Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sarah Granger Kimball

I’d planned to go sequential and show my spiritual development over time through my involvement with women’s history this month, but after watching Tyler Glenn’s video, my heart is breaking, and this is what I have today.

In 1842, Joseph Smith taught Sarah Granger Kimball the doctrine of plural marriage, a doctrine only taught at that time to those that were being asked to live it. At the time, she was married to a non-member (who had made a substantial donation to the Nauvoo Temple’s construction the year prior). Her reply to the prophet: “I asked him to teach it to someone else.” He furthered his case, saying that God had commanded him to teach it to her. Still nothing. He ended by saying he would not cease to pray for her. She never changed her mind.

What happened from here? Was her life filled with ruin? Was she shunned as an apostate by other church members? Did she leave the church and become a vocal opponent of polygamy?

None of the above.

The year following, she initiated the formation of the Relief Society, an organization that would go on to promote spiritual growth, advocate for female suffrage and education, feed the hungry, and strengthen families. Millions have benefitted from her contributions.

She served for over 40 years as a Relief Society President in a Salt Lake City ward, and served for 12 years as general secretary of the Relief Society during Eliza R. Snow’s administration. She held positions of prominence in Utah, including serving as the president of the Utah Woman Suffrage Association.

Her husband joined the church and died while actively serving in it.

In short, she followed her own light, and created a life full of spiritual power and social force.

Did she hide her disagreement with the prophet? No, she did the opposite. She included the encounter in her autobiography, PUBLISHED IN THE RELIEF SOCIETY’S MAJOR PUBLICATION. I should also note that when she published it, polygamy was still in force. Despite her disagreement with the prophet, she stayed true to both her faith and her conscience, while giving her fellow saints the freedom to follow their faith and consciences.

I’ve been trying to channel my inner Sarah Granger Kimball these past few months. It has been a rough time for our LGBT+ members, and my heart has been breaking at the lack of empathy our leaders have been showing this group. It is not my job to declare what the doctrines should be, but there are ways to implement doctrine with compassion and understanding, and we’ve stopped doing it.

I cannot be a person of integrity and deny that I have felt God’s power through priesthood channels, and that He communicates with me as often as I’m listening through living my faith. I cannot be a person of integrity and say that the way our leaders are behaving towards our LGBT+ members and their families is OK. It is not. It has broken my heart repeatedly to hold these two truths. But I’m doing my best to hold them both.

So, I’m striving to emulate Sarah Granger Kimball - committed to my faith, a dedicated servant in building the church, but true to myself (which implies listening, trying to promote understanding, and creating safe spaces in my realm of influence). I cannot support our leaders’ callousness of late, and I will not pretend that I do. But I will not deny that God’s power is in this church, and I will not deny myself the blessings that come through living it to my utmost.

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