Sunday, March 5, 2017

One Way to Stand for Truth and Righteousness

Recently I was dismayed to hear that a former LDS General Relief Society President, Elaine criticized the women's march that happened through the nation and the world in January after the inauguration.  While speaking to a group of LDS women, she praised them for being leaders in "contrast to those women who marched." She assumed that LDS women didn't march. "We were in a cab, and as I watched those women marching and yelling," Dalton went on to say, according to a report in the LDS Church-owned Deseret News, " ... behaving anything but ladylike and using language that was very unbefitting of daughters of God, my heart just sunk and I thought to myself, 'What would happen if all those women were marching and calling to the world for a return to virtue?' "

I grew up in the church. I loved serving young women and standing to repeat a motto that includes the words, "I will stand for truth and righteousness..."  Ironically as I participated in the march locally in Ogden, Utah--those words kept coming back to me. I will stand for truth. I will stand and more, even march for righteousness. Those words that I must have repeated aloud hundreds of times and in my mind hundreds more times. To me, standing for something means to defend it. How we choose to defend something we believe in can take many approaches. My approach has been "boots on the ground." Even though for an introvert this is way out of my comfort zone, it feels right to me. I've defended the rights of my LGBTQ friends in Pride marches. And I will continue to defend women in any way that I can. I'm sure Sister Elaine Dalton spoke from a place of misunderstanding rather than purposefully disparaging a diverse group of women, which included in every march around the world, LDS women. 

Dear Sister Dalton, 

Thank you for your countless hours of service on behalf of women (this is sincere--you've certainly given and continue to give your all for our church and for women.) My heart sunk recently when I heard what you said about those of us who chose to participate in solidarity for women and march with over a million others worldwide. You might be surprised to hear that one of the reasons I chose to march was to "call the world for a return to virtue." Virtue by definition means goodness, integrity, decency, honor, ethics, morality etc. I believe that if you had taken the time to get out of your cab and talked to some of the vulnerable and brave women marching you may have found out that their varied reasons were something that you would have supported and believed in. It doesn't take more than a casual observation of the news in the last year leading up to the election to see that decency has been eroded by arrogance and misogyny. Our current president is anything but virtuous in his treatment of women, regularly calling women who dare challenge him the b word and even sometimes the c word. He called Hillary nasty. He said a woman reporter would look pretty "on her knees." I can't even write those words as they are so offensive to me and others. The man bragged about assaulting women and grabbing them by the "pussy." Numerous women have confirmed his own admission. Many women who participated in pageants including our own Miss Utah said he would walk in the dressing room and kiss woman without asking. Need I go on? We were marching to denounce this kind of lewd and unvirtuous treatment and assumed ownership of women. As our own Sister Laurel Thatcher Ulrich a Pulitzer prize winner for history said, "Well-behaved women seldom make history." 

The march may have sounded like a group of loud misbehaved women, but we were standing for truth, equality, and a return to decency and kindness. And yes virtue. Next time Sister Dalton, I would welcome you to join us. I have a friend who will even crochet you a darling hat. 

Regards, Carole

Monday, January 23, 2017

Turning the Corner on 25th Street

A hand gesture conveys so much. On Saturday, I reluctantly joined hundreds of others who gathered at the Union Station in Ogden. Reluctant because it was cold, snowy, and I’m an introvert. I much prefer to spend a stormy Saturday home with a cup of hot cocoa and reading a book by the fire. Besides sometimes gatherings of people no matter how well-intentioned can get out-of-hand. Unlike Pride in SLC which I’ve participated in several times, we didn’t have police escorts or security of any kind. But this is Utah, and we’re a tame bunch…right?

