Finding My Voice
There was a point in my life when I started experiencing a great deal of religious angst. I was desperate for an open environment where I could blab about all of my questions and concerns without someone interrupting to tell me that I would probably go to Hell. Most of my more liberal friends lived far away and I felt like I was wearing out my poor husband, since he was my only sounding board left. I was not at all interested in talking to a male authority figure, such as a bishop, because many of my concerns centered on religious patriarchy.
One day, I wrote a detailed essay at my personal blog about a religious issue that was bothering me. However, I didn’t dare to post it. What if my family freaked out and thought I was a crazy apostate? Still, the writing process had been soothing, so I started regularly journaling my concerns at my blog, always saving the products as drafts without posting them.
But just writing my thoughts wasn’t enough. What I really needed was to talk to someone else about these things and get some feedback.
My ever supportive husband recognized my dilemma. One day, he came home from work and told me he had talked to a Mormon chaplain about me at the hospital where he worked and she—I cut him off. “She?” I interrupted. “Mormon women can be chaplains?” I had no idea. What splendid news!
My husband had asked the chaplain where I might actually post one or two of these permanent draft blog posts. She referred me to the Exponent II.
I found the website and sent in a guest post. Caroline received my post with kindness. She posted it a few days later and sent me an email saying, “Send us more.”
So now my secret, potentially apostate thoughts were out there for the whole world to see. I read the comments on my post and realized that my thoughts weren’t crazy—they weren’t even all that original! Many other people had been thinking about the same thing for a long time. I finally had the supportive, reassuring feedback I craved.
I felt better, but like an addict, I immediately wanted more. I sent another guest post. Caroline had been encouraging, right?
When I sent my third guest post in, I added a little note, “Do you ever look for new permabloggers?”
Pretty presumptuous, huh? Here I was, a nonintellectual Mormon without any particular religious advocacy experience, just inviting myself to join a blog populated by feminist Mormon superstars who had been advocating about religious issues for years. I sat there with my finger on the keyboard for a while, daring myself to hit “send” before I finally got up the nerve.
Another Mormon website, with an apparently large and more conservative following, linked to my final guest post. By the end of the day, thousands of people had read my thoughts about the temple recommend interview, including many who left comments indicating their none-too-flattering opinion of me. So, now there were countless scores of Mormons who considered me to be at best an idiot who couldn’t understand basic temple recommend questions or at worst an apostate who recklessly criticized sacred things through global media.
In spite of the criticism, I was surprised to realize that I was okay. I could take it. I was stronger than I had thought. I had been terrified that someone would think I was an apostate. Now, many people did and I didn’t care because I didn’t believe them. I was no apostate. They were wrong.
You’ve heard the saying—negative attention is better than no attention. I never believed that saying before, but maybe it is true. Being silent is hard. Being heard feels so much better, even when others don’t always like what they are hearing.
For too long, I had no voice about religious issues. Most Mormon women don’t. There are precious few leadership positions for women and the women who get those are selected by men, perhaps because they tend to agree with men. But I had finally found my voice. And now I felt better.