Finding God Again

Posted by on June 18, 2014 in guest post, women | 17 comments

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By Alicia.

The tension of the past few days of Mormonism is an embodiment of the terrifying fear that maybe, just maybe, God isn’t real. Or rather, that godliness is much more vengeful and strict than we had hoped. That maybe God is less progressed than we had convinced ourselves and carved out for ourselves to functionally exist in a church that promised us such incredibly great love and space, that purported to contain all of the answers, because of all the right questions. What if the right questions haven’t yet been asked entirely? What if, in finding answers to them, we are shown that we are wrong? Where is the balm of Gilead for those whose access is restricted inherently?

In very real ways, the issue at stake in Zion is the issue of privilege, and to whom it is extended. I talked to my best loved, most well-intentioned, and most innocently faithful brother about recent events. Though I have never thrown my support fully behind the ordination of women and Kate Kelly’s activism, I will always sustain and support the seeking of truth. The news broke my heart because I took her claim to be “seeking further light and knowledge” at face value, and if that is the cause for a claim to apostasy, then I too have no place in Mormonism. The conversation became terse when I started crying over the possibility of Kelly’s excommunication.

I begged him to pause in his indignation and simply mourn with me- not to believe as I believe or change his course in any way. Simply to be my friend and comfort my need. I needed him, in that moment, to make a place for me in his heart, and thereby in the church.

And being the kind and gentle soul that he is, he turned away from anger and softened towards me*. He explained that he was unable to understand my concern and my experience. I fully believe him- he is not one to mince words or tell untruth. I understood from what he was telling me, that he has the privilege of not experiencing the frustrations of being a woman or homosexual or even an outspoken ally in LDS culture. The full measure of belonging in Mormonism, for him, has always been an option that was contingent on his agency. For me, it is contingent on biology.

His position, and I submit, the position of those calling for excommunication, is one of privilege. The privilege of never hungering for a God whose body looks like theirs, of never having to wonder whether or not they will ever be a parent, and therefore a full participant in their human capabilities. Their privilege has never been one of hoping that their marriage would be sanctified, respected or even acknowledged by their culture. The privilege of the satisfied saints is is to never look back at their history and see their bodies left out of the fold of God because of its color or shape.

Understandably, threats to this comfortable privilege appear dangerous. Certainly the people who demand that their lack of privilege be acknowledged, and the programs of the church aide their plight appear aggressive. I forgive this fear. I cannot excuse inaction, however, once this paradigm has been brought to light. The gospel ought to unify us, male and female, bond and free, forgotten and privileged. While the church has known its share of persecution, the forces were external and potent in gilding the strength of unity within the ranks. So often we rehearse the stories of circling wagons and being exterminated from entire states; shouldn’t the history in our blood and in our doctrine open us to an abiding charity and understanding for those who are not congratulated by the correlated corporation of the church? Where did we lose our path? All of that is left for those of us who question where we can belong in Zion’s boundaries.

Can we belong in Zion’s boundaries??

The very asking of this question belies an underwritten anxiety, for both sides, that maybe God isn’t here at all. I see much of the vitriol and fury that has sprung up as a divisive function over the last few years as a product of fear. We are afraid, as a people, that our God has abandoned us and that the heavens are indeed closed. Will God not speak to our prophets any longer?

Let us remember Paul’s words to Timothy, the apostle in his second letter:

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…

I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day (2 Timothy 1:6-7, 12).

We need a return to the wild and mysterious God of scripture. The God that both Kate Kelly and John Dehlin call upon is not the God of corporate and correlated intellectual property, but the God who commands our love and the broadening of our borders as our love is directed ever outward. Ours is the God who would stoop to answer the questions of a young 19th century American.

Even if the local leaders of these two decide to go through with the process of excommunication, we must keep asking and acting upon the answers we receive. This is our founding and our guiding principle. Let’s find God again in Mormonism.

The church has my prayers.

*I will add this thought, not intended as a post script, but perhaps as a footnote: through all of this, I have felt a great outpouring of, often unsolicited, love from members of the church. I have been told blatantly that I am valued and needed and loved because of the perspective and diversity of questions that I bring to the church. I am unendingly grateful for the good members like my brother who have opened their hearts and carved a place for me in the church. They give me immense hope and redouble my courage.

Alicia professes the history of Western art in Nebraska, but she would rather talk to you about Indigenous rights or how dirt smells after it’s been frozen. She is a member of the Assiniboine Tribe from Fort Peck, Montana, but she grew up in Southern California. She loves pizza and watching things grow. She previously wrote about our Earthy Mother, here and here.

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17 Comments

  1. Thank you for these bold, brave, and loving words.

    So much of your experience resonates with my own this week. I also had a conversation about this with someone I love who doesn’t understand. There were also terse moments, as well as some soft ones, where the other individual was able to express sorrow that I felt sorrow, and hurt that I felt hurt.

    I hope that we as individuals and we as a community stretch our hearts for one another and for the questions that make our spirits soar.

    And, I will be thinking of this sentence for a long time: “We need a return to the wild and mysterious God of scripture.”

  2. “We need a return to the wild and mysterious God of scripture.” I love that phrase too.

