My family moved to Provo, Utah, seven years ago. It was a huge change for us, and one that we were rather reluctant to make. My husband and I met at BYU, and when we left for grad school, we were happy to brush the dust from our feet and assume that we would never be back. Neither of us had been raised in Utah, and we were not entirely comfortable in a Mormon-dominant culture. But to our pleasant surprise, we loved our neighborhood in downtown Provo. It is a mix of working class people, married student couples, artists and entrepreneurs, with a few college professors thrown in for good measure. It is as diverse as Provo gets, and I’m grateful for that.
But as much as we have come to love Provo and the people around us, it is nice to take a break from the bubble that is Utah Valley. Last month we moved to Belgium for a year-long sabbatical, and I hoping that this time will be restorative.
Over the last few years, I had all but stopped reading blogs, and anything that I wrote which would have been a blog post, I kept to myself. Part of that had to do with personal choices: I was in a master’s program, and all of my time and energy were poured into that work. I simply did not have the mental and emotional resources to devote to an online conversation. But the other major factors were the conversations that were happening online, and to a lesser extent, in real life, along the Wasatch Front. Ordain Women, gay marriage, excommunications and boundary control, gun and grazing rights, the policy regarding the baptism of children of couples in a same-sex marriage. Many of these conversations were polarizing, pitting narratives of personal pain against institutional authority. A very few attempted to bridge the gap, sorrowing with those who hurt while giving the benefit of the doubt to both sides, but more often than not, those who tried to hold space for both points of view were excoriated by everyone. Charitable imagination seemed to have failed, along with rigorous argumentation, which seeks the grapple with the other side’s best case rather than an offensive straw man.
In such a climate, what could I say? Especially given that possibility that a faithful, but unorthodox, opinion could potentially jeopardize my ecclesiastical endorsement, risking my education and job?
But now I am out of the bubble, at least for a time. Rather than get all het up about issues of church and state that are directly related to the politics of the American west (seriously, I do not want to hear about how terrible a presidential candidate is at church, nor am I interested in a diatribe about “freedom”), I can go to church and worship with a small community of saints. They don’t know or care about the latest gossip from the COB, or the leadership of the Public Affairs department. And given that Sunday worship is now a safe space distinct from these kinds of conversations, I’m feeling more confident about wading back into the blogosphere. Perhaps optimistically, I am less worried about the overlap between my online conversations here and my interactions with other members of the church in real life.
All of this is to say, even though I’m a little nervous about it, I’m ready to reenter the conversation. It’s good to be back.