Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I’m slightly tipsy but i want to say the perfect picture in my head right now is a big table of people for dinner. With a jew, a mormon, a gay person, a buddhist, people of all races, a catholic, a bahai. and all just having dinner. drinking and not drinking. and just loving each other. and there are stars. and twinkle lights. and candles. and laughter.
I was sitting on The Owl roof in Logan, most likely with a Blue Moon in front of me, when I typed that out on my phone and sent the text to Travis. At this point in my life, I’d probably only consumed alcohol a handful of times. The first time was two months prior while camping with some friends and I was finally able to convince myself I wouldn’t go to hell if I tried Corona. I was 26 years old and my world was changing.
When you live in Utah and you drink, I soon discovered religion is a common discussion topic when people have beer or cocktails in their hands. Perhaps my experience is unique, but I’ve heard this from non-Mormons who live in Utah, too. I also realize a lot of the friends I hung out with had Mormon backgrounds and were going through similar transition periods as me. Even when you try, it’s really hard to escape the religion for some reason. I can remember one night, when we were all gathered around a table some people started talking religion across from me. I quickly turned to my Mormon friend next to me who was not drinking and told him to talk to me about something else. I didn’t want to hear or participate in the drunken analysis of why Mormons do what they do.
When I drink, I’m that person that openly expresses how I want the world to be a happy place. I will tell you all the things I like about you. I will hug you and all your friends – and while I actually control myself a lot more now, I used to make everyone link arms or hold hands in circles because that’s the way I wanted the whole world to be – friends, happy, loving. A big, fat cheesy circle of peace.
During this transition period in 2011, wanting everyone to be friends no matter their background or current situation was the thought that filled my mind on long walks through Logan Canyon, on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, and at night in my one-bedroom apartment. And I swear every time I was drinking, at some point if it didn’t come out of my mouth, I’d at least think, “I’m so happy we’re all friiieeennnddsss!!!” While I may have seemed like another annoying drunk person, the intentions were true. I really do like to imagine everyone being friends, and when there is conflict, it troubles me right down to my soul.
I haven’t been active in the church for more than four years, and I struggled with issues inside the religion for about two years before that. I’d long seen the way the church – and religion in general – can separate people. It can make outsiders feel lonely and misunderstood, and it can make members who don’t seem to fit all the criteria feel less worthy than others. I’ve seen in the Mormon church that for those who struggle with sexual orientation, addiction, gender inequality, family issues, and historical religious issues, the faith they hold dear can actually torment them.
That’s why I’m happy there have been people like John Dehlin and Kate Kelly, two Mormons who have been making a difference and including those who felt like outcasts in their own communities and church houses. Unfortunately, both were threatened with excommunication this week. Dehlin is an LGBT ally and the creator of Mormon Stories, a website with several podcasts from Mormons of all walks of life, and Kate Kelly is the founder of Ordain Women, a group which has been seeking for leaders to prayerfully ask God if women can hold the priesthood. They have also waited in lines to attend the priesthood session of General Conference – which Mormons hold twice a year – only to be denied.
When I heard Kelly and Dehlin received letters from their bishop and stake president this week about church disciplinary action, I was shocked. I didn’t think the Mormon church was that interested in excommunicating activists anymore as they did in 1993, when six feminist women were disfellowshipped or excommunicated. I thought the church had become softer, even though leaders hadn’t changed official stances on gay marriage and relationships, or women and the priesthood. Since neither Dehlin or Kelly were telling members to leave the church, and they’ve both openly said they want to be part of it forever, it seems like because they didn’t fit inside the cookie cutter mold and they opened a dialogue for issues viewed as controversial, they face being kicked out.
This hurts my heart more than it probably should. People who know me probably wonder why I care so much when I haven’t been an active member for a while now. At this point, I can’t see myself being active again in the Mormon church because I want a religion that is inclusive of all people and allows women to have the same opportunities as men, but at the same time, like many Mormons who fall away, I haven’t let it go completely, either. I see it for many beautiful things and I’m thankful for the way it’s influenced my life – and the lives of my family and friends – for good. This week, though, it broke my heart again.
Oh, this heart of mine. This troubled, aching heart that just wants the whole world over for dinner with stars and twinkle lights and candles and laughter.
I hope one day it happens. Until then, here’s a cyber circle hug.