Rational Faiths has posted a conversation between Mormon author Greg Prince and an anonymous friend. The friend writes:
I never expected being a Mormon to be easy either but I always expected that being Mormon would mean standing up for what’s right amid voices outside the church telling me otherwise. And even though that would be difficult it would be worth it because I would know inside that what I was standing for was right. I never dreamed that I would be in the church standing up for what I felt was right amid the voices in the church telling me that I am wrong.
The past 70 days, 4 hours have been an excruciating time to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On Friday, November 6, a friend texted me to check in on how I was doing, and I was too grief-stricken to formulate my own words. I copied and pasted a verse from lds.org:
O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?
Like Greg Prince and his friend, I never thought living in the church could be so difficult. But over the past 2 months and 9 days, I have found a deep and sustaining well of strength and resolve from the simultaneously most likely and most unlikely of sources: my religious faith as a Latter-day Saint. In gathering strength to be open with my church friends and local leaders about my objections to the policy, I found myself humming:
Let us all press on in the work of the Lord,
That when life is o’er we may gain a reward;
In the fight for right let us wield a sword,
The mighty sword of truth.
Fear not, though the enemy deride;
Courage, for the Lord is on our side.
We will not retreat, though our numbers may be few
When compared with the opposite host in view;
But an unseen pow’r will aid me and you
In the glorious cause of truth.
Years of service as the Sacrament Meeting chorister committed these lyrics to memory, along with dozens and dozens of other hymns.
During Christmastime, I felt a special outpouring of reassurance and hope as, united with my whole ward, I sang the words, “The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with Peace on Earth, Goodwill to men.”
In low moments, I have received a concerned text message from my Visiting Teacher or the Bishop, a card in the mail from the woman our whole ward regards as a surrogate grandmother. On difficult Sundays, I have felt an extra squeeze of my hand and an extra earnestness in the lock of eye contact from a ward member, transforming a passing, “Hi, how are you?” in the foyer to a loving ministering.
On a Sunday when I had determined not to attend, but changed my mind at the very last moment–not even in time to get properly dressed–I ended up sitting next to a gay man and his friend who were visiting the ward. The next time I again most seriously considered not attending but did, the bishop found me between meetings and, relieved, asked if I would accompany a trans woman and her wife to Relief Society. Marveling at the synchronicity, I at first asked myself whether I was sent those days to sit by them, or whether they were sent those days to sit by me. Now I think both are the wrong questions. We were there together. We sat by each other in a Zion we made.
I can’t extricate myself from the core of my rearing in how to have integrity and build Zion. I’m not a perfect Saint by any means. But like Greg Prince’s friend, I was raised on lessons of how to find strength to do what is right and let the consequence follow, to do hard things. The church’s Exclusion Policy has wounded me, but years of Primary, Young Women, and Seminary have also built in me, like army SERE training, the exact toolkit I need to withstand the pain and the pressure to yield to something my conscience cannot accept. Years of personal prayer, scripture study, and hymns have built in me the exact toolkit I need to find healing and to lift my head towards hope for change. Years of service side-by-side have bonded me to a community of Saints, especially other women, to lift me in times of heartache.
As a youth, I spent 2 hours sitting alone outside a movie theater–no car, no coat, no quarter for the payphone to call home, because my date and his friends assumed my opposition to R movies was backed by little real resolve, and would fade once at the theater with no other option and unable to leave. They underestimated Mormon strength. Youth today are asked to withstand much more, and, with their Mormon toolkit, they do. The church created me, and created many others like me. We cannot ignore or act against the voice of conscience. The guilt of defying what we know to be right would eat away at us, and we know so well that fleeing to music, alcohol, or pleasure can never dull or evade the indictment of knowing we did wrong. Like our Primary teachers taught us about the young Joseph Smith, we know it, and we know God knows it, and we cannot deny it. Things can get very, very uncomfortable for us–excruciating even (as the past 70 days, 5 hours have been), but buoyed by our pioneer stock stoicism and faithful tenacity, we will continue to hold to our knowledge that this Exclusion Policy is wrong. And we will fight it. Maybe we are as the US-trained and US-armed mujahideen in Afghanistan, who learned too well. Maybe “we are as the Army of Helaman; we have been taught in our youth.”
Whatever strategy the church determines for resolving the discord caused by this policy, it cannot be dependent on an assumption that eventually those like me will yield on something we know so deeply in our core is not of God. Much as we may want to, we just can’t–neither dare we.