When I had been the Relief Society president for about a year, a woman in the ward came to my house one Sunday evening. She said she felt like there was no place for her at church, that she wasn’t wanted or accepted there because her views and opinions didn’t match those many others had. She also expressed distress at some of the programs, policies and culture at church that she felt limited women and stifled their voices. She said she was not sure she could keep coming to church—that it hurt too much.
It was the first time I had had a conversation like this—although over the next year and a half, I would have many more with many others. I shared many of her opinions about women’s roles at church but her fervor was new to me and I felt alarmed—and helpless. I told her I cared about her and wanted her at church. I said I knew she found truth and beauty there—that I knew she felt church was a place people could come to Christ. She agreed. I said, “Then please don’t leave. Focus on the role church plays in bringing people, bringing you, to Christ and let go of the rest. All of the rest—those programs and policies—they’re just fluff.”
When I first read this lesson, I thought of that conversation. In essence, I was reminding this woman that she had built her testimony on the foundation of Jesus Christ and that was what mattered. I still believe that.
But actually, it’s not what I told her, but instead her response to my admonition that has really stayed with me. She said, “What if that fluff has gotten so thick that I can’t see through it anymore?”
We are told in Helaman 5:2 “that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that yet must build your foundation.” After all, it reminds us in verse 9 that “there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.”
We know also that at some point for all of us “the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind” and that “his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you.” These whirlwinds can come in many forms: sickness, economic struggles, hurts committed against us by others, broken hearts, or, perhaps faith challenges—which might sometimes be caused by the “fluff” of policies, programs, words of leaders, cultural norms etc. that feel hurtful and confusing.
I believe there are two ways to help when storms rage in our lives or the lives of others. First, of course, we can build our foundation on Jesus Christ and help others build theirs. We can pray, read our scriptures, serve others, strengthen our personal relationship with Christ, and nurture our faith. The stronger our foundation, the more prepared we will be for the whirlwinds.
Sometimes, though, we can also do something about the whirlwind. Of course life is filled with whirlwinds that we can’t do anything to prevent or even control. But sometimes we can—in fact, sometimes we can do a lot.
Sometimes I think we actually add to the wind at church—that we turn a fan on high and point it toward people, some of whom already have other storms raging against them. Then when they blow away we say, “I guess you weren’t grounded enough. You should’ve built a stronger foundation.”
Instead, let’s turn off the fans. We can do that by listening to what causes people pain at church with a heart open to understanding. I’ve seen people at church go to great lengths to serve—to reach out a helping hand to those who are suffering from all types of emotional and physical pain. But I wish we could do a little better at reaching out to those who are blown about in a faith whirlwind. Instead of just telling them what is wrong with their foundation, maybe we could stand beside them to shield them from the wind. Maybe we could hold our own umbrella over them to stop some of the rain. After all, a friend that truly cares without judging is an important addition to any foundation.
But even more useful would be to take a good long look at the fan and see if we might make some adjustments there—to the program and policies that are causing some to feel like a mighty storm is beating down. Or another way to say it is that instead of just telling people to look harder, we might help clear away a little of that fluff so they can more clearly see those beautiful truths of the gospel.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
Where Her Truth Is, Morgan Lyon Cotti
“In the end, we each have to figure out where our truth is. It may sound like a trite cliché, but it is of paramount importance. It helps us weed out the nonsense. I know I have value within my home and community, sadly I don’t always feel that within my home ward. But I know what I feel is true. I know what I love about the gospel, and my knowledge, leadership and other attributes are valued within that space.”
All Here Together, Bianca Morrison Dillard
I think of Mormonism like this image of the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, rolling forward to envelop the Earth. I feel like that is the Gospel of Christ. And we are just rolling along, picking up ideas and beautiful light and knowledge as we go. That’s what Mormonism is to me. Love and inclusion. All the people, all the ideas, and everything that is virtuous and lovely and of good report and praiseworthy. And then everything else will fall away.
Other Related Women’s Voices
At All Times, In All Things, and In All Places, Elaine S. Dalton
“Your foundation of faith must be firmly centered on Jesus Christ. Having that kind of faith means you rely on Him, you trust in Him, and even though you do not understand all things, you know that He does. You also know that you are a daughter of God, that He knows you by name, that He hears your prayers, and that He will help you accomplish your earthly mission.”
Come to Relief Society, Virginia U. Jensen
“The first objective of Relief Society is to build faith in Jesus Christ and to teach one another the doctrines of the kingdom of God. Through Relief Society lessons, activities, and shared experiences, you can gain a testimony or you can strengthen the testimony you already have. When it comes right down to it, that may be the single most important thing we do in Relief Society, for the spiritual strength and secure testimonies of the women of the Church are absolutely vital—to themselves, to their families, to their branches and wards, and to the world itself.”