May 04

Who Will Canonize the Family Proclamation?

I admit I breathed a small sigh of relief when this last General Conference ended without the Proclamation on the Family being presented to be added to the D&C. It seemed like it might have been an opportune time: the first annual (April) Conference following all the twentieth anniversary celebrations last year. So I was glad that it didn’t happen, but it occurs to me now that the question of the Family Proclamation getting canonized might be less about when it happens and more about who makes it happen.

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May 01

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Biblical Namesake

This is based on a talk I gave in my ward in February 2016. 

I don’t think I’m giving away too much of my identity on the internet when I tell you that my name is Hannah. Growing up, I liked my name: it’s a palindrome, and, for someone of my age, it was relatively unusual. (I mostly only met Jewish girls my age with the name.) I also liked that, like my brothers, I was named after a Biblical figure; I liked the feeling of being part of history, a long chain of tributary Hannahs, and the sense of weight and importance it gave to the name.

I didn’t much like that Biblical figure, though. The lessons I got about her in Primary and even Young Women’s were always lessons about Samuel that framed her only as the faithful mother of someone important, not someone important in her own right. Moreover, every time her story was referenced the other kids looked at me, more or less surreptitiously, and teased me: “Ha, ha, you want to have a baby!” In Primary I did NOT want to have a baby, and this teasing oddly stung, to the point that I dreaded Hannah references in church. (From this I also learned that kids can tease you about anything; kids, don’t do this.)

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Apr 19

Will It Play in Papua?

In another life I was a linguist, interested particularly in linguistic typology, the field of searching for true language universals—and thus some of the deepest building blocks of human language—through description and classification of existing languages into broad types and comparative features. Functionally, and a little flippantly, this means typologists write papers proposing models of how languages work, and then, almost invariably, other typologists familiar with the languages of Papua New Guinea write a response saying, “No they don’t,” with copious counterexamples. Think that all languages have a word for “blue”? Look at Dani. Think that there’s no language with doubly articulated stops? Look at Yeli Dnye. Think that the verb for ‘give’ always takes three arguments? Look at Saliba.  Think that all languages count on their fingers or therefore bias towards base-10 numeral systems? Look at Oksapmin.

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Apr 14

Why do Church leaders dislike the internet?

In Elder Ballard’s recent address to CES teachers, he warned his audience several times of the dangers of the internet to their students. For example, he admonished teachers to

Teach [students] about the challenges they face when relying upon the Internet to answer questions of eternal significance. Remind them that James did not say, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him Google!”

Wise people do not rely on the Internet to diagnose and treat emotional, mental, and physical health challenges, especially life-threatening challenges. Instead, they seek out health experts, those trained and licensed by recognized medical and state boards.

james did not say ask of googleWhy do Church leaders not want young people looking for for answers on the internet? One often-cited answer to this question is that they don’t like the information students might find–information that will likely contradict the carefully curated view of the Church and its history that is typically taught at Church and in seminary and institute classes. For example, students may learn that perhaps Joseph and Emma’s marriage wasn’t quite so idyllic as it is often portrayed, what with him marrying many other wives, typically behind Emma’s back.

Elder Ballard specifically mentions this problem of negative information in his address. He says that CES teachers should introduce students to faith-promoting approaches to controversial topics so that students will measure any more negative interpretations that they encounter later against what they heard first from their teachers.

I think Church leaders are concerned with more than just information when it comes to the internet, though. There are two other things that people also find there that I suspect they also dislike: validation and voice. Continue reading

Apr 03

The Mental Health System Strikes Back

I’m sitting in a small room on the fifth floor of the local hospital. I’ve had to change from street clothes to scrubs, and my possessions are being examined to see what I can keep. I didn’t bring in much; I turned most of it over to my sister Melyngoch when she left me in the ER. A nurse is sitting at a computer, answering question after question. I haven’t been in this particular hospital before, but I’ve been in enough similar places that the drill is familiar.

