Oct 08

A Plea To My Leaders

I’m currently the second counselor in my ward’s YW presidency, and so when we recently had a temple baptisms night and the temple staff asked for us to provide 6 adult volunteers—3 men and 3 women—to accompany the youth, I agreed to go. I find the initiatory and endowment difficult, but I usually enjoy baptisms for the dead, and I always enjoy spending time with the young women of my ward, who are bright, inquisitive, funny, kind, and exploring their lives with faith and verve.

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Oct 06

Generational Differences in the Mormon Experience: A Personal View

We are delighted to feature a guest post reflection from Mofem matriarch Bradamante.


Sometime in the mid-oughts, one of my grown children, who was undergoing a faith transition at the time, remarked to me that the Church I grew up in wasn’t the one he grew up in. He was certainly right about that, though I honestly hadn’t noticed this when he was actually growing up. I had, foolishly as it turns out, thought that it would be the birthright of all of my kids to experience the same optimistic and nurturing Mormon adolescent experience that I had been (as I realize now) unbelievably fortunate to have had. It had actually been one of the things I had looked forward to most when I anticipated my future family, back in the day: that the Church would nurture them as it had nurtured me. I had internalized the “it takes a village” idea long before Hillary Clinton came on the scene to articulate it, and I looked forward to raising my kids in that village.

Privilege. So often you don’t know you have it. Growing up in that uncorrelated Eden of the past,* I had no way of knowing how much things would change. Continue reading

Sep 28

Going to the Affirmation Conference

When I came out a few years ago, I thought of getting in touch with Affirmation, which is an organization for LGBTQ Mormons as well as their families and friends. But I had a vague idea in my mind—I’m not sure from where—that they were somewhat hostile to the church. I figured that I was having enough trouble negotiating the challenge of being a gay Mormon without dealing with that, so I didn’t pursue the idea further. Continue reading

Sep 26

Thanks for the Memories, Elder Scott

Elder Scott 580Dear Elder Scott,

I heard the news this week and immediately started grieving. Even though I haven’t stayed in touch over the years, I will miss you. I loved your gentle kindness, your good humor, your deep and sincere interest in me. Though more than 20 years have passed since my last year at BYU, I still vividly recall fighting traffic on I-15 most Thursday afternoons to reach the cavernous parking deck under Temple Square, my Portuguese grammar manual tucked under one arm and O Livro de Mormon tucked under the other, marching to the elevator of the Church Administration Building to meet with you. You were often too busy to have practiced your Portuguese during the week, but during our time together you were nonetheless a most earnest student. In addition to our grammar lessons, I enjoyed reading “as escrituras” together, and I especially loved hearing the personal stories you haltingly and then more confidently told me as your Portuguese fluency improved.

Here are some of my favorite (albeit faulty) memories of our interactions: Continue reading

Sep 23

Church President Probability Changes with Elder Scott’s Death

Elder Richard G. Scott died yesterday at the age of 86. As I did when Elder Perry and President Packer died, in this post, I’ll show how this changes the probabilities of becoming Church President for the remainder of the members of the Q15.

All the probabilities come from a simulation I did for a post back in April. It’s a straightforward simulation: it uses an actuarial table and each Q15 member’s age and seniority in the quorum as inputs, and it draws a series of random numbers to simulate different possible life expectancies for each member. The life expectancies are then compared to find in what fraction of the simulations each member outlives all other members senior to him to become President. For a more detailed description, see my April post.

Here are the changes with Elder Scott’s death:

change in probabilities of becoming president with elder scott's death Continue reading

Sep 02

Defending the White Family

In last month’s (August) Ensign, Elder Bruce C. Hafen purports to put the Proclamation on the Family into its historical and cultural context.1 Hafen’s view is that marriage as an institution is collapsing, and the family with it, because society has come to value the individual’s interest at the expense of social interests, one of which is the support and privileging of stable heterosexual nuclear families. He views this as a cultural shift driven by legal changes in the last half decade, before which “laws maintained a workable balance between social interests and individual interests.” In the 60s and 70s, however, the courts “began to interpret family laws in ways that gave individual interests a much higher priority than social interests, which knocked the legal and social system off balance.” (52) Hafen picks out no-fault divorce laws, the availability of child custody and adoption to single people, abortion, and (as always) same-sex marriage as elements of this threat to the family, and mourns how far the family has fallen since the year 1960, to which he makes repeated and regretful reference, as his reference point for a happier time when families were stronger and we better enforced pro-social values.

But here are some other fun things going on in 1960: Continue reading

  1. “The Proclamation on the Family: Transcending the Cultural Confusion,” Ensign August 2015, 50-55 []
Aug 30

A Talk

The following is a slightly longer version of a talk I gave in sacrament meeting on August 30, 2015.

On Patience

A Broken Heart

Patience, I suggest, is linked to the injunction to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Ether 12:27 reads, “if men [and women] come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto [people] weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all [those] that humble themselves before me.” This is not a comfortable verse. I have to admit that for much of my life, I have been wary of it. I have imagined God with a long computer print-out of all my flaws, ready and waiting to show them to me. But today I want to consider the matter in a somewhat different light.

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Aug 26

“Youth” = Boys

The Church released a statement today saying that it will continue to be a chartering organization for the BSA. This came as a little bit of a surprise given the huffy tone of the Church’s “we’re re-evaluating our relationship” statement of less than a month ago.

