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we are all stumbling and bruised and broken

By Michelle Lehnardt

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Michelle Lehnardt

(Blog Team) I'm the kind of mom who drives through mud puddles, throws pumpkins off the roof and lets the kids move the ping-pong table into the kitchen for the summer. Despite (or probably, because of) my immaturity, my five sons and one daughter are happy, thriving, funny people. I'll climb a mountain with you, jump into a freezing lake hand-in-hand or just sit with you while you cry. I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will heal the earth. Founder of buildyourteenager.com, scenesfromthewild.net and rubygirl.org.

118 thoughts on “we are all stumbling and bruised and broken”

  1. We had our Relief Society dinner the other night, and as I think about who was at the table we had: a woman who was divorced and is now married to a non-member, a woman who married at 18 because she was pregnant, a woman who had a baby in high school (and is now married and has a few more kids), a woman who juggles 2 part-time jobs because her husband doesn't make enough money at his job, a woman who recently married a man who has a child from a previous relationship and is dealing with ugly custody issues, and me–a divorced, single mom. And we are not the 'weirdos' of the ward–several of these women are in presidencies, etc. We're all life-long members and live in a fairly typical Utah Valley ward.

    Obviously, we don't all go around wearing our problems on our sleeve, but also people aren't afraid to share what is going on their lives and what they have learned from their particular lives. I've learned these things about these women from visiting teaching, Relief Society lessons and comments, and just getting to know them. I think that if you look closely at any ward, you would find typical stories. I've been trying to figure out why I feel so comfortable in this ward and how that could transfer to another ward–I'm not sure, really. I think some of it starts at the top–the bishopric spreads callings around to everyone (for a while our YW presidency had 3 working women in it, and one was married to an inactive member). I think the biggest key is that people are willing to be vulnerable and share their stories, and other people are willing to listen. If someone raises their hand in Relief Society and says something about "after my divorce…", people are kind, and listen, and share their own stories. I don't know what else we can do, other than to be ourselves and expect other people to be too.

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  2. Interesting. We just had our RS party and I got to talk to a friend I don't see much (she has six young children, serves in the primary and has a bishopric member husband.) We got talking about how life is hard sometimes but when do you actually get to admit that it is hard and you are struggling? When your house burns down? When your husband dies? When you become a refugee? After you have been gang raped? Or is there some point before those (obviously) hard scenarios at which it is alright to admit that you are struggling? (Such as when you are the mother of many active young children with a busy husband?) She told me about a book "And He Did Deliver Me From Bondage" and then a few days she GAVE me a copy. This book is used in the church's addiction recovery program but was written by a woman who could not control her eating. She points out that NONE of us are enough, that ALL of us will be overcome by mortality without Jesus Christ. I like that. Admitting that I am NOT enough is very freeing. I don't mean to imply that I am now going to lie down and not do anything, but I feel a lot less pressure to be perfect or to demand perfection from others. I feel freed up to repent and forgive and go on.

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  3. 'NONE of us are enough, …ALL of us will be overcome by mortality without Jesus'
    Ana, I always look forward to and subsequently love your comments, thank you.

    Michelle, you have a unique way of bringing up important, sensitive topics in a heart-warming way. Thank you dear soul sister.

    I heard somewhere that we can give others the 'gift of our vulnerabilty', meaning telling the truth if you are having a hard time, letting them into your messy house, being real. Either you will bond and it will be healing for you both, or they wont respond and that it ok too.

    I think that it is difficult for us to uplift each other at church if everyone is already up.

    let's be honest about this stuff, …about …how…we …feel! and then like Ana said:
    'feel freed to repent and forgive and go on.'

    sounds great, right? Thanks again Michelle

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  4. I've read "And He Did Deliver Me From Bondage". It was the catalyst that brought me into recovery for my own eating addiction. However, when I've shared my testimony in RS about how the atonement has brought me healing from my addiction, I felt like I could hear the crickets chirping in the loaded silence after. I reminded myself that I shared at the promptings of the Spirit, and then I was able to let it go. Sometimes I feel like it's only OK to share certain "socially acceptable" challenges. And even then, sisters will feel compelled to jump in right away with advice, though I didn't ask for any. Sigh. Being willing to be vulnerable at church can come at a very high cost. It's a challenge to walk that boundary without feeling like I've overshared or been judged. I'm so relieved to be working in Primary now, with a reprieve from the crickets.

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  5. I wrote a (really too) long comment earlier and it got obliterated. But i just wanted to say that I think part of the answer is to decide to love and accept ourselves where we're at RIGHT NOW…the way God does. To be more gentle with ourselves.

    And then decide to give everyone else the benefit of the doubt and allow them the grace to live their lives as they see fit without holding them responsible for not living how we think they should. Because the truth is, they get to. So do I, you, we, he, and she. We all get to. We get to choose our lives and how we do them. That concept of they get to is part of having healthy boundaries and knowing where you end and others begin. I think these are keys to learning unconditional love. There are probably other ways, but this is the best way I've figured out so far.

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  6. I feel it's very difficult to be completely genuine with others at church because the fear of judgment is so high. As I've gotten older, I've been more comfortable with who I am and have felt freer to speak up in meetings and classes about various things. However, when it comes to struggles–especially serious ones– it can be tough to be vulnerable. I have been judged and abandoned in the past and though the wound has healed, the memory of the pain is still there. In my head I know that everyone has his or her own set of challenges, but it can be terribly lonely at times to sit in church and feel you cannot express yourself honestly. For me this comes in cycles– passages of time. Sometimes I feel connected to my ward family and can share. Other times I'm invisible. During those invisibility stretches, the only thing that keeps me going to church is the fact that I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and I know that my a Heavenly Father loves me.

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  7. Katie,

    Thank you for your thoughts. I think what you've described is how we become "change-makers" in our own Relief Society so we can build a RS like Anon has…and there are many of those throughout the world. Just as with the giving of any gift, we risk that it will not be accepted or cherished. Emily's thoughts about the "gift of our vulnerability" are beautifully true. And it is a gift I have learned to love to give…whether successful or unsuccessful. Keep on giving. Someone in the room is being blessed while the crickets chirp. But Heavenly Father cherishes our giving, I am certain. I think I will start prefacing my vulnerable comments with, "I am learning to make peace with this so I don't need advice, but my experience teaches me…."

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  8. Blue,
    Thank you for that important reminder. We can even feel better if we think, perhaps next week they will understand what I am trying to say…because that is TRUE. So often I have unconsciously judged and then later had an experience that allowed me to benefit from the earlier shared vulnerability.

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  9. A number of years ago, a sister shared a very raw and powerful testimony about her struggle with severe depression in a Relief Society lesson. I didn't make any comments, and she might have thought the crickets were chirping, but her lesson helped me name a problem that I had been experiencing and feel better about getting help. Now I wish I had done something to let her know that I was listening and that her lesson had helped me.

    Being vulnerable and sharing ourselves, and accepting the shared thoughts of others is hard. I've had several instances where I've felt prompted to share things about my life, and felt the reaction wasn't what I wanted. Eventually I found peace in knowing that I listened to a prompting and I did my part, and hopefully what I shared helped someone. That's all that I can do, and pray that God softens the hearts of those who are listening.

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  10. One of the most memorable and beautiful RS lessons I ever attended started out as your typical run-of-the-mill lesson on strengthening our families spiritually through FHE, scripture study, etc. Then one brave sister interrupted the RS president with a statement that went something like this: "I feel like there are two groups of people in this room. One group is all of you who can relate to this lesson. Then there is the other group, the one which I belong to. My husband refuses to come to church or participate in anything spiritual. My Primary-aged son is confused and wants to stay home with daddy and fights me about doing anything spiritual. It's a miracle I ever get him to come to church with me. FHE, scripture study, and family prayer simply are not going to happen in our home. I am tired of feeling left-out and like a failure whenever we have these lessons. Can we talk about what real life is like for women like me?" I so admire her courage to share thoughts that had been pent up inside her for years. The RS president handled it with complete grace, the whole course of that lesson changed that day, but it ended up being a wonderful and heartfelt experience as other women in the room opened up with stories of their own, and everyone present embraced this sister with love.

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  11. I appreciate the tone of this particular blog post. But there is a thought in it that just grates me the wrong way.
    "… Sarah would absolutely be classified as the perfect Mormon mommy. Slim and blonde, with six cute kids and an adoring husband, she’s always part of a presidency, always carrying a casserole to the neighbors."
    Now, I hate to nitpick but REALLY??? The perfect Mormon mommy has 6 cute kids and is blonde and slim?
    I'd like to think that my three kids are sickeningly cute, but I'm biased. My wife does not have blonde hair, but that doesn't detract from what I perceive as her perfectness for me! Her body type is irrelevant to me, I love her just the way she is. My wife has never been in a Presidency (she did however serve as a Beehive adviser), but I converted because of her testimony of Temple marriage. She doesn't always take a casserole, mainly because she is teaching piano and is extremely busy. But when she does, its always done with love for the person who is receiving it.
    I hope that the author was inadvertent in her body and family-size shaming. My picture of the "perfect Mormon mommy" is a woman who loves Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, her husband, and her kids. In that order. I for one am lucky to be married to just such a dynamite gal! And if I feel like I don't fit in, its because I'm not married to someone else's idea of perfection, but I am married to my own idea of it.

