Friday, January 27, 2012
Who is Welcome in Zion, or, Thank You Exponent!
Recently I've been struggling with the loss of an LDS community. My beliefs prevent me from feeling and acting in an authentic way in many church settings. I don't wish to harm another person's faith by expressing the many problems I see within the Mormon church. If it works for them, I have no right to try to blast that apart. But since my beliefs about God, religion and the church have altered, I feel I must often be silent rather then speak my truth. It is an uncomfortable position to be in.
This is exacerbated by people in the Mormon community telling me that I am unwelcome. One recent example Is on my Feminist Mormon's Bucket List post. Caren, who I have learned is in my ward, told me to leave the church. Another woman I don't know at all attacked me on Facebook, calling me selfish and irrational after I said that I did not want kids in an exchange of experiences on someone's Facebook wall. This may sound like a pity party, and I am pretty hurt and angry. These women have decided to exclude me from their community, from the Zion most members wish to create. In order for their Zion to exist, I must be removed. There is no place for me in their Mormon Zion; their God does not want me.
But I have also had encounters with Mormons who would accept me into their Zion. In the same post where Caren told me to leave, TopHat said I was welcome in her Zion. (I hope she reads this, because that comment meant the world to me.) She wasn't the only one. The comments on that truly cruel and painful post from Mormon women (largely from the Exponent community) expressing acceptance and coming to my defense were astounding. These women don't know me well; in fact most of what they know about me are my questions and doubts and anger. But they welcome me into their community of Mormon women. They do not feel the need to throw me out to improve their community or please their God. The women of the Exponent have made me feel welcome and accepted without telling me to shut up or get with the program. They welcome difference into their Zion. I hope they know how absolutely grateful I am for that.
Recently I attended a book group with women in my ward. We were discussing All God's Critter's Got a Place in the Choir by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Emma Lou Thayne. (Here's a video of Celtic Thunder singing the song the title is based on. Great song!) I was leading the discussion and started with the essay Lusterware, which suggests that questions and doubts are a good thing, because they lead us to a stronger understanding of God. I was worried about choosing that essay to talk about, but I shouldn't have been. The women present jumped in, talking about how questioning is a good thing, and how there is no reason to be afraid of questions or those who ask them. They made it clear that questioners were welcome in their Zion. Granted, most of these women do not know the extent of my differing beliefs, but I do not believe they would shun me if they did. They would worry, but they would welcome me.
Many believe that Zion will only exist when everyone believes the same thing. Therefore they may feel the need, as evidenced by my recent experience, to exclude those with different beliefs. But I wonder if God does not intend this to be Zion. One of the descriptions of Zion is that there are no poor; everyone has what they need. Everyone is taken care of. So what if Zion is about learning to love and take care of everyone, even those different from us? What if Zion is living in a way that everyone can find God in their own way and have that way be respected by the people around them. I am different from the women of the Exponent and in my book group. But they respect my path while living their own. Spunky said in a comment to Caren that she respects my attempts to find truth even though they differ from her own. That sounds much more divine to me then telling someone to "get out" because they disagree with you. (Yes, I'm still a little pissy. I'm working on it.)
Long story short, thank you Exponent and book group for showing me Zion!