A Journey of Grief to the Hope of Zion (Doctrine & Covenants 37-40)

Monday, April 12, 2021


Channing: [00:00:07] This is The Faithful Feminists podcast. 

Elise: [00:00:11] But this is not just any come follow me podcast. We do things a little differently here. We offer approachable feminist interpretations of the come follow me manual for those who want to study and understand the scriptures in a framework of equality, social justice, and sisterhood.

We are here to show you all the really good ways faith and feminism work together to illuminate and deepen the gospel experience.

Channing: [00:00:34] We’ve saved you a seat on the soft chairs. So join us today for a conversation about doctrine and covenants sections 37-40 for the dates, April 12th through the 18th.

We're so glad you're here.

Elise: [00:00:56] Welcome back everyone. In today's episode, the saints have been called to move all the way to Ohio. And some of the things that we're going to talk about in this episode are how we can create an established Zion here and now. And then finally, we'll end the episode talking about some of the harmful narratives around faith crisis, faith transition, and those who have left the church.

Channing: [00:01:18] We're excited to cover these topics because not only is it relevant to this week's chapters, but also it's a topic that's near and dear to both Elise and I's heart. And also a lot of our listeners and followers too. So we're looking forward to covering these sometimes sensitive and less talked about topics in a loving and supportive light.

So thank you for joining us today. 

Elise: [00:01:43] And a little bit of background about these chapters. So yes, of course the saints had been called to move to Ohio because they were fleeing persecution. But perhaps even more than that from the Revelations in Context book, it says that Joseph had “received word that the fledgling congregations in Ohio were badly in need of direction as the number of converts had ballooned to 300. Then as Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon traveled from Fayette to Canandaigua New York in late December, they received a revelation directing the church to go to the Ohio.” We learned that Sidney Rigdon was actually a preacher in this place and he had, once he had converted to Mormonism, he was really successful in kind of converting these new members to the church, which is why there were 300 new members that needed direction and support.

And so you kind of have both of these things happening at once the saints being persecuted in New York and also these brand new saints in Ohio needing direction. And so the saints have been called to, to be on the move. We thought it was also pretty cool that in the come follow me manual this week, they take time to highlight one of the women during this time who, who had joined the church and was going with the saints to move to Ohio, and her name was Phebe Carter. 

Channing: [00:03:01] Phebe Carter has an amazing story. She joined the church in her mid twenties, but her parents didn't and she wrote about her decision to move to Ohio. And she says “My friends marveled at my course as did I, but something within impelled me on. My mother's grief at my leaving home was almost more than I could bear and had it not been for the spirit within, I should have faltered at the last.

My mother told me she would rather see me buried than going thus alone, out into the heartless world. ‘Phebe,’ he said, impressively, ‘will you come back to me? If you find Mormonism false?’ I answered. ‘Yes, mother. I will.’ My answer relieved her trouble. But it costs us all much sorrow to part. When the time came for my departure, I dare not trust myself to say farewell.

So I wrote my goodbyes to each and leaving them on my table, ran downstairs and jumped into the carriage. Thus, I left the beloved home of my childhood to link my life with the saints of God.”

Elise: [00:04:04] Later in her life she ends up making a living by sewing and teaching school and she ends up marrying Wilford Woodruff.

She also serves a mission at age 37. And she's one of the leading ladies who helped organize the relief society in the Utah area. And as many of you may know, Wilford, Woodruff, practiced polygamy. And so even though she was his first wife, he ended up marrying eight more women. And this is what she has to say on polygamy.

She says “When the principle of plural marriage was first taught, I thought it was the most wicked thing I had ever heard of. Consequently, I opposed it to the best of my ability until I became sick and wretched as soon. However, as I became convinced that it originated as a revelation from God through Joseph, knowing him to be a prophet, I wrestled with my Heavenly Father in fervent prayer to be guided aright at that all important moment in my life, the answer came peace was given to my mind. I knew it was the will of God. And from that time to the present, I have sought to faithfully honor the patriarchal law.”

And Channing and I have our own feelings about this, but those feelings come because we are so removed from the situation.

