This article was previously published on Patheos.com Several years ago a woman I never got along with was asked to lead the women’s organization (Relief Society) in my church congregation (Ward). She was a former high school teacher who had ‘school marm’ written all over her. And she was not afraid to shun those she felt didn’t live up to her ambiguous standards. I honestly never understood this woman. We had worked together, and there was never any pleasing her. It was ‘my way or the highway.’ And I get a little rebellious when people are unreasonable like that, so I resisted her.
When she was called to lead the ladies, she decided that those who didn’t fit in didn’t belong. In the weeks prior to the big blow-up, I admit that I was not at my best. Then came the week where the sister sitting next to me had a spider drop from the ceiling right in front of her face. We both shrieked, and interrupted the lesson. The very next Sunday this Relief Society president pulled me out of class before it started, and dramatically brought me down the hall for a “little chat.” I should have known better, but I didn’t see it coming.
In that “chat” she told me that she respected me, but that she needed to invite me not to come to Relief Society anymore until I could be an asset to the class. She brought up years of her personal issues with me to support her argument. OUCH. I’m sorry but I’m a good student. I participate, and I listen. I was SO HURT by her rude and uninformed decision to personally invite me to leave. And I have struggled with this conversation for YEARS. But I have learned a few things from that experience, and the time afterward, that I need to share.
1- The Church is true, despite the members.
My Relief Society president was not the reason I was going to church. I made covenants with Jesus Christ, and He was the reason I went. I went to feel the Holy Ghost and to learn to be more like God. In the weeks immediately following this woman’s rude dis-invitation, I completely avoided Relief Society. I went to church because I wanted to worship my God. But Relief Society was optional. And I could not stand to see her face.
This philosophy is a little different than what I understand is common in other Christian churches. My sister-in-law is Protestant and she said that you go to the congregation that you feel the most at home with. That for her the church family is as important as what is being taught. Mormons go to the congregation they are assigned to, and that is by geographical location. There are special circumstances, but generally, you go where you are assigned. And every congregation teaches the same things. We even have our Sunday School lesson schedule so that it’s all coordinated. It’s cool!
2- I HAD to forgive this woman, for myself.
I still don’t talk to my Relief Society president. But I have learned that I have to forgive her. Holding a grudge is like taking poison while hoping to kill someone else. It doesn’t work. It only poisons your soul. I wish that I could say that this Relief Society president has been reassigned, or that she has stopped being intentionally offensive. But she hasn’t. She has continued to do things that hurt and offend me and my friends.
I felt justified after the last event to just stay mad at her. But then I heard a talk in General Conference by Jeffery R Holland. He explained the parable of the servant who was forgiven for his debt, but wouldn’t forgive another servant. Elder Holland explained that this servant owed the Master the equivalent of a billion dollars, but then would not forgive a $100 debt.
In the end, this servant who had been forgiven so much was delivered to the tormentors for his mistake. God has commanded us to forgive. And I know that my sins easily equal a billion dollars in spiritual cash. So I HAVE to forgive my Relief Society president, even though I don’t want to, and I don’t think she deserves forgiveness. You see, I owe too much to risk the Lord ever calling in my spiritual debt.
3- I made a mistake that opened my eyes.
I have recently joined a Homeschool Co-op. And I get to teach classes periodically. One day I was feeling flustered and was trying to evenly distribute children on tables so that they would have room to work on a project we were doing. One little boy ran into class late and happened to sit in the exact seat I had been trying to get another to sit in. So I asked him to move. He dug in his heels and absolutely refused.
I had no idea his seat meant so much to him, so I moved on with the lesson. But it has become clear in the weeks that followed that I hurt this boy’s feelings. I didn’t mean to. And I intend to make a real effort to make it up to him, including apologizing at my next opportunity. But it would make me very sad if that one moment of my weakness tainted the whole year for this young boy.
I can see now that my Relief Society president may not have meant to hurt my feelings. I choose to think that she was just doing what she thought was best. And I’m going to let the Lord be the one to determine if her heart was in the right place.
We must forgive others
Do you see why I have to forgive? I may not want to. I may not feel kindness and warm fuzzy feelings toward this woman, at least not at the beginning. But I have to let the poison in my heart go. I have to make a conscious choice to drop it and walk away.
I want the Spirit to have a place in my soul. So I am choosing to take the Savior’s hand, and live as He has asked me to. With God’s help, I can do this. And as I forgive and let go of the darkness, I will feel happier. I will feel free, and peaceful. I pray that if you are faced with a similar situation that you will be able to find the strength to join me in making the same decision. For as the Lord said in Matthew 11:29 & 30,
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I’ll take that deal anytime. Because life with the Savior’s support is MUCH easier.
Abby is capable and caring. She is learning more about Autism and parenthood every day. Having completed training to be an RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) for ABA therapy she is beginning to understand her son. And even though she is the first to admit she makes a lot of mistakes, she is so grateful to be on this journey. She comes from a family with many autistic members. She invites us to join her, as she shares her adventures. She wishes to emphasize that Autism is a difference not a defect. If you or a family member have autism, Abby wants you to know that the challenges can be overcome, and there are blessings in autism. You or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will teach the world this new language.