We are excited to release an interview with Jen Parkinson that has many fascinating components, including:
I really related to your story in the sense that I feel my boys litteraly saved my life while I was struggling with depression during and after my divorce. I wish you the best! You seem to be a great person. Thanks for sharing your story.
The Savior’s command to be as perfect as our Father in Heaven has sometimes been misunderstood as a call to achieve an immediate state of flawlessness. But there are a number of factors that caution us against such an interpretation. The Greek and Hebrew words used in the Sermon on the Mount, the Septuagint, and the Hebrew Bible do not carry the meaning of flawless behavior. The context of the commandment within the Sermon on the Mount and latter-day prophetic teachings confirm this. Though our ultimate goal as disciples of Christ should be to eventually achieve such a state of being, the Savior was not teaching, “Be ye therefore flawless, right now, in mortality.”
The clearest insight into the meaning of the Savior’s plea for perfection comes from a prophet of the Lord. President Brigham Young taught concerning disciples of Christ who are striving for perfection, “If they do the very best they know how, they are perfect.”  His interpretation of Matthew 5:48 is well worth repeating:
We all occupy diversified stations in the world, and in the kingdom of God. Those who do right, and seek the glory of the Father in heaven, whether their knowledge be little or much, or whether they can do little or much, if they do the very best they know how, they are perfect. It may appear strange to some of you, and it certainly does to the world, to say it is possible for a man or woman to become perfect on this earth. It is written “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Again, “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” This is perfectly consistent to the person who understands what perfection really is.
If the first passage I have quoted is not worded to our understanding, we can alter the phraseology of the sentence, and say, “Be ye as perfect as ye can,” for that is all we can do, though it is written, be ye perfect as your Father who is in heaven is perfect. To be as perfect as we possibly can, according to our knowledge, is to be just as perfect as our Father in heaven is. He cannot be any more perfect than He knows how, any more than we. When we are doing as well as we know how in the sphere and station which we occupy here, we are justified in the justice, righteousness, mercy, and judgment that go before the Lord of heaven and earth. We are as justified as the angels who are before the throne of God. The sin that will cleave to all the posterity of Adam and Eve is, that they have not done as well as they knew how. 
If disciples are as faithful as they can be according to the knowledge they possess, in the same way that Noah, Seth, and Job were faithful according to their own knowledge, they are perfect. If disciples are completely devoted to applying the teachings of Jesus Christ and if they utilize his Atonement when they make mistakes, they are perfect. If disciples are filled with love that is free from anger, lust, and vengefulness to the utmost degree that they possibly can, they are perfect. Simply put, if disciples are earnestly doing their best to live the gospel of Jesus Christ—including repenting as often as they need to—they are perfect. It is hoped that this knowledge will comfort those who really are giving their best efforts to live the gospel but who are also discouraged and tempted to give up because no matter how hard they try, their best effort does not measure up to what they perceive as perfection.
I am fascinated with these stories of people who, after a lifetime of unrelenting devotion, leave the Church. These people don’t make the decision lightly. They think, they pray, the agonize over their decision. In contemplating why discovery of the dark corners of Church history leads to this eventuality, I can only conclude that it is because the Church has done a poor job doing what it was restored to do. It was not restored to create a megalithic, financial empire with overly ostentatious temples and high end retail establishments dotting the globe. It was not meant to create paint-by-the-numbers church buildings where everyone worships in correlated uniformity. It was not meant to lead everyone back to heaven through unquestioning loyalty to the Brethren. It was meant to give God’s children a spiritual “technology” via the ordinances to facilitate entrance into the presence of God IN THIS LIFE. It was meant to create a Zion community of loving and unselfish people who do not measure their righteousness by their stock portfolio or ability to shop at those high end establishments. People are leaving the Church, in my opinion, because it does not deliver what God intended it to do. The fact that knowledge of the Second Anointing leads to a faith crisis proves my assertion. According to Church doctrine the Second Anointing, as performed in the temple, no more guarantees a person a spot in the Celestial Kingdom than does the rank and file endowment or the sealing ordinances a forever family. None of those ordinances are valid without the personal ratification by Jesus Christ, an event the Church has no say over nor can create. Those ordinances are part of the spiritual technology to facilitate that personal, individual experience. (Perhaps the ordinances have been corrupted from their original intent and no longer have the power to do so. That is possible.) I grieve the lack of knowledge of the spiritual depth and potential of this Church that has been sacrificed in its march towards global acceptance and uniformity. The Church was restored to bring the meat into Christianity, but all we have is pablum.
What a powerful story! Thank you for sharing. It really resonated with me. I am going through a faith crisis now and my husband wants nothing to do with it. It is a huge source of contention in our marriage, and I wonder if we’ll make it sometimes. Your thoughts on the mixed-faith part of your current marriage were encouraging and insightful. My husband DOES want to know about everything I’m learning, but is very defensive and finds sufficient answers he needs in apologetics. He knows a lot more than me as far as gospel details, so our conversations are usually not very productive, and I don’t feel very validated. It is a very painful position to be in, for both of us. I hope we can find that middle ground where we can both be happy and fulfilled. Only time will tell. Your message was encouraging for me. Thanks so much again for sharing.
