There are very few people in this world who realize how overwhelming the scenario I am in right now is. I hope I can give you just a glimpse. Pretend you are on a stage with the curtains closed, having an important and somewhat personal conversation with someone. What you don’t realize is that you’re attached to a microphone and there is a HUGE audience sitting just outside of those curtains. Suddenly, one conversation with multiple contexts is being analyzed and criticized and reacted to by thousands of playgoers. They don’t know you, they only know what they’re hearing from behind that curtain. So they’re dissecting and questioning your character, judging what’s going on by what they heard or didn’t hear instead of what you meant. Once you realize they’re there, all you want to do is run out from behind that curtain and tell them that they’ve got you all wrong, or, as is mostly my case, that they’ve understood what you’re saying. The problem is that there are thousands of them and only one of you. You couldn’t make them all understand or respond to them all, even if you wanted to.
All metaphors aside, that’s the situation I am in. Some have questioned my testimony (which I find the most hurtful) and accused me of having an unrighteous agenda. Others have been completely affronted by the whole thing. Many, many hundreds of you have been gracious and kind and have brought me to tears. A few of you have been heartless. I can’t do much to change your opinion of me, because, again, there is a curtain right there and you do not know me. If you must know, though, I wrote the RM post from a distinct angle that, unfortunately, didn’t give me a whole lot of room to express my gratitude and love for missionaries. I wasn’t really writing to them. A few of you have erroneously claimed that I’m giving missionaries a hard time and out to get them, or that I’m ridiculing young women, telling them to drop their standards to chase Lotharios, and inviting all young men everywhere to marginalize the importance of a mission. As one of my favorite literary heroines once said (actually, she probably just said that in the movie), some of you are “utterly misinformed…quite mistaken” (Persuasion, 2007).
It is not so much in my nature to address the ninety and nine, because for years, I felt like I was the one, the little black sheep that everyone knew was part of the fold but just left on its own. Growing up, I was extremely shy and because I was, it was excruciatingly difficult to find good friends at school and in my ward. There are many girls camps I can recall when I went off on my own and just cried, because I felt like no one knew me and no one cared. It hurt like the dickens that so few reached out. Yes, I could have definitely done more than I did, but when you’re young and you’re shy, it’s so, so hard. It’s like you’re imprisoned inside yourself and can only get out if someone pulls you out.
My experience pales in comparison to that of other people, though, and the burdens that they have had to carry. When I wrote the RMs and Checklists post, I touched a deep nerve that I feel has not been touched in a long while. In the past two days, I have had dozens of young men and young women reach out to me and thank me for understanding them and giving them hope. Some have remarked that the pain of that rejection pushed them into inactivity and disaffiliation. It has completely humbled and broken me. I personally feel that one thing that has been lacking in their lives is a voice, an advocate, someone to step up and say that how they’re being treated is wrong. I don’t feel like I fill those shoes well, but I will try. I also urge all of you to do the same. They need us.
We need to heal the rift between true discipleship and “Mormon culture,” because that rift is causing us to lose thousands of our brothers and sisters every year. I am tired of getting online and seeing that one of the most-used adjectives to describe Mormons is judgmental. I am dismayed to hear so many stories of people who left because they felt that their ward members left them. Mostly, I am frustrated with how okay we’ve become with Gospel culture and Mormon culture being two distinct and separate things. Because we’re okay with that, those who do not know the message of the Gospel think that it is a message of judgment instead of Atonement. That should never have been allowed to be the case!