Why I can’t just “check my religion at the door”

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“When you come into work you leave your religion at the door,” a former boss told a group of us reporters during a staff meeting months ago.

My eyes were wide. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.

My mind flashed back to a devotional given years ago. The booming, powerful voice of one of the twelve apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Jeffery R. Holland, rang in my ears.

“You never check your religion at the door!”

The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on me. All of this had started with the Mormon leader. I had come full circle.

I sat there reeling. If my boss had said, leave your race, your gender, your sexual orientation at the door, well, I can imagine the lawsuit that would follow.

But he hadn’t. He said religion. As if somehow, faith was less important than other characteristics that innately make up a person.

You don’t often think much about religious discrimination in a place like Rexburg, Idaho.

It just doesn’t happen, some might say. But a few months ago, I learned firsthand that Christians will be called to stand for what is right in some of the most unlikely places – including the heavily LDS populated town of Rexburg.

When it was announced that Holland would be speaking at Brigham Young University-Idaho, on a whim I contacted University Relations and requested an interview.

I was working as a reporter for a local news organization at the time, but was doubtful that an interview was even possible. Generally speaking, when a high profile leader for the LDS Church visits locations like BYU-Idaho on assignment, most of their time is calculatingly scheduled, leaving little time to sit down with the media.

I was shocked to receive a call a few days prior to Holland’s address informing me that I would get 10 minutes of his time.

Elation. I couldn’t believe the news.

This was the man that I sustained as a prophet twice a year at our church’s general conference.

This was the man who, after speaking to a large congregation of Latter-day Saints in Orlando, Florida that I happened to attend, gave me the courage to go on a proselyting mission.

This was the man who had spoken so many prophetic and inspired words that had bolstered my faith during challenging times, pointing me back to Jesus Christ.

After mentioning my golden opportunity to a boss, I found myself sitting in his office, all the joy and excitement leaking out of me.

He expressed to me his desire to ask Holland the “hard” questions. Questions that I felt were thoroughly inappropriate to ask in the short-term setting we would have, or indeed, of a man I sustained as a religious leader.

The questions surrounded controversial issues like women and the priesthood, and in my opinion, seemed more like an attack on the church than on hard-hitting journalistic inquiries. His proposed questions would have me publically question the integrity of the man that would sit in front of me.

Because I was a reporter, it wasn’t just me asking these questions inappropriate for a brief, 10-minute interview. I was representing a community. In essence, I would be saying, “We question your integrity, Elder Holland.”

And that I simply couldn’t do.

Though my boss assured me I would simply be a voice for the voiceless, I disagreed. I felt it came with a price, and compromised my own religious convictions.

I expressed these concerns to my boss, and left his office with a heavy decision weighing on my mind.

What was I to do?

I knew very well what I should do, I thought. I should absolutely not ask those questions.

But the conversation I had just had was still ringing in my ears.

“It’s your job,” a small, boss-like voice seemed to say.

And he was right. I had always taken pride in being that voice for the voiceless, in asking hard questions, in finding truth.

I had asked the hard questions before as I reported on countless stories about mental health, a financial crisis in education and concerns for open meeting violations in city government. The hard questions weren’t the issue. It was the morality of the questions that bothered me.

If I asked Holland these questions, I felt I would be betraying my faith. I would be betraying the sustaining vote I gave him and the other leaders of my church.

Are questions wrong? I asked myself. No. Is it wrong to question our leaders? No, because I don’t believe that God expects us to blindly follow. But the issue was rooted in one simple fact: I had already gained a testimony for myself on the questions I was told to ask. And I personally couldn’t ask the questions without feeling like I was betraying my faith.

So I prayed. And prayed. And cried. And prayed.

I knew what I needed to do. But the questions and the worry still came.

Would I lose my job? How mad would my boss be? How could I graciously stand up for what I believe without offending?

And then suddenly, there I was, shaking with nerves as I sat on the couch across from my hero, Elder Jeffery R. Holland.

I asked him about the missionary effort. We talked about the place for differing opinions in the church. We talked about how technology is changing our religious culture.

We talked about being strong; standing for our convictions.

I finished my questions, I attended his address, I wrote the story. My boss was clearly disappointed, but said very little.

Until a few weeks later at our monthly staff meeting.

I knew one of my boss’s comments were directed at me.

He told us we had to leave our personal issues aside, that we had jobs to do.

“When you come into work, you leave your religion at the door,” he said.

I sat there firmly, resolutely grateful for the decision I had made.

For me, my religion, my faith and my ability to practice that faith is everything.

Eventually, I left the news organization, largely in part of this experience.

And I have no regrets.

Because in the end, it wasn’t hard to decide to stand for what was right.

Because in the end, my interview with Holland taught me something so valuable.

Sometimes, we have to stand up for our beliefs even when unintentional offense will be present. The price of discipleship is not cheap.

I certainly don’t think poorly of my old bosses. I just believe in a way different than they do. And for me, living that belief would never allow me to “leave my religion at the door.”

 

 

What I want my daughter to learn from me instead of Pinterest

Pinterest column photo

I’ve taken a pledge to love my body.

And it was my un-born daughter who was my spark of inspiration.

Halfway through picking a photo filter for a recent Instagram post, I stopped dead.

It was like someone had finally turned up the volume in my head on all of the negative self-talk I had been forcing my soul to listen to whenever the body hate started.

“Oh, look at how stupid my hair looks,” I said.

