Showing posts with label Community. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Community. Show all posts

How Not to Treat Believing Members Once You Leave the Church

Between the most zealous active members of the Church and ex-Mormons is a secret third group: the ones who are in an active state of deconstruction. In that group is a mixture of church members all across the spectrum who have such a wide variety of thoughts and beliefs, the only thing they all truly having in common is being adjacent to Mormonism and a willingness to sit in community in that state of difference.

I've been in that space for many years now. It's the closest thing to "come as you are" Mormonism as I've ever seen. No matter your proximity to the institutional church, we all do a kind of play therapy together with the materials from it that we've carried with us. It's great... until someone too far to the end of either spectrum shows up and starts evangelizing to their particular flavor of belief or non-belief.

I've posted previously my response to those who advocate too aggressively for their versions of active Mormonism, linked below. I'm feeling the need for a similar post to exist for those in the ex-Mormon camp as well, especially those whose approach is to remind me that the Church doesn't value liberal or progressive members. As if there's any liberal or progressive member who doesn't already know that.

I know the Church doesn't want me as I am. I know they think my values aren't useful to them. I know that better than many former church members do because I was there. I was there at 16 years old when many of them were still active. I was reading the writing on the wall before many of them even knew it was there.

Here's the thing: I don't care.

I don't care that they don't want me. I don't care that they don't respect me. I don't care that my very presence irks them to the very core. I don't care what they think about me. Caring about their opinion of me is the only power they have ever had over me, the only way they can hurt me, and I took that away from them a long time ago.

I'm not here to get their approval.
And in case you needed the addendum to that post for me to spell it out, I'm not here to get the approval of ex-Mormons either.

So many ex-Mormons have this notion that the only way to engage with my authentic self is to leave the Church. The idea that someone could spend years away from the institution, as I did, and choose to go back is incomprehensible to them. They cannot process the fact that my authentic self is a believer, a disciple of Jesus Christ, and a Mormon—deconstructed, wiser, and prepared to rebuild, but ultimately still a Mormon.

The fact is, the Church needs me. They need me to deconstruct and destroy the false idols and apostasy that they've brought into the restored church of Jesus Christ from the Republican party, evangelical Christianity, and white nationalism.

They need me to be there, and so do you.


You need someone on the inside saying that racism is sinful, is present in the Church, and destroys everything it touches. You need someone on the inside saying that praying the gay away is harmful, incoherent nonsense. You need someone to say the things you needed to hear as a teenager in the Church. You need someone with the skill set, the language, and the institutional presence to do that work, to break the cycles of intergenerational trauma and abuse, in a setting where the people who need it most are most likely to receive it.

I'm saying this with no degree of sarcasm or insincerity. Do what serves you and your happiness. If that means leaving the Church, I don't respect you any less for it. Do what you must for you and your family. I will honor that choice because I now fully understand what goes into making it.

Do not, however, think your position makes you morally or intellectually superior to those who stay, who have done the work to realize that they can do more good by staying than by leaving. And as always, do not use random active members as punching bags for your scruples, religious trauma, and grievances. Criticism without consent is not only ineffective, it's straight up abusive. It's the example of the classic adage that "hurt people hurt people."

I don't believe church leadership when they say that you all got lost in the gray matter of moral relativism, that your motivations were selfish and rooted in sin. Do not believe them when they tell you to mistrust me because my presence at Church is somehow a betrayal both to them and to you simultaneously.

Be smarter than that.

Becoming Found Family within the Church

Growing up in an unstable home environment with parents who struggled with a host of issues that included poverty, addiction, alcoholism, domestic violence, and racial violence, one of the skills I learned early on in my life is gathering and assembling found family. I had so many adopted mothers, tied to so many different communities who cared for and about me.

The reason I made it out of poverty and avoided becoming a statistic was because of the support and mentoring I received from people who were my chosen family, rather than being limited to the support my biological family could provide.

While the Church is not the only group capable of forming these kinds of relationships, it's especially important for members of the Church to know how to do this, and know the meaningful distinction between found family and "ward family" or "church family."

Let's start off by talking about that distinction.


Not All Church Family is Found Family

I've been in the Church as a convert for almost seventeen years now. I joined as a teenager, the only member in my family. I've been in enough congregations to know the difference between ward family and found family.

