After General Conference (October 2010), I resolved to never talk to the Elders about religion ever again. I knew I was never going to join their church and there was no use in wasting our time trying to get them to see that the church I found (even if I didn’t completely believe in everything) was the better church. We all still volunteered together, ran every Saturday morning before volunteering, and occasionally sat in ice cream shops to talk about “life and stuff.” It’s funny, I think, that even in my best efforts to drop the Elders, I was still couldn’t help wanting to be around them. Maybe it was because of MoBoy, but I think it really had to do with the fact that I wanted them to answer the questions I refused to ask them.
I was also being sneaky and silent about things I was learning. In addition to my research of the UCC, I was poking around on the mormon.org site. Looking back, it is clear that I wanted to learn about the church on my very narrowly defined terms. To me, the mormon.org site was something completely foreign to how I understood what the Elders were trying to teach. Does anyone else a huge disconnect (at least in image) between mormon.org and the lds.org/missionaries? As far as I was concerned, Mormon and LDS may as well have been two completely different things.
I do admit, I found comfort in some of the things I was reading. I particularly liked the members’ section. You know the one where you can read about different member’s experiences in the church? I read a lot of conversion stories written by people around my age. I found that a lot of them had similar feelings and went through the same question and angst periods to get to a place more comfortable and certain.
I found a place on the site where you could request to meet with missionaries. I nearly barfed when I thought about clicking it. Why would I want to do that? I already know so many of them and they are all saying the exact same thing. What could I possibly learn from a new batch of 19 year old boys (MoBoy was 25 at the time and I certainly did not want to mess around with how I felt about learning stuff and how I felt about him. For everything I was thinking, he was just not an option).
Instead of meeting with yet another set of missionaries, I decided to e-mail a professor in my department. I knew she was Mormon and I knew she was feminist. I also respected her as a leader in our field. She was smart and feminist and Mormon and I wanted to know how she did it. So I e-mailed her and set up a meeting.
Per usual, I didn’t tell the Elders. I didn’t want them to think I was interested in learning. I didn’t want them to think that I was doubting my own hard and fast rule of “Religion makes you stupid and evil.” Even though I was. I wanted to know how Dr. L managed to be both feminist and Mormon because I didn’t think it was possible. Even though I had Feminist Mormon Housewives, they weren’t real people to me yet and I wanted to see a Feminist Mormon in real life. Like we’re a bunch of circus freaks, or something.
Near the end of October, I met with Dr. L in her office. I sat on her couch and just rocked back and forth, himmed and hawed, and stuttered through a mumbly question-statement: you’re Mormon and feminist and I want to know how you do it. She took a quick minute to decide how to respond, but her answer is one that has stuck with me ever since. She was honest and she told me that sometimes it was hard, but ultimately she knew that feminism and Mormon doctrine are fundamentally compatible. We sat and talked for nearly two hours about her faith (because at that time, it still wasn’t mine). I asked her about her thoughts on Elder Packer’s talk and she used it as an opportunity to talk about how the Spirit testifies of truth. I felt so comfortable and so good about the things she was saying. She answered every question I could come up with and she gave me so much to think about. “Basically, she said, it all comes down to knowing that we have a loving Heavenly Father.”
Dr. L told me about her conversion story (she was baptized when she was 15) and how she grew up as a liberal Mormon feminist. Hers is such an amazing story. She encouraged me to talk to another student in our department, LL, because she is also a liberal Mormon feminist. After telling her about my experiences with the Elders, she suggested that I get in contact with the sister missionaries. She thought that it might be easier to ask questions and learn about things with women closer to my age than with 19 year old boys (or MoBoy). She wrote down a blog she loves to read that I should check out, and I giggled when she handed it to me. “Oh, so you’re familiar with FMH, too?” she asked?
Finally, she asked me if I would be interested in going to a Fast and Testimony meeting with her to just see what it’s like. Up until this point, every time a missionary asked me to go to church, I would either shoot them laser death eyes or very enthusiastically tell them that they would never see me at a church service. Ever. This time, when Dr. L asked me, the first thing I said was “yes.” I didn’t even think to say no, or think about the consequences of my answer.
For the rest of the day, I felt like I was spinning. It was hard to breath and hard to concentrate on my school work. I felt my heart beating so hard I could feel it in my feet and my skin felt it was on fire. I felt an overwhelming need to actually read the Book of Mormon and to really consider if it was really true. I also felt like I was losing my tight grip on thinking that I’m always right. Everything was just moving so quickly and I didn’t know how or where to put my feet down to make everything stop.
I didn’t immediately go to a sacrament meeting, but that night, I got home and submitted a request on Mormon.org to meet with sister missionaries.
And then, shaking, I ran to the bathroom to throw up.
So much love,