Monday, October 20, 2014


Gresham, OR—In a repeat of what has happened for years in the Gresham ward, this week the wisest women in the Relief Society were seated on the back row. And, also like most weeks, those women said nothing.

Seated on the back row next to her longtime friends was Sister Kathy Turner. This week’s lesson dealt with “Moving Forward with Faith.” When the teacher asked how the sisters could use their faith to deal with a difficult situation, several younger sisters talked about improving Family Home Evening lessons, and the discussion turned to fun ideas that they had found on Pintrest. Sister Turner thought about explaining how her faith had helped her when, as a twenty-year-old new mother, she had to do kidney dialysis for her dying father, how later in life her faith gave her strength to become a foster mother for a very ill newborn, and how through her life her faith gave her hope and love when she compassionately helped many friends and family members pass from this life to the next. Since Sister Turner was not as conversant with Pintrest as some of the other sisters, again this week she never really found a place or way to share her experiences.

Sister Turner’s difficulty in finding a way to contribute was not uncommon. Also seated on the back row was Sister Janice Kato. During the same lesson, Sister Kato wanted to share how her faith had helped her when she was a BYU student in the 50’s and wanted to marry her Japanese boyfriend, but had to leave Utah in order to legally marry. She wanted to share how her faith had lifted her when other Mormons were unaccepting of her interracial marriage and how her faith had helped her years later as a mother of a child struggling with drug addiction. As a substantial part of the class conversation dealt with one sister’s tearful struggle to get her pre-schooler onto a private school waiting list, Sister Kato found it difficult to contribute to the class discussion.

Alongside Sisters Turner and Kato was their friend Sister Maria Del Toro. Sister Del Toro enjoyed the lesson, as she always does, but also found it difficult to add to the lesson. When she thought about how her faith had helped her move forward, she thought about her alcoholic father, her nightmarish childhood, her struggles to leave the violence of Guatemala, and the light that the Gospel of Jesus Christ brought to her life as the mother of 3 difficult boys and an abusive spouse as an illegal immigrant in Texas. She reflected on the many times her faith had given her just enough hope to go on. She would have loved to have said how her faith helped her move forward, but the conversation turned to how glad many sisters felt about posting Facebook comments about conference and Meet the Mormons, and since Sister Del Toro had somehow not gotten around to even seeing Meet the Mormons she simply said nothing.

After the meeting was over, as is their custom, Sisters Turner, Kato, and Del Toro thanked the teacher for the lesson. Sister Del Toro also tried to console the sister who was still struggling to get her child on the pre-school waiting list.


  1. I'm the sister who borderline says stuff like that, and then feels like she is psychotic afterwards when someone comments to her, "A lot of people might not understand because they haven't had the depth of sorrow that you've had." So yesterday in Relief Society, one of the things written on the board under the word "Stop" was anger. What I wanted to say was: I am so mother-effing angry at my uncle for raping me when I was a little girl and how it has shaped my whole effing life and relationship with God. God understands that I'm angry, and He doesn't mind. I've shoved it down my whole life, I'm finally feeling it now. One day it will be gone. For now I add "mother effer" to everything in my head, and I'm not going to feel shamed about it because I'm still praying and reading my scriptures and asking for help, but I'm done with shame. And I'm done with ideals and the shame that comes when I don't measure up to them. While I know it isn't an ideal situation my head and my spirit are in, I know God loves me and leads me along. He is holding my hand while I throw my four year old tantrums as a thirty something year old woman, and reassured me in therapy through the spirit that no matter how many "F-words" I say, He will always love me.

    I didn't say that, but I wanted to. Would I have been scarlet-lettered if I had? If we move one day, I just want to let it all out right before we leave, be totally open and honest, and see if I get booed and kicked out or cheered.

  2. S,

    You won't get booed here!

    I love how well you express how the Lord loves us and loves us in our complexity. Perhaps it is too bad that we do not feel safe to share that complexity at church. Perhaps it is simply one of the limitations of church meetings. Perhaps we have other places or situations where we can express more of our complexity. I have heard, for example, of people in the Addiction Recovery Program who say that they wish church meetings could have the authenticity that they find in ARP, but those same people often quickly add that what happens in ARP is specific to that venue.

    S, I hope that you can find support for such a heavy, terrible burden, since we covenant to bear one another's burdens. I'm sorry that church meetings can be so (accidentally) painful!