A Postscript

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The announcement of the Exclusion Policy in November forever shifted the community of those associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I wrote then of my anger and horror over the action and though things have mostly settled into the new reality, I have been left with a constant ache that I have had no words for. This past Saturday, however, I had the opportunity to hear the incomparable Dr. Gina Colvin speak at the Rocky Mountain Retreat. This retreat is always a wonderful event but Gina’s presentation gave me the gift of words to describe what has happened, at least in my view, in the wake of the Church’s assault against our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Gina gave an amazing lecture on women’s stories and the importance of autoethnography, which she structured within a powerful metaphor.

In February 2011, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 185 people and injuring thousands. The majority of the physical devastation occurred in the Central Business District as the epicenter of the earthquake was located in downtown Christchurch. After the the initial trauma passed and the dust settled, Gina shared that one of the most disconcerting aspects to the tragedy were the empty spaces that were left behind in what had once been a crowded, urban center. As a committed urbanite, this image spoke so powerfully to me and explained what I have been feeling since November…the emptiness of what had previously been filled.

I am sure we all have stories of what our internal and communal landscapes look like post-November. Mine, personally, are bleak. Every where I look is rubble. Where skyscrapers once dominated my horizons, now there is only empty air. There are not enough words for the devastation this policy has caused my family and friends–the tears are too numerous to count. My ward, which I once referred to as “Progressive Mormon Zion”, has now completely shifted and I am among the few that are left. I have gotten good at recognizing the letters of resignation that come through our mailbox, waiting for my husband’s final action. There have been dozens and dozens of them. And though I hand them–unopened–to the proper recipient, each one leaves me breathless and unspeakably sad. The horror and disbelief have mostly subsided, but now I find myself wandering this barren terrain lost and in shock. So many of my landmarks and touchpoints are gone.

But there has also been something unexpected about this time that I am at a loss for. Inexplicably, God has returned to my life after an almost 15 year absence. I have written before of feeling like God was on the other side of a wall–there, but completely unreachable. Now there are cracks in the wall and I can see Their light seeping through. Though there are ruins all around, somehow the atmosphere crackles and sparks with Their divine possibility and grace.

The postscript to Gina’s story is that those empty spaces in Christchurch eventually began to be filled by members of the community–a free library on a corner created from an old refrigerator case; a pavilion made from pallets for outdoor music and dancing; a mini golf course in an abandoned lot–each one popping up independently but providing desperately needed lines of connection.

I have a sense that this too will happen in our post-policy landscape. I am beginning to hope that the postscript to this awful moment in our LDS world is not perpetual destruction. And though I find none of God in the policy itself, I feel Them expanding in those empty spaces–the spaces left behind–preparing for a divine rebuilding.

Mraynes

Mraynes lives in downtown Denver with her husband and four children. She spends her time lobbying at the Colorado Legislature, managing all the things and preparing Gospel Doctrine lessons.

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39 Responses

  1. A Happy Hubby says:

    Wonderful symbolism Mraynes. I would agree the policy has left a void – one that might be the tipping point of my involvement with the church. It is sad.

    • Mraynes says:

      Thank you for the comment, Happy Husband. It is so sad and I am also constantly evaluating my church involvement. It is heartbreaking to be in this place, but here we are.

  2. Catherine says:

    Your imagery of God being on the other side of the wall reminds me of a poem by Reiner Maria Rilke entitled Du, Nachbar Gott (You, neighbor God). If you have not read it, google search an english translation (I checked, and there’s a few around). It fits that feeling exactly.

    As for the spaces that were left behind, I feel them too. I worry that we can’t fill those spaces properly without real healing processes being enacted though, and that might take some time. I don’t know if I have the energy to stick around, waiting for the rebuilding to happen (if it happens in my lifetime), and that makes me deeply sad.

    • Mraynes says:

      Thank you so much for sharing that poem with me, Catherine. It is beautiful! You and I have the same worry. I worry less about my personal landscape, those people who are missing at church aren’t gone from my life, they’re still my friends, and I have a wonderful network that helps buoy me and brings healing to my life. I’m not sure the community of the church is in the same position, though. This blow goes so deep and will be so much harder to heal.

