Eric D. Huntsman, professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at BYU, gave a devotional on August 7th entitled, “Hard Sayings and Safe Spaces: Making Room for Struggle as Well as Faith.” This devotional made the rounds on social media as the “devotional we all need.” Within this devotional, Professor Huntsman discussed loving our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, the representation of women in the scriptures, struggling with a son diagnosed with autism, and loving all those around us. It is a powerful and moving devotional—and worth your time. The Church that he discusses is the Church that I believe in.
As a life-long member of the LDS Church, I feel as though I have seen all sides of the culture coin. I’ve seen the ways in which saints in the Church can reject, gossip, and harm one another. I’ve seen the way that we can offend and make others turn away. I’ve seen the hurt caused by those who use unrighteous dominion in their callings and family. And ye, I’ve seen communities bolstered and strengthened through Mormon Helping Hands. I’ve seen individuals accept members of my family who have physical and mental handicaps. I’ve seen LDS families love their LGBTQ family members. I’ve seen a ward mourn with my brother and sister-in-law as they lost their son. These example are the Church the I believe in.
As with many of my generation, I do not believe in a Church culture that rejects someone because of their differences. I believe in a Church that accepts them and celebrates their differences. I believe in the words I sung as a primary child, “As [Christ] has loved [me], love one another.” I believe in Heavenly parents who love and celebrate us because of our various backgrounds, political beliefs, and orientations. I believe these differences make the world a glorious place, not a place of worry. I believe in a Church of continued love for those who leave us. I believe in a body of saints who are okay with those who leave, who do not paint them as projects or the enemy. I believe in a body of saints that listens to those who feel oppressed, those who feel offended, those who feel unwanted, those who feel scared, those who feel depressed, and those who feel angry. I believe in a gospel of hope, love, forgiveness, and restitution. Above all else, I believe in my elder brother, Jesus Christ, who suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane for every person who has, is, or will, live on this Earth. I believe in a Savior who knows your struggles, and a Savior who knows mine.
This is the Church that I believe in. I believe that as we proclaim this gospel and spread His grace, we will see lives change. However, as Professor Huntsman points out, “Before we reach such mornings of glory, we must help each other through nights of struggle. Without diluting our doctrine or compromising our standards, we must open our hearts wider, reach out farther, and love more loudly; making spaces for struggle and faith.” We need to be there for those who we know—listen to their struggles, their doubts, their concerns, and don’t advise. Just listen. We are all God’s children, and our differences make this earth the wonderful place that it is. Together, we make “a beautiful mosaic of saints.”