Ward family is conditional. It exists within the shared identity of being members of the Church, and therefore only fully extends to members of the Church. Those who aren't members and are unlikely to ever become members, or who were formerly members and are no longer fully engaged with the Church, are often seen as being unworthy or undeserving of that network of help and loving care. The reason for this is because with church membership comes the expectation of reciprocation. In this line of thinking, the church member will pay it forward at a future time through ongoing service through the Church. The issue is not that people are receiving benefits to which they have not previously contributed. Rather, it's the boundary setting that happens with those who have no intentions of paying it forward through the same network of finite resources.

Church family also often centers around the formal administration overseen by local leadership on the ward council. It may or may not be facilitated through delegated assignments, volunteered service, or shared resources extended through church social networks. Because no one person has total control over this council and the causes it chooses to undertake and how, the help that is given through it is shaped by the personal beliefs and life experiences of many different people. Because of that, mileage and results will vary wildly based on geographic location and the cultures (and politics) of the surrounding areas.

Anyone who is familiar with the concept of found family, or comes into the church with the expectation that church family will function like found family, is going to be confused by what they see happening in many places. And because it's important for church members to understand the difference, to be willing and capable of doing both kinds of giving, this comes with acknowledging those differences honestly.

Found Family is Unconditional

Found family is an ongoing, personal relationship between individuals that isn't bound by shared identity, social networks, or life experiences. It's a much closer relationship than a casual acquaintance at Church. It's a friendship where a person is fully integrated into a family's embrace as one of their own. The exchange of love and gratitude is mutual, flows in both directions, and exists solely within the individual family. There's no expectation for anyone else outside of that relationship to be benefiting from it. So while two different communities may be coming together and sharing in a mutual space with one another, there is no expectation that their communities will directly benefit from that exchange.

For example, if an LDS family decided to sponsor a family of refugees and developed a found family relationship with them, there would be no expectation for the refugee family to join the Church. If an LDS family took in a queer person who was also a former member of the Church, there would be no expectation for them to come back to church because of that association, or in exchange for resources. The relationship itself is the reward, not anything monetary or otherwise valuable that the relationship could be used for.

Found family relationships often materialize spontaneously through already existing friendships. But through my own reflection, I'm realizing they exist when people create space in their families, their homes, and their lives for those relationships to materialize.  It's one where the jump has been made together from acquaintance or casual friendship to actual family. Those relationships are grown, nourished, and are sincerely cherished on both sides.

Not every relationship in the Church should be one of found family. I'm not suggesting it should be. But recognizing the ways that God works through found family is an important one for people of faith to understand and embrace. There is a kind of good that only be accomplished through found family relationships and in no other way, including by the a church or ward family. There are families who have space in their lives at different seasons to create found family relationships, and some who don't. It's important to be able to assess situations impartially and to understand which is needed.

In Psalms 68:6, David taught that "God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains." I've seen that ministry work through my own life in the Church. The trajectory of my life changed completely because members of the Church facilitated both found family and church family relationships. Knowing how to do both is good discipleship and allows those who belief in Christ to follow his example in moments where it can do the greatest good.

Building Positive Relationships of Trust and Safety with Youth in the Church

I was the Sunday School teacher for 14-15 year olds when Come Follow Me came out, with a class composed almost entirely of Young Men who had a certain reputation for being "difficult." The bishopric, other ward members, and parents of the youth in my class all gave me similar warnings.

In actuality, they were fine. They were normal kids having normal problems. They had the same needs as any other teenagers. The warnings I was receiving were not accurate reflections of the youth. They did, however, give me some insight into the unhealthy expectations parents in my ward were putting on their children to toe every single line perfectly, with no deviation.

I didn't do that to them. That's the single most important thing I gave them: the slack to be a normal kid, rather than members of "the chosen generation." I tried to love them for who they were, rather than who or what they were pretending to be. I accepted the fact that a significant number of them were only there because they were forced to be and were giving me the courtesy of their limited attention. I understood that relationship and accepted it, without any expectations for them to change it against their will.

I respected them, even when they didn't always respect me. I validated their feelings, including their desire not to be at church. When they saw I wasn't going to rat them out to their parents for things they said and did, that they were free to be themselves, that they could be on their phones and I wasn't going to take it personally, they opened up to me. They gave me the chance to speak to their real concerns. It didn't happen every Sunday. I didn't expect it to happen every Sunday. But it did happen. And it only happened because I earned their trust, rather than expecting them to just give it to me when I'd done nothing to earn it.

