An Open Letter to My Ward

An Open Letter to My Ward October 30, 2015

IMG_2222Dear Ward Family


You have probably noticed I haven’t been to church lately. Nathan told me that a few of you have asked about my absence. I know it’s hard when one of your own doesn’t show up – particularly when you think they are choosing not to come. So, I’ll be honest – I have been choosing not to come and I think you deserve an explanation.


It’s not because I don’t care for you. It’s mostly because I know that my doubts and questions are experienced as problematic by many in the ward. Some have even asked me why I come if I can’t accept everything. But the fact is – swallowing my doubts, biting back my questions or pretending to agree with people when I simply don’t agree  feels unhealthy and painful.


There are things about our church that I do love and find valuable. I love the heart of Mormon theology.   My conversion to the church came about because I felt that it offered me a loving call  to be the living expression of my highest spiritual self.  I remember being moved and transformed by the idea that  God exercised watchful care over each of us and that I could communicate with God and receive personal divine revelation.


I have always loved that we are encouraged to be our best intellectual and our most engaged spiritual selves at the same time. I grew up learning that I have spiritual gifts that I could claim and that has been so very empowering.


I love the Book of Mormon – however it came about – I love its messages and its warnings that nothing short of quantum spiritual change will stop the decline of social morality.


I love the notion of Zion, a place so exquisitely loving and compassionate and equal that Jesus will one day claim it for himself.


Most of all I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love his teachings and the difference he created in the world around him because he loved, healed and attended to the least lovable in his world. He is my master, my teacher, my guide and I am grateful to the church for pointing me so emphatically in his direction.


And I love my community. I’ve been with many of you for most of my life. Some of you saw me come into the world, some of you have watched me grow up, you were there when I married, divorced and then married again. You were there when we had Isaac and there again when we adopted Finn. You supported Nathan and I when we suddenly became the parents to four more boys. You saw us come and go from Christchurch over and over again. We’ve cried together, shared our testimonies together, taught each other and we’ve mourned at the passing of friends together.   We’ve sat across from each others’ tables and laughed with each other – loudly and uproariously. We’ve shared secrets, watched movies and even lived with each other. We’ve taken long journeys to the temple together.  We’ve cared for each others’ children, we’ve left notes and parcels on each others’ door steps, we’ve sung together, taught each other, and each others’ children. You’ve been a blessing to me, and I hope in some small way I have blessed your life as well.  I hope that continues.


But you are quite right. There are all kinds of things that I just don’t accept as spiritually ennobling or helpful anymore. There are some things that I struggle to accept as either true or useful to mine or my family’s spiritual growth.


I think our history is problematic.  The emphasis we place on deference and obedience to leaders troubles me.  But gender inequality is probably the most troubling aspect of the church for me.  I’d be happy to discuss these things with you if you would like, not with the intention upsetting your faith, but by way of explanation.  Its OK if you don’t want to know -I understand.


So what does this mean?


It means that for the next while I’m taking a Sabbatical. I hope I’ve made it clear that I honor my relationship with God and I am working on my discipleship of Jesus. But I need some time to spiritually renew. Right now coming to the LDS church sometimes feels counter productive. I find myself flickering and sparking with annoyance and frustration at things I should just let slide.   Many of you have noticed, and I notice you noticing. Some of you have become self conscious when I’m in the class, or you worry that I’m going to say something controversial, or that I’ll derail the lesson somehow. Some have even complained to Bishop about me. I wish you had come to me first so we could work it out together. In any event I apologise for not being gracious in my struggles. I want to eventually get into a space where we can be at peace on the pew together regardless of how we feel about the church.


I’ll still come to church –  but probably not regularly for a while. Mostly I’ll be visiting other churches, refreshing and renewing my relationship with God through different songs, different sermons and different people of different faith traditions. I’m excited about this opportunity to learn new faith languages and new ways of being with God.


Rest assured. I haven’t left the church and I haven’t been tempted into drink, coffee or illicit sex.   I don’t hate the church – and despite what many have said about me – I’m not an apostate. I’ve only ever wanted the church to be a safe and beautiful haven for all souls, and sometimes (like many faith traditions) it just doesn’t behave very well and that has made me cross.


Its likely that the boys will come with me.  Nathan has told them that they have a choice whether they go with me or him.    I’ve been attending South West Baptist Church over the last couple of months and they love coming with me because, as they say  ‘we don’t have to wear uniforms.’


When I see you at church please don’t ignore me because you think my doubt will rub off.  I’m happy to sit and chat as I’ve always been.  In terms of our relationship nothing need change – but I ask only for your honesty and the dignity of being spoken to, not spoken about.   Could I also ask one thing – that you don’t ask that I study my scriptures and pray or work harder at being LDS as a curative for my religious crisis.  Its simply not enough.    I hope that we can have a healthy conversation about hard things without resorting to easy answers and spiritual platitudes.  Who knows?  If we get good enough at having these conversations then perhaps people will stop leaving?


I’m sorry for disappointing you or upsetting you. I’ve been pretty cranky over the last few years and it’s not fair that I’ve taken it out on my ward family. I can’t promise that I won’t cry foul now and again. But I can promise that wherever I am I’ll be looking for and loving God.



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