Thursday, August 16, 2012

Called to Serve? maybe.

“Stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime.” ― Mineko Iwasaki

In 2003 my sister had a final interview for submitting her papers for a mission. The air was filled with excitement and joy. It had been a rough few years for us, our mother included - we were still reeling from our father's abandonment and this mission of Meg's was a testament to our survival. It was a bright hope for the future.

She had put away money, swallowed her pride and had family and friends ready to contribute monthly to her mission as well.  She was working on her feet all day at a day care center and riding her bike back and forth to save money. She spent A LOT of money on dental work and doctor's visits in preparation - all without health insurance.

She was ready.

We were excited.

Understatement of the year.

Meg Spring of 2003

Then a phone call came.

Meg was called at work and told she was too overweight to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  She would have to lose a significant amount of weight and re-submit her papers.

She left work early in tears and said she would never go.
Her heart was too hurt. It would take too much time. She had already postponed school and life long enough. She was devastated.

I was so angry. So angry I couldn't see straight.

The words to Army of Helaman played over and over in my head:

"Let each who's worthy go forth and share"

Meg, me, my mom, Kyle each tackled the issue in our own ways.

My testimony of the Priesthood was shattered. Men who were vessels of the Lord would not treat people this way under that mantle.  When the Lord was on the Earth - there were no stipulations of who could and couldn't be disciples for him.

What was this "church" I was so loyal to?  What is the purpose of teaching the merits and blessings of serving a full time mission to children from such a young age if we would turn them down for such absurd reasons?

I was a part of a sizeist organization.  What was the real concern? She wouldn't be able to physically handle the demands? That is a valid concern - but she was very physically active, the doctors said she was in great health.. BUT even if she wasn't - we have people serve with physical disabilities all the time!

Would it be extra healthcare costs? Then make that a plan - She would cover her own healthcare costs.

Or was it the most obvious - we don't want fat people representing our church?

Why was this issue never raised in the YEAR she prepared for this mission? Before she told everyone of her plans and asked for financial assistance.

I wrote letters to her Bishop and Stake President and later a friend in the relief society presidency.  This is part of what I had to say:

"Was this a very good 'missionary moment' when she got the phone call at work and all her co-workers watched her sob? Meg's situation has been handled so poorly - it has insulted Meg, crushed her sweet spirit, disappointed her family, and embarrassed her in front of all those who ask about her mission call. So people that get a mission call get a wonderful letter from the Prophet but fat people get a 'no thank you' phone call at work?... My respect for the Priesthood has been bruised and my non-member family and friends have been dumb-founded by this whole mess. Please use my letter as a catalyst for change. Hopefully this heartache will be avoided by others willing to serve."

I only got one phone call from Meg's Bishop with little more to say than a whispered "I'm sorry". No one else to this day has had any answer of value for me. Everyone else I wrote ignored me.

This was Meg's story to tell, not mine. She worked past it much more valiantly than I have. Call it my weakness but I can't let it go. I have tried.

Oh boy have I tried. I have firmly re-dedicated myself to the Gospel over and over again thinking I could combat the hurt with personal righteousness.  Its more than obvious now that this plan isn't working for me.
I need the right to cling to all the spirituality that I can summon while wholeheartedly rejecting the organization  that has totally lost the way.

I hear time to time of this happening to other young men and women and I can't always stop the tears from coming. This is a real possibility for my own children. We are not small people as you can see. If this is done to one of my children I don't think there is enough room in the world for my rage.

I have no tidy ending to this one. It is a heavy hitter. Its been almost ten years. And I am still just as angry if not angrier than the day it happened.

I am broken. I am sad. And it has made, over time, many, many instances, phrases, songs, talks at church unbearable for me.  I don't forsee there being any words to soothe this.

Time heals all wounds? Is that what they say? I'll just have to see about that.

(Sincerest gratitude to my sister for allowing me to be open about this.)

"Come, follow me," a simple phrase,
Yet truth's sublime, efullgent rays
Are in these simple words combined
To urge, inspire the human mind.


Jaime said...

Oh, this made me heartsick. That is a deep, deep hurt that you both have every right to be hurt about. More hugs and love to you both!

Erin Wales said...

We had this same thing happen to a young man in my ward and it shook a lot of us up like an earthquake. It was so hard to grasp that all I could do was try not to think about it because it really stirred up a lot of muddy waters in my testimony. Now that I have stepped out of the box and look at the church from an outside perspective it makes the whole situation even worse. Now that I'm out I feel allowed to feel angry at the church for some of the sexist and sizest" as you put it, issues.

Peachy. Just Peachy. said...

Imagine my astonishment when our bishop never really "got back" to us about calling my sweet young pudgy son on a mission! I had labored under the delusion that all that was needed was a will to do the work. What lame excuses were offered by leadership months after. As you mentioned, I am as angry about the situation as I was then. It was unconscionable.

Janie said...

I am so sorry Peachy. It is unconscionable and if this disparity is going to exist then they need to be upfront about it - what are they even basing it on? weight? the flawed BMI table? What?? Just thinking about it all makes my blood boil. This is going to keep happening and shame will let it stay under wraps more than it should. My parents were hard workers and tithe payers for the church for YEARS.. and this is the love that is shown back to our family?