Gospel is what has allowed me, personally, despite (or because of?) myself and my discomfort, to figure out what the Gospel actually means to me. It is what allows me to call my testimony my own, and to know that it truly belongs to me. I know I’m not living on borrowed light, because no one has the same oil in her lamp as I do in mine. Her oil wouldn’t light my lamp.
At heart, this makes me a big-tent Mormon. There is room for my friend who is frightened of my feminist leanings and there is room for me, who finds a way to sustain my leaders by sometimes keeping my opinions to myself. There is room for my gay friend who choses to this faith and claims the space he deserves, and there is room for my friend who spouts what I find irresponsible boilerplate about ‘loving the sinner, hating the sin”. As hard as this is for me to admit, there is room for the woman who puts her infant daughter in temple-worthy outfits, and there is room for my daughter, in a sundress and shorts. There is room for my friend who eschews caffeine and ‘the appearance of evil” and there is room for me, who tries not to laugh at Coke being ‘evil’ as I pop my third can today.
What there is not room for is any one of us believing our way is the only way. There is not room for a friend believing she is more righteous than anyone else because of her children’s clothing, or that the beverages in one’s refrigerator are indicative of faith. There is no room for the judgment of another’s life, because whatever our leaders may or may not say, it’s always trumped by the Savior. I shall not judge. I shall not cast the first stone. I shall turn the other cheek. I shall comfort those in need, I shall be merciful, and I shall seek the kingdom of heaven. I’ve been looking all morning and I cannot find one favorable word Jesus said about measuring myself against my brothers or sisters.
He invites me to come unto Him. He invites me, me with my feminism, burgeoning intellectual single-mom status, in all my messy brokenness and ongoing breaking, which is neither greater nor less than yours, to come until Him.
It’s the only way.