“There is Room for You” / “Il y a une place pour vous”

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

This was the theme of the regional YSA conference here in the northeast. Hosted in New York City, it was a two-day conference, however I was only able to attend the Sunday session, which is just as well.

While the Sacrament meeting service was lackluster and disappointing, the evening fireside (presented by the always fabulous, Sistas in Zion) was spectacular and uplifting.  They talked extensively on the conference’s theme and reiterated how “there is room for you”.

Unsurprisingly, as a feminist young single black Mormon convert from New York, the number of times I felt that there hasn’t been room for me is too many to count. Even now, I recently made the decision to stop attending church services on a regular basis. However, my testimony of the Gospel is still strong. I read the Book of Mormon, I pray when I feel inspired or prompted, I believe in the Plan of Happiness, etc. I can even believe the idea that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri! It is my testimony of the Church that is weak and failing (that is a post for another time).

So… is there room for me? For us?

President Uchtdorf says there is. In his October General Conference address, he speaks, “If these are your desires, then regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church. Come, join with us!”

I’d still like to think that when I am ready to return, there will be room for me. If not, I’ll make room. I know it’s there. I just have to find it and carve it out. There wasn’t room for Christ while he went about His ministry–– He was rejected and despised and considered a radical. But nonetheless, He went about His Father’s business and He made room. And his disciples  and friends followed and supported Him, while gaining new supporters and friends. Heck, there wasn’t even room for Mary at the inn, but that didn’t stop the Savior from being born! Mary made room for Him! Now, not only is there room for Christ, there are mansions dedicated to His name! And He tells us today there is room for us. And I believe it.

Now, I’m not trying to compare myself to Christ in any way shape or form. Nor am I about to start my own denomination in the name of making room. I’m simply noting the example He sets in creating a place for those who felt there was no place for them before. And His story proves that there are always friends to be found and be there for you. And that they will hold your place in the room for when you return.

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That’s what I’m hoping for. As I take this much needed step away from the institutional Church, I am counting on dear friends to save a seat for me. I am counting on friends to tell me they are there for me on my journey. If there is to be room, not only I, but others must make room as well. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. For many, once they leave, others shut the door and claim the seat they once had is gone. Nothing is farther from the truth. I echo the theme of the regional conference and of President Uchtdorf: There is room for you.

Regardless of whether or not you return, there is room for you. Either in the church building or in the hearts of your fellow Saints. At the very least, there is room for you with me.

 

“Il y a une place pour vous”

Voilà le thème de la conférence régionale des JA du nord-est des Etats-Unis qui a eu lieu à New York City pendant deux jours. Je n’ai assisté qu’à la session du dimanche.

Même si le service de Sainte-Cène a été décevant, le coin de feu de la soirée (présenté par le groupe Sistas in Zion) était spectaculaire et édifiant. On a beaucoup parlé du thème en insistant qu’il y a bien « une place pour vous. »

En tant que convertie jeune, célibataire, féministe et noire, je ne peux pas compter le nombre de fois où j’ai senti qu’il n’y avait aucune place pour moi. Récemment, j’ai décidé d’arrêter de venir à l’Eglise régulièrement. J’ai pourtant un témoignage fort de l’Evangile. Je lis le Livre de Mormon, je prie quand je me sens inspirée, je crois au Plan de Salut. J’arrive même à croire que le Jardin d’Eden se trouvait en Missouri ! Mais j’ai aussi un témoignage que l’Eglise est faible et est en train d’échouer (ce qui est tout un billet pour un autre moment).

Alors…y a-t-il une place pour moi? Pour nous ?

Président Uchtdorf dit que oui. Dans son discours de la conférence générale d’octobre 2013, il dit, « Si c’est ce que vous désirez, alors, quelles que soient votre situation, votre histoire personnelle ou la force de votre témoignage, il y a de la place pour vous dans l’Église. Venez nous rejoindre ! »

J’aimerais croire que quand je serai prête à revenir, il y aura une place pour moi. Sinon j’en créerai une. Je sais qu’elle est là, je dois la trouver. Il n’y avait pas de place pour le Christ : on l’a rejeté et l’a haï et l’a traité de radical. Mais malgré tout il faisait l’œuvre de son Père et il faisait de la place pour lui. Et ses disciples et ses amis le suivaient, ce qui attirait d’autres disciples et amis. Il n’y avait même pas de place pour Marie à l’auberge, mais cela n’a pas empêché au Christ de venir au monde. Marie a fait une place pour lui. Maintenant, non seulement il y a de la place pour le Christ, il y a même des châteaux dédiés à son nom! Il nous dit qu’il y a une place pour nous, et je le crois.

