Dealing With Hurt

Jesus Christ (German steel engraving) detail
The account below is a composite of the stories of two individuals, male & female, disfellowshipped & excommunicated, currently under discipline & long reconciled to the Church. They are known to the M* editors, but at least one has requested their name be withheld.

The authors hope that their response to the hurt they endured during their respective times of distance from the body of the Church might inform those who feel estranged from the Church over the matter of same gender marriage.

_____________

Bishoprics have been instructed to read a letter from the First Presidency sometime in the next two Sundays on the issue of homosexual marriage, and our responsibilities towards the Lord (first) and towards those who struggle with or disagree on this issue (second).  The Bloggernacle, as you can imagine, is abuzz with proposed actions in response.  How could they do that?  Who’s hands were forced?  Who is responsible?  And, most often, how are we to deal with the hurt?

It is the last of these that we want to address, because we have something to share on this subject.  You see, we have each been disciplined by the Church.  As a result of our respective messy divorces, Priesthood leadership became involved.  We were each in our time cut off from full fellowship with the Church. 1

The losses you experience when this happens are real.  When the fact of the discipline was inappropriately revealed to members of our families, we felt betrayed by our leaders.  We know what it means to be buffeted by Satan.  Nevertheless, the Lord has been with us and provided strength and comfort in other ways.

Others in our circumstances have simply left. But we continued to attend Church.

As one of us relates, “The three hours during that block meeting after I was [disciplined] were the longest three hours of my life.  Everything reminded me of what had been taken from me.  When the meetings ended, I returned home and wept.  And the next week, I did it all over again.”

We continued to go to Church despite the pain we felt because there is no where else to go.  Peter was right.  No other place has the words of Eternal Life.  No other place is where God wants us to be. He wants us at Church.

To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, it is more important that the Lord has His Church upon the Earth than that we happen to be members of it.  The Gospel is true, even if remaining dedicated to the Church might cause us a season of pain.  Every tear we cry will be dried by Our Savior.  In the meantime, the only thing for us was to endure and beg Him to stand by us and give us the strength to do what we needed to do until the day when we could rejoin the fellowship of His Church.

So to all of those who wonder how they can deal with the hurt from the First Presidency letter being read this Sunday, we can only testify that we and others do hurt and have hurt. Despite that hurt, we will be there this Sunday and every other Sunday thereafter – because there is no where else to go.  We encourage the same for each of you – hurting or no, there is no other place for you to be this Sunday than in Church.  Trust the Lord to carry the hurt that you can’t carry and to mend your wounds (whatever they may be and however deep they go).  But go, be in Church, for that is the place to go to find the words of Eternal Life.

Notes:

  1. Divorce, alone, is not cause for Church discipline in the LDS faith.
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.

37 thoughts on “Dealing With Hurt

  1. I suppose my first reaction is to question why someone feels hurt over the First Presidency letter. It calls for civility, and reaffirms that all are welcome in our meetings.

    Is the hurt because of the letter’s reaffirmation of the Church’s theology of the family, including the core incompatibility of same-sex relationships with what we know of the ultimate promises of eternal life? If so, I regret the hurt that some feel, but I think that the appropriate resolution is in conforming one’s social or political views to the Gospel.

    Or am I missing something here?

  2. Disclosure: I often find myself at various levels of disagreement with much of what is written here.
    But sometimes I do agree, and today is one of those days.

    I love this.

    Being a member of the Church is hard, and it will cause pain for most members at some point in their lives. As noted above, that pain can be intense, it can be undeserved and it can, if we allow it to do so, drive us away. But tonight I remember Peter’s statement: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou has the words of eternal life.’ I am grateful for both the acknowledgment of pain that many feel and will feel, and for the reminder to turn it over to the Savior.

  3. Hi everybody,

    I just wanted to say that we tend to focus a lot/too much on the Church. The Church is important but both leaders and members are mere mortals who make mistake, hurt and get hurt.
    We need to center our hopes and our hearts on Christ. He is the source of truth and light and never makes mistakes.