The group of marchers started the half mile walk and I got in line. Our first hurdle came within minutes or even less. The intersection WALK sign only allowed a handful to cross the street, so a man who I believe was a veteran stepped out into traffic and began to direct, rather professionally to get more of us across the road. A truck who could have mowed down dozens of people and didn’t seem to care if he did, began to rev his engine and pushed his way through the crowd, forcing marchers to jump away. Their were children with us and some older folks too. A couple others followed the driver’s example and did the same—honking all the while. It’s interesting that we could usually tell the cheerful honks, the we’re here with you sisters, to the get the hell out of my way honkers. Inevitably the supportive honkers would open windows and cheer. The cheering buoyed me an I'm sure others. The hand waves, made me smile. Some of the business owners on Ogden’s Historic 25th street came to their windows as we passed and waved—most seemed sympathetic to the cause—and if they weren’t--we didn’t know because they were respectful. 

What a difference between the cheerleader passersby, the peaceful happy marchers and those with trucks rev-ing, horns blaring, middle fingers saluting, and obscenities flying. I’m really a very timid person. I hate confrontation and go way out of my way to avoid it. Some of you, won’t believe that because sometimes I find myself right in the middle of it. I’ve been accused or complimented depending on the person’s point of view many times over the years of being “brutally honest” or of “speaking my convictions.” My answer to that is that you have no idea how many things I keep to myself, of how many times I scroll past a Facebook post, or overhear something that makes me cringe, or just like on Saturday, how often I feel that punch to the gut that comes when someone looks right at me/us and flips us off and tells us to go to hell. On Saturday when it happened, I felt a visceral reaction, that I squelched. Then smiled. I actually felt sorry for the guys who have so little respect for a group of peaceful, mostly women, marchers carrying anti-misogyny, pro-equality, anti-Trump signs that they feel that they need to lash out. I understand that because I often have to look the other way when I feel my values are confronted. I guess they didn’t have enough self-control to look the other way. And yes, Mr. Middle Finger, I am you. I’ve childishly flipped someone, more than one someone off when I haven’t been in control of myself. And guess what, it did not make me feel better. It made me feel stupid. So I’m not too angry with you. I’m just glad your finger wasn’t on a trigger—because sometimes hate out of control, in the moment leads to disaster. I’m so grateful that all over the women’s marches were peaceful (not to be confused with the rioters who had nothing to do with us.)

So why did I march? Because my daughter was marching in DC and though I’ve always been so proud of her, I was especially proud on Saturday. I wanted to be there myself with her, but let my fear cower me into staying home. Because we raised our children to care very much about equality, even though they’ve lived a rather privileged life. Because we taught our children to stand up for right and truth. We taught them to care about the disadvantaged and the disenfranchised. Because I didn’t want to look back on one of the most historic marches in my life-time and say that I chose to stay home and read a book about feminism instead of participating in feminism. Because stepping out of our comfort zone to confront principles we believe in head-on isn’t easy. 

But the main reason I chose to march was because a friend asked me if I would do it with her. See we all need friends who say, I’ll do it if you will. Without that friend, I would have stayed home and read that book and I wouldn’t be writing this, instead I would be envying those millions of people world-wide who said, we are in this together. We will not let fear reign.

 For me, the grief I have felt ever since this election season began makes me want to hole up, stay home, read, watch TV, hibernate and eat Cheetos. But I know me. And what helps me get out of my own pessimistic thinking is to engage in the process, meet like-minded individuals and just do something. Marching alongside the energetic people practicing their right to come together and protest a president that has maligned every single marginalized group and then some has offered me a bit of peace, and whole lot of hope. Love to all of you millions of marchers around the world. “Love can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has.” 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Coming UP for Air

I know what depression feels like. It nipped me in the heels the year I was turning 38. Up until that time, I thought depression wasn't really real. I mean, I was sympathetic or tried to be, but deep down, I thought being depressed was some kind of character flaw that could be overcome with sheer willpower. I related to the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" kind of philosophy. But that was the year that I learned that sometimes what nips you in the heels can drag you under really quickly. And that year, I hated myself, but I also didn't care too much for anyone else either. It sort of narrowed my view down to a sliver and everything I could see in that sliver was darkness. Fortunately, it lasted only about a year, though long enough to change me forever. I think that was the year my heart changed and I really learned to empathize. 