I prepared a spiritual buffet every Sunday and didn't criticize them for what they did or didn't take. They could take what they wanted or just leave it all there. I didn't force them to do anything they didn't want to do or feel comfortable doing, including reading scriptures or praying. I didn't force them to be insincere in my presence.

And you know what? One of the most disruptive ones showed up at my house at 10 p.m. after she ran away from home during an argument with her father and asked if she could sleep at my house. She knew she was safe with me.

That's what my priority was. That was my motivation in everything I said and did. And just because every kid didn't become or stay active in the Church, go on a mission, get married in the temple, or follow the trajectory the Church had established for their lives, that doesn't mean I wasn't successful. I wasn't there to enforce rigid expectations on anyone.

Too many parents and leaders in the Church are unable to let go of what they think their success is supposed to look like with the youth to accept what is actually achievable.

Making the Church a safe place to come back to if they ever need help, rather than a place of achievement and conformity, is where we are. The lion's share of our youth aren't interested in serving missions, temple marriage, going to a church-sponsored school, or maintaining the Church's ideal relationship with organized religion into adulthood. They're going to be casual in their relationship with the Church, at best. We can align our messaging and social interactions with a more casual approach, without any judgment about what we think they should be doing instead. Or we can keep doing harm by telling folks they're not good enough for not wanting the lives the Church has laid out for them.

We can't say we're doing the former, while trying to constantly bait and switch into the latter. It doesn't work. We've surrounded ourselves with the consequences of what it looks like when we try.

More COVID-19 Mutations are Coming

Y'all remember when I said back in February 2020 that you need to start masking and self-isolating, and there was a group of folks on Twitter (whose names I still remember) that tried to tell me I was wrong, that my advice was going to kill people, and it wasn't necessary to mask?

They weren't alone. I've been making fun of my husband for years now for not believing me. When I told him I thought we should start masking in March 2020 he said, and I quote, "You have a better chance of being killed by Lori Vallow than dying from corona virus in Idaho."

Well, I'm here to bring you a similar warning that is going to be equally unpopular that no one wants to hear. And before you reject it outright, remember that just because nobody believed Cassandra didn't make her wrong.

If you haven't been following what's going on in China with COVID-19 currently, here's what you need to know.

There are new variants of COVID-19 going around in China that are going to spread, infect, and kill people faster than any of the COVID-19 variants we've seen so far. With Omicron, the cases were doubling about every 3 days. With these new variants, the cases are doubling after only a few hours.

They're expecting these variants to spread to 10% of the global population by March 2023.

Depending on the sources you read, you'll get all kinds of contradictory explanations as to why it's only going to be that bad in China, but the rest of the world will be fine. They're already trying to blame China's zero-COVID response because even though the Chinese have some of the highest vaccination rates in the world, they don't have sufficient immunity from becoming infected. Nevermind that we've already determined over and over again already that infection doesn't provide lasting immunity anyway, and reinfection comes with increasing risks of serious illness the more times it happens.

At the same time China is telling the world they have zero COVID deaths, they have hearses lining up outside crematoriums in Beijing.

With hospitals already brimming to overflowing with kids with RSV, there is no room for what COVID-19 is about to unleash on the world. Health care systems are going to be overwhelmed, with fewer nurses than we had the last time this happened. And all we know so far is that the vaccines they've been receiving in China aren't protecting people from it.

So if you have any kind of travel plans, cancel them. If you have holiday plans to visit with anyone or have anyone at your house, don't. If your kids have the option of going remote at school again, do it. If not, make sure they're masking and social distancing as best they can at school. If you're not masking in public, you need to get your hands on the best quality masks you can find and wear them, without exception. If you have the ability to self-isolate again, do it now. Update your vaccines if you haven't yet. And for the love of God, stay home from church.

Things are about to get really dark. There are going to be a lot of conflicting messages because public officials are going to conceal, lie about, and minimize all of this. The same folks who lied to us and said that masking wasn't necessary in 2020 because of the PPE shortage are going to be the same ones minimizing the impact of this wave of COVID-19 and the precautions we need to take to protect ourselves from it. Use your own best judgment to take as many precautions as possible.

