Thursday, December 26, 2013

Gay marriage in Utah?

'Twas the day after my gay friends began to legally marry.

In Utah!

At first I only saw the decision from the judge on Facebook. I didn't understand that there were actually people getting married, and more lining up to get married, in case it would all be shut down within hours or days.

As usual, it was a stressful day with the kids. In fact, it was the first day of the winter holiday break. So when I actually found out, I was in shock. And then I felt dread--dread for the topic coming up in church because it's all over the news. (I'm actually writing this months after the fact, because I found this unfinished draft in my list of blog posts.) Needless to say, I wasn't as happy about it as I always thought I would be. I wasn't sad about it, but just kind of in shock. My first reaction when I really found what was happening was to exclaim to the children, "Has hell frozen over? There is no way this is actually happening unless hell has frozen over." And maybe it had--the weather had been really cold.

But then the next morning, I woke up early to attend a stake choir practice for a Christmas program the following evening. Each ward was going to perform a song or two, but the concluding number, with a Stake choir and organ and piano accompaniment, was O Holy Night.

As I began to sing and paid attention to the beautiful, well-known words, I was overcome with emotion, I choked up on the words here and there, and I think some tears might have run down my cheeks...

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. 

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 
Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

It was a new and glorious morn. Couples rushed to the county offices to get marriage licenses, full of hope while their friends and family rejoiced! Many people showed love one to another, and oppression of a minority was, for a few days at least, ceasing.

Finally I was excited and emotional and everything I expected to be when same-sex marriage became legal in Utah. And there was no doubt in my mind that the hand of the Lord was in it, in everything falling into place for these wonderful people and families.

What a wonderful Christmas gift to so many this year. What a wonderful, beautiful gift.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Wearing Pants

Today was the second annual "wear-pants-to-church day."

I was not brave enough last year. I figured I was enough of a spectacle even attending church at all, that I didn't want more attention. Also, with all of the media on the topic, I figured people would be curious as to whether I would participate, rebelling against the norm in yet another way.

But this year it felt right. I've been attending church regularly. Also, I participated in the "ordain women" movement, supporting my feminist friends by standing in line with my daughter and asking to get into the priesthood session of conference. I didn't expect to get in, but I was touched by those women to whom this means so much. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the session on the radio in my car on the way home, and then at home on my TV--the first time the session has been publicly broadcast for all to hear.

So wearing pants to church seemed like something I could do, and I was excited.

But I was amazed at how uncomfortable I felt. We arrived at church late, and though as I walked past one of my friends she pointed to my legs and gave me a thumbs up, and though no one else said anything, good or bad, I felt like I had a large scarlet S hanging around my neck.

It got worse in Relief Society when I was asked to say the closing prayer and then immediately asked to fill in for the chorister. I accepted, of course, but me--in pants--standing in front of everyone. I smiled and sang and gave it my all, the whole time thinking that everyone was starring at me and wondering what in the world I was wearing.

Toward the end of the lesson, I was on Facebook, reading things that my friends were posting about wearing pants to church. One particular article touched me--right before I was supposed get up for the closing music and prayer. 

It wasn't about making a statement. It wasn't about rebellion. It was about empathy, about understanding more fully how out-of-place some individuals feel at church and within our ward families. My heart was touched for those who suffer in silence, for those who feel like they stick out like a sore thumb for being different, even when they actually don't or when no one actually cares or actually judges them for how they are different. But somehow we've created a culture within Mormonism that makes many--if not all of us--feel that way in some way or another.

My heart was full as I lead the closing hymn and reverently spoke the closing prayer. I had walked in someone else's shoes, had felt how they might feel. 

What a great, uncomfortable experience.