LAURA: I’ve seen a meme floating around recently that says something like “The thing that hurt me was my own expectations.” I don’t know if that’s true. Sometimes I think it’s hope that hurts us. I do know that, when it comes to people, I’m an optimist and I regularly expect people to be amazing. I’m often disappointed and hurt.
It’s not in my personality to expect less of people until they’ve proven otherwise. Even if I was guaranteed to be hurt every day of my life, I think I’d still choose to see the best in humanity.
I also tend to believe people are doing the best they can and the best they know how. When people know better, they do better. When they are more capable, they do more. I’m sure this is not universally true, but, as I said, I’m an optimist.
I’m not always good at it myself, but I’ve tried to approach situations expecting the best, offering grace when that doesn’t happen, and acknowledging my own feelings are my responsibility.
It’s this approach that I use with my husband, my kids, my friends, and my employees. It’s the approach I take when I’m dealing with customer service or a teacher or a doctor’s office.
It’s been this approach that has allowed me to make peace with my family’s faith even when their choices have hurt me. It’s allowed me to acknowledge my own hurt without blaming them for following their beliefs.
Before my faith expansion, I didn’t have the emotional or spiritual maturity to allow for that. I regularly fell back on what was right and acceptable in interactions with others. I tended to be quick to anger and slow to see other perspectives. I relied on “God said” instead of making space for lived experience and human frailty. Sometimes I still forget to do that. I am trying, though.
It has been in that spirit that I’ve attempted to process the declaration that “Mormon” is no longer an acceptable term. Learning in the midst of that that the policy of exclusion (PoX) has now been correlated into revelation has been painful. Despite the impact of the PoX on my family and on other people I love, I tend to believe that this is just a massive paradigm failure; if our church leaders knew better, they would do better.
Unfortunately doing the best you can is not always enough. As a manager, sometimes I’ve had to sit across a desk from someone I genuinely care about and say, “I know you’re doing your best, but the mistakes you’re making are too costly. I cannot allow you to continue to make these mistakes.” Sometimes this kind of conversation ends with that person being fired.
Similarly, although I can grant that the PoX is the result of nothing more than broken humans doing poorly, the policy advocates for violence and is, itself, violent. To place it in seminary manuals as revelation will slow necessary change towards inclusiveness and ultimately cost more lives.
The same is true of the Protect LDS Children movement. Late last night, Sam Young was informed of his pending disciplinary counsel. I’m expecting he’ll be excommunicated. I’m hoping he won’t be. I’m expecting that the hope I carry will cause me pain when, ultimately, he is.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has an inability to recognize that Protect LDS Children and Sam Young are gifts to it, just as Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, Rock Waterman, Jeremy Runnells, and dozens of less famous “apostates” are. The Church can’t do better unless it knows better; it can’t know better until it listens. Listening isn’t apparently something the Church is capable of doing.
Because Church leadership learns slowly, they do unspeakable harm to church membership. The worst harm is done to our children. In this case, doing the best they can—the best they are aware, right now, to do—isn’t acceptable.
I have so much hope for the Church and, truly, my expectations are that eventually the body of saints will get it right. I have no idea if our leaders will, but I hope. It’s a painful experience to watch the church stumble over itself in its too-slow process of growth. I keep hoping (expecting?) the Church will get it right sooner rather than later. I keep thinking, This time we’ll get it right. And if not this time, definitely for sure the next time.
Truthfully, I think my hope is misplaced. The hierarchy won’t change until the members change. Each of us can make a space next to us, whether that’s attending church or not, for a more marginalized Mormon. Each of us can choose to be an ally for someone within our faith. Each of us can choose to protect our own children and the children of those around us. Each of us can choose to speak up in ward counsels or testimony meetings, at family gatherings or just on Facebook. Some of us might choose to cast opposing votes and others might choose to make space for those that cast opposing votes.
We can let Jesus lead us to a more Zion-like community and trust that our leaders will follow Him too. Eventually.
That’s what I hope from my fellow Mormons. I imagine that it will be years before I see that happen en masse, but I’ll keep hoping and expecting it to happen tomorrow. I am an optimist after all.
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