  4. As it was my privilege as an M* editor to publish this, it was left to me to determine if the piece would have an illustration and (if so) what that illustration would be.

    As I cast about the internet for an illustration, I knew I wanted a picture of Christ. I also wanted a picture that conveyed His love and concern for us. This image of Jesus knocking at the wooden door of our heart seemed perfect for this post.

    Christ cannot force us to come to God. Even the angel that appeared to a rebellious Alma conveyed this truth. Jesus stands at the door of our heart and mind and knocks, inviting us to open ourselves to His grace.

    Sweet Ann Onymous, I am glad that the letter that will be read this month in Church doesn’t cause you any hurt. Your confusion as to why it might cause some members to hurt is endearing. But you might want to lend an ear and shoulder to those for whom this is a burden, supporting them in their time of need, though it is not a time of need for you.

    Eliezar, your comment fulfills the hope of the individual whose initial draft inspired the post as you read it now.

  5. Ann Onymous, you write:

    “I suppose my first reaction is to question why someone feels hurt over the First Presidency letter. It calls for civility, and reaffirms that all are welcome in our meetings.

    Is the hurt because of the letter’s reaffirmation of the Church’s theology of the family, including the core incompatibility of same-sex relationships with what we know of the ultimate promises of eternal life? If so, I regret the hurt that some feel, but I think that the appropriate resolution is in conforming one’s social or political views to the Gospel.”

    You are of course correct. Prophets have reminded us in every recent general conference that the Church’s position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage would not change. So it is up to the members to get on board with the Church’s approach, not the Church’s responsibility to adopt the latest fad in society, which is how many other churches are responding.

    Having said that, people are dealing with Satan’s slings and arrows in many diverse ways these days. It is interesting to see how Satan twists truth and uses peoples’ emotional soft spots to convince people to abandon the prophets. So, a gentle reminder that the Truth can only be found one place, even if you are suffering, is certainly a good thing.

  6. Those who are sensitive to the feelings of others, and who wish to ease the hurt they feel, can take a cue from both Ann Onymous’ first paragraph and Geoff’s final paragraph, and try to understand what “soft spots” are triggered by the Church’s stand on marriage. What has the individual experienced to create such hurt? Once we truly understand what another person is going through, and what their triggers are, then we can better minister to them and, through patient persuasion, help guide them toward a better way.

    (By the way, several years ago Wendy Ulrich gave a great presentation at the FAIR conference on the impact of our personal experiences on how we view God and the Church. It can be accessed at http://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2007-Wendy-Ulrich.pdf and I highly recommend it.)

  7. Much of the hurt is going to occur when wards go above and beyond what the letter says. I know my ward well enough to be fairly certain that gays and lesbians and their supporters will be scapegoated and blamed for a whole host of ills when this letter is read in church. The discourse will not be civil. Teachers in my ward blamed “the gays” for the church doing away with its adoption program (despite LDS Family Services specifically stating that that had nothing to do with it); “the gays” are quite regularly blamed for pretty much everything else in my ward. I sincerely hope that wards will discuss this letter in a civil manner, and that they’ll keep in mind that some among them have homosexual feelings and some have family members or friends who are homosexual.

  8. It’s useful to remember that Mormon meetings are open to any who wish to attend, no matter their [insert characteristic].

    This includes both those who have sensitivities and those who are liable to offend sensitivities.

  9. Tim, I am continually amazed to see that liberal-leaning members have completely different experiences in the Church than I do. I have NEVER in my 16 years as a member had anybody blame “the gays” for anything at Church or even in private conversations. Yet liberal-leaning members constantly seem to encounter members with the most rude and frankly unbelievable behavior. I see two possibilities here: either 1)the liberal-leaning members are completely exaggerating the encounters they may have had with one to two people perhaps 10 years ago and 2)there are Mormons out there in some wards that act in a way completely contrary to anything I have seen or can even imagine seeing in my wards. But yet these liberal Mormons always seem to be in those wards where people act in such contrary and rude ways. So, frankly Tim, I simply don’t believe these stories from Mormon liberals, or to state it more accurately, I think Mormons liberals concentrate on one or two things that happened years ago and hang their entire desire to dislike Church members on these one or two things. So I am not calling you a liar, but I am calling you an exaggerator. And this appears to be a phenomenon that happens again and again among liberal Mormons.