Je ne me compare pas du tout au Christ. Je ne vais pas non plus créer ma propre réligion. Je note l’exemple qu’il nous donne de créer une place pour ceux qui n’en avaient pas une avant. Son histoire prouve qu’il y aura toujours des amis à trouver, et qu’il garderont votre place pour quand vous reviendrez.

Voilà ce que j’espère. Pendant cette pause de l’Eglise institutionnelle, je compte sur mes amis de garder une place pour moi. Malheureusement, ce n’est pas le cas pour tout le monde. Pour beaucoup d’entre nous, une fois partis, d’autres ferment la porte sur eux et prennent la place que nous avons quittée. Rien ne peut être plus loin de la vérité. Comme le dit Président Uchtdorf : il y a de la place pour vous, qu’elle soit dans l’Eglise ou dans les cœurs des saints. Au moins, il y a de la place pour vous avec moi.

East River Lady

24 years old. LDS Convert. New York Native. Mormon Feminist.

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21 Responses

  1. Liz says:

    I love the image of Christ making room. He didn’t focus on the institutional church, or any of the nonsense – he just went about serving and doing good! I love this example, and I’m glad you’re doing what you need to do. There’s always a seat for you in my pew.

  2. Em says:

    I also love the comparison to Christ, and to Mary. I often feel there is no room for me in the big-picture church, yet in my ward I feel loved and accepted, even though for the most part they are far more conservative and by the book than I tend to be. I know my occasional trouser wearing somewhat alarms them, and yet every time I do someone tells me how nice I look.

    I know that I am fortunate, and not everyone feels loved and accepted even with big differences. I feel like we can’t do a thing to change what people say in General Conference (and how alienating or inclusive that might be) but I could do more to be inclusive in my ward, to make sure that even as I feel needed and wanted others do to. One lady in my ward is great about this — she takes it upon herself to always be the mitigator of the more strident comments, rephrasing in a gentler way or reframing the conversation to take into account people whose lives don’t fit what has been said. I’m not totally sure what other things could be done (I am after all the primary pianist, queen of isolation callings) but I feel like it is our job to make wards a place where everyone belongs and is welcome.

    • East River Lady says:

      There’s a bit of “be the change you want to see in the world” philosophy mixed into this, which I wholeheartedly agree with, so I love the story about the lady doing her best to making others feel welcome, even just through rephrasing comments.

      And I feel the same way–– I feel there’s no room for me in the big picture church, but I know I fit in just fine in my family ward. And it really is our job to make others feel welcome in our wards and communities. Because we have been given love, we too must give, right?

  3. spunky says:

    I love this, East River Lady. I had to take some time off form uber church attendance and activity when I was a YSA as well. When I went less active, a friend who was married and had 2 children also stopped going to church. Her ward contacted her regularly, did service for her, and so on. I mentioned this to a friend, because I was hurt that her ward seemed much more interested in trying to help her come back to church, as my ward had made no effort whatsoever. His answer was in numbers– for my friend, they were hitting her, her husband and two children. For me– as a YSA, I was just one. Not worth the effort.

    This kicked me and I never returned to this ward; the fact that the church cared less for me *because* I was single just hurt too much. I understand now that this was simply a numbers policy and not doctrine, nor was it really of Christ. Understanding that– against the face of the policy of worthlessness based on marital status– helped me to come back, to a ward that loved me, and called — even before I was married– made a call when I wasn’t at church. Those phone calls reminded me there was still room for me, that I was noticed, and missed– that I counted.

    You post reminded me of that feeling– feeling for the first time as a YSA that I was wanted at church— “just because.” Thank you so much for articulating this so well.

    There is ALWAYS a seat for you by me- at church, the temple, or otherwise.

    • Alisa says:

      Ugh. Your experience about not being worth it, as just one woman, is jarring. Especially since I know you and have personally benefited from your gifts and service in some of the dearest ways. What a loss to that ward.

    • East River Lady says:

      Wow. Thank you for your comment. I wish I could disbelieve what you wrote about you not mattering because you were single, but I can totally believe it. Which is truly unfortunate. And even though it was just a cultural/numbers practice, it was a practice that never should’ve been put into place. But I am truly glad you found a ward that looked out for you as the one–– literally and figuratively. It’s always nice to feel wanted. And loved. I look forward to sitting next you, as well! Thank you so much.

  4. Ally says:

    Spunky, I’m sorry to great about your ysa experience. I went inactive for a while as a ysa and it annoyed me to no end that the church contacted all my family members (even my grandparents) across several states asking for my updated contact information. I’m active again and (so far) raising my kids in the church. But I’m still conflicted much of the time.

    The church has such a great structure to get lots of people together, loving and serving one another. It’s a shame we don’t focus on the beautiful possibilities that presents. Instead, we spend so much time focusing on obedience, the outward appearance, and how people *should* live their lives. I’m just hoping our leaders can find a better way to teach how we become true disciples of Christ.

