Mary and Martha of Bethany

Jesus at the Home of Mary and Martha, Minerva Teichert

What if the reason Jesus told Martha to stop bossing her sister around wasn't just for Mary's benefit?

What if he was also fed up with Martha cooking and cleaning up after a bunch of men who clearly didn't help at all?

Think about it. 

What if Martha's real issue isn't just that she's trying to passive aggressively enlist her sister into helping her through someone else? 

What if Mary choosing "the better part" is because she refuses to enable learned helplessness in grown men?

Writing Down My Prayers

I don't remember who it was, but someone on Twitter was asking about prayer when your relationship to the Church falls apart, and the reflection I did in response was really helpful. I haven't prayed in a long time because my trust with God is very damaged.

I know the only way to fix that is to start praying again, but it's hard to get the words out. So I started writing out my prayers instead. It has been helpful, one of the only things that has helped me so far, so I'm going to keep doing it. Right now, they're all written in pencil in a tiny notebook. But every time I pick it up, I remember a suggestion someone made to me years ago that suddenly has new relevance.

We were visiting my stepfather's family (they're all practicing Catholics), and their tradition was to have the youngest person say the prayer before holiday meals. Because that lot fell on my younger sister who isn't religious, I volunteered to do it instead. My stepfather's stepmother told me I should write my prayers down into a book, which made me laugh out loud because I was awkward and I didn't understand this is a thing Catholics do.

It's a good idea. I find reading and hearing the prayers of other people deeply instructional. It helps me to imagine new things to ask for, to see new ways of speaking to God about what matters to me. So, I'm going to start working on a poetry collection inspired by my prayers.

Part of what attracted me to patriarchal blessings in the first place was because it's one of the only religious spaces we have that isn't directly under the control of someone else. It's a personal space where we have total interpretive freedom, if we allow ourselves to have it. Prayer is like that, too. And I think there's a lot of value in challenging the idea that there are forbidden subjects I shouldn't or can't talk about with God, and letting go of the fear that I will ask for things that are wrong. That's what I need to explore for myself. 

What if prayer was an unconditional space where I could say whatever I wanted and God still had to listen to me?

I don't have an answer to that, but I'm about to find out.


As you all can plainly see, I don't put "ally" anywhere on my social media pages. My reasoning for this isn't because I don't want to be one. It's because I don't think that call is up to me.

Being an ally is an individual experience that I would share with each individual BIPOC or LGBTQ+ person. It will look different with each and every person. And with each person, being his/her/their ally is different. I need to treat it like an individual experience.

There are individuals in those communities to whom I will never be an ally. They will never feel safe with me because I'm not who they need. It's not for me to feel rejected by that. The most respectful thing I can do is accept it and move on. 

A black woman who is so tired of white feminism that she just doesn't want any interactions with any white or mixed race women, regardless of their intentions. The best thing I can do there is to respect her space and leave her alone.

An LGBTQ+ person who wants full-time commitment to LGBTQ+ rights from anyone they call an ally in their lives. There's nothing wrong with that person asking for that much, and me recognizing that just isn't me.

Some people have clearly defined who their allies are. It would be absurd for me to go to them and say "I'm your ally" when they've made it clear that I'm not. It's not up to me to make people reinterpret the allies they want to suit my level of engagement and commitment.

So, how do I approach allyship? I do my best to be generally informed about what bad allyship looks like by listening to many different kinds of voices. I listen to what people say they want, make improvements where I can, and self-sort my way into or out of their orbit. I accept that I need to learn, and there is no better time to embrace those lessons than when someone says "you can do better." I may not ultimately turn into the ally they want. But I'll be better than I was when I went into the conversation.

Aspiring to be an ally to everyone, individually, while being mature enough to recognize I won't make the cut for some is what allyship means to me. I'm not perfect, but this is how I try to treat every person who comes across my path.

Prophetic Infallibility

At a recent devotional at BYU, President Russell M. Nelson taught: "Prophets are rarely popular. But we will always teach the truth!"

