From the Backlist: Comforting Those that Stand in Need of Comfort
A couple of weeks ago, I was having a down day between my relationship with the Church and Mormon feminism. I vague-booked out to my “Rogue Mormon” Facebook list and quickly after, my bishop and fellow ward members who are on that list messaged me back, letting me know I am always welcome and they want me in the ward, in the Church.
When the New York Times article about Kate Kelly and John Dehlin came out yesterday, my tech-savvy bishop messaged me again to make sure I was ok. This morning I got an email from a fellow ward member telling me, “Don’t leave!” and that she believes there is room for everyone in the Church. I wasn’t going to leave and I’m surprisingly handling this newer news better than I was handling things a couple of weeks ago. I think the responses I got a couple of weeks ago were helpful in grounding me. When the NYT article came out, I knew already that my ward wanted to keep me and I didn’t need to worry about whether or not I’d be welcome on Sunday.
I’m so grateful for a ward that really does believe in taking care of everyone and making sure we are all doing well, no matter where our talents and interests fall. I am honored to go to church every Sunday with people who take their promise to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort” seriously.
Yesterday we mourned with you, so today, from our backlist, we will share comfort with you all.
Tonight I was Skyping with a charasmatic Evangelical classmate about our Women in American Religion exam, and I told her about what Kate Kelly was facing. She asked if she could pray for her and proceeded to offer a beautiful prayer of hope and comfort for Kate — that the men in charge of the court would be lenient, that they would see her sincerity, that she would feel God’s presence and love, that God would protect her and other women asking these questions about women’s inclusion from church discipline. My classmate had never heard of Kate Kelly before tonight, but she knows what it feels like to be a woman in a patriarchal tradition facing judgment and spiritual homelessness. This was to me a sacred moment of sisterhood and solidarity in a day filled with disappointment and anxiety. The world will be watching what happens to Kate, and I am comforted to think that our sisters from various faith traditions will be adding their prayers to ours.
What a beautiful moment of solidarity Caroline. Thank you for sharing it.
I am following a Facebook suggestion and have been leaving Kate and John’s names on the prayer roll answering service for my local temples. A little thing that gives me comfort.
There is something so wonderful about people, especially women, standing with each other.
I just keep hearing, “when dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us/and threaten our peace to destroy/there is hope smiling brightly before us/and we know that deliverance is nigh.”
The Mormon Feminist community has brought me, and a lot of others, so much peace. We can and will keep thinking, keep talking, keep asking. Maybe it’s irrational, but I have faith that things will work out. I have hope that our searching will yield answers eventually.
When Enoch saw the sorrows of his day, “he had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted; but the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look.”
When Enoch looked, he saw “the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh, and his soul rejoiced.” But then he had cause to weep again. He heard Mother Earth mourning for her children. He pled with the Lord to have compassion on the earth and on the human beings who inhabited it.
In the last two days many of us have wept over our sister and brother. Many of us may have said (or at least thought) to the heavens, that we will refuse to be comforted. Because of Christ, there is cause for our soul to rejoice, even if there will still be more causes to weep. Today I do both: rejoice and weep.
I rejoice because like Joanna Brooks said, this time is different than 1993. We have been able to reach out in love in real time, and share words of wisdom and pain and hope. We have been able to mourn with one another as we mourn. And it has made a difference. I have received emails, phone calls, and text messages from multiple individuals asking me how I am doing, and telling me that they are crying too. Plans have been made to meet up in person and exchange real, needed hugs.
We will continue to do this, and like Enoch, we will plead for compassion.
From a dear friend: “But remember what you’re doing: you’re trying to modernize an institution that counts orthodoxy and conservatism as some of its most dearly held values, and that has built a culture around feeling persecuted and set upon by the misguided masses. This kind of upheaval can’t possibly happen without setbacks. That it’s starting to happen at all is an amazing thing, and that the Church is reacting this way shows that your message is having an impact.
“. . . None of that erases the very real pain and suffering these brave activists and their families and friends are enduring, of course. I’m deeply sorry about that, and I am doing the pagan/atheist equivalent of praying very hard that it won’t happen to you. . . . Also, there may be a silver lining in that these disciplinary actions have the potential to bring greater attention and political pressure to bear on the issues involved (particularly given that the Church has been in the public eye lately). It’d be wonderful if the process of revolution didn’t require some people to be martyrs for the cause, but apparently the world doesn’t work that way. What you can do — what you already are doing! — is to make sure their message is heard and their sacrifices recognized and honored.”
Because, apparently, God speaks to me through scripture and pop culture:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 1:16)
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway.
Song lyrics are all that are coming to me, too. From one of my favorite hymns:
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!
A devout Catholic male friend of mine sent me this this morning.
“I can not imagine how heavy your heart must be. Please know that God sometimes allows things to fall apart so better things can fall together. God sees your tears and will hear your prayer. Indeed, every drop of tears shed before God will be counted by Him—“Thou numberest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle; are they not in thy book?” (Ps. 56.8) You are a godly woman, for the tears you shed are tears from a tender heart of love and kindness.”
My comfort for the last many months, and again today is the story of Peter trying to walk on water. He started to drown, and he reached out his hand and immediately the Savior reaches back. That image has been my lifeline for a long time now — that when I stretch out my hand, when I am drowning and afraid, immediately the Savior reaches back and lovingly chides me for doubting Him.