Being Denied the Sacrament During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Year Later

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will be familiar with the saga of when my former bishop rescinded access to sacrament administration for those social distancing from Church at home. Since that was a year ago and Twitter is on the brink of functional collapse, I wanted to pull those screenshots and tweets from Twitter for the sake of historical preservation.

There will come a time when church historians will document the COVID-19 response of the Church. The apologists, as they always do, will try to paint the experience in rosy colors, as if ordinance administration wasn't a genuine source of conflict between members and leadership, that the tactics used by leadership were always respectful and never resorted to manipulation. That simply isn't true.

I also shared my feelings on this experience as it was happening on The Cultural Hall podcast, link here for those who are interested.

31 Oct 2021: 

Email sent from my former bishop rescinding home administration of the sacrament.



3 Nov 2021

The challenging of my wording, "denied" vs "limited"

This distinction became a source of contention between my husband and I because I fully believed and understood that we were being handed an ultimatum to either return to church in person or go without sacrament administration. He was choosing a more generous interpretation that implied that we would simply have to request permission for sacrament administration each week from now on.

From that same thread:

Anyone who would try to coerce me back to church through the outright manipulation of an ultimatum has the audacity to just say "No."


4 Nov 2021

From the attending thread: "Nothing. This response gives me absolutely nothing in terms of a workable solution. Just a patronizing pat on the head before slamming the door right in my face."

7 Nov 2021

"Update: Husband took the more diplomatic approach and asked nicely if he could administer the sacrament at home today. No response. You know, because there was never any intention of giving us an alternative. That's how ultimatums work."
From the same thread:
"Being in the Church is such an emotional roller coaster. What am even supposed to do with a group of people whose capacity for incredible love and terrifying indifference is so all over the place?" 

9 Nov 2021


20 Nov 2021

"At this point, I feel like I'm documenting something that a church leader in the future is going to try to claim never happened."

My response:

"For a church that had the stones to tell me to my face, without flinching, that the most Christ-like woman I have ever met wouldn't be allowed to come to my sealing, they sure are full of moral cowardice when it comes to enforcing COVID-19 restrictions."

10 Dec 2021

11 Jan 2022

"Update from my Bishop: As it turns out, using ultimatums to force three wards back into a petri dish of a church building full of unvaccinated, unmasked people is *checks watch* killing people right on schedule."

15 Jan 2022

"Thou hast played a stupid game, by which thou shalt win a stupid prize. COVID 19:22"

3 Mar 2022

"Update: I reached out to my Bishop when the crisis standards of care were activated *for the second time* in Idaho hospitals to try and get Sacrament Meeting authorization in my home. I also changed my tack and tried to help him see me as a person."

That last paragraph where I'm randomly talking about boats are in reference to the ward themes they've been using during the pandemic.
This was the email I received weeks later, after the crisis standards of care had already been lifted, which only happens once enough people in our state have died to reduce the number of people in our hospitals to make room.

"I have a long history of reaching into heaven and pulling what I need out of thin air. I can make my own miracles. John the Baptist lived on honey and locusts in the wilderness and so can I. But that doesn't mean my deprivation was holy, Bishop Cutler.
Depriving me of what was my right to receive is not God's work. You will stand accountable before God for how you sent me away hungry and thirsty from the Feast that isn't yours to deny. May God be merciful to you in that day, Ryan. You will need it."

28 Aug 2022


"This tweet brought to you by the letter P, the number 3, and the fact that the worst bishop I've ever had just got released."

A Year Later

I've been in the Church for sixteen years. That's officially half of my life in the Church this year. From here on out, I will have been a part of it longer than I ever lived without the Church in my life. And if you had told my younger self that I'd be in a situation like this, I wouldn't have believed you. In those days of my tiny branch who went out of their way to show me so much love and support, I frankly would've found it impossible to believe that members of the Church could be capable of this kind of mean-spirited, self-defeating behavior.

As a result, I have just sent my new bishop the following ultimatum of my own. If putting people into unrealistic, unreasonable positions based on a personal refusal to be flexible is the new normal in the Church because of COVID-19, then so be it.

This is the email I just sent to my current bishop, requesting either home sacrament administration authorization or a boundary exception to return to our previous ward:

Hello Bishop Firkins,

You and I haven't had the opportunity to become acquainted yet. My husband and I moved into the ward in the midst of COVID-19 lock downs last year and have been social distancing at home. I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself, since this is likely the only kind of interaction we're likely to have for some time.