I think the important thing is to be really respectful and patient. My story was the opposite. My wife always doubted, but went to church with me for 6+ years. Eventually it was too painful for her, so she set some boundaries: first, I don’t want to pray at night together. 2. I don’t want to pray over the food. 3. I’m not going to church anymore, but I wholly support you going and believing. This unfolded over years, and I was researching along the way, and my studies went into earnest when she stopped going to church h with me. But another year of studying on my own, and I came to the conclusion that the church want safe for me anymore, and it really wasn’t safe for my then 3-year-old daughter. Now we are all out together, and I am really grateful for my wife’s patience, and giving me the room to believe.
The breaking point for me was seeing how often “doctrine” was changing in response to outside legal pressures, especially around the doctrine of “marriage”, see here: https://jvalentiner.blogspot.com/2017/02/doctrinal-evolution-of-mormon-marriage.html?m=1
I have gone over all of the upsetting emotions that the ‘November policy’ has stirred inside of me so many times, mainly being the complete contradiction to a particular belief, that is held so core in its nature to the origin of the church; that it was deemed 1, of only 13, articles of faith; that being, ‘we will be punished for our own sins and not for Adams transgression.’ There are so many other contradictions that hit way too close, to too many homes that need not be re-stated; however, during this interview with Jen I came across one more.
I didn’t need a familial situation to cling on to, to know that the last thing to cling on to was this new policy. Lives had been hurt, relationships were waiting to be shattered, and most knew that if there was a line that needed to be crossed to finally claim “over it.” well, and that line had been obliterated.
Let’s talk about Jen for a minute. The most perfect example of a member that couldn’t seem to catch a break. Over and over again, making the correct choices over and over again (by absolutely no responsibility on her part) at what just ended up being at the wrong times and with the wrong people. We listen to Jen talk about choices that were made, literally, by everyone BUT herself, and how they always seemed to affect her personal salvation, and after bearing children, she not only felt her own shame but now the guilt and burden that she took on for her family and descendants. Who did the church hurt most in the infamous ‘November Policy Issue of 2015’ … MOTHERS AND FATHERS.
However, this wasn’t the largest enlightenment offered to me while listening. The largest and most potent of all was offered after I asked, ‘Well…why?’ after listening to Jen go through her experience of doing all that was asked of her, and still getting screwed in the end, is when I realized that the FATHERS (and mothers, in other cases) in this story were JUST as screwed; that is, up until the point in which, they made that inevitable choice, to let that lightning bolt, the one that some call ‘chemistry’ eventually pulse again through their veins after being tied and bound for so long. A force, in which, cannot be stopped (or at least not for forever). After this, I feel that these are the families that were designed to be destined to endure more pain and loss, than should have ever have been placed at their feet to begin with. Jen didn’t know that the father of her children was gay, and why wasn’t she worthy to know this? Jens ex husband, if able to express his choice in gender pairing, would have been instantaneously shunned, and taught that the best way to deal with his thoughts and emotions would be to ‘suppress’ while behaving in the ‘exact opposite way of what his thoughts were that needed to be suppressed’ … I mean, it doesn’t get more contradictory than that.
It is such a heartbreaking timeline of destined events. My new perspective and pain that I feel particularly to Jens story is this…
This is a child of god, that did all, and more, than that was asked of her, trusting in a faith that led her into a marriage with a man that suppressed his own true self, because, and only because, of his faith and beliefs, that after leading into the marriage, brought forth children while lacking full intimacy, and subsequently, leading into an eventual double life, that caused not only divorce, but even more shame, and brokenness that ever needed to be put on her already sinking shoulders.
The families MOST affected by the policy are the exact families that were as advised by leaders to enter into. The marriage of one heterosexual and one homosexual; and many times, the homosexual is advised never to disclose that information. And they didn’t enter into these marriages because they were unrighteous or unworthy. THEY entered into them because they were TOLD to do so, and that by AFTER doing so, that, ‘life would fall into place. ‘
NEWS CHECK- life in the end, it never falls into place when you go against all that you were & are created to be.
Listening to Jen made me feel the heartbreak of feeling as though you are doing all you can while logically knowing that if you were to fully believe in Mormon Doctrine, your consequences equal , well— non-celestial.
How could you have made this mistake? How could you have not been supportive enough? How were you not enough to keep YOUR partner in YOUR bed? Well, if you ask me, the answer is as easy as it gets. It has NOTHING. Let me repeat that. It has NOTHING to do with your worthiness or your children’s worthiness, or even, by all means, your (ex) partners worthiness.
