Monday, December 3, 2012

I want a place at the table, damnit

In Book of Mormon Girl, Joanna Brooks concludes her memoirs with a beautiful image that has stuck with me in the months since I read it: a large gathering of diverse people, chatting and sitting at a giant table. This is her dream for Mormonism. No one left out, no one made to feel like they can't contribute in their unique way.

My lovely and ever insightful sister Lauren had a wonderful conversation with me the other day, about how she wants us in the Church because she needs me to be and the Church at large needs us to be there to affect it for good in the direction of progress, not because I will surely wither away without it. And with her words, I could imagine a Mormon world where I could be a full and participating member. Though I struggle with issues in church history, I can chalk it up to the fallibility of man and the complexity of God's plan. Our short-sightedness leaves us vulnerable to misinterpretation, leading to doctrines that seem out of line with perhaps the truer principles of eternity. But right now, I can't be a full participant where my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are excluded and even disparaged, where women are a lesser other, where doctrinal creativity and intellectual inquiry are actively discouraged. Tim tried to make an honest and open attempt to reconcile some of his upset with the gender-exclusive language of the Book of Mormon and was essentially told he was becoming an enemy of the Church and his grandchildren will be damned. Really people?! He was changing pronouns. It's amazing how ingrained the patriarchal system of the Church truly is.

If the LDS church could be a little more open to others and a little more open to questions and innovation, I think I could be more satisfied with my experience in it. I find so many of the core doctrines to be stunningly beautiful, to be breathtaking in their depth and magnitude. I want, want so desperately to partake in this beauty. I look at my wondrous children and can't help but think my love for them is more than biology, it's more than hormones and evolution's way of propagating the species. Tallulah... I knew that girl. I knew her. Emerging from my womb she had such an essence, and I stared into those eyes and I knew her for a thousand years.

we meet at last, my darling
I struggle to convince myself it is a trick of the neurons firing in my grey matter that sparked these emotions. I want to have faith in eternal families, in temples, and in the atonement as our path back to our home in the heavens, wherever that may be. And I am trying. I am praying. I am searching. I am pondering.

But the negativity and the backlash has left me discouraged. Hopeless even, that I might not ever be able to find a place at the table with my fellow Saints. On the other hand, our fellow UUs are actively encouraging us to pursue a dual-religious-affiliation household. They are urging us to retain the doctrines of the LDS church if we so choose, to fuse them with our newfound principles and the community we have found with them. Why are Mormons so afraid of other churches? Are we threatened that they might have more truth than us, in some aspect, shape, or form? Why, if I question the Mormon church's exclusive claim to truth, am I all of a sudden a terrible person?

And so, every night, I utter the same thoughts, and end with: "please, God, wherever you both may be. Find me a place at the table, amen."


  1. This is well-written. The part about meeting your daughter gave me chills. Very powerful Cait. I hope you continue to find association with people who will be kind and supportive of your journey.

  2. I love you immensely, but it's hard to agree in all things. It's difficult to believe Joseph Smith's first vision and the restoration and then accept that other church's are true. All churches have truth and goodness, but if the Restored Gospel is true, it can't be just another of those churches with some truth and goodness. No other church has temple covenants and a living prophet, so it's difficult to look at it both ways. But, your open-mindedness is not wrong or threatening in any way. However, I can only reach so far.

  3. You have the difficult challenge of expressing your different views and influencing thought and actions without alienating people. It's a challenge.

  4. Cait,
    You really are so special in your willingness to think, pursue and act. I hope that amidst the unrestfulness of trying to sift things out, you are also finding peace. I've studied the book of Job a lot this last year, and it has helped my paradigm immensely. I don't think we are ever shunned or discouraged from questioning by our Heavenly parents, I think they love us all the more for it.

  5. Questioning the status quo is always and has always been frowned upon. Questioning can be scary becuase it holds the possibility of change. Change is necessary but terrifying.

  6. Just so you know, Andrew and I think you guys are awesome. Andrew is convinced that we should move to Madison so we can all be best friends. So, you do have some EXTRA family support, albeit somewhat distant.

    I don't agree with all of the decisions you make or the things you say, but I respect them. More than anything else, I know that you and Tim make the decisions that you feel are best for your family. Whatever those decisions may be, or whether I agree with them or not, doesn't matter. I respect that you make them for the right reasons.