My name is Heather Collins. I'm a convert to the church and I'm actually hitting a major milestone this year. I'm passing my 16th year as a member of the Church, which was how old I was when I joined. From here on out, I will have been in the Church longer than I was ever out of it as a non-member.

I've been through a lot in my experience in the Church. I was the only member in my family to join the Church. They didn't support my decision to be baptized. I went to BYU against their wishes. I served a mission without their support. I got married in the temple without them being there. And now I live on the other side of the country from my whole extended family.

Being a member of the Church has been a difficult, lonely thing for me. I put on a brave face for a lot of people, but it's seldom that I ever speak to anyone who understands what my life has been like. I don't regret one second of it, you understand. However, there are plenty of times when I have wished that it could've been easier, or at the very least that the people around me could've appreciated the ways I struggle more than they have ever had to do to keep the Church in my life. I do it because I love my Savior. I do it because I love this community. But it's always deeply frustrating to me when my journey of discipleship has already been more difficult than some people could possibly imagine, and yet they still don't see the ways that they've made the journey harder for reasons I can't pretend to understand.

Bishop Cutler and I had several heated disagreements about home sacrament administration. It has been a year since he officially rescinded home sacrament administration for us, or it will be as of tomorrow. He gave us an ultimatum to either come back in person or to go without the sacrament, which has been the most malicious and harmful interaction with a bishop I have ever had in my sixteen years of church membership. He said and did several things that have hurt me deeply, for which he has never taken any ownership or made any attempt to apologize. It has been a struggle to hold onto my faith without the support of the ward family who was supposed to be there for me, and quite frankly, hasn't been.

We were previously in the Boise Idaho stake in the Castle Park ward, just on the other side of the river. I have had more loving contact and support from the members of my previous ward over the past year, even when I'm out of sight and presumably out of mind, than I've ever had from anyone in the Winstead Ward. At several point when my prayers needed answering, when I needed the reminder that God still knows me and cares about me, it has been them, not anyone from the Winstead Ward, who has shown up for me. Whenever I run into them in public, they tell me how much they miss me and appreciated me, even though they haven't seen me for several years now. They never miss an opportunity to remind me that I'm still a part of their ward family, even though they don't see me anymore.

So here is my request: something in this situation needs to change. Either you rescind this ultimatum for home sacrament administration for those of us who are still social distancing at home, or give my family the boundary exception to return to the ward that knows we exist and still cares about us, who will take care of us in ways the Winstead Ward never has. Either let us receive the blessings we are worthy to receive or let us go back to the ward family who already knows us and will take care of us.

We've been punished for not returning to Church in person for long enough. We are not going to expose ourselves to COVID-19 to receive the sacrament. It's inappropriate and abusive for anyone to put us in that position, to have to choose between our physical and spiritual health that way. If you're firm in the same resolve as your predecessor to continue putting us in that position, just let us go back to our previous ward. We certainly have no opportunity to bless others, or to be blessed, in this current arrangement, so it is unlikely we would even be missed.

Thank you for your time in reading this email. I look forward to receiving your response.

Best wishes,
Heather Collins

15 Nov 2022

I received a phone call from my bishop in which he genuinely wanted to connect with me and have a conversation about how to best support us. He approached me with genuine concern and a desire to be helpful. I almost forgot what that felt like, it had been so long.

We have been approved for sacrament administration in our home for second and fourth Sundays. He expressed a greater desire to have us embraced and loved as part of the community, since that's clearly not the experience we've had. He validated my feelings and never once made me feel like a burden, or like I was being difficult. The best in Mormonism always seems to boil down to a "how can I help?" attitude, and that's what I found in my new bishop throughout that conversation.

I'll be the first one to admit that I'm a person who instinctively matches and magnifies energy. If you come at me with love, kindness, graciousness, and concern for my well-being, I will match it and magnify it tenfold. Likewise, if you come at me sideways with an agenda of inconsideration, inflexibility, manipulation, and animosity, I will also match it and magnify it. I have been the mirror for many people who never figured out that the reason they don't get along with me is because they don't like the aspects of themselves they see me reflecting back at them.

Because second Sunday just happened, I can look forward to taking the sacrament again next weekend. I can finally put this unpleasantness behind me and move on from this, which is all I've wanted this entire time. And it was such a relief to have a meeting of the minds with someone who has the exact same objective.

