THOSE THAT HAVE LEFT
This is the second essay in a series called Radical Compassion. To read the first essay in this series, click here.
by Michael Barker
If you were to sit down with me, you would quickly realize that I am a boring person to chat with. The reason? I pretty much only talk about two things: Mormonism and mountain biking.
I went riding earlier this year after a storm. Lying across one of my favorite trails was a huge coniferous tree. When it fell, it slid down the hill and its trunk broke into several large pieces. It’s impressive to see such a large majestic creation broken. As it slid down the mountain side, it took several other small trees along with it. When it uprooted, it took other trees with it. For you see, its roots were entangled with, supported by, and supporting other trees. So when it fell, its roots uprooted other trees as well.
I should have not been surprised, but I was nonetheless. Watching the first tree and the succession of uprooted trees to follow, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Kate Kelly’s excommunication. I also had those familiar feelings come back to me that I had experienced when my faith transition started. I don’t like those feelings—the uncertainty of my place within the larger institution of my LDS faith. The excommunication of Kate Kelly and the pending disciplinary action of John Dehlin also deeply affected my wife.
For her, these feelings are unfamiliar. They are new.
I recently learned of two friends that have either left the Church and/or resigned their membership. They are good people. People that have been leading with faith. People that have been trying to make the tent of Mormonism broader and lovelier. But the Church broke them.
I am sad.
I have three dear and faithful LDS sisters that recently had their temple recommends taken away because they disagree with their local ecclesiastical leaders regarding some points of doctrine or policy.
You see, the roots of my testimony are in fact intertwined, supported by, and supporting my friends that left. They are intertwined with my sisters that have received disciplinary action. When they became uprooted, it did in fact take a little bit of my roots with them. When Kate Kelly was cut off from the Body of Christ, she took some of my roots with her.
Do I agree 100% with my friends that have left?
Do I agree 100% with Ordain Women?
Do I agree 100% with my LDS sisters that had their temple recommends revoked?
But that’s not the point.
It felt like the tent of Mormonism was roomier.
A line has been drawn in the sand by some of our ecclesiastical leaders.
The line in the sand has become a circle.
That circle now appears as a noose before me.
I am suffocating as the noose tightens; as my friends are leaving or being asked to leave.
My balance wavers in the absence of my roots that were torn away from me in the wake of the departure of others.
What am I to do? How am I to treat those that have left?
“…you shall love your neighbor as yourself…” (Mark 12:31)
But what does that look like?
“If there is any one secret of success it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from their angle as well as your own.”1
Empathy is an antidote to righteousness, although it’s very difficult to empathize across a moral divide.2
So, what I am to do?
What are we to do?
I will honor your journey.
I will try to love. No.
I will love.
To those that have left, will you honor my journey as I honor yours?
To those of you that have left, will you offer me the same love that I will offer you?
Can we each show each other Radical Compassion?3
1Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, page 49. Here Haidt is quoting Henry Ford
3I stole this term from Tresa Edmunds