    As for this post, you are NOT a terrible person for questioning the church's claim to truth. As your dad said, there IS truth and light in all churches. I myself believe that the GOSPEL, at its core, teaches tolerance and love for all people. However, I agree that the CHURCH does not always convey this message as well as it should. As far as I'm concerned, the gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect, but the Church and its leaders are not. I think if you feel the need to associate with people who convey this aspect of the gospel more fully, I say go for it.

    Now, that's not to say I think you should stop attending church completely, in fact I would attend church every Sunday, because I feel that the principles the church teaches are the only way back, and the only way to remain sealed as a family for eternity, and all of the other things you mentioned in this post. Feeling you knew Tallulah before this life should give you more incentive than anything to make sure you get to stay with her after it. (Sometimes I think that even if none of it were true, I would still want to do everything I could just on the CHANCE that I could stay with my family forever.)

    Mostly, I think you should keep doing exactly what you are doing. Praying, reading your scriptures (including the Book of Mormon), attending BOTH churches on Sundays (seems like a lot of church, but I still believe that LDS Church is Christ's church, so I would go there if I wanted answers, you do as you see fit), and waiting. You'll get your answers eventually.

    And there you have it, a comment almost as long as your post from someone you barely know. Sorry for being so wordy; feel free to ignore all or part of my comments. I've been holding it in for a while, and I guess when I get up at 5:00 to work on a paper, I have a tendency to explode (or procrastinate, whichever). -Amy Carroll

    p.s. That picture is awesome.

  7. This was beautiful. Beautiful! I loved hearing about your experience with Tallulah. I know how hard it can be to carve a place for yourself in Mormonism and to wait patiently. Sometimes it feels like you're holding on my your fingernails. When you need a rest, take a rest. When you need to walk away for a while, walk away for a while. But I echo what your sister said. Couldn't have said it better myself.

    Although I find it hard sometimes and question if it's worth it, I know that by being honest about who I am and by showing people that I will NEVER ever go away even if they wish I would, that they have to shift their paradigm and learn to deal with diversity in Mormonism. Easier said than done. I love you guys. I have faith in God's plan for you and that you'll both come to a place of peace with this.

  8. I hope that you are able to find, or make, a place for yourself at the table. I went through a long period of doubt, and thought about walking away, but realized that if I did so I would be lying to myself, since deep down I did believe that this was the place for me to be. (I am not saying that this is the answer for you, I am just sharing my experience.)

    I find that I have to strongly rely on my personal relationship with the Lord and remember that the church is full of imperfect people who are trying their best but are sometimes wrong. Sometimes I just have to have a thick skin. But I have seen changes in policy that make me hope that things will continue to change to make us more welcoming at our table.

    There are places where you might feel more welcome. When I lived in New York City most ward members were more liberal. When I went in to talk with my bishop about my concerns over Proposition 8 in CA, and where the line was were I would be parting ways with the church, he told me that he would never tell me not to come to church. We had a very good and productive discussion about the issues. I did have to sit through some uncomfortable testimonies that were the opposite of my feelings, but there were also people that I knew were questioning like I was, and some that were much more vocal about their feelings.

    I think that there are many people who do question like you do. It's just easy to keep those thoughts to ourselves, since we do worry that we won't be welcome at the table if we speak up. Or maybe it's just that we don't want to hear what well-meaning people with other opinions will say to us if they know what we are thinking. I was at a feminist reading group this week, and someone said that they wished there was a secret symbol that feminists in Utah would wear, so that you knew if there was a black flower on a woman's purse you could talk with her about certain things. Maybe we need something similar for questioning Mormons.

  9. What Lauren said really resonated with me. When I first read about you guys leaving my immediate reaction was, "But I need you in the church!" I need to know that I can have the thoughts and opinions I do and stay faithful. I didn't realize it, but I took a lot of comfort from knowing you guys are who you are but still in the church.

    So glad you've been sharing all your thoughts and experiences! Thank you.

    Also, my mom totally knew Wes when she first saw him. I didn't feel that way with him but I definitely knew Jones.

  10. Thanks for writing this, Cait. As far as I am concerned, there is room at the table for you! And I love the photo of you meeting your daughter. So beautiful.

  11. Either way... I think this video is awesome:
    Merry Christmas,
    and think; what if all of the scenes depicted really occurred? (and probably similarly to how they were depicted hence)

  12. Stephanie seems like she's on the same page. And that might be the most beautiful picture I've seen. Ever.

  13. I so fully agree with this. I often have trouble saying what i mean when it comes to expressing my views and opinions about this, so thank you for putting it into words.