    “The news broke my heart because I took her claim to be “seeking further light and knowledge” at face value, and if that is the cause for a claim to apostasy, then I too have no place in Mormonism.”

    I think that gets to the heart of so much of the pain many of us are feeling. Is there any room for those who want more for women in the church? Is there room only if we are silent about it? How can we live with integrity and bury our desires and hopes?

    Alicia, thanks so much for this beautiful post. I think you capture what a lot of us are going through this week.

    • Thank you for this. I like your emphasis on privilege. And that your brother showed his love.

    • I think you’ve hit on what my anxiety has been. What I believe is most beautiful and true about the gospel is the idea of continuing revelation; that we are to ask, seek, and knock. I keep thinking of Peter saying to the Lord, when He asks if they will also go away, to whom will we go? And that’s what I keep thinking about – to whom do I go if this place I love and the doctrine I believe says to me that I’m not wanted and I don’t belong precisely because I ask and seek?

  3. I am very moved by the image if your brother laying aside his perspective so that he could comfort you. I love that you were willing to directly ask him for what you needed. Baptismal covenants at work. Just lovely.

  4. Alicia, thank you for your poetic words. Although it has been hanging around the periphery of my mind, I had not named “privilege” as one of the components of all this. It seems obvious after reading here, but I hadn’t named it.

    This leaves room for compassion, not only for those threatened with discipline, but for good men who are asked to take part in a disciplinary process. Personally, I’m not comfortable with excommunication for anything other than criminal behavior. And I’m not defending the Correlated Corporation of the Church (the best name for it, ever). I am thinking about the human heart beating in the chest of each individual involved. Until each of us identifies his/her own privilege, the best we can do is see through a glass darkly. I’m appalled by the idea of an all-male council passing judgment on a woman. The image calls up rage and sorrow from the deepest part of my soul. But I’m also stretching myself to take a broad view because it seems we are each doing the best we can with what we are given. God grant us vision, wisdom, patience, and compassion. That is my prayer right now. For everyone. Thank you again for this beautiful essay.

  5. Alicia, you are a gift. This essay brings peace to my troubled heart. This past week has been one of the most sorrowful of my life and I mourn with both sides who are scared and angry.

    I, too, have felt an outpouring of love, especially from my sisters, which has reminded me just how good Mormons can be. I am not ready to be done with my people, I love them too much.

    I hope that out community can come through this with a greater sense of love and understanding. Right now that seems unlikely but I cling to the hope that God is good and that They will guide us through our weakness. Thank you for the role you play in bringing about Their work.

  6. Alicia, you have brought some healing with this thoughtful and heart felt post. Thank you so much for writing it.

    As I was reading your words, I was reminded that even the Correlated Corporate Church is disappointing us with its reaction, our Mormon community has raised itself above the circumstances and has offered love to all of us who are hurting. This has been the worst and the best times for me, I believe. For once, no one needs to preach and lecture to love others and serve. Both sides are hurting and aching from the possibility of losing brothers and sisters. For once, I have this real hope that because our community is knitted in heart, the LDS Church can have a future and truly make room for diversity and not die in its ossification.

  7. Framing this situation by talking about privilege helps me to feel more compassion for those who are so angry (and scared) right now. Thank you for that framing, Alicia.

    And thank you and your brother for having those hard conversations. They’re long and hard, but I think it’s the only way we’ll arrive at true communion in the days ahead.

  8. This is lovely, Alicia. I love that your brother put aside his opinion to offer you Christlike perspective. It is powerful to think of God as “wild”…. But there is freedom in being allowed wildness, and of all beings, God certainly would have that. That thought has made for good pondering, something I had not considered before. Thank you!

  9. Beautiful post! You really captured what I have been feeling lately. When people tell me that God is a God of order and reveals everything to His servants, I mention that God works in mysterious ways. Which one is it? The God I believe in is the one you described here, the “wild and Mysterious” God. So beautiful. I hope we can find that God again in our religion too.

  10. Your description of the forces at play here, and a plea for a return to the wild and mysterious God of scripture really resonates with me.

    I’ve also felt a lot of love and support in the past week. Ironically I feel more solidarity as a Mormon feminist now than possibly ever before. It gives me great hope, not that others will agree with me, but that love is more important to them than who is “right.”

  11. This is so beautiful. I, like others, hadn’t considered the privilege inherent in this whole thing. I absolutely agree that we all need to step back and find God again.

    Thank you, Alicia.

  12. You’re right, it has been so hard to find God in all of this, when all there seems to be is deep sorrow, disappointment, and frustration. Those verses you shared are some of my favorites from the New Testament. Thank you for the reminder that God is indeed there to find and to give us strength and power.

  13. Do not abide church leaders who know the truth but deceive you with their falsehood assertions. “Rather than love, than fame, than wealth, give me TRUTH.”

    • You may the love the church, but does it love you?

  14. Beautifully written. I find myself in the same boat as you, wondering at the cruelty and callousness some of my fellow brothers and sisters are demonstrating towards people who think very much the same way I do. Is there a place for me?

    I find my first reaction is one of deep hurt and desire for a counter-attack, but I try to refrain and remember the Edwin Markham poem:

    He drew a circle that shut me out-
    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
    But love and I had the wit to win:
    We drew a circle and took him in!

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