Practicing vs. Active

Let's talk about a needed distinction for LDS folks when it comes to practicing a religion versus being active in a religion.

I am a practicing Mormon. That is not the same thing as being active. I haven't been to Church in years because my local unit is unsafe for me. So I do all of my personal worship in my home.

I pray. I study scripture. I rest on the Sabbath. I keep the Word of Wisdom, pay a full tithe, am honest in my dealings with my earth fellows, and still carry a current temple recommend. This is what I mean by believing and practicing.

The Book of Mormon teaches that my worship is no less valid because it takes place outside of a church building. In fact, it puts into serious question why anyone would need a church building to worship. The folks in Alma 32 were not required to subject themselves to abuses, dehumanization, and violence by being inside of the church buildings they built. God came to them in their wilderness and blessed them as they were, with no mind to what they lacked.

I stand by that. To the end of my days, I stand by that.

Why do I "bother" when so many people at church clearly don't want me around? Because God does not belong to them to take from me. I refuse to give them that power because they don't deserve it.

You need a model for how to maintain your life of faith without being in contact with harmful people? Here it is.

You owe no one an explanation or justification for it. This is your life. It doesn't need to look like everyone else's to serve God and bring joy.


Why I thought I stopped going to Church: I had five callings that were robbing me of the will to live. 

Why I actually stopped going to Church: I have never recovered from the realization that pre-1978, I wouldn't have qualified for full ordinance participation because my father was black.

Why I don't go back, despite still being a believing, practicing Mormon: My bishop created an unsafe environment in sacrament meeting for those trying to avoid COVID-19. As a result, I lost all respect for him and his contributions to my spiritual life.

To be clear, I am not separated from the body of Christ. I am the body of Christ, same the members who stay. And I did not remove myself of my own volition. I was amputated. That doesn't mean my identity changes because he still claims me. 

There needs to be room for believing, card-carrying members to say "I left because y'all just suck so much." That's not a profession of apostasy. It's a refusal to be disrespected. I don't owe anyone suffering in a one-sided exchange where all I get in return is stress.

Y'all want people in the pews? Maybe learn how to act in public, without blaming others for staying home to avoid dealing with you.

The Good Shepherd

Let's talk about sheep.

Jesus taught that we are his flock of sheep. And the likes of Greg Olsen have made that sentiment way more endearing than I think it was intended to be. When you actually know something about animal husbandry, his meaning changes from the way we typically understand it.

If you had to describe sheep, here are several words and phrases you could use:
  • helpless 
  • vulnerable 
  • fragile 
  • able to be injured or killed remarkably easily, especially by accident
I'm learning animal husbandry for my certification as a veterinary nurse. Sheep scare the shit out of me. Handle them wrong and you can literally snap their necks. Their skeletons are fragile. They can't regulate their body temperatures much beyond 50°F. If you handle them roughly, you can break their back legs. You can't grab them by the fleece because you can permanently ruin their skin. They can't jump especially well. They have no natural defenses of any kind. If you remove a baby from its mother before she can bond with it, even to save its life, she will abandon it entirely. Touch them wrong and you could do irreparable harm to them.
There's no such thing as a little "oops" with sheep. Every sheep has to be treated like the slightest injury is a big deal. There's no such thing as being too sensitive or too careful with sheep. Their feelings matter because they are incapable of withstanding any kind of violence. There is no place for violence in a sheep herd. 
The shepherd's biggest worry for the sheep isn't just that a predator could come and wipe them all out. It's also that he could literally kill them by accident through bad husbandry.  
If you fancy yourself any kind of shepherd like Jesus Christ was, in any kind of ministering capacity, you need to recognize that one of the greatest threats to its survival isn't wolves. 
It's you. 
Specifically, you assuming you know what you're doing whenever do not. Because in that scenario, it's not a question of if you will do irreparable harm to some of the sheep in your care. It's when and how.
To be a good shepherd is to love sheep in all of their "I'm allergic to tap water" glory. To care enough to know how to handle them with love, meeting all their needs, no matter what they are.
When we talk about Jesus being the Good Shepherd, that's what that means.

A Meditation on Deliverance

O Come, O Come Emmanuel...

The words of a hymn embedded deep into my heart from rehearsals so many years ago, seemingly in a different lifetime.

And ransom captive Israel...