    • East River Lady says:

      Amen! I really wish the Church would focus more on teaching us on how to be actual disciples than things like appearance and obedience, which are insignificant in comparison. Once you teach people about being better disciples of Christ, everything else falls into place.

  5. alisa says:

    Thank you for making room for me, ERL. I have really be struggling finding a place after this summer. I think my place doesn’t have a set label or name to accurately describe where I’m fitting nowadays with the church. It’s important to be reminded that those labels aren’t really relevant anyway.

  6. Jenny says:

    This is beautiful. I love the image you create when you talk about making room for ourselves, like Christ did and like Mary did when Christ was born. It made me picture myself trying to squeeze into a crowded room. Sometimes that’s how church feels. You can make room for yourself, but not without affecting everyone else in the crowded room. Sometimes I don’t get the feeling that people want me to squeeze myself in and make the room more crowded. Maybe if we could expand our love and understanding in the church, it wouldn’t feel like a crowded room and we could all fit in nicely. Love your post!

    • Stacey says:

      I met these 2 ladies of Sistas in Zion last weekend. They are super funny and incredible at relating real life struggles and living the gospel. They are also good friends to both of the Sister Missionaries serving in our ward. I think it is important that as we rely on the atonement and doing what the Lord wants us to do it really doesn’t matter what other people in the church think of us. We go to church on Sunday to take the sacrament and renew our baptismal covenants which reminds and recommits us to live as a disciple of Christ. I always feel bad when people don’t want to come to church because judging among the people. Going to church on Sunday has a purpose and that is to renew our baptismal covenant. If we don’t attend the other meetings because we don’t feel comfortable I can understand that, but if we are not taking the sacrament we are only hurting ourselves. We are allowing Satan to tell us we aren’t worth it. The Lord promises us that if we keep our covenants he will never leave us and will bless us. We are all worth it in the eyes of our Heavenly Father and Christ! No one is perfect and we all have our struggles in living the gospel, but when we don’t take the sacrament we miss out on the blessings and atonement that Christ provides. There is room for everyone and we should not give up on others or ourselves – just like Christ did not give up on his part of the plan and still does not give up on us. His atonement is for this exact purpose of the hurts we will feel by others throughout our lives. When we give up we also miss the opportunity to teach others and set the example about how to be a true disciple of Christ. Many times I’ve felt these same feelings of not wanting to go to church, but am always reminded of the atonement and continue to go to partake in the sacrament.

      • East River Lady says:

        Stacey, your comment takes your experience and applies it to everyone else, which is certainly not the case.

        “…when we don’t take the sacrament we miss out on the blessings and atonement that Christ provides”. I still receive the blessings and atonement of the Savior without a symbolic ordinance. Partaking of the ordinance is good, yes, but my relationship with the Savior and his bestowal of blessings upon me is not dependent on any ordinance. It enhances it, yes, but it is certainly not dependent on it.

        Also this: “…but if we are not taking the sacrament we are only hurting ourselves. We are allowing Satan to tell us we aren’t worth it.” Again, this is speaking only for yourself. And I’m pretty sure others would feel hurt and sad by your comment that they are under Satan’s influence if they don’t take the sacrament. Please only stick to your personal experiences and don’t make presumptions about the feelings and faith of others.

  7. Caroline says:

    ERL, beautiful post. I too take a lot of comfort in Elder Uchtdorf’s words. And I love your determination to make room for yourself, when you choose to return. Sometimes we need sabbaticals from the institutional church, and I hope yours is nourishing and enlightening. And when you come back, I, like Liz, will be sure to make room in my pew for you.

    • East River Lady says:

      Thank you, Caroline. I actually feel more connected to my faith and the people around me. Being away from the Church has forced me to reunite with Christ in other (and sometimes more meaningful) ways. It’s looking to be a refreshing and introspective sabbatical. And it would be my pleasure to sit next to you in any meeting!

  8. Susan says:

    Great post, and I appreciate that Exponent provides a place for such candor. If the LDS Church evolves towards greater inclusion, it will be in great part thanks to the dialogue and community here.

    • East River Lady says:

      Thank you, Susan! The Exponent really is a miraculous place. I am so glad it is here to provide a voice and a space for those who need or want it!

  9. Melody says:

    This is beautiful and painful. Thank you for sharing your heart with us, ERL. Last weekend, a friend of mine spoke of her experience being “received” by Christ. She felt completely accepted and literally received into his heart. This experience made her realize that becoming like Christ includes being open, soft, and willing to receive all our sisters and brothers unto ourselves, just as Jesus did. I am still profoundly moved by this idea. It feels good and true. We need to receive each other. We need to make room for everyone. God bless you. Thank you again for your words.

    • East River Lady says:

      I love the realization of your friend! I, too, am moved by that idea. Thank you for sharing! And thank you for your kind, kind words.

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