I recently participated in an interfaith fast one of my friends organized on behalf of the kidnapped Nigerian girls. Over 3500 people participated, and I was given the name of one of the girls to specifically pray for. It was an important moment in my spiritual development.
I don't fast very often. Between pregnancy, breastfeeding, and blood sugar issues, my body can't support the traditional Mormon 24-hour fast. I tried to be extra prayerful when friends and family had specific challenges they were facing, but when most fast Sundays rolled around, I didn't treat the day any differently. But the organizers of this fast provided information on alternative fasting, and fasting practices of different faiths. I decided for this fast, I would try sticking to a diet of very simple foods, and make sure my thoughts always turned towards my assigned student when I did eat.
I learned some important things in this fast. I learned about the value of keeping my heart open to the realities of others. It is easy to feel hopeless when faced with the ugliness of the world, and easy to feel powerless to stop it. Tuning it out would hurt less. But God wants us to mourn with those that mourn, and just because I can't do much to stop hatred and cruelty doesn't excuse me from doing the small actions I can. I learned about how I understand and act differently when I focus on individuals, rather than groups. I learned that even when we reach out to God in imperfect forms, he reaches back. And I am energized to experiment with different forms of fasting in upcoming months. This was a big moment for me, and it will hopefully to continue to be important.
My friend that organized this fast is part of Ordain Women. And many people have told her to her face that if she doesn't like the current system, she should just leave the church.
I have no problem with people saying they disagree with Ordain Women. I have no problem with people joining counter facebook groups asserting their faith in the current system. I don't even have a problem with people saying they just don't understand Ordain Women, given the speaker has put even a little bit of effort into hearing these women explain their feelings in their own words. But what I can't stomach is people saying that if they are so unhappy, they should just leave.
Lots of words are thrown around about the small minority of Mormon women that want female ordination, based on the 2011 Pew survey. Let's ignore the fact that the study was done before Mormon Feminism became the known phenomenon it has become in the past few years, and I'm positive the numbers are different now. Even though it is a small percentage, in a church of 15 million, YOU ARE ASKING HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE TO LEAVE.
I have several friends and acquaintances that have participated in Ordain Women events, and many more that support female ordination. So let me tell you about these women you are asking to leave. You are asking my friend that I mentioned above to leave. You are asking the woman who felt prompted to take notes of my child's beautiful baby blessing to leave (I reached into my bag and realized I'd forgotten my notebook and all I had was a crayon and a mostly-filled coloring book to take notes with – she caught details I hadn't remembered). You are asking the woman that made me feel at home when I attended my first relief society activity in a ward where everybody but me seemed to have kids, and I felt out of place, to leave. You are asking several primary teachers my children have loved and learned important lessons from to leave. You are asking the friend that loaned me her car for SEVERAL MONTHS so I could get out of the house and stave off the baby blues to leave.
And every last one of these women have children, and you are by extension telling them to just leave. Those generations will be gone.
I know these women. They are not the kind of women that attend church when they feel like it, and keep the commandments when they feel like it. They worship regularly, the engage in their faith meaningfully, and they serve diligently. They strengthen those around them. And they feel A LOT of pain from the current structure.
My relationship to Ordain Women is complicated (I'll tackle it another day), but my relationship to the women in it is not: they are my sisters, and I need them. I am better for having them in my life. I need their courage, empathy, creativity, and open hearts. I need their ability to see suffering, large and small, and act to improve it. I need the reminder not to coast through life, but to always examine my spirituality and my relationship to my faith.
So by all means, tell them you disagree with them. But say it with love, and say it in a way that allows me to continue to grow alongside them.