Friday, June 12, 2009

Dear John

The table where I grew up
eating breakfast and lunch and Thanksgiving dinner
was always large enough
for one more.

We put the babies on laps
and bumped elbows--
no "kids' table" allowed.
If you came late and there wasn't space,
we'd pull up another table,
flush against the other,
Added upon.

We held hands and sang our prayers
and everyone took a deep
breath before the final "Amen,"
So we could hold out the harmony
forever and ever
floating it up to the skies
where I imagined the angels joined in.
I pictured tables like ours
in the celestial spheres--
always another to pull up,
winding around in a serpentine chain,
crooked and caddy-wompus with mismatched tablecloths.

So when my Church said
there was no room at the table
for you--
You! The one who always
washed his hands and set the silverware and
shared the very last piece of pie,

I stopped what I was doing,

And clinked my glass
until I was joined by
a large number of other unruly noisemakers
and raised my glass
in a salute
and a toast to your honor:

Let angels and these witnesses
join us at the Heavenly Table
where, somehow
God sits next to each one of us.


xJane said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I feel privileged to be witness to your great friendship with John.

Michael said...

Beautifully said. I know you and John only through your writing, but it is because of your writing that I feel connected to you.

I am sad that my church decides to kick out people who have moved on. They have left. Why kick them as they leave?

Ann said...

Are you going to submit this for publication?


This is beautiful.

G said...

this made me cry...

G said...

(not in a bad way... except that it does hurt.)
if that makes sense.

what i mean is, it's beautiful.

adamf said...

I think it would be nice to have an easier way for people to leave. If someone wants to leave they should get a visit from the SP and sign a paper and be done with it. Maybe that is possible now, but it always seems to be a lot bigger deal than it needs to be for those who have not been active for years.

Lessie said...

Wow, BiV. Beautifully written. We should all be so lucky as to have a friend like you.

JohnR said...

Ok, I think this is the first time I've felt a wave of emotion since this whole thing started. Thank you for this beautiful gift, my dear, dear friend.

Bored in Vernal said...

♥U John

EmilyCC said...

Beautiful poem, BiV!

Alli said...

Really beautiful. I don't even know what more to say but "inspired".

mfranti said...


and was that picture taken at the beehive tea room?

Bored in Vernal said...

Yes, it was!! Lunch, August 2006

Bookslinger said...

adamf: Not that I would recommend it, but the church has been honoring name-removal requests for many years (at least 18 years that I know of). Is that what you're referring to?

One can make up the wording of their own request, or use one of several suggested versions that are floating around the net. I don't think the church has a standard form for it.

The request can be given to one's local bishop, or one's stake president (who will likely forward it to the person's bishop), or directly to the membership records department in SLC.

It is also my understanding that people don't get excommunicated for personal apostasy. Merely believing that the church isn't what it claims to be won't get one ex'ed.

Speaking only of personal apostasy, one would have to openly publish or speak against the church to generate a disciplinary council about excommunication. And such publishing would have to go beyond expressing personal doubts, it would have to cross the line wherein one's words or actions encourage others to disbelieve or turn away. You can believe what you want, but when you _actively_ speak or publish against the brethren or core doctrines, that does cross an important line.

Anonymous said...

I don't know the story.

Did the church actually ex someone who had already left? Why would they do that? How does that do anything but make the whole church look rigid and vindictive and, frankly, weak?

I hope your friend can move on and prosper in every way. I hope you can find some way to reconcile this mean spirited and petty response. But, by virtue of the graciousness and hope of your poem, I sense that you, rather remarkably, already have.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that *John* left the dinner table a long time ago. Then, by publicly blogging about the sacred nature of the temple, it was as if he returned to the table and took a giant crap in the pumpkin pie. Of course, the family is going to be angry. Of course, the family is going to throw him out. It's what he wants, isn't it?

Look, I'm all for free speech, and I've certainly had my share of anger toward the church. I've even contemplated removing my name from the church roles. So, I understand his points. But he wasn't thrown out because he is an eccentric in a family of stuffed shirts, or that he colored outside
the lines. He knew what he was doing and didn't care about the consequences.

He's not a martyr.

Bored in Vernal said...

Anonymous, have you ever met John or spoken to him personally?

Anonymous said...

