not in Primary anymore

we could speak together

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.

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11 Responses to “we could speak together”

  1. Curtis Penfold

    I personally believe that if I don’t speak up when abuse and discrimination occur, I’m silently supporting it.

    If I listen to somebody speak of homosexuality at church in a negative way or women as if they’re less than men, and I don’t speak up and say why I disagree with what’s being said, I’m guilty of making people think I agree with what’s being said.

    Reply
  2. Ryan

    Hannah, if you keep up this Mormon house analogy much longer, you’re going to paint yourself into a corner!

    As for right now, you’ve elaborated beautifully: the dirt is a secret because we choose not to talk about it.

    We probably need to recognize that in the past, some people have wanted to be honest about the dirt, but they’ve been punished for doing so; and that should inform our understanding of why some people do nothing about the dirt today.

    Still, the silence is perpetual, and the dirt will always be shocking. We should, as you suggest, help those around us to see the house and its dirt as they really are.

    Reply
    • hannahwheelwright

      Yeah, that’s what “Fear of consequences that followed past events have shaken our confidence.” was vaguely referring to. I should probably put in a hyperlink of information about the September Six to make it more clear or something.

      Reply
      • Ryan

        Haha, a hyperlink with information about the September Six usually makes things more clear.

        Thanks for this post. Coming away from the meeting on “Understanding LDS Rape Survivors” last night, I’m definitely more convinced that there are good things to be accomplished by staying in this dirty, deceptive house. Of course, rape happens outside the Church too.

  3. Igor Marques

    A while ago, I made a decision never to leave the Church – and then I made a covenant to ratify it. It’s not in my plans to ever leave, so it makes sense I’d make sure this house is as clean and ordered as it should be – so that I can enjoy my stay.

    For me, there’s a delicate balance between advocating for (or demanding) change and giving up one’s will on the Lord’s altar. As a youth, I defied my very conservative parents and leaders and let my hair grow to shoulder length. It wasn’t easy, and for a big chunk of it I wasn’t allowed to pass the sacrament, even though I was leading a life as righteously as I could. When it came the time to serve a mission, however, I promptly cut it, because I knew I couldn’t fulfill that calling with long hair, and fulfilling it was much more important than proving a point or questioning the “unspoken law.”

    As soon as I graduate from BYU (in a few weeks), I think I’m going to grow it out again.

    I feel I’m in no position to judge those who have left the Church, but I must confess I find an undeniable nobility and dignity about those who are unsatisfied with certain aspects of the Church yet have remained in it.

    I appreciate your activism, Hannah, and I hope you’ll keep both this attitude of bringing about positive changes as well as a burning testimony of the Restoration. Your call for better communication and advocacy is fair. I know some people will not appreciate your opinions, but I’m inside too and I think your viewpoints are very important threads in the fabric that unites us all.

    Reply
  4. C.

    This is a beautiful call to dialog and action, thanks for it! I have stopped being quiet about my struggles and concerns and desires in the church. The results have been mixed, I’ve baffled some friends, family, and coworkers, and I’ve apparently encouraged others to speak up as well. I’ve found a few enemies but more friends. And you’re so right, the problem is that so many of us have felt like we’re alone when we weren’t, we just hadn’t banded into a community within a community yet. A room of our own (if you will) within the house

    It’s clearly happening now, and it’s happening because we’re speaking. I rely on a lot of people before me who spoke up, it’s always good to be reminded that it cannot continue if I do not continue to speak as well.

    Reply
  5. Dominic Ford

    I adore the house analogy. If you do somehow manage to paint yourself into an allegorical corner, just holler and we’ll open a window or bring a ladder to rescue you.

    This post, in particular, not only made me cry but also made me realize I need to get off the porch and come back inside to help out. Thanks for your voice, it comes as a call in the darkness in a way that no formal call to repentance ever could.

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Ryan

      Haha! Dominic, bringing in the window and the ladder was perfect! Honestly, I hope the allegory will continue to hold. Besides, I’ve been taught in church to avoid strictly interpreting every element of allegories and parables, so honestly, Hannah’s house probably has a foundation that’s a strong as any other allegorical foundation.

      I, too, have benefited from thinking about and feeling out the house of Mormonism within this construct. Thank you, Hannah!

      Reply

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