Originally written around February 24th-- finalized on April 8th.
Provo: A Knowledge of Things as they Are.
I came here in 2006, and sat in a student sacrament meeting for the first time.
When I saw Provo, I saw ♥ and ☺. “Honor his priesthood,” they told me, as I sat with my new ward.
Trying to integrate felt like I was lying about who I was the week before.
No one knew that my father’s priesthood had been showcased from the pulpit last Sunday, as he said the closing prayer. I bowed my head toward folded bruised arms and told no one that the marks were from him.
When he ended, they said Amen.
I felt a shadow following me through this town, the shadow of a background layered with violence, frequent moving, too much yelling and not enough food. How could I go from outsider-to-belonging if I didn’t have such basic things in common with these kids?
Did I have to denounce my family in order to find my place here? I knew I was here to become something, but it was a tough balance.
How do I become myself without losing what I came from?
I know now, that the individual histories of Happy Valley run deeper than ♥ and ☺. Some of us have been neglected, abused, erased by those we knew before. All have a dark side to their story. So why are we Happy Valley? It is because we come to this place, and hide our faces. We latch onto the idea that perfection means a permanent smile, rather than a personal struggle. And with this, all trials become hidden secrets.
Why do we disown our darkness? To denounce sin in the name of personal progression is one thing, but what about the blackness that is not a result of our own agency? What about the memories that would cause our Mormon counterparts to gasp for air with disbelief? Who are these Mormon counterparts—these people that grew up in crystal castles of scripture? They are fiction. A self-imposed fiction.
A Sunday School teacher asks for personal experiences; we raise our hands. We speak of others that have fallen away, but rarely of our own conflicting doubts. We speak of difficult tests coming up, the stress of education, but rarely “I feel like my friends don’t know who I really am.”
Rarely “I moved out because I can’t forgive my father.”
Rarely “I am scared of the answer to my prayer.”
For now, Provo’s light often holds an air of falsity—it shines by denying the existence of darkness. Are we ashamed? When will we stop condemning the discussion of what is dark? Certainly the cause of this is not doctrine, but culture. Certainly this habit is not inclusive or accepting, but condemning of human nature.
Our light should come from a shelter we create for each other, a safe haven for honesty. Not a self-imposed fiction that we live perfectly, without the sincere, personal hardships that stretch us into our potential frames.