Elder Holland’s Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments


I feel like Elder Holland’s talk wouldn’t be very popular today. We are very concerned -understandably – that those who have been victims of abuse and also those who have experimented don’t feel left out or unnecessarily guilty. So, many Mormons don’t like any talk of virtue and cleanliness.

To talk, for example, of the future blessings of being clean when entering marriage such that one can deeply bind with one’s spouse, is to put some people on a pedestal and to tell the rest, “Well, sorry, you’re second class forever.” That is the concern many Mormons have.

I always wonder why we can’t have talk of virtue and say that there are no second class members? Why can’t we say, in full honesty and full exhortative fashion, that entering marriage ready and willing to give fully to each other is fantastic and momentous and beautiful and superb? And why can’t we say that those who haven’t prepared themselves (and sexual purity is only one form of preparation — one must also be willing to share emotions and private thoughts and so forth) will miss the full realization of the blessings of marriage? Is that not true? Do we believe that is true? Are we going to argue against that point?

I almost feel like we are arguing against that point when we say that talk of virtue is hurtful to those who have experimented.

I hear the point more clearly when we say that talk of virtue is hurtful to those who have been abused.

But, isn’t that part of why the situation of the abused is so worth mourning? So heart-wrenching? Someone has taken something from them – and I know I shouldn’t say that, in today’s climate – but someone has. Emotionally they have been drained, mentally they have been drained, physically they have been drained. That’s precisely why it is wrong! So very, very wrong. They have been exploited.

But now, now comes the other shoe that needs to drop before this conversation goes on. The other shoe is that God’s atonement really, really can make us clean. Really! Clean. Clean. Clean. As if, in some way, it never happened. But of course, passing through the fact that it really did happen. But clean.

And if clean, then ready to participate fully in marriage or any other endeavor that requires our whole souls.

And this atonement – as has been preached continually – heals both those who have sinned knowingly, unknowingly, and have not sinned at all, but been victims to those who have sinned. It really can. It’s hard, harder than anything, but it can. That is the promise.

Now, it may seem unfair of me to suggest that those who have been victims of abuse need to be cleansed. But I know I have had need of that cleansing in other circumstances (not sexual, in my case, but other times where I have been hurt by other’s sins). And I am not ready to give myself fully/100% in certain circumstances. I am distracted by my pain, or my worries. Legitimately, plainly, I am not 100% myself because I have been affected by someone else’s actions. But, as a totally shock, it has been possible for the atonement to cleanse my mind and my heart and restore to me that which was lost, taken, changed, hurt, affected. There really was damage done, and it really was restored. Really.

That’s not to say that if someone has offended me at Church, for example, I will necessarily stop going to meetings. But I will hold back from full friendship and communion with my ward members. The promise of the blessings of unity with the saints is not fully realized. Just like in marriage, there are greater blessings to be found when there is greater unity. And if I am holding back because of experimentation of how to fulfill my own needs or curiosity, or holding back because of hurt caused by others, either way, I am not enjoying the fullness of “the intimacy it is your right and privilege and delight to enjoy in marriage” (as Elder Holland puts it). I just am not. I just think that is a fact. I am not. Whether by my own purposeful actions, or my human confusion, or by the actions inflicted on me by others, I am not. And that is something to mourn! And to help heal!

I hope I am not saying things that will cause others to hate me, though fortunately not too many read this blog. 🙂 But I believe that there is something glorious about being 100% invested in a marriage, and it’s ok to say that anything less than that is less than that. And I think it is ok to say that those who aren’t 100% invested can call upon the blessings of the atonement to have that which is not there become there. At any point in their lives. On any day! I have need to be restored to full communion with my spouse, just because events of life can cause me to think of myself more than I should. That’s a minor example, but I say it because it really does mean I’m not 100% there, and I have felt myself restored to 100%. And anyone can be restored to the possibility of being 100% there. It’s ok to say the atonement can really, really do that. For anyone.

I hope I’m not being offensive to anyone who does read this, but I think to say that all this talk about virtue is hurtful is to say that we don’t quite trust that the atonement can restore everyone to this place of virtue. Virtue is so important to talk about because it is a blessing available to everyone. That is precisely why it is so important to talk about. It is good, and strong, and opens up communion with God and with other human beings in ways that are so, so strong. And it is available to everyone who has been affected by others as much as those who have sinned (and everyone has sinned). Virtue is real. It is what Zion is built on.

Such are some random rambling thoughts of the morning. Nothing new. But as I was reviewing Elder Holland’s talk this morning, they were returning to my mind over and over again so I thought I’d get them out on virtual paper. 🙂

Back to reading… (or really, in this case, back to getting kids ready for school to start)

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