Meanwhile, I'm sitting there thinking of no less than half a dozen instances I've documented in patriarchal blessings alone where that just isn't true. To say nothing of Jonah, Eli, Jacob/Israel, Balaam, or even Joseph Smith. Prophets are not immune to lackluster performances, or even outright failures in their callings. There are multiple instances in scripture where this is the exact lesson that God was teaching.

To my friends who remain at church, I need you to understand that this is what teaching prophetic infallibility looks like. How many times have we all heard, or even said, "the Church is a hospital for the sick and the imperfect," especially in relation to moments when prophets fall short of who we expect them to be?

Problem is, that's not what President Nelson believes about himself. That's literally what he just said. The rest of us will be imperfect. But he's not. He'll never say anything false. That's what he believes about himself.

So, while the Church is a hospital for the rest of us to mend our ways, be healed from our illnesses, and confront the limitations of our own mortality,apparently the Church for him is a luxury hotel where everyone knows his name and he can do no wrong.

So those of you who stay in the Church, I have no beef with you. If you can show up there and still be fed, I'm genuinely happy for you. If you have the energy to stay and deal with everything that comes with that territory, I respect you. I want that for you if you're happy. You and I both know that President Nelson thinking this about himself isn't something you can control or change. Unless you know him personally and have that kind of access to him, I can't lay that on you. And please understand I don't. That's his job, not yours.

But y'all who're still at Church cannot have any illusions about the situation we're in together. We're being led by a mortal, imperfect man who doesn't believe he or any other prophet is fallible, or has to own up to any mistakes they make. Don't come here trying to paint that situation into something that it's not. Don't try to twist his words into something more comfortable for yourselves, thinking that'll help anyone else.

Trust people to read and see with their own eyes. You owe us that, at the very least.

Believe what you want, but stop making apologies and excuses for unacceptable statements, beliefs, and behavior. Those of you looking for how to navigate relationships with those on the margins and outskirts of the Church in your life, refusing to defend the indefensible is a great place to start.

Seeking, and Not Finding, Healing at Church

There's a tension worth exploring between two ideas about healing I've heard at opposite ends of Mormonism's attendance spectrum:

  1. The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints, which is Dear Abby's variation of Luke 5:30-31: "they that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance."
  2. You cannot heal in the same environment that made you sick.

How much I believe either statement depends on the nature of the sickness being addressed. Part of what allowed me to ignore so many things for so long in the Church was because I was going in and out of YSA units so fast, it didn't matter if someone bothered me. Chances were great either they would leave or I would. But once I got married, all of that changed. I couldn't bank on another move, another semester removing crappy people and situations from my life. I had to accept that people are who they are, they very seldomly decide to change, and I would have to find a way to live with that.

I've been thinking a lot about the sacrament meeting I went to at the nursing home. The speaker, for all his other faults, pointed out that we come to church to be edified. We go because it's supposed to feed us and help us. If that's not happening, it's a waste of time. It was an acknowledgement that not everyone who comes to church seeking healing ends up finding it.

I think I like the analogy of eating together a little better than the idea of labeling people in the congregation as being "sick." Sickness is something that happens against your will, in response to illnesses we can't always see or confront directly.

People at church aren't racist, sexist, and full of malice towards the marginalized because they're "sick." They're like that because they can be, and there's very little that prohibits or punishes that behavior at church. It's a potluck and that's what they choose to bring.

So my way of looking at it is "Am I putting my time and energy to make something that took time, energy, effort, and quality ingredients to this potluck, and the only thing there for me to eat is what I brought?" At that point, that's a crap potluck. Plain and simple.

I can stay at my own house and eat what I was going to bring. Why do I need to go somewhere else to do that? The only answer to that I've come up with so far is "the hope it'll be different this time." When I'm in the mood to let my curiosity override my past experience.     