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  12. I like your point Rick. I like it a lot. Thanks for bringing that up. I knew something was wrong with this post and it's been nagging at me. I was relying too much on stereotypes to prove a point. You are so right– there are all kinds of 'ideal.' And I love hearing you speak so beautifully of your wife.

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  13. Thanks Emily. You are always so kind about my writing even when it's a little bit off. This post kept bugging me. I kept taking it down. I'm grateful for the discussion I see here.

    I love the 'gift of vulnerability.' Such a beautiful way to live.

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  14. Everyone's comment are so apt, and very appreciated as I hear others express their feelings.
    I have served in several presidencies, always gone to church, because I knew it was true, but I have many a time not felt part, or the odd one out.
    I wanted so much for someone to understand what I was feeling with regards, to what I was experiencing, and tried talking through many a stressful time, but felt more and more, because of what I experienced, I wasn't happy enough, and others seemed to withdraw, adding to the feeling I was odd, that I was burdening others, just deal with it. So I felt it was better to keep things to myself and get on, suck it up, so to speak.
    But oh how I loved the gospel, and just wanted to feel I wasn't on my own, it was ok to feel what I was feeling.
    Sometimes I feel there is so much of a front put on for church, we have to look happy, we have to be managing, or we are failing.
    When I hear others talk of what they experience, you feel, oh wow! and you can also empathise and support.
    I had spent many years, feeling I wasn't managing my challenges very well, that I was on my own, or didn't fit in.
    Now Im in an area, where people are more open, and it is refreshing, so refreshing, it's empowering and strengthening.
    I do hope as well, I'm learning, to be more aware of others, have more compassion, we are all struggling, and we are not the only one!

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  15. I've held many calling from 4 years as nursery leader , Presidency stake & ward early morning seminary teacher, visiting teacher , gave it a 100% , with a husband that didn't attend.
    When I need someone my husband had really bad accident , my teenage children found themself alone more , they found it hard. Only comment I got was you lucky your kids are old enough to help, where was RS President I was the RS president. Yes! I was the one that helped others . I loved my sister.
    I had to be ask to release after 2 years of struggling husband still ill, working full time. It was like I had a black ban put on me.
    Over the year because I was strong , very few visiting teachers no home teacher the ones that did come didn't turn after they were change . Stayed active for another 5 years, severing where The Lord wanted me, then to many hurtful things still no visiting teachers or home teacher lived in the middle of the towns
    I would never say anything negative about the church to anyone outstanding or inside I do not want to harm. But where do I feel most alone is at church I haven't been for many years, if i do turn up it to lonely . Thank for you. The church is true but to lonely

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  16. I so wish you could. I felt for you as I read your comments, I really don't think people mean to, that's why for me in addition to where I am now, it's important I strive to reach out, that way I find others who need understanding and love.
    You really are not on your own. I need the gospel too much to stay away, maybe I needed to go through that to have empathy for others.
    I'll be thinking of you now!

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  17. Pray for courage to return, Heavenly Father cares so much for you!
    I just hope I don't sound patronising, I don't mean too.

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  18. I don't fit in at church. I've known a lot of the people most of my life. I have a lot of family in my ward, yet I still don't fit in. I haven't been to church in a few months. I have a lot going on and I (being born and raised in the church) naturally felt that getting more involved in church would help me. But when I went, I felt so out of place, so uncomfortable and just wanted to get out of there. Anyway I pushed those feelings aside and went consistently for a few more months, but the feeling of not belonging just felt stronger. I needed someone to talk to, but I couldn't find anyone I felt comfortable with. I just don't bother now.

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  19. Some of my best friendships within the wards I have attended began after moments of difficulty/judgements made by myself and others. Once we got to know each other and the struggles we had spiritually, physically, and emotionally we came to embrace each other and our differences. How these difficulties and differences made us an important piece to making our wards whole!!

    We all have something to give to help others!!

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  20. I don't have anyone Inparticular to talk to, just others are more open, which helps a lot.
    Don't give up, if it can turn around for me, it can for you too.

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  21. Here's the thing. With my many flaws and failings I shine. No kidding… I would blind you with this amazing light pouring out of me. I can't help myself. I am so filled with the love and light of His Son.
    Yesterday I was dragging. Tired and spent. The shine and self doubt were bolstered by trying to be a good girl.
    I don't feel it a burden to be enough. As a matter of fact I was most humbled when I finally realized that I have always been enough. Flawed, imperfect as I am… to him I am more than enough. I suppose that feeling has been fed by what I feel for my children.
    Michelle, to be authentic is to be that "velveteen rabbit"… loved, dirty, at times forgotten, bald in patches with an eye (the judgmental one) missing; but basking in the light of His redeeming love. Oh how lucky we are to be blessed to have another day to try and love as He does.
    Continued blessings to you and yours. xox

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  22. I love the article, but what should I do when I can't get help the help I need. I'm not assigned home teachers for a very long time I don't know why. Every time I talk to my bishop about anything he makes me feel like I'm a nobody, he also gives me a hard time with a food order, I don't ask for one that often, once in awhile. I even went to the stake president, I still didn't get any where. No one wants to communicate with me, I have to bug Them for an answer. Help what should I do?

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  23. This is such a difficult subject as there appears to be judgemental-ism on both of the apparent sides. That of the lonely member in believing and judging others they perceive as judging them and also those who may appear to be doing the judging. At the risk of making those feeling lonely (of which I am one on many occasions!) feel even more guilty but still needs saying for when I am on the other side, PLEASE think the best of us, yourselves etc. I have been a member for a long time and am still learning. I have been an opinionated – black is black and white is white – person while a YSA – and still can be! But the Lord has blessed me To have callings and experiences that have brought me in to contact with sisters and brothers that have taught me that my former stance was unkind and unchristlike, but also that they were mainly made in the errors and lack of experience of youth. Now I am a wife and mother with teenagers – and that says it all really! There is nothing like experience to teach you to accept that your path is different to everyone else's, that comparing is folly and that the only opinion that matters is the Lord's. Also that my job is to love my sisters and ease their way along it as much as I am able to at the time. The lonely also need to accept that the perceived shiny people can also be struggling in myriads of ways and with problems and experiences that just can't be seen. Please realise that when others do not reach out to you, it may be because they have burdens you just can't see, think the best of those you think are judging you. Sometimes the words that grate on your ears and heart are words intended to reassure the speaker that all be well if they just hold on for one more day. Be kind too. It isn't always about us although sometimes we want it to be! I know unwelcome advice is annoying, it can seem to validate your feeling that "you are doing it all wrong" but we/ they mean well! We mostly are trying to love each other and we want to help each other. Please take it in good part, use the bits you like and discard the rest – and don't feel judged, feel loved. We are all not perfect, but the Lord loves us anyway!

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  24. Kirsten, that is how I feel most of the time. I really struggle going to church specifically relief society. Love Sunday school, love learning about the gospel but do not feel that care and love that you would think relief society would be about. I often hide during class time . I have often wondered what could be done different, and I am not sure. I would love to attend a ward where women are feeling loved. It is sad to read how many lonely women there are in the church. What can we do?

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  25. That description bothered me as well. I came via the link on LDS Living. Though I imagine that the author's description of the perfect mormon woman is based on her background, and the author's bio indicates she is from Utah, has six kids herself, and from her picture appears blond and slim, as well! It's a regional thing more than a church thing. How grateful I am to not be among the stereotypical, shiny women of Utah. They certainly come and go from my area, but always head back to the mothership.

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  26. Very interesting. . .I have bipolar,o.c.d., a couple of other things. A couple of years ago adults in my ward were shown a video about how youth are taught now – in hopes of the adults doing the same . . .discussions, what do you think questioning . . . Less reading Manuel. . .but most adults in my ward just went back to reading Manuel, leaving no time for comments in R.S. &S.S. . . .I think some people take their own dear selves too seriously. When my mom passed her friends said, your mom made comments which made everyone laugh in classes – laughing in church? How nice it would be to let down my hair and laugh. . .wards are different from each other I guess. This is nice to speak out. I will always put a plug in for Abraham Low's 'Recovery International' check online . . . really helped when I was a single mom & now, a grandmother age with no grandkids. Thanks for listening. Mary Ann

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  27. After I joined the Church, I would go to Church but stay away from social activities, because I knew I wasn't perfect. I felt like everyone in the Church was perfect except me.
    After I realized other members were not perfect I began to fit in. I married my thin, blond, beautiful wife. Had my 6 children. Filled many types of callings. 30 years later I find myself in a divorce. And once again don't feel like I fit in. Once again I feel like I don't measure up. I have to force myself to go to Church. This article has helped me see things in a different light. I needed to read this. Thanks.

