The Church Has a Responsibility To Believe Us
If you are unfamiliar with the story, or need a refresher, you can start it here.
My last post about it ended with: "Gratefully, the Lord has instilled in me the ability to extend unconditional forgiveness, and I have since been released of all negative feelings surrounding this experience."
I no longer feel that same peace and over the past year I've struggled with shaming myself for getting angry again, blaming myself for not being righteous enough to hold on to the peace I once had; for not being forgiving and letting go of the pain, hurt and subsequent resentment that I felt.
And I did it all silently because I didn't want anyone to know that I'd fallen off the 'peace' wagon.
I'm not sticky anymore; that stickiness that attaches me to God, to the Spirit, to recovery and to the Gospel. It's like I'm one side of two Velcro strips and I'm riddled with lint and debris, or a piece of tape covered in hair, hindering it's ability to adhere. That's me. That's where I'm at.
I've always kind of looked at the church as being God, that in order to be close to Him, I had to be active, paying tithing, taking the sacrament and living as 'doctrinally worthy' as I could. I didn't know how to connect with God outside of that, so I just haven't.
I've since learned that the opposite is true, that God is the church; that God is my church.
Still, even though I haven't been actively attending church, over the past 6 months or so I've been communicating with my bishop here and there, allowing him glimpses into my struggle. But I was scared. I was harboring so much pain from that interaction with my Stake President so many years ago that I felt that in order to heal I still needed to receive some sort of accountability from my direct Priesthood leaders.
After a few months of texting back and forth, I finally met with my bishop. We talked. Through tears, I shared; through tears, he listened. I told him that I hated to put him in this position, but I needed someone to come in and fix this wrong. I needed someone who held keys for me to say that my Stake President was wrong.
His response: "If it really happened the way you said it happened, then he was wrong."
If it really happened...
He didn't believe me.
My bishop at the time of the trauma didn't believe me either. I know this, because he refused to take sides. I kind of understood that because the Stake President was his 'boss' if you will, but it still stung. So my expectation of being believed moved to the the area president, but that just led to more disappointment because he actually said he wasn't going to take sides.
Well guess what. Some issues require taking sides.
This issue requires taking sides. When an injustice occurs, we fight that injustice by taking a stand. When we take a stand, we choose a side. And sometimes, or all the time maybe, not taking a side speaks louder to the side actually chosen than any action otherwise taken.
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
Martin Luther King Jr.
"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot."
My experience has taught me that not being believed is much more painful than the trauma itself.
And then recently reading about Joseph Bishop, in the 80's, sexually assaulting a sister missionary in the MTC, and especially the subsequent cover-up by so many of his leaders has about sent me other the edge. It's like they don't even care about the victim or the pain and suffering caused by the actions of those in Priesthood power. Their knee jerk reaction seems to be damage control; having a church 'spokesperson' release generic, and dare I say--patronizing, press releases every so often (after consulting with many attorneys I'm sure).
All of these experiences, and even a couple I haven't mentioned, has filled me with so much doubt when it comes to Priesthood authority right now. Is it real? Do I even need it? How can the gateway to God be through something that can be so misused?
Still, what I do know is this:
Change has to occur. The church as an institution needs to start practicing the same accountability it preaches. We keep saying Priesthood leaders who abuse their position are fallible men who make mistakes, but at what point does that argument move from reason to rationalization and justification for said actions?
Whether the intent (and subsequent neutrality) was driven by wickedness or ignorance, healing still requires accountability on behalf of the offender himself, or the institution in which he represents.
I deserve to be believed.
That sister missionary deserves to be believed.
You deserve to be believed.
We deserve to be believed.
And the church has a responsibility to believe us, and act accordingly.