When my first child was born, I spent a lot of time in the mothers lounge at church, trying to figure out breastfeeding. Another woman, Lily1, had an infant of her own the same age as mine but was on her third child and knew what she was doing. She helped me enormously during those first months, listening and giving parenting advice and encouraging me to ditch the nursing cover that was making life so hard for me. We had known each other and served in callings together for years but had never really been friends. Up to that point she had seemed very different from me and I had never invested much in trying to get to know her. I’m ashamed to write this now, but she and her husband seemed like typical Utah transplants, with a life of graduate school, a few young children, demanding callings, and a desire to head back to a conservative state as soon as possible.
Less than a year later, Lily and her husband shocked their friends by abruptly leaving the church. It turned out that for years they had been struggling with doubt and unhappiness. Reading about Joseph Smith’s personal life and early church history had sparked serious questions in their minds. Feeling like they had no one they could safely talk to about these issues, they presented a public face of calm while they were internally reeling. It was a stressful and painful experience and by the time they exited, leaving behind the church was a huge relief to them, a chance to set down a burden they had carried in secret.
I felt terrible when I heard Lily’s story, not because I thought that I could have or should have changed her ultimate choices, but because she had suffered silently and felt so alone. I thought about all those hours we spent together in the mothers lounge, neither of us knowing that the other also doubted and felt lonely at church. I regretted that I hadn’t been more public about my personal struggles because maybe that would have created a safe space for Lily to speak up. I hadn’t extended real friendship and she did not see me as a potential ally. I wish she had felt like she had a place where she could tell her stories and receive a community of support and validation.
This is why Exponent II is important. Mormon women need a forum for publishing their voices. We need a place where the wisdom of lived experiences is recorded and shared. We need a home, free of judgment, for “strong-minded women”2 to express their diverse beliefs and feelings. At Exponent II, wherever you are on your journey is okay. We want to hear your stories. We want to know you, truly and wholly. We want you to be part of the dialogue.
The Summer 2015 issue will explore the theme of Transitions. Transitions are a process of going from one way of being in the world to another. We go through small changes all the time, with fluctuations in the seasons, new callings, or new perspectives from a new book. But small changes add up and then the big shifts happen. What is transitioning in your family? In your faith? In your work? How are you evolving and what have you learned? What is still unclear? What tools have you relied on to give you the courage to face your transition? What transitions would you choose to make if you knew you could not fail? Please share with your sisters in the Exponent community. Submit through email to email@example.com. Submissions will be accepted from April 1 through May 3 and should be between 800-2000 words.
Exponent has provided me with some of the richest relationships of my life. I am comfortable being “poised on the dual platforms of Mormonism and Feminism”3 because of my community of support. We hope you’ll submit your stories and be an active part of Exponent II.
1 Name has been changed
2 Susan Kohler, “Woman’s Exponent Revisited” Exponent II Vol. 1, No. 1, July 1974.
3 Claudia Bushman, “Exponent II is Born” Exponent II Vol. 1, No. 1, July 1974.