    And again to be quite frank, I find this behavior by exaggerators like yourself repugnant. Here is why. The truth of the interactions between human beings is that there are positive things and negative things that happen between us all the time. Mormon liberals have decided to concentrate on the negative when it comes to their fellow Saints. You can walk into a room, and if 150 people are there (like in a Sacrament meeting), you will see people 1)being very kind to each other, helping each other out, greeting long-lost friends, and 2)you might also see the occasional person who is angry with an out-of-control kid or who holds a grudge against another person in the room or who has a frown on his face. For people like you, Tim, *all of the people in the room are in the number 2) category* and this simply does not reflect reality.

    So, if you truly had charity for your fellow Saints you would never, ever again leave a comment like the one above or even let yourself think that way. You would begin to concentrate on the kind acts of your fellow Saints and forget the petty rudeness that you claim happens around you. I hope you will move your thoughts in that direction, but I predict that your next comment will instead be a negative one to “prove” how horrible all of your fellow Saints really are. That would be a very sad development.

  10. It’s funny as it goes both ways. A friend of mine who is quite conservative was in a ward in Provo near center street that was quite liberal. So it was common to constantly hear snide comments in church about SSM, gays, and various conservative politics. He didn’t mind it, but his relating what he heard at Church always makes me laugh as it’s the exact inverse of what some liberals are complaining about in various blogs.

    My own ward seems to avoid all this conflict. I remember the single time something popped up was a Sunday School comment making a disparaging comment about evolution and the bishop (at that point a microbiologist at BYU) simply saying he didn’t think that was correct but refusing to get drawn into a debate.

    Like Geoff I simply haven’t heard all the sniping others encounter. (Other than perhaps some people who quote McConkie far too much and too dogmatically years ago in the early 90’s but nothing like that sense – and that was a long time ago) Unlike Geoff I’m willing to believe it happens given human nature. However I do suspect the amount gets exaggerated quite a bit.

  11. Clark, the issue is: what do you concentrate on? People who want to see bad in the people around them because of ideology can certainly find that among the fellow human beings if that’s what they want to see. I think it is much more productive to concentrate on the positive traits of my fellow Latter-day Saints.

  12. I’ve been in plenty of wards where that kind of thing wasn’t an issue (including a great singles ward near Center St. in Provo, a family ward in the Midwest, and several others). This isn’t a church-wide thing. I’ll be the first to say that there are some great people in my current ward, and I’m sure it’s a great ward for people who fit in. It’s also ultra-conservative. I could tell other stories about this ward, but I’m sure Geoff B. wouldn’t believe me. 🙂 Again though, most wards I’ve lived in haven’t had this problem.

    Each ward is different. A small town Mormon Belt ward will most likely be completely different than a ward in Denver, Provo, or Columbus. Don’t assume that because the wards you’re in don’t have this problem that all wards don’t.

  13. Tim, I am a libertarian who favors legalizing drugs and prostitution, and I am against most wars and against capital punishment. Oh, and I am for immigration reform. How well do you think I fit in in my ultra-conservative Colorado ward politically? Guess what: I don’t argue with the people I disagree with if I know that we are just going to argue. But the point is that I don’t sit around thinking how stupid these people are. I mostly think that they are really kind people who are great neighbors, and I know they would be there to help me if I needed it. I think you need to be more careful with your comments because your first comment came across as the typical “I hate the conservative members of my ward because they are so uncivil and they all hate gay people” that I have seen dozens and dozens of times on Mormon blogs. So, a bit of advice: concentrate on the good sides of the people in your ward rather than concentrating on how uncivil they all are. And if you do this you may begin to have better opinions about them.

