Taking Ally Isom at Her Word

On Sunday I decided to bear my testimony in sacrament meeting and talk about my involvement with Ordain Women. I’ve transcribed below approximately what I said. In case you were wondering, in my opinion it was only the third strangest testimony of the meeting. Yay for Mormon weirdness!

Next post I’ll share the response so far from my local leaders and fellow ward members. I think you’ll find it to be generally good news.

This past year I taught Book of Mormon in seminary and I absolutely loved it. I loved the kids, even when they were half-asleep or all-the-way asleep, or even when my son was making smart remarks. What I especially loved, though, was the opportunity to help the kids develop a personal relationship with God.

I love the Book of Mormon and am deeply moved by many of its teachings. One of my favorites is when Nephi teaches us that all are alike unto God. Over the years this scripture and other Church teachings have led me along a path of life that may be different from yours, and that is what I’d like to talk about even though it is hard for me. I feel very vulnerable baring my soul like this so I hope you’ll bear with me.

Two weeks ago I did not attend stake conference and last week I did not attend sacrament meeting. The reason I did not attend was that it was too painful for me to do so. As the bishop and stake president and a few others know, I have had a profile on the Ordain Women website for more than a year. I believe that the Church would benefit from more women’s voices in leadership. I also believe that the heavens are still open and that God will yet reveal many great and important things, and it is my prayer that female ordination will be one of them. So I was heartbroken when Kate Kelly was excommunicated.

I share this for a couple of reasons. One reason is because an LDS Church spokeswoman recently stated that our congregations should be safe places for us to discuss female ordination and other challenging issues. I guess I’m putting this to the test. But I also share this in the hope that you–my friends–may mourn with me even if you don’t agree with me.

I have faith that this Church I love is big enough for members like me who yearn for new revelations on fuller inclusion of women in church governance. I have faith that our Church is big enough for members who think I’m wrong or just plain bonkers for desiring such revelations. I have faith that our Church is big enough for those who may feel isolated or excluded—for our gay members, for single members, for divorced members, for those who struggle to speak English, for those who doubt.

I hope that if you are sitting in this congregation and are hurting, feeling that you are the only one who feels the way you do, that no one cares whether you show up next week or not—I hope that you will give us a chance to prove you wrong.

When Jesus left the 99 to go out after the one wandering sheep, I don’t believe he cared what that sheep looked like, how worthy it was, or whether it fit in with the other 99. He loved that sheep for what it was and he wanted to save it. I believe that we are all that one wandering sheep, and I pray that in our role as Christ’s under-shepherds we can have the compassion and empathy to save one another.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


  1. This is excellent, Mike. I especially liked that you expressed faith or confidence in the Church being big enough for all the out-of-the-mainstream types. I hope you’re right!

  2. I would love to do this. What a wonderful opportunity you provided your ward. You gave these ideas a face and someone they could reach out and talk to. It could create a huge gulf in my ward. I can’t imagine what a relief it would be to just tell everyone how sad and hurt I feel and wonder if the bishop and stake president are going to give me a temple recommend despite my unpopular beliefs. I wish I was brave enough to wear my religion on my sleeve——like EVERYONE ELSE GETS TO DO EVERY WEEK! I have to sit quietly in hiding and anger and sadness. Oh, that I were and angel and could have the wish of my heart.
    What happened next, Mike?

  3. “One reason is because an LDS Church spokeswoman recently stated that our congregations should be safe places for us to discuss female ordination and other challenging issues. I guess I’m putting this to the test.”

    Publishing your testimony for the entire internet to see is not the best way of putting that statement to the test. By publishing your testimony in a venue outside of your local level you have introduced a major variable into your experiment thus contaminating any results.

  4. Ziff and Hinged, thanks for the kind comments. Hinged, I hear you about wishing I could be myself and still be accepted by the community I adore. More conventional members get to do it all the time, yet I feel that I must carefully tread a minefield as I try to be me.

    Jeff G, I’m glad you like visiting the ZD blog so much. I’m not exactly sure what you mean by your comment. I thought long and hard about my testimony and then thought long and hard about sharing it. I suppose the reason I shared it at church was because I was hurting and was hoping my fellow members could mourn with me (which they have, for the most part). I share it on the internet probably for the same reason you comment–to uplift others and to help others find a model for being Mormon that works for them. Also, to give hope to those like me who struggle to fit in.