And I think it's really interesting as we get closer and closer to the sections about polygamy, that we start to read these women's words and, and just try and track some of their thought process. How is it that they can move from, like Phebe said that feeling like this is the most wicked thing that she had ever heard of and being so strongly against it and opposing it, and then having to wrestle with God, to try and find a place in the gospel that is still accepting of you.

When I think a lot of the narrative around polygamy at the time was obey, or you're not going to be saved. You're not going to make it into the kingdom of God. And that's an ultimatum that no one should ever have to grapple with.

Channing: [00:06:00] Well because it’s not a choice. That's not agency. It's do do this or face supposedly eternal death, right. Or eternal damnation. We'll talk about this later in the episode, but it's very difficult to claim that you have the freedom of choice when the choice comes under duress. But we did want to share her words here because it's important to honor her own individual experience of this.

And even though we can look at this and say, I'm not sure that I necessarily agree, and I'm not even sure that that was like right or good or even accurate. It's still important to say that this was Phebe's experience. And we wanted to honor that and give that space here in the episode, even if we don't necessarily agree with how it all ended up.

Elise: [00:06:47] Yeah, a few more notes on her. She wants to, she became so ill that everyone thought that she was dead. But in fact, she had a vision where two angels told her that she could either choose to go to the spirit world or choose to stay here on earth. And she ended up choosing to stay here on earth and kind of like rose from the dead.

But when she eventually did pass away, uh, Wilford Woodruff, her husband wrote this poem in honor of her. He wrote “Sleep on dear Phebe, but ere long from this, the conquered tomb shall yield its captive prey. Then with thy husband, children, friends, prophets, and apostles thou shalt reign in bliss as wife, queen, mother, and saint to an eternal day.”

I'm really proud of the come follow me manual for including this brief biographical sketch of Phoebe, especially when there are lots of other men they could have chosen from. So it feels like an intentional move of inclusion to include this woman's story and her own words later in the manual. 

Channing: [00:07:48] So as we move into the chapters for this week, we're going to start in section 38.

And the first verse that really stuck out to me as I was reading these chapters was verse seven and verse seven says, “behold, verily, verily I say unto you, that mine eyes are upon you.” And this is the Lord speaking. “I am in your midst and you cannot see me, but the day soon come at that you shall see me and know that I am.”

And so essentially what this verse is saying is that well, essentially what the Lord is saying is that I am here among you, even if you can't see me. And I wrote this first in two different ways, which was really fascinating to me. And the first way that I read this was God saying I'm already here, but I've hidden myself.

And then as I came back to the chapter again and again, throughout the week, the second way that I read the verse was that God is already here, but maybe instead of God hiding God's self from us, that we have hidden God from us instead. And I don't know that one reading is necessarily better than the other, but I do think that both offer some interesting perspectives and lead us to ask questions such as, like with the first reading, if God is already here, but has chosen to hide themselves from us. Why would God hide from us? Would God hide from me? What could I learn from a hidden God, a veiled God, a God who I might run into at the grocery store and think “I know them from somewhere, but I can't put my finger on it.” What is there to learn from a hidden God? Because there might be something.

And then secondly, questions accompanying the question of if God is already here, but we have hidden God from us, why would I hide God from myself? And how might such a thing be accomplished? Am I blind to the divine? Am I only willing to see divinity in expected and prescribed ways?

If we continue on in the verse, I love the line that it includes it says, “but the day soon come that you shall see me and know that I am.” And so some questions, like, all I have is questions for these verses, but that's okay. And the question about this one that I had is when is that day that we shall see God? Is it a mysterious future apocalyptic event or is it more like a curtain slowly opening where God reveals God to us, or would it be more like a child cleaning under their bed for the first time in a month and finding a lost toy proclaiming, “I finally found it!” Whatever the answer is, God has promised here to reveal themselves to us the readers. And so throughout this week, as you're considering this verse and considering these questions. I wonder if it might be helpful or interesting to ask yourself, how has God being revealed to me. 

Elise: [00:10:46] Later in the same section I think what I'm picking up on is a theme about how we can create the Zion type society here. And now there's a lot of repetition of the phrase “the kingdom is yours.” There's also a lot of talk about God giving us greater riches, even a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey.

