Somewhere between moving out of the house and now, holidays got tough. For those of us who no longer have exactly the same beliefs as our families, there are usually a few elephants in the room. Now in the aftermath, I suddenly, and selfishly, realized that the holidays might have been tough for my family as well. These are the people I grew up with, who love me most, who have seen me at my very best and my very worst. And now there is a huge part of our lives that no one will talk about. In my family religious conversations are generally avoided. My older brother and myself are both no longer active members, my next brother is fresh off a mission, and there are three younger siblings still at home. Amazingly, we can civilly discuss politics, even though my brother is a self-proclaimed redneck who refers to me as a “liberal hippie.” Yet when faith enters the conversation, it is always abrupt. For example, our conversation about Ordain Women went like this:
Me: I am reading this really amazing book about early Christian women.
My Mom: You aren’t one of those who think women should have the Priesthood, are you?
Me: I am not sure. I’ve been following the conversation and they have some really good points. I definitely support them in asking the question.
On the YMF Facebook page several threads were started as a place of refuge from the sometimes hurtful things families would say. What do you say when someone you love makes a homophobic comment? How do you respond to misogyny in the stories of your brother’s dating saga? For me, I find it fairly easy to call people out on those things, and they at least stop saying them in front of me. The conversation we never have is the one about church. It does not help that inactive members are often painted as ‘choosing to sin/be offended’ and unorthodox believers are told to ‘just leave the church’ or ‘don’t play Devil’s Advocate.’ The process of defining my own faith has been heart-wrenching, anxiety ridden, and just plain hard. It doesn’t make it any easier that the topic is taboo. So how can we have these conversations? How do we come into ourselves without alienating our families?
Earlier this week, I mentioned another book I was reading, and I was asked point blank if I still believed in the LDS Church. Truth is, I don’t know. My mother lovingly bore her testimony to me, and concluded that however I choose to worship she will support me, noting that there is truth in all religions. I am fortunate that my parents have unconditional love and acceptance for me, no matter which path in life I choose. I wish all adult children could say the same.
But I also wish we could really talk about what’s going on in my head. Like, really. I want to talk about Joseph Smith, the man and the prophet. I want to ask her how she really feels about polygamy. I want to discuss books from evangelical Christians, as well as Latter Day Saints. I want to recommend books and movies without her thinking it’s all part of my “feminist agenda.” My mom has always been my confidant and best friend. All through my childhood she sat, sometimes patiently, while I gave long-winded summaries of whatever book I had just read. Now as I am diving deep into spiritual memoirs and church history, I want to share them with her. I want to talk scripture, theology, issues, without her feeling like I am challenging her faith. I would never want to destroy someone’s faith in an institution that has brought her so much happiness. If I could change one thing about my relationship with my mom, I would make it so she does not see my faith crisis as a threat to her own faith.
Until then, I am grateful to have loving and supportive parents.
If you could change one thing about your relationship with your parents (or children), what would it be? What do you love about your relationship with your family? What’s your best advice for talking about all these sticky issues?