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Faith, Love, Paradox, and Staying in the Boat

By Emily Milner

(Photo by Anatolii Kiriak from Pexels)
Two weeks ago the Church announced that they were reversing the November 2015 policy regarding the baptism of children of gay people. I’m glad and I’m frustrated at the same time. I continue to sustain the leaders who implemented it; I honor them as prophets, seers, and revelators, and I trust that they understand a larger picture that I don’t always see, then and now. Still, I wish the policy had never happened in the first place. But it did. And this reversal doesn’t magically make the pain it caused vanish.

I’m trying to reconcile my own faith and lived sacred experiences with the grief I see around me. It’s hard, living in this space of paradox. I want to claim the paradox space though, neither denying the pain around me nor my own testimony of the restored gospel.

I feel like sometimes I silence my own lived experience because it’s not as painful or hard as what so many other people go through. If I’m not hurting as much as they are, then what I say must not be as valid as their truths.

I want to mourn with those that mourn. And I want to do it in a way that does not diminish the reasons I stay in the boat.

Is that even possible?

I know people whose empathy is so overwhelming that they jump out of the boat.

But I can’t do that. I can’t jump out. Maybe it’s too soon for this post–so many are still feeling raw– but I need to write it because I feel like the grief I’m feeling vicariously is making me forget the true things I have experienced, things I need to remember and remind myself of.

If it’s going to trigger you to read the expressions of faith in this post, don’t read it. Know that I love my LGTBQ brothers and sisters—my tears have been with you even before the news of the policy reversal, because of the recent tragic suicide of a dear cousin. I want you to stay alive, alive, alive.

I also love my faith, and I need to hold those two things at the same time.

This is why I am still here:

I’m here because, as a person who has always loved reading and words, the Book of Mormon has my heart and my mind. I don’t know how many times I have read it, but I always find God there. As a writer I’m impressed by so many things about it: the completely consistent interweaving storylines of Mosiah, the amazing parallel constructions in Alma 36, the logical and glorious progression of thought in Moroni 7, the storytelling in 1 Nephi and Alma 14, Mormon’s compelling narrative voice. I’m struggling along to write the same book I’ve been diddling with for a few years. I can’t possibly believe that Joseph Smith whipped this magnificent book out in the short time he had.

The Book of Mormon is true. In addition to powerful, consistent witnesses from the Spirit, everything I know about literature and writing and close text readings tells me it’s true. I find Christ in this book. I need to know Jesus better, and reading the Book of Mormon helps me do that.

This is why I’m here.

Over the last two years I have spent at least an hour a week doing family history, often more. I’ve read stories of my ancestors, who sacrificed to join the Church and build the early kingdom. I have been guided to find new people and collateral lines with work that needed to be done.

I have felt a tangible, distinct, undeniable Spirit as I have done work for them in the temple. I have felt light, and love, and grace, and God’s complete awareness of me as His daughter.

The temple and its ordinances are true. This is why I’m here.

There are other reasons. But lately, this is where and how I have found God: in the Book of Mormon and in the temple, and they are both unique to this church. I am here and I need to stay here.

And I am so sorry that the policies and attitudes and doctrines of the church hurt people, in November 2015, and just barely now, and pretty much for the foreseeable future. I wish they didn’t. I wish that everyone in pain could stay and be present, teaching me and other members how to understand and love you better. I am grateful to the LGBTQ members who do stay; you are doing a great work. And I get why, for mental health reasons, staying might be impossible for some, although it makes me deeply sad.

But I have found light in the restored Church of Jesus Christ, and I can’t leave. I believe its leaders are good, inspired men, who seek to do Christ’s work. Jesus is the God of stories, and also the God of laws, and our leaders balance those two truths as well as they possibly can.

The Restoration is ongoing.

This is why I stay.

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About Emily Milner

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

6 thoughts on “Faith, Love, Paradox, and Staying in the Boat”

  1. This was beautiful. I appreciate you sharing your faith, even though it is hard when faced with pain others are experiencing.

    Reply
  2. Thank you, Emily, for this post. How to hold space for the pain of others and for my own faith is a tension I wrestle mightily with as well.

    Reply
  3. Paradox seems to be central to truth. I’m feeling as you are. I can’t jump ship, even though most of my kids have, including my RM bisexual daughter, who reports “church is just too hard.” Love is the only viable path I can see. I feel your love, Em.

    Reply

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