God's saying I will give it unto you for your land of inheritance if you seek with all your heart. And I think these verses can have a double meaning. In the context of the saints leaving to Ohio, I think that there is this kind of hopeful promise that God has prepared the promised land for the people over in Ohio.

And so in one way, I think this section acts as, yeah, just a hopeful promise that says there are good things to come once you get to Ohio. However a second, meaning that I'm picking up on is the way that we can create Zion. We can create the Zion we've always dreamed of, as we follow along with these verses, I've just pulled out phrases throughout the entire chapter that I want to highlight.

I think that we can strive to create Zion by seeking it within our own hearts. Esteeming our neighbors as ourselves, which is repeated twice, practicing virtue and holiness before God. And not just concerning ourselves with wars and other lands and other countries, but instead by starting to learn the hearts of our own people in our own land. For me, that means stop thinking that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism is someone else's problem in a far, far away “third world” country land, but start taking it personally as a personal concern and issue where we are right now.

In more verses, we learned that we should treasure up wisdom, look to the poor and the needy and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer. And I think it's interesting that these two verb phrases show up in that latter part that I had read, look to the poor and the needy, which to me sounds like, learn from understand, defer to include people on the margins. Remember that we don't speak for everyone. And that our understanding of the world and systems comes with bias and privileges that are limited by our own social locations.

And the other verb phrase that shows up here is administer to their relief, that they shall not suffer. And administer to, to me, sounds like help, aid, serve, attend to, wait upon. And I think it's important that this verb phrase comes after look to, because we cannot truly administer if we have not looked to the people we think we are helping, we need to listen to their needs, what they're calling for, what they're asking for, instead of showing up, assuming that our way of administering is the best and the most well-informed. Also, we're not just administering to the poor and the needy, so that one, we feel good about ourselves or two, we fulfill our ministering responsibilities, or even that we get to like check off the box of service for our week. No, I think that this verse makes it really clear that we are administering to the poor and the needy so that they will not suffer.

And not just that we're trying to stop the suffering, but we're also taking it, I think one step further by making sure they find relief. I think ending suffering and finding relief are two different types of things just because my pain and suffering has stopped doesn't mean that I now feel relief. For me relief looks like healing the pain healing, trauma, organizing long-term sustainable resources for flourishing. And so I think that those things are different and I really appreciate how these verses just unfold so quickly when we slow down. 

Channing: [00:14:45] Yeah, I really appreciated too. Some of the language that we found in the chapter that talked about, um, Ohio being kind of a symbol of the promise land, or they use the words, land of milk and honey, and that's really resonant of some of the language that we hear in the book of Mormon.

Um, especially around Lehi's journey to the wilderness slash to the promised land. I love this concept of relief and tying it into the land of milk and honey, I definitely think that part of being in Zion is about having that relief and it's about sweetness and beauty and freedom. Um, in verse 22 of the same section, it says, “wherefore, hear my voice and follow me. And you shall be a free people.” I think that freedom plays a huge part in relief. It feels, it plays a huge part in feeling and finding comfort because it's about resting. It's about enjoying that sweetness and, um, beholding the beauty. And that's really difficult to do if we're in a space of, um, suffering.

And so I think that the call here that the Lord gives the saints, wherefore, “hear my voice and follow me” is a promise and also an admonition too. It's like a two-part thing, right? Just like you said, do the work and then. Like offer comfort and relief and yeah, I just, I love that concept so much. 

Elise: [00:16:14] Yeah. And I think that we, at least what I'm hoping we're starting to see is that yes, of course, all of these same types of promises can come from making it to the promised land of Ohio.

But also these are things that we can do. Every single day or try our best to do every single day so that we can start creating the Zion that we want to be a part of. God says the kingdom is yours like here and now it's not in some far off place. It can also be here. 

Channing: [00:16:43] Another verse in the same section that I also wanted to highlight is verse 27.

And we've probably heard this one before, because there was a conference talk a little while ago about it. It says, “I say unto you be one. And if you're not one ye are not mine.” And something that I've noticed about this verse and about this verbiage and about this idea of unity and being one is that this verse is often weaponized against advocacy for the least of these.

