David F. Holland says don't miss ‘Crossings’

Our gratitude to David F. Holland, the John A. Bartlett Professor of New England Church History at Harvard Divinity School, who provided this guest column. 

In the final chapter of Melissa Inouye's new book Crossings, she offers her reader a series of concluding thoughts on her experience as an Asian-American, mission-serving, dissertation-defending, family-raising, student-mentoring, head-shaving, sketch-drawing, testimony-carrying and cancer-fighting Latter-day Saint.

That is a lot to sum up in a few final paragraphs. But, as the book demonstrates again and again, Inouye’s concise passages can pack a marvelously heavy punch. The conclusion is no exception. One brief line in particular captures the weight of her message:

Our practical theology blurs the boundaries between the sacred and the profane, the ethereal and the quotidian.”

Inouye’s Crossings does not merely declare that notion; rather it is manifest on every page. Indeed, the very structure of the memoir—which mixes the gritty minutia of lived lives (the process of replacing a kitchen floor, the number of cockroaches killed in a cheap motel room) with illuminating reflections on divinity and eternity—illustrates that each moment of time can carry echoes of the timeless.

As a historian, I always smile a bit when my colleagues complain about the unreliability of memoir and autobiography. Personal histories, the complaint goes, tend to manage and massage the messy reality of life into the simpler story the writer hopes to convey. That charge is amusing to me because historians do precisely what they grouse about memoirists doing—They, too, gather up the fragments of lived pasts to compose order and argument. Maybe they have more critical detachment in this process, but I’m not always so sure even about that. In this sense, the memoirist unsettles historians not so much because she is a biased obstacle to historical truth but because she is a formidable competitor in the marketplace of history. She lays claim to her own experience before the scholars can get their mitts on it.

In a strikingly essentialist declaration, the famed historian Richard White’s once declared: “I am a historian. I don’t believe in transcendence.” To that, Melissa Inouye seems to say, “I am a Latter-day Saint. I believe in the interplay of historical grime and transcendent purpose.” Inouye knows that the very nature of historical recovery involves meaning making, whether academic historians want to admit it or not. And she resolutely insists on retaining her rights over the meaning of her life: first for the sake of her children, and then for all of us who have the privilege of reading her book.

Streets strewn with roadkill rats, scatological humor at the expense of colon cancer, a mother who loses a batter with cancer and a daughter who still resolutely fights: In Inouye’s hands, these are the ingredients of transcendence. The writing of one’s own history need not be a zero-sum struggle between earthy experience and higher meaning. When done well, each illuminates the other. Such is the effect of Crossings.

Crossings is part of the Maxwell Institute's ongoing Living Faith book series, where Latter-day Saint scholars bring their academic training to bear on their faith, and their faith to bear on their academic training. For readers who value the life of the mind and things of the spirit alike, and perhaps don't even separate the two categories. Available in print, e-book, and audio now from Deseret Book, Amazon, and elsewhere. 

Upcoming Events

  • July 17, 24, 31
    Brown Bag Wednesday

  • July 14
    Explorations in the Book of Mormon: a special evening with authors in the Maxwell Institute's forthcoming book series of theological engagements with the Book of Mormon. Seating is limited. RSVP required. 



New summer additions to our roster of scholars

The gathering and nurturing of disciple-scholars continues apace. Summertime at the Institute always sees new faces coming or going, and 2019 is no exception. Laurie Maffly-Kipp has finished her first stint as visiting scholar, overseeing the consultation on Latter-day Saint Women in Contemporary Perspective. We're sad to see her go, but so thankful for the time she spent with us!

We're excited to announce the arrival of Terryl L. Givens as a Neal A. Maxwell Senior Research Fellow and Fiona Givens as a research staff member. Steven L. Peck joins us as a visiting fellow and Adam Miller as an affiliate faculty member. Finally, Benjamin Keogh and Nathaniel Wiewora are recipients of short-term research grants.