Yes, but I don't see what difference it makes. He stopped being LDS a long time ago. Besides, his problem with the temple ceremony isn't the real issue with him. He has a problem with authority. Lots of people do. It's okay. But here are the consequences. Did he really think his posts were *really* about educating the public about the evils of the authoritarian church? When he posted about the temple ceremony, it was not to seek understanding of the ceremony. It was to point out what a stupid business this whole thing is.

This whole thing with John makes me sad, not because he may get ex'ed but because he ex'ed himself a long time ago.

John C. said...

John had done things that he knew wuld result in discipline. Was your Mom's table big enough for people who spat in the food? or started food fights? Were people never asked to move away from the table when they were kicking people underneath it?

John knew what he was doing and he knew that there was a risk. I don't begrudge you your sorrow (I'm certainly not happy about the situation), but this really isn't a case of the Church being arbitrary. In fact, if it had acted differently, then it would be a case of the church being arbitrary.

So, I suppose that I can see it being heartbreaking or wrenching because it is hard to see a friend walk away from something you used to share, but then I'm not sure where the joyous comes from.

JohnR said...

John C., I'm not sure if "spitting in the food" or "kicking under the table" are the best analogies. Maybe it would be better to say that I decided that a vegan or kosher diet was right, but was told that I couldn't eat that way and still dine at the table, or that they didn't serve that food there.

I said things that offended some in the family, including the patriarch, but which appealed to a few others in the same group. Also, note that I didn't say them *at* the table. My audience has always been those who sympathized with my views, and share my general experience. Mind on Fire has always appealed to skeptics, not to mainstream Mormons. If I spat, I did it in my own bowl, and this bothered those who looked on.

That said, I want to be clear that I'm not suggesting that the Church shouldn't have ex'd me. But it's still a deep irony to me that my Church leaders (and I worked, in earnest, with many), for over a decade preferred an insincere facade of belief over my sincere and open doubting.

I won't deny that the journey's been bittersweet. But the joyful part comes from being able to live closer to my conscience and to my heart than I could within the Church.

John C. said...

I don't begrudge you your journey and I am glad you are happier now. I also think that if you genuinely think a public discussion of temple things what ought not to be discussed is necessary for your faith journey then you are in deep denial, in particular regarding the aggression implied in such an act. If you disingenuously believe that...

In any case, I'm not sure that a loss of faith (in this church or any other), ought to be publicly feted. But to each their own, I suppose.

JohnR said...

John C said: "In any case, I'm not sure that a loss of faith (in this church or any other), ought to be publicly feted."

I can understand why you and many believers would feel this way, but ultimately, loss of faith (and the potential loss of community) can be a traumatic process, and the Church does a terrible job of of supporting and valuing members who have persistent doubts. Such people often feel isolated, demeaned, and marginalized.

These folks have as much right and perhaps even a greater need to reach out than members do to speak publicly about their faith. I would argue, too, that these communities of doubt do the Church a service by easing our doubt journey.

Because of such online forums, some of us realize that it is possible to carve out a space on the within Mormonism (I have several friends who are active but unbelieving Mormons, who can exercise integrity about their skepticism but remain supportive of their families and neighbors, serving where they can), and others can maintain connections with Mormonism and Mormons even as they exit. Because of my experience with such supportive communities, I believe that I was able to leave less angry and less embittered than many ex-Mormons.

John C. said...

I agree that the church has a spotty track record, but it is apparent to me that the church is becoming more comfortable with people who have alternative paths to faith. In any case, you completely sidestepped my point. Which is fine, actually, because we're just going to agree to disagree in the end, anyhoo.

velska said...

JohnR: "loss of faith (and the potential loss of community)"

That's the part that is difficult for me to understand. I understand loss of faith; I didn't always have it. Does that mean that you start despising people who still have faith — I know sometimes they start despising you, but do you need to "get back" at them or something?

Because if I loved you before, I love you now. Your status doesn't change that. And I don't know the person here (JohnR) at all, so this is not personal to him as much as it is a question to all of those, who feel very alienated from their former faith community.

I mean, if you think they behave badly, does it make things right for you to "pay them back" and behave just as badly? Just asking. This story does hurt me, too, because I know the feeling, the pain of loss, too. I've also felt the healing.

It's more powerful. Don't underestimate the power of the Atonement. The grace really is amazing.