This blog originally appeared on Exponent II. Click here to view the original post.
“Those in favour, please show by a raise of hands.”
Counting, recounting, recording.
“Those opposed, please show by a raise of hands.”
Counting, recounting, recording.
“The yeses take it.”
I breathed a sigh of relief–not because my preference was passed but because despite the strong words shared on both sides of the issue being voted on, everyone seemed to be okay. No one stormed out. No one was called unfaithful. The vote was noted, we closed the meeting, put the chairs away and gave one another hugs over doughnuts and over-cooled coffee.
After years of raising my hand to sustain new callings, church officers and to show a vote of thanks, I’ll admit that my first experience voting in a church business meeting was exciting and unnerving. To this point in my religious life, voting in church had largely been a point of formality. The bishop, stake president or general authority read a name and we sustained them. I never saw a contrary vote in my 30 years of attending LDS meetings. I know they exist but they’re certainly rare.
But right here, right now, voting carried some weight. I was putting my own opinions and judgement out in the open. As a member of less than a year, my vote mattered as much as everyone else’s—old, young, convert and lifetime member. And I’ll admit that the thought of conflict seemed suddenly scary. I didn’t want anyone to be hurt and I didn’t want to be wrong.
It was watching this process one year ago that fueled my excitement about being part of a church again. I realized that I didn’t just want to attend, I wanted to have a bit of skin in the game. As I watched my fellow congregants raise their hands for or against motions regarding everything from the election of a pastor to the adoption of a budget, it was exciting and a bit overwhelming to realize that no one person had all the answers. No pastor, no bishop, not even a prophet, could do this alone. Revelation and the inspiration that prompted it was a communal act. Every member was entitled and empowered to a part in it. And I wanted to part of that.
I try to be careful to not draw too many comparisons between my experiences growing up in the LDS faith and my experiences now in Community of Christ. Both continue to teach me to draw deep from the well of faith, to aim for goodness and to practice mercy. But as I raised my hand and voice on a touchy and controversial matter, I wish I could have told my budding Mormon feminist self that there would come a day in my life when conflict and difference of opinion at church would be a sign of involvement rather than disobedience or hardheartedness. God has granted all of us a measure of the Spirit with hands and heart for building Zion. We are best served when we recognize the unique contributions, experiences and opinions of one another and not only dare to do right, but also dare to be vulnerable, mistaken, passionate and even gloriously wrong. We’ll be okay. And then we’ll end with hugs, doughnuts and over-cooled coffee.
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
-LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, Excerpt from his acceptance speech
after winning "Best Score" at the 2016 Tony Awards
just 24 hours after the Pulse Nightclub Massacre
A little over a year ago I had begun to finally understand my sexual orientation. It was a journey that took a long time and, in that moment in time, I was relieved to finally begin to understand who I was. The next step for me was to begin to stop living in fear, publicly “come out”, and claim my truth as a bisexual male. Of course, that eventually happened on December 5, 2016. Though, before I had even picked the date that I wanted to come out on, I almost came out one year ago today in response to the tragedy that occurred in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016.
A year ago this morning I was lying in bed at a rental home in Independence, Missouri. The Community of Christ World Conference had ended the day prior and I was on such a high from that experience. It was a Sunday morning and I was waking up to go to church at a local Community of Christ congregation before flying back home to Oregon. As I turned over to check my phone, I noticed that my notification screen was lit up with news alerts about a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida. I was numb. I was angry. I was sad. It wasn’t just an attack on a random group of people. It was a targeted, deliberate attack on a population that I identify with. This was personal. For on the verge of claiming my own sexual orientation, I was again reminded why so many live in fear of simply being who they are. I was reminded that living one’s truth as being LGBT can still, even in 2016, cause one to feel unsafe. As someone who puts the “B” in LGBT, I was also reminded why others who claim this same orientation as I, might choose to just focus on their attraction to the opposite sex and deny their own attraction to the same sex. I know I did for a long time. I was also reminded why others who are a part of the LGBT spectrum may decide to never come out at all.
No words can adequately capture the terror and devastating loss of what happened on June 12, 2016. The reality though, is that the terrorist attack that happened at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, happens every day every in our culture. It may not always be an attack that ends in a literal death but it is an attack that terrorizes the heart, soul, and mind of those who are bullied, belittled, and shunned because of who they are. It happens when a parent lacks love and support for their LGBT child. It happens when basic rights are denied to people because of who they love. It happens when Christian organizations claim to follow the teachings of Christ and love as God would love but then practice and preach something that is completely the opposite of that sacred love. It happens every time a child or adult is bullied and driven to contemplate or attempt suicide. It happens every time a beloved child of God dies of suicide. It happens every time someone has to live in fear because of who they are.
Today is a day to read the names of those who died and remember them, even if only in name. It is a day to remember that even though society has progressed in so many ways in accepting the rights of this beautiful population of people, that we can’t allow that progress to blind us or slow us down from continuing the journey towards full inclusion in our culture today. For as John Legend sang in the song “If you’re out there”: “The future started yesterday and we’re already late.” So let’s look hate in the face and say, “That’s it. You’re done!”. Let us embody the love of God by loving our neighbors as we should love ourselves. And remember, people can change their beliefs and attitudes but they can’t change who they are.
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the fact that today is also Loving Day. A day where we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down state laws that banned interracial marriage. Yet another example of the struggle our culture has had with labeling certain relationships as sinful or wrong when they don’t match that of the dominate population in society. May this be yet another reminder of our continual need to tirelessly work towards equality for all people.
I close today’s blog entry with this sacred text found in Community of Christ scriptures:
You do not fully understand many interrelated processes of human creation. Through its wonderful complexity, creation produces diversity and order.
Be not consumed with concern about variety in human types and characteristics as you see them. Be passionately concerned about forming inclusive communities of love, oneness, and equality that reveal divine nature.
Be passionately concerned about forming inclusive communities of love, oneness, and equality… I like that. I value that. Let’s live it. Let’s build it. In many ways, the lives of people you love depend on it. So as we celebrate how far we’ve come, let us find and create hope in the journey for where we are called to go.
A list of those killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016:
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Amanda Alvear, 25
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
Cory James Connell, 21
Darryl “DJ” Roman Burt II, 29
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Enrique L. Rios, Jr, 25
Eric Ivan Ortiz Rivera, 36
Frank Hernandez , 27
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Geraldo A. “Drake” Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Juan Pablo Rivera Velazquez, 37
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Kimberly Morris, 37
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Luis Daniel Conde , 39
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
Paul Terrell Henry , 41
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
May we remember and honor them. May we continue to lift up in prayer and thought the loved ones they left behind as well as the over fifty additional people who were injured on that day.
Calgary Spark is a collection of stories told by members and friends of the church alike. Each person's story is helping to shape our community in new ways.