It's hard for me to believe that was twenty years ago. Since then, I've learned that the secret to overcoming depression may be different for everyone, but for most of us it takes more than willpower. Yes, attitude is everything, but what if your mind is so cloudy you can't change your attitude on your own?

It's taken me a long time--this time--to admit that my few last years have been plagued with a mild depression, because it hasn't been as dark and relentless as that first experience. This time, I still do pretty much everything. I fail all the tests for depression because I still feel joy, gratitude, and love. I don't hate myself and I really don't hate others. I get up every morning and do my usual stuff. If you follow me on Facebook, you would not see a depressed person. You would see someone living a full life. And yes, I do. I love my life--for moments and bursts. 

I keep coming back to how I felt as a child. In Orem I spent a lot of my summertime hours playing in Scera swimming pool. Bigger boys loved to grab girls and push us under the water. It terrified me. Why? because it felt like I was drowning. Of course, they didn't keep us under long enough to actually drown, but the lack of control, the feeling of helplessness is a lot like depression.  After all playing in the water was mostly fun--except for when it wasn't. And then it was truly terrifying.The difference is that the year I turned 38, I essentially drowned emotionally. This time around, I keep coming up for air and being tricked into thinking that I'm fine. And of course I am fine. Or will be. In time. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Big Picture by Kayden Maxwell

