Don’t Tell Me the Church is True; I’ve Heard That Line Before

What I Feel Like Realizing I Need More

La lune, la lune, some rhyming lines about the moon is what I remember most vividly from watching Gérard Depardieu in Cyrano de Bergerac in high school French class. The story captivated me; the poetry was beautiful and it was the first movie I watched in French that I could mostly understand. Because of this experience, a few months ago I eagerly bought tickets for a new version of Cyrano. Exquisite costumes, fluid choreography, music by members of the band The National, and powerful acting made this movie delightful to watch.

At one point, Christian, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr., decides he no longer needs the assistance of Cyrano, played by Peter Dinklage, to talk to Roxanne, played by Haley Bennett. True to his character who can’t find the words to express himself, Christian manages to blurt out “I love you” to Roxanne. She waits for more. She wants to hear Christian speak in person the words he wrote in letters. He can’t; the letters she thinks he wrote were actually written by Cyrano. And so Christian bumbles on. I love you. I loooove you. I LOVE YOU! Roxanne remains unimpressed and leaves the room breaking into the song “I Need More.”

While Roxanne sings about what more she needs Christian to say (it’s worth listening to the song here), I couldn’t help but think about how the words ‘I need more’ are surprisingly applicable to my experience with church. I have heard the church is true so many times. And yet, I need more. 

I need more female leaders.

I need women sung about in hymns. I need to sing about the Queen in addition to the King.

I need an opportunity to at least prepare the sacrament, if not to also bless it. 

I need a Relief Society that is actually an organization for women, run by women, without men selecting when to call/release leaders, determine the curriculum, and otherwise oversee the organization.

I need leaders to stop making racist, sexist, homophoic, and other harmful remarks.

I need leaders to hear LDS women

I need the Divine Feminine. 

I need mine and my daughter’s bodies to not be policed and objectified. 

I need encouragement to connect directly with God to make choices best for me instead of leaders teaching that there is only one acceptable path, marriage and stay-at-home motherhood, that may or may not fit me or that I may or may not even have an opportunity to fill. 

I need personal and leadership development opportunities. 

I need a church that focuses on transformation in Christ. 

I need everyone to be welcome at church. 

I need leaders who acknowledge that the current church structure can cause trauma and that people who no longer attend often bear deep wounds inflicted by the institution or by people who abuse power on behalf of the institution. 

I need consent during a blessing or setting apart; to be asked if I want hands on my head, shoulders, arms, or no hands on me at all. 

I need an option to meet with a female leader if I choose to renew a temple recommendation. 

I need more than what currently exists. 

Just over five years ago I dreamed I was encased in a dusty old banana. Picture a giant Bananagrams bag. I unzipped it from the inside and stepped out of this dusty bag. I took a few steps and stepped into a column of light. In the years since that dream I have come to fully occupy that column of light and to embrace my own power.

I grieve that the church is not what I wish it was; not what it has the potential to be. I found leadership opportunities as the president of a professional organization. I found meaningful service opportunities volunteering for a Title 1 school. I established boundaries regarding under what circumstances my body can be touched in a church setting. I found my voice to speak out against comments that are harmful to me and other people. I established my own relationship with Divine Feminine. I spend time in nature to have the spiritual experiences I crave of connecting with something larger than myself. It’s an ongoing process of asking what my soul needs from week to week. It’s satisfying to claim the power to meet my own needs and monitor my own engagement with church based on what I can handle. There is still sadness and anger that this church falls so incredibly short. At the same time, I revel in the freedom to find ways to meet my spiritual needs.

What do you need? 

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12 Responses

  1. Thank you. It is necessary to articulate our needs. Nothing changes while we silently wait.

  2. Valerie says:

    I decided what I needed was to get away from the church. I still read articles like yours in The Exponent but every time I do, I think “thank goodness I have found a more open minded faith that allows exploration, that celebrates the feminine (about 50% of the ministers are women now) and that doesn’t say it “is true” but simply that it is open to revelation, something that the LDS Church USED to say but doesn’t anymore.

  3. Anna says:

    Your list pretty much covered what I need. I would add, permission before shaking hands to the list of how I can be touched at church, or maybe it is just acceptance of refusal. And I would add a realistic understanding of women’s issues such as domestic violence, child abuse, rape, and the dozen other ways that women (primarily) are harmed by men (primarily).

  4. TeresaHart says:

    You Beautifully expressed all my needs, plus the comment by Anne about the lack of understanding of abuse committed by the church enshrined as doctrine. All the ways the men of the church want to control me and my body are endless and down right creepy. I just say no to the brothers often, do it loudly and they run away, some avoid me, I’m so thankful when they do.

  5. Tirza says:

    Yes to all these needs! And I need the church to recognize that this isn’t just a wish list, but true needs for spiritual health.

  6. debhansen53 says:

    What do I need???
    I need the policy that a woman can only be sealed to her second husband AFTER she dies to be changed so that I can be sealed to both my wonderful first husband, who sadly passed away…and to my equally wonderful second husband. A woman can be sealed to all the men she was married to in this life…AFTER she is dead. If that sealing can take place AFTER I die, why can’t I be sealed to my second husband now…while we are alive???

  7. Katie Rich says:

    Thank you, Bailey. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I find actually spiritually nourishing. It’s definitely a learning process for me, but this is such a good list.

  8. KJ says:

    You mentioned that you long for songs and hymns about the Queen. There’s a beautiful hermnal published by Girl God Books that you may love. They have many wonderful books & anthologies centered on the Divine Feminine. ❤️

  9. larryco_ says:

    I have thoroughly read and used the Church Handbook of Instructions, part 2 in callings in the bishopric and high council for 12 years and I believe that a quiet, thoughtful examination of what is and is not required in ordinances by Church leaders could bring about significant changes – literally – today. First and foremost, it needs to be recognized that only one person having priesthood authority is needed to perform any ordinance. Men mess this up all the time in confirmations and ordinations when they say “we” instead of “I” in the ordinance, as though the others in the circle form a sort of priesthood power chain that is not needed. As far as I can tell, the circles of men are more a part of ritual and tradition, although they do serve as witnesses, I suppose (although everyone in attendance does that). With this one recognition, the following could be changed:

    1) mothers hold their baby in baby blessings.
    2) women participate in “laying on of hands” for the sick.
    3) women help prepare the sacrament (as noted above).
    4) mothers and other female relatives are part of the circle in confirmations, ordinations, setting apart (as in class presidencies and callings), etc.
    5) women share the role of witnesses in sealings
    6) all practices – including in the temple – need to be looked at carefully to separate the ritual/tradition from the essential ordinance and appropriate adjustments be made.

    I agree with many – but not all – of your above recommendations. If this church is to fulfill it’s mission to bring people to Jesus, it is essential that women participate 50/50 in everything, bringing their spiritual gifts to the grown-ups table. But, instead of adding hymns about women, though, I want to remove all of the hymns that praise men and focus completely on the Savior. Instead, I would recommend a readjustment of Sunday School curriculum to do away with the non-spiritual/non-uplifting elements of scriptures (which is 75% of the OT) and add wonderful stories of women and men trying to live Christ-like lives, not for the purpose of venerating them but to serve as examples.

  10. Elisa says:

    @larryco maybe the Church needs women to participate 75/25 or more. Men have been at 100% for a long time.

  11. larryco_ says:

    I have no problem with that.

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