I spent this conference weekend in Utah, attending the second Ordain Women event asking to attend the Priesthood session of conference. I was planning on still being there today to meet with people who worked for the Church to have discussions about how to help the women of the church, but the meetings I had worked so hard to line up all got canceled. And I am left wounded and grieving and trying to not let go of faith in my people.
I’ve been writing and talking about this all so much that I am loathe to recap it all again. My OW sister Annie wrote a post that speaks for me as well. Read this.
What has been so deeply saddening in all this is not that we were turned away, I expected that. What has been so difficult is how we’ve been treated. Denied from the sacred ground our ancestors built and told to stand with the protesters screaming violence and obscenities in our faces. Our every action and mere existence interpreted with suspicion, people projecting poor behavior on us because their pride was wounded. Cars full of white shirts and ties yelling at us. Online commenters and friends I’ve known for years telling me that I don’t understand the gospel or must not have a testimony.
This is a video my friend Troy Williams took of me asking for entry:
I took her, and myself, honestly, by surprise when I went in for that hug. I was near the beginning of the line and when I hugged her, she bristled. But I was overcome and couldn’t help myself. I had empathy for her. I knew that what she was doing was going to be physically and spiritually exhausting and I felt for her. When I went in for the hug I whispered in her ear, “I know this will be hard for you today. Thank you so much for being here and letting us do this.” That’s when you can see her pat my arms and say, “OK, take care.”
I am grateful for the spirit of love I felt that allowed me to be empathetic to her. As Annie wrote in the link above, over the course of the day, she softened. I don’t think that the PR department had any idea that we were actually earnest seekers. I think they came prepared for people waging a manipulative and deceptive battle and by the end of it, I think at least Kim understood that we were not there to cause trouble or embarrassment. We were there honestly.
The statements coming out of the PR department are not honest. And that breaks my heart. In part because I know these people, I’ve had great associations with them, it hurts to have them think such nefarious things about me and it hurts me to see them not living up to their own values. Bear says, “PR people are PR people. They’re going to do whatever they have to do to protect who’s paying them.” But I want to believe that people who work for the church would still place their morals above their job performance. And the statements issued contain demonstrable lies. There’s no way to sugar coat that. Believe me, I’ve tried. I want to find a way to make it OK, and the truth is that it’s just not.
When people think that I’m doing all this for reasons other than my own earnest devotion to truth and justice, it never fails to shock me. There are people who honestly believe that I get something out of this. That I’m a ‘try-hard’ who wants to fit in with ‘the world,’ and I’m doing all this for attention. I can’t help but chuckle ruefully and shake my head. Here’s the truth: ‘the world’ doesn’t care about Mormons. They think we’re an adorably out of touch religion at best and a source of oppression at worst. I take heat from all sides, I don’t get any credit there at all.
Instead, if I were able to put all this away and fit in as a Good Mormon Woman I would be dramatically more successful. Because of my activism I have lost book deals, sponsorships, readers, friends, family, community, jobs, careers, speaking tours, and more opportunities than I can count. So often we members think that we are sacrificing to live our values, without ever looking at how much we gain by being “community approved,” particularly when Mormons have such a huge presence in the blogging, publishing, and craft worlds. By following my heart and the Spirit I am “community approved” exactly no where and it has had a major impact on my work.
But if I didn’t do it, I could never ask for another prayer to be answered. I could never ask for another blessing. I would know that I hadn’t lived up to what I had been asked to do and couldn’t be worthy of more. I don’t know why God has given me this road to walk, but he has. And I know that to be true with the same fervor and in the same way that I know God lives and that I find him in this faith. To deny one I’d have to deny the other. And I won’t.
Photo by D’Arcy Benincosa