Guest Post: Calling Home

By Malena Crockett

Along with so many others, I listened to Dallin Oaks deliver his recent Saturday general conference address with a mix of sorrow and horror. His message—undoubtedly intended to move the rank and file to a greater commitment to the church—had the additional effect of further marginalizing untold numbers of souls who can never fit the narrow gender and marriage definitions he spelled out. This must have been how Obi-Wan felt the moment Alderaan was blasted apart by the death star, as if millions of voices had suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

As I watched the online expressions of sorrow, grief, and fury grow to a roiling crescendo over the following hours, I finally had to acknowledge the sense of having been shoved ever closer to the outer fence line of my own cultural and religious identity. I was already struggling and arguing with myself about whether to stay or leave. Less than two weeks ago I sent an email to a trusted devoutly LDS friend, begging him to help me find a way to reconcile my nearly two hundred years of Mormon heritage with what the church looks like today. He apparently did not know what to say to me, because he hasn’t written back. And now this. Oaks’ message to me was “you don’t fit, you can’t fit, and God doesn’t want you.” That may not have been what he thought he meant, but that was the message he sent. I got it, loud and clear.

Later that evening, I was processing what—if anything—to do with this re-emphasis on my misfit status. My personal news feeds continued to light up with new posts from others who felt the same cosmic shift I had felt when another shift hit: faithful sisters started to announce that they were following the prophet’s counsel to go cold turkey on social media for the next ten days. Amid the threads piling up with discussion of this double whammy, yet another cry for help surfaced from one who was also suffering, trying to find some shred of hope, a spiritual lifeline to cling to.

At first I thought “I’ve got nothin’, I feel exactly the same way.” I found myself feeling profoundly grateful for the internet and the otherwise unlikely connections the world wide web gives us as individuals. I was especially grateful right then that one person who was in pain knew someone would be watching if she sent up a flare; someone somewhere would see her and understand her distress and offer comfort. I was grateful that she had attended to her own needs, grateful she had depended on her own inspiration and understanding. I was grateful that she had exercised her option to seek solace with kindred spirits rather than cutting off her telecommunications, and found myself trying to think of something I could say to her that would ease her sorrow. In that moment, a message came to me in crystal clear and finished form. It rushed in and demanded to be shared with my new friend-I’ve-never-met and with anyone else who may be searching for a light at the end of this long dark tunnel. It came to me with instructions to share, so now I’m sharing it with you. This is the message:

*Calling Home*
It’s branding season again.
Molten tears searing, surging,
up,
out,
struggle to fill the gaping wound in my soul,
topple from their flooded precipice,
plummeting to perdition
before they can find their mark.
My sonic screams reach heaven.
Mother
– ever tuned to hear distress above the din –
Tenderly, so tenderly,
cloaks my broken heart
With a lullaby:
“Let them have their rules,
Their codes,
Their labels,
Their shame.
Know this:
You need not fit, nor bend
To heartless will.
Rise, breathe, live.
Shine. Glow.
Radiate.
Show them
You never were and are not theirs.
You are mine.”

There it was: the spark I had been looking for, the reason to keep listening and thinking, solid manifestation of the divine feminine that stands ready to help us all in our darkest hours and to celebrate with us in our moments of joy. Her message helped me. My friend said it helped her. I hope it helps others. If she sends me any more messages, I promise to keep in touch so I can share them with you, too.

Malena Crockett is a novelist, a poet, a memoirist, and a sixth generation descendant of Mormon pioneer emigrants. She keeps one finger on the pulse of contemporary Mormonism, and writes of her own and her ancestors’ experiences as participants in the evolution of nearly two centuries of Mormon faith and community. Her web site is www.MalenaCrockett.com

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19 Responses

  1. Violadiva says:

    I love these analogies! Yes, the wound of being told who we are and what we are by men who are NOT those things is growing wearying and tiresome for me.

    • Thank you, and Amen. I appreciate your understanding of this sensitive issue. When the only voices we are allowed to hear are those of the dominant alphas, speaking up often feels like shouting into an echo chamber. It’s lovely to be heard.

  2. Glenn Thigpen says:

    But in all reality, what did you expect? What do you expect going forward? Do you really have any hope, any expectations that the Chuch will ever change its stance on the family? The leaders of the church are not going to take a poll and find out what a majority of the members think and modify their proclamations in accordance with popular opinion? I am afraid that those leaders are never going to tell people what they want to hear. They are going to tell the membership and the world what they believe the Lord has told them to say.

    They are not saying that “you don’t fit, you can’t fit, and God doesn’t want you.” They are saying that God wants you, but you and everyone else must do it God’s way.

    The bottom line is what it always has been. Is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints what it claims to be? You will not find that answer on social media or even in the scriptures. It must come via an affirmation of the Holy Ghost, and that affirmation will only come when one is ready and willing to to bend their will to that of the Father no matter how difficult the process, no matter how tough the path. Jesus the Christ was faced with a task more formidable than anything any other individual or groups of individuals will ever face. He actually shrank from that ordeal and asked that “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” When Christ understood that it was not possible, that God’s way was the only way, He submitted to the will of the Father.

    That is the bottom line. God knows what we need to do to attain exaltation. He knows what works and what doesn’t in that and all other spheres. He knows that it would be cruel and heartless to let His prophets tell people what that want to hear, only to be faced with the real truth when they stand before Him.

    That is what we all need to find and accept here in this life. the real truth. nothing is more important than that. Remember the words of Elijah: “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.”

    Glenn

    • Anon says:

      “What did you expect?” Are you trying to be vile and ugly, Glenn, or is that just how you’re coming across?

