Zelophehad’s Daughters

An Angry Birds Easter

Posted by Mike C

While sitting in sacrament meeting today singing, “O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown”, I had an epiphany. It was all clear to me–I could finally see the connection between Angry Birds and the Gospel. Who says sacrament meeting isn’t inspirational?


Before I explain, let me step back and give some necessary background about my faith transition. I have written about this before, but the past couple of years have been difficult as I’ve processed my changing beliefs and sought for a new place within my faith community. Read more…

“To Be Like Man, Almost”

Posted by Lynnette

“How infinite that wisdom,
The plan of holiness,
That made salvation perfect
And veiled the Lord in flesh,
To walk upon his footstool
And be like man, almost,
In his exalted station,
And die, or all was lost.”

W.W. Phelps, “O God the Eternal Father,” Hymns 175

Theologians often distinguish between a “high christology” and a “low christology.” The former emphasizes Jesus’ divinity. It is called “high” because it begins with Jesus as God, and looks at his descent to earth. A “low christology” on the other hand, is primarily interested in Jesus as a human being, in his mortal experience. The two approaches are not seen as being in conflict; they simply have differing emphases.

Latter-day Saints, I think, tend to talk about Jesus with a “high christology” orientation. We strongly emphasize his divinity. I do not think this is in and of itself a bad thing. However, the danger of focusing too much on this is that it can leave one with the impression that Jesus wasn’t really quite human, as can be seen in phrases like the one in the hymn I’ve quoted above: “to be like man, almost.” This leads to several problems. Read more…

Thoughts of a Non-Convert

Posted by Lynnette

I worry about posting this. I know it can be a touchy topic, and I don’t want to be the elephant carelessly stomping around and offending people right and left. So if I’m doing that, then tell me. Really. Then I’ll know what to do better next time.

I’m not a convert.  I know, I know, “everyone’s a convert.”  But really, I’m not.  It’s not that I’ve just stayed in the Church because I was raised in it, and never engaged in any kind of thought for myself, as some are quick to assume.  But quite frankly, I have no idea what it would be like to be a member of a different religious tradition, or none at all, and then switch to Mormonism, and I don’t think I should pretend that I really understand the experience.  I have plenty of admiration for those who do it—one of my professors in grad school was an expert on conversion, and one of the things he always said is that we ought to have a lot of respect for converts to any faith, because it’s an immensely challenging life transition.  But it’s something foreign to me. Read more…

Train Tripping (Part 3)

Posted by Lynnette

Notes from a train trip from Emeryville, CA to Indianapolis, IN

10 April 2014

3:36 AM

Central Time, now, as we’re in Nebraska. I fell asleep around 11:00, and while it hasn’t been continuous sleep, at least it’s been some. But I’m awake enough at the moment that I decided to get up for a while. I can tell we’re going pretty fast, because it’s harder than usual to type, as the train is jerkier than usual.

Given my tendencies toward depression, it’s generally not a good idea for me to have too much time alone to just think—I’m likely to think myself into a dark place. But there’s something magical about trains for me. It’s easier to resist that lure. It’s easier to stay in the present. I know what my therapist would say: it’s not actually magic. It’s that I’ve made a particular association; that I’ve invested the train with this meaning, with this power. But I still maintain that it’s a little bit magical. Read more…

Train Tripping (Part 2)

Posted by Lynnette

Notes from a train trip from Emeryville, CA to Indianapolis, IN

9 April 2014

2:18 AM

I read for a while last night and then tried to fall asleep. It almost happened a couple of times, but not quite. Obviously this isn’t the ideal environment for sleeping, but usually I can manage nonetheless. I think I’m just kind of wound up tonight. Anyway, I decided to get back up for a while. Eventually I should be tired enough to crash.

I’m looking around the car, and I can see people wrapped up in blankets, sprawled out on the seats. Most of them, like me, have double seats to themselves, though a few are sharing. It’s not quiet, exactly, but it’s as quiet as a train gets at night. You can hear the movement of the cars on the tracks, and conductors and other people periodically walk by. Read more…

Train Tripping (Part 1)

Posted by Lynnette

Notes from a train trip from Emeryville, CA to Indianapolis, IN

7 April 2014

10:04 PM

I’m already packing, and it’s not even midnight. Impressive, I must say. I’m done with my suitcase; what I’m figuring out now is what to bring with me in coach. I don’t generally pay for meals on the train (they’re pricey), so I have to rely on my own provisions. So I’m gathering enough snacks to last three days: grapes, carrots, crackers, granola bars, rolls, peanut butter, cheese, cookies, m&m’s.