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  28. Thank you all for your comments. I could relate to everyone's thoughts and opinions. It was soooooo comforting to know u am truly not alone. May you each be greatly blest.

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  29. I just felt the need to respond here in Adobe manner because I can so identify with much of what is being said.
    I too have struggled with feeling alone, the odd man out and never enough. I've had peeps of inactivity and much heartache. I've struggled through a divorce when I joined the church and became a single mom to two young girls. I struggled through another divorce within a temple marriage as still a mom to two still young girls. I struggled with that stigma even though none except members oh my Stake Presidency knew the true circumstances if that situation and they themselves called it spiritual abuse at its ugliest….which is why I walked away from and ended a temple marriage. It was only one on paper at that point and that was hard enough. The next 6 years I spent in and out of the hospital trying to convince Heavenly Father that my time here was done and I needed to come home. Had very little contact with church members during that time. Meanwhile my young children lost out on a lot.
    I have been back and active at church now for 12 years and now I struggle with being a single grandma raising my single daughter's two children. There are times I feel as if there is truly no one on thus earth who understands where I'm at in my life or my relationship with my Saviour. Gradually I'm coming to terms with that and I'm OK with it. He understands, He knows and He loves me right here and now. I have a Bishop who is wonderful, a RS Pres. Who is sincerely trying to include all sisters (she herself is single) I know my Father lives I know He loves me and walks every step I walk right beside me and when I cannot walk He carries me. My broken family will one day be as whole all it is promised in NY Patriarchal Blessing because He said so not because of anything great I have done.
    Small and simple things are what will get us there. My testimony of both my Father's and my Saviors unending and unconditional love carries me through all of it. As I strive to love wayward children and love and teach my grandchildren I learn more and more about the love they both have for me. My challenge and goal is to translate that live I'm finding for myself to others in my life. We are all broken and we are all His children. …loved beyond anything we can imagine in this life.

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  30. I loved this article and the earlier comments. I'm currently attending a singles ward in Utah and I just want to report that the culture is changing!! I don't think I've ever had more heartfelt and vulnerable discussions than I have in that relief society class. It has been liberating! Leaders please foster the spirit of honesty in your auxiliaries so we can break down the Mormon dogmas that don't reflect the gospel of Christ. Establish your relief societies as a "safe zone" where sisters don't have to be afraid of what others think. There are all different kinds of people out there, some are awkward, embarrassing, wild, infuriating, but let us not forget that not only has the Savior experienced what we've experienced, He also knows what everyone else has gone through too, including what it was like to interact with you. Let us be kind. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

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  31. Many wonderful comments here; so much love and support! A favorite line from a hymn is "In the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can't see." (#220) Yes, we all struggle, have sorrows and sins and pains of every kind. And the only being who will always, ALWAYS be there for us is the Savior. He never, NEVER lets us down, is reliable, loving, kind, forgiving, accepting, etc. And He is the one to whom we will account for our lives. I don't want to stand before Him and say I didn't go to His church because I was lonely, or hurting, or whatever. His Spirit makes going to church worthwhile, in spite of all the flawed mortal brothers and sisters; His love lifts me and gives me strength to keep following the path; His strength helps me endure my trials.

    Many years ago I was visiting teacher to a young woman who miscarried at about seven weeks, just after she had told everyone, excitedly, that she was pregnant. I tried to comfort her as best I could, but having never lost a child I didn't know exactly the feelings she had. Three weeks later my husband was arrested for soliciting a prostitute and subsequently lost his job. I was devastated and wanted to die! For months and months afterwards I had to sit through Testimony meeting and listen to that young woman cry and question whether the Lord loved her and how hurt she was, etc, etc. She was able to grieve publicly and receive lots of public support. I didn't even tell my visiting teachers what had happened because I didn't want to expose my husband to any worse judgments than he already had. It was agonizing to go to church and see the sisters rally around this younger woman and comfort her in every way possible, while my heart was breaking and I felt so alone. The only way I made it through those dark days was to rely on the Savior completely. He knew what I needed and sent tender mercies my way; He strengthened me, filled me with peace, and through the power of His Atonement enabled me to forgive my husband. I can't emphasize enough that we must rely on the Savior and ignore the mere mortals who seem to ignore us, judge us, or otherwise hurt us. So what if I'm lonely at church, I don't go simply for sociality, I go to partake of the Sacrament and renew my covenants with God; I go out of obedience; I go to eat of the Bread of Life and drink of the Living Waters. I go to set an example for my children.

    At the darkest times in my life I am reminded by the Spirit that Jesus was rejected and lonely too; so was Joseph Smith; and I'm nowhere near as special or important in the grand scheme of things as they were. But I am loved by my Heavenly Father and my Savior and that is enough to get me through.

    Brothers and Sisters, we must do as Nephi exhorted: Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. (2 Nephi 31:20)

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  32. I just felt the need to respond here because I can so identify with much of what is being said.
    I too have struggled with feeling alone, the odd man out and never enough. I've had periods of inactivity and much heartache. I've struggled through a divorce when I joined the church and became a single mom to two young girls. I struggled through another divorce within a temple marriage as still a mom to two still young girls. I struggled with that stigma even though none except members of my Stake Presidency knew the true circumstances of that situation and they themselves called it spiritual abuse at its ugliest….which is why I walked away from and ended a temple marriage. It was only one on paper at that point and that was hard enough. The next 6 years I spent in and out of the hospital trying to convince Heavenly Father that my time here was done and I needed to come home. Had very little contact with church members during that time. Meanwhile my young children lost out on a lot.
    I have been back and active at church now for 12 years and now I struggle with being a single grandma raising my single daughter's two children. There are times I feel as if there is truly no one on thus earth who understands where I'm at in my life or my relationship with my Saviour. Gradually I'm coming to terms with that and I'm OK with it. He understands, He knows and He loves me right here and now. I have a Bishop who is wonderful, a RS Pres. Who is sincerely trying to include all sisters (she herself is single) I know my Father lives I know He loves me and walks every step I walk right beside me and when I cannot walk He carries me. My broken family will one day be as whole all it is promised in my Patriarchal Blessing because He said so not because of anything great I have done.
    Small and simple things are what will get us there. My testimony of both my Father's and my Savior's unending and unconditional love carries me through all of it. As I strive to love wayward children and love and teach my grandchildren I learn more and more about the love they both have for me. My challenge and goal is to translate that love I'm finding for myself to others in my life. We are all broken and we are all His children. …loved beyond anything we can imagine in this life.

    Reply
  33. I'm one of those sisters who has decided to become vulnerable and share her story… Rather loudly, and often.

    I have Bioplar Disorder (also called Manic-Depression Disorder by older schools of thought), Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and am recovering from an eating disorder. Almost every time I hear my testimony, I mention that the Gospel is why I am surviving all of this, why I am able to talk about it.

    It makes people very uncomfortable for me to talk about mental illness, especially since I was admitted to a psych ward last year… I have since been told by my Visiting Teachers that they dislike visiting me because "I'm too serious" and "too depressing" to be around.

    That doesn't stop me though. I attend RS activities and try to go for the classes as much as I can in spite of my high anxiety, and I let myself be vulnerable and get hurt. Because of my example, my ward's RS President has started discussing mental illness and how Gospel principles can help those of us who suffer with it regularly, even at the "happy shiny" parties.

    If you want someone to talk to, I find that you have to speak up first. You may get hurt, but you will also find that being honest with yourself in such an open place will bring you opportunities you never had before.

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  34. We all seem to like to go where we feel comfortable and validated for who we are! My career requires me to be bold, forthright and quick to ensure boundaries keep children safe. It requires me to make quick decisions with empathy and love. Prayer is a huge part of my day. I love serving people anywhere when the inspiration comes. Spontaneous and quick! Rewards and joys are plentiful.
    Then at church a RS president asked me if I was taking over her job…. The cruncher came when my VT, who I thought was a friend, said my 'mouth was my greatest weakness'. I believe we go where we feel we are accepted and comfortable in goodness. I feel I bring so many people closer to the Savior daily than going to the country club where I seem to intimidate women. The last sentence us a but satirical! Bless you for a great article!

