Like A Fire #MormonMeToo
When I was a teenager, my stake adopted “The Spirit of God” as a theme song for the young men/young women programs. I always felt a thrill at the opening words, “The spirit of God, like a fire is burning. The latter-day glory begins to come forth!” I imagined my pioneer ancestors singing that same song at the dedication of the Kirtland temple, bursting, like I was, with all the conviction and certainty in the world that this was God’s work. That we were part of a chosen people. That this Church was something special.
Fire has always been a symbol full of contradictions. Fire brings warmth and light, but can also destroy and burn. The spirit of God burns in our bosom. So does anger.
In Wicca fire is holy, representing destruction and creation, death and rebirth. The idea of birth through fire is mirrored stories and myths and belief systems throughout history. The mythical bird, the phoenix, grows and matures through its life cycle until it catches fire and a new phoenix is born from the ashes. In the New Testament John the Baptist says “Indeed I baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire,” (Matthew 3:11). Baptism is a metaphorical recreation of the resurrection; baptism by fire, by some interpretations, is the rebirth that comes from true conversion to Jesus Christ, when our hearts become new.
It seems that this idea has its roots in the natural world. Small, regularly occurring forest fires help clear out underbrush, allowing new plants be exposed to the sun and grow strong. Some trees, like the Eucalyptus, even require fire to release their seeds. The clearing of underbrush prevents future fires as well, by pruning tree branches that are close to the ground and eliminating potential tinder. That same underbrush, allowed to accumulate too long, can result in larger, catastrophic fires later, and may prevent new trees from developing. Some trees, the ponderosa pine for example, are equipped to cope with small fires and remain behind to produce new seeds.
This week I, like many of you, have been burning with holy anger, and in that anger I feel the Spirit of God. I am mad as hell that Rob Porter’s wives’ accounts of his abuse were dismissed and brushed aside. I am raging at the recording that was released where a former MTC president admits to sexually assaulting multiple women. I am furious that one of the survivor’s bishops did not report her claims to law enforcement because he decided she was not credible. I am livid at the Church’s response to the recording, and at the systems that the Church has perpetuated that allow such abuse to flourish, unchecked and protected in its shadows. I have read the experiences and views of many other women in the Church who are equally as angry as I am.
We need that anger now. We need it to motivate us to continue pushing for change, even in the face of seemingly deaf Church leaders. We need a cleansing, angry fire, that will clear out the toxic underbrush of rape culture and misogyny, modesty rhetoric and priesthood exceptionalism, that have grown in the shadow of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to clear out the bad so the good – compassion, inclusivity, love, Christ-like humility – can flourish and expand.
I pray that the events of this week spark change. I pray that the anger many of us feel can be channeled into real and necessary action. I pray that it’s not too late. I pray that there enough good left for the forest to survive and recover. I pray that there’s not too much dead undergrowth, and that this fire does not prove catastrophic. I pray that we, like the eucalyptus and ponderosa pine, can come through this necessary and well-deserved fire stronger and healthier.