I used to spend forever deliberating over what books to bring, but no longer. My Kindle is well-stocked, so I can jump between epic fantasy and psychological thrillers, or whatever else I might be in the mood for. Read more…

The Negative Response to Ordain Women

Posted by Lynnette

I was not surprised to see that conservative Mormons had a negative response to the actions of Ordain Women over the weekend. But I was curious to see what specific issues would come up in the conversation about it. Toward that end, I read a 203-comment thread on a popular conservative Mormon website, created some general categories, and categorized the comments. This is a brief overview of what I found. Read more…

What Elder Oaks Did and Didn’t Say to OW

Posted by Ziff

Elder Oaks gave a talk in Priesthood Session tonight that was the most direct response to Ordain Women that I’ve yet heard a GA give. He hit a lot of points that have already been argued to death on the Bloggernacle. For example, have you ever heard that priesthood is for boys and motherhood is for girls? That one was certainly news to me!

But he did say one thing to OW that I thought was actually interesting. He said that the Quorum of Fifteen doesn’t have the authority to decide to end the female priesthood ban:

The First Presidency, and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who preside over the Church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting church policies and procedures . . . But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.

This seems pretty straightforward. What he’s saying is that ending the female priesthood ban isn’t something the Quorum of 15 believes can be done without a revelation from God. (Or at least he personally believes ending it would require a revelation.) Of everything he said in his talk, this comes closest to actually addressing what OW is asking for.

But what’s frustrating is that he either doesn’t know in any detail what OW is asking for, or he doesn’t care to address it. From their mission statement:

We are committed to work for equality and the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood. . . . We sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer.

OW isn’t asking Church leaders to end the priesthood ban without God’s say-so. They’re actually asking the General Authorities to ask God about it. So Elder Oaks is sidestepping the question OW is asking, and jumping to answer a question that they haven’t asked. I can see two possible reasons why he would do this. First, it’s possible he’s simply unaware of what they’re asking for. He’s a busy man, and he doesn’t have time to delve into the details of who OW is or what they want beyond the name of the organization. Second, it’s possible that he knows what they’re asking, but that he thinks it’s not worth taking the question to God, since he’s sure already that the answer will be “no.” After all, he calls the female priesthood ban “divinely decreed.”

I have to say, neither possibility is terribly encouraging. I am glad, though, that at least he didn’t say that they’ve asked God and God said no. I’m sure all the OW critics will take what he said to mean this, but I’m glad he didn’t actually say it. This means the OW request is still out there, unasked and unanswered.

The Movement to Hang Pictures of Female Leaders in Church Buildings

Posted by Mike C

YW leaders

Unless you live under a rock, you are no doubt aware of the high-profile movement that has been urging Church leaders to pray to ask God for new revelation regarding the hanging of pictures of female leaders in prominent church buildings. Led by Washington, D.C.-based human rights attorney Sherri Shelley, this movement has been making waves in the media, including the New York Times, Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post, and even the Provo Daily Herald, pushing their “non-negotiable” agenda.

Said Shelley:

The Joseph Smith Papers Project has brought to light historical documents proving that Joseph Smith espoused the then-radical egalitarian belief that pictures of female church leaders should hang side-by-side with pictures of male leaders in church buildings. He even told Emma and other prominent sisters in the first meeting of the Relief Society that its meetinghouse walls, “…would one day be a veritable kingdom of tastefully-framed photographs of well-coiffed women in a kaleidoscope of pastel colors.”

The Church, not surprisingly, pushed back at first, stating in a letter from the Public Affairs Department that the Movement to Hang Pictures of Female Leaders in Church Buildings represents only a tiny minority of LDS women. Spokesperson Jessica Rooney explained: Read more…

Ordain Women, Women’s Ordination

Posted by Guest

A guest post from Jacob Baker, whose first guest post on ZD can be found here. This post is also on Jacob’s personal blog.

At the outset, I should say that at this point nothing is going to stop Ordain Women, whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s clear that no amount of criticism or shaming will fracture the movement. In fact, these have really only served (unsurprisingly) to strengthen it and add to its numbers. OW may have begun as an organized movement but has become something of an event, in the philosophical sense of that word–the eruption of something new that breaks with the prevailing order, something which marks a before and after. Those who are riveted by an event (like Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ, after which he was never the same again) can only understand certain truths in its wake. Read more…

New Scripture Mastery: Now With 40% Less Prooftexting!

