Chelsea Shields: How I’m working for change inside my church-2

Everything about Mormonism determined what you wore, who you dated, who you married. It determined what underwear we wore. I was the kind of religious where everyone I know donated 10 percent of everything they earned to the church, including myself. From paper routes and babysitting, I donated 10 percent. I was the kind of religious where I heard parents tell children when they’re leaving on a two-year proselytizing mission that they would rather have them die than return home without honor, having sinned. I was the type and the kind of religious where kids kill themselves every single year because they’re terrified of coming out to our community as gay. But I was also the kind of religious where it didn’t matter where in the world I lived, I had friendship, instantaneous mutual aid. This was where I felt safe. This is certainty and clarity about life. I had help raising my little daughter. So that’s why I accepted without question that only men can lead, and I accepted without question that women can’t have the spiritual authority of God on the Earth, which we call the priesthood. And I allowed discrepancies between men and women in operating budgets, disciplinary councils, in decision-making capacities, and I gave my religion a free pass because I loved it.

Until I stopped, and I realized that I had been allowing myself to be treated as the support staff to the real work of men. And I faced this contradiction in myself, and I joined with other activists in my community. We’ve been working very, very, very hard for the last decade and more.

The first thing we did was raise consciousness. You can’t change what you can’t see. We started podcasting, blogging, writing articles. I created lists of hundreds of ways that men and women are unequal in our community.

The next thing we did was build advocacy organizations. We tried to do things that were unignorable, like wearing pants to church and trying to attend all-male meetings. These seem like simple things, but to us, the organizers, they were enormously costly. We lost relationships. We lost jobs. We got hate mail on a daily basis. We were attacked in social media and national press. We received death threats. We lost standing in our community. Some of us got excommunicated. Most of us got put in front of a disciplinary council, and were rejected from the communities that we loved because we wanted to make them better, because we believed that they could be.

And I began to expect this reaction from my own people. I know what it feels like when you feel like someone’s trying to change you or criticize you. But what utterly shocked me was throughout all of this work I received equal measures of vitriol from the secular left, the same vehemence as the religious right. And what my secular friends didn’t realize was that this religious hostility, these phrases of, “Oh, all religious people are crazy or stupid.” “Don’t pay attention to religion.” “They’re going to be homophobic and sexist.” What they didn’t understand was that that type of hostility did not fight religious extremism, it bred religious extremism. Those arguments don’t work, and I know because I remember someone telling me that I was stupid for being Mormon. And what it caused me to do was defend myself and my people and everything we believe in, because we’re not stupid.

Om Namah Shivay

***Write ” Om Namah Shivay ” if you ask for God’s blessing on your life today. Please Like, Tag and Share to bless others!

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