The announcement of the Exclusion Policy in November forever shifted the community of those associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I wrote then of my anger and horror over the action and though things have mostly settled into the new reality, I have been left with a constant ache that I have had no words for. This past Saturday, however, I had the opportunity to hear the incomparable Dr. Gina Colvin speak at the Rocky Mountain Retreat. This retreat is always a wonderful event but Gina’s presentation gave me the gift of words to describe what has happened, at least in my view, in the wake of the Church’s assault against our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Gina gave an amazing lecture on women’s stories and the importance of autoethnography, which she structured within a powerful metaphor.
In February 2011, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 185 people and injuring thousands. The majority of the physical devastation occurred in the Central Business District as the epicenter of the earthquake was located in downtown Christchurch. After the the initial trauma passed and the dust settled, Gina shared that one of the most disconcerting aspects to the tragedy were the empty spaces that were left behind in what had once been a crowded, urban center. As a committed urbanite, this image spoke so powerfully to me and explained what I have been feeling since November…the emptiness of what had previously been filled.
I am sure we all have stories of what our internal and communal landscapes look like post-November. Mine, personally, are bleak. Every where I look is rubble. Where skyscrapers once dominated my horizons, now there is only empty air. There are not enough words for the devastation this policy has caused my family and friends–the tears are too numerous to count. My ward, which I once referred to as “Progressive Mormon Zion”, has now completely shifted and I am among the few that are left. I have gotten good at recognizing the letters of resignation that come through our mailbox, waiting for my husband’s final action. There have been dozens and dozens of them. And though I hand them–unopened–to the proper recipient, each one leaves me breathless and unspeakably sad. The horror and disbelief have mostly subsided, but now I find myself wandering this barren terrain lost and in shock. So many of my landmarks and touchpoints are gone.
But there has also been something unexpected about this time that I am at a loss for. Inexplicably, God has returned to my life after an almost 15 year absence. I have written before of feeling like God was on the other side of a wall–there, but completely unreachable. Now there are cracks in the wall and I can see Their light seeping through. Though there are ruins all around, somehow the atmosphere crackles and sparks with Their divine possibility and grace.
The postscript to Gina’s story is that those empty spaces in Christchurch eventually began to be filled by members of the community–a free library on a corner created from an old refrigerator case; a pavilion made from pallets for outdoor music and dancing; a mini golf course in an abandoned lot–each one popping up independently but providing desperately needed lines of connection.
I have a sense that this too will happen in our post-policy landscape. I am beginning to hope that the postscript to this awful moment in our LDS world is not perpetual destruction. And though I find none of God in the policy itself, I feel Them expanding in those empty spaces–the spaces left behind–preparing for a divine rebuilding.