#hearLDSwomen: “We don’t need you.”
“I’d like to know why you don’t have a current temple recommend.”
I sat across from my bishop, stunned. This is not how I envisioned this meeting. As one of the few visible musicians in the ward, I was certain that I was going to be called to replace the ward choir director. I had already mentally rehearsed my speech about how I did music for a living six days a week, and how my current work situation wasn’t going to allow for me to take on another huge project. I was sure he would say ok, and I would go back to being the primary pianist, my forever and ever calling in the church.
The bishop had clearly not read my mental script.
For years I have struggled with my relationship with God, with the patriarchy in the temple ceremonies and in the church, with the PoX, with not getting answers to prayers, with church culture, practices, doctrine, with the never-ending checklist of “things you have to do to be a Good and Acceptable Mormon Woman.”
I tried to shut the conversation down with “I am struggling with several things regarding the church and the temple, and I have deliberately chosen not to hold a temple recommend right now. I’m not comfortable talking about it with you, but I will let you know and schedule an appointment with you if that changes.”
He refused to accept that as an answer, and finally, in a gesture, of good faith vulnerability, I told him. I struggle with my role as a woman, I struggle with the eternal destiny of women, it physically hurts me to be in the temple and covenant to my husband instead of God, and hear the holiest and highest thing I can aspire to as a woman is a queen and priestess to my husband. I spoke of my longing for Heavenly Mother, and how was I supposed to proceed as a woman in the church when no one knows or speaks of the eternal role of women? I related how I was trying to learn who I was as a woman, and who I was to God, outside of being someone’s wife or mother. I said, finally, that if it weren’t for my husband and my children, I would no longer be attending church.
He had no satisfying answers for me. Of course, there were the usual platitudes of “I love and respect women and they have an important role in the church,” and “Sometimes I think people need to be in the temple, even if they don’t feel ready” and “I don’t understand what you mean about wanting to understand your role as a woman outside of being a wife and a mother,” along with the admonitions to be grateful, read my scriptures and pray more. As our meeting concluded, he said to me, “Just don’t wait too long. You should be in the temple.”
Two months later, a text message: “Would you meet with a member of the bishopric on Tuesday evening?” Curiosity got the better of me, this time I found myself face to face with a counselor in the bishopric, a man I had never before spoken to.
“We’re going to release you as primary pianist,” he said, “we don’t need you in that calling anymore. And we don’t have another calling for you. We thought you could use a break for a while.”
Once again, I was shocked. There is not an abundance of musicians in the ward, and as any musician in the church can tell you, once you’re in a music calling, you don’t get released without a really good reason. He may as well have said “There’s not a place for you here. Even if you’re one of 2 or 3 people in the ward that can perform this calling. Even if the primary program is in a few weeks. You don’t have a temple recommend. We don’t want YOU.”
My suspicions about what had been decided behind closed doors was confirmed the next week, when a counselor in the Relief Society Presidency was called as primary pianist, leaving a hole in the RS Presidency, that still, weeks later, hasn’t been filled. The message from my ward leadership couldn’t be clearer:
“You didn’t accept the call to repentance. We gave you time to reconsider and come back, and you didn’t obey. You aren’t worthy, You aren’t wanted, You aren’t needed. Even in this, the most minor of callings, we cannot allow you to serve. We would rather have a hole in the Relief Society presidency and release you than have you behind the piano.”
Today, the new primary pianist got up and shared her testimony about how difficult it was for her to be released from the Relief Society and to accept the calling as primary pianist.
I have struggled for many years to keep my metaphorical shelf intact. This experience has left my shelf shattered with the pieces of my former testimony all over the floor. Because either this bishopric decided that I wasn’t worthy to serve and released me as a form of soft discipline, or God himself decided that He was done with me in the church, all with the message, said clearly as day: “We don’t need you anymore.”
Forty years I have given my best efforts, my time, my husband, my children, my money, my emotional energy, everything I am to this church. Now that I question, doubt, even when the questioning and doubting is done in the assumed privacy of the bishop’s office, the church no longer needs me. Now that I don’t fit neatly into the box of the believing, faithful, Mormon woman, I might corrupt the primary children through incessant repetitions of “A Child’s Prayer.”
If I were to walk in the door of any Christian denomination and say “I would like to come to your services every week. I will give you 10% of my income and I’m happy to play the piano free of charge whenever you need me. But I’m struggling with my relationship with God and Jesus, can you still accept me?” I imagine that I would be welcomed with open arms.
Mormonism, we have to do better.
Jesus never said, “Come, Follow me, but only if you already have perfect faith.”
The scripture doesn’t say, “Come unto me, all you that are heavy laden and I will give you rest, but only if you’ve served honorably and faithfully, and you never express any doubt about the gospel or temple or church administration.”
I’m not angry, though I was.
For years as I’ve struggled through my faith crisis, I have continually prayed and fasted with one purpose in mind: “Please let me know that I have a place here. A place in this ward, a place in this church. Please help me to know that I’m needed.”
Sometimes answers to prayers come in ways you don’t expect.
So now, I move forward. To seek answers, peace, a place to belong outside the four walls of Mormonism. I couldn’t be more excited.
Lynne is a musician and mother of five who spends her days managing the chaos of five children, laughing at the joke that is balancing career and motherhood, and dreaming of a novel and the beach.
“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)