My mom commented to me tonight that I'm a different person in conversation than I am online. "I get why", she said. "You're commenting on things you want to change in the culture around you, but you're more moderate than your liberal online persona."
I suppose that is probably accurate in many respects. There are topics that I feel very passionate about and Facebook is a convenient way to comment on those topics. Things like the rights of women, the challenges in the world of education, and the wish for more tolerance and love for those on the fringes of my culture are things that, at least in the Mormon world, make me fairly liberal.
But I do also want to make something pretty clear (in case it isn't):
I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to belong to a church that draws me closer to God and gives me so much hope for the future. I don't believe my church is perfect. Its processes are carried out by imperfect people with imperfect perspectives in an imperfect world. As a result, I have great sympathy for those who "wrestle with the angel" so to speak when it comes to the LDS faith. I find myself wrestling with that angel over doctrines and cultural traditions that I don't understand too. There are so many places where I long for greater knowledge or perspective or all out cultural shifting.
For example: I wish that more women had spoken this weekend. I wish that members of the general boards of the Relief Society/Young Women/Primary had been on the stand during the Women's Session. I wish we had more knowledge and understanding of our Heavenly Mother and that she was spoken of more freely. I wish we would stop that blasted "chewed up gum" metaphor lesson, or the "cockroach in the ice cream" metaphor. I'd love to throw in more variety to our hymn book (can we please sing a nice spiritual sometime?) I still wonder why men don't serve in the Primary Presidencies, women don't serve in Sunday School Presidencies, Young Women don't do Visiting Teaching and don't serve as ward greeters. I wish we spoke more about how women use the power of the priesthood (since Elder Oaks clarified that we do, in fact, have that authority at least within the realm of our callings.) I'd love to see a cultural shift when it comes to gender roles in the home.
The thing is, though, that even with this imperfection, I still believe that I am where I need to be, in a church that is right for me, and with a core doctrine that is beautiful. At its best, Mormonism is stunning to me. It is a message of love and service and forgiveness and purpose through and beyond this life that motivates me and fuels my desire to change the world. I accept that the church as it stands is imperfect, but I also believe that the atonement of Christ will cover even those imperfections and that things that hurt or cause pain now will be healed in the future.
For example: I believe that we will receive greater understanding about the roles of women in the eternal plan, and that those roles will be invigorating and powerful and beautiful. I believe that the challenges facing LGBTQ members of the church will be addressed and that wounds will be healed more perfectly in the future. I believe that there is a place for all of God's children at the eternal dinner table (so to speak). I believe that people who say unkind things or exercise unrighteous dominion will grow and learn and that the atonement will heal those wounds too. I believe that someday, I will get answers to all my questions. I believe that the covenants I have made are sacred, that they help make me a better person. I believe that God has led me to a place where I make a difference in the world, where I am doing good. I believe that I have been protected, blessed, watched over through no accident or stroke of luck, but by the grace of loving Heavenly Parents.
In the mean time, I have been given too many witnesses of the beauty that does exist in this imperfect institution to turn my back on it when storms of doubt or frustration or all out bitterness toward policy or people come my way. I believe what Elder Holland said this weekend - the church has need of every voice in the choir. Even when I struggle or battle with things I don't understand, I am determined to hold on to what I know, what I have felt, what I believe, and wait patiently on the answers that are still dark.
Finally, I know I have many friends here that are not Mormon, or are former members of the church, and in many ways antagonistic toward it. Please know that I love and respect your decisions. I need you and want you in my life. Your perspectives and friendships have shaped my life and made it so much more beautiful. Diversity of thought is a treasure to me, and the respectful discourse I have with so many of you is an enormous blessing. I love you.
For those of you that are members of the church, I hope you were as inspired by conference this weekend as I was. Let's keep pushing that stone of friendship and love and tolerance as far and as wide as we can. Heaven knows this world we live in (both in and out of the church) could use an enormous dose of kindness just now.