I was (and am) pregnant and in the throes of hyperemesis gravidarum (think morning sickness on steroids) and I’d already spent a solid four weeks in bed doing all in my power to keep enough liquids down to avoid getting into the Bad Place. (Think shaking, sobbing and hospital trips for hydration.) It had been a long day of feeling pretty much useless–I couldn’t take care of my toddler, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t do anything about all the dishes in our sink. I got in bed, ready to be done with the day, trying not to think about the fact that tomorrow was guaranteed to be just as awful, when David walked in the room. “Did you see the announcement?” he asked.
From the look on his face I knew it was bad.
At that point, all there was online were two articles from local news stations about a change in our church’s policy. Children with gay parents were no longer going to be allowed to be blessed as infants, or baptized as children. Baptism as an 18 year old would require the person to move out on their own and disavow their parent(s)’ lifestyle. Their baptism would also require the first presidency’s approval.
We were stunned. And horrified. We read the articles like five times. Finally we went to sleep and I dreamt about it all night. And then when I woke up I cried. There had to be some kind of miscommunication–why hadn’t the church itself released anything? Could they really have drawn such an ugly, hurtful line?
All that weekend my Facebook blew up with inflammatory posts, almost all on one far side or the other. I couldn’t decide which posts were worse: the hateful you-people-are-the-worst-I’m-so-glad-I-have-nothing-to-do-with-you camp, or the forceful follow-the-prophet-under-all-circumstances camp.
The first were just kind of hurtful–I totally understand that people have been hurt–badly–by the LDS church and carry around scars, but didn’t they remember that people they loved (and that loved them) were still active members? Why did they think it was ok to call us sheep, or bigots, when we’d been just as stunned by the announcement and were trying to process it just like everyone else?
And then, what about the members of the church who were so staunchly behind the announcement, even before the church even made any kind of official announcement? Didn’t they remember that our religion was founded on the belief that you needed to question and get answers for yourself? That the church began when a 14-year-old boy asked and received an answer from God? Why weren’t people taking the time to process and think and pray before getting online and fighting with everyone?
And then there was a third camp, including my family, that didn’t post, and didn’t engage, and just sat in their homes and talked and talked and talked about what they were going to do. I could not believe how heartbroken I felt, and how torn David and I both felt on the issue. Lucky for us, we were on the same page, the general consensus being this: we believe in the LDS church and being a part of it helps us feel closer to God, but this announcement feels wrong, so do we have to leave? And then what does that mean for our family?
Both of us have been feeling uncomfortable with the church’s stance on gay marriage for a long time now, and we discuss and pray about the church very, very often. (You knew that, right? That just because a person is religious and you don’t see the inner turmoil, doesn’t mean it isn’t there?) These are the questions that always seem to dominate our discussions: Is this the right place to raise our family? Is this the best place for Sam to learn about God? Is it helping us be Christ-like people?
I had actually prayed (hard) about the issue of gay marriage and our church about a week before, and my answer had come to me clearly: Don’t worry about whether or not gay marriage is right or wrong, that’s up to me. The only thing you need to worry about is following me.
It might have been a little easier if my answer had said something like: Stay in the Mormon Church. Or Leave the Mormon Church. But it didn’t. It said follow Me. Which left me with plenty of gray area.
The weekend of the announcement I was scheduled to teach all the adult women in the third hour of church, which was pretty unfortunate. I was so nervous about going. What if it was full of teachings that felt wrong? What if I cried the whole time? (I did.) What if God wasn’t there anymore?
To be honest, I wasn’t excepting Him to be. I had felt so incredibly conflicted and miserable all weekend, but after about 10 minutes of sitting in the chapel I was shocked. Despite my misgivings, God was still there. I saw a whole lot of imperfect–people grappling with their own issues, people who were heartbroken and confused and worried about what all this would mean to people they really, really, loved. But it was still the same place where I’d learned to pray, and trust God, and take care of others. God was still there. And I felt peace. And I still do.
It isn’t the tidy kind of peace I wish it were. It doesn’t clear away all of my questions and misgivings and concerns. It doesn’t clear away my fears for the future. But it does tell me that I am still in a place that will help me grow spiritually. If one day that changes, and God tells me I need to be elsewhere, then I will go there. I won’t stop questioning or wondering or trying to find my own answers, because that is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Faith is important, yes, but that’s how you gain it. By going to Him. And I cannot–not with any integrity–discount what an incredibly positive and powerful impact the church has had in mine and my family’s life. It has taught me so much and carried me through so much. And it has strengthened my family so much. (Have you been around my family? Have they sucked you in and fed you mass quantities of pasta and added you to their terrible group texts so they can tell you on a regular basis how much they love you? We aren’t perfect, but we certainly love each other and we certainly love you.)
And in case any of you were wondering: I love you. I love your families and your children. I love all families and I believe that God does too. My arms and home are open wide to you, and I hope you will let me and my family be welcome in yours. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve realized that along with all the questions I’m packing around, I’m also carrying around the ability to be patient and kind. So I am going to try my very hardest to be just that. Thank you to everyone who has been my example. I’ve always believed that good is outweighing the bad in this world, and the past few weeks have made me believe it even more. XO