|Hiding your head and eyes won't make the problems go away!|
I do think there are things that shouldn't be shared in sacrament meetings. My biological father would come to our ward, after my parents' divorce (and he no longer lived in that ward) and share intimate details of their marriage and divorce. I have been in a meeting in which someone made degrading comments about Muslims that were very racist, and then tried to get everyone in the congregation to stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance with him. Instead, a member of the bishopric escorted him out of the chapel. I have been in a meeting in which someone started to share an appallingly brutal opinion of what should be done to all homosexuals during the 2008 campaign, when many members were actively supporting Prop 8 in California. I was grateful that the bishop stood up and asked her to sit down, and then bore his testimony that Heavenly Father loves all His children, and the physical violence is not justifiable under any circumstances, and he referenced the woman taken in adultery who Christ was merciful to. (I probably would have gone a step farther, but it was a strange time to be a liberal Mormon, even in Oregon.) So, I do believe that there are times when things shouldn't be said as part of Fast and Testimony meeting.
I do not think that every testimony has to be without specifics of a person's struggles. If we can't share those things we struggle with, and how Heavenly Father has helped us to overcome those challenges, we deprive others of a chance to see that they are not alone, that there are others who struggle too, and that there is hope. In my opinion, a "good" testimony is one that brings the Holy Ghost to confirm the testimony in the hearts of those who hear it, who testify of Christ and the power of the Atonement, and that brings Hope to those that hear it. I want to share one such experience that I had, and which I shared in response to the women who thought that share a struggle with drug addiction was not appropriate.
In the middle of a horrendously tumultuous time in my life, I went to stay with a nonmember friend in Colorado for a week. The peace of her home was a balm my soul needed, and by Sunday I was grateful to be able to fast, and to have found a meetinghouse 20 minutes away where I could go to sacrament meeting.
I had intended to go to the 9:00 am service, but we all got up late, so instead I ended up at the 11:00 am one. About halfway through the meeting I had a clear impression that I needed to bear my testimony of the Atonement. Since I didn't know anyone, I ignored it, and continued listening. About 15 minutes before the time for sharing testimonies would have been done, the stand was empty. After five minutes, I knew that no one was going to get up until I did. So, I went to the front and shared my testimony of the healing of the Atonement. I did not have to go into great detail about being raped or molested, and I only briefly explained that part of my struggles came from the misunderstanding of my bishop that led to me being put on church probation when I was raped. My testimony focused on how the Spirit can bring comfort, how the Atonement heals wounds that no man could, and that complete forgiveness is a lifelong quest, not a short term goal.
All of the details don't matter, but a woman, who is now my friend, was sitting in the back of he chapel that day. She, and the entire ward council, were fasting for her to be able to find a way to heal. After fifteen years of struggling with an assault by another church member, she was asking her leaders for support in leaving the church. She had decided that the fifteenth anniversary of her rape was the right day to mail her letter of resignation. She was there on that Sunday at the request of her bishop, who had told her that the entire ward council was praying for her to find a way to feel the love of The Lord.
If I had been too embarrassed to talk about my history of being abused, had wanted to keep people comfortable by leaving the details of my spiritual journey out, so that no one needed to feel uncomfortable with the details, my friend would not be a member of the church. I honestly believe that she would have killed herself by now. If I had worried that I was talking to long, taking up the rest if another ward's fast and testimony meeting, I might have missed the chance to pass on some of the healing that Christ has graciously given me. If I had worried that my testimony was inappropriate for children, I would have stayed in my seat. I certainly do not share these details every time I share my testimony, but if I feel prompted to, I do.
I didn't know the full story, or impact, of that 10 minutes for quite a while. My friend talked to me a little after the meeting, mostly asking a lot if questions about my personal journey. At the time I really didn't have a clue why I had at least ten women standing or sitting next to me, or why so many of them were crying. At the time I was worried that I was keeping so many people from Sunday school. When the bishop came and found me, and asked me if I could meet with him briefly, I really wasn't sure what to expect. It was not bear hugs from him, both of his councilors and two stake high councilors. I got a very brief run down, basically that they had a sister in their ward who had been raped, and that some ward members had been fasting for her. I gave them my contact information and permission to share it with the sister I had been talking to, and any ward member who might have questions.
Several months later I got my first email from my friend, and since then she has shared quite a bit of the back story, from her perspective. Almost six months after my trip to Colorado, the wife if the bishop (who had since been released) called me to ask if I would be willing to answer some questions. She was going to be leading a fifth Sunday discussion on the Atonement. My friend's story was well known, and my testimony seems to have almost become folklore in that stake. She asked me to share my back story, how I happened to be in their ward, and why I had shared that testimony. I am not positive about why the ward taped the conversation of that fifth Sunday meeting, but I treasure my copy of it.
|We can't Mourn With Those That Mourn, if we aren't holding on to them!|
I hope that this doesn't sound self aggrandizing. The Lord is the one who know what was needed. I fought the prompting, and did not expect it to have an impact on anyone but me. The glory belongs to God. I am humbled that he would choose someone as imperfect as me to help someone else. My point in sharing it, is to hopefully help those who have no experiences with these issues, to see that wonderful things can happen if you step out of your comfort zone enough to acknowledge and talk about issues that are usually keep hidden.