The Big Picture
Kayden Maxwell
Nov 8, 2015

For about 14 years now, I have been heavily involved with music. I’ve played piano from age 4 and I’ve been in percussion playing keyboard instruments such as a xylophone or a marimba since seventh grade. For me, music is one of my lenses through which I see the world, and I think it can be used to help us understand many of life’s concepts.
One of my friends has an amazing natural gift for music. She has perfect pitch, which means she can hear any pitch and recognize what the note name is, such as a C sharp or an A flat. In fact, her ears recognize notes so well that when she hears a piece of music, she knows instantly whether the notes sound good together or if there are mistakes. This means a couple of things. First, it makes it very frustrating to play next to her in marching band, because she literally catches on to every single note I miss and she will constantly let me know how atrociously inaccurate I am. But it also means that music can be hard for her to enjoy. While I hear a piano solo and only catch onto the beautiful melody and overall performance, she hears every note. She notices each mistake. And to her a beautiful piece of music can become a set of numbers- 4 missed notes, 2 ill-placed chords, and 2 flat pitches. While it is a gift for her to naturally understand music so well, it becomes challenging for her to enjoy musical pieces because she is distracted by the flaws. Her mind gets distracted by every individual note. Her attention to detail, while magnificent, makes the overall piece actually less enjoyable for her. She has a hard time zooming out. She struggles to feel the emotion of the piece. And she often misses the beauty of the big picture.
There are many examples of how we miss the big picture in so many aspects of our lives. Music is not the only thing that can be under appreciated by too much attention to detail. My friend Daniel also had troubles zooming out on a topic. But he doesn’t have perfect pitch, and it isn’t music that he misses out on. He is a runner. I was talking with him once about hiking a particular trail. I explained how beautiful I thought the trail was and how much I loved it. To my surprise, he responded by saying he wasn’t fond of it and didn’t remember anything particularly great about the trail. I soon found out that he ran up the path. His eyes were watching the ground the entire time to prevent himself from tripping, and he only looked up once he got to his destination, caught his breath, and ran back, watching his feet the whole way down. Obviously, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with running. But he had never taken the time to walk up a mountain trail and get his eyes off his toes. He missed out on almost all of the features that make hikes meaningful and special to me. His focus was on each and every detail. Every step was carefully calculated to avoid all obstacles and dangers that could potentially cause him to fall. He never saw the big picture of the beautiful mountain path, and he never understood why it was so special to me.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we are given a large amount of details for how to live a happy life. Every piece of instruction is meant to help us on our journeys and bring us closer to Heavenly Father. We know all of the notes that we should play, and we know all of the rocks that are on our paths that we should avoid so we do not trip and fall. However, I feel we could all use a reminder to zoom out and look at the big picture sometimes. What is the big picture of our church? What is the all encompassing message that we wish to share with others? The answer is simple to remember, yet simultaneously easy to forget. The overall message of Christ’s church is for all of us to love each other a little more. Be a little kinder, love a little deeper, serve a little more willingly, and smile a little more frequently. This blanket principle is outlined in Matthew 22:36-39. “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Jesus Christ came to this earth and taught a message of love in its purest form. Unconditional, limitless, and sincere. One of my favorite scriptures is in Romans chapter 13. Paul discusses how love is the center of all the commandments, and assures us that we need not worry so much about each and every detail, because if we remember to love each other, everything else falls in place. Verses 8-10 read, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Sometimes it feels overwhelming to keep up with every standard, rule, and guideline set for our behalf by church leadership. How peaceful it is to me to know that the only thing I really need to strive toward and remember is to love my neighbor. To love everyone regardless of anything.
Why has it become so hard for us to remember to see the big picture of Christ’s ministry? Unfortunately, it is human nature to pay attention to detail. The natural man can almost be considered a perfectionist, OCD mess. We feel that there needs to be a checklist. A list of rules with yes or no answers that we can look at and easily determine how well we are doing on our spiritual journey. Instead of asking ourselves, “How close do I feel with Heavenly Father,” we want easy yes or no check-list questions. We ask ourselves, “Did I pray today? Do I have any tattoos? Do I have more than one earring on my ear? Do I drink coffee?” And so on. There are many check-list questions that we ask ourselves to try to determine our worthiness and spiritual progress. While these are all good things to watch for and we should certainly be striving to pass all of these types of questions, we are endangering ourselves of losing sight of the big picture. Like the pharisees living in Christ’s time, we often count our steps in a way. We have rules set and we believe that following each rule ends in our eternal happiness. But we must keep in mind that the pharisees were not right, and that they had a bigger lesson to learn. The Church of Jesus Christ is not here to send away people with tattoos, friends with coffee addictions, teenagers with immodest clothes, or even, for my sake I hope, humble Kayden Maxwells with same-sex partners. We are taught to love, welcome, forgive, and love some more. That is the true purpose of the Gospel. It is the single most important thing for us to learn on this earth. Let us try harder to not only hear the wrong notes in someone’s life symphony. Let us hear their beautiful song and love them for it. Let’s no longer run up the trail of life, watching every detail so precisely that we miss the message of love hiding in the trees above. Zoom out a little, don’t worry about the details quite as much, and remember that we will never be in the wrong for loving our neighbors in need too much. I want to thank everyone in this ward for being so loving, patient, and friendly with me and providing a safe place for me to live out my journey. I pray that all people can be as loving as those I am surrounded by today, and I sincerely hope that we can all remember a little more frequently that we are here to love each other, and that is the big picture of Jesus Christ’s ministry.

To read more about Kayden and his mother go to A-Typical Mormon Moms

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Let's Just Be Friends

There are such great divides in our world, our nation, our churches, our families, and our homes. Building bridges is hard, but rewarding work. In times past, I have been praised by friends outside the LDS faith for being a bridge builder. For a while I seemed to be able to reach in either direction--to my faithful LDS friends with understanding and to my friends of other faith traditions. I felt solidly in both camps. But the division has grown and the polarization more extreme. I've had to retreat to one side for a while to heal with understanding hearts who can bolster me until I can become a bridge again. Sometimes the place on the other side of the bridge isn't a safe place. Because being a bridge requires an amazing ability to walk in another person's shoes, and to really see the world through their eyes. It's called empathy. The only way to be truly empathic is to strip away the pride and to really hear what someone has to say. To really understand that our experiences, our privilege or lack of privilege, our backgrounds, our hardships, our joys--everything we learn and see and do shapes us and forms who we are. But sometimes we think that everyone should think and feel the same way we do. Sometimes our own agenda screams so loudly in our brains that we can't hear someone else's heart. It's not easy. 
We/I stand on one side of a great chasm and can't understand how the person on the other side could possibly believe what they believe. And they are also looking across at me and thinking the same thing. Empathy--building bridges is the only way to have a relationship. And the relationships that are vital to us require that empathy if they are to survive. 
I recently heard of a friend who has left the LDS church telling another friend who has chosen to stay actively engaged in the LDS church that she was crazy to do so. I've heard of other friends who are active in the faith lecture friends who have left about following the prophet and warnings of eternal damnation.  Most people are more subtle than these extremes. But really, I'm the only one who knows what's best for me. And you are the only person who knows what's best for you. So let's just be friends. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Learning to Trust Myself