Talking to God

Part of the impediment to me wanting to pray has come from an intense dislike of who I've understood God to be up until this point in my life. It's a relationship largely defined by me making apologies and excuses for him to justify terrible behavior from those who believe in him.

I'm just not willing to do that anymore.

Without trust, he and I have absolutely nothing to talk about. And I've realized that I can't trust a God who doesn't treat me like an equal. That trust is broken, and he and I are fully aware that's the only thing I have to say to him.

I trusted him to be my protector, to be the only one in my life who would never hurt me or abandon me. It's the trust of a child in a parent, where the parent already knows that relationship is completely unsustainable into adult life.

God has hurt me more profoundly than anyone else in my life, in all the times and places I needed him and he wasn't there. For the sake of me becoming an adult, he left me alone. The "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" approach to parenting.

Well, if adulthood is going to be defined by God constantly walking out on me when I need him most and learning how to live without him, what exactly do I need him for?

Maybe there's wisdom in this, in having a relationship with God that isn't based as much on need as mine was with him. But it's a profound loss of closeness and trust I haven't figured out how to overcome. And for now, I can't imagine a time where it's ever going to hurt less.

I wish I had the answer. The closest thing I have to that, perhaps, is the God who truly steps away when I tell him "if this is the kind of half-assed help you're offering, I don't want your help." 

Right now, I feel like that's all I know about God anymore.

I went to church yesterday

That experience came with a lot of complicated emotions and difficult decisions for me. I think it would be helpful for me to retrace my steps through the experience so I can metabolize it all.

It started with someone I've never met. Someone from a podcast I listen to. He's Mormon and his girlfriend isn't. But he asked her to go to church with him anyway because he doesn't like to go alone. It's left me thinking about the value of showing up for someone else. I realized I never stopped to think about what my absence from church has meant for my husband. It means he goes alone now. His church experienced is now shaped by everything that comes with that.

How could I not notice that?

If I'm being honest, it's a mix of a lack of emotional awareness on my part, still not fully understanding these things because I wasn't raised in this culture, and (the biggest one of all) He has never made my absence at church a problem. He doesn't nag. He doesn't scold. He doesn't treat me like this part of my experience is a problem for him to solve. I'm not something broken that needs to be fixed. And at the risk of sounding somewhat dense, I've never stopped to think about how fortunate I am to have that respect.

He has allowed this part of my life to be my private space. My inner world. The sacred space where I am free to be myself and feel exactly what I feel, with no interference from anyone. He has never once tried to take that away from me. He has given me the gift of unconditional love while I was undergoing fundamental changes he doesn't understand. I don't have to wonder if he only loves me because I signed onto the social contracts underpinning Mormonism with him. I now know it transcends all that.

He has done that for me while my process of self-discovery has been long, tiresome, and the fodder for gossip and public consumption in the spaces he still occupies. He has navigated that experience with honesty, devotion, and respect for me first. Always. Every time.

It took me until a few days ago to realize how I've been on the receiving end of all of this emotional labor. Labor I haven't acknowledged, appreciated, or fully reciprocated. Which, of course, is unacceptable. So when my husband asked if I would go to church with him and his mom at her nursing facility for her birthday, it was an easy decision to make. I would do that for him, and also to show gratitude to my mother-in-law. Because, as I realized in that moment, I have her to thank for this.

Who taught him to be sensitive and keenly aware that being separated from the Church is a complicated emotional and spiritual space worthy of respect at all times? To not make other people's religious struggles about himself and his feelings? 

She did.

I've been so focused for so long one everything we do in managing her memory care, I was completely blind to what she has done for me. This beautiful person she brought into this world and raised into the amazing man he is. She did that. And I benefit from it every day. I also thought about my brother-in-law, who wants very little to do with the Church anymore. But that hasn't stopped him from showing up for the people in his life, even when the Church is involved. I realized today this is something I can learn from.

So I went. I went to church, not because of what I expected to get out of it, but because of what my presence would mean to the people I care about. This may sound obvious to some. But I've never had this experience before. This is all completely new territory for me.