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  35. Recently I have had A LOT of persecution in my ward. I shared some very personal and intimate parts of my testimony with trusted friends and visiting teachers in my ward. These thoughts and comments became twisted and misused and were reported to the bishop. I have now met with our bishop twice because he questions who I am and what I've been saying. He has accused me of many different things- even going as far as thinking I've been practicing witchcraft-(WHAT??) and that I should stop reaching for something that isn't there. I came home and cried for a week, hours at a time. I live VERY VERY close to the spirit, setting personal goals and praying with real intent constantly. Within the last year, the Lord has revealed to me a particular event in the future that will call some of my children home. I don't know all the details…he has never given me a timeline or given me permission to share specific details but I have struggled in the past year knowing this and trying to stay strong and trust in His plan. It's been a sacred, intense and emotional journey for me knowing that I have not been allowed to share details with anyone. I have cried many times alone on my knees seeking answers and solace. I know that I'm not perfect. I make mistakes and I shared too much personal revelation. The comments the bishop and others have made to me and this experience would have made ANY member of the church want to never ever come back to church again….EVER. But, as I prayed, the Holy Ghost whispered some truth to me: These experiences are for your good. The Lord knows exactly who you are and has accepted your heart. Your bishop is learning and so are you. Be patient with others and continue to extend yourself with Christlike love and CHARITY even during persecution(which can be especially hard from members inside the church..and in your ward) NO ONE IS PERFECT. I don't care how they appear to you. We are all in various levels of testing and learning. We live in the VERY last days. This is a critical time to be practicing how to live as a Zion people. We need each other! We don't need gossip, judgment, and for heavens sake, just because someone shares something with you that you don't understand, doesn't mean it isn't true! Reach out to EVERYONE. No matter how they may appear to you. I will be honest in saying that I am probably that girl who appears to be the perfect Molly Mormon and yet I have never experienced such persecution in all my life!!!! I have felt rejected, misunderstood, betrayed, and have even been lied to. But- nonetheless it doesn't stop me from going to church and fulfilling the responsibilities the Lord has given me. I choose to love and sustain our bishop. As I look back on the intense challenges I have faced, I have seen the Lords hand in my life and I am so grateful for feeling like the odd one out.

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  36. I am so touched by the comments on this article. I am a life-long member and have lived in many different wards, stakes, and places. Not all wards are the same. That's a fact. However, the gospel is the same. We all know that. When we were serving a mission, my husband and I had one of the young elders tell us of a woman that he had met in another area. He and his companion were "greeting" at the door when this woman came in for Sacrament Meeting. He smiled, welcomed her, and reached out to shake her hand. She started to cry. He thought he had done something wrong and asked her about it. She said, "No, it's just that I've been a member of the church for several years now, and this is the first time that anyone has welcomed me to church." Now, that's not acceptable. He asked her, "Then why do you keep coming?" and her reply was, "Because it's true, isn't it?!" When I was the RS Pres, my presidency and I made it a practice to watch for any sister who looked like she was by herself, new, or not feeling welcome. We would each find someone to "go and sit by" during our meetings that we could lift and make a friend of. Our Stake Pres was upset at us and wanted us to "sit up front as a Presidency…like the Priesthood does". Well, I told the Bishop that we respected the Stake Pres but were going to continue our practice because that was helping our sisters become closer. He agreed. I know of several sisters that were truly helped. Be a friend to the other women…and men. They need friends too. Even now, in the place we are living, we don't feel "welcomed" by the members…after all we've done to be friendly. But we keep trying. I know the Church is the Lord's Church. I know that he wants us to love and serve each other. Let's make it a goal to do just that!

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  37. My name is Terry. I would like to make a comment. We have moved around often because of job situations and also trying to be involved in getting our grandkids to Church. So, we have been in new wards over the past 4 yrs. As, I try to establish myself in the wards; I have found very few if any will offer a hello or ask if I am new? I know it is my duty to say Hello as well or find a person who will possibly engage with me. I have tried and have found very few if any at all who will help me feel welcome. It is a sad feeling for me.
    I say Latter Day Saints help people feel welcome and sit by them ;engage in a conversation with them. They need you. I will always remember that I too need to do that. I think people in the Church need to be reminded of this and also once a yr. Have a sacrament talk on this. It is a lonely feeling when you walk in a room and none says hi or even offers to sit by you. We are the Lord's True
    Church. Just thoughts to think about; because I am in those shoes often.

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  38. Thank you for saying this! I have had these experiences many times at church, from both sides. So many people's testimonies have helped me or touched me, but I didn't know how to add to it or respond in public. I have started writing cards to people who have shared things at church that have helped me, and we've had follow-up discussions that have been great. Conversely, I've also been the one to drop the lead balloon in RS and hear the crickets. But you're right, there is comfort in knowing that I followed a prompting and the Lord can use my "vessel" to help someone, somehow. Thanks again!

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  39. Thankyou everyone for the openness and sincerity, and wonderful thoughts.
    Even though some of us have felt alone or odd one, or still do, through reading what everyone has written, it reveals sooooo much more we are not on our own with similar experiences.
    It also highlights so much more the importance of serving others, as the Saviour said, "even as I am."
    He has shown the way, it is soooooo much a need.

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  40. Aloha!

    "It's These Same Crickets, That Swarm In To Save Us From The Monsters"

    I'm Very Grateful To Have "Accidently" Come To This Blog This Morning.. The Sister Missionaries Have Been Coming Over To Teach My Soon To Be 8 yr. Old Daughter, And I've Shared That We Didn't Have A Warm Feeling About The Ward That We Are "Suppose" To Attending…(A Very Strange Testimony Meeting) Scared Us Away… But, The Good Sisters Seem To Think Bringing In The "Champions" Of The Ward (With Them, As They Visit) That We Will Somehow Chase After Them Into The Chapel-

    I Gently Asked Them, To Stop Asking/Inviting Me And The Family To Attend This Certain Ward… And, Yes I KNOW The Church Is TRUE!!!!!!!! And Follow The Prophet- And Have A DEEP Understanding Of The Amazing Atonement Of Our Elder Brother Jesus Christ-

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  41. Emily B,

    I think your words are right on the money, but I also feel that there are people that ask how you are when they know you're going through a hard time and when you answer honestly say, "Just let me know what I can do" as a way to gracefully get out of a conversation they are no longer interested in. They wanted to hear that you're doing ok, but when they find out things aren't ok they don't want to hear anymore. How can we give the "gift of vulnerability" if no one wants the gift and in so many words tells you to suck it up and go on?

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  42. I have been LDS all my life and have never fit in at church. I now have a teenager that refuses to be LDS even after trying to do everything right (FHE, family prayer, etc). My teenager brings a lot of judgement on me as a parent. I feel that I am now less than the others whos teenagers attend seminary, church and don't ask to pierce or tattoo their bodies. I have wrestled with forcing my child to church by taking away the ever important life appendage called the cell phone, but soon realized that it is wrong to force anyone to church…ie. Satan's plan in heaven was to force us all to do his will. I have relied on my relationship with Heavenly Father for over 40 years to attend church because I have few friends there, since I am different and have a hard time carrying on conversations because I am not typical and I don't think like most of the women I come in contact with at church. I am a professional and feel ostracized because of it, sometimes. I wish there was a place to go and express my feelings to other LDS women who are understanding and compassionate and non judgemental. In the Utah culture, if your child is not perfect, the parents do not allow their children to be associated with them. Which makes sense, but can be very painful when your child feels like the druggie kids are more accepting than the righteous kids so they prefer to be around them for social acceptance. How can you ever win and be loved for who you are? Would being loved for who you are help you to become better? Especially in the case of my child??

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  43. Oh gosh, as I read each one my heart reaches out!
    I have three who won't go to church, felt similar feelings because of it.
    I don't feel being loved for who you are makes you better, it enhances, and gives a boost, but I think the going through these hard experiences, is what helps us become better within ourselves, if we just stick through it. For me to trust there is a bigger picture.

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  44. People generally are afraid of the 'gift of vulnerability'. Most in the LDS church are raised in 'families' and find their safety net there. Many young women are soon engrossed in their own families and their time, values and interests are spread through social media because it is 'safe'! Social media is NOT being directly engaged, we can shut it off till tomorrow if we choose. The bricks of compassion and vulnerability are laid one at a time on our service wall as we 'act' upon….not 'listen' upon………

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  45. I've experienced 2 things in our ward that have made a difference. First, as one commenter mentioned as a positive thing, our bishopbric spreads callings around, it's not the same 8-10 people serving in presidencies. We have an amazing sister who was less-active and most people thought she was "weird", but she was called as our Primary secretary, and she's amazing! She just needed to be needed, and given a chance to shine and let everyone get to know her. My second experience was as I was driving to work one day and got caught in a traffic jam. As I was forced to slow down, I saw a billboard with a picture of Ghandi, and a quote that said "Be the change you want to see in the world". It hit me that to feeling more like I belonged in my ward, I needed to change myself instead of waiting for others to include me and make me feel like I belonged. I started to reach out to others I didn't know, and it didn't take long before I felt needed, loved, and an integral part of my ward family. All because I decided to reach out first…a very powerful lesson for me.

