“Thee world” is a term I just accidentally formed while writing a post over on facebook. I typoed an extra “e” on “the,” and then when I went back to delete it, I realized how much that extra “e” actually worked with what I was saying. You see, “thee” is a scriptural word reserved for when we want to reverently address deity in our prayers. I thought it a fun little play on words when describing the church-world problem of self-preservation that ofttimes shows its ugly face as self-righteousness. Here, you be the judge if it works:
I really wanted to include this in a blog post I am working on this morning, but it’s stuck in the FB interface, so here it is. I will direct my blog post this way. I believe strongly in this message. We all have stuff, and the people who talk about it, make “thee world” a better place by offering hope. The problem is that a lot of people won’t be brave because they are afraid of the backlash. If there is anyone out there who really needs to talk about any hard stuff in a safe place, I am here with judgement-free open arms. I believe that to be the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here is Dan Workman’s original post (as my facebook is private), in case you’d like to watch the video I reference. If you don’t want to take the time right now, your loss. The essentials are that Dan Workman is a recovered heroine addict. He talks about this “perfection syndrome” that we’ve let grow out-of-control within the LDS church. He pleads with Utah to open up and be real because the “white picket fence syndrome” is “killing our kids.”
I would argue that “white picket fence syndrome” is not just happening with us in the LDS church, but that it’s a problem in every social construction out there. Anyhow, Dan’s a little brash (which I personally love about him), but I can see that he might turn off a lot of my “church friends.” I may get backlash from sharing his message here, but I must share it because I think it is so vitally important for everyone to hear. The change has to come from the inside and the only way we can make change happen is to first create awareness. I applaud you, Dan Workman. I hope you know that there are many of us, still inside the church, who are trying to fight the good fight with you. We don’t judge you for leaving, but we do wish you would come back and fight along side of us.
Many times, I fight the fight knowing the result will be my personal social ostracization, yet I still fight because I believe so strongly in the truth of what I speak. I love this meme below by Dwight. It explains me to the core. It takes special people to get past my brashness, but I keep at it because I know that the one person I have to answer to is not any mortal being but my Savior Jesus Christ. He loves people, and if we want to truly love people like he did, we need to first offer a safe space. A safe space cannot exist in a world where everyone can’t allow one weed to grow in their yard! And I can hear the argument now, it’s not like I am out to grow weeds on purpose, people, but weeds happen. People are not perfect. They will never be perfect, so how about we talk about that?
Right now, there is a culture within the church that is “killing our kids,” and “our kids” are really all of us. As Dan made mention to, Utah is #4 in the nation in drug overdoses. I think we need to honestly ask ourselves why so many people are falling into that terrible trap. What are they trying to escape? And why can’t they get help to escape once they realize they are in big trouble? On the uptake, why do so many people love Jeffrey R. Holland? I personally believe the reason that Jeffrey R. Holland is so powerful is because he “gets it.” He talks about his own struggles. He sets an example for the rest of us. However, we need to recognize that it’s a lot easier for Holland to talk about his struggle with depression (which is now generally socially acceptable) than it is for others to talk about their addictions, their marital issues, their apostate children, suicide, eating disorders, etc.
Whenever I am given the chance to speak in church, I always try to include a personal story of triumph over my own issues. It’s so funny because inevitably I get a handful of people that thank me profusely for my honesty, but in general most people seem awkward after I reveal something personal. They don’t know what to do with it. Why? Because it NEVER happens. When I was in the MTC, I was taught to “never reveal past transgressions.” I understand the reasoning behind this, but I wholeheartedly and adamantly disagree with what we’ve created using this harmful socially-constructed rule for decades. The Book of Mormon is replete with PROPHET after PROPHET who have repented. They are the true victors. They are the ones who applied the atonement and moved forward. When we don’t tell our own stories of triumph, we are creating a church for saints, not a church for sinners. Then we wonder why so many people leave the church. Why are so many sinners leaving the church? Because they feel like the only ones who belong there are the saints. How pathetically true this has become.
If only all of us could really be more like Jesus!
