a companion piece to the latest episode of Q.MORE
Putting my personal beliefs and opinions out into the public sphere and dealing with negative feedback is part of my job, but also part of what I feel is my purpose. There is a significant part of my patriarchal blessing that specifically talks about the importance of sharing my thoughts and ideas with the women of the Church.
When I was young I sometimes wondered how that would come about. I never imagined that I would start a temple dress company and that there would be these things called “social media” and “podcasts” that would facilitate the amplification of my voice.
While I wondered how this would happen, I never considered what kind of weight that would bear. I want to be clear that I don’t have some inflated self-view of my prominence or influence, but I do feel a sense of responsibility. Recently, someone left an anonymous review on my podcast, Q.MORE. To sum it up, it accused me of sounding like someone that was trying to lead people away from The Church to start my own branch-off church. While I don’t give this one extreme review more weight than the hundreds supportive reviews, comments, and direct messages, I do want to address it.
While working at the Church, an apostle asked the team I was on to brainstorm how we could tell the story of a tricky and important part of Church history, the Kirtland period. We brought in a handful of the biggest creative names in the Church to talk about different possibilities. Lots of ideas and opinions were shared, but one has stuck with me. There is a lot of media created for members who are 100% in the boat. These members will consume and enjoy everything the Church puts in front of them. However, they honestly don’t really NEED most of it. On the other hand, there are a lot of members who could really use media directed at them. They may be struggling or distancing themselves from the Church and they likely aren’t interested in the warm fuzzy Mormon Messages. Those members NEED church media, but very little of it is designed to be appealing to them.
As I grew and started to face my own faith questions, I longed for someone or some source who I could trust to talk about my concerns. Mostly, I wanted the Church to talk about these things.
As Q.NOOR grew and I started to understand its potential, I remembered a comment I heard while working at the Church from a general authority. I don’t remember much of the context, but he said, “The Church needs members to talk about things that the Church can’t.” We could have a huge conversation about the idea that the Church can or can’t talk about everything, but for me, the most important part of his thought was the encouragement to start conversations. I decided that rather than waiting around for someone to answer my prayers, I would attempt to play a role in the answering of someone else's.
My purpose in sharing my personal struggles with elements of Church culture and institution is to start the conversations my heart longs to have. Talking about hard things is really helpful to me. It can be uncomfy and vulnerable but in a good way. Getting things out into the light helps me get a better look at problems and usually makes them feel less scary. Not talking about hard things makes me feel like I’m trying to hide from something and that feels vulnerable in a scary way.
Recently I had a conversation with someone I trust about my motivation in contributing to these hard conversations in the public sphere. I shared that I was motivated to focus on the hard topics because I felt like there was enough conversation about the softer topics. We have yet to do a Q.MORE episode on all the good the Church is doing through humanitarian efforts and the likes because we already know that’s a good thing. While tooting the Church's horn to the Choir isn’t bad, I just don’t feel especially drawn to it. However, my friend helped me see that for some who feel defensive of the Church, my focus on the hard may feel like an attack. For that, I’m sorry. That is not my intention. Nor is it my intention to pick hot-button topics just to get more traction or fan any flames. I simply talk about what feels important to my heart.
Some have asked, “if you have so many problems with the institution of the Church, why don’t you leave?” My answer is simple. I believe in and love the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I believe this is His Church. Imperfectly run by imperfect humans and in the process of refinement and restoration? Yes. But His? Absolutely. I can assure you that if I didn’t have a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I would not be fighting this hard to stay. When you love something so much, it is natural to want it to be its very best.
My struggles need not be your struggles. My hope in sharing my personal struggles is that others who struggle will feel less alone. I hope it will help them feel like they can hold on to the Gospel of Jesus Christ a little tighter because only that will give them the strength to navigate any personally problematic elements of Church as a culture or institution. I hope to be a small example of someone who stays even when it feels incredibly difficult. I also hope that my experiences can be an opportunity for those who don’t have these types of struggles to gain understanding and empathy for people around them who do.
I am far from a perfect example. I’m not saying that to appear humble or be cute. I’m saying that because it is very true. I am flawed, prideful, hypocritical, judgmental, and make wrong choices. I even wear bikinis, watch some rated R movies, and swear when golfing. I’m sorry if you have been disappointed in the example I have set. The good news is, you already have a perfect example. Jesus Christ is really good at His job and I have zero aspirations to take His place.
At 29, I know I have a lot to learn. I look forward to my thoughts and opinions changing and developing as I mature, but I don’t believe we need to wait until we are old and gray before we have something to contribute to Zion. If that were true, we would be far less comfy with the idea of 19-year-olds going out to share the story of a 14-year-old called to restore the gospel of a man in his early 30s.
My story is not for everyone and I'm really ok with that. One day I will able to stand before my Heavenly Mother, Heavenly Father, and my brother Jesus Christ (I also have my fingers crossed that by big sis Eve will be there, too) and know that my heart and my actions are perfectly and completely understood. That’s enough for me.
At the end of the day, some may feel I could do better at sharing my testimony. And to that I would say, this IS my testimony. How I share and what I share may not start out with “I’d like to bear my testimony” or include a series of “I know”s, but it is my testimony all the same. Also, couldn’t we all?