Some beds were never meant to be shared. And the fact is that, (for both your beliefs at the time) a ‘greater purpose’ brought you both into the same bed… well, let’s look at the facts of the families, and I do mean families; the ones with shared beds, creating beautiful sons and daughters, that were, and that continue to be most affected with suffering today because of this November policy. It is the exact men and women that chose to, ‘suppress and deny all that you are feeling and tell no one of your attraction’ that has led to these broken families. These humans that chose to trust in their leaders while being led more blindly than could have been led by those, lacking literal sight. These are the men and women that listened to their leaders, beckoning them to hold to the iron rod, to dismiss all attraction that was natural and to force attraction where there was none to begin with.
Like that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen… and it was a disaster waiting to happen…
What perfect timing for those men and women that have gone through creating families heterosexually while eventually finding a love that couldn’t be reached by any other way than by that of their own gender.
Those that actually believed that mountains could and would, eventually be moved, by marrying and creating families, are those exact families that are being ripped to shreds by this policy. Those who were the most obedient 10-15 years ago are the ones that the church has placed a target on the backs of, and it breaks my heart. To think that of all the pain that was felt when this policy was executed, and then to realize how very few of us had to be personally affected by it, is what made me learn my newest of truths, which is this;
Those that are, and those that; ‘just couldn’t catch a break’ (just like Jen, throughout her whole life)These are some of the most obedient and steadfast in their faith, and the least of all to deserve the sorrow and hurt being brought upon them and their families during this time.
Another marvelous person, story and interview. When I see 3 or 4 segments, each an hour or more, I figure I’ll watch one or two now and the rest later but that never happens–there’s simply no way to put something this excellent down.
Jen Parkinson, your story, like so many others here, will definitely help a lot of people. So beautiful and genuine and real. Things that come across so often in these interviews is both the “in to win” beginning, and then the pain and struggle and liberation. And the total authenticity and humanity. And the discovery of self, light, lightness and fresh air. And the reality without the imposed, artificial template or the self-forced need to fit and fulfill.
If there’s a ‘family crisis’ when a member leaves their religion, then that’s a problem with the religion and with the family. It’s so sad that children – and the adults they become – find their entire identity, self and “worthiness” tightly defined by church and church faithfulness. Which they extend across their entire family.
And it’s not just a matter of the Celestial Kingdom and “families are forever” that’s thrown into crisis for a family like Jen’s –– is also the here and now. It’s the identify and the temporal life of parents, themselves, that’s threatened. It’s their own life-long need and practice of keeping all serious questions and critical thinking out of sight and mind because that’s a world that simply cannot be allowed to exist–it’s evil, it’s Satan, it’s enemy and it’s not being faithful. And a person like Jen shatters that contrived and cloistered world. That is so sad. And so cultural.
What the flippin’ frick would it matter if Jen had been seen at that family outing?? Her parent’s sickness had been placed also onto her sibs and, undoubtedly, onto their children, too. Church more important than family? WTF?
John Dehlin and Mormon Stories continues to be the very best and most dynamic thing happening anywhere in Mormonism.
The segment about the marriage to a gay man was very interesting and touching, I feel bad for both parties involved. Another example that a truly gay person cannot be changed.
The segment about losing faith is another example of how my experience in leaving was so different than so many others. I cannot remember first learning about the seer stone in the hat translation process, it was simply insignificant to me. Going from believing he had two magic rocks called the Urim and Thummin in a breastplate to one magic rock in a hat was not enough to test my faith. Polyandry was the only troublesome piece of history for me. I knew the age of consent in the 19th century was as low as 13 and therefore knew the underage girls charge was inaccurate. It was the much larger questions of theodicy that I found far more troubling along with finding the plan of salvation (from either Mormon or Christian perspective) completely immoral. Then of course there is the complete lack of evidence for all supernatural claims played on me as well. But we all have our individual journey’s and are bothered by different things.
I was exposed to extreme anti-Mormon lit as a TBM teen and it was so over the top that I dismissed anything considered anti-Mormon without looking at it further. Example: During baptisms for the dead, a man in a black cloak stands over the font until you die. Seriously ridiculous stuff. Then again, people were ex-communicated for talking about things that seemed ridiculous 30 years ago (e.g., peep stones in a hat) and are part of church essays now, so who knows.
Polyandry in general doesn’t bother me because at 18 I was in an institute class and the teacher talked about it. As a naïve teen, I took him at his word that yes, it happened, but the husbands weren’t members of the church and it was the only way the woman could be sealed for the Celestial kingdom. The details of polyandry, such as sending the husbands away on missions (very King David like) or marrying women with husbands in the church does bother me, but those details weren’t shared by the institute teacher. I wonder how he would have tried to justify them if he had. I’ve found it very interesting as a post Mormon seeing how polygamy doesn’t bother most people but polyandry does, and I honestly think it’s because it is “new” news, whereas polygamy is old news – inoculation basically. Or maybe the difference is that polygamy typically means marrying single women, whereas polyandry typically means marrying married women (not a woman marrying multiple single men).
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