    But, I will provide more details about my motivation in my next post.

  5. MikeC,

    I wasn’t really commenting on your motivate. Rather, I was commenting on the fact that you wanted to test whether you could speak within a relatively private sphere by posting your words within a public sphere. You did not test Isom’s promise at all.

  6. Jeff, he did give it in the “relatively private” sphere of his own congregation’s testimony meeting. I’m not sure why his also reporting it here would undermine that.

  7. This was beautiful. I am glad you said those things over the pulpit. And thank you for sharing them here. In particular, thank you for remembering the singles. I left the Church as a 31-year-old single facing a life of isolation, celibacy, and disconnection. Although people in my family ward were kind, I often felt “forgotten.” And, as a woman, I knew I would never have status in the Church as long as I remained unmarried.

    Although I ultimately chose to leave, my heart still goes out to singles- a group often overlooked. I know the pain and the quiet anger and the feelings of invisibility. Like you, I hope the Church will one day find a way to make room for this group and all those who suffer.

  8. Melyngoch,

    The whole point of Isom’s statement was that we do have a safe place to be open in our questions and doubts regarding certain policies – and that place is at the local level rather than the worldly media.

    In other words, if Mike had truly put what she said to the test, I would have never heard about it…. which is probably the intent. The fact that I did hear about it and that we are debating it here in the public sphere means that Mike did not keep this matter within any kind of a public sphere. He publicized what Isom was trying to privatize.

    My objection, then, is not to what he did during sacrament meeting. Quite frankily, I don’t care since its none of my business. What I do object to, then, is the fact that I know anything about it since, again, its supposed to be none of my business.

  9. Hello, JL. I remember you. I’m glad to see you. Mike, this was a beautiful testimony. Thank you for sharing.

  10. I don’t think we are all the one sheep. I think Christ would have clearly said so if that was the intent of the parable. Admitting one has wandered off is a first step towards coming back to the fold.

  11. Thanks Mike C for sharing this in this context.

    So, Jeff G (Sometimes don’t people just want to say G Jeff?), according to you it’s not in accord with Isom’s articulation for Mike C to come here and share what happened to him Sunday, but it’s okay for you to come here and tell him that he didn’t? Why do you have the privilege to come and so judge his doing as out line? How does your comportment align with Isom’s articulations? Or isn’t it necessary? Or is it hypocrisy?

  12. Because I’m not questioning the policies of priesthood leaders. Because I’m not claiming to keep things at the local level. Because I don’t claim to be putting Isom’s to the test. Because I’m doing the exact same thing you just did. Should I go on?

  13. I guess.

    I didn’t think I was saying anything all that deep or critical, nor did I think Mike took it that way. But then all these white-knights show up to defend their ally with cries of “hypocrisy” and “privilege”. Give me a break. Either show how I’m wrong, acknowledge the point – which, again, wan’t all that deep or critical – or simply ignore my claim.

    Why all the hostility at my person rather than my claim? What does labeling me privileged, hypocritical or a caricature accomplish?

  14. I agree with Jeff G. By going public with your “test” right away before the test is concluded, you are not testing what you set out to test. Now, if you receive any negative/positive attention, you can’t say for sure if going public about it affected your results.
    Jeff G. might overestimate your blog traffic, but I think you are overestimating your privacy on this public blog. How do you know who sees this? You may have people in your ward who browse this website and your posting this affects them differently than hearing your testimony in person in a private setting.
    I think Jeff G. is simply saying that if you want to speak in sac. mtg. and tell us what you said that is fine, but you should be aware that you have contaminated your experiment as you originally set out to do. You simply have a different experiment now. So feel free to tell us the results, but be clear on what you are actually testing.

  15. LOL. I never saw where “feeling welcome, safe and valued at Church” and there being “room for asking questions” in meetings ever foreclosed members and non-members talking about it in public or having questions there too. In my Mormon neighborhood, people talk about what happened at church all the time: out in the streets and in the stores and parks and all around, even on Fast Sunday. They discuss lessons from correlated manuals, conference talks, testimonies borne, that purple tie so-and-so wore. They are engaged in the gospel message in the world. This site is just another block in the ward.

