There is room for individuality in the Gospel.
I think we forget that sometimes. We get caught in a funky cultural mindset that there is only one type of person that fits into the perfect model of a saint.
And often, we think we are outside that perfect model.
I know I’ve felt that way. It’s not uncommon for me to have thoughts that start with: I don’t fit into the church because…
And end with things like:
I’m an introvert.
I’m not outgoing enough.
I’m not good with Primary children.
I make mistakes.
I know it’s silly, but this mindset was so deeply ingrained in me that I was afraid to get a pixie cut for a long time (even though I really wanted one) because I was afraid I wouldn’t look like a “normal” Mormon girl.
This way of thinking is damaging. It prevents people from feeling loved, accepted, and welcome. It excludes people. It makes us set priorities based on what others think of us rather than our relationship with God and our Savior.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave an incredible talk in General Conference this weekend that completely changed my thinking about “fitting in” at church.
In his talk, Elder Holland compared the Gospel to a choir, and I thought it was a beautiful analogy. In the church, we should all be singing the same, joyful song. “The song of redeeming love,” Elder Holland says.
But our voices are all different, and that’s the way it should be. We’re not supposed to compare ourselves to other singers in the choir or try to conform to the point where we lose everything that is unique about us.
Elder Holland emphasizes the fact that there is room for everyone in this choir who wants to sing. This includes people who are different, people who don’t match our internalized picture of what a member of the church should be.
It even includes sinners. Thank goodness! It would be a pretty quiet choir otherwise. Pretty much silent, in fact. Holland urges us to “come as (we) are,” no matter how much we have sinned, then be prepared to work on changing with Christ’s help.
We need our individuality, and I hope we can start recognizing and embracing that more. No one should be excluded from the choir who has a desire to sing with us. We all fit in, and our unique experiences and gifts bring us strength and power as a whole.