Last Fast Sunday I bore my testimony of God’s love for ALL of His children, despite political affiliation, gender identity, or difference of experience. A handful of members made concerted efforts to applaud my words and courage to speak out, but not surprisingly, I was blatantly ignored and kept at a distance by the large majority, including the missionaries.
In Relief Society, an attempt was made to correct my definition of feminism. When I pointed out that my definition was exactly the same as theirs, the Relief Society president replied, “Well, the definition has been hijacked.” As I was leaving the building, I was pulled aside by a man who tried to pull rank by telling me he was “a former member of the bishopric,” and that I had offended many by using words such as homosexual and gay in front of impressionable children. I was not asked, but told, to keep my opinions to myself.
I did not point out that I have been in the Primary and Young Women presidencies, that my conservative father was my bishop (and my hero), or that my ex-husband was also a member of the bishopric–twice. I figured it wouldn’t matter to him anyway, because I am just a woman who does not hold the priesthood. I also did not point out that my belief in God’s love is not my opinion; it is my testimony. But I did make him a promise–that I would not remain silent.
Other members were more encouraging. One grabbed me as I was walking out of sacrament to tell me of a very good friend who has not been attending church with his family due to the fact that their young daughter is struggling with gender identity issues and feels ostracized at church by both peers and leaders. Another member expressed his admiration of my courage to open up about my political affiliation amidst so many staunch conservatives like himself. My former visiting teacher sat next to me in Relief Society and hugged my arm to reaffirm true charity.
Despite my rock-solid testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, Joseph Smith, living prophets, andJesus Christ, and His deep love for each of us, I have been near to leaving the church over hate and intolerance for several years. But last week was the final straw.
My original plan was to check out a different church today; one that is much closer to home. It advertises open, loving, and inclusive worship. I really do feel that I’ll be much more comfortable in this new church. I console myself with the knowledge that I can still study the Book of Mormon and the words of latter-day prophets through LDS.org and The Mormon Channel on YouTube. I am not at all sure if I will ever return to full activity.
I originally wanted to stay away until next Fast Sunday when I could return with my written testimony and for one last time, reiterate my conviction that God does indeed love each and every one of his children. Instead, I took a break today, and while listening to the Mormon Channel, I began writing. But I do have a promise to keep, and I feel that in leaving I am letting down people who need my love and support.
So begins the resurrection of this blog as an outlet for my frustration. I will soon post the first written revision of the original testimony I gave last week. I hope that you will read and pray for the many oppressed individuals still in the church, and that you will share and respond to my message. We need your prayers, and I need your input.