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  46. Thank you for sharing your story, Rozy. It really resonated with me and strengthened my testimony. We really have no idea what others are going through and what hidden burdens they carry. Thank you for reminding me of this.

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  47. I was a single mother for several years. Yes, when I went to church, I sat alone and no one spoke to me. When I would look at them to say "Hi," many just turned as though they didn't see me. During this time, I especially enjoyed worshiping my Heavenly Father and feeling His presence with me and learning as much as I could. It is now about 20 years later. After about one year, there was one person who eventually introduced herself to me. I was so impressed. We are now very close friends. When I moved into a different ward, another woman said, "Hello," to me. I will always remember her. These are very special women. At this lonely time in my life, I remember these women; these two women with great love and respect. They are a great example for me. After I moved to a new area following my divorce, I was very alone. Two people, who I still don't know, gave me gifts, anonymously. I doubt they will ever know how much they filled the void that was in my life at that time, just knowing someone cared. We need to learn. Even small acts have enormous impact!

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  48. I love the idea of the RS presidency sitting among and befriending the sisters in their ward. Sounds exactly like what Christ would do if he were a RS president! Serving with great love is my goal too.

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  49. Encouragement is God's method discouragement is the other fella's method and he achieves it by any means available. If he can achieve it by making us all more conscious of our 'image' and for that reason less honest about any struggles we have then that makes the job of isolating people from(what should be) the strength of the church community when they hit a bump in the road easy . Its win/win for him , curtails compassion on one side and dilutes hope on the other. Don't play the image game everyone loses , nobody wins. Keep it real no matter what ????

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  50. When I read feelings of how not liking the Church/Ward they are assigned to I always remember when I was in my early teens and not a member. I realized that the people/members are not who were are to listen for true guidance for its Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ who are our example. You have to remember we are all imperfect and have been sent here to progress toward perfection. It's a learning process and we all need different guidance according to our needs. We are all not on the same plain. We are to find this through humble prayer because Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is waiting for you to ask.

    When I first attended a meeting 36 years ago I knew in my heart that this was the true Gospel and Church. I felt warm and at peace. I opened up my heart to listen and feel without any negative issues to interfere with the moment. By doing this I felt the spirit and it was good. Now it's not that I didn't have issues I didn't understand. It was a big progression. My life wasn't perfect but I knew I was in the right place and that I would get my answer. Be patient and pray with a humble heart. The Lord wants to hear your doubts to give you the answers you need. Remember we are all a child of God and are loved unconditionally.

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  51. I agree totally with you Angie,
    I am a divorced mother with four children. There is not one perfect person in this world, let alone, any ward. I know very little of the struggles the members in the ward we are in are going through, I know they have stuggles. There sruggles are validated because their mariiages aren't falling apart and mine aren't because I chose to marry someone who chose his life alone?? I am talked to like my marriage failed because I knew who the guy was before getting married and so it's my fault. He's faults are not mine, I am treated as if though that's the case. I don't see anyone from church outside of church, I don't talk to anyone. I have tried again and agin to connect with the sisters and there is always an excuse. There are one or two people I have a semi-friendly relationship with. I don't feel like I belong because I was told many times I take advantage of everyone and I am treated that way. I have no family near, my parents deceased, and yet I am baisically spoken to like i'm an idiot because I am the only one with my children, doing the best I can. At least I am with them not pawning them off on others or going out and leaving them alone. So, yes when people ask how I am doing and keep walking while saying it, shows they don't care, why even bother?

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  52. I understand how going to your assigned Ward can sometimes be uncomfortable but it can also be a blessing. I have often wanted to go with a close friend to the Ward she goes to. She is always helping others and having a good time but it seems like she has lost her way in some respects. For example, going to the Temple is at the bottom of her "to-do" list. I want to remember why I am there and what's important. Some of the Wards I have lived in taught me tolerance and forgiveness while others have been loving and accepting. Know that you, and others, are where you are meant to be at this time in your life. Embrace the "characters"–you will learn to love them.

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  53. Not an uncommon experience sadly buoyed up by well meaning advice that the best way to get out of an abusive marriage or bad marriage is not to get into one. Sounds fine until you take into account that concealment is a major skill of people who privately behave badly and that the ones with the worst issues and the most to hide are the most adept at hiding their dark side from a future spouse and explaining away anything that rings an alarm bell during dating. You can't cure ignorance sadly but you can learn to ignore it given time 😉

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  54. Perhaps before making judgements about others you should stop and really get to know the person of whom you are referring. We can all be rather quick to pick up on surface "cues" without out ever knowing the deep seated suffering that may be going on within someone.

    I agree that some Wards are probably much better than others. But when by circumstances one is not in a position to move their residence, and their ward experience over decades have become so toxic and torturous as to begin slowly chipping away at one's own self esteem and that of one's family, when the very nature of their relationship with the Savior becomes compromised because every Sunday is like a trip into a torture chamber, perhaps it is time to act, before one loses one's faith in God and one's testimony of the Church completely.

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  55. The idea of the RS presidency sitting at the front isn't to honor their position. It's for them to have an overview of the sisters in the mtg: how are they reacting to the lesson; does someone seem to be struggling or sorrowful; who isn't being talked to or sat by; who isn't here today; who has come that hasn't been here for a long time and then FOLLOW THROUGH with actions using the sisters in the ward. I've seen a sign posted in some Relief Societies saying "No one sits alone". That needs to be taught by the RS presidency on a regular basis with a call to action.

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  56. 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 self esteem? I don't have an answer!

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  57. Yes I think it starts at the top. The bishoprics needs to spread callings around. I know in my ward I have felt like you need to have this last name or that one, because they where always the ones that seem to being doing everything. That is hard. I have felt I want the opportunity to serve, learn and grow.

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  58. These messages need to be shown to Bishop, Stake Leaders., Area leaders…. They want to know why there are so many inactive members.
    I do now know, I'm not alone feeling like this……..There are to many feeling alone in a crowd……are our meeting to formal. I do not want others to feel alone at church like I do and stop going ..
    Another story I read that rang true is 10 min visiting home / visiting teacher If they turn up) with the line on the end …….. Let me know if can do anything as they run out door.
    ……..Then I realize they are so busy…….the run out there doors before the had time to to listen to there family ………Many they could say Hi on a Sunday .

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  59. Very well said Sarah! And to Rick I applaud you for standing up for Godly women and not worldly women. Our ego (edging God out) has taken over our lives, we are defining ourselves outwardly instead of our inner qualities which are from our Father in Heaven and we are failing to see each other as a child of God. Happy trails.

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  60. Those in authority would(a thought) like their children guided and taught by those who are role models. You don't find many convert bishops who have really "converted" from the 'other' side. Personally, we who are tarnished somewhat, know the pitfalls in life and gave much to share. The Savior has forgiven us!

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  61. I often felt like this(at church) until I came across President Monson's article, "Is it I?". Other general authorities have used the thought too. With constant prayer and pondering the answers, I received many solutions yo help me adjust. Think for me patience was the key.

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  62. You must be one special lady! Thankyou for strengthening my soul today! You gave reminded me that are all given circumstances to test/trial to be strong and worthy to bring us back home!

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  63. Oh my, oh my. How I love all of you who have left your stories, comments, fears, counsel and experiences. I feel like I can see each of you; I weep with you; I feel like throwing my arms around you and whispering in your ear "I love you." Never give up. You are surrounded by angels you can and cannot see. I pray, my friends, for your strength to steadfastly press on with your thoughts and eyes on Jesus Christ.
    Thank you, Michelle, for your post and hosting this forum.

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  64. I prefer to be left alone at church. I don't like people to sit by me, and I don't want to chat with people I don't know. I extend the same courtesy to others. I think people that need that interaction should take it upon themselves to find it. I also pray that they will find another needy person to communicate with. I guess everyone has different needs. I think that's what is great about callings. you can get to know people as you serve. When I am in a leadership position, I have to speak to everyone, of course. When I am released, I am grateful to let someone else have that opportunity.

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  65. When I got divorced from my child abusing husband (who later on was diagnosed scitzo) I was vilified by the people of my ward in Queens, NYC.
    "How could I leave such a wonderful man with such a fine knoledge of the gospel and such a good testimony" This went on for over 5 years keeping me inactive because the child protection bureau (BCW) would take away my kids if I was found to let them be near him and he went to my ward. OOPS! I was told go elseware by the Bishop and Stake Prez. But with my ashma, I couldn't – so we went inactive. Till other branches were established and we went there. But the damage is done and my kids didnt get the "mormon upbringing' they needed and my youngest (now deceased) went and stayed inactive all his life. I held my head up high and just kept going – I was physically inactive at that time but kept reading the scriptures and praying. Dont let those fools make you feel bad. Just do the best you can, keep your head up high and keep on keeping on.

