Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Last Straw or Not?

In light of the recent threatening of excommunication of a friend John Dehlin, and the courageous Kate Kelly, the removal of temple recommends for others who are standing true to belief, I heard myself say aloud once again, that I think this may be the last straw. You know what that means, the last straw is the final straw, the straw that means, I give up! But I've said that before and then here I am...still collecting straws and removing straws, and building and rebuilding, and being firm in my stated "final straw," and then realizing that all too often I sometimes react too fast in the heat of the moment. Today with Father's Day on my mind, my thoughts are back in Orem to the 24th ward, to all the wonderful memories of singing primary songs while tracing my finger in the tracks of the painted brick wall. My favorites were, "Whenever I Walk by a Lilac Tree" and the "Primary Colors are One, Two, Three" and the one written by dad's Aunt Mirla Greenwood Thayne, "When He Comes Again." When we sang that song, everyone would look at me because my smile was bigger than anyone else's and even though I sang off key, I sang it as loudly as I could. And I believed every word. Life was simpler then. I would race home from church through the field and stop to throw sticks in the irrigation ditches and pick snake grass.

I remember sitting around the campfire at girl's camp with so much love in my heart that I thought I would burst. My bosom burned with the love of God, mountains, my friends, and my teachers. So often when I came home it was back to reality that I was never going to be good enough. Things didn't get tough until much later.

This last week was tough. I admire those who are true to their convictions. Asking questions is the only way to learn. Sharing those questions with others is valuable. I've known John to reach out to countless people like me. When the last straw was about to break my back, John threw me a lifeline. So I was pretty disheartened at the news that his honesty in his feelings got him into trouble. It has brought tears to my eyes a hundred times this week. I don't know Kate Kelly, but I admire her and have watched how gracefully she has handled her situation. I pray for her. I pray for John. I pray for their families. I pray for all of us. As a faithful LDS friend reminded me on Friday, "this is hard for me too." There is plenty of hurt to share; those rooted resolutely in the gospel and those teetering, and those who have chosen to leave. I have friends in all camps. My circle has become so, so much bigger since I've included the LGBTQ community, people of other faiths, unbelievers and believers alike.

But that last straw thing... John Dehlin wrote this on his facebook today. "I'm not totally sure why, but I felt like it was important to attend church today, so we did (as a family). The service was normal. I still felt "the spirit" or very warm feelings when singing the hymns. But the outpouring of love expressed afterwards was truly heart warming. One member slipped me a note *during the opening prayer* saying that he hoped that they don't go through with a council. One brother shook my hand, and then shook his fist at me with a huge smile in a "you can do it!" sort of way. One sweet sister insisted on hugging both myself and Margi. She said, "Physical touch is very important in moments like this." Several members went out of their way to smile, or to express explicit support for our family. 

Margi and I were hesitant to attend, but afterwards were so glad that we did. In spite of my doubts about some of our teachings, and concerns about LDS church history -- I have always loved the saints. And I still do."

This sweet response reminded me that I need to slow down, take a breath, and remember that just two and 1/2 years ago, I had a somewhat similar experience in my own ward, years and miles beyond my beloved Orem 24th ward. I bore my testimony about my doubts and pain and loss... and my ward family responded with hugs, cards, phone calls, and text messages of encouragement and love. I'm sure it is not possible to ever believe  the way I did when I sang, "I Wonder When He Comes Again" but I'm not at all sure that belief is always necessary to participate, at least in some way in my religion. Again this weekend many friends hugged me and expressed concern and on facebook a bunch more reminded me they cared.  Maybe there's still a few straws to go before it really is that final one.