  3. sue says:

    I’m happy to see you’re on the side of trying to help rebuild. Hopefully you’ll find a safe place of protection for you and your family. Take time to reach out to those who are bomb shocked and don’t know where to sit.
    We have the privilege to be working with those who are hurting, crying, damaged and dying internally and trying to hold on. Like you, we see little cracks, and possible hope for the future but it will take a miracle for the wall to come down enough for there to be space for a glorious return. Thank you Meghan for such vibrant imagery.

    • Mraynes says:

      Thank you, sue! I believe all of us are on the side of rebuilding, whether or not one has remained active in the church. I also firmly believe it is going to take all of us to bring the community back together. I only hope that somehow God can help weave us back together.

  4. Ziff says:

    Thanks for sharing this, mraynes. I like the void image too. I share your hope that something good is filling it.

  5. Shane says:

    I love reading your words, Meghan. You are truly gifted. You are in my thoughts, dear friend.

  6. Rob Osborn says:

    And what happens when the church doesnt change its policy. That void never fills and this just becomes a prelude to the junction where one road becomes two, traveling off in different directions never to meet again.

    • Mraynes says:

      I guess I see this a little more holistically than that. Yes, it would be ideal if the church stepped in to help heal the wound but I guess I don’t expect them to do that given they inflicted it in the first place. Rather, I think it will be more like what happened in Gina’s story about the response to the earthquake–that individual people, both in and outside of the church, will step up and start filling those spaces and creating new connections.

      • Andrew R. says:

        What would heal it?

        Allow same sex marriage? If so, with or without sealing?

        Are we to completely change our view of what marriage is, in terms of what God intended, simply because the world view has changed?

        I completely agree that it is sad that members have felt the Church is no longer the place for them simply because of a policy that upholds our beliefs.

        But the Church is a place with the Keys to perform the ordinances of Salvation. Without the Church, and the Keys, these are not available. There are bounds set on those ordinances. The nature of these salvic ordinances is that they come with covenants. Same sex relationships break these covenants. They have always done so, and I don’t see that changing.

        Yes, so far for me this is not an issue that directly affects me. I have 7 children (youngest 13) none has thus far expressed a problems with SSA. I have 4 grand children (too young to know, oldest is 5) but potentially many more.

        Additionally I have 17 nephews and nieces – all but one have active parents. Four are endowed, 2 sealed in the temple. And 3 great nephews and nieces. The potential for one, or more, to be affected by some aspect of the policy is great. But I believe it is right that the message we send is clear, even if it is painful.

      • Bamball says:

        I think a good analogy for today is what happened in 1890. The Church had a hard time being dragged into the 20th century, followed by retrenchment and shifts of policy and politics at the time of Heber J Grant, and the GH Brimhall BYU debacle. What disturbs me the most, personally, is that realizing this is going to be a long time issue, full of doubling down and –yes, pride. On both sides. I have made a commitment to do what’s right, and does that mean years away, instead of months?

  7. Rob Osborn says:

    Ironically, the policy changes made by the church will have a greater benefit to society in the long run in helping preserve morality and freedom. The church policy didnt create a void it is merely defending a straight path in a world of strange paths.

    • mraynes says:

      I vigorously disagree with you but hold no ill will. Go in peace, brother.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Why to you disagree? You believe the Lord intended, and always did, for SS Marriages and SS Sealings? On what would you base such a belief?

      • A Happy Hubby says:

        Andrew, for me it feels like it is God tell me (and many gay people) that he is fine with them being gay. I don’t have to have the church tell me everything. I subscribe to Joseph Smith telling everyone they can have revelation from God. Now it is not my role to tell the church they have to change. I also don’t see it as the role of others to tell others they must stay 100% in line with 100% of all the teachings (which is impossible if you try to really read what all the church leaders have said). Nor should other people be saying, “You shouldn’t feel bad about that.”

      • Andrew R. says:

        I too believe that God is happy with people being, and accepting, that they are gay. I do not believe that suddenly, after millennia, He is happy with them breaking the law of chastity.

  8. Bamball says:

    I have been devastated by the policy. I consider myself an active Mormon, even though I have been to church only twice since November, both times for my daughter’s talks. Ironically, both times involved primary children singing. It was very, very difficult to sit there and listen to the messages of those primary songs, about the love of God, about Gospel inclusion and about how God loves all his children. I am forever changed by this policy. I have family, friends, and colleagues- Mormon and non Mormon alike, both pro church and anti church, who are affected by this ugly policy. It was the issue that opened up wounds-personal wounds- not about church history, but about the modern corporate church. I could go on, and I won’t, but suffice to say it’s hard, it’s affected my relationship with my family, my God, and my cultural home. And it’s painful because in this church, there is sadly no middle way. So here I sit on the outside, looking in, seeing folks who have buried their heads in the sand, which I can’t bring myself to do. I know God doesn’t want me to do that, take the low road, and seeing what I construe as others doing that– it hurts more than ever.