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  66. Angie!
    Man, do I understand how you feel.
    I have found the trick with giving someone the 'gift of my vulnerability' is to not judge their response. Honestly, not everyone will have the skills to know what to do with your vulnerability, but some actually do know what to do, and that experience has, for me, been worth the risk. So the choice is up to each of us to decide whether or not to share, and with whom to share.
    To really get deep…. I think there are levels to being honest.
    1. honest with ourselves
    2. honest with God
    3. honest with others
    It is true, God will never let us down, He is perfect, as is His Son. The rest of us, well we are ALL imperfect. But I do believe being honest with each other, especially when prompted by the Spirit, leads to healing, personal growth and maybe even sometimes a beautiful connection.

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  67. Just want to point out that the idea that a RS presidency should “sit up front as a Presidency…like the Priesthood does” forgets an important difference between a Priesthood and a RS meeting. Priesthood starts with opening exercises, and the presidency is at the front. Then they separate for classes and only the teacher is up front. In RS, we do not have separate opening exercises. It makes sense that the RS presidency should go sit with the rest of the class when the class begins–and sit wherever. I have been in wards (and served with RS presidents) who insisted that the presidency stay at the front of class for the whole meeting. It was awful–felt pretentious and separated us from the sisters. Much better to reach out and get to know each other.

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  68. I was raised to believe that everyone on the planet has troubles and problems. That is just life on Earth. I was also taught that it is wrong to look at other people's lives and compare, assume, and be envious. You know, the "if we knew everyone else's problems we would keep our own bag" idea. So, I see everyone as someone who is dealing with difficulty–even when they are not obvious, and even when they aren't laying out their problems all of the time. Envy over PERCEIVED perfection is the problem here. Sometimes I feel like if we aren't blabbing all of our problems people see us as some kind of perfect prima donna that has a trouble free life. I'm not perfect. I'm just not a blabber, I don't like to share personal information that would be hurtful to my extended family, my spouse or children, and laying everything out there is just not me. I love people who are free with their problems. Why can't they love me without expecting me to have to be like them?

    My husband came from an abusive, alcoholic family and spent his life thinking everyone else had the perfect life, except him, and it has taken years for him to realize that that is a faulty assumption. Since he has come to understand that, his own life has become happier because he is no longer going around feeling insecure and like the only "put-upon and imperfect person" in the world, or at church.

    Thanks for your thought provoking article.

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  69. That's true in a lot of settings. I have tried to reach out, to be that change and still get blind sided. I see the cringe on peoples faces when I suggest and try to connect. I hate going to church.

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  70. It's fine if they, like the Priesthood, sit up at the front during opening exercises. Then go sit with the class (as does the priesthood leadership) during class time. Ten minutes of opening exercises is plenty of time to notice women who need help–the Spirit will prompt on that as well, btw. And all of us–presidency or not–can listen for those promptings too, of course. I really appreciate this reminder to do it–it's so easy to get wrapped up in my own life and not reach out to others.

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  71. I created a facebook page and group called Tattooed Mormons. It deals with a lot of these issues and I know it has helped others. Please check it out and decide for yourself. We're not all from the same cookie cutting mold. I feel everyone has purpose and goodness within. Ask yourself, are you attending church for Christ or to be social?

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  72. When my husband finished school and started his first real job, we moved from UCLA to Colorado. We'd been in a wonderfully warm and friendly ward in Los Angeles, but our ward in our new state totally ignored us for the first three weeks we were there. Literally no one spoke to us–not even to ask us to introduce ourselves! It was so hard–a new city, hundreds of miles from anyone we knew, and me a fairly new convert–I remember thinking "I know why people quit coming to Church". It wasn't until a few months later, when we'd finally made a few friends, that we discovered that we had moved into that ward at the tail end of a huge influx of new hires from BYU by the local tech company. It wasn't that anyone was deliberately ignoring us, it was that the ward was overwhelmed with 10-15 new young families moving in within a few weeks time. Our contemporaries, who we thought were unfriendly, had only been in the ward a week longer than we had! That was a life-changing lesson for me. I have tried ever since to reach out to those around me (sometimes with more success than others) and to remember that I don't know the whole story. Don't allow myself to be offended, just assume that I am missing information and that everyone is trying to do their best.

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  73. I'm going to be honest here. Recently I acknowledged to myself that after a decade in the same house, neighborhood, and church environment, I felt completely isolated and alone. My initial instinct was to blame others. "How can I have never been invited into so-and-so's home? Why do they not pay any attention to me?" I wondered. The list of names was long and depressing. However, that question was quickly followed by a more personal one, "Why, in 10 years time, have I never invited my neighbors and friends from church into MY home? Why do I not pay any attention to them?" It seems our society has gone through a period of time where, for a variety of reasons, we've chosen to isolate ourselves from one another. We thought we could do it all on our own! Now, many of us are rethinking our motives. Is our desire for independence so strong that we're willing to give up our sense of connectedness? I made the difficult choice to become more vulnerable, to step outside my comfort zone, and to start opening my home to friends and strangers—for it is in the home that we are truly able to get to know one another. Doing so has changed my life immeasurably for the better. Your story will be different than mine but, deep down, I believe we all have the desire to connect with others. I spent too much time blaming others for my feelings of isolation. When I finally took a good, hard look in the mirror, I found the real problem (Me! With my narrow and limited viewpoint)—AND the solution (Me + Christian Hospitality = Connectedness). For ideas and support for connecting with others, visit the Christian Hospitality Facebook Page. It's been a fun journey! Join me?

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  74. Everyone is hurting. Someone needs to step up, look past their own hurt feelings, and start spreading the love that we all long to receive. Each one of us can make a positive difference. Let's do it!

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  75. Polly: You are correct. We all need to learn. As I read your closing remarks, "We need to learn. Even small acts have enormous impact!", the words from the hymn, Scatter Sunshine, came to mind: "Slightest actions often meet the sorest needs." Thanks for reminding us.

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  76. I do agree with you. We moved in to a community that most everyone was or is related in some way. Very clicky group. If you're a "move in" as we are referred to, you are always a "move in," unless you are in the medical field, and then you are accepted. The originals have all of the upper jobs in the church. When one is released, he/she is just put into another higher job. From bishop to high council, to another stake job, etc. Same goes for the women. We look forward to the day we retire and can move. I know a lot has to do with my attitude, but we have tried and tried. We continue to go to church. Many, many of the "move ins" feel this way. All of my children said they will never move back to this town. Thank goodness for my testimony.

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  77. My husband is not a member. I converted 6 1/2 years ago and he did not. I always thought that all the issues I had at home stemmed from that. My husband wasn't a priesthood holder so we didn't have the spirit (as much) and that is why I couldn't get my kids to listen to scripture study. That's why I couldn't get my kids to sit still for family prayer. That's why we had money troubles. That's why I felt like I yelled all the time. That's why I felt out of control of my home. If only my husband was a worthy priesthood holder then all our problems would be solved. Just look at all the sisters at church. They show up impeccably dressed, their sons all wear ties (you'd think I was beheading my 5 year old by putting a tie on him), their children played quietly in the pew or some even paid attention, while I tried my best to feed the baby while catching roll away crayons and breaking up a fight between my 5 and 8 year old. Surely if my husband were a member and at church with me then my family would be perfect too!!

    Then one day an acquaintance from church started a group chat on facebook between 4 relief society sisters. It turned out that it was actually her 3 year old that did it. Through this "accident" the 4 of us have grown to become amazing friends over the last 6 months! It was through them I realized my life WAS normal. I was normal. My kids were normal. They had all the same struggles that I did even though they all had member husband (some more active than others). They understood what I was going through and I understood them. We have been able to talk openly and support and encourage each other.

    Through them I was able to realize that the only one judging me…was ME! Through these friendships and a whole lot of prayer I have been able to open up a lot more with other sisters. I have been in my ward for 3 years and up until 6 months ago I was friends with no one. Once I began opening up I noticed that a lot of other people were willing to open up to and say "I totally get it!" or "Oh you think that's bad! This one time…" I still get the "let me know if I can do anything" and walk away response sometimes too but more often than not I find that they understand. They truly understand.

    Because of this post, which was used as a lesson in RS today, I was able to talk to the entire RS about how it felt when people asked about my husband. I had several sisters come up and apologize if they had ever said anything that made me feel bad about it. Ironically, none of them had but it still was nice to know that I had been heard and understood.

    So, this has been very long and rambling but I just wanted to share a little and thank you for posting this. While the article is GREAT, no offense, the comments have been so amazing and helpful! So thank you for writing it and thanks to the rest of your for your wonderful comments!

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  78. Benjamin D'Israeli, former Prime Minister of Great Britain stated:
    "It is much easier to be critical than it is to be correct."