  14. Geoff, it’s true that liberals are a sensitive bunch, and saying “the gays are quite regularly blamed for pretty much everything else in my ward” is clearly an exaggeration. However LGBT issues, whether or not they have effected the church in any practical way (i. e. influencing them to leave Adoption Services) have been an absolute nightmare for church members and leaders. Lately, a majority of M*’s postings have been on issues related to SSM, indicating that we are all feeling an intense preoccupation over it, both conservative and liberal. We routinely see members losing their testimonies over the issue, and we are all spooked about how to save our youth from this fate. Many conservatives, feeling this anxiety and trying to respond in the Lord’s way, double down on their accusations of homosexual sinfulness, which I think is what Tim is experiencing. And liberals double down on their accusations of intolerance of conservative members for the same reason. We are all trying to do what is right, but we are all caught in the crosshairs of a terrible distraction which is consuming our energies and keeping us from focusing on “the weightier matters of the law.” Or maybe its not a distraction, and how we respond to LGBT issues is central to the test of our discipleship.

  15. I was talking with a beloved friend the other day who wasn’t aware that it’s possible to determine the sex of a human from DNA analysis. They were aware of someone in their life who specializes in surgical adjustment of children whose bit parts aren’t clearly feminine or masculine (hermaphroditic isn’t quite the right term, apparently, but in that direction). Anyway, she thought that because some children come out physically confused when it comes to sexual assignment, it was therefore sometimes possible that the gender wasn’t actually assigned.

    There is the case of those who are XXY in the 47th chromosome. Mostly these have been seen as men with inadequate maleness (e.g., low testosterone, big breasted, weak muscled, etc.) A 2000 paper asserts there has been one case of an XXY individual who gave birth, but this is the only known case where someone with XXY for the 47th chromosome has been fertile (versus virile).

    At any rate, this friend was rather enlightened to realize that DNA can tell you male or female. Then we went on to discuss the factors that can be shown to produce same-gender sexual behavior in non-human mammals. Things like stress in pregnant females and population/resource pressure.

    I would imagine that most discussion in Church of same gender marriage is hampered by three factors: 1) lack of knowledge of Mormon doctrine as expressed in scripture (because people don’t know their scriptures well enough), 2) lack of knowledge of the scientific findings related to same gender attraction, and 3) the fact that people are talking from a deeply emotional place, where they care deeply and aren’t willing/able to talk at a rational level.

    Ignorance coupled with strong emotion is a ripe field for causing and feeling hurt. And I think this is why the authors of this piece wanted to share the perspective that it isn’t a good thing to abandon Church and the gospel and Savior associated with that Church merely because you hurt.

  16. Nate, I mostly agree with your comment above, but I would add one important piece: every time something difficult comes along, we are being tested. So, we are tested in how we respond to polygamy, how we respond to blacks and the priesthood and we are certainly being tested in how we respond to the issue of same-sex marriage. The Church could have taken many different approaches to this issue, but the one they chose to take was to make it 100 percent clear what the Church’s position is. There can be no doubt. So, one test is: can those of us who may have problems or concerns with the Church’s position keep on going to church and maintain our testimonies even though we find the Church’s position very difficult? A secondary test is: can we be kind to all people, including those with whom we disagree, as we defend the Church’s position? A third test is: can we have Christ-like love for those with same-sex attraction? All three tests are important.

  17. I think another test (possibly intended as one of the three you mention) is whether or not we continue to love all, including those intent on forcing us to change through various means, even while holding fast to the doctrine of Christ.

    It’s easy to love all by abandoning the hard bits of Christ’s doctrine.

    It’s easy to hold to Christ’s doctrine by being harsh with those who attack.

    This third way, loving all even while holding an unpopular line, is the tricky bit.

  18. “We routinely see members losing their testimonies over the issue, and we are all spooked about how to save our youth from this fate”

    I think that this is a bit of an exaggeration. I think that those who would lose their testimony is not a large enough to be called routine. Routine fly balls are fairly common in a baseball game. I do not think that those losing their testimonies due to SSM even compares.

    As for the youth, I have not seen anyone really spooked. Granted, maybe it is just where I live. I am far more concerned about media influence, love waxing cold, willingness to experiment with heterosexual activity, etc.; than I am about the youth beginning to experiment with homosexuality.