Posted by Ziff

The list of scripture mastery scriptures that seminary students are asked to memorize was modified last September. Over a third of the 100 scriptures (25 for each book of scripture / year of instruction) were replaced. NoCoolName Tom has some fascinating discussion of the scriptures that were dropped at his blog (from the Old Testament only: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

I thought it also might be interesting to look at the changes that were made in terms of how useful the scriptures are for prooftexting. The reason I thought of this is that I served a mission in Texas, and looking back at the scriptures I had learned in seminary, it seemed like a fair number of them had been included solely as ammunition for prooftexting arguments with other Christians. I think a prototypical example of this is 1 Corinthians 15:29:

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

I know doing ordinances for the dead is an important doctrine, but really how important is it to know that there’s this offhand reference to it in a single verse in the New Testament? It seems to me that it’s only important if the goal is to teach seminary students to have prooftexts ready for an argument, where they could (in theory) show up their opponents by whipping this verse out to show that yes indeed, baptism for the dead is mentioned in the Bible, so nyah nyah nyah!!

Read more…

More on Being Gay and Mormon: Some Simple Ways People Have Been Supportive

Posted by Lynnette

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: being a gay Mormon often feels like being in an impossible situation. But I also have to say that there are ways in which I consider myself quite fortunate. My family has been fabulous, and I have a lot of truly amazing LDS friends. So as a follow-up to my previous post, which as one commenter pointed out was mostly “don’t”s, I’d like to mention some of the things people have said and done that have been particularly positive.

1) Simple, genuine expressions of love. When I came out last November, I was blown away by how many people responded simply by telling me that they loved me. It meant a lot to me that for so many, that was the first response. I wish every gay person could have a similar experience. Read more…

A Few Simple Ways to Talk More Constructively About Homosexuality (That Don’t Require Major Doctrinal Changes)

Posted by Lynnette

1) Drop the term “same-sex attraction,” as in, someone “suffering from SSA.” Being gay isn’t an illness.

2) Drop the term “lifestyle” as a description of gay relationships. Recognize that there is a difference between a promiscuous lifestyle (whether one is gay or straight), and a decision to be in a committed relationship, rather than assuming that all gay people, by virtue of being gay, fall into the former category if they aren’t celibate. Note that the lifestyle of gay couples is pretty much the same as the lifestyle of straight couples. Read more…

Church to Implement Stop-and-Frisk, Outst Feminist Agitators

Posted by Melyngoch

To: Public Affairs Department

From: Temple Square Security

Subject: Ideological Stop-and-Frisk

Date: April 1, 2014


We have received your request that members of the so-called “Ordain Women” movement be quietly removed from the grounds of Temple Square and the Conference Center during this weekend’s General Conference.

Unfortunately it has become difficult to determine just by looking at a sister whether she is a feminist bent on destroying the family. Although in the past, helpful cues like the visibility of shoulders (or of the crease behind the knee),  or shrill demands for an so-called “equal rights” amendment, have supplied an  indication of a feminist’s unrighteousness, “Ordain Women” has publicly stated their intent to dress just like regular Mormons, behave calmly and politely, and refrain from disruptive chanting or sign-waving. It therefore seems likely that these disobedient women will be able to mix unnoticed among the large crowds of believing church-goers on Temple Square for Conference.

One option is to simply bar women from coming onto the grounds of Temple Square between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m. on Saturday. This is an efficient option likely to achieve 100% success in keeping “Ordain Women” off of Temple Square; security officers could be stationed at every entrance to the grounds to politely deny any women’s requests to enter, and utility vehicles used to block those entrances once the meeting has started. We are concerned, however, that if images of hundreds of women being shut out from church grounds by a garbage truck reach the media, it may give the mistaken impression that we are discriminatorily excluding half of our church’s members from participating in core elements of church practice.

We are therefore developing a program which is guaranteed to root out subversive elements and maintain order on Temple Square. Read more…

10 Things to Like about the General Women’s Meeting

Posted by Guest

This guest post comes to us from a ZD reader and commenter who goes by Thokozile. Thokozile studies cell biology, which mainly involves looking at tiny things and describing them in complicated ways. She has also been known to play the organ, wear purple pants, and lick banana slugs.

I was expecting the General Women’s Meeting to alternate between sappy, offensive, and boring. I can’t say I was wrong, nor can I say that it was historic, but my low expectations made it easy to notice the good things that happened. Read more…

Why Faith Transitions Need to Be Less Frequentist and More Bayesian

Posted by Mike C

I know. You are probably despairing to think that such a disputed area of statistical dogma could have anything to contribute to such a disputed area of religious experience. (If you are despairing about this post for other reasons, I apologize). I mean, not even Martin Luther would have had the nerve to nail 95 non-informative priors on R.A. Fisher’s door.