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  79. Wow! Fantastic post, Stephanie.

    "Once I began opening up I noticed that a lot of other people were willing to open up."

    Love it!

    I've found the same to be true in my own life and personal struggle with isolation. It takes courage to open up, but doing so is very rewarding.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

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  80. I am experiencing the same thing, though these people aren't all related. The ward is mostly 65+, with so few children they couldn't fill a pew. I'm 50, and have never felt so out of place in a ward — even while traveling I always felt I could attend church and feel welcome. Unfortunately, health issues and anxiety have made this an intolerable situation for me … and the fact that my convert husband is bipolar, and I always feel "on guard" for his un-chained tongue, have led to my complete inactivity.

    The thing is, I feel guilty every day for not going, but just can't make myself get there. About 2 years ago I told my Bishop, through a flood of tears, that I was suicidal, and he just stared at me. I excused myself and tried to kill myself a few weeks later. My mother came and picked me up, taking me back to Utah with her for a couple of months.

    My husband and I met with the Stake President several months later, I felt like I should tell him that we wanted to change wards, and why. We had NO visiting or home teachers, and every time we went to church for the entire first 18 months, people asked if we were new. He literally sneered at me and said that our ward has the highest Home Teaching stats in the stake at like 19%. REALLY? Then he told me I could, of course, go to the "wrong ward" if I wanted, but we wouldn't be able to hold callings or receive any help from the ward. So we stayed, and now are completely inactive.

    Oddly enough, they did finally assign us the greatest Home Teaching couple – probably the only one in the ward that does it regularly. They are in their 80's and, in spite of serious health issues, visit us every single month. I have grown to truly care for them. Unfortunately, this has increased my feelings of guilt, as I continue to make excuses for not attending church.

    I have reached the point of deciding I need to attend another ward anyway. I shouldn't need a Presidential order to attend a ward where I feel accepted and loved, and I am lost with no spiritual connection in my life.

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  81. I agree Stephanie– the comments are where the true wisdom and sensitivity come out. So many of you have shared your hearts and your wisdom with us. And you've all been so kind. Thank you. We can be the change we want to see in the world.

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  82. How fortunate that I happened upon this post today – I have been struggling mightily with going to church for some time, and have continued mainly because I don't want to confuse the two young children still at home. I've had one foot on a banana peel and the other psychologically out the door. Over the past few days I have been sleepless trying to figure out whether to keep going (and feeling like a hypocrite) or to find a way to withdraw with minimal impact on my children and grandchildren.
    Although I have a strong testimony of the gospel I struggle with the "culture", and often feel judged because I: 1) have a career, 2) sometimes have to work on Sundays, 3) don't get to my scriptures every day and my visiting teaching every month, 4) allow my teens to have some say in whether they participate if their team has to play on a Sunday, or 5) make other judgment calls that work for my family but may not be what others in the Church would choose to do.
    As I read the many postings, I could feel the spirit confirming what an early poster said about the church being a hospital for the sick, and I recognize that perhaps my own pride and unwillingness to let anyone see my imperfections (aside from the obvious ones) had been a greater barrier to the spirit than the actions of others. Maybe my testimony of the gospel isn't as strong as I thought. I now recognize that I have work to do to more fully understand the atonement and apply it in my own life as a healing balm – rather than looking at all the "Do's and Don'ts" and finding myself perpetually lacking. And just maybe, I'm judging others by believing that they are judging me.
    In any case, thanks to all of you and this discussion, I am feeling the spirit for the first time in years. Coincidence that I found this? I think not…………

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  83. Barb keep going your doing a great job , your children and grandchildren will be blessed because you are putting them first to make sure they have the gospel. Yes sometime we all do it a little different from others… I'm sure the Lord smiles every time you walk thru the door with your family.

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  84. After reading a lot of the posts I find myself agreeing with a lot of it. But I've also found you have to take control of some of the situations. I fell inactive for awhile while dealing with anger issues at god and the world and myself when my little brother was killed at my gravel plant. I felt responsible, nobody really knows what to say to help. My wife would gather up the kids and go to church. I never missed a meeting so this was really a switch for me. but I could calm down and relax in my own space my own way. (sometimes by brutally tearing up the hills on my dirt bike) eventually I was coaxed back, more to set an example for the kids than anything. I noticed that people would ask how I was doing and not expect an answer. One day I told them I was so damn good I thought I would spread it around. the shock was a classic but soon they were paying attention and smiling. Now they kind of expect it, and are a little more attentive when asking me how I'm doing. As far as the elite getting in all the high positions I noticed that a lot, as well as the same people rotating through all the callings. After being in several presidencies I found that these were also the only ones that would accept the callings. I was floored by all the people that turned down callings. I see the same people doing most of the work and usually at all the socials and usually in charge because everyone else is too damn lazy to help. you probly notice I speak my mind and I hope it motivates others to action, or at least brings a smile to their face.

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  85. Thank you for sharing Allen. Not that it helps to know someone else understands because they have suffered, but just to know that shrinking away from the social circus that is church isn't something only I have done. I've been wallowing in "my own space" for too long now. It's time to make a change.

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  86. Katie – I don't know for sure, but I can imagine being in your RS and hearing your testimony and being unable to respond for fear I would break down into a sobbing mess. Perhaps the crickets were not meant as a diss but as a deep pondering with no words to be able to express it. And if the Spirit directed you than I can assure you that at least ONE person felt the way I would have. 🙂 Thank you for sharing again here so I could hear you since I wasn't there.

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  87. Cyd,
    I hope you do find a ward where you feel accepted and loved. It is apalling that your Bishop and Stake president have not been more supportive. We currently have at least 3 people who attend our ward who do not live in our ward boundaries. They come to our ward because they feel, loved and safe. It is tricky because in the system we can't assign them Visiting teachers and home teachers. We do assign them "unofficial VTs" and they still have official VTs in their actual ward. We can't give them a calling but can ask them to "substitute" teach in relief Society or whatever. I feel blessed to have them in our ward and happy that they feel comfortable. I would try to go another ward but keep those awesome home teachers!

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  88. Eric, thank you for your input. I've been feeling guilty about my feelings. I talked to my husband tonight, and I'm definitely going to find a new ward to attend. I need to fill the spiritual hole inside.

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  89. I have always been active in the church until the past 3 years. I am in my mid-50's and have 6 amazing kids who love the Gospel as much as I do, serving missions, sealed in the Temple, active, loving and contributing members. Several years ago I was bullied in YW by several women over me who were mean, hateful and gossipy. No matter what I did to fulfill my calling they found fault with me, even though I was trying incredibly hard to do my 100% best. I loved and served the Young Women whom I was teaching and they loved me. When I explained what was happening to the Bishop he seemed kind enough and I thought something would be done to put a stop to the horrible behavior. However, 4 weeks later I was the one who was (without warning) released from MY calling and the women in leadership above me were left to do further damage. All of the women who were hurtful beyond belief during my time in YW have since that time, have been constantly re-cycled into all the leadership callings possible in my ward. They seem to think they OWN church and it feels like a club to me now, where some (including me) just aren't welcome.
    When the worst women who bullied me recently got called as the RS president, it was a devastating blow. It made me realize that the point was no longer about being kind or Christlike and caring. It now seems to be about those who are most popular, and for those who enjoy wielding the most power. More than anything I want to forgive and forget this ever happened and I constantly pray for the women who hurt me (and who, to this day continue to shun me.) I no longer feel safe at church and that the church is "mine" or that I have any kind of place there, so I rarely attend meetings anymore. I have never been one to be combative or unkind and have been the kind of person who reaches out to others who are struggling, but I honestly feel that now days, only those who are considered the "pretty enough"…"thin enough" or "cool" enough people seem to ever be called (over and over!) into the same leadership positions in my ward. If one of the sisters gets released as say, Primary president, she is immediately called to be in the RS presidency. My Patriarchal blessing stated that I would serve in many leadership positions in the church, but I haven't ever served in even one. This just seems so contrary to what I would have expected. I long to go back to the innocence of not knowing this kind of thing could ever happen. When I asked my Bishop if maybe I should be the one to apologize to these women, even though I was the one who was injured (to at least start a dialogue for communication and healing) he said no….that it was their problem and that addressing it with them would only make them hate me more. Yet, he (and the following Bishop) have continued to re-cycle these same women into all the leadership positions, and I have no calling at all now. I keep wondering if this is normal in the church or if it's just my ward. This devastating experience has made me wonder what I'm supposed to be learning and how I can turn this around to be a positive rather than a negative episode in my life. It grieves me to feel that I no longer belong, even though I still have many dear friends who love me in this ward. I know in my heart that it's not about what they think, and that Heavenly Father loves me, but I can't seem to get to the point where I feel I can be a part of my own ward anymore.