    If one truly thinks that homosexuals are born that way, and if they are 3-5% of the population as studies indicate, why would there be a concern with the youth over this compared to all of the other challenges that the world throws at them?

    However, if one believes that same sex attraction can be a learned behavior or an influenced behavior (or that one is more susceptible to it after occurrences of sexual abuse), then it most certainly becomes a much larger concern.

  19. Mike, I didn’t mean that we are worried about the youth trying out homosexuality, but that the youth might leave the church in solidarity with LGBT because they might see the church as wrong. That’s what is frightening people.

    Thanks for your comment Geoff, and I agree.

  20. By “this fate” he means that we are worried that the youth will lose their testimonies because of how the Church has acted politically in this matter, attempting to influence legislation and court decisions so that people who don’t share our beliefs are forced to live by them (by not having equal civil rights as citizens who were born straight). He doesn’t mean that we are worried that our kids who weren’t born gay will have homosexual sexual intercourse.

  21. I wrote an article here a little while ago on Identity. We need to teach our youth that all are children of God, but we often get confused by other identities, some real and some imagined real. DNA does have an impact on people’s lives. Those who have inherited what the Lord calls “weakness” in the Book of Ether 12, whether it is to sexual attraction (to any gender), drug/alcohol predilection, gambling, anger, etc., are in good company with all of us.

    We all suffer due to weakness. And we should use our personal suffering to help us learn to love, empathize, and suffer with those who suffer with SSA.

    Next, we need to ensure all recognize their most important identity: child of God. Too many are selling their birthright of child of God, for a lesser god of their own DNA or own making.

  22. Nate,

    Thanks for clarifying. I misunderstood.

    In this instance, I think that the worry still remains that any issue that the world finds acceptable, but is contrary to our Heavenly Father’s plan, is of equal concern regarding the members of the church. Yes, SSM is on the front page, so to speak. But frankly, we are being pushed on a lot of fronts. I think that is one of the reasons why there has been so much recent emphasis on the family and on Sabbath day observance.

  23. Sadly, there will always be those who are looking to be offended as an excuse to justify their behavior. This isn’t unique to the SSM issue. I’ve seen people acting this way for the last 40 years.

  24. Geoff, I think you were being unnecessarily harsh with Tim. In fact, I am fairly conservative and I have heard LDS people talk about “the gays”. Luckily not in the formal setting of church meetings, but in hall conversations or other less formal settings. But, there are imperfect and sometimes offensive members of almost any group and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is certainly no exception to that. But, I feel it is more acceptable to acknowledge that element is there, and clarify that many of us (hopefully the large majority) do not feel that way or condone those sayings in any way.
    But, perhaps it is a reflection on me that people would be willing to say those sorts of things around me. It is giving me cause to reflect on how much I am standing for my beliefs.
    Great post. It is always good to be aware of those who may be suffering and try our best to comfort.

  25. The only time I have ever heard anyone condemn a sitting president by name in a Sacrament Meeting talk was on the 4th of July many years ago. And the object of his wrath was Ronald Reagan.

    I sense projection.

  26. AmyE, I think you missed the point. There could be conservatives condemning “the gays” every week, but there could also be small acts of kindness and hope. If you only look for things you don’t like, you will definitely find them, but if you look for the small acts of kindness and charity and love, you will be a happier person. Mormon liberals, for the most part, very often only see the negative in their fellow Saints.

  27. Trigger warning: don’t read this if you are offended by facts or stats that are politically incorrect to point out.

    I tend to side more with Geoff on this than Tim. Those who are looking for offense tend to make others an offender for a word, especially when the offending speaker failed to sufficiently limit the scope of their subject. Those who say “the gays (or illegal immigrants of whoever) bla-bla-bla” liklely don’t mean all homosexuals or all with SSA. They likely mean the activist or militant subset who are trying to push boundaries and bring about changes in laws and societal attitudes, demanding approval of whatever it is there are not getting approval for.