A few more scholars will be added to the mix before the summer is over (looking at you, Rosalynde Welch and Rebecca Crawford!). Meanwhile, follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for updates about what our scholars are working on. 
Christopher Blythe examines a recently located Brigham Young revelation in BYU Studies
In the latest issue of BYU Studies Quarterly, our own Christopher Blythe examines the text of a recently located revelation from Brigham Young called “The word of the Lord that was revealed to his people, by his servant the Prophet seer and Revelator, President Brigham Young, February 1874” (spelling modernized). 

Blythe examines the historical context of this revelation and explains why Brigham Young was often hesitant to place revelations in the language or voice of the Lord and even more hesitant to place such revelations in writing. 

Subscribers can access the article here; non-subscribers can access it for a little more than a dollar. 
Deidre Green discusses her work with the non-profit Ngoma y'Africa Cultural Center on PBS
Deidre Nicole Green co-founded the Ngoma y'Africa Cultural Center in Provo, Utah. Their mission is to preserve and increase understanding of African culture through the arts such as storytelling, languages, music, dance, and other educational experiences.

Dr. Green recently appeared on KUED's "This Is Utah" program to discuss the center.  Her segment begins at the 18:46 minute mark. 
Watch Spencer Fluhman’s remarks at BYU's Religious Freedom Annual Review
J. Spencer Fluhman discussed "Religious Freedom and Higher Education" last month at Brigham Young University's Religious Freedom Annual Review. He was joined by Rebecca Russo of Interfaith Youth Corps and David Trimble of the Center for Religious Freedom Education. 

Dr. Fluhman proposed that widespread religious illiteracy is an ongoing problem in the US. Americans know so little about other religious beliefs at a time when tensions are high and humanities programs around the country are being marginalized. In this context it is vital to promote discourse about religion in higher education and beyond. 

Learn more about the conference here
MIPodcast #92—Joseph Smith's Egyptian papers, with Robin Jensen & Brian Hauglid

Brian Hauglid and Robin Scott Jensen talk about the latest scholarship on the Book of Abraham. Together they edited Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts, part of the Joseph Smith Papers project.  Where did the papyrus come from? What do modern Egyptologists have to say about it? And what do these documents suggest to Latter-day Saint historians about Joseph Smith’s work as a translator?  Listen here or read the transcript.

Making Zion: Insights on Living with Contradictions from a Latter-day Saint Scholar

Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye delivered this Living Faith Lecture at Brigham Young University on June 11, 2019.