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  90. I have always been active in the church until the past 3 years. I am in my mid-50's and have 6 amazing kids who love the Gospel as much as I do, serving missions, sealed in the Temple, active, loving and contributing members. Several years ago I was bullied in YW by several women over me who were mean, hateful and gossipy. No matter what I did to fulfill my calling they found fault with me, even though I was trying incredibly hard to do my 100% best. I loved and served the Young Women whom I was teaching and they loved me. When I explained what was happening to the Bishop he seemed kind enough and I thought something would be done to put a stop to the horrible behavior. However, 4 weeks later I was the one who was (without warning) released from MY calling and the women in leadership above me were left to do further damage. All of the women who were hurtful beyond belief during my time in YW have since that time, have been constantly re-cycled into all the leadership callings possible in my ward. They seem to think they OWN church and it feels like a club to me now, where some (including me) just aren't welcome.
    When the worst women who bullied me recently got called as the RS president, it was a devastating blow. It made me realize that the point was no longer about being kind or Christlike and caring. It now seems to be about those who are most popular, and for those who enjoy wielding the most power. More than anything I want to forgive and forget this ever happened and I constantly pray for the women who hurt me (and who, to this day continue to shun me.) I no longer feel safe at church and that the church is "mine" or that I have any kind of place there, so I rarely attend meetings anymore. I have never been one to be combative or unkind and have been the kind of person who reaches out to others who are struggling, but I honestly feel that now days, only those who are considered the "pretty enough"…"thin enough" or "cool" enough people seem to ever be called (over and over!) into the same leadership positions in my ward. If one of the sisters gets released as say, Primary president, she is immediately called to be in the RS presidency. My Patriarchal blessing stated that I would serve in many leadership positions in the church, but I haven't ever served in even one. This just seems so contrary to what I would have expected. I long to go back to the innocence of not knowing this kind of thing could ever happen. When I asked my Bishop if maybe I should be the one to apologize to these women, even though I was the one who was injured (to at least start a dialogue for communication and healing) he said no….that it was their problem and that addressing it with them would only make them hate me more. Yet, he (and the following Bishop) have continued to re-cycle these same women into all the leadership positions, and I have no calling at all now, even though I have been very willing to serve in the callings I have been given. I keep wondering if this is normal in the church or if it's just my ward. This devastating experience has made me wonder what I'm supposed to be learning and how I can turn this around to be a positive rather than a negative episode in my life. It grieves me to feel that I no longer belong, even though I still have many dear friends who love me in this ward. I know in my heart that it's not about what people think, and that Heavenly Father loves me, but I can't seem to get to the point where I feel I can be a part of my own ward anymore. I have never lost my burning testimony but I really do have to wonder about things like this, and wondering what my part in the grand scheme of things is supposed to be.

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  91. I have always been active in the church until the past 3 years. I am in my mid-50's and have 6 amazing kids who love the Gospel as much as I do, serving missions, sealed in the Temple, active, loving and contributing members. Several years ago I was bullied in YW by several women over me who were mean, hateful and gossipy. No matter what I did to fulfill my calling they found fault with me, even though I was trying incredibly hard to do my 100% best. I loved and served the Young Women whom I was teaching and they loved me. When I explained what was happening to the Bishop he seemed kind enough and I thought something would be done to put a stop to the horrible behavior. However, 4 weeks later I was the one who was (without warning) released from MY calling and the women in leadership above me were left to do further damage. All of the women who were hurtful beyond belief during my time in YW have since that time, have been constantly re-cycled into all the leadership callings possible in my ward. They seem to think they OWN church and it feels like a club to me now, where some (including me) just aren't welcome.
    When the worst women who bullied me in YW recently got called as the RS president, it was a devastating blow. It made me realize that the point was no longer about being kind or Christlike and caring. It now seems to be all about those who are most popular, and for those who enjoy wielding the most power. More than anything I want to forgive and forget this ever happened and I constantly pray for the women who hurt me (and who, to this day continue to shun me.) I no longer feel safe at church and that the church is "mine" or that I have any kind of place there, so I rarely attend meetings anymore. I have never been one to be combative or unkind and have always been the kind of person who reaches out to others who are struggling, but I honestly feel that now days, only those who are considered to be "pretty enough"…"thin enough" or "cool" enough people seem to ever be called (over and over!) into the same leadership positions in my ward. If one of the sisters gets released as say, Primary president, she is immediately called to be in the RS presidency. My Patriarchal blessing stated that I would serve in many leadership positions in the church, but I haven't ever served in even one. This just seems so contrary to what I would have expected. I long to go back to the innocence of not knowing this kind of thing could ever happen. When I asked my Bishop if maybe I should be the one to apologize to these women, even though I was the one who was injured (to at least start a dialogue for communication and healing) he said no….that it was their problem and that addressing it with them would only make them hate me more. Yet, he (and the following Bishop) have continued to re-cycle these same women into all the leadership positions, and I have no calling at all now, even though I have been very willing to serve in the callings I have been given and have only ever turned down a calling because of temporary medical situations. I keep wondering if this is normal in the church or if it's just my ward?
    This devastating episode has made me wonder what I'm supposed to be learning and how I can turn this around to be a positive rather than a negative experience in my life.
    It grieves me to feel that I no longer "belong", even though I still have many dear friends who love me in this ward. I know in my heart that it's not about what people think, and that Heavenly Father loves me, but I can't seem to get to the point where I feel I can be a part of my own ward anymore. I have never lost my burning testimony but I really do feel like I'm on the OUTSIDE now, and have to wonder about things like this, and what my part in the grand scheme of things is supposed to be in this situation?

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  92. Such a powerful story! There are two gifts that one receives from our membership in the church. Spiritual(coming closer to the Savior) and temporal (country club status – not sure this is a gift or thorn)Very few receive both. I prefer the spiritual where I can learn the spiritual gifts of patience, forgiveness, and repentance! I DO want to live with my Heavenly Father again. There is a saying,"Be careful what you pray for!"
    Pray for patience and you get circumstances like yours here that teach you patience. What the others do is not a reflection on you but a reflection of who they are… Don't take those burdens into your space! Humans (especially insecure ones) like to degrade others beside them and inflate their egos on social media! Sometimes we 'think' they are popular but in realism it is a self imposed popularity. "Sometimes called the 'look at me' syndrome. Heavenly Fathr taught us to be humble and elevate those around us, not just our family … Everyone!
    We are ALL spiritual brothers and sisters and if we can't do it on this temporal testing ground…. We need to rethink what we are doing in the gospel of Jesus Christ here on earth! You are brave for sharing your thoughts but be assured it has helped many!

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  93. I'm so sorry– Name Withheld– I wish I could wrap my arms around you. One thought… maybe the mean woman was called as RS Pres. to teach her kindness? Maybe she'll change? Hang in there. Cling to your friends who love you and remember– you are LOVED.

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  94. Cyd, I stumbled upon this article today and just read through the comments and yours brought tears to my eyes. I am SO sorry this has been your experience. This is NOT the Savior's way, or the way he wants any of His children to feel in our church. I grew up in the church and when I was young I always thought bishops were so perfect they were like Gods. As an adult I know they are mere mortals, imperfect men…often, I'm sure, men who feel very overwhelmed and inadequate. I don't say this to excuse the behavior or your bishop or stake president. I'm sorry they were not more understanding or compassionate. Ask Heavenly Father to help you feel love and understanding for them. I know this may be hard. But it will also be healing for you.

    I hope and pray that you find a ward that is like Zion…where you are loved and supported. I will be thinking about you and praying for you my sister!

    Reply
  95. sending you a hug sweet sister. NO! this is not the way it is in the church every where. I'm SO sorry it is this way in your ward I have been a member my whole life. I'm about to hit 50. I was inactive from 16-27. Since reactivating I have been in many callings in my wards and stake, both leadership and non. Currently I am a RS teacher. I have NEVER in my 23 years back in activity seen anything like this. I hear it happens, I've just never experienced it. I am SO sorry that you have and it grieves my hear that I have precious sisters in the gospel who are being treated this way. It also grieves my heart to know I have sisters who are being bullies and unkind. I don't have answers sweet sister, but He does. I pray for you to have strength, courage and comfort.

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  96. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. While I've never felt "bullied," I can see how it could happen to you. Especially with my recent experience in a ward that is just somehow "wrong." When I first moved in nearly 4 years ago, I couldn't understand why attendance is so low … if we lined everyone up side by side in Sacrament mtg, they would perhaps fill the 4 center pews. But after experiencing the ward's lack of ANYTHING, and utter lack of compassion, or acting on compassion, I understand where the people went.

    I understand this is a time for those people to learn, but that doesn't make it any easier on those of us who simply can't stand to be around them. Bless you and your family. Please stay active … inactivity has been detrimental to my soul.

    Reply

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