Not Crying in Church Doesn’t Make You a Heathen

Man crying

During my much too brief six years in Young Women’s, I always looked forward to Girls’ Camp. I loved the songs, the hours spent giggling at night when we should have been asleep, the testimony meetings, and everything in between. It was my happy place.

Until this one moment.

I remember so vividly sitting in a single tent with all the other young women in my ward. It must have been raining, because I can imagine no other scenario where all 15+ of us would voluntarily squish in one tent (along with our bishop) in Virginia’s summer heat. A spiritual message had been shared, and then the girls took turns bearing their testimonies.

It was an incredibly spiritual experience, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house… Er, tent. Except for mine.

This turned from a spiritually uplifting experience to a really awkward one for me within a matter of seconds. Literally everyone was crying. I tried so hard to join them — I thought of the saddest things I could, I pinched myself, I held my eyes open for too long so they would water… Nothing, dang it!

I remember feeling like something was wrong with me. Why was everyone else crying, but I couldn’t squeak out one measly tear?! Did I not feel the Spirit? Was I a heathen? Some kind of immovable, unfeeling monster?

I felt like everyone was judging me — and to be honest, some people were. I later got teased (only half-jokingly by some) over my lack of tears! But there’s something integral that we clearly didn’t understand.

Crying does not equal spirituality. If someone cries, it doesn’t mean they are feeling the Spirit more strongly than anyone else. It doesn’t mean they’re more worthy to have the Spirit.

Since we’re all different, it makes sense that we’re touched by the Spirit in different ways. Some people feel moved to tears. Others feel peace (holla @ me!). Some feel a burning in their chest. The list could go on and on! We’re not the same, and we shouldn’t expect to all feel the Spirit the same way.

President Howard W. Hunter explained, “I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself” (“Eternal Investments,” Address given to CES personnel, 1989).

So if you’re anything like self-conscious 14-year-old me, please know that not crying IS okay. Crying is okay, too! However you feel the Spirit is fine, and no one should be judged for not showing an overtly physical reaction to it.

And if anyone asks you why you don’t cry or if you’re not feeling the Spirit, roll your eyes and then show them this article. Or probably don’t roll your eyes, because that’s rude. Bad advice… My b.

Each of us that has been baptized is promised the Spirit if we live worthily of it. We weren’t each promised that we’d cry when we felt the Holy Ghost’s presence, so don’t think those two things go hand in hand.

And guess what? That means that you’re fine just the way you are — tears or no tears.