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Eighteen Mosquito Bites
In the fall of 2015, we had a lot going on. The kids started a new homeschool group. We packed up the house to get it ready to sell and started searching for another home to buy. In the middle of it all, we went on a three-week road trip through California.
We packed up our Subaru and started our trip by traveling to my sister’s house in Central Point, Oregon, then drove to the Redwood National Forest. We stayed in a former lumber camp called Elk Meadow Village, where we watched elk roam near our cabin in the morning, hiked in the Redwood trails, went on beautiful drives, and saw the Milky Way on a cold, clear night.
Our next stop was San Francisco, which will heretofore and forever be known as the place where Gabe got 18 mosquito bites on the first night. We stayed for four days in an apartment in the Richmond Neighborhood, explored the California Academy of Sciences and the Exploratorium, went on a cruise around the bay and did a bunch of other cool things - and all the kid can remember about San Francisco is the mosquito bites.
After San Francisco, we spent a day in beautiful Monterrey, then went to Legoland. There’s only so much “around other humans” time that my family can handle, so exploring the park for two days, we drove on to San Diego.
I served my mission in San Diego, so I was excited to take my husband and kids to visit a few mission sites. We visited the San Diego Temple grounds first, where I have many memories of talking with visitors and members. I also served at the Mormon Battalion Visitors Center in Old Town, so that was our next spot to visit. It was so different! - as in updated and improved. I was very impressed and felt a flood of wonderful memories in my heart and mind.
Our next stop was a cozy beach cottage in Mission Beach and we spent the next few days relaxing, playing in the ocean, and eating fish tacos from Rubio’s.
The last major destination: Yosemite. On our long drive from San Diego to Mariposa, we listened to Radio Lab, napped, played games on screens and looked for state license plates to check off our list. The next day we explored Yosemite. It was beautiful. Majestic. Amazing. Humbling.
A few days later we were homeward bound. It was a long driving day, but it included a stop in Stockton to see the house my dad lived in (Grandpa Walter built it himself), the beautiful scenery of Shasta Lake, Mount Shasta and the surrounding wilderness, the Siskiyou’s, and another visit with my sister in Central Point, Oregon.
We really loved that trip and made many memories. And we only had one barfing incident!
When we got home from the trip, we jumped right back into the process of finalizing the purchase of our new house. We had found our dream house, a one-level mid-century modern home with wood floors, a mud room, lots of big windows, nestled on an acre of forested land. It was so exciting!
And then another church issue came up.
In early November 2015, an updated policy from the Church Handbook was leaked, which banned a "child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship" from baby blessings, baptism, confirmation, priesthood ordination, and missionary service until the child was of legal age. Kids of same-sex parents could join the church after age 18, if they disavowed same-sex relationships and got permission from the First Presidency. The policy update also stated that members in a same-sex marriage were apostates, which typically leads to disciplinary action. The church leaders explained that the policy was an effort to protect children and to “find a way to reduce friction between gay or lesbian parents and their children.” It became known as the Policy of Exclusion.
The policy made a lot of Mormons really mad, especially those who supported gay marriage and gay rights. Josh was furious. I was baffled. We had some heated discussions about the policy and the church. I was trying to give the brethren the benefit of the doubt, that they must have instituted this policy for a divinely inspired reason, even though it hurt so many people.
But it really bothered me. If a couple believed all the doctrines of the church and loved the church, how could they be labeled as apostates, even if they were in a same-sex marriage? Wasn’t this policy punishing children? And then a few months later there were reports of an elevated LGBTQ+ youth suicide rate in Utah. I became a little distraught. First the essays, and now this?
Many members resigned their memberships in the weeks following the policy leak. I asked Josh not to resign. I just wasn’t ready for that.
As I write each chapter of this newsletter, you might think that what I’m doing is just like Gabe and the San Francisco Mosquito Bites. There are so many wonderful things about the church and all I can focus on is the bad stuff. Believe me, I have wondered why it’s so hard for me to shut out the painful stuff. I can go from feeling the spirit in a Relief Society lesson and the next day get upset about one of President Oaks’ talks. I feel beautiful spiritual highs and devastating lows. It’s exhausting. I have begged God many times in the past few years to take away my empathic tendencies, to make me not so sensitive, so concerned about the suffering of others. It would make my life easier.
Not only do I tend to absorb others’ pain, I also have spent most of my life depending on everything being black and white. I was strict with myself, strict in my beliefs. Strict in my expectations of the church. Everything was either/or. I didn’t know about both/and. I didn’t know how to carry my own internal paradoxes let alone the paradoxes with the church and it was causing me a lot of anguish. But another part of the struggle that makes it even more complex is this: I am trying to break free of the black and white thinking that was killing me, but I feel like the church leaders are holding on to it and they want me to hold on to it, too. But I just can’t live like that anymore.
As you read each chapter of this newsletter, this tug of war continues.
“So much of our pain is rooted in the desire for perfection or having it all figured out. We accept an all or nothing mindset because we’ve bought into the lie that to be or do less than “perfect” is unacceptable. Yet this keeps up mired in lack and fear, dejection and never, ever good enough.” Krista O’Reilly-Davi-Digui
Richard Rohr affirms that “everything belongs,” both the good and the bad, and it takes discernment to learn how to hold the paradox:
“Once we have learned to discern the real and disguised nature of both good and evil, we recognize that everything is broken and fallen, weak and poor—while still being the dwelling place of God: you and me, our countries, our children, our marriages, and even our churches, mosques, and synagogues. That is not a put-down of anybody or anything, but actually creates the freedom to love imperfect things. As Jesus told the rich young man, “God alone is good” (Mark 10:18). We cannot wait for things to be totally perfect to fall in love with them, or we will never love anything. Now, instead, we can love everything!”