What’s interesting is what’s consistent across the two statements: the equation of “youth” in the Church with boys only. From the earlier statement:

As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available.

And from today’s statement:

With equal concern for the substantial number of youth who live outside the United States and Canada, the Church will continue to evaluate and refine program options that better meet its global needs.

A lot of people commented that last month’s statement read like a first draft, written in frustration, that somehow slipped through and saw the light of day. Today’s statement does sound more measured. It’s disappointing, then, that even after having calmed down and re-considered things, the writers still don’t imagine that the Church’s youth include girls.

Aug 20

Priesthood Leaders of Good Report

The caricature of the Mormon feminist is that she gets hurt by a priesthood holder exercising unrighteous dominion, and gives up on the system altogether, without realizing that the system is actually benevolent and there are unfortunately a few bad apples. Or to use Elder Oaks’ analogy, she has a bad experience with a particular electrical appliance and gives up on electricity.

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Aug 14

What doctrines of the Church forbid openly gay scout leaders?

In the Church’s Newsroom statement a couple of weeks ago where they expressed dismay at the BSA’s vote to start allowing gay scout leaders, there was the following puzzling line:

[T]he admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church

I’m trying to figure out which Church doctrines are being referred to here. I’m not even concerned with the virtually impossible task of nailing down exactly what subset of prophetic statements, scriptures, talks, teachings, manuals, or whatever constitute Church doctrine. Even casting a wide net and using a broad definition of what qualifies as doctrine, I’m having a hard time figuring out what Church teachings forbid having gay scout leaders.

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Aug 08

With God, Nothing is Impossible…Except Choir


I am our ward choir director. If you knew me in real life you might find this shocking—I am no great musical talent, I have no formal training, and most importantly, I sport no distinguished-looking facial hair—no mutton chop sideburns or flamboyant goatee—the true mark of a virtuoso conductor.

What I can do is read music and play the piano passably well, and that is about it…which apparently qualifies me as choir director. I am a warm body who can keep a beat and carry a tune. Praise the Lord and pass the earplugs! Continue reading

Aug 03


I was kind of ambivalent about attending Sunstone this year. I hadn’t been in a few years, and I wasn’t sure I was up to making it through a conference—especially after the chaos of having a family reunion earlier that week. But after I got asked to be on a fun-sounding panel, I figured that I’d might as well do all three days. And I have to say, I’m so glad that I did. I really enjoyed myself.

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Jul 22

Respecting the Legitimacy of Experiences Foreign to Us

One of the most vexing problems for any religious tradition which asserts exclusivity claims is the problem of sincere believers in other faiths. Evangelicals are confronted by Mormons with firm convictions that the Book of Mormon is authentic scripture. Mormons must grapple with situations in which people report a witness that the Catholic church is the true one. Christians who hold that Christ is the only way to know God are posed with the problem of people who report encountering God in Islam. And so forth. Continue reading

Jul 19

Help Thou Mine Unbelief

As I’ve journeyed through my faith transition these past few years, I’ve pondered much on the importance of belief. Some things I no longer believe (e.g., polygamy was given by God), and some other things I believe differently from most orthodox Mormons (e.g., the Brethren get some important things wrong). And with most of my beliefs, my level of certainty is not anywhere near what it once was (e.g., I hope and long for a heaven that, in my darker moments, I fear does not exist). I feel this loss acutely, yet I do not regret who I have become. Continue reading

Jul 16

What Does the Church Want Non-LDS Gay People to Do?

I’ve read a lot of posts on gay marriage in the last few weeks, and seen a lot of arguments. But I have a question about the subject that I haven’t ever really seen directly addressed. So I’m going to jump into the fray, and ask it. My question is: what, exactly, does the church want non-LDS gay people to do? For members, the requirement is currently either celibacy or a mixed-orientation marriage. Though I find this situation problematic, I want to set it aside, and ask what the church might realistically hope for when it comes to the vast majority of gay people who aren’t LDS.

Here are the options I can come up with:

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Jul 14

Triggers and Tolerating Negative Feelings

I used to be one of the admins for an internet community that dealt with mental health issues. A lot of people in that community had dealt with abuse, and one of our goals was to keep it a safe environment for them. So we asked people to use trigger warnings when they brought up certain topics. It seemed perfectly reasonable to me. But while we did our best to enforce this policy, inevitably people ended up reading stuff that was triggering. And we emphasized that while we did what we could, ultimately it was their responsibility to learn to take care of themselves when that happened. Continue reading

Jul 09

The People Behind the Abstractions

Early in our blogging years, a memorable incident involved one of my sisters sharing a personal experience. Another blogger came by to inform her that she could not have had the experience she reported. Why not? Because he had in his mind a neat system of how life worked, and her experience didn’t fit his system.

There is a tendency that troubles me in some popular LDS theological discourse to make theology into nothing more than an intellectual game. Don’t get me wrong; I think theological speculation can be quite interesting. But I think we lose something vital when it gets disconnected from the actual experience of living human beings. Continue reading

Jul 07

Contemplative Spaces

When I was at the University of Notre Dame, one of my favorite spots on campus was the Grotto, a small replica of the French Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. It was a small cave built of rock and filled with candles, and you could go there anytime, day or night, for prayer and reflection. I found it invaluable as a respite from some of the turbulence of my life. And I often reflected upon the fact that there was nothing similar at the other religious university I attended, that BYU seemed a model of efficiency but had no place on its campus for religious contemplation. Continue reading