The plea embedded forever onto the walls of my heart. A fervent prayer, echoing into eternity from every direction.

That mourns in lonely exile here,

A refusal to succumb to the will of those who should've been trustworthy, and were not. Cleaving to the light of my own candle, whose shining into the darkness reveals and condemns it for what it is.

Until the Son of God appears.

I shall not walk in darkness because He is here. He is always here. He cannot be separated from me.


My birth rite. My joy belongs to me, is mine to claim, no matter what happens.


A commandment with a promise to me.

Shall come to thee, O Israel.


It has been six weeks since my bishop of my current ward has removed access to the sacrament from me and my family. There was no disciplinary council, no judgment passed, no conditions of repentance extended. We were handed an ultimatum to come back to church in person, with the unvaccinated and unmasked, and told there would be no alternatives given. Expose yourself and those you love or go without. Those were the instructions given to me during tithing settlement.

Nothing has changed. No divine retribution given. No change of heart. The situation as it stood then remains the same. Every word of warning I gave to him about the perils of lifting restrictions too soon, of moral cowardice in the face of certain death, has come to pass. Omicron has revealed itself and will fell millions across the world like a scythe to a harvest.

That does not mean deliverance has not come for me.

My covenants remain. The clarity of vision of how to proceed has not faded from me. As Mary stealing into the night with the Son of God, fleeing to Egypt to spare his life from Herod, funded by the kindness of strangers. Step by step through an unforgiving desert, to greet an unknown future on the other side of Sinai.

She is a survivor. I will learn from her, placing my feet where she trod. The loneliest walk in human history because no one has ever born a grief greater than hers. No one has ever been responsible for so much. I am in good company with her.

Be the solid ground beneath my feet in the wilderness. Prepare for me a table in the presence of my enemies. Hide me in the pavilion and set me upon the rock. Strengthen my heart against all fear. Bring their malice to an expected end.

Get Vaccinated!

Before I joined the Church, I came from evangelical Christianity. I'd been attending church with my best friend and her family. Her father was the pastor. They claimed to be non-denominational, but were actually Southern Baptists.

She invited me because she was tired of being the only girl get age in her youth program, and I never said "No" to an invitation to attend someone else's church. Her family was kind to me. They were lovely people whose influence on me was important in my life. That said, their message didn't resonate with me. I didn't feel like what they had to offer me was increasing my faith or bringing me closer to God. I couldn't articulate what I was looking for at the time. I only knew they didn't have it.

I left that church, despite the positive associations and friendships I had, because I didn't believe what they were teaching me. They were irreconcilable differences not only in thought, but in values.

I don't believe the Bible is the best representation we have of God's reality, purpose, and voice. The living God who speaks is. I don't believe spiritual gifts and divine works are manifest only through pastors. I believe all of us have direct access to the divine. Most importantly, I believe that God is present and real in the effort to teach and educate us because we need divine mentorship. We need guidance, help, and healing that doesn't come from a book. We haven't already learned everything we need to know from the Bible. 

When I was introduced to the Church and discovered the entire concept of continuing revelation, I was sold. Not because I was particularly attracted to the concept of living prophets. But because I'd found the place where no error in human thinking is permanently entrenched.

So when I give the following warning to those who choose to stay and be active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I'm speaking from personal experience.

When you interact with political parties, especially the Republican party, you are interacting with thoughts, ideas, and approaches to policy that come from these evangelical communities. Their ideas about vaccines, public health, the individual's obligation to their community, our obligation to sustain governments—we differ from them on almost all of these points. So why would we wholesale adopt their approaches on anything? Especially social distancing, vaccine, and mask mandates?

When we cling to their ideas, in contradiction of the instructions we've been given from our own leadership on how to protect each other with masking and vaccination, we introduce apostasy into the Church. To be clear, the personal and political positions of church leadership are not what define apostasy. However, harm and the disregard for human life and the dignity of others does.

I left evangelical Christianity for Mormonism because they are distinctly different from each other in ways that matter and need to be maintained. I'm not going to watch well-intentioned but willfully blind folks introduce evangelical failure into my community without pointing it out with the clearest language I possess. And when it comes to the choices happening in my community related to COVID-19, it's an influence of which we need to be deeply mistrusting. Taking unnecessary risks with other peoples' lives doesn't become acceptable because other Christians are doing it.

