Guest Post: Yes, I Want You Back at Church

This post is a response to Chiaroscuro’s post “So You Want Me Back At Church

by Rowena

Dear Chiaroscuro (Or any of my several favorite friends who have left),

I do want you to come back to church. I’ll tell you why. When you leave, I am more lonely at church. I really love you, and want you to bring your whole self to church, just how you are right now.

There is a lot of conformity at church, and frankly, it gets boring. I do not need you to conform. I need to be refreshed. I want to see something I haven’t seen before. I want to hear new perspectives. I’d like to hear conflicting ideas there, because it is in the conflict that I reflect, learn, and grow.

I do not need whitewashed church narratives. I have read enough church history to put me through a hard faith transition. Sometimes I feel like the only one who has complicated belief but decided to stay. I know I’m not the only one, but sometimes it feels that way.

I have space for you to speak your mind, even if you disagree. I often disagree with things said, but because no one else speaks up I feel silenced. If another dissenter came, one who was brave enough to speak, maybe I would feel like I could, too.

I will not shame you if you don’t conform. I apologize if I have not made you comfortable. It is because I am not comfortable either, and in my discomfort it’s harder to turn outward. From the outside I look like a Molly Mormon because I am outwardly conforming. Inside I am a raging feminist, but few know this.

The temple is painful for me, too. I keep my recommend so that I can spend time with the parts of my family who wish me to be there. I was happy about the recent changes, although they were too little, too late for them to transform my worship experience there. Please don’t assume that because I have a recommend, I judge people who don’t have them. I believe you when you say that peace for you is not there, and I will not shame you for staying away.

Please talk about your doubts. I spoke about mine recently in a talk, and in the testimony meeting that followed I heard many things about how we can pray harder and need to hold tight to our testimonies and be obedient. Here is my secret. I am not at church for obedience. Not mine, or anyone else’s. I am at church for love. I am there for family love, ward love, and God and Jesus love. I don’t know everything I used to about Christ anymore, but I know he taught love. And I believe in love.

I will not judge you if you dress differently. If you do, and keep showing up, maybe I’ll finally get the courage to wear pants to church. Or talk to you. I do not want you to look and act like me. I want you with your black toenails or your pierced nose, or your pantsuit, or anything that is a break from the regular monotony. If I look at you, and you think I am judging your difference, you might be wrong. I might be appreciating, and hoping that eventually we will be friends. I might be glad that you are here as your genuine self, ready to be really seen.

I am with you on the hardships of the literal beliefs many at church have. I don’t bring up my position on this at church because I have worked hard to let go of my “true / false” mindset. A true / false mindset is easy to fall into in the church, and it is hard to let go of even outside of the church. I still haven’t mastered the non-binary way of thinking. I don’t think most people at church are ready for it, either. So I let them be. I am still learning and working on ways to push this thinking, but gently.

I respect healthy boundaries, and if you miss a meeting that seems useless I will only miss seeing your face. I will not judge. Yes, you can say no. Yes, yes, yes you can. I tried saying no recently, and it was great.

I know God is not found only in the LDS church. I have sensed this since I was young.
Great Art, Architenture, Music, and Literature reinforce this for me. So yes, I am with you on that, too.

I believe that the best place to ask for change is in the place where it is possible to create it. So yes, I want you back. I want more people in my local community who feel the way I do, and are not afraid to speak up. Speaking out is less hard when it’s done with friends in the room.

I am sorry for the internalized shame you have felt. I do wish to mourn with those that mourn. One problem I have is that I experience high degrees of empathy, and I think that when serious self-hatred and shame need to be processed, a therapist is a better person than I am to help get through. I have worked through so many of my most painful things with my therapist. She is like an angel sent to me. She has given me the tools I need to work toward a functional resilience.

I have no excuse for Joseph Smith and the things he did. I think it is reasonable to have high expectations of leaders. I don’t believe in polygamy. It would be a lie to say I never have. Through hearing the voices of other women I realized the wrongness of polygamy and flaws of patriarchy. When like minded women leave the church, they are less likely to help women like me move forward. I understand the feelings of betrayal in learning about church history. I have felt sadness and loss over knowledge gained.

When you say I don’t want you back, we will have to respectfully disagree. It is hard enough to have lost so many parts of my once-solid faith. To lose Sunday time with a sympathetic friend is just another loss, and it hurts, too. If you need me to make church a safe space for people like you, I need you to be there to show me how.