Several months ago I realized with shock that I had reached the age that my mother was when she sent me off to my university studies. At first I couldn’t believe it, but I double- and triple-checked the math. I always thought my mother was so old! But she was just me! I can’t believe I’m her now, because I feel like I’m the same person now that was an undergraduate. I seek out free food, I sleep in public places, and I run to class because I’m late. In a way this makes sense: Ever since I returned from my mission to Taiwan, I’ve basically been studying or working on a university campus. So it’s like never having to leave one’s childhood playground. But now I realize that I am actually not as young and cool as I thought I was. I can’t just assume I understand how university students are feeling. I have to work hard, listen, to find out what they’re saying. 
About a year ago I had a chat with a young woman who was deciding where to go to college. She had been accepted by a number of outstanding universities and academic programs around the country. She had a bright future ahead of her, but she wasn’t sure whether that future included ongoing practice in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She laid out all of her pressing questions. 
I took notes. I’m going to share an excerpt from what she said with regard to women’s issues and LGBTQ issues within the Church. Whatever your own position on these sensitive topics, can I ask you to listen gently, with an open mind, accepting that these are her sincere, heartfelt questions? Don’t worry about responding. Just see if you can hear her.
How can I be a member of a church that doesn’t treat women equally compared to men, and that asks LGBTQ people to never date, seek loving companionship, or marry and have children? Didn’t Christ command us to treat others the way we would want to be treated? I’ve studied history. I understand how structural inequality works, and what it looks like. Currently, the church looks like just another of the many conservative religious institutions that are part of the long human history of patriarchy and discrimination. Sure, I like the idea of “eternal families”. But when the promise of “eternal families” comes with treating men and women differently, and denying LGBTQ people love and the opportunity to start their own families, people like many of my friends and me, are inclined to say: No thanks. The gender and sexuality issues are deal breakers. 
She expressed these concerns with eloquence and passion. In addition to concerns about women’s and LGBTQ issues, she also cited well-documented instances of racism and abuse within a Church context. As I listened, I could feel that these questions came from a place of integrity, a belief in the worth of each individual soul, and a desire to follow the Savior’s fearless example. She wasn’t looking for excuses to be a slacker or lead a dissipated life. She wanted to love others as Jesus loved, to stand for truth and righteousness, to bring as many people as possible into the gospel fold. If you or someone you love and respect has ever expressed any of these concerns she raised, can you please raise your hand?
I’ve been thinking about her questions for some time. Many of them have long dwelt in my heart. But I was struck by the way she asked them—as a seventeen year-old, with fire in her eyes, with a clear understanding of the tensions that they generated in her life and worldview and personal relationships. These concerns are pressing to many within the rising generations of Latter-day Saints—if not you yourself, then perhaps your loved one or your friend. 
What is also pressing is a desire for action. Today it is common for people to boycott restaurants or corporations because of political views or social policies associated with them, or to hold a “walkout” as a form of protest. In such an environment, it can seem inexcusable to many to remain within an organization that excludes women from the chain of organizational leadership, or compels LGBTQ people to make excruciating choices to remain in full fellowship, or that has a history of racist teachings and policies, or that has a track record of cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse.  
So now some of you are looking at me and wondering, “Is she going to excuse this and say, ‘Just focus on the positive, read your scriptures, and pray?’ If she sees the contradictions I see, how can she stay?” Or others are looking at me and wondering, “Why is she so critical? If she sees contradictions in the Church’s structure or policies or history, why doesn’t she just go somewhere else?”
I want you to notice that both of these positions are closely related. They’re based on the same premise that some things are dealbreakers. Either the Church is supposed to be true and good, and falling short of truth or goodness breaks this deal, OR faithful church members are supposed to believe that the Church is true and good, and pointing out ways in which we fall short breaks this deal. I have many friends and family members who have left the Church because they felt they couldn’t reconcile their moral values with our policies and culture. I have many friends and family members who will never leave the Church because their past experiences have given them a sense of certainty that wherever the Church and its leaders are at any given time is where they want to be (and where others should be).   
How we come to our worldviews depends heavily on our own personal experiences and the environments in which we live. My own position—the basic set of assumptions that shape my faith in Christ and how I live my life as a Latter-day Saint—is different from the two “dealbreaking” positions I just described. They are based on my experience as a scholar, mother, athlete, and junior cancer survivor. They are based on my relationships with people in Orange County, Boston, Taiwan, Hungary, Auckland, and Sanpete County, Utah. If you don’t mind, in the remainder of the talk I’ll share this position with you, with an understanding that even within the body of committed Latter-day Saints there are diverse experiences, values, and concerns. Even if our worldviews don’t completely align, I hope that one or two of my perspectives may be useful to you in some way. 
I first drafted this talk on an early morning train from Bordeaux to Paris in March, on my way back home from a global Mormon studies conference. As I watched the sun come up over the barren fields and warm the cold earth, three sentences popped into my head that seemed to me to usefully triangulate my life-philosophy at this point in time. Here they are:
Death is not the worst thing.
Patriarchy is not the worst thing.
Baldness is not the worst thing. 