    Isom said “…In the Church, we want everyone to feel welcome, safe and valued, and of course, there is room to ask questions. But how we ask is just as important as what we ask. We should not try to dictate to God what is right for His Church….”

    Listen, I get the being sensitive angle. But in our families we take our experiences that are private and our questions relative to them out and share them for our and others’ benefits.

  16. This whole situation is so bizarre. Of course our congregations *should* be safe places to come and reason together, and so should blogs (ideally). But blogs are more likely to get the attention of the “strengthening” the church members committee. We just have no idea who’s on their radar or what they’re looking for. You only know it’s time to worry when certain elders do “trainings” in your area.

  17. Wreddy,

    “This site is just another block in the ward.”

    I think this is where we probably disagree. I do not see blogs as being part of a private conversation among neighbors at all. I see it as a media center (of varying popularity) with all of the potential subversivity that that entails.

    But then again, I don’t see that big of a difference between the two since both are instances of a public spheres in the Habermasian sense – again, with all the potential for subversion that this implies.

    In the Enlightenment, there were London coffeeshops, Parisian salons and German Tischgesellschaften that were all cases of face-to-face public spheres. The rise of independent news papers and journals were also Enlightenment phenomena which were functionally aimed at criticizing the establishment which held sway over the authors and their readership. This is the historical origin of the journalistic mantra “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted.” Today the public sphere has expanded into the online world of blogging and one could never hope for a better example than the bloggernacle.

    In all of these cases, a group which is explicitly based in solidarity among the like-minded or “sharing experiences for others’ benefits” is implicitly geared toward constraining and chaffing at the exercise of power by some established institution. This is why church counseled against private meetings to discuss doctrine in the 90’s. It is the same reason why the church has tried to remove certain questions from the public sphere in the last couple months. It the same reason, I submit, why Isom tried to encourage conversations at the local level.

    Yes, the church wants us to discuss the gospel… but never too far from the oversight of priesthood authority. Hence, discussing things in church meetings? Fine. Discussing things at a house within the ward? Usually okay, but not always as we saw in the 90’s. Discussing things in a totally public forum where priesthood authority has no clear jurisdiction… ambiguous at best as we have seen in the last few months.

    Whether you agree with my perspective or not, I hope it shows why I see Mike’s experiment as a failed one from the word go.

  18. Jeff G, you see Mike C’s test as failed since he brought its articulation to this “coffeehouse” ( maybe “ice cream shop” would be better) for disclosure, discussion, and debate. Right? Instead, you believe he should have kept it to himself and his fellow attendees, because now, here, subversion of it or a possibility of subversion exists and it can’t be controlled, whereas the priesthood could otherwise better control it. Have I got that right?

    If so, no, respectfully, I don’t, based upon LDS history and the ongoing evolution of the gospel, agree with your perspective. When you use rhetoric like “…white-knights show[ing] up to defend their ally with cries of ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘privilege'” I can see why you think public discourse can spin out of control. Look again. All I ever did was ask you some questions.

    But let’s see what Mike C says in the next posting.

  19. Jeff G., we at ZD are quite unaware of any authoritative priesthood prohibition on the public discussion of the gospel, the church, or the meanings and implications of recent events. Further analyses of the public sphere which amount to a critique of our blog and of the kinds of discussions we host will be deleted. In the absence of authoritative priesthood prohibition, we are entirely disinclined to defend our right to exist. Thank you for your understanding.

  20. Mike, I particularly appreciate your hope for compassion and empathy among members, particularly where it’s hardest, across the gulfs that lately feel so vast. Honest, careful speaking and listening have rarely been so necessary. I admire your expression of hope and faith, and I especially appreciate members who share that faith and are kind to me in spite of their deep disagreements with me.

  21. I’m with Jeff G’s original point and I’m with his clarification that it’s not that big a deal. I also think JKS restated Jeff’s original point quite well. His subsequent comments are all couched in explaining his original thought, which is that Mike’s “test” is flawed by his posting it on a public blog. That says nothing about the content of the blog nor does it critique the blog, it also says nothing about whether Mike should or should not post his testimony here, it’s just a reiteration about its public nature. Given that he didn’t critique or criticize ZD makes the bouncer’s threats curiouser and curioser.

