It feels strangely familiar to come to this place yet again. A blank page. A hope that some words might write me back to a place where communion of mind and spirit is possible.
My first week as a missionary in the missionary training center, the teacher asked us to make a timeline from Adam as a prophet to our current prophet. I sat there in my long skirt, pencil poised and looked around the room at my missionary classmates scribbling away, only to realize that I had no idea what to write. I grew up in Provo, Utah, I went to seminary through high school, my parents had been baptized when I was young, but still, when it came to words like apostacy, I didn’t quite know the facts or timelines. I’d somehow missed the details.
I was mortified and wondered what I was doing embarking to another country to teach people this gospel when I clearly knew so little. But I made it to Uruguay, and I sat in poorly painted kitchens at nights with old women and tried to teach them what I knew. I sat with families, a kid on either side of me while we opened scriptures and read. I walked hundreds of miles on uneven roads in the pursuit of spreading the gospel, not because I could logically point to reasons, but because when I truly taught from my heart, the gospel seemed to turn a thousand colors of beautiful pastel that I wanted everyone to see.
Turns out, all these years later, I never really got good at the details, but I did learn that something beyond those got me on a mission and keeps me returning to church each week in the decade since. The same spirit that comforted a plump teenage girl when she was nominated prom queen but wasn’t asked to go by anyone. The same spirit that filled me with joy the morning I hiked through the mountains with my dad and an eagle flew overhead and sailed down the canyon in front of us. The same spirit that told me to put down the dishes I was washing and run to my baby girl one afternoon—I bounded the winding staircase and caught her just before she fell through the slats.
Somehow, in all the small understanding I posses, there has been a greater spirit inhabiting my life. It is a spirit that tells me there is unimaginable beauty in human beings and the journey we are taking together. I don’t think I am the only one to know this great spirit of belief and joy that resides deep in the ancient crevasses of our soul. In both happy and sad moments when I am quiet, I take a moment to let my heart beat in unison with this spirit and it is there that I become my best self, full of faith and hope. I know I am not special in feeling this, this is our humanhood intersecting with a wide sky of ancient stars, and somehow, we belong to both spaces.
I suppose then, the hardest part about the change in the church handbook that was made public this week is that the words and policies encroach into that space that has for so long felt untouchable, no matter the difficulties I’ve encountered in the church. I’ve done the work of truly wrestling with decisions and policies that chaff, as so many of us have. I show up to nursery every week because I believe that churches are places that preserve the humane when the world seems disinterested. I’ve been able to ignore, disagree, keep quiet, speak out, but all along, that spirit, the driving force, has remained intact and curiously wild, authentic and hopeful. This announcement today felt different than other things the church has put out, perhaps because I have children of my own now, or perhaps because it truly hurt and confused that spirit, that same one that moved me enough to do many things I would not have had courage or dedication to do otherwise.
To be honest, my whole spirit hurts at the thought of my gay friends married or not, hearing the news, I need to apologize to my gay uncles who send me a book every year for my birthday, and wear a sign in my neighborhood that lets people who know I’m Mormon know that I don’t agree. I know well that my spirit is not the only one aching. In the body of Christ, when one part is hurt, the whole body feels it. The body does not move about its business without notice of the hurt. Sooner or later, the entire body will have to stop and take notice of what is causing it pain. In this case, I would say the pain comes from the deep-rooted part in us that loves Christ and wants, ever so much, to be like him—to be more accepting, more patient, more understanding, more filled with compassion. It comes from our primary hearts that learned to love everyone so long ago. Hurt and anger come from the part of us that need things to be simple, that need full support and confidence in the word love. It comes from the part of me that wonders how on earth I would ever explain this policy to my children, no matter what the reasons might be for it. It comes from the part of us that wants to share the good news of the gospel but cannot open our mouths because we are scared that people have first read the news of our policies and we have no explanation.
I do not have an answer, as so many of us do not, and frankly, too many of us are tired of looking for answers to questions that don’t seem to be the right questions in the first place.