2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
This is powerful. I’m on board with so much of this. I always felt like the underlying rule was converts can talk about sins that joining the church helped them overcome but once a member, we avoid discussing anything we’ve done wrong. It is a lonely, hard road back that way. I love what this guy had to say and what you had to say. I don’t think it’s just a Utah or a Mormon problem but he addresses it with compassion for the one with addiction and the one who is silent in their judgement and that can be difficult. Kudos to you both.
Glad to hear I’m not alone, Renee. Love you!!
Someday I will be brave and brash like you are with more than just those I’m close to :). Love you
Good point about BOM prophets. What if Alma the Younger never shared his past with us?
Exactly, Norina. Redemption is the most powerful motivator. Unfortunately, we are often stuck in a shame-based dialogue.
I do feel I have to censor myself since I’m considered an apostate and therefore a wolf now;). However, I will say a few things. I love authenticity (which is why I’m apostate) and straight talk about life’s challenges and complications. I applaud your efforts and think this is critical to good mental health, which I want for my people (I love Mormons, mostly loved being Mormon, still consider myself some version of Mormon and still think of them as my people). However, I think that your grassroots effort is a bandaid fix, though, you may disagree. I think as long as there are teachings via scripture and authority like sex outside of marriage is next to murder, if you sin 1 time and repent, you’re forgiven, but if you sin again, it’s as if you’ve never repented at all, even “bad” thoughts are unacceptable, etc. , those teachings will always trump your sincere efforts to create a healthier space for people. I support you fighting the good fight, but think it’s gonna take church leaders disavowing these teachings that create the toxic perfectionist environment in the first place.
Agreed, Kim. But I can’t leave because the church is true even when the social construction is flawed and the leaders are flawed. The gospel is true, and trust me over the last 18 months I’ve thought about leaving. A lot, but I can’t because I have too many spiritual experiences to deny the truths in the church. So, I choose to do something, and I can’t change anyone else. This may seem futile, but it’s something. I refuse to apostasize, and I still love you even though you have. I understand your position a lot more than you believe I do, but I refuse to put my eternal family in jeapordy because a lot of leaders don’t understand what they do. They truly know not what they do.
I think as long as you think the church is true, you should stay in, otherwise you wouldn’t be true to yourself. I didn’t leave because of any of this, however, once I stepped away from this aspect, it’s been a very healthy side effect for me and my family. It makes me sad that so many are suffering and I hope that church leaders who know not what they do will have some sort of wake up call and step in. Maybe if enough Ali’s speak up, they’ll take notice. Do you ever read Natasha Helfer Parker’s stuff? I think you’d like a lot of it.
I had to Google the guy to learn more about him and thought this post was very powerful. thatsoberlife.com/from-mormon-missionary-to-junkie-felon-to-recovery-beast/
Thank you for this! I love when Nephi laments “oh wretched man that I am” part of me wishes to be wretched as him and not wretched as me and part of me says “oh please go on, I’d love to know the story behind those words!!!!”
I read and listen to more and more people outside of the church lately than I do inside. I love getting the whole story, and it’s not because I’m nosy, it’s because that’s where the truth and the meaning is!! It’s where I learn what pain is and what it does and how it affects my life and family. It’s also how I learn who to turn to and in whom I can put my trust in a very wobbly world.
I teach Relief Society once a month and I always get the comments “I love your lessons because you’re reall and we need more of that in this church.” But does it change? Not really. I get tired of sitting thru meeting after meeting and getting the surface of the teachings. It’s like we’re afraid to admit that after having a spiritual experience and becoming a member that we still have problems or bad thoughts or that we still sin. It makes you want to hide and I believe that’s where we are going wrong.
I heard a talk years ago when we got a temple in our town and the stake speaker said that Satan was alive and well in our church. (Of course my ears perked up!) he said many people were told not to try to attend the temple in our town because it was so small there wouldn’t be room for everybody! I believe he’s right, Satan is alive and well in our church and we aren’t doing anything about it. Oh wait, yes we are thanks to people like you who aren’t afraid to speak up. Thank you so very much for this!!!!
I wish I could be in your Relief Society class!! Thanks for coming by my blog, and for leaving a comment. Keep up the fight, sister.