And I often hear, um, claims from other people who are made uncomfortable, um, when talking about sexism or racism or transphobia that people just say, if we all just strive to be unified and we're all together. And we just focus on like niceness and being good to each other and being unified that everything will be fine and everything will be better.

Right. Because everyone will be comfortable. Or I think that by reading this verse alone, it would be tempting to say that, but I think paired with our baptismal covenant and the later verses in this chapter about caring for the poor and oppressed the word be one isn't about the marginalized tugging on their bootstraps.

And it's not about the marginalized silencing themselves in order to make everyone comfortable and have a facade of unity. Instead, I think that true unity does not trickle down from top to bottom. I think that unity is grassroots. It begins from beneath. And I think that this pairs really nicely with what you were saying earlier release is that we have to listen, wee have to look upon. If we're not listening to those who we are wanting to comfort, who we are wanting to offer relief, who we are wanting to be unified with, then be one sometimes can be weaponized to say, be silent and that's not unity. Unity is having everyone's voices heard, everyone's experiences validated, and accepted and making space for everyone to have a seat on the soft chairs, not necessarily just be quiet and sit down, but be here, be loved so that we can be one. 

Elise: [00:19:00] Right. I also think that a lot of there's a lot of talk about how talking about systems of privilege and oppression or talking about our differences, as opposed to focusing on our similarities like creates tension or likes creates disunity. Um, and people just, I think a lot of the critique that comes says, well, if you only focus on our differences, of course, you're going to like, you know, split us further and further apart from one another. But I think that that misses the point. Um, I also think that if we think that critique or fighting for justice or standing up for other people or making it costly for, for people who engage in racism or sexism. Like sure. Those things might look mean on the outside, but it's not niceness. Doesn't equal unity. Um, we've seen that before. That's not the way to come together and be united in the body of Christ.

Like this chapter outlines, it's about caring for the least of these turning and looking to the margins. And that forces us to confront our differences. The ways that we are differently, privileged and positioned, and the ways that my privilege often has a harmful negative impact on people, um, that are oppressed by my different identities.

Channing: [00:20:28] Yes, absolutely Elise, I'm so glad that you shared that. And I think this conversation, um, about looking to the margins and about, um, opening ourselves to hearing critique and making changes within our community so that all can be welcomed, leads us really well into the next portion of the episode, where we talk about James Covel, who we find in sections 39 and 40.

Elise: [00:20:54] Yes, James Covel was a Methodist minister and he was really more impressed with the teachings of the church than with the call to move to Ohio and from the Revelations in Context book, it says that “He lingered a few days talking with the different church leaders and covenanted with God to obey the call to repent and be baptized.”

But in section 39, we see that in his revelation, he's not called to go to the Eastern countries, but he was called to go to Ohio. And for 40 years, Revelations in Context says “For 40 years, Covell had preached East of upstate New York. And now he was being asked to go in the opposite direction to preach. Covel must have known that moving West would mean cutting ties with the deep and extensive associations he had built up over his career. All the prestige he had accumulated over the course of a lifetime would have to be abandoned. It took Covel less than 48 hours to decide that he would not move to Ohio.”

And so you see in these back-to-back sections, section 39 being this kind of revelation of praise to, to James Covel that says, okay, you're, you've covenanted to be baptized and to repent and now you're being called to come to Ohio and there's kind of a big, it's a big deal that section 39 makes out of, out of this call and then comes section 40.

It's only three verses. And it talks about how James Covel actually didn't want to be a part of the church. He didn't want to move. And it's interesting, the language that gets used and weaponized here, it says that James Covel “received the word originally with gladness, but straight away, Satan tempted him and the fear of persecution and the cares of the world caused him to reject the word wherefore he broke my covenant.”

And Channing, and I wanted to spend some time unpacking this story because we think that it's a really helpful, but painful look at the way that we interact with and treat members who are on their faith journey, like a normal, healthy faith journey that, and in my experience, faith crisis, or questions or doubt, we want to try and read James Covel’s story as this kind of nice snapshot of the different stories that we tell around doubters, faith crisisers, questioners, and post-Mormon winners.