I’m reading the questions over the nurse’s shoulder. She has to check boxes about my attitude. Am I hostile? Aggressive? Withdrawn? I can’t help but notice that all of the options are negative. She checks “other,” and writes, “overly polite and helpful.” I can’t help sighing a little—it’s a reminder that whatever I do, however I act, it’s going to be seen through the lens of dysfunction. She asks my name, to find out if I know who I am, and I answer her. She asks if I know where I am. In the psych ward, I say. She corrects me, explaining that this is actually the “stress care unit.” I just smile. I know perfectly well where I am, regardless of what they’ve decided to call it.

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Mar 31

Predictions for General Conference

General Conference already got underway last week, but I’m a bit slow, so I’m just now getting to making some predictions for the remainder of the sessions. You can help me out by telling me which in each pair of possible events is most likely to occur in the remainder of Conference.

Which in each pair is more likely?

  • President Monson talks about widows.
  • President Uchtdorf talks about airplanes.
  • President Monson talks about widowers.
  • President Uchtdorf talks about spaceplanes.
  • President Monson talks about Windows.
  • President Uchtdorf talks about Linux.

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Mar 29

On Being Lukewarm

Some things I proselytize for:

Reading.

To say I love books is to understate it somehow; reading’s influence in my life has been second only to my family. When I read, I learn, I enter new worlds, I bask in the beauty of words in the hands of masters (or, occasionally, wince at the stilted prose of amateurs). Most of all, I get a view into the hearts and minds of others. I’m naturally an intellectual person, prone to abstract away from emotions, even my own, and it’s easy to imagine myself, raised in a world without the windows of fiction, as cold, standoffish, and a little heartless. Books have trained me in the paths of compassion, offering me a chance to use my mind to connect, paring and shaping the natural woman with an effectiveness that ordinary social interaction could never have achieved. Everyone should read.

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Mar 14

“A single standard”

US civil rights law prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of characteristics such as race and gender. Prohibited discrimination can take the form of disparate treatment or disparate impact. Disparate treatment is easy to spot: it is simply treating members of different groups differently. For example, an employer who refuses to hire women would be liable under disparate treatment. Disparate impact is typically more difficult to see. It arises when a test or procedure the employer uses has the effect of discriminating against members of one group versus another. An employer who gives applicants a speech test that is scored by software that picks up lower pitches better than higher pitches might be liable under disparate impact, as women would likely perform worse on the test. (Employers are allowed to discriminate, though, if they can show that the characteristic they are using to select employees is a requirement to do the job.)

I think the concepts of disparate treatment and disparate impact are useful for talking about how the Church discriminates. In using these terms, I’m not suggesting that members are like employees; I’m just borrowing the terms to have an easy way to refer to different types of discrimination.

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Feb 29

Church Opposes So-called “February 29th”

This notice was intended to be published on the Mormon Newsroom today, but because of a technical error on the website, it was not released.

April 15–Although most in the secular world and even in other so-called “Christian” churches have succumbed to the use of the godless Gregorian calendar, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today announces the Christ-Centered Calendar Initiative. As part of this initiative, the Church no longer recognizes the unholy day of “February 29th.”

The Church withdraws recognition of this date going back to the founding of the Church in 1830, meaning that 46 authorized days are restored in place of the unauthorized days, which makes the current date on the Christ-Centered Calendar April 15th. In connection with this withdrawal of recognition, several new policies are also announced, all effective immediately. Church members claiming to have been born or married on “February 29th” are considered to be in apostasy, and face mandatory Church discipline. Children of such couples may not be baptized until they reach age 18, and even then only on condition of their formally renouncing their parents’ calendar choices. This policy will prevent children from becoming confused when they hear discussion of one calendar at home and a different calendar at church. Finally, Church members whose records claim that they died on “February 29th” have their ordinance work declared null and void. They are not eligible to have proxy temple work done in their behalf.

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Feb 08

No, there have not been 30 talks about child abuse in General Conference since 1976

The Mormon Newsroom article on child abuse from 2010 that was recently published with a 2016 date (because of a “technical error”) includes the following claim, as evidence of how seriously the Church takes child abuse:

Since 1976, more than 50 articles have appeared in Church publications condemning child abuse or educating members about it. As wrenching as the topic is, Church leaders have given sermons about it more than 30 times at the Church’s worldwide conferences.

I spend a fair amount of time poking through old General Conference talks, and this latter number—30 sermons about child abuse—seemed high to me. So I thought I would check it.