  22. Did you read Jeff’s most recent comment, KLC? He’s suggesting that our blog shouldn’t exist without proper priesthood oversight, oversight that he appears ready and willing to supply.

    Seriously, though, did anyone read Mike’s OP that carefully? He had already gotten reactions before he even wrote this post! So even if you’re that concerned that Mike has contaminated his carefully-controlled study by using the vast media empire of ZD to broadcast his intentions, you might still be interested to hear him report the responses that he got before he even wrote this post.

    Really, though, how long would you expect him to shut up about having done something like this? Could he blog about it after a month? A year? A decade? I ask because it sounds to me like you all who are worried about Mike contaminating his attempt are really more concerned about shutting him up than you are about some perfect ideal form of his asking a question in church and keeping carefully quiet in any other forum about the question. It sounds like you’re just deeply uncomfortable with him asking questions at all, and you’re only too happy to be able to cloak your discomfort with questions by complaining about “contamination.”

  23. Wow, I wasn’t anticipated this much hubub. I’ve been away from the internetz enjoying a “subversive” Mofem snacker, so it seems I’ve missed all the fun.

    Thanks JL, Ann, wreddy, and Eve, for the kind comments. This may sound lame, but for me sharing my testimony like this in front of my congregation was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I agonized about it both before and after, but I feel a better person for having done so. It is nice to hear your support.

    I really don’t care about the criticisms of my “experiment”. Obviously, the experiment was not the main point of my testimony. I am willing to accept the consequences of what I did both in my ward and online. I am not concerned about my local leaders–they already know where I stand–or that strengthening members committee (who I’m sure have much bigger fish to fry).

    I do care about making space, both for myself and for those who may hurt in ways that I hurt, or who hurt in any other way. I am sure that there are members who disagree with Ordain Women but who may benefit from other members like me being more authentic; it might give them space to be more authentic themselves. In general, I believe that the more we are able to be real–who we truly are–the more peace and joy we can find, even in the midst of hard times.

    That is my hope, anyway.

  24. If what you have to say will make the church look good, share your testimony for all the world to see.

    If you’re hurting because of people, practices, or teachings in your congregation, say nothing about it in public.

    If there’s a difference between this mindset and the one that has had some Boy Scout leaders, preachers of other faiths, and LDS church bishops telling members not to go to the police when they’re sexually abused, but to instead “handle it” in a way that is not in the best interests of victims and potential victims … then I’m not seeing it.

  25. I suppose you could say that inspiration makes all the difference. But if the outcomes are the same — if the result is that the comfortable are comforted and the afflicted are thrown out the door — then does it, really?

    A defence of the status quo, when the status quo involves innocents suffering, is antichrist. Either that, or Christ is for innocents suffering.

  26. Ziff, I’m not concerned at all about whether Mike contaminated his carefully controlled study. Did you read my post and Jeff’s post where we both said that his original point is not that big of a deal?

  27. Sorry about that Olea. It looks like I may have set that to be the default when I set my “supplemental materials” post to not allow comments. In any case, comments are now open! 🙂

  28. It seems to me that the “test” Mike C was offering has been obscured. If I read his statement correctly, the test was this:

    Is my congregation a safe place to talk about challenging issues?

    I could be wrong (should I call to clarify, Mike? #brotherlyprivilege), but this was not an effort to address public discourse versus private discourse, not a test of the Mormon Dissident Broadcasting System, but a personal and meaningful exploration as to whether Mike C could have a safe conversation about Ordain Women with the brothers and sisters he worships with every week.

    He had a hypothesis that it would be safe. He tested it. Results were observed by all. It’s a blending of religious and scientific methodology! Science + Theology = Scientology!

    [On a more absurd note regarding #20: Gospel discussion needs oversight with proper priesthood jurisdiction? Thank God I’m a man and ordained elder, so I can discuss the Gospel with great freedom and self-supervision. I feel sorry for scholars like Lynnette, who have to wait for Ziff to show up before she can make any meaningful theological posts. Thanks for helping her out, Ziff!]

  29. Yeah, Ziff, thanks for presiding on this blog so that I know that all posts have been written under the direction of the priesthood.

  30. I am the only presider here! All bow to my merman costume!

    I believe the discussion has run its course so let’s move on to Mike’s next post.

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