By Hannah Wheelwright
Recently I wrote a post called “If Mormonism Was a House.” I had been thinking about this allegory and found it to be helpful as I navigate my own faith experience.
One aspect of the allegory I mentioned was that there is dirt in this Mormon house, and a commenter suggested that the people who leave the Mormon house do so not because of the existence of the dirt, but because its existence has often been denied and covered up.
While I fully understand that this is a reason many people leave the church, I have found that for me, there is a far more troubling reality; that there are many, many people who know that this dirt exists, and yet do not speak up about it.
I know there are many reasons for the silence- fear of social exclusion or contention, fear of church discipline, a desire to maintain social capital by only speaking up on specific issues, a reluctance to engage in what may be heartbreakingly difficult interactions, a recognition that some issues are more important to them than others, etc.
But I believe things can change, and I believe in the power of God’s children to make that change happen through faith and good works. That is why I see so much wasted potential in our hesitation.
I wish that we would speak up. I wish that we would not only pray for our leaders, but voice our concerns and invite them into our conversations. I wish that we would use our agency to do more than groan and turn inwards, searching for solace but failing to reach with outstretched hands to those around us.
I have done this myself all too often. It feels hopeless sometimes when there are so many changes that could be made that would be simple and easy to implement, and yet simultaneously would bring about powerful change. Fear of consequences that followed past events have shaken our confidence.
I think if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know so little as Mormons. We claim to have the answers to all of life’s greatest questions, and so often our claim to the fully restored truth borders on implying that there is no more truth to be revealed.
But such an assertion is blatantly wrong:
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. (Article of Faith #9)
The church is not done expanding. There is more to be revealed. It is in our very doctrine that the church has not only a profound capacity to evolve, but an expectation.
Why are we so often being slothful servants, waiting to hear from our leaders before we will speak up and act upon what we know to be right in our hearts?
For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. (D&C 58:26)
The Lord expects us to move forward with faith, listening to the Spirit and acting faithfully. We are not to be commanded in all things. Our Heavenly Parents are not our babysitters. They have endowed us with the power and agency to act for ourselves, to prove ourselves worthy to return to their presence.
There are so many more of us than we realize. Some of us identify by different names, groups, and affiliations, and some do not. But we’re all out there.
We are the young woman sitting in a back row who was sexually assaulted last week and has been taught all throughout Young Women’s that she is now damaged goods. Her bishop asked her what she was wearing. We are the schoolteacher who adores the opportunity to expound on the gospel of Jesus Christ, but will never be Sunday School President because she is a woman. We are the young man who struggles to view the Book of Mormon as a historical document and yet loves its teachings and narratives dearly, but is receiving negative attention from many in the ward despite his fervor for the gospel. We are his brother, who wore a colored shirt to church and was excluded from participating in the ordinance of blessing the sacrament. We are these young men’s little sister, whose head peers over the edge of the pew as she asks her mother when she will be old enough to help pass the sacrament. We are the elderly woman who spent her life making every sacrifice imaginable, two full time jobs and scrimping and saving and generic brands and second hand clothes and no vacations in order to keep her impoverished family together, and yet is looked down upon for not staying at home with her children. We are the newlywed who just discovered she is infertile and will never have children and finds herself weeping uncontrollably. We are people who recognize what changes could be made in our church.
We do not know that each other exists, because we have not spoken. We are all in the Mormon house, going about our ways, occasionally perking up our heads a little when we think we see someone indicate similar beliefs to ours, but then we duck our heads again. We stare at the dirt near our feet. There is a broom in the cupboard down the hall. We stare a little more, mutter our complaints. We hesitate, and by doing so, we squander the potential for meaningful improvements and relief of pain for ourselves and those around us.
I hope we realize that when our intent is faithful and positive change, we should not be afraid to act in the best interests of our communities. That agency and being anxiously engaged in a good cause are deeply rooted in our doctrine. That the fear of opposition alone should not be a deterrent – there is opposition in all things. We prove ourselves in how we respond to that opposition.
This is my plea for us to speak, so that we might speak together. We cannot do it alone. But the first step is to speak.