I’ve hit this wall before. I’ve been shattered and battered and bruised before. I’fe felt the quiet whisperings in my heart that my Heavenly Father knows. He knows me. He knows you. He knows that what’s true for me may not be true for you. He knows my heart. He knows your heart.

About a year ago, I sat in a therapist’s office. He’d asked me to choose a toy from a basket that represented my anxiety and mild depression. I thought it was stupid, but I rummaged through the dolls, the plastic animals and cars and pulled out a train. He told me to give the train a name and I named it “Bully.” He then asked me to describe Bully. I saw myself on a train track standing and pushing against the weight of an oncoming train. The train had so much more power, so much more weight and ability to run me over, but I still held my ground. I stayed glued to the track. The train didn’t really know me—didn’t know I was there. It would run be over without a ripple in its path to move forward. 

Bully wasn’t my anxiety. It wasn’t my depression. Bully was the church or more specifically the way I had been feeling about the church. The church doesn’t bulldoze everyone, so don’t think I’m judging your journey if it’s working well for you. I’ve felt that way too. It wasn’t always this painful. 

But this time, I was on that track and I held my ground at all costs. I enveloped my pain and made it a part of me. I jumped through every hoop as it came along, policies that hurt others, General Conference talks that poked at my friends’ hearts, and at my heart. Things I didn’t believe began to outweigh what I did. And as I held Bully in my hands and described all that I have done to stay on the track even when it was uncomfortable for me, even when I saw my LGBT friends hurt, bloodied and bruised and even pushed out. Even when I saw others who tried to make the church work for them excommunicated. And even when what I believed started looking like something else entirely. Even through being completely misunderstood, I stayed on that train track. 

My therapist asked me a question. By now I was shaking. I was emotional. I was in pain. The question was, “What is keeping you from getting off the track?” 

If I remember right my jaw went slack. I didn’t understand the question—not really. I didn’t see myself as having a choice. What kept me on the track was Swedish ancestors who risked everything, alienation from family and friends, loss of jobs, and homeland, all to join a new church. What kept me on the track?  Mormon pioneers who sold everything for a fraction of what it was worth and crossed the plains at great hardship and loss. What kept me on the track was seeing my dad as a bishop, years of family prayer, and home evenings, primary songs, and young women’s, my mom and her faithful heart, my friends, my family, my love for all the young women I’ve taught over the years, my children, my grandchildren and their future missions and temple marriages. What kept me on the track was my own burning testimony, my own temple marriage, my good husband, our years of faithful service and the list goes on and on. 

I left the therapist’s office feeling the weight of it all. My arms are so tired. My heart is worn out. It may have been later that evening or early in the morning that an impression hit me. Bullies only have power when you let them have the power. Take back your power. 

Even as I write this. I’m still on that track. I haven’t taken back the power. I haven’t moved off the track—not entirely. One foot is still tied onto that track. I hate that its come to this once again. I am working toward trust. Trust that I can still be  an influence for good in the world and create a safe space for my gay friends and their families. I will trust that Heavenly Father will help me create my own path and let go of the weight I’ve been carrying. I will trust that eventually I will be able to step off the track. And if I desire, back on again. I trust that someday I will not take back my power—since I’m not sure I ever had it in the first place—but gain my own power with loving Heavenly parents. Then Bully and I might be able to be friends again, but for now it might be best if Bully and I don’t see each other for a while. So Bully, don't think I never loved you, I did. You sustained me for most of my life, but sometimes relationships get soured. Sometimes relationships aren't working and it takes a lot of strength to recognize that and move off the track. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Jumping Topics: LDS General Conference is a Mixed Bag

