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Her shelf collapsed

February 6, 2011

A dear young woman began writing to me on my mission to Moscow. I met her only once, when I was teaching Russian at the MTC and she was there as a missionary preparing to go to South America. It was in the MTC, she writes, that she began to unravel, racked with guilt for her perceived failings. When she returned from her mission, still faithful, she read Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, which notes that Joseph Smith was sealed to at least thirty wives. She felt like she had been punched in the gut, but she put this issue on the shelf.

She kept placing more and more difficult issues on the shelf: blacks and the priesthood, racist comments from church leaders, the implausibility of the creation story, misogyny, the utter permanence of her mother’s death, and the position that homosexuals must remain celibate their entire life. In a meeting with Elder Bednar, she asked why unmarried endowed women could not be temple workers. Elder Bednar replied, “I know the answer to that one. You’re going to have to put that question on the shelf.” At that moment, her  “shelf” collapsed under the burden of too many difficult questions.

She saw my Facebook post of Emily Pearson’s video. She emailed me saying, “reading your Facebook comments made me realize that I needed to finally ‘out’ myself so I put down my new religious status yesterday.” It now reads “agnostic atheist.”

I’m proud of my friend for her courage to be herself.

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