We suffered a maelstrom last week. Many of you witnessed the chaos. And this time around I think both definitions apply:
noun mal-strem, -sträm
: a situation in which there are a lot of confused activities, emotions, etc.
: a very powerful whirlpool; a large, swirling body of water. A free vortex with considerable downdraft.
I’m sure many of you felt the confusion and the downdraft last week as we sought to make sense of Kate Kelly’s excommunication. After taking a few days to let emotions settle, we want to strengthen and rebuild our relationships with each other.
We know some readers have vowed to remove Segullah from their reading list. And we want to apologize and explain and possibly, hopefully, promote greater understanding among Segullah readers, LDS women and our beloved friends of other faiths.
I believe we have an incredible opportunity to increase love, understanding and communication among women. I also believe we can strengthen each others’ faith and promote positive changes in our own families and congregations.
First, a little more transparency. For years, Segullah has been known as a haven for faithful and intelligent LDS women. Our mission statement reads:
The mission of Segullah is to encourage literary and artistic talent, provoke thought and promote greater understanding and faith among Latter-day Saint women. We encourage insightful writings which explore life’s richness and complexity while reflecting faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our aim is to highlight a variety of women’s perspectives within a framework of shared beliefs and values.
We’ve discussed many difficult topics and you have certainly strengthened my faith. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to discuss sensitive subjects and learn different viewpoints.
Our staff and our readers represent a wide range “within a framework of shared beliefs and values.” Segullah has been a unique place where women strive to understand each other rather than divide into factions.
I think you’ve given me a 3D view of the gospel—I used to look at the gospel like a flat surface and now it’s more like a prism. I can turn it in all directions and admire the way different people see the light.
Wait— I just made myself sound incredibly serene and tolerant. I’m not. But it felt lovely to pretend for a moment. Just last week offended one of my friends in the grand maelstrom. I’ve said more than my fair share of foolish words. But I do want to improve.
We are not a church who believes in a limited number of spots in heaven. We believe God wants every one of His children to return home. We don’t need to keep a scoresheet of our virtues and point out the faults of everyone else. Rather, our primary task on this earth is loving our neighbor, gathering everyone in, helping all of God’s children to feel his love.
Because we abide by so many rules (and I love rules, how I love rules!), we sometimes measure our progress by checking the box, by congratulating ourselves, “I don’t struggle with that.”
But I know, I know, God doesn’t want us to bury our questions and especially not our questioners. Together we can often make sense of hard doctrines or simply offer support. A few years ago, I wrote a post called, “When Faith Makes it Harder” while navigating a crisis. my post isn’t much, but the comments! The comments. I’ve rarely received so much love, grace and understanding. The words of many wise women offered me a not just a lifeline when I was slipping under, but hands pulling me into the boat.
We want Segullah to offer that kind of support to every reader.
But sometimes we’re going to disagree.
Conflict is natural and not always negative. There’s room for constructive conflict among sisters in the gospel. Just because I disagree with my husband doesn’t mean our marriage is over. And on some topics—my darling hubby and I will never agree, but we still love each other.
When making bread, we can’t simply place ingredients in a bowl and hope they form dough. A certain amount of mixing and kneading is required to form a loaf. Likewise, our sisterhood can benefit from a bit of mixing and kneading. Asking questions aids in developing faith.
At Segullah, we do want to remain in shared framework. We can ask questions and discuss concerns without recruiting others to agree. We want to avoid labels and increase understanding. We’re navigating rough waters, but I believe we can discuss difficult issues while remaining respectful of each other and our varied opinions.
I also believe we can create positive change in the church. Our Editor-in-Chief, Shelah Miner, was recently invited to meet with the church PR department. My friend Rachel Herrscher attended a separate gathering where church leaders asked for input on how the church can make women feel more valued and loved in their congregations. Both were told (and I’m paraphrasing), “We read your blogs, we listen to your opinions. We are happy to take suggestions where they might be applicable.”
We CAN speak up and be heard. And if we discuss matters with kindness and civility we will be heard.
Here’s my idea for improvement in the church (and I hope you’ll contribute some of yours in the comments): When a bishopric is released they are given some sort of notice or timeline when change is coming. I think it would be respectful to offer that courtesy to women in the Primary, Young Women and Relief Society presidencies. I’ve seen women plan six months of Young Women activities only to be released the following week and have all their plans discarded much to the distress of the leaders and the girls. I believe we could facilitate easier and less emotional transitions and I believe prior notice conveys respect for womens’ time and efforts.
What are your ideas?
Can we build greater trust and faith? Can we make this a safe haven? Can we be gentle with each other in our thoughts and comments? Can we help each other, support each other through rocky terrain and perilous waters on our way back to God?