    • mraynes says:

      It does hurt so badly. I am so sorry, Bambell. I hope that you and those close to you will soon feel some relief and peace. Thank you for sharing your experience here.

    • Steve Park says:

      For me, one of the most poignant parts of the movie “Spotlight” was where Mark Ruffalo’s character happens to wander into a Catholic church when children are singing and realizes he can’t go back because of a need to protect the children. Coincidentally, it was while watching a primary program where I realized I could no longer remain active either.

      • Mraynes says:

        I was struck by that part of the movie as well. Children have a way of clarifying what we adults make so complicated.

  9. MashMc says:

    Your fourth paragraph reminds me so much of a stanza that my husband and I refer to often at church. It is by Leonard Cohen in Anthem: “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.… ” I have had a similar experience, finding that though the policy feels not just uninspired, but rather without inspiration, it has instigated more personal revelation and more interaction with deity than I’ve had in years.

    • Mraynes says:

      That’s beautiful, thank you for sharing it with us! It heartens me to know that I am not the only one having this experience.

  10. Andrew R. says:

    The only people permanently affected by this policy are those members who choose to act upon SSA.

    The children who can not currently be baptised can be in the future. They are not alone in having to wait. Many children have to wait because of parents, or guardians, unwilling to allow them to join. Others because of other reasons. But it is just a wait.

    Anyone who enters into a SS marriage will be excommunicated – but why shouldn’t they be? They have violated church commandments they covenanted to keep.

    They can, of course, repent and come back.

    That so many people are leaving for the policy is sad. I believe the actual number is still probably quite small, and that some would have left anyway, and use the policy as a catalyst. We have had people leave the church in our stake in recent years, none has cited the policy.

    • Mraynes says:

      My energy if better spent making connections and loving those around me. I am not going to rebut your comment other than to say my personal experience is totally different than yours and it informs my disagreement with your conclusions.

  11. Steve Park says:

    Comparing the November policy to the Christchurch earthquake is interesting, but not entirely accurate. What happened in Christchurch was literally an act of God. I think the situation in the church could be more accurately likened to what happened in Detroit. Unlike the acts of God that occurred in Christchurch and New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina, the Detroit that was once the most powerful symbol of American industrial strength was slowly dismantled over time due to a combination of global economic forces and inept (and in some cases outright corrupt) local leadership. I’m convinced that God (if there is one) wasn’t behind the November policy. Rather, I believe the church leadership has allowed itself to become corrupted over time and have decided not to act until it’s too late, and even then they’re still stubbornly refusing to address the problem head on and have decided to retrench.

    There are some that still believe that Detroit will make a comeback someday, but if it does, it’s going to look much different than the Detroit of old. And it will probably never be as big of a player on the world stage again.

    • Mraynes says:

      There a variety of metaphors that can be used to describe the policy and what has happened since November. I wrote of one that spoke to me. Thank you for sharing one that speaks to you.

  12. Kyle says:

    Andrew, the Church could currently be excluding blacks from the priesthood and temple ordinances, and you would most likely still be talking this way in strict defense of its policies. That is the difference between Mormons like you and Mormons like me. I agree with the brethren when they are doing what I feel is right according to my own conscience, life experience, and personal revelation. It sounds like you always agree with them no matter what they do. That doesn’t mean either approach is bad, they are just different approaches to Mormonism. Please realize that many people disagree with you on this issue because they have had real, personal, life-changing experience with it, and they truly feel God has taught them otherwise. Nobody enjoys having a crisis of faith. It’s one of the most painful experiences a person can have. Just be grateful you haven’t had to feel caught between your conscience and your religion. It’s an extremely confusing place to be.

    • Andrew R. says:

      I guess the real difference between those like me, and most of those who post and comment here, is that I see this as the Lord’s church, with Him in charge.
      Most here see it as the “Church” with feeble, misled, men in charge. Bigoted, self-serving men, who do not have the relationship with the Lord they need to see that the World is right.