      Turns out if you’re not the target population of hateful speech, you’re not even going to understand it’s happening.

      I heard Elder Oak’s wounding speech, and fortunately I also stayed around to hear many apostles and seventies disagree with him.

      Did you hear the scripture Elder Christofferson read? Doctrine and Covenants 112:12-13.

      “And pray for thy brethren of the Twelve. Admonish them sharply for my name’s sake, and let them be admonished for all their sins, and be ye faithful before me unto my name.

      “And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them.”

      Elder Oaks’s talk was so troubling that I wept when I heard Elder Christofferson read that scripture.

      It’s not necessary to be offensive to teach the plan of salvation. Elder Oaks has decided to, but the rest of us don’t have to follow his example, and based on the rest of Conference, most or all of the other apostles and seventies haven’t, which gives me some hope.

    • Lily says:

      I expect them to teach the Gospel which is the same for everyone. I expect them to leave their 1950’s gender roles out of it.

    • Glenn Thigpen:

      You are right: the bottom line is, in fact, the question of whether the TCoJCoLDS is what it claims to be (and its corollary: whether Dallin H. Oaks is in fact speaking for God whenever he opens his mouth). That’s an assessment each of us must make for ourselves.

      Your assumption that I or anyone else would need your priesthood ‘splaining of basic gospel tenets is very much an extension of the kind of theological imperiousness my post was about. Your comments suggest that you subscribe to the same one-size-fits-all religion that Elder Oaks does. Please be reassured, then, that my post wasn’t an attack on you, or on Elder Oaks either. You and he and can certainly carry on believing whatever you like about what God expects.

      Those individuals Elder Oaks so cavalierly casts out as collateral damage in the church’s efforts to rally the troops instinctively understand the distinction between religion and gospel, but that doesn’t lessen the pain of being shamed, shunned, and other-ized by church leaders and members who presume to have superior knowledge and standing before God.

      Fortunately, my relationship with my creator is solid enough that I know I am acceptable just as I am, whether Elder Oaks thinks so or not. Do you really think that poem was written in a fit of idle whining? Let me clarify: My post was a message to people who find themselves on the outside of the boundaries Oaks so emphatically delineated, to let them know there are alternative ways to view the purpose of their existence here and alternative ways to maintain their connection to the divine. If that message doesn’t apply to you, you are welcome to thank your lucky stars, but please don’t presume to tell those who don’t fit into your elite club that all they have to do to feel better is just comply. That kind of thinking makes you part of the problem.

  3. Susan Mallamo says:

    One of my constant mantras. The gospel’s true. The church isn’t. Time/age helps to validate that fact. Love

    • Sally Brandle says:

      A wonderful, powerfully written piece, my dear friend. It gave me goosebumps. You tasted the Kool-Aid and prefer/chose pure, clean, refreshing water? I have LDS friends. My Presbyterian-raised brain simply can’t fathom their dictates. But I respect, cherish, accept, and love them, as I do our Muslim, Catholic and atheist friends. I watched Madame Secretary’s season opener last night. Give it a watch-to the end. Her speech is equally powerful. E pluribus unum. Accept. Listen. Respect. Kindness. Your poem is moving. Get it published. Thank you for sharing. Women occupy more space on earth than men. The pendulum of power is slowly swinging to the middle. We all need to keep pushing. Love, Sal.

      • Sally: Thank you for your kind observations. Your perspective and your encouragement is so valuable, as is your own work to encourage and empower through your writing. Yes – we all need to keep pushing, together. <3

  4. Diana Villafane says:

    Dear Sister Malena: You, and Latter Day Saints women are in my prayers. I understand the love you have for your church and your heritage, but sometimes one has to abandon the structure because it cannot be fixed. I wish you the best.

    • Thank you, Diana. It’s a difficult choice, as you say. I may end up leaving the LDS church ultimately, but I will always be Mormon. There are so many like me. Thank goodness for the internet and places like this where we can find and support each other and share and be heard, and connect with like-minded and sympathetic souls like you. Your kindness and understanding really do help with healing and moving forward. <3

  5. Anon says:

    I didn’t say before that I appreciated this post, but I’ve had lots of feelings — lots of very strong feelings — and nowhere safe to express them until this post, so thank you, Malena.

    • Anon – thank you for that. Good for you, also, for being brave enough to look for a safe space and for speaking up when you felt the need. We must help each other, and you’re doing that, so thank you. You might consider joining the Facebook Exponent II community – the support there is phenomenal. <3

  6. SC says:

    This post is so, so true and right . Thank you!!! Elder Oaks’ talks cemented my decision to finally surrender my temple recommend because I AM DONE sustaining a homophobic misogynistic man in order to be considered in good standing with my God.

    Nelson’s talks didn’t help any, either. Dudes without uteruses have no right to brag about their ten children and lecture us about motherhood. And declaring the word Mormon a “victory for Satan “ is downright heresy. How about sexual abuse? Racism? Homophobia? Transphobia? Families separated at the border? Fundamentalist bigotry tearing families and communities apart? Those are the real victories for Satan—much more than the word Mormon.

    • Anon says:

      You’ll have to make your own decision, but lots of people need you in the Church. You might never suspect who they are, but when I’ve spoken up (in Relief Society, for example, or on Facebook) against messages of hate (or more often just lack of understanding) it’s been a surprise who’s thanked me privately afterward.

  7. Stacy says:

    Malena, thank you for this. I felt exactly this way hearing President Oaks speak. Like if I sat down with him and had a conversation, he would rather me out of the church than in.

    Your poem was deeply moving. Thank you.

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