By “baldness,” I don’t mean just having no hair, but I mean imperfections, loss, scars, damage, and other conditions that we acquire as life takes its toll. I don’t just mean things that are easily visible, like wrinkles, but things that come to us in life that make us feel less secure, less confident, less buoyant or hopeful.   
Death, patriarchy, baldness—these three are symbols of the suffering, imbalance, and indignity of the fallen world in which, Latter-day Saints believe, we chose to dwell. They are features of human experience in every place and time. Our Heavenly Parents do not rejoice in untimely death, or revel in unfairness, or gleefully inflict damage on their beloved children. But they have prepared for us a world in which the laws of nature take their course, in which imperfect individuals make assumptions and exercise agency, in which accidents happen. The whole point of life is to encounter opposition, to learn to discern good from evil, and to exercise the divine nature within us by following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. 
Therefore, from this perspective, what is the worst thing?:
The worst thing is living life in a way that requires no transformative struggle from ourselves, and that makes no difference for good in the lives of others. 
Let’s talk about death. All of us are dying—some sooner, some later. As a sort of “newbie cancer survivor,” having been diagnosed with colon cancer in April 2017, I will be thrilled if I live to see my credit card expire in March 2023. The reason I’m here on the BYU campus today is because I wrote a book about my life, titled Crossings. I began to write Crossings shortly after my diagnosis, because I was not sure whether I would live long enough to talk to my young children about my faith. At the time they were 11, 9, 7, and 5. Do you remember much from when you were that age? I just remember a couple of earthquakes—I grew up in California—and maybe some Halloween costumes.  

The weeks between my diagnosis and my surgery were the darkest period of my life. As I dropped a batch of library books into the return slot, or watched as my stir-fried green beans and onions with lemon juice and soy sauce disappeared at the dinner table, I thought about the fleetingness of the many acts that constitute parenthood. By themselves, they are so completely unmonumental. Sure, you create the kid’s body out of a single cell, so that’s something that proves you were there, but so many things—the new diapers, the milk from the breast, the words of bedtime stories, the trips to the Museum, simply go in and out, in and out, delivered and erased on the daily tide. And then they are gone, leaving no visible marker that says: Your mother was here. She loved you like this. Wrestling with my diagnosis in April, I wondered how it would be for my time with my children to come to an end around a close chronological milestone, like the end of the school year in December, or our annual trip to see family in America the following year. What if there was nothing of me to remember?
In addition to worrying about my kids, I also worried about myself. In 2008, my mother died of a rare cancer of the bile duct. I was with her on the night she passed away. She had been in terrible pain for several months, pain so terrible that the strongest opiods could only take off the edge, but never take it away. The pain had made her unable to eat and unable to sleep. Her frame became skeletal and her face acquired a permanent pinched, grim expression. Now, with my own diagnosis, I wondered: Will I suffer like that too? Will I have to be brave, like that? Morbid thoughts flickered in and out of my daily conversations. A couple of colleagues emailed to ask if I could advise a doctoral student coming next year. I responded, “No problem, as long as I’m still alive then.” Radio silence. I now realise that was an awkward and unprofessional thing to say. Cancer: There’s a learning curve!
As I worked through the process of facing this extreme vulnerability, I decided I would be okay, and my family would be okay. I credit both my Latter-day Saint faith and the perspectives of friends and family members, now and in the past, who have faced trials with fortitude. I made my peace with death, which for me still feels like an open door. I made my peace with fear.
Every day, when I ride my bike from the train station to the University, I pass the hospital where I received chemotherapy, with its tall, grim smokestack. As I coast down the hill, the hospital looming larger, the entrance becoming clearly visible, I often feel the memories stir uncomfortably within me. Sometimes I can almost taste the metallic taste that used to come into my mouth when the nurse flushed my chemo port with heparin at the end of a session. Every day, riding down the hill, I say, aloud, “Thank you.” I learned this from a dog trainer advising what to say when your dog barks at something outside the house. You don’t want to yell harshly. You want to acknowledge the warning, and reassure the dog that everything is okay and you’re in control. Shouting at the dog just makes it more anxious. She said, “It’s hard to say ‘thank you’ in a way that’s not pleasant and assured.” So, as I pass the hospital, where they poisoned me in order to save my life, I say: “Thank you” and sometimes, when I need to, “Thank you very much!”
Let’s talk about patriarchy, by which I mean a system of men officially in charge, men at the forefront, men as the primary subjects, symbols, actors, and authorities. Patriarchy has been the dominant modus operandi for most of humanity for thousands of years. It is everywhere—in government, in scholarship, in art, in gourmet cooking, in the great cathedral of Notre Dame. It is in the Buddhist Vimalakirti Sutra, the Hebrew Pentateuch, the Koran, the Hindu Ramayana, the Pauline Epistles, the Book of Mormon. It’s a feature of religious organization at the top levels of the Catholic church, the Anglican church, Tibetan Buddhism, East Asian Buddhism, our church. It’s an element of my extended family culture on both my mother’s and my father’s side—my beloved family that I love and think is the awesomest family in the world. 
We have a famous story in the Inouye family. My grandparents, Charles and Bessie Inouye, were farmers in Gunnison, Utah, and their children spent all their time working on the farm. One day Grandpa and his high-school-aged sons were out digging an irrigation ditch. My father remembers standing up to his knees in thick, oozy mud. Clouds of mosquitos were swarming around, biting every exposed surface. Grandpa’s timing was perfect. He said, “Boys, if you don’t get an education, you can look forward to this for the rest of your lives.” It made a deep impression. All of them went on to college, most of them here at BYU, and all of them went to graduate or professional school. Two decided to go to school indefinitely, that is, become university professors. One, Charles Shirō Inouye, is a professor of Japanese literature at Tufts University in Boston. Another, Dillon Kazuyuki Inouye, was a professor of instructional learning technology here at BYU until he passed away in 2008. 

