Trying Imperfectly

by Steve Petersen

Despite some trepidation, I went to the Aspiring Mormon Women event at which Ruth Todd spoke; it was wonderful. If you think that I was the only guy there, you’re correct. As someone whose vision for the Church seems more expansive than contemporary Mormon Culture (note that I’m not saying Church), I’m interested in the concerns of various groups – whether they’re bound by feminism, LGBTQI issues, the priesthood ban and continued race discussions, singlehood, or other concerns and interests within the Church. That’s what inspired me to attend this event.

I want to learn, listen, and help. However, sometimes it is hard to do that as an outsider. The anxiety I felt about attending this event was unfounded as the women welcomed me with open arms. Having said that, I was concerned that I was imposing in a space for women. As a man in the Church, there are cultural advantages that I enjoy, and I don’t personally face the struggles that inspired the creation of Aspiring Mormon Women. The same goes for the other groups I mentioned above that I care about but don’t belong to.

Whatever attempts I make to support and understand these groups are imperfect. At some point, I have to accept that and not let it deter me from trying to reach out.

One small vignette from that evening illustrated this imperfection. I finally built up the courage to stick my neck out as the only guy at the event to ask Ruth a question during the Q & A portion of her remarks. I mentioned that someone close to me has had a few run-ins with her local priesthood leaders, and she vents to me. I’m grateful that she confides in me, and I wanted to ask Ruth how I could better help her.

In the heat of the moment, I put my foot in my mouth. While trying to relate that, although I feel that her grievances are valid, I only had her perspective. Instead of using a phrase like “one side of the story,” I foolishly said that I was getting a “lopsided” story. Ruth laughed and sarcastically said that people don’t provide “lopsided” accounts (I was tasting my shoe at that point); she graciously acknowledged what I was trying to say and helped me out with my awkward word choice through humor. Fortunately, I got some great counsel about how to help this person.

After the event, as I was still thinking about my faux pas, I calmed down. How many of us reach out imperfectly and get a little scared? If any of y’all are like me, a lot of us goof up. Just take a look at my Facebook News Feed. Beyond the flame wars that occur in the comment sections of my friends’ status updates, I see plenty of articles shared from Fox News, Huffington Post, Slate, and other outlets about how prominent people misspeak or say something that other people don’t agree with. At least I’m not alone.

While it’s true that some people are purposefully obtuse and hurtful, many of us are trying, though imperfectly. In fact, this post I’ve written is an imperfect attempt.

Breaking news: I’m not a woman. However, I’m trying to support, help, and learn from my brothers and sisters no matter how alike or not we are. If the vision that I share with many of you of a more inclusive and diverse Mormon Culture will occur, we need to reach out to each other. We will make mistakes. At the Aspiring Mormon Women event I felt accepted despite my imperfection, and I hope that I will accept as graciously those who reach out to me imperfectly.

We all aspire for exaltation imperfectly. How can we expect our Heavenly Parents to forgive us for our imperfection if we don’t tolerate the imperfection of others?

 

Steve works in web development and marketing. In his personal life, he enjoys running, eating Vietnamese food, and wearing bow ties.  A proud Texan by birth, he has enjoyed living in the Intermountain West, down South, in the Middle Atlantic, Australia, and Mexico. 

3 Comments on “Trying Imperfectly

  1. Hey AMW–Is there any chance that you could offer a transcript of the event? Was it recorded in any format? I would love to hear more about this discussion.

    • Ruth asked that her remarks not be recorded. We do hope to provide a recap soon though.

  2. Steve,

    I am thrilled to hear that you attended the event. These are not just “women’s issues.” We will all benefit if men understand women’s aspirations and the challenges we face — whether those men are our family members, friends, colleagues, or priesthood leaders.

    We have all put our foot in our mouth unintentionally. It’s not an enjoyable experience, but hopefully it is a learning experience and we do better the next time.

    I love your perspective of a more diverse and inclusive culture and I love this post. I hope that many others will catch your vision.

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