The term “advocate,” when used in an LDS context, in my experience, usually means a) Christ is advocating for my forgiveness, because I am an unworthy sinner, and b) social and political advocates are outspoken about good things, but in an unruly and distasteful way, which is unbecoming of a “good Mormon girl.”
Neither of this things is really all that positive or inspirational. And yet…. This message isn’t about either of these things. As complicated as it is to be a woman in the church, this message, for the first time in my church life, breathed hope in regard to the term “advocate.”
Consider the use of the story of Esther in the From The Scriptures section:
Throughout the history of the Lord’s Church, female disciples of Jesus Christ have followed His example. Esther was faithful and courageous. Her cousin Mordecai sent her a copy of the king’s decree that the Jews should be destroyed, and he charged her “to make request before [the king] for her people.” He added: “And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:8, 14.)
Despite the danger, Esther agreed: “So will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).
Esther then spoke humbly to the king and “fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears … to reverse the letters … to destroy the Jews.” She added, “How can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?” (see Esther 8:3, 5–6). The king’s heart was softened, and he granted her petition.
In reading this, I was reminded of a faithful woman I know who followed her heart, her conscience, and the spirit, in advocating for women. Some thought this woman a saint, others thought her a villain. Her active work resulted in her excommunication, which then fueled powerful feelings on all sides. In juxtaposing this with the Visiting Teaching message this month, I could not help but wonder what would have been recorded for Esther if she had failed. Would she have been labelled as a martyr for seeking religious freedom, or as an apostate for speaking up? I believe that both would have happened. Because of this belief, the belief that even those who “fail” (Abinidai, for example) also are blessed by the healing power of Christ’s advocacy. This is to say that as an advocate, Christ takes the pain of the sufferers as means to liberate their (our) hearts and minds from the darkness of being victimised. I do not mean that suggest to any degree that the aggressors are benefactors in this context, but that those who have been treated unjustly, wickedly, and hurt have the freedom to accept Christ as the benefice; as the one who advocates for our pain to be healed and removed as a part of the Atonement.
From the message:
The Saviour pleads for us, using understanding, justice, and mercy. Knowing this can fill us with love and gratitude for His Atonement.
In thought of this, I searched for words that would give meaning to my heart and my feelings on righteous advocacy and Christ’s advocacy for me, and tried to reconcile them to my feelings that time and again make me consider leaving the ward or branch—or sometimes the church altogether, if only for a week…. to bless me with a break from whatever has most recently broken my heart. Words that would free me from what I feel are social judgements due to the perceived sin of misfitting, and rejecting the typical Molly Mormon mould.
This is the treasure I found:
“Jesus knew the names of those He healed. He touched them and embraced and was embraced by them. The Christ came to the most devastated and aligned Himself in such a way that he was maligned and called a drunkard. If we are not being maligned, scandalizing those who still sleep in the church, then we are missing the incarnational call to love the world’s most vulnerable, the world’s exiled, the world’s most wounded. Our concern should be what the poor and prostituted think of us, what the God of the universe thinks of us, not what those around us think of us.”
― Sarah Lance, “On No Longer Counting the Cost,” Letters to a Future Church: Words of Encouragement and Prophetic Appeals, IVP Books, 2012, 32-33.
And in this, I feel unshackled, free to attend church as I am– not only as a sinner, but as a sufferer, as a mortal, as a human and as a woman. Because Christ is my advocate, no matter who I am, what I have experienced, how I try to better myself, and how I try to survive and better the world around me.
From the message:
Of Christ as our Advocate, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “It is of great significance to me, that I may at any moment and in any circumstance approach through prayer the throne of grace, that my Heavenly Father will hear my petition, that my Advocate, him who did no sin, whose blood was shed, will plead my cause.”
Christ will plead for you. He will take away your pain. He is your advocate, no matter who you are.
* An Advocate for Women: The Public Life of Emmaline B. Wells, 1870-1920 (5th General Relief Society President) President Welles advocated as a matter of her testimony to achieve suffrage (the right to vote) for women.
#YesAllWomen- This exercise of the last few months has come under criticism, but regardless of those who feel marginalized by it, it does express that sexual crimes are rampant. In mind of this, I considered how Christ’s advocating for victims of sexual crimes might heal and remove the debilitating pain and replace it with the power to completely cure, to teach, and to tell the truth- even when friends and family members might seek to suppress justice, or malign blame in this life.
How can knowing this help you to feel more welcome at church, sometimes in spite of the people who also attend church? How can Christ’s work to advocate from the removal of pain help you to feel restored, at peace, and whole?