The Miracle of Forgiveness going out of print

Spencer W. Kimball's family is taking The Miracle of Forgiveness out of circulation. There's a reason they were able to do that. Even though the Church distributed this book through its official channels, they never actually owned the copyright. The Miracle of Forgiveness was always more similar to McConkie's Mormon Doctrine than it was to an official manual. Its official use didn't match its unofficial status, which has been a continual problem for most materials that fit that description.

The news got me thinking about my only experience with that book, and why I'm so passionately against any person ever reading it.

When I decided to read it on my own in college, I was specifically looking for talks on forgiveness. I was trying to understand forgiveness in the context of abuse, to contend with what my obligations are to forgive my various abusers I've had throughout my life.

You can understand why I would be confused. Just look at the title. It's presenting itself as a lesson on the miracle of forgiveness. I don't think I've ever seen a more misleading title. Less than a third of the book even directly addresses forgiveness at all. A huge part of the messaging in The Miracle of Forgiveness targets sexual misconduct and the repentance that attends it. Its methodology is a horrible, guilt-ridden treatise against sin, filtered through Kimball's thoughts on what it means to "deserve" repentance. 

It's basically what Mormons cosplaying as Calvinists would look like. It's the only book that ever made me feel guilty for stuff I wasn't even doing wrong.

The true power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The entire concept of grace and mercy. These are all harmfully distorted, if not completely absent from that book. It also mischaracterizes sexual assault and homosexuality with deeply hurtful and inappropriate language. 

I don't think anyone should ever read that book. I don't think there's any continuing value to its message. I definitely don't think anyone in any leadership positions should continue recommending it wholesale to members of the Church.

But I'm also aware that countless members of the Church have been encouraged to read this book as part of their repentance process, especially for sexual misconduct.

Stop Telling Me to Smile

I'm really annoyed that I can't change my phone number in the ward directory to "Unavailable for Favors.”

I'm going to check my saltiness by saying that it was nice of someone I don't know from my ward to send me a card letting me know they were thinking of me. Most people in the Church don't get that kind of attention, even when they want it or need it. That counts for something.

This card came on the tails of a lot of unwanted contact this week, most of which was asking for favors. More than one that involved cooking for people. Since all of this fell in my lap seemingly at once, I was deeply suspicious as the contacts continued to pile up. So, I put the card on my dining room table and left it there for a few days. Someone did something nice for me. Let me give myself some time and space, then come to it when I can truly take in the person's intention for what it is, separate from everything else.

It perhaps would be helpful to know that the last time I went to church was before my mother-in-law went into a nursing home, and it did not go well. I had a breakdown in the middle of Relief Society. As a result, many women there are aware that I was not doing great. When I pulled the card out of the envelope and saw it was a Wishing You Well card, I winced at the memory of that display. I hate it when other people see me cry. I can overshare with the best of 'em, as long as no one sees me cry.

The note inside is from someone whose name I don't recognize. That doesn't surprise me. This on-again-off-again thing with church is two years old this summer. I'm to the point now where it's getting harder to convince people, including myself, that my "break" is temporary.

She wants me to know that she misses seeing my happy, smiling face at church and hopes to see me "very soon."

That's it. That was the message.

Let's unpack this for a minute. Because I need someone to sit in the incomprehensible logic of this with me. You send me a card acknowledging that I'm having a hard time, so you can invite me to come back to church and smile?

Even if I went to church, let me assure you. I would not be smiling. I would be coming for a wrestle with God. I would be coming with balled fists, full of rage and tears. When I come, I'm coming with sackcloth and ashes. Not smiles. 

 It's not my job to smile for people.

The only people who would say something like this to me are people who don't know me at all. People who have not bothered to hear me, or understand the first thing about me. Which is a bit odd to me, because it's not like I make that hard to do.

I mean, sure. My reasons for being absent from church are valid, well-reasoned, and painful to acknowledge on a daily basis. But let me lay all of that aside because you want me to come smile at you.

The irony here is that if they could just lay aside everything they think they know about ministering and just leave me alone, and stop adding to the pile of nonsense I have to emotionally process, I would probably be able to work through so much of what I feel. But no. I show up to church twice and I have face down an army of hugs and being perceived by people. We all live within walking distance of the church building. I'm not hard to find. If you missed me that badly, you know where I live. Please save me the theatrics.

Has it truly occurred to no one that someone coming back to church doesn't want fanfare? Maybe leave me alone and let me figure things out for a while? Maybe realize that the person you think you remember isn't who I am anymore? Maybe give me a chance to show you that? 

I don't know what to do. I feel like I keep talking and saying these things to people and they just aren't hearing it. And they have nothing so important that it's worth being ignored and misunderstood continually in order to get it.

Loving My Enemies

Jesus taught me to love my enemies.

He didn't say to throw out the recognition that when people are abusive to marginalized people, they are still my enemies.

All the injunctions that Christ gives to us to be loving, to show mercy, to have compassion, nowhere in those commandments is there a responsibility to be their friend, support their actions, or to affirm their worldview.

In what Christ taught, I would still tear down down the systems of inequality these people have built. I would reject and stand against that oppression in word and deed. 

What he taught is that hatred for my enemies, retaliation, hatred, and revenge, should never be a part of those efforts. 

The most loving thing I can do for white supremacists in the Church is to invite them to change, while refusing to be changed or swayed by them.

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