Dear AMG readers:
Just tiptoeing back after a nice post-election break, and what do I find in my in-box but multiple queries from women who find themselves at the door of Mormonism.
I am a divorced Catholic woman who has a child with an excommunicated Mormon man. Through a long process of searching, I feel deeply moved to consider joining the Church, even though my fiancé refuses to discuss it with me. I do not know what the vows of baptism and temple ceremonies encompass, but I don’t think I could stand in a holy place and swear that I believe that gays are second-rate humans to be cured. I believe in equal marriage rights. And I do not believe any of the world’s religions have a lock on infallible truths. I have to wonder: Is there a place for a liberal, feminist LDS convert?
And then here:
I am a forty year-old single woman of deep faith. For the last thirteen years god has been sending members (and ex-members) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to cross my path, not only as missionaries, but as door-to-door salesmen, as Buddhists, and as yoga mentors. I often joke that when God wants to get my attention, She sends me a Mormon. I recently moved to a small town and my heart was moved to go to LDS services. Since then, I have been taking lessons with the missionaries every week. We set a date for my baptism for a month from today. But the organization, the people, the politics, and the statements of the Church—past policies on race and recent stances on homosexuality, for example–make me want to run dripping from the font to a place far, far away. I am proud of half of what I am seeing and mortified by half of it. I feel so alone in all of this. I am afraid to even ask if there are liberals in my Church here. I don’t know if I should go to my baptismal interview and speak my truth, or say what they want me to say and keep the honesty between me and God. Being baptized and then “going inactive” right away would piss everyone off and alienate myself in a small town. And I don’t want to be a member of the Church in the world (and in this small town) and be assumed to be all the same awful things I dislike about it. I can’t defend the things I find indefensible.
God moves in mysterious ways, people.
Can you imagine what they would have said, our sternly bearded Mormon forebears, had someone told them that a few decades hence bold-hearted but crooked-pathed female seekers would be reaching out to each other via the internet and asking, “Is there a place in Mormonism for me?”
Then again, maybe they would have been totally okay with it. They were, after all, bold-hearted but crooked-pathed seekers themselves. They didn’t have the internet, but some of them did have seerstones. More importantly, the ones who were really dialed in had a sense that truth would always exceed comprehension, encompassing “things as they are, as they were, and as they are to come” (D&C 93: 24).
If you’re a liberal woman attracted to Mormonism, perhaps you are a part of things that are “to come.” Perhaps you are a visitor from the future. Perhaps you (and a whole lot of people in the Global South) are the ones the Spirit is sending to help take the Mormon movement where it needs to go next. Still, after reading these letters from both of you, I have to say I found myself totally puzzled. But then I remembered the story of spiritual seekers in Ghana and Nigeria in the 1950s and 1960s who came across copies of the Book of Mormon, taught themselves Mormon doctrine, and organized themselves into Mormon churches—long before missionaries ever arrived, and decades before Black men and women were eligible for priesthood and temple ordinances.
Was there a place in Mormonism for them? And if there was, can there be a place in Mormonism for you? Of course, only you can answer that question—and the answer won’t come in the short term. It will come when and if you claim and cultivate that place for yourself, as you invest in the faith on your own terms. I won’t underestimate the challenges this may entail. You both already know what some of those challenges are. But as someone who tries to dial into the big-hearted truth that exceeds comprehension, I won’t tell you it’s impossible either.
Here’s what I know: History is long. The world is wide. God is big. We Mormons can be mean and small sometimes. Then again, we can be utterly grand and lovely. Take your time making important decisions. To get a grip on what it means to be baptized, read Mosiah 18. And don’t lie in your baptismal interview. But do know that in and through it all you are in the hands of a merciful God, and there will always be a place for you next to me in the pew.
Send your query to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @askmormongirl on Twitter.