      Blacks were always going to get the priesthood – I grew up prior to the revelation, and I always knew it would happen.

      No one has ever hinted that homosexuals would one day have a ban (mythical or actually of God) lifted and be able to marry, be sealed, etc.

      The scriptures talk of marriage as being ordained of God, between a man and a woman. Many here say that is because they were written by men. So now we can not even accept the scriptures as the word of God, or the voice of the Prophet.

      What is the point of the Church. I understand why people are leaving, they no longer believe the Church is true. I am fine with that if that is what they believe.

      All I ask is one shred of scriptural evidence that marriage can be between any two people who love each other. Rather than scriptures replete with talk of marriage between men and women.

      • Ziff says:

        I know, right? The scriptures are full of one-man, one-woman marriage. Oh, except for where they’re full of man plus woman plus woman, where the extra women might be wives or concubines. One eternal unchanging model of marriage!

        Also, I don’t believe you when you say you “always knew” that the priesthood/temple ban would be lifted. It has been decades now that you’ve had to conveniently rewrite your memory and decide that it was always going to happen. It was never clear before it happened that it was going to happen. I only hope you live long enough to see more progressive changes that you can then go back and decide you “always knew” were going to happen. Perhaps, God willing, your life will be extended long enough to live to see this blessed day:

        http://rationalfaiths.com/lds-marriage-2112/

      • Kyle says:

        Andrew, that is actually a really good point you brought up about scriptural evidence. Maybe you could help answer a question I have had about this. (By the way, I’m not being sarcastic. This is a sincere question.) Do you know why interracial marriage became acceptable when the scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, clearly speak overwhelmingly against it? Now interracial couples can get sealed in the temple. Why did that happen? I thought God’s covenant people were always forbidden to mix with the seed of Cain. Why did He suddenly change His mind after all these years? That has confused me. I am yet to receive a good answer to that question. Maybe you have one?

      • Andrew R. says:

        Ziff, marriage between men and women covers both monogamous and polygamous marriage – but still heterosexual.

        You don’t believe me – isn’t that a violation of board rules. You can’t call me out on what I believe, and don’t believe.

        I was in Primary with black children (mixed race actually). There were my friends. I was taught, and I believe, that they would at some point, in the future, receive all the blessings of the priesthood. I have not re-written my beliefs.

        Of course, I didn’t know how soon it would be, and that the boys would serve missions. But I knew they would get all that can be gotten from God.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Kyle, it became “acceptable” when the ban(s) were lifted.

        At the time of Christ the gospel was extended to gentiles – and so Jews could marry outside the Israelite people – but still remain within the covenant. Remember the ban on interracial marriage is about the “covenant”.

        In our day when all the blessings of the priesthood were extended to those previously banned interracial marriage was not a problem because their could enter the covenant, and be sealed.

      • Kyle says:

        That makes sense. So if that could be changed and the bans were lifted, then why were the bans there in the first place?

      • Andrew R. says:

        I am not sure which ban you mean, so I’ll take both. The ban we started with was interracial (or out of the covenant) ban.
        This has always been, and in sorts continues. We still encourage our children to marry in the covenant.

        As to the ban on the blacks having the priesthood. Well, as I think you know, there have been a few theories, and postulations. However, since there is so very little in scripture, and no revelation explaining it, the answer is:- We don’t know.

        I have my own opinions, and maybe so far as beliefs, but since the Church have asked us not to promulgate such unsanctioned, testable, beliefs I choose not to. Whether the ban was correct, and of God, or not makes no difference in relation to the ban on interracial marriage – the subject you started with. If the person you were choosing to marry could not go to the temple with you and be sealed it was not the right thing to do. I have had that discussion with one of my daughters when she was dating a non-member who was not interested in joining. He was not of another race – but he was outside the covenant.

  13. DannyK says:

    Thanks for sharing. Your imagery of the wall beginning to crack in your relationship with God reminded me of something I heard during someone’s fireside of the Temple. It went something like this: “The lesson of the Temple is that it is a veil, and not a wall, that separates us from God, a veil that you can touch through, speak through, listen through.”

    While I realize that is not often the experience that many people have, that imagery has stuck with me, and I’ve found it to be true in my own life. I’m delighted that whatever once felt like a wall for you, is beginning to soften and show through peaks and hints of light. Perhaps, over time, it will be replaces by a thin veil….it’s something to hope for anyway.

    God Bless!

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