How are you? It’s been a while. The Internet tells me you are doing well, building new temples, writing fancy amicus briefs and trying to figure out what to do with your women. (Hint: Try priesthood.) Anyway, I know you are very busy, but I wanted to tell you thank you.
Thank you for raising me into this inactive misfit Mormon woman. Thank you for making me a feminist and an LGBT ally. Thank you for giving me the tools to raise an independent and kind daughter, thank you for giving me the eyes through which I see the world. I would be ungrateful not to recognize your role in who I am as a woman, a parent and a spouse. Thank you.
When you taught me to believe that I am a child of God, filled with divine nature and individual worth, I believed you. I believed in my divinity enough that when I grew up, the confines of man-made patriarchy and traditional gender roles paled in comparison with what I knew. A child of God doesn’t need to hearken unto her husband or simply nurture while her husband provides. A child of God sees her worth not just in her uterus, but in her mind. A child of God uses that mind to read The Feminine Mystique, a child of God understands internalized misogyny, and a child of God knows that short skirts don’t rape people, and that the women wearing them aren’t “walking pornography.”
More importantly, you taught me to love one another, another song so familiar that I could never forget this new commandment, even when my days of singing in Sacrament Meeting were over. So I loved. I loved my way through 2008 and Prop. 8, and your stubborn devotion to “The Proclamation to the Family.”
I loved even when my fellow church members told me that “when the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done.” Even when I lost friends, even when I lost my faith in this church—in you, Mormonism—I never stopped loving. Because you taught me that “whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it,” and when I lost my life as an active Mormon, I found myself as an ally, activist and a friend. And when more people find themselves, we save not just ourselves, but the “least of these,” the young LGBT people who may have otherwise been lost to suicide and hate crimes and dehumanizing legislation rooted in fear.
Thank you, Mormonism, for teaching me about my pioneer ancestors, who faced an undue amount of persecution for believing differently from their neighbors and friends. Those guilt-inducing lessons on genealogy taught me that I have defiance and strength written into my DNA, because if my ancestors could leave their homes to chase a promised land, I can leave my home—your home, Mormonism—in search of a more egalitarian and loving Zion.
Mormonism, I’ve spent my life listening to that still, small voice, hoping that I will be brave enough to listen to the promptings of the spirit, and to follow what it teaches me. I continue to listen, because you taught me that listening to that voice inside me will protect me from evil, especially that tricky sort of meanness that “calls evil good and good evil.” I listen and I know that benevolent sexism, the type that would put me on a pedestal and tell me I’m too pure to get my hands dirty with power, is wrong. I listen, and I know the cruelest evil is that which calls bigotry “religious liberty” and hurts others in the name of God. And when I begin to doubt my new faith, when the siren call of the community I lost and the comfort of fitting in seem inviting, and when I long for the approval of my peers, I do what Second Counselor Dieter Uchtdorf tells me, and I “doubt my doubts,” and then I “stop it.” I am a child of God, who loves one another, and listens to the spirit.
Remember when you taught me about the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, the heroes of The Book of Mormon who made a promise with God never to go to war again and then buried their weapons? They preferred death over a broken promise, and they taught me about the value of sacrifice. I remember them because I too have buried my weapons; I buried my homophobia, my own self-taught brand of sexism and my fear. I buried them and I will not raise them again, even if it means I stand outside the doors of the temple the day my sister gets married.
I expect you see me as a monster, a Frankenmormon, an unholy amalgamation of beliefs that contradict the perfect Mormon woman you envisioned. But I see a Daniel, who spent her upbringing in the lion’s den of orthodox Mormonism and came out stronger. You raised me to see miracles everywhere, Mormonism, and I do. I see miracles when a white Texan sports announcer decries the homophobia of the NFL. I see miracles when a teenager fights against the Taliban for her right to an education. I see miracles when Mormons march in pride parades and women ask for a seat in the priesthood session. I see miracles, and I believe in a world that will be saved once more by a Messiah of equality and fairness and love. This is the world I raise my daughter in, and I see it with wonder and faith.
So thank you, Mormonism, from the bottom of my bleeding left-wing heart. Thank you.
Stephanie Lauritzen is a high school teacher who blogs at MormonChildBride.blogspot.com