What Does Active Mean Anyway?

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Recently in a conversation a person I was talking with stated somewhat jokingly that whether or not I consider myself ‘active’ in the church probably changes from day-to-day. The comment caught me off guard and surprised me. I’ve never thought of myself as active or inactive. Upon reflection though, I understood this person likely made that comment because my church participation currently looks much different than it did two years ago.

Strike 1: Mine and my children’s records are not in our geographical ward. This came about after one of my children experienced years of exclusion, a particularly insidious form of bullying, with unsuccessful attempts at addressing the issue with other parents and church leaders. Add to this a young women’s president informing me during the pre-vaccine days of the pandemic that my daughters were not welcome at YW camp and other activities if I was concerned about covid prevention measures and we were out of of that ward. I moved our records to a ward near where we used to live (benefits of living in an area with a high number of church members and a friend who cared more about the welfare of my family than he did checking boxes on rules). Doing this means that the people in the neighborhood where I live haven’t seen me at their ward since pre-pandemic days. I’ve heard of several rumors swirling about me; the most recent rumor a friend told me about is that my husband and I are separated. It’s likely the people sharing rumors consider me inactive.

Strike 2: My attendance the past number of months hasn’t been consistent. The ward my records are in was unfortunately dissolved a few months ago. It was devastating news that was executed poorly as the stake president and bishop kept repeating how wonderful it will be to now have enough young men to pass the sacrament. While I know them to be kind men who mean well, they are also oblivious to how their words come across to a woman with daughters who is desperately trying to stay in a church that says it is nice if females serve but that we aren’t needed. After the ward rearrangement, I could barely muster the desire to attend every other week. Throw in summer travel and my attendance has been sporadic. I’m sure I appear quite inactive to the new bishop.

Strike 3: For a number of psychological health reasons, in the last year I have chosen to wear garments only on Sundays. It’s been one of the best choices of my life. Although my clothing hasn’t changed, there have been a couple of times encountering neighbors at the grocery store where I can tell they first look to see if I am wearing a wedding ring and then their eyes start roving my body. Note to people who garment check: it’s obvious. It’s also disturbing. If they can’t find the lines they are looking for – lines that are typically much more obvious on women than on men – do they consider me inactive?

Three strikes against orthopraxy, right practices that members of the LDS church typically use to categorize someone as active or inactive. Does my level of orthopraxy mean I am inactive?

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While on the outside I may look different, theologically I still think much the same as two years ago. I do have more clarity about how what I believe influences how I show up in the world. I am still 100% about Jesus and not church culture. I still believe in Heavenly Mother. I still believe in Heavenly Father although I tend to talk about God more because it is a term that I believe is more encompassing of Deity. I still believe that we are all one in Christ Jesus. I still believe in an open, expanding scripture cannon and have hope that the Gospel Mary Magdalene will be included in the LDS cannon. I still believe that LGBTQ+ people are loved by God and deserve a place in the church just like anyone else. I still believe that church leaders are tasked with leading the church and that they are fallible human beings. Most days I want to believe they are doing their best with what they have even while simultaneously being horrified at many of the institution’s actions and policies. I still believe complementarianism is incorrect. I still want to know what changes and contributions Chieko Okazaki and the 1995 Relief Society presidency would have made to the family proclamation. I still going to choke or shrivel of spiritual starvation if I have to sit through one more sacrament meeting talk or RS lesson based on a general conference talk. I still suspect I might actually like Relief Society if it was the independent woman-led and woman-run organization it was a hundred years ago instead of the devoured-by-male-leadership hollowed out shell that it is today. I still can’t wait for more diversity in the hymn book. I still think ritual has power and am still strangled by some aspects of the temple ceremony. I still address my prayers to my Heavenly Parents. I still believe that a male-only priesthood is a human idea not God’s. I still love the Bible and the messages of Jesus. I still believe God speaks in many ways to people all over the world. I still believe there are good people in the world.

Are my beliefs orthodox enough to be considered active? Who gets to decide?

Oh yes, and I am still a feminist which to me means that I am team partnership over patriarchy. I believe everyone deserves an opportunity to contribute and grow.

Is there a place for me to belong? What does active mean anyway?

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3 Responses

  1. Katie Ludlow Rich says:

    That’s such a tough place to be in. It’s hard to know there are rumors and judgement about you and your family. Good for you for thinking deeply about what you believe and what feels right for how to practice that belief.

  2. Em says:

    The definition of active does seem so fluid — especially when there are those who rail against cafeteria mormons. So if you bypass a single dish are you no longer fully in? And what does that mean in a world where even the most self-righteous are actually skipping courses all the time (the prophets said plant a garden, write in a journal, actively participate in family history etc. etc. There are alllll kinds of prophetic recommendations the holiest still don’t manage, because no one can do it all).

    I’m sorry your wards aren’t safe places to be. I’m appalled that the YW leaders shoved you out because you wanted people to wear masks. It makes no sense to me how eager some are to shove out the orthodox while simultaneously preaching about missionary work and bringing people in. It would be a lot easier to retain someone than to convert someone so maybe work on not actively alienating people you don’t see eye to eye with?

  3. You belong with me :). I like your church.

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