Now, the more orthodox members in this audience want to hear a happy ending to this story. The stillness of prayer and the spirit of worship touching my heart the way it once did, and that being enough to silence the tempests of doubt in my own mind. Hell, I won't lie to you. I'll be the first one to tell you that this is exactly what I want to happen. Even after all this time, and everything I've learned, I still yearn in my soul for it to be this simple.

That's what I was thinking about when I took the sacrament today. How much my body still remembers this entire experience. The yearning to take the sacrament because it has always been such a source of nourishment to my soul. Seeing that this hasn't changed or faded away. But in that same meeting where I witnessed all the reasons I desperately want to come back, I also witnessed the same toxic messaging that keeps me away. The reminder that being in the Church means having to take the good with the bad, and I'm just not prepared to do that anymore.

Now, my husband warned me to check my expectations with the speaker. He'd heard him speak enough times to know he wouldn't be the type to resonate with me. The kind of person who ruins perfectly good talks by choosing to focus on errant topics that aren't Christ. And that's exactly what happened. Smack dab in the middle of a beautiful message about "why do we bother coming to church?"⁠—something I've been asking myself endlessly for the past 2 years⁠—he took a sudden left turn into "why did Paul tell women to be silent in church?"

The problem, he assured us, wasn't that women were speaking. That's a mistranslation, you see. In actuality, it should read that women shouldn't rule in church. What Paul meant to say there was that women can participate in church, so long as they're not in charge.

After telling a rambling anecdote about how he uses "WOMAN" as a joking pejorative with his wife (think Fro-zone and the super suit), he got to the point he thought would tie a nice bow on all of this. The fact of the matter is, ladies and gentlemen, that if men weren't in charge at church, they probably wouldn't show up at all. They're fundamentally lazy, you see, and already only minimally invested. And if women held the priesthood, well, they'd be running everything. "And doing it better" was the unspoken implication of this entire thing.

Now, I'm sure you're asking yourselves: "How does any of this help the target audience of seniors in a nursing facility who live in a state of diminishing physical capacities and the complexities of aging in a health care system that devalues their continuing existence?"

I have no idea.

But I can tell you who it also didn't help. His daughter and the other young girls in that room who just listened to this man say this to them. About them. And their mothers. And me. And every woman they know at church. "We tolerate mediocrity in men to make sure they have a place, even at the expense of women who are more talented and qualified" is just about the most toxic thing you could say to anyone. Absolutely no one is uplifted or edified by that message.

This is why I don't like going to church anymore. I'm tired of trying to build a relationship with Christ in a minefield of ignorance, prejudice, and toxicity. I show up searching for Christ and any positive gains I make are ruined by our collective inability to improve upon silence. 

Before the emotional labor I did this morning, I would've just been privately angry, tired, hurt, and sad in relation to all this. But when my husband and I shared in the experience of rejecting everything he said, together, that was different too. I saw that my discomfort, irritation, and frustration in response to all of this, I wasn't alone in it. I realized my husband saw this experience I was having, could see what it was doing to me, without me having to say a word.

And in thinking about this experience from his perspective, I can imagine him being frustrated with that guy. "SHE FINALLY COMES TO CHURCH AND THIS IS WHAT YOU DO TO HER." Because, as I've only just articulated today, he also wants better for me than this. So, even though this entire thing was a bit of a shit show, I left feeling closer to my husband through it. Despite of it. Maybe even because of it.

Everything I hate about going to Church is still there. Nothing about the circumstances have fundamentally changed. I'm beginning to question if they can change, and if they ever will. What I also took from today is that everyone I love is still there. And I have a deeper appreciation for them and how they've been navigating this nonsense for longer than I've been alive. And I realized today I'm still holding onto that because it's worth holding onto.                             

More Posts from Me

The Unimpressive Origins of Anti-Queerness in the LDS Church

"Sister Collins, why don't you believe being queer is a sin like the rest of the righteous, obedient Mormons?" Because despite...