“Look at how fat my face has gotten! I look so puffy!” I complained.

“I look so… bad,” I thought dejectedly.

This stream of self-hate started as I looked at a picture of myself on Mother’s Day, taken at 31 weeks pregnant.

And well, it was a wake up call to how toxic social media, coupled with my own insecurities, can be.

A few days later I decided to share the picture.

But as I tried to find a filter that made my face look thinner, that stream of negativity returned. But one solitary thought cut off the gush of self-hate like a jerky turn of a faucet.

“What if your daughter heard you say these things about yourself?”

I suddenly felt sick.

For months, I have been thinking of how I wanted to raise this sweet, precious spirit growing inside of me. I have prayed every night for her body — that it would be healthy, strong, beautiful and perfect.

But more than I want her to have a “perfect” body — a perfection that is twisted, contorted and altered by the voices of our materialistic society — I want her to love herself. Especially her body.

And I have to be the one to teach her how. That means I have some changing to do.

If I could be bold enough; if I could be brave enough; if I could put aside my own inadequacies fueled by years of listening to the mendacious media, I could teach her this one, invaluable truth: You are enough.

If I could do this brave thing — learning to love my own body — then maybe, just maybe, my daughter will learn what I still am. That beauty can’t be measured.

Beauty is a lifelong cultivation of goodness.

Because if I don’t, if I’m not a good example of positive body image and healthy self-talk, she’ll surely turn to other resources.

And I know what she’ll find there.

Pinterest will teach her through sayings like “I want to know what it feels like when I DON’T give up,” plastered over visually appealing photos of women with chiseled abs.

Instagram will teach her that the more likes you get the more loved you are — and worth loving.

Facebook will teach her that being “hot” is more important that being kind.

She will learn the false idea that anything less than a photoshopped, flawless figure is the result of “giving up.”

She will learn that loving herself is the product of meeting a standard — one not set by herself, but by the merciless, unforgiving meter called society.

In short, she will learn lies.

And so it has to start with me.

I pledge to be kind to my body. I pledge to not hang my worth on the number I see on the scale. I pledge to work out not because I hate what I see in the mirror, but because I love it. I pledge to fuel my body well — no more cookies and peach candies for lunch.

And perhaps most importantly, I pledge to speak kindly about my body, turning off that stream of negativity for good.

So I challenge each of you to take the #pinterestpledge in your own home to cultivate an atmosphere of positive body image. Encourage your family, your friends, your roommates to speak kindly toward their bodies. Start by sharing an unfiltered, unphotoshopped photo of yourself on social media with the hashtag #pinterestpledge, declaring your own personal pledge to love yourself.

Because you and I? We are enough.

I’ll call you Caitlyn

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I, along with the rest of social media, have watched the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner debate unfold over the past couple of days.

Some of what I have read has been kind. Some has not.

And it’s left my mind spinning.

I cannot relate with Caitlyn or the rest of the Jenner family.

I have never struggled with transgender feelings. As far as I know, neither has anyone in my immediate family. Or extended family.

But what if they did?

What if it was my father? My daughter? My brother?

I’d like to believe I’d treat them with love. Truthfully, knowing so little about a transgender lifestyle, that’s all I could do. Love them.

I am not related to the Jenners.

Nor is it my responsibility to judge their actions. Do I form my own opinions about the situation? Sure. Do I have strong beliefs about it? Yes.

At the end of the day, it’s true: I am not my brother’s keeper.

But as someone wise recently said, I am my brother’s brother.

Or in this case, my sister’s sister.

Right now, it doesn’t matter how I feel about transgender issues. It doesn’t matter how I feel about same-sex attraction. Whether I share my opinion or not, it’s not going to change the fact that Bruce Jenner has asked to be known as Caitlyn Jenner.

What matters is how I act.

I’m not trying to glorify the transgender lifestyle. The media has done that enough.

I am talking about love. About kindness.

I’ve never regretted being kind. I can’t imagine that would change with the newest cover of Vanity Fair magazine.

But I offer this caveat. Showing love toward someone does not mean I agree with their actions. It does not mean I agree with their lifestyle. I believe in the family. But that shouldn’t get in the way of kindness.

In fact, kindness was how I first came to know my Savior, Jesus Christ.

My family was introduced to the LDS church when I was five.

Before my parents were officially baptized into the church, I attended meetings with my aunt, Marney.

I loved going to church. I loved attending Primary, the children’s Sunday school.

I trilled with excitement each week as we learned new songs that came with fun, sometimes silly hand gestures.

The first song I learned while attending my beloved Primary class was simple.

“If you don’t walk as most people do, some people walk away from you, but I won’t. I won’t.

“I’ll walk with you, I’ll talk with you, that’s how I’ll show my love for you.”

This was my favorite song for years.

I have never struggled with transgender issues.

I have struggled with depression. With anxiety. With the pain of making bad choices.

I’ve struggled through a parent’s divorce. Through countless personal battles fought within the depths of my own heart.

Through them all, I had people who embodied the lesson I learned as a child.

They walked with me, they talked with me. That’s how they showed their love for me.

I don’t understand why God gives some of his children trials that are viewed so controversially.

I don’t know why God gave me the trials I’ve had.

But I do know that he sent a Savior to be the example for us.

A Savior who teaches 5-year-olds and 50-year-olds to love one another.

And so, to the woman I’ll never meet, I say this.

I’ll walk with you. I’ll talk with you. I’ll call you Caitlyn.

That’s how I’ll show my love for you.