Being a Spiritual Nomad

We had a fantastic speaker in sacrament meeting who was asked to speak on unity. She shared her experiences with her gay brother, to reinforce that unity in the Church is only possible when we show everyone compassion and respect. She challenged our congregation to have empathy for others, especially for those whose lives we don't understand. That's what love looks like, not what our "good intentions" produce that is still objectively harmful.

Is there a slang word for when you're getting way too emotional on the Zoom and you want reassurance that no one can hear or see you? Because that's where I was today watching Church in my garments.

It got me thinking though.

You know that whole spiel where we talk about the Church being a spiritual home and the members are our Church family? I think that analogy gave me some really unhealthy expectations for other people that I want to deconstruct. 

I don't really see the Church as my spiritual home anymore. 


Because that implies the Church was my ultimate destination. Home is with my Heavenly Parents in their presence. That's what I've been searching for. That's my destination. That is home.

The church's role in that journey is more of a rest stop. You can refuel and get supplies. Find maps and directions. Take a shower if you need one. Get fed and watered before going on your way again. It was never supposed to be the destination.

The Church is only useful to me inasmuch as it shows me how to get to my actual home.

The journey I'm on to go home again is the focus of my life, not the experiences I have in the rest stops along the way.

What Faith in Jesus Christ Looks Like During a Global Pandemic

This is a real line from a conversation I had with a man in Brazil, who left the Church to become whatever the Brazilian version of an Evangelical Christian is. 

"Faith is all you need. That's it. Only faith. Nothing else. If I have faith this car can fly, then it can. God can make this car fly."

I stood there politely, understanding completely why I found half the list of members for that unit on the floor in the kitchen. I thanked him for his time and we walked away without much further conversation. I didn't go on a mission to argue with people. But what he said ended up teaching me something very important that I've carried with me ever since.

When the only thing you care about in your religious life is "faith" as an abstract, isolated concept devoid of any context or connection to reality, you can use it to justify pretty much anything. God, in that scenario, ceases to be a parent or a source of moral teaching and becomes a gumball machine for increasingly ridiculous requests.

To teach faith in Jesus Christ correctly means understanding what hope, love, and loyalty in the living, breathing Christ can and cannot produce. It means valuing Christ as a person and the message he taught, not making a spectacle of the miracles he performs.

I don't believe in Jesus Christ because I want him to overturn the limits of reality and good sense to help me evade the consequences of my actions. I believe in him because he is my teacher, mentor, and friend helping me to achieve my true potential. I don't need him to pick up a car and chuck it across the sky just because I asked him to for my faith to be made manifest.

I would suggest that if you do, it's not faith you're actually looking for. Commanding God into making a spectacle of divine power is the definition of asking for a sign. For too many people in the Church, that is their only plan for how they intend to remain uninfected from COVID-19.

Pray AND Vaccinate!

If you're going to pray to God in all sincerity that you will be spared from becoming infected with COVID-19, even though you're unvaccinated, that's not faith. That's a mockery of faith. It's the perfect example of asking for that which "is not expedient for you," as taught in D&C 88. The consequence of that? That prayer will not only go unanswered, but it will also "turn unto your condemnation."

Why should a loving, intelligent God facilitate ANY request where a person refuses to help themselves through vaccination, and instead asks God to do all the work of preventing contagion for them? Why would an intelligent God, who prioritizes mortal wisdom and experience we came to earth here to obtain for ourselves, do that for us?

A God who has the power to elevate the mind and transform our condition would reason with us to help ourselves by choosing to be vaccinatednot the equivalent of chucking Volkswagen Beetles through the air.


President Russell M. Nelson receiving a vaccination for COVID-19.

Why do people honestly think they can prevent the spread of COVID-19 with faith alone? Because they've fundamentally (and perhaps willfully) misunderstood the nature of what faith in Jesus Christ is designed to accomplish.

Faith in Jesus Christ doesn't get you what you want, no matter how unreasonable, as a condition of being a Christian. If God has to help you avoid the consequences of your actions in increasingly grandiose and ridiculous ways, chances are it wasn't God who put you in that position. You did that all on your own.

Faith in Jesus Christ teaches us to give away every sin and selfish thought we have until none remains. It turns us into the people who simply do the loving thing naturally, just as the Savior did, without cajoling or difficult persuasion.

Get vaccinated. Wear a mask.

Stop asking God to save you when you have everything you need already to do it yourself.

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