Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Trowels and Muskets

I was 17 years old when I first walked into my dorm room at BYU. The last two years had been a struggle. When I was 15 years old, my previous best friend spread rumors about me and her boyfriend to explain why I didn't hang around her any more. Her family didn't often attend church, and I was often the one who drove her to and from youth activities. The last couple of times, she and her boyfriend made out in the back of the car while I played chauffeur. It made me uncomfortable, so I had gradually pulled away from our friendship.

The rumors were vicious. At school, everyone pretty much just rolled their eyes and didn't believe her. It was different at church. I had to sit in the pews, hearing people whisper about me. Grown women called "Jezebel" at the back of my head. My bishop called me in, heard the whole story, and believed me. That was the only support from the adults in the church that I got. My young women's leaders would give lesson after lesson about chastity, calling on me pointedly. It got so bad that my own (very faithful) parents told me I didn't have to go to church any more if I didn't want to.

But I refused to let them drive me away.

When it came to applying for universities, I ignored the many recruitment brochures from very good schools. I could have applied and been accepted to MIT, Stanford, Cornell, Columbia, or Yale. But I knew that the entirety of the church couldn't be what I'd experienced up to that point. I knew there was only one way to know the truth.

In the end, I only applied to BYU.

Although I graduated in just over 3 years, my experience at BYU was exactly what I needed. There was a diversity of people, a diversity of thought that I'd never experienced in the church before. One of my favorite memories is sitting in a History of Civilization class and hearing my professors talk about how the history of civilization and the gospel fit together. Another was sitting in Biochemistry, hearing my professor bear his testimony of how his discipline helped him understand God.

I appreciate what I learned at BYU, the harmony between science and faith, even more as I watch my children grow up in a world where criticism and hatred is the primary reaction to people who don't think the way someone else says they should. I know that BYU isn't perfect, but it was exactly what I needed. The faith I built while there has been a life buoy to me through a subsequent life that makes what happened to me at 15 look like nothing. Like Elder Holland, I love what BYU is meant to do. I know of no other education like that anywhere in the world.

That deserves to be defended.

I understand what Elder Holland meant. Despite so many people seeking to tear his words apart, criticize him, undermine his meaning by insisting it was hurtful and damaging, his words are true. There is something beautiful and unique about BYU that deserves the dedication of its professors and staff both to build and to defend.

I understand why it might hurt. I, also, hurt more than I'm helped by the things said at General Conference and in my weekly church meetings. I've struggled to stay. I've struggled to understand. I've struggled with feeling like I will never be able to meet the ideal as taught by the church, that my very being and who I am is antithetical to the Gospel. I get it.

But I can testify that when I have taken my hurt to the Lord, rather than to the court of public opinion, I have never regretted it. Sometimes I've been told that a leader is wrong. Sometimes I've been told I am. Sometimes I've only been wrapped in the love of my Father. Sometimes there's been nothing at all. But the only thing that can heal hurt is humility. Patience, long-suffering, charity. That needs to go both ways.

And when I weigh the charity on the sides of various political debates, I rarely see the Brethren of the church as lacking, even when I'm part of the casualties. People who use the words of Elder Holland to attack other people are few and utterly wrong. People who attack the words of Elder Holland without trying to humbly understand are just as wrong.

To those of you who are angry with Elder Holland, understand this: teaching with boldness will lead to the destruction of the faithful. Scriptures are clear on that. We know the price of speaking and living our truth. We've been warned. We will be speaking anyways.

To those of you who want to use what Elder Holland said as an attack on the little ones of His flock (and do not doubt that many LGBTQ+ people are exactly that) understand this: when the Lord God counts His sheep, you will not be among them. This is not His way, and never has been. We defend, we do not attack. Vengeance is the Lord's, and is not the domain of His servants. Inasmuch as you forget that, you will be condemned and found wanting.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. These are my feelings exactly, but I could never find the right words. We are all broken in some way but you must never feel that you are beyond God's love and infinite power to heal.


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