There is something about returning to the places I loved as a child that brings peace to my soul. This weekend I was able to spend some time at our cabin in Idaho. I came with a heart and spirit in need of some healing. Driving down the dirt road to the cabin, windows down to let in the smell of sage and sun, I felt peace as well, like I was drinking it in with the air and it was soaking into my skin with the sun. For a moment, at least, I was safe and calm, back in a time when everything was so certain and secure.
Neylan McBaine wrote two weeks ago about how important it is to find safe spaces in the midst of tumult and confusion. I took her words to heart and retreated to the safety of my childhood hideaway. These past few weeks have been a tumble of emotion and I have ended up rather bruised. I knew returning to church on Sunday would be challenging experience and I stored in my heart the feeling of love and belonging from my family and from God. I wrapped that love around me like a blanket.
Sunday was fast and testimony meeting. As I sat pondering in my heart what my own testimony is, I listened to woman after woman stand up and tell the congregation what they knew. I listened to their conviction, to their deep assurance. I remembered feeling that way and I longed for the Eden of innocence I once lived in. I feel like my eyes have been opened to see things that others don't see and for the first time in my life I felt on the outside of my faith tradition and that is a scary feeling. Truly, it can be a lone and dreary world.
Being different can be scary. Is there space in the church for people like me and my husband? I want to trust the words of Elder Uchtdorf, "... I say, my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here. Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result. If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose. Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church." What encouraging words! I pray that every member of the church can take these words to heart and join as Zion, united in the cause of Christ, and love their neighbors.
According to the letter from Kate Kelly's bishop regarding her excommunication, it was not her questions or even her belief that women should be ordained that lead to their decision. In essence they said it was her tactics.My fear, though, is that the excommunication of Kate Kelly will give some members the idea that they are now justified in drawing the lines around what beliefs constitute acceptable membership. I have seen evidence of lines drawn online and in my congregation. Will all feminists, or all of those who see how things could be better in the church, be painted with the same wide brush and labeled "apostate?" Whatever message the church is trying to send, I am afraid the message received by the membership was, "Yes, you can have questions. But don't ask them out loud. Don't ask them too much or too often. And most of all, don't expect the leadership of the church to answer you."
So, I kept my testimony silent on Sunday out of fear. Fear that the way I relate to the gospel would be seen as not mainstream, not true believing. I couldn't bear the though of others viewing my testimony as inferior or "struggling." My testimony has been forged through countless hours of prayer and study, my missionary service, hours of listening to God in the temple and my earnest desire to stand before him again as a worthy daughter. I count it as one of my priceless possessions. Ringing in my ears and in my soul, were the words of one of my favorite scriptures:
"Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker in the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, and not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." 2 Timothy 1:7
My husband and I have challenged each other to ponder and pray about the testimony we could share next fast Sunday. They may be unconventional, but they are real and important. I believe that if there is to be space in this church for me, I will have to make it. I will have to put myself in uncomfortable situations. I can have the love, compassion and courage that I look for in others. I can live with integrity and be a full participator in the church and gospel I love.