It’s a special time! We are revisiting the talk from Carole M. Stephens in this last General Women’s Broadcast, “The Master Healer.” (I’m starting to go through and read the talks from the October General Conference, so stick with me!)
In this portion of the talk, Sister Stephens is speaking of abuse and how to overcome feelings of personal guilt or sadness that occur as a result of other’s actions. As she says,
“These experiences, though no fault of their own, have left many feeling guilty and ashamed. Not understanding how to manage the powerful emotions they experience, many try to bury them, pushing them deeper into themselves. Hope and healing are not found in the dark abyss of secrecy but in the light and love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Secrets vs. openness
These words are so wise, and I think she hits on a massively huge and widely unappreciated problem in our Church culture. By and large, many of our wards, quorums, and Relief Societies are not the open, understanding, and loving communities they could be. Instead, they are pockets of these “dark abysses of secrecy.” So many of us put on good faces and give the curt (and often untrue) answer of “I’m fine” when asked, “How are you doing?”
People who are open with their emotions and need that loving embrace of understanding and empathy should not be afraid to go to church because they are worried they will express that emotion when asked, “How are things going?” We should express emotion! Emotion is not a sin! I have personally met with at least one individual who fits this description of Sister Stephens, who feels these feelings and who doesn’t necessarily want to bury them, but feels ashamed or unable to handle going to church because she doesn’t want to be the one to cry. Why? Because in so many wards we have created an environment where people who cry and express their true emotions are seen as weak rather than strong.
Following the Savior
This is tragic. This prevents hope and healing. This enforces an erroneous belief that perfection is uncaring, unemotional, and distant. It further enforces the belief that the church is for “perfect” people who don’t show emotion or vulnerability.
Can we not remember that the Savior showed emotion?
When faced with the reality of his friend Lazarus’ death, John 11:35 simply states, “Jesus wept.” And He didn’t go into His room and cry privately, away from others—He didn’t just cry either. He wept. Openly.
In 3 Nephi chapter 17 during Christ’s ministry to the people in the Americas, we similarly read in verses 20-22,
“And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full. And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. And when he had done this he wept again…”
If we really want to be Christlike, we aren’t afraid to weep. We aren’t afraid to show emotion. We aren’t afraid to be who we are to everyone, not just in the privacy of our own homes.
Our responsibility and opportunity
Like Sister Stephens, I hope so much that instead of hiding our emotions and problems, we can feel comfortable with sharing them with others. We are supposed to help mourn with others. We are instructed to lighten the loads that others carry. I don’t think this instruction was meant to be taken solely literally. The loads we carry are so often emotional “baggage,” mental health concerns, family troubles, or relationship issues. If we really want to be Christlike and have communities that feel welcoming and inclusive, we need to be open with our emotions and enable others to feel comfortable being open with their emotions as well.
We can help show others that “light and love” of the Savior to which Sister Stephens alludes. But we have to mean it. We have to live it in our own lives first.