Why was there seemingly no care or attention paid to James Covel's journey of leaving a faith tradition, having to leave his family and leaving all that he ever knew behind and why when he chose to stay and in fact not join the church, why was the narrative so quickly flipped to make it seem like Satan had tempted him and that he wasn't courageous enough to accept the gospel. Why does leaving the church or doubting mean breaking our covenant? And these are some of the things that Channing and I wanted to work through today.

Channing: [00:23:55] It’s unfortunate and interesting that such a short chapter can have such a huge influence on the way that we view people who are questioning or who have left the church. And I think verse two offers us some like a good jumping off point for this. And verse two says, “and he received the word with gladness,” but like Elise said, “straightway, Satan tempted him. And the fear of persecution and the cares of the world caused him to reject the word.” And I think of this verse in context of, uh, like conversion or missionary work and then like our experience in the church. And I think that initially the promise of the church does inspire gladness. How could it not, who doesn't want to be a part of the one and only truest church? Who doesn't want to be a part of a forever family and a wonderful community? I think that these are all positive, good things that the church offers and it's not a lie.

It's true. The church does have a wonderful community. It does promise forever families. It does say that it's the only one true church. And so it's fascinating that, you know, when you're in this community and you're converted and you find yourself among other people who are part of this wonderful space that when your faith journey progresses, um, that Satan's temptations are often blamed, especially when people leave the church.

But in our experience like, and I'm talking for both of you Elise and I here, the faith crisis and transition is not usually about being tempted to do things like drink alcohol or wear tank tops. It's more about a number of things like discovering unsavory church history. A lot of believing members think that information regarding church history comes from places that are scary and anti-Mormon are dangerous.

When so often the information is found right on the church website or right in their family tree or right in the text as happens pretty often on the podcast. And it can also be about feminist awakenings and becoming aware of patriarchal systems and influence in the church as has happened to both of us.

It can also be about the treatment of LGBTQ friends and family or our BIPOC members. It can be about religious trauma when we are asked again and again, to deny the wisdom of our bodies and the truth of our experience, and then exchange it for belonging to a system that cannot and will not care for us to the point of harm and abandonment.

And so what happens when these discoveries are made often by happenchance? It's not that the very next day they shed all of their religious ties and they like break away from the church. What happens next is grief. It's a loss, it's bargaining, denial, and heartache. It's months and years spent in a space of trying to balance between broken promises and a broken system and a broken heart and a desire to stay.

It's being afraid to leave, because what if. What if they really are being tempted and all they need to do is stay the course. What if they are making this up or wanting it to be true so that they can finally try coffee? What if they are just traumatized or making a big deal out of nothing? Don't they want their family to be together forever?

What if they are the ones that break everything and let everyone down? And these are the questions that people who are experiencing faith crisis and experiencing transition are faced with. And as if those questions weren't weighty enough, they're often accompanied by the ever-present realization of cost.

It's the cost of self betrayal, the cost of betraying, their loved ones who are hurt by the church. It's the cost of a life spent in contortion and an acute awareness of the pain of trying to fit into a space not made for them. And so we have this tremendous and complex grief and fear, and sense of responsibility that these people are carrying around on a daily basis.

And unfortunately they find that often there's no one willing to hold it with them. There's no one that's willing to listen, to look and to mourn with them. And I think that often this pain is compounded with our conference talks with weaponized scriptures and weaponized church history stories just like this one, suddenly these people are burdened, not just with the agonizing pain of a faith crisis, but also with the blame and shame of a black-and-white, in-or-out community that would sooner shove them aside and leave them for dead in this Samaritan desert, then take them in and care for their wounds.

And so my question here about not just James Covel, but all of our friends who are experiencing faith crisis and faith transition, or maybe who have left the church, I want to ask anyone who loves them and is still in the church and maybe can't understand why this is happening, I want to ask, do we hear the weeping of these wounded hearts as, as recently quoted a rehearsal of doubt, because we fear it's too painful to look at or can we recognize it for what it is? A cry to belong, a cry to be seen, a cry to be healed and welcomed in and accepted rather than pushed away. So there's a lot of complexity surrounding this concept of faith crisis and transition, especially when we're talking about the way that it's treated and viewed within our religious community.