That day in the ditch, Grandpa, himself a graduate of Stanford University, wasn’t saying that if you get an education, you’ll never have to work, or that one should always avoid digging ditches. I think he was saying that education gives people more power to choose which ditches they want to dig. 
Today, in my work as a professional scholar I dig particular sorts of ditches. In my research on Chinese history and global religious movements, I plow through a lot of texts, line by line. I delve into historical sources like newspapers, organizational records, and religious teachings, seeking to uncover the lives of ordinary people in another place and time. Sometimes I leave the ditch and climb to the top of a nearby hill, to try to see the big picture from a transnational or disciplinary or gender perspective.
When one looks at the big picture of all human experience, everywhere, one finds that just as most people’s eyes are brown, and most people’s hair is black, most people’s experience within familial and other social structures is shaped by patriarchy. 
I know that there are some spaces in the world, such as indigenous cultures that are traditionally matriarchal, or perhaps some corners of the internet, that are “patriarchy-free,” by which I mean that in these spaces, patriarchal assumptions, actions, or organization are entirely absent. However, the spaces where I live my life, such as all the universities I’ve ever taught at, New Zealand society, American society, Chinese society, Christian religious traditions, social media networks, my beloved church, and my beloved extended family, are not patriarchy-free. Though some spots are better than others, I would not escape patriarchy by quitting my job, moving countries, or leaving the Church. 
To clarify, by using the term “patriarchy-free” I am not seeking to trivialize the negative experiences of Latter-day Saint women and men who have been harmed by patriarchal practices and assumptions—women who have been ignored, abused, or dominated, men whose assumptions that they were inherently more important led them to ignore, abuse, or dominate women, have harmed their families created a stumbling book for their desire to follow Christ. 
I am saying that patriarchal systems are rooted throughout the worlds in which want to I live, and since I see no feasible way to opt-out, I have decided instead to dig in—to sharpen my shovel and get to work. The challenge of bringing to pass, in my worlds, the Book of Mormon teaching that “all are alike unto God,” is one of the ditches I have chosen to dig. 
Regarding baldness: You’re probably wondering why I don’t have hair. No, it’s not because of the chemo. My kind of chemo doesn’t cause hair loss. The major effect of chemo for me was that I felt the overwhelming urge to watch all of the British-history-related shows on Netflix, from all seasons of Downton Abbey to documentaries on Henry the VIII’s residence, including his velvet-covered toilet seat (which sounds so inadvisable). Anyway, until the age of 29 I had long, thick black hair—until, inexplicably, it just fell out. At first it was really hard. I felt like everybody was looking at me. Employees in stores, flight attendants on airplanes, frequently called me “sir”. It was very humbling. I began to realize that I had no right to be prideful or to judge people based on their appearance. I was, after all, the bald woman in the room. 
I would definitely love to have hair again, but losing it taught me a lesson. I learned that loss makes us both vulnerable and strong. We lose things that are dear to us, that make us beautiful or happy or whole. Sometimes this loss is readily apparent, but sometimes it isn’t. Losing my hair was the first time in my adult life I really remember feeling dependent on the kindness and graciousness of others. I had always been a competitive person: a Harvard graduate, a marathoner. But now, I felt vulnerable. This vulnerability helped me better understand and accept the vulnerability in others. In this way, as the Lord says to Ether at the end of the Book of Mormon, our weakness becomes a strength. 
So I’ve come to a sort of understanding with death, patriarchy, and baldness, which is to say that I’ve come to accept and even appreciate the imperfection of human existence. We in the twenty-first century live in an age of extraordinary contradictions. Sometimes, even when we clearly see the problem and the answer, we still can’t get it together. For example, we clearly see that the planet’s fragile, living systems are groaning under the load of the pollutions we have released into our little lifeboat in space, and that these problems are harmful now and catastrophic in the future, but we are very far away from doing what it takes to clean things up. We see that, through accidents of birth and locality, a very privileged few have access to health, wealth, power, learning, equity, respect, and elaborate standards of beauty, while the majority of God’s children must struggle just to eat, drink, sleep, and rise for another day. 
This is the world on my radar screen. Its systems are deeply flawed and inequitable. It can be a place of crushing despair. And yet it is also a place of beauty, love, and hope. It is a place worth seeing clearly, a home worth fighting for, a neighborhood where you belong. 
