Heather O. is a lifelong Mormon. She is a licensed speech and language pathologist who specializes in hippotherapy. She lives in Virginia with her husband, two children, and a big yellow dog.
Today, a friend texted me and told me she is leaving the Mormon church. She is the second friend in the last few days who has told me this, but not the first story of leaving I’ve heard. I doubt she will be the last. When I read her text I started crying. Again. It’s all I seem to be doing these days.
I have been a Mormon my entire life. My parents are Mormon. My parents’ parents were Mormon. My parents’ grandparents were not only Mormon, they were the prophets that the entire Mormon church followed. I have ancestors that were neighbors with Brigham Young. I have one ancestor who Joseph Smith gave the nickname “Mormon Thunder” who converted the first saints in Virginia and dragged them back to Missouri and then rebuked the saints in Missouri for being such losers.
As my husband put it last night, we are SO friggin’ Mormon.
I have watched my church go through a lot. I watched from the East Coast as Prop 8 chewed people up. I watched as the excommunication of Kate Kelly rent people’s hearts. Most of all, I’ve watched the church struggle to try to reconcile the doctrine of eternal families with the doctrine of loving thy neighbor, and how these two doctrines collide when we start talking about homosexuality and same sex marriage.
This is a particular angle that I’ve wrestled with, because I believe that the best way to raise a family is with a mother and a father. I’ve seen the scars of divorce my husband’s family and other friends bear, the scars of abandonment, of addiction, and I know the statistics on single parent homes and absent mothers and fathers. But to tell a Mormon who has not chosen to be gay that their choices are to stay faithful but celibate or be excommunicated for marriage? These are lousy choices. Hence, the wrestling.
I have never thought my church is perfect. The people who run it are not perfect. Ask any bishop or ex bishop if he ever made mistakes as a bishop, and the good ones, the honest ones, will tell you that of COURSE they made mistakes. They wouldn’t be human if they didn’t make mistakes, and part of sustaining leaders includes forgiving them for their mistakes.
This new policy of not allowing children of a same sex household to be baptized until age 18 is hurting a lot of people. People, faithful members, even people who are SO friggin’ Mormon, are at best bewildered, at worst, broken hearted. This is a fact that can not be ignored.
I’ve seen lots of posts that talk about how at the last days only the faithful will remain, that it will become harder and harder to follow the prophets, suggesting that if you are not down with this policy, you are one of those less faithful.
I find this problematic, not only because it feels dismissive of legitimate pain and mourning, but also because it also suggests that everybody should have the same journey of faith. We are all unique humans with unique relationships with our Savior, we are not all going to be on the same page at the same time.
This policy feels wrong to me. It feels wrong in the very center of my gut. I am not so prideful, however, to think that I speak for the church or that I have some extra spiritual gifts that the brethren do not. A very good bishop once explained to me how he has a bird’s eye view of his ward, and would often know of certain problems in one area but would have to weigh things in the balance of the bigger picture. I trust that the brethren have a bigger picture of the church than I do, but I also can’t ignore how I feel in my gut.
So I ask God to be patient with me as I wrestle, and I know He hears that prayer and I feel His love for me. I ask that those in the church who aren’t fussed by this to also have patience with those of us who are, to not level accusations of faithlessness but to wait on us in hope.