This week has been an absolute whirlwind of emotions. On Monday, August 23, my husband and I headed to Mount Lemmon to do a photoshoot with some local photographers. We had so much fun in the tall pine trees that are so foreign to the lower valley where the city of Tucson resides.
It was so peaceful up there; there were no distractions, no cars, no people.
Whenever I am in the mountains, I remember that before temples, ancient prophets would go into the mountains to pray to God and to get closer to them. I left that mountain feeling so refreshed and peaceful. On the way back down, I opened up my iPhone to check socials and my email and I was met with a familiar face and the headline “Elder Holland Urges BYU to Be Distinct, Stay True to Christ”. I opened it up hoping for some more spiritual edification, but underestimated the amount of pain that link would cause for me.
There were beautiful portions of this speech from Elder Holland — but they were overshadowed with a specific charge for students and teachers to be diligent and steadfast in supporting and advocating for the church’s policies regarding marriage. Elder Holland used the analogy of musket fire to protect those beliefs.
Holland also said that Matt Easton, “commandeered the podium” at his graduation to announce his own personal sexual orientation. Matt’s speech was approved by BYU weeks prior to graduation, and he used the term “gay son of God,” in it. Matt’s bravery and example gave queer people all across the world courage and hope.
There is more to be said about Elder Holland’s speech and the pain it caused, but that isn’t the point of this passage. The point of this passage is to hopefully share that sometimes, painful endings can also be beautiful beginnings.
That evening, despite the beautiful afternoon on Mount Lemmon, I could not rest. I finally fell asleep around midnight, but woke up again around 2:30 AM feeling anxious and unable to breathe. I went to the restroom, and it all hit me at once; I could feel every moment of pain that I had felt from people in the church, I could feel every endless suicidal night, and every day of putting on a personality that was not my own. I could feel the hopelessness and sadness I felt as a teenager, and the pain of realizing I could never be a normal member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Most of all, I could feel that the glimmer of hope I was desperately holding onto for the church to change had been seized. Quite frankly– it felt like I had been shot by a musket. I sat down on the bathroom floor, and I cried. I knew it was time for me to let go.
I have been grasping onto hope, with white knuckles, that the church would change. The mental gymnastics and hoops that I jumped through to keep one foot in and one foot out were exhausting. I simply could not continue doing this to myself. For my own health and well-being, I knew it was time to formally make the transition out of the church. I started the process that night, but I still couldn’t decide if that was the right decision. So, I put it on pause.
The following morning, I knelt on the shower floor and I prayed and prayed and prayed for guidance. I continued praying throughout the day. Finally, the Spirit spoke to me the same way that they had many times before: “You need to do what speaks peace to your soul.”
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”Galatians 5:22-23
“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.”Moroni 7:16-17
These scriptures came to my mind so many times this week. I reflected on the painful nights where I did not want to wake up in the morning, the months following my return from Canada, the 2015 policy of exclusion, the BYU honor code debacles, the countless Sunday school lessons about marriage and family, my previous plans to live alone for the rest of my life, the DEZNAT members of the church who are always so eager to weaponize the policies and doctrines of the church, etc. etc.
I also reflected on the day I met my husband, and the light and comfort he brought to my soul. I remembered him singing “Savior, Redeemer of My Soul” in our first home for our family’s church service during the pandemic. I remembered our wedding day, our first anniversary, our days spent with nieces and nephews and our plan to have children of our own, our ventures and hardships, and the peace that HE brings to my soul.
The past three years have been a major overhaul of my faith and testimony. Brick by brick, I have deconstructed former beliefs and teachings down to the very foundation that the little cottage was built upon. I found my Savior there, holding up the unsteady house. I realized that my unsteady house was not built for me. The testimony that was residing in those walls were built for a version of me that only existed inside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That version of me was made up, and it was a version created out of fear- specifically the fear that I wouldn’t be able to go to heaven with my family. There was no peace for me in that rickety little cottage, in fact I was so torn apart in there that I began to feel hatred toward it. That is not fruit from the Spirit. Who wants to feel that way toward something that is supposed to be so beautiful and peaceful?
Luckily, my parents and grandparents taught me that the foundation is the most important part. I am rebuilding a new house on the same foundation. It’s a custom-built home, tailored for me. I want quartz countertops and lots of warm tones. This house is much stronger because I won’t use what doesn’t feel right to me. From the plumbing to the shingles, I have only used what has spoken peace to my soul. I have used the foundation that I built with Christ and His gospel to custom build the rest. This home is simple and beautiful. It is welcoming and warm. It is happy and bright, and most importantly, it houses my husband and I beautifully. We fit in well here, and we get to be authentic. Our faith has blossomed and the peace we feel about the future comes from the foundation. This is not a rickety cottage, but a beautiful home where we can thrive. Beautiful homes take time and calculated effort to build, so it will be a work in progress forever.
I knew I needed to sweep the foundation off before the new house could live up to its full potential, but fear kept me from doing so. I wanted to keep the old remnants of the rickety cottage that resided there before, but they were hindering the new home’s progression. Where each new wall I tried to construct was, it seemed like there was a pile of old bricks and broken wood that had to be moved to storage so I could keep it. I stepped on old nails and broken glass, and I shrugged it off, thinking that someday it might change and be something beautiful. My storage container filled with remnants of what I hoped would become something again.
I realized this week that that storage container was filled with remnants of my testimony of the institution of the church. The storage container has been in the way of me living up to my potential and growing my current relationship with Christ. It was weighing me down and kept dragging me back hoping. The remnants of that testimony and the church that I have always loved do not want the real version of me or my family, and it is time for me to accept that and move forward. I need to build the right home for me.
This week has also been filled with precious moments and reminders of the Savior’s love and understanding of us. I have had countless strangers and family members reach out to me with words of encouragement and love. I have had people checking on me, guided by the Spirit. I have been reminded of the beauty of the atonement and the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ. I have also been reminded that despite the divisiveness and pain that can come from certain church policies and doctrines, I am so blessed to have so many wonderful people on my side to remind me that they would take a musket shot for me. I have so many people fighting for me and my right to be the human that God created, and to live to that full potential. I have people rooting for my new custom home, and my happiness, and there is nothing more beautiful or Christlike than that.
I have spent years working through all of these things, accompanied by many wonderful family members who have been so patient and kind. Through it all, one thing remains, and that is Jesus Christ. He loves us. He knows us. He gave everything for us, and His grace is all encompassing and empowering. Through my faith in Him, I know that I am on the path that I need to be on. I know that when I die and I stand before him, I can say that I did everything in my power to be like Him- to have faith, be virtuous, seek knowledge, exercise temperance and patience, show all people love and charity, and embody humility.
Life as a Christian person is to always work toward these attributes. I know that He lives. I know that He walks next to me every day and carries me when I cannot stand. He is the master builder, the Prince of Peace, MY Savior.
Through Him, I know that all things are possible.