For a lot of us, the LDS General Conference is a mixed bag. Every six months, I brace myself for the next topic that is used to bully or shame others. If you are active you are probably thinking that teaching gospel principles isn’t shaming, but that is what often happens. How often have you been listening to a talk and instead of thinking I wonder how this applies to me, think, I sure hope so and so is listening to this. Imagine what conference time is like for our LGBT brothers and sisters. I know many mothers of LGBT children who every six months hope and pray for a thread of compassion toward their children and the community that they’ve come to understand and love so well. These mothers are the some of the most faithful, beautiful, loving people I have ever had the privilege to know. And so are their children. This conference was particularly heartbreaking for them. 

Last Saturday, I had a whole slate of activities planned for our grandchildren—but since it was conference, we dyed the eggs, had brunch, and had an Easter egg hunt around conference time. I was fine with that. If I expect my family to respect where I’m at, then I need to reciprocate. See, conference causes me a lot of anxiety, some mild depression, and downright hopelessness. If you’ve never been in my shoes, I don’t expect you to understand. I am not gay, nor is any close relative (that I know of—yet) but I have friends who are gay themselves, or a parent one or more LGBT children. It’s vastly important to me that we work to save lives, stop shaming, and allow these wonderful people to not just exist, but to thrive—in every sense of that word.

So to reduce the risk of ruining my day and damaging my heart, I didn’t watch or listen to conference on Saturday, even though my newly baptized grandson was really bothered that I didn’t. Of course, I couldn’t explain my reasons, and I might need to ask his parents how they would like me to respond next time. Instead I just said, because i don’t want to. It didn’t take long for me to find out that the self-care I chose was the right course. There were some disheartening messages for the LGBT community and for people like me on Saturday. 

 Now if you are still with me, as I said in the beginning, conference is a mixed bag. On Easter Sunday, my husband and I were on our way to Yellowstone, so we decided to give listening to the 10 am session a try—we could always turn it off if we had to. To my surprise, we listened to the whole thing.  

Finally, some legitimacy for people like me—the doubters. Sister Rosemary Wixom’s talk could have been written about me, almost exactly except for the young mother part and the recovery part. That is still an ongoing journey. There was much I really appreciated about her talk about a woman who had lost her faith. Here are some highlights. 

“I did not separate myself from the Church because of bad behavior, spiritual apathy, looking for an excuse not to live the commandments, or searching for an easy out. I felt I needed the answer to the question ‘What do I really believe?’”

This is me in a nutshell. For far too long people like me with serious concerns and questions about the church have been told that they must be doing something wrong. They are told that they only need to get on their knees and pray for answers. They are told to double down and read their scriptures, pray harder, and attend the temple. I was told that almost word for word. They are told that the only legitimate place to find answers is in the scriptures. And that the only reason people leave the church is because either they are sinning or have been offended. As an earnest seeker, I find those ideas offensive. I also find it offensive when someone is asked to get off the ship because they are unsure of the currents or stormy sea, or because they have questions about the proper course of their journey. Even more difficult is when we see others thrown or pushed out even when they are desperately trying to hold on. While I understand why some will wonder why doubters and those less satisfied stay in the church, it isn't helpful to ask us to find another religion, or to just leave. And I'm not at all sure that that's what the Savior's response would be. The issue is much too complicated. I often disagree with my family, but they are family and my love for them remains. The church community is similar. 

2. “With the spirit of inquiry, this mother continued to ask questions. But as the questions grew harder, so did the answers. And sometimes there were no answers—or no answers that brought peace. Eventually, as she sought to find answers, more and more questions arose, and she began to question some of the very foundations of her faith.”

