My friend, let's call her Ellen, is coming up on 20 and in Utah, her being married and pregnant isn't really that big of a surprise. Except she's only been out of high school for 6 months, only been married for 4 months and she's 8 months pregnant.
I nodded empathetically as we talked. They have no business judging. People should mind their own business more.
Yet as I left, for the first time, really, my mind went to my high school days and the things I felt and said about girls in her situation.
In junior high I over heard a classmate talking about spending an afternoon at her boyfriend's house. She said the most scandalous things and when my ears quit burning I prophesied that this girl, let's call her Sarah, would get pregnant before we graduated from high school.
At the start of my senior year I heard the news: Sarah was pregnant. And all the details: she didn't want to marry the father, she was going to give the baby up for adoption and, perhaps the most surprising of all, that she was going to continue going to our high school.
It was a hard road for her. She went to date dances with gay guys because no straight guy would date her. She was cast as Brigitta in the school play of The Sound of Music. By the end of the run it was pretty obvious that Captain Von Trapp's 8-year-old daughter was pregnant which seemed beyond silly to me. And as she grew into her third trimester, I watched her squirm in the choir seats leaning this way and that trying fruitlessly to get comfortable.
That may have been the only time I felt compassion for her.
One of my friends, a fellow cast member of Sarah's in the school play, was saying something about her like what a though situation to be in or something like that and I couldn't stand for it.
She had it coming. Years of risky behavior and foolish decisions led her to where she was.
There wasn't an ounce of compassion in me. My friend was shocked and we never spoke about it again.
Then there was seminary graduation, where Sarah, post-pregnancy, stood and bore her testimony about the things she'd been through in that year. When she had decided to attend the regular high school, while pregnant, her mom cautioned her that she would find out who her friends really were.
And I did, she said. But I know more than who my friends are. I know more about my Savior and His Atoning sacrifice and I know that I can still meet my prince charming and be sealed to him forever.
I remember feeling rebuked. And guilty. Why had I been so...unbending? So...critical?
At 22 I was serving in the Relief Society presidency of my BYU young married ward. As we waited for the president to begin a presidency meeting, we, the counselors, talked about who had been married the longest in the ward of newlyweds. When the president arrived, I announced that Pres and her hubby took the prize for the longest married.
Oh no, she said, Spencer and I have only been married five years.
I blinked. Her oldest child was going to be baptized soon. My brain literally could not do the math.
She explained matter-of-factly, that she had been a single mom for almost 2 years before she and her husband had been married in the temple. And although they had changed her oldest son's last name, her husband wasn't his father.
Later still, I learned more. She had been molested growing up. As had a couple of her sisters. Her reaction to the violation was actually pretty typical. She felt like she had nothing to lose. In her own words she admitted to being very promiscuous in her late teens and early 20's. She was 22 when she learned that her self-desctructive life-style had led to a pregnancy.
That's when she began to turn things around.
This woman, my former RS President is one of my heros. She is the kind of spiritual giant I always hoped I would be, but I can't quite attain. She is on a different level. Perhaps because she's been through hell already. But she, among others in that ward, taught me compassion. And to judge not.
As I left the craft store I felt compassion. Compassion for Ellen, sure. But also compassion for other girls in the ward. The "judging" girls.
You see, anyone who judges like that is simply displaying a spiritual immaturity. They haven't lived long enough or had enough troubles of their own. One day, they will grow up and they will understand what the Savior said when he said, "my bowels are full of mercy for them."
And they too, will judge not.