Now, I feel like you were telling us what you need, and I have told what I want. I realize that your needs and my wants may not meet. I know that not all paths lead to the same place and time ( Church. 10:30, Sunday morning). I know that we all have to do what is needful for us, and if it is needful for you to create your own new space, I will process my loss. I’ll hope to find ways to make it continue to work for me. I just wanted you to know that I do have space for doubters, angry women, and non-conformers. Just because I have lost Sunday time with you, doesn’t mean that I don’t still want you in my life. I still want you for my friend, and sister, and always will.

Rowena

Rowena is a working mom, gardener, and secretly aspiring writer.

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13 Responses

  1. ASR says:

    Thank you, these words spoke to me because my heart recognizes them as my own.

  2. Lorraine Jeffery says:

    Yes! Well said.

  3. Holly O’Neil Andrus’s says:

    Thank you for communicating my feelings so well. I morn the loss of folks who somehow lump me with those I would not be lumped with….leaving me feeling oh so alone….because I stay.

  4. Nadia says:

    Thank you for this piece, Rowena. Your writing so perfectly describes what I feel too. Thanks for making me and others know we’re not alone 🙂

  5. Allison says:

    “Speaking out is less hard when it’s done with friends in the room.” This – oh, yes. If I’m to speak, I need friends. As a friend, I need your voice. And as Rowena writes, I understand if our wants and needs don’t meet.

  6. Chiaroscuro says:

    thank you for your loving words. I know there are some wonderful people that would want me at church just how I am, but most do not. and I have had enough spiritual trauma, I am not willing to be there to teach other people how to be kind to doubters at church right now. I am sure there are plenty of other doubters in each ward each week. perhaps silently suffering because they feel alone. I am so glad there are people like you there to love and support them where they are, please be loud enough that they will know who to reach out to when they are ready, and hopefully find themselves less alone when they need it most <3

    • Mormonish says:

      Ditto. Also, to those who say they want to be friends with me even if I’m a doubter, or have unresolvable differences, but I should keep coming anyway to make it easier for them: I understand the feeling, and sympathize. But if I have decided that church is not a safe place for me to be, there’s nothing stopping you from spending time with me somewhere else, is there? Or is there?

  7. PP67 says:

    Thank you for writing this! I really needed to hear it. I wish I could find you in my ward. You very well may be in my ward, many of you, but I don’t feel your presence. I wish somehow you could send me a signal or something so I knew how to find you. I am finding myself detaching myself from people (dear friends) because I am afraid of what I might say or do and how they may react. I’m afraid of being labeled or put on a dreaded list. I have such a hard time keeping my mouth shut! I keep worrying what I am going to do when it is time to get my temple recommend renewed. What will I say? Do I lie to them? My husband wants to keep a temple recommend and attend church every week just so he can fly under the radar and stay off “the list”. In some ways it was so much easier when I was “all in”. But at least now I feel like I am truly me. I feel like I finally think for myself. Where are you in my ward? How do I find you? Stand with me and help me navigate this difficult road.

  8. Anon says:

    You say that you have a temple recommend. You say that you do not believe in polygamy. In the temple recommend interview you have to say “yes” to believing that Joe Smith was a prophet. Well, Joseph Smith = polygamy, polyandry, and coercive underage marriages.
    So when you say “yes, Joseph Smith was a prophet,” you are also saying “yes” to polygamy and coercive underage marriages. That is what Latter-day Saints believe – that polygamy came from God (church essays).
    While I don’t like black and white thinking, there is no gray for me. For me, polygamy did not come from God. Joeseph Smith was a predator.
    Also, 10% of my money will not go to The Church anymore. I will give it to a real charity that is financially transparent about where the money goes. The Church can easily collect $1,000,000 from a ward and give $5,000 back for the ward budget. Really? Where does the rest of that go? To $200,000,000 empty tourist temples, only open for three hours a day, by appointment only.
    Yeah, huge, hard pass on the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    • Anon says:

      *(Rome Temple)
      *(You need to pay 10% to keep up a temple recommend)

    • Nadia says:

      Hi Anon,
      I don’t have a temple recommend, but I can imagine saying “yes” to believing Joseph Smith was a prophet and, at the same time, believing that polygamy was not commanded from God and that he was predator like you say. Prophets are not perfect. And that idea is something that should change in church culture. In my previous ward, I was lucky to have found other members that would have agreed with this publicly. Culture and believes can change for better. Perhaps slowly, but they do.

  9. Susan Mallamo says:

    I could have written everything you said just not as well. Thank you. My heart aches for sisterhood at church so I try and nurture myself with this site, good books and loved ones from afar.

  10. Danam says:

    Rowena! We need to have lunch!

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