Come Gather Round People – Doubts and All

Come Gather Round People – Doubts and All March 11, 2018

I have permission to share the following post from an anonymous author in regards to her experience in testimony meeting last week. I share it because I feel it is a brilliant example of a ward community who, for the most part, made room for the type of honesty and questioning necessary to build strength in Zion. Fake conformity in spaces that don’t feel safe enough to share our struggles… even our struggles of testimony… is not edifying or helpful in the end result being strong, resilient communities. Here we have a sister struggling with her relationship with her beliefs… we have a loving husband supporting his wife… we have ward members rallying around and the sharing of similar feelings & vulnerabilities… and we have a bishop who welcomes this sister with a loving, accepting aura that lets her know she is truly welcome and safe. May we aspire to these types of gatherings.

 

We have a member in our ward who is utterly brilliant, although her brilliance is often misjudged as eccentricity by others who are no match for her intense genius.

She bore a powerful and brutally honest testimony today about her doubts.

She shared with us her ambivalence about polygamy, her angst at institutional racism, her confusion with leaders that have led the church astray at times and her struggle to find light and keep going in the faith.

She bore testimony that despite her questions and challenges, she loves Jesus and she loves the church. She is a daughter of polygamy, and while she doesn’t like the practice, she is the fruit of a polygamous union and is thankful to be here in her fractured tribe.

She said to the Bishop from the pulpit that he could correct any errors that she made. The congregation waited with baited breath.

I could feel as she walked down the aisles that her words were not welcomed by many and as she sat, she was visibly shaken and looked into her husband’s eyes for reassurance.

I sat behind them and it was a beautiful exchange of comfort, respect and love. I reached over and placed my hand on her shoulder for a few seconds.

The next speaker opened her testimony by telling this woman how much she and the ward loved her. I know the speaker also has faith challenges, but is hanging in there.

Another young mum stood up and shared her struggles with testimony, not mentioning LGBTQ concerns in her testimony, it was clear that this was the issue.

Of course, the boundary maintenance team stood up and gave the stay in the boat and focus on the prophet testimonies. You’d need to be daft not to spot what they were doing and it felt a tad hollow in places. Their authority is weakened in the brave new world.

The Bishop closed the meeting assuring the woman that there was nothing to correct in her testimony. He reaffirmed his love for her and agreed that church leaders were and are never perfect.

The Bishop was loving and played the moment in a Christian way.

I sat at the back, aghast at what I’d just witnessed.

How could I play out my journey at the appropriate time for maximum respectful impact.

In my mind came the words by Bob Dylan,

“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come prophets, apostles and the alleged Priesthood of God,
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’.

I hope you had a good Sabbath. It was a rather epic one for me.

Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST runs an online practice, Symmetry Solutions, which focuses on helping families and individuals with faith concerns, sexuality and mental health. She hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex Info Podcasts, writes a regular column for Sunstone Magazine, is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association and runs a sex education program, Sex Talk with Natasha. She has over 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.

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