The first month of school I was feeling like a failure as a teacher. I’ve changed positions at my school, and my new job is hard. After one particularly challenging week, I prayed for support and was inspired to read Alma 32. At the time, I interpreted the inspiration as an acknowledgement that I was planting good seeds that would grow (and that I needed to be patient to see the fruits of my labors in the classroom).
I still believe this is true, but the chapter has taken on new meaning for me in the last week.
This weekend I’ve been heartbroken. The recent policy change by the church has hit me harder than I expected. To make a long story short, I’m queer, I’ve spent most of the last decade not wanting to process what that meant, and when this past week hit, I realized I couldn’t avoid things any longer.
I’m still in a place where I’m processing a lot of things. I haven’t figured out much, but I’ve returned to Alma 32 to find reminders of what’s important as I figure out my path forward. Verse 28:
…Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed … behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
The Lord has given me the spiritual tools to discern what is good and true. First, I can look at the policy of the church and say that for me this policy is neither good nor true. The human collateral is too high. This does not draw anyone closer to God or Christ, and it enlarges no one’s soul. It is bitter fruit, especially for those of us in the LGBTQ+ community.
But what does that mean for me? What seeds do I plant and cultivate? Here is my litmus test:
…Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good.
Here are the seeds I want to cultivate and tend:
In my own life, I have some work to do. I’ve been spiritually lazy for a few years, mostly ignoring God and not really doing much work on drawing closer to him and/or working on being a better, more moral person. I need to do some serious soul-searching and figure out who it is that I want to be and what it will take to be that kind of person.
I also have some hard identity work that I need to do. In no way am I ashamed of who I am, but I’ve been avoiding myself for far too long, and that is no longer emotionally sustainable.
I need spiritual community. I’ve been missing this in my life, and again, avoiding it because the easy answer (returning to church after being inactive for a number of years) has been complicated. I’m on the fence whether I can return to activity in Mormonism or not. This is a spiritual community that means a lot to me, but I’m not sure this spiritual community can currently meet my own emotional needs. Incidentally, while reading through Alma 32 as I was writing this post, when I read verses 9-11, they spoke to me:
Behold thy brother hath said, what shall we do?—for we are cast out of our synagogues, that we cannot worship our God.
Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only?
And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week?
Yesterday, when I was debating whether or not to go to church, I got the impression that it was my choice. And when I read these verses last night, I very much felt like God is giving me the permission to do what I need to do to take care of myself. I strongly feel that if I need to worship my Mormon God away from Mormon synagogues for the time being, he’s okay with that.
The last seed that I want to cultivate is empathy and support for others, especially those who are suffering. I’m profoundly hurt and emotionally fragile, but this is not the most challenging emotional trial I’ve been through, and I will acknowledge that I’m relatively protected and privileged—I’m married to an amazing man who accepts me for who I am, and we don’t have any children impacted by this decision. My family and friends also love and support me for who I am. But there is a community of people who are in immense pain right now, who are not protected, and they are my people. I feel called to support them somehow. I’m not sure how best to do this, but I know that care of others who are hurting is a seed I need to cultivate more thoroughly than I currently am.
In all of this, there are a couple things that are sustaining me.
First, I feel immensely blessed by the people who care about me. Second, I am turning to the Lord. When I was at my lowest this past weekend, I felt inspired to look up the hymn “Lean on my Ample Arm,” and I felt a wave of peace wash over me. Here are the words to this hymn:
Lean on my ample arm, O thou depressed! And I will bid the storm cease in thy breast. Whate’er thy lot may be on life’s complaining sea, if thou wilt come to me, thou shalt have rest.
Lift up thy tearful eyes, sad heart, to me; I am the sacrifice offered for thee. In me thy pain shall cease, in me is thy release, in me thou shalt have peace eternally.
The Savior’s Atonement is not just there so that we can atone for our sins; it’s there for our pain and suffering, and while it cannot make everything magically better, I have faith that it can bring enough peace to our lives that we can continue forward along the difficult paths of life.
And as I move forward, I have the promises in the final verses (42-43) of Alma 32 in my sights as I start to plant and cultivate my seeds:
And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.
Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.