Elise: [00:29:52] I'm so glad that you brought up that line from president Nelson's Sunday morning session talk from general conference about rehearsing our doubts. And there's a really fantastic commentary piece by one of our absolute faves, Jana Riess. And she wrote an article titled “Overcoming LDS doubt is hard when you've never been given the tools” and she responds to President Nelson's talk about overcoming obstacles with faith and the role of prayer and scripture study in increasing our faith. President Nelson said, “if you have doubts about God, Jesus, or Joseph Smith, you should choose to believe and stay faithful. Take your questions to the Lord and to other faithful sources study with the desire to believe rather than with the hope that you can find a flaw in the fabric of a prophet's life or a discrepancy in the scriptures. Stop increasing your doubts by rehearsing them with other doubters.”

But Riess explains in this article that we should not be criminalizing or vilifying doubters, and that we should quote, “stop placing the blame on their shoulders. It's simply a natural evolution of faith to deeper and a more mature level, or at least it could be. But because the church often feels threatened by doubts and questions, its rhetoric tends to criminalize doubt and the people who experience it. The stop increasing your doubts by rehearsing them with other doubters advice is very much of this mold. The idea that people who doubt have nothing constructive to teach and should be avoided.”

She continues to talk about how this harmful story around doubters, um, ends up isolating doubters or questioners or faith crisisers from the welcoming community of the church. And she writes that the church risks pushing them further and further away from faith when we isolate and criminalize them.

And there's so much to unpack here. But a few of the things that came to my mind were what are some of the tools or practices that the church could incorporate to support those on their normal and natural, although very painful and grief ridden, faith journey?

Channing: [00:32:00] I think that's an excellent question. And some of the answers just off the top of my head, maybe we could start with being honest and transparent about church history.

And I think that the church is starting to move this way, but progress is slow and still leaves much to desire. I also think that taking up our banner of continuing revelation and discuss how continuing means revision, change, evolution, and responsiveness to our current cultural, social and political climate.

And finally, and this is a hill that I do want to die on, training auxiliary leaders with contemplative practices, including training on cycles of faith and faith transition from scholars and not just what your Bishop thinks he knows. 

Elise: [00:32:49] Ah, yes, those are some great ideas. Um, I'm laughing because I'm like, wow, those are yeah. And I think that these are doable, like, and some of my other thoughts are, are that we have so many doctrinal principles that are already built in, built into our theology that I think yeah, that it would be doable for the church to make some of these adjustments like leaning more into repentance and forgiveness.

When we talk really transparently about the mistakes that we've made in the past as a church, we can, we have the principle of continuing revelation, like you said, Channing and remembering that our church was founded upon questions. That's like a big linchpin for me. I also think that the church could place less emphasis on knowing the capital T end all be all Truth and place more emphasis on faith, which looks like, faith always already includes doubt because if it didn't include doubt, then it would be knowledge, but faith is an action. It's something we do. It's not something that we know. 

Channing: [00:33:58] I think my last piece that I would want to include on this list is definitely stealing from Dieter F Uchtdorf’s talk when he says, “stop it” stop doing exactly what Jana Riess says.

Stop criminalizing those who are experiencing what is a very normal, very natural, very expected part of faith journeys, which is that stage for that transition, that questioning that doubt. And if you don't have anything nice to say about it, don't say anything at all that, I mean, not that that's even like a good way to handle it, but it's preferable to the shaming, the blaming, the isolation, um, the vilifying of people who are brave enough to say, ‘Hey, my experience is deviating from the norm and I'm really struggling, where is my place?’

And so that would be the, the, like, eventually, hopefully I hope would want the church to be able to move to a place of acceptance and being able to talk openly about it. But at the very least, could we stop the name calling and saying Satan tempted them.

Elise: [00:35:07] Or that they're like not strong enough to stay or they're, they're lazy learners.

Channing: [00:35:15] Right. When really in truth these people are fighting tooth and nail to figure out, to carve a space for themselves in a place that's actively trying to push them out.

Elise: [00:35:26] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think that leads, yeah, really nicely to my next question. So if we thought about what are some practices or tools that like the church as an institution could incorporate to help create space and hold and care for these members on, uh, on their faith journey, my next question would be, what are some of the practices that members like on a smaller individual level could incorporate to support those on their faith journey?