    Similarly, recently Donald Trump failed to qualify his use of the term illegal immigrants, and sometimes even saying merely “immigrants” when he meant illegal immigrants. He was speaking to the fact of the much higher crime rates among illegal immigrants and their anchor children than any other racial demographic in the US, and did not mean that all illegal immigrants are criminals. YEt the media has portrayed him as speaking universally and in absolutes in order that they, the media, can avoid reporting on the real facts, and promote their own agenda.

    In my opinion, the only “sin” that the members referred to by Tim and AmyE are guilty of is taking verbal shortcuts and not belaboring their speech with all sorts of qualifying and restricting phrases. Fer cryin out loud, give em a break! It’s virtually impossible to non-professional speakers to construct all the elaborate qualifiers when speaking casually. plus even if they did, most casual listeners are unable to parse spoken sentences more difficult than subject-verb-object.

    One of the logical fallacies that the left has generally used in these arguments is that if something is not universally true, then it’s either not true at all, or doesn’t matter. so they, the leftists (see that? i’m taking a verbal shortcut. i don’t mean 100.0000% of leftists.) dismiss their opponents’ points and try to shut down the discussion of the whateve the subject is matter merely because some point is not universally true in all instances.

    If you don’t think that small percentages in terms of cultural or social trends matter, go read this piece on creeping margins:
    https://fireflydove.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/a-libertarian-view-of-gay-marriage/

    It illustrates how the concerns of the negative social aspects of the welfare state, out-of-wedlock births and no-failt divorce were pooh-pooh by reformers; but the negatives grew (and are still not 100% extant) yet have devasted our culture and the lives of millions.

    Of course, not all illegal immigrants are thieves, rapists, and murderers. Of course the incidence of crime (the rate) among illegal immigrants varies by state(it’s highest in TX and CA). But the statistical fact is that the overall crime rate of illegal immigrants in the US, taken across all 50 states, is significantly higher than that of any native-born population, higher than caucasians, higher than African-Americans, higher than anyother ethnicity, and higher than any other immigrant group.

    Not all gays recruit or groom teens, but a not-insignifant percentage do.

    Not all gays are hyper-promiscuous, but more than half are.

    Not all gay marriages are “open”, but a significant proportion are.

    Not all gays have mental illness, but the incidence is statistically significantly higher than heteros.

    Not all gays perpetrate or are victims of domestic violence, but the percentages are higher than among heteros.

    Not all gays die early, but the average life span is significantly shorter than heteros. This was observed prior to AIDS, and still holds true when you factor out AIDS deaths.

  28. If the above is TLDR, the soundbite is:

    In my opinion, the only “sin” that the members referred to by Tim and AmyE are guilty of is taking verbal shortcuts and not belaboring their speech with all sorts of qualifying and restricting phrases.

  29. To the point of the original posting — I am reminded of D&C 84:36 and 112:20 — I cannot receive the Lord without also receiving the Lord’s servants — as I attend meetings tomorrow and listen to the reading of the letter and maybe even participate in the discussion, I will have these verses in mind.

  30. Bookslinger – interesting article, thanks for linking it. I would say that it is too bad that it was not linked to Justice Kennedy 5 years ago. But really, it would not matter.

    The verses of mankind’s hubris are always accompanied with the resounding chorus of, “This time it is going to be different.”

  31. Per Kent G. Budge – the only time in recent memory I have heard someone in church say something nasty about a famous, politically involved Mormon, it was in Sunday School and the person they attacked was Glenn Beck (I personally am not a fan of Beck, but that doesn’t matter. Attacking fellow saints in church is wrong).

    Luckilly, the teacher handled it well by stating something like “I prefer not to mention specific people by name, but instead stick to general principles and let members apply the doctrine themselves.”

    Didn’t stop the person, who attacked Beck in class two weeks later, and a few weeks after that. Now, I live in a fairly conservative ward, and people are actually afraid to discuss gays and gay marriage openly. When someone did the other day, people actually went to her and told her they were amazed she had the courage to speak up; they were too afraid of offending others or being attacked as a bigot, merely for repeating what the 1st presidency has been saying.

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