Guest Post: Today, I Couldn’t

(We are approaching the one month anniversary of the national election. This upcoming week we will feature a few posts that reflect on life in a President-elect Trump world. Liza D composed this guest post the Sunday after the election.) 

By Liza D

Church today was fine. The toddler didn’t make anyone cry in nursery, the baby had a blow out but it was manageable, the annual visiting teaching hoorah (what I saw of it when I wasn’t dealing with the poop) went smoothly, and testimony meeting had lots of people saying lots of normal church things: do more missionary work; temple work is important; so grateful to have a living prophet; lots of confident “I knows.”

The only explicit mention of the election was a reference to that quote that’s been going around… about how it doesn’t even matter what happens in the White House so much as it matters what happens in our own homes. It’s not a bad thing to say–none of it was–and people had conviction as they testified about things, some of which I usually feel passionate about, too. But today, I couldn’t bring myself to join them in that kind of feeling. Because all I felt today, surrounded by mostly Trump supporters, was spent and puzzled and let down and resigned. Today I just sort of inwardly shrugged at all the ways it all felt dumbed down and surface level and oblivious, and at how too often it feels like all we Mormons say is, “Ah, isn’t it nice to be right about everything? To come to church and brush away any discomfort that might threaten our rose-colored view of the world with sweet, soothing little platitudes and then skip home?”

I know I’m being super callous right now, and that this kind of apathy wouldn’t just be wrong but dangerous to remain in. But it’s all I had today. And because of that, today especially, I needed to feel that we were there to worship a God who feels and weeps and whose heart “swells wide as eternity” at the misery and pain and sin of ALL humankind. Today, I needed to feel that we worship a God whose heart broke when they threatened to light that woman on fire if she didn’t take off her hijab, and whose righteous fury was kindled when those Latino kids were harassed by classmates, and who heard and understood the sobs and anger and fear that overtook so many of us this week. This felt like a Sunday where we needed to go to church to cry and hug each other and say “I felt exactly that, too” and “tell me how you felt, because I want to understand,” and where we all needed to sing the hymns in minor keys and testify simply of Christ and the depth and breadth of His love, and then roll up our sleeves and go out and let our faith motivate us to do something real.

But church was per usual today, and that didn’t surprise me, or sadden me even, really. Today my heart was in knots and my resolve felt dead, and I know all that must be worked out and healed with forgiveness and compassion and humility. But today, I also realized that the strength to do those things won’t come from but despite church. That those are things I will need to bring WITH me to church, eventually, as I again pick up the exhausting work of figuring out how to effectively express difference in a place that isn’t always kind or listening to that kind of thing.

But today, I couldn’t.

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12 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Liza D,
    “Today, I needed to feel that we worship a God whose heart broke when they threatened to light that woman on fire if she didn’t take off her hijab, and whose righteous fury was kindled when those Latino kids were harassed by classmates, and who heard and understood the sobs and anger and fear that overtook so many of us this week.”

    Yes. How I would likewise love to hear about that kind of God, any Sunday, but in particular the Sunday following the election that upturned my world and filled me with disgust and despair. I also hope to have the strength to bring my hopes and generosity and compassion with me to church — and not feel silenced and trounced by ward communities that just seem to not care about large scale issues of injustice and cruelty. Solidarity.

  2. Ziff says:

    Great post, Liza D. Wow. So sad, but so unsurprising, as you said. Particularly this:

    “I also realized that the strength to do those things won’t come from but despite church.”

    Spot on.

  3. Anon says:

    I went to the closest UU church that Sunday, knowing I would find kindred souls there who would welcome a stranger. I was just one of many strangers who decided to go there for the first time that day. One of the things that struck me was that after almost 50 years of being an active Mormon, I knew for sure that my grieving wouldn’t be welcome in my ward, but that I would be among (new) friends at the UU church.

    We sang, “We Shall Overcome” and cried together.

    • Liza D. says:

      I love that you did this. My husband and I took a break from Mormon church one Sunday recently to attend another church, and it was so healing. It was a reminder of what I love about being Mormon, but mostly, just so nice to sit and listen to a really excellent speaker just preach about God’s unconditional (this preacher wasn’t afraid of that word like we too often are!) love for an hour. Glad you went somewhere that Sunday where you could feel welcome and understood.

  4. Sometimes I wish church were a space where my emotional needs could be met, but instead, it seems like it is full of people who are in a completely different wavelength. Nice people, yes, but not at all capable of understanding what worries me about situations like a Trump presidency.

    • Liza D. says:

      Totally. Sometimes I hear about these wards that are, like, getting together the day after the election to make donuts and weep together and I think PLEASE where can I get myself one of those??

  5. Autumn says:

    Thank you so much for making me not feel so alone. I made the same observation to my husband yesterday about how empty and yet constant the “I knows” were in our meeting. He said I was being “negative.” Um, yes. Yes I am. But how does it help anyone to get up and say, “I know I will never EVER leave the church because I am that strong.” That’s a direct quote. Lately, my emotional needs not only aren’t met but they’re often hurt by attending church. I feel so different and apart from everyone else. I hunger for real truth but all I get is people so confident in their own knowledge and hostility at anything that could threaten that knowledge they’re so sure of. We learn and grow through questions and doubt! Why don’t people get this? Why are they so afraid?

    • Liza D. says:

      I feel ya, Autumn. Church has been reeeeally tough for me the last several months–new ward, new baby, and lots of reminders that I’m “different and apart” in our ward. Our Mormon surety can feel like a safety net sometimes (it once did for me) but now, it just makes me feel more isolated. Like, totally starting therapy for the first time ever in my life in a week. The only way my frustration with people is lessened ever is when I will myself to look back on how I used to see the world–because at one point in my life, I was very “I KNOW WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT” about the Church, too. Solidarity, sister.

  6. Kalliope says:

    Thank you for this post, Liza D. It takes so much strength to admit that you have a need, that you’re in pain, and it takes so much more to say that the need isn’t being met (when it should be, where it is supposed to be met). (hugs)

  7. Patty says:

    I was slow in picking up on the Trump support around me. Now I feel edgy and worried around people I thought I knew.

    • Andrew R. says:

      Really? Trump supporters a re somehow dangerous? In a stifled, going no where political system like the one the US found itself in the two major parties chose a career (dynasty making) politician on the one hand and a non-politician business man on the other.

      Both have been party to quite disturbing actions and comments. Neither is perfect. One was female, comforting in this forum.

      The only sensible thing to do would have been to not vote. However, since there are not enough people to understand that some would have voted. So everyone had to vote. If you were not a Clinton supporter, and many aren’t (and not because she’s a woman), you could vote for someone else (and risk Clinton getting in) or vote for Trump (despite his questionable attributes).

      I have not really seen anything since the election to make me worry for US, let alone world, safety in a Trump presidency. He is also looking at giving the top cabinet post to one of two Mormons.

      So what exactly worries you when you are around Latter-day Saints who voted for Trump?

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