One of the first things that comes to mind is literally just listening, just listening when friends or other members in your congregation say like, I just found this out, and this is really upsetting or unsettling, just listening to them without feeling this kind of like constant knee jerk reaction or pressure to bear your testimony and try and prove that the other person is wrong by sharing what you know to be true.

I think we can also pull from the baptismal covenant to bear one another's burdens. Like Channing has outlined moving through a faith crisis and a journey of faith is a lot to carry. It is heavy. It is sad. Um, there's a loss and grief. And so we are called in those moments with these people to help bear their burdens too.

That doesn't mean solving their problems. It doesn't mean bearing our testimony. It means showing up, listening and saying, ‘Hey, I've got a little bit of space on my back. If you want to share some of that burden with me, I've got plenty of space to carry it with you.’

Channing: [00:36:57] Yeah. And I think that there's a way that, um, maybe like more believing members can do this while still being authentic and true to their position. It doesn't necessarily mean that by listening to someone express their doubts and concerns about the church, that all of a sudden you have to agree. And it doesn't mean that all of a sudden you're in the presence of Satan.

And it doesn't mean it doesn't mean what we think it means. Instead of saying things like you don't you don't necessarily have to agree with what they're saying, but even words, just like, ‘wow, I can hear that this is really tough for you. I'm listening. Thanks for sharing it.’ Or you can say something along the lines of ‘I'm really honored that you felt like I was a safe person to share this with and I promise to hold it sacred.’

It doesn't necessarily have to mean that you have your mind changed or that you have to. Shift your beliefs suddenly, all it means is listening and validating and reassuring them that they have a space next to you. And sometimes, and that is the greatest gift that you can offer to someone. Not necessarily changing your mind right then and there, but being with them.

Elise: [00:38:12] I also think there's a time for like personal reflection here. If bearing one another's burdens, meeting people where they are trying to carve out a sacred space for doubters and questioners and faith crisisers, if that makes you feel uncomfortable or defensive, I think that we need to ask ourselves and reflect on why we feel the need to defend our own testimony or defend the church. What is our tolerance level or elasticity for others who believe differently than we do? 

Channing: [00:38:44] Yeah. I love those questions that you asked you, Elise, and I think, um, that final one really just brings it home in saying we have to examine not just our like the institutional response to, um, faith crisis and faith transition, but our own personal one.

And just like we said before, unity is grassroots. It comes from the bottom up, not necessarily from the top down. And so there is a lot that we can do as everyday members to make church a safe place for people who may be transitioning in or out of it. Even in this week, sections, there is a wonderful verse in section 37 it's a verse four.

And I think that this is something that can carry us through, or at least inform our understanding of what role we can play as we support people through their faith transition and faith journeys. And that verse says “behold, here is wisdom and let every man choose for himself until I come.”

And I think that we often forget that in life, we, there are two things that I think are just like fundamentally, I would say like capital T true, that we do have the freedom to choose and that God is love. And I think that if we have faith enough in that, then anyone's path, whether it winds its way in or out or back in or back out again of the church, we can handle that person's journey, knowing that God is guiding their paths even if it doesn't look like our own, and God has offered these people, the freedom to choose for themselves. And I think that that's just a fascinating way to understand faith journey and faith transition. We can just trust in the goodness of people and trust in their experience because that's valid and trust that God's love transcends our own limited understanding of what faith and religion and covenant and all of these big, um, heavy weighty words, love transcends all of those things and it can inform the way that we welcome, welcome these experiences into our lives as teachers, because there is something valuable to

Elise: [00:41:18] Thank you all so, so much for joining us on another episode of The Faithful Feminists podcast. We hope that you've really enjoyed the conversation today, about how we can create the Zion that we want right here and now. And also, how can we push back on the harmful stories that we tell ourselves, or that get told from the church to us about those who question doubt and are going through a normal faith transition.

Channing: [00:41:42] We love you so much. And we're honored to have been able to spend this time with you and share these conversations with you. We can't wait to talk to you again next week, bye!

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