The more I learn about our Church history and our governing structures, the more clearly I see that the Church as it’s currently constituted has never been the best of all possible worlds. As Elder Uchtdorf has said, the Restoration is ongoing. At the same time, the more I think about the Church today, the more clearly I see that it has something to offer me, and that the Latter-day Saints have something to offer the world. 
What I see the Church offering me is the opportunity to learn to follow Christ and participate in the redeeming processes of error, repentance, and growth, by engaging with my sisters and brothers in the gospel. It is the opportunity to think globally and act locally, to think locally and act globally. These networks of human bonds and collective action are as close at hand as my own home and neighborhood, and as far flung as the entire world. That is cool. We, the Latter-day Saints, are weird and small enough to really try to be sister and brother to each other, in our diverse circumstances. 
Now, I know that many of you are about to leave on missions, or recently returned from missions. You might be thinking: “We are weird and small! Yay!” doesn’t sound like a very exciting missionary message. You wouldn’t exactly put that on a bumper sticker. Yet when I study the life of Christ, and the lives of the prophets and prophetesses like Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Miriam, Deborah, and Anna, what they all have in common is that they lived at the margins. In the scriptural narrative, the conditions of risk, injustice, or loss that shaped their lives and actions contrasted with the lives of revered and powerful religious councils, kings, wealthy citizens, pharaohs, military men, and people who had not time to truly serve God because their full, comfortable lives kept them busy. 
Sometimes, as a matter of fact, we Latter-day Saints forget about our weirdness and smallness, to our detriment. The more stadiums we fill, the more wealthy and politically influential we become, the more people gather to hear us speak or buy our books, the more time we spend at the centre and the apex, instead of the margins and the lowly places, of our worlds, the greater the temptation to feel that life is a competition, and that we are rising stars. To all of us who may sometimes find ourselves forgetting our weirdness and smallness, please remember:
The worst thing is living life in a way that requires no transformative struggle from ourselves and that makes no difference for good in the lives of others.
If we surround ourselves with only those who agree with us and admire us, creating an insular Latter-day-Saint-land, and forget that we are a tiny .0002% minority of God’s children, we risk creating an artificial environment in which contradiction, tension, and discomfort are seen as foreign. This is like digging in a sandbox, where there are just uniform grains of sand. It’s easy and it’s clean. But it is not fertile soil, and it does not hold water. By contrast, the native ecosystem that our Heavenly Mother and Father created for their children was meant to be muddy, full of diverse elements and microorganisms, and sometimes a bit wretched.  
This reminds me of something Uncle Charles said to me in college. Uncle Charles (Gunnison farm boy, professor, poet, and Latter-day Saint) told me, “Mormons are like manure. If you heap them all up in a pile together, they just stink. But if you spread them around, they can do a lot of good.”
In the scriptures, Jesus didn’t exactly say his disciples were manure, but he similarly used metaphors that described things that are horrible in concentration, indispensable in dissolution. He said in Matthew 5:13: “Ye are the salt of the earth.” He said in Matthew 13:33: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven [yeast], which a woman took, and [mixed] in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” 
As General Relief Society Counselor Sharon Eubank taught in April general conference, Jesus made great efforts to reach out to people outside the circle of social privilege and religious orthodoxy: “lepers, tax collectors, children, Galileans, harlots, women, Pharisees, sinners, Samaritans, widows, Roman soldiers, adulterers, the ritually unclean.” These associations made him vulnerable to criticism from the community of those who considered themselves righteous, proper, and mainstream, and eventually contributed to his death. Christ’s pattern of deliberate marginality can also be seen in Matthew 18:12: “If a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?” Note that the shepherd doesn’t stand at the edge of the big flock in the pasture or meadow, shouting for the stray to come back into the fold NOW, or else. He leaves the meadow and goes into the mountains.  
Christ’s deliberate marginality, confidence that real people were more important to God than ritual purity, and emphasis on the sufficiency of loving God and loving others, come together to form a pattern. In this pattern, Christ frequently teaches us to take the path of greatest resistance. Therefore: 