Again, this is me. What earnest seekers in the church also find is that there are no legitimate places to ask our questions. Some of us still hope for a safe zone at church where true feelings can be shared, and deep questions can be asked, and possible answers discussed and explored. There might be pockets in the church where this is happening, but for the most part, those places are not found within the walls of a church building. And in not wanting to upset others with our concerns there are few places or people to lean on. Most bishops, even the best-hearted and most knowledgeable  ones are not equipped to handle a doubting member. However, offering support, trust, and love is possible and is sometimes the only thing we need while we dig deep in our search. 

3. “My parents knew my heart and allowed me space. They chose to love me while I was trying to figure it out for myself.” Likewise, this young mother’s bishop often met with her and spoke of his confidence in her.

Ward members also did not hesitate to give love, and she felt included. Her ward was not a place to put on a perfect face; it was a place of nurture.

My hope is that her parents would love her not just while she tried to figure it out, but even if the conclusion was to not return to full activity. Again, this is almost me. While I haven’t shared my burden with my mother, I know she would allow me space and love if I did. 
 And even though I didn’t get this kind of support or confidence from my current bishop, I have received it from other leaders, both past and present, friends, and family members in the church. My current stake president was a very empathic listener even though he didn’t understand my issues, nor could he answer my questions. It was enough for me that even though he’d never met me before, he trusted my own judgment as to what I needed. Another gracious thing he did was to tell me that there was nothing wrong with questioning and that if I found the answers to give him a call because he would love to know them, too.  

While I think, this woman has an exceptional ward, so do I. Many in my ward, know of my struggles because I’ve been open about them. And almost without exception, they’ve been kind and supportive. Some have shared with me their own doubts and while others don’t understand exactly what my concerns are, they still show me that they care. Recently I attended Relief Society a couple of times and each time reached out to a different sister. I was honest, “Can I sit by you? I need help managing my anxiety.” Even though they most likely didn’t understand the cause of my anxiety, they both were more than willing to be the support I needed on those two occasions. 

Some of my best friends have either left the church, or aren’t members at all, and other friends are what could be described as True Believing Mormons.  I’ve received support from friends on all sides. Friends who know and value the individual journey. True friendship shouldn’t have an agenda. Fortunately my friends who have left the church have not rooted for the end of my faith. Friends who aren’t members have been valuable resources of strength. They’ve allowed me a place to safely vent. I so appreciate the friends and family that I have in the church who honor the space that I need. One of my brothers said, “You’ll figure this out.” In other words, all will be well. 

4. She learned that when she came up against a statement that caused her to doubt, she “could stop, look at the whole picture, and make the gospel personal.” She said, “I would ask, ‘Is this the right path for me and my family?’

Here again is honoring and respecting our personal interpretation and revelation. To me this means even if a friend or family member leaves the church for a season, or even permanently—please don’t assume they are lost. Most of my friends who are no longer active in church are more at peace because they are following an authentic path. God is often still a part of their lives. Spirituality can flourish outside of the church as well as inside. Insisting that this isn’t true isn’t helpful or supportive, and especially isn’t respectful of our wonderful friends and family outside of Mormonism. 

5. She included this quote from President Dieter F. Uctdort. “We are all pilgrims seeking God’s light as we journey on the path of discipleship. We do not condemn others for the amount of light they may or may not have; rather, we nourish and encourage all light until it grows clear, bright, and true.”

Oh, how I love this and love this man. Somehow he manages to be a healing balm nearly every time I hear him speak. If you haven’t already read this gem on What is Truth, it’s well worth it. 

Here’s the thing, we should always be pulling for others to find the best path for them to thrive. I have a good friend who has left the church and she tells me that sometimes when others corner her and bear testimony to her, it can feel like an assault. Friends don’t gang up on each other, instead they encourage us to become our best selves. I’m still hoping for a kinder, gentler church, one that doesn’t pit us against each other. Take some time to get to know your LGBT brothers and sisters, friends, family, and neighbors. Walk a mile in their shoes—not to change them—but to learn from them. I guarantee you will be better for it.