Mostly because I didn’t want to go alone, I called my friend Sarah and begged a ride to our ward Relief Society Party. “I don’t think so,” she replied, “my family is in such an uproar right now it will make me feel guilty. Those parties are for happy, shiny people.”
I heard her, I understood completely. But it made me sad.
Here’s the irony– Sarah would absolutely be classified as the perfect Mormon mommy. Friendly and kind, with three cute kids and an adoring husband, she’s always part of a presidency, always carrying a casserole to the neighbors.
If she doesn’t feel like she belongs, who does?
Who are those ‘shiny, happy people’ we all imagine at Relief Society parties and perusing the aisles of Deseret Book? Who are those perfect beings with the centerpieces and beautiful handouts? Who are those people who speak at conferences and workshops? They are all flawed, foolish humans, stumbling through life, bruising others and accumulating their own injuries. Without Christ and His Atonement, we’re all one hot mess.
We know, we all know, church is a hospital for the sick, not a shrine for saints. But the church is full of people who don’t feel like they measure up. And some just stop coming at all.
I know I add to the problem. I believe in speaking the truth; I try to be honest and open. But I fear also judgment from my fellow members. I would be very hesitant to talk about the year I almost lost my testimony in sacrament meeting (would I blacklisted for every calling?), but I know my story would help others who are struggling.
Don’t you want to stand up and cheer every time you hear an honest testimony? Maybe I’ll add mine right here: I’ve made mistakes, I’ve hurt feelings, I’ve been stupid, I’ve been hurt– but I’ve also been healed. I know God lives, I know we can find peace through the Atonement of Christ. And I know our Heavenly Father loves every one of us– the fools, the sinners, the broken– and He calls each one to help each other, to love each other, to come back home.
How can we be more forgiving of ourselves and others? How can we make our wards warmer, more welcoming? How can we talk about our struggles while building faith?