These are not the worst things. They are features of my everyday life, but they do not define me or my life’s work. 
All that I am today, as a scholar, a mother, an athlete, a cancer survivor, has been shaped by my Latter-day Saint faith. I am tremendously grateful to this Church, its teachings, practices, and most importantly its members who have taught me and who have led me, through their good examples, closer to Jesus Christ and closer to my Mother and Father in Heaven.
Sometimes, in life, I find myself thinking that I’m digging a tough, mucky ditch with lots of mosquitos. I feel so tired, and wonder why on earth am I doing this. Eventually I remember that I’ve chosen to dig it. I treasure my membership in the Church because I do not dig alone, but with sisters and brothers in New Zealand, the United States, Samoa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Taiwan, and everywhere else.
For those of you who are tired as you dig your ditches, particularly amongst the cultural minefields of sensitive and challenging issues, it’s true that being a Latter-day Saint can be a lot of work. Please consider your tremendous power to lead us where we need to go. You are the future of our Church. You are who we may become. You may find that God will consecrate these struggles for your good, and for ours. As a people, where would we be without fearless questions and a fierce will to press on toward Zion over bogs and rivers and mountains?
There are real hazards to undertaking a messy spiritual journey in the company of so many others, as Latter-day Saints do. But for me it is a rich life, a consequential life, a life worth living. 
The Neal A. Maxwell Institute
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Copyright © 2019 Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, All rights reserved.

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