But English statistician Thomas Bayes was also a Presbyterian minister, so it is only natural that his statistical insight would have religious implications as well. And his insight is, in my view, the key to healthier faith transitions. Read more…

The Camelot Convention

Posted by Lynnette

Setting: Camelot Commons

Elayne: I can’t wait for the Camelot Convention next month! I’m going to get in line for the Round Table session.

Percival: If you do that, there won’t be room for the hordes of men who want to attend.

Elayne: But I never have understood why women can’t be Round Table Squires.

Agravayne: Come, now. Everyone knows that women have a very special role. They sew favors for the men, and rejoice in their femininity, the divine adornment of Round Table Squires.

Percival: And don’t forget that women have their own meeting. The fact that a man sits at the head of their table should in no way detract from the flowered tablecloth.

Read more…

American Two-Party Politics Finds a New Battleground in the Ordain Women Movement

Posted by Guest

This guest post comes to us from Esther, a globetrotting sociologist and West Coast native. She loves Jesus, her family and friends, Jimmy Fallon, Michelle Obama, fresh salsa, and Tillamook cheese. In that order.

The obvious drawback of belonging to the Only True And Living Church On The Earth is associating with a lot of people who like to be right all the time. There may be One True Church, but there is not one true political party. Unfortunately, sometimes we confuse our gift to know the truth with an ability to know all truth and to assume that whatever truth God has given to us applies to everyone else. Is it possible that God could inspire two different people to vote for two different political candidates? Read more…

Where is the Female Sacred Space?

Posted by Galdralag

Two months ago I had a once in a lifetime experience: I was invited to an Emirati wedding. In a vast, glittering ballroom, chandeliers festooned and arches bedecked with streaming garlands of real flowers, I sat with nearly six hundred Emirati women eating an eight-course gourmet meal, waited on by servants robed in white with gold sashes. As is common in the UAE, the wedding guests were dressed to the nines – full professional makeup, elaborate waist-length hair extensions, and high-end sequined designer gowns with plunging necklines paired with improbably spindly six-inch heels. Arab pop blasted from the speakers, and the female members of the bride’s and groom’s families stood in turn. They danced traditional dances together in front of the seated crowd, ululating and graceful in their glamorous gowns, wending their way up and down the center of the room in a processional toward the bridal bower. No photography was allowed – no cameras whatsoever were permitted in that room. I sat, my brain rapidly stultified by the rich food and blaring music, trying to create a mental video of the glamour and the dancing, trying to make sure I did not miss too many details of this extraordinary night.

And then, at the stroke of midnight, the groom came (looking pale and nervous), escorted by the broadly grinning male members of the bride’s family. And all of the sequins, all of the elaborately coiffed hair of the numerous guests, disappeared in moments under long frothy black abayas and headscarves, leaving only portions of the women’s faces, their henna tattooed hands, and their designer heels showing.** Only the bride, in that room filled with hundreds and hundreds of women, could be seen in her gorgeous gown by her husband-to-be. Only the bride’s immediate male relatives could even enter into the ballroom where the bride was seated, uncovered, surrounded by her vast network of family and friends. (Even the groom’s male relatives were forbidden entrance, and this despite the fact that all of the women other than the bride had covered themselves before any of the select few male relatives had entered.) They had entered into a sacred, private female space. Read more…

Insider/Outsider Talk in the Church PR Response to Ordain Women

Posted by Ziff

The Church PR department’s response to Ordain Women’s request for tickets to the priesthood session of Conference makes the point that OW is a minority movement:

Women in the Church, by a very large majority, do not share your advocacy for priesthood ordination for women and consider that position to be extreme.

One question this argument raises is how they know this. Are they relying on the Pew data (rah of fMh has an interesting response) or the American Grace data, or some internal survey of members’ attitudes, or perhaps just assuming that it’s true?

But I don’t want to get into that question here. Instead, I wanted to talk about another question I’ve seen raised a number of times on the Bloggernacle, namely, why would Church PR make this argument at all? After all, shouldn’t this be a question of right and wrong rather than how many people support the idea? We have all kinds of discussion in the Church of how we should do right even if it’s unpopular, so why should it matter how many women do or don’t want the priesthood? Either it’s right or it’s not; that’s what matters.

Read more…