The phrase “the work of salvation” has taken somewhat of a different meaning to me lately.
I volunteer as a crisis line worker at a suicide prevention line. Over the past month, I’ve observed an increase in calls coming in from LGBTQIA individuals, specifically ones who were raised Mormon, or who identify as Mormon. This doesn’t surprise me, given the new handbook policy that the LDS church came out with recently. Still, it deeply saddens me.
So far, crisis line workers have listened to gay Mormon veterans who feel even more isolated, LGBTQIA Mormon youth who feel a loss of spiritual grounding that sustained them in the past, and gay LDS parents who mourn the loss of saving ordinances and the possibility of religious community acceptance for their children.
I’ve listened to pain and confusion, fear and heartbreak. Despite months of crisis line training and over a year of experience, this past month I’ve had to work extra hard to stay composed.
I remember one caller asking me what the point of everything was – What’s the point of staying alive? Of sticking around to try to make things better? It’s like trying to empty out the entire ocean one drop at a time. I took a deep breath and thought for a second, then asked what the significance of one drop meant to them. They processed and concluded that one drop meant one voice and one life. Does one life make a difference? They pondered. Yes, I guess it does. At the end of the call they thanked me for helping with one drop. I couldn’t hold back tears this time.
Several years ago, I shared the gospel full-time. I taught everyone, regardless of their background and life circumstances, that Jesus Christ loved us unconditionally and atoned for our sins. I would share stories of Christ standing up for the woman taken into adultery, Christ eating with sinners, Christ asking the rich young man to give up all possessions and follow him, Christ telling us not to harm or offend little children. I shared how the Savior experienced every low point we could ever feel, so that we never have to walk painful roads alone.
Nowadays, I feel like I have to separate church policy from Christ’s doctrine. Some people who hear this may lecture me on following the prophet and trusting church leaders more, or just having more faith. I wish these people could understand that the work of salvation isn’t only about saving ordinances (that some children are being denied now), but it’s literally helping marginalized people stay alive and safe. People who feel further ostracized by their religious and spiritual community are being driven to a point where suicide feels like the only option.
Over the past month, I’ve honestly felt the Spirit more while volunteering at the crisis line than I have sitting at church. It’s a struggle, and it’s impossible, trying to reconcile Christ’s empowering gospel with disempowering church policies. What I do know for sure is that we need to listen and be there for each other – to leave the ninety and nine for a time to search for the one.