I’ve realized since the start of this bumpy, rough, sucky, pain and sorrow-filled year that I have no idea what people are dealing with. I’ve been walking around with all sorts of internal pain and grief and emotional weirdness and very few people had any idea—partially because I don’t really share that sort of information with people face to face (just via the written word, typed out on my computer screen, so it’s different. Sort of.). We are all walking around ‘fighting the good fight.’
I’m conflicted about war-imagery. I mean, part of me gets super pumped and excited and geeks out (the part of me that wants a lightsaber more than anything and wanted to join the Marines because they have swords and just is filled with all sorts of wonder when Aragorn gives his speech before the Black Gate or I read Churchill’s “Victory” speech), but then there’s a part of me that gets really uneasy. For a couple of reasons: one, because such war-imagery is usually used to suggest that we are at war with the world and creates an ‘us vs. them’ mentality that I think is detrimental, and two, because part of me is a pacifist, peace-loving, tie-dye wearing hippie that just doesn’t think that war is a good way to go.
Yet, I think there’s value in this. Perhaps partially because I’ve been hearing from quite a few friends recently that they feel like they don’t have a place in Mormonism. That they love it and long to be here, but feel pushed out by those on the inside and mocked for staying by those on the outside. Obviously that’s painting with a super broad brush and does not describe everybody that is in the Church or that has left it. However, I get it. I’ve felt that tension. That lack of understanding for why I stay. Why I bother to fight to belong. Why I continue the struggle. Why I fight the good fight.
A good friend, Andy, coined a phrase that I think is useful—guerilla Mormon. Again, bringing in this war imagery with guerilla warfare and the struggle that entails, this isolated sort of fringey, individualistic attack. Something about it just really resonates with me. Perhaps because I first found it when I was in the midst of feeling alone at Church, going and seeking God, but feeling like I wasn’t wanted. I fought to make Church a place that worked for me. And it took time, but it worked. I changed probably more than Church changed, but I shared my thoughts and perspective and almost always found people that needed them, that were fighting their own good fight and needed a little back-up.
We can be more welcoming. I can be more welcoming. I mean, I usually just chill by my brother and roommates at Church, not talking to anyone else, occasionally commenting to interject what feels like a necessary course correction or difference in perspective. Church is a hospital for the broken hearted. We come to hear the healing word of God, not to out-righteous one another. We need to be one, to truly seek the unity of being the body of Christ.
Yes, people may leave. Things may hurt them, but don’t let that thing be you. Just because they can ‘choose to be offended’ does not mean you can choose to be offensive. I mean, like I said, we probably have no idea what’s going on inside people. Who knows that struggles and pains and doubts and fears that they have. It does no good to assume that people left for petty reasons. Yes, I believe that we all have agency, we all have choice, but if we hold the Gospel truth, the healing word of God, the burden that is light, perhaps when people leave it’s because something we did stopped them from receiving the word. Perhaps we could have done more. We are meant to be a community of Zion, the body of Christ. If our hand withers, maybe there’s something that needs attention.
Those that have left need our sincerity. They don’t need platitudes. If you were friends before stay friends. If you weren’t, well, maybe don’t ask them first thing why they weren’t at Church. Chat about life and stuff and build a friendship. Love them. Respect their decision. They probably thought long and hard and the fight they were fighting led them somewhere else. The battleground moved and that’s ok. I don’t presume to know how all our paths shake out in the end. I don’t even know where my path leads after this April, let alone throughout the rest of my (hopefully) long life.
The Church is big. We are all God’s children. We embrace all truth, regardless of the source. We believe. We worship. We come together.
Sure, it may bamboozle you why someone would support gay marriage, struggle with the role of women in the Church, be utterly perplexed by LGBTQIA+ individuals’ lives in the Church and throughout the eternities, question some leadership decisions, be skeptical about the literal nature of some scripture and yet remain devoutly Mormon. But that’s for them to decide. For me. Sure, I have lots of questions. Lots. But I feel that there is goodness and truth in Mormonism. I feel that it’s my home. I feel that this is where I belong.
So, I stay.
I go to Church. I make snarky comments. I share my questions and uncertainty and belief over the pulpit. I teach. I comment. I sit. I eat fruit snacks. I read voraciously. I pray all the damn time. I wonder. I ponder. I listen. I strive to understand. I twitch my mustache. I seek the fellow seekers and pilgrims. I hope that God will yet reveal many great and important things. I believe and ask God to help my unbelief. I doubt. I question. I wrestle. I fight what I pray is the good fight.