I used the lds.org search tool to search for “child abuse” (without the quotation marks), and limited the results to General Conference talks. The search doesn’t require the words to appear together, so I was casting a pretty wide net, not just looking for talks that had the exact phrase “child abuse.” In fact, I ended up having to discard a bunch of talks in the results because they never discussed child abuse even though they included both words (frequently they talked about drug abuse and mentioned a child in another context).

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Jan 19

Mormon Feminism: Essential Reading

I think I ought to say here that I received a copy of Mormon Feminism from Oxford University Press in exchange for a fair review.

When I was in graduate school, far from the heart of Mormonism, one of my favorite pick-me-up-after-a-long-day-of-thinking hobbies was to swing by one of the many used bookstores near the university and hunt for treasures. One day, to my surprise, I found Brigham Young: American Moses on the Religion shelf. On another visit a few weeks later I found Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, and then during yet another visit Sisters in Spirit—somewhere in my secular liberal town, someone was reading and discarding Mormon history, and I was the lucky beneficiary. Continue reading

Jan 13

Mourning

When I was about 15, my bishop gave me some horrible advice. It was the kind of generic advice you might give to a teenager that in many situations would be harmless and probably even positive. But if he had known more about my personal situation, I’d like to think that he wouldn’t have said what he did. Unfortunately, he didn’t just say, this is something you might want to consider. He said, God is telling me that you need to do such-and-such thing. Because I’d always heard that bishops could be inspired on your behalf, I took him seriously. I did what I was told, and it was awful. And most awful of all was the message that it conveyed, which was that God didn’t actually care about my needs or experience. It reinforced destructive messages I was already getting about myself and some of the situations I was dealing with. My relationship with God was already full of landmines, and it added to the chaos. Continue reading

Jan 05

Your Favorite ZD Posts

We launched Zelophehad’s Daughters in January of 2006, so it’s ten years old this month. A decade! There are a lot of older blogs on the Bloggernacle, but I’m still kind of amazed by this. I don’t think I would have guessed when we started that we would continue for this long.

To celebrate our tenth birthday, I looked back at our posts that generated the most traffic. Here is a list of the highest-traffic1 post by each person who has blogged here regularly.

Apame: It wasn’t about pants…but then it became about pants. And that’s why I’m wearing pants.
Beatrice: Another Conversation Stopper
The Bouncer: LDS Church Leadership Agrees to Meet with Kate Kelly
Elbereth: The Five Universal Truths of Road Trips
Eve: Don’t Be My Ally*
Galdralag: For Kate
Katya: How EFY Promotes Immodesty
Kiskilili: If A Woman Strips Naked in a Forest and No One Sees Her, Is She Still Pornography?
Lynnette: Church Discourse on Homosexuality
Melyngoch: Seven Modest Outfits from the Golden Globes
Mike C: The More Things Change…
Pandora: Dona Nobis Aequalitatem
Petra: I Loved to See the Temple
Seraphine: Being a 30-something Single in the Church: Part V, the Law of Chastity
Vada: I Hate Breastfeeding
Ziff: Church President Probability Changes with President Packer’s Death

Of course traffic is far from a perfect measure of what posts are most enjoyed. If you like, please feel free to share your favorite ZD posts in the comments.

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1. I took data from our StatCounter plugin and subtracted out the traffic numbers for days close in time that had zero posts, so that kind of adjusts for the general traffic level at the time. We just have a free StatCounter account, so I didn’t have traffic by post page, so I just used total traffic on the day a post was written and also attributed to it some fraction of traffic for the next few days, but less if there was also a new post up in the next few days. Really, this is just for fun, so you probably don’t much care too much about my method. 🙂

Jan 03

Nacle Notebook 2015: Funny comments

This post is my annual compilation of the funniest comments I read on the Bloggernacle last year. In case you missed them, here are my compilations from previous years: 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008.

Most of the comments I’m quoting here are excerpted from longer comments (or posts). I’ve made the name of each person being quoted a link so you can always click through and read the entire comment or post. The comments are in roughly chronological order.

Jacob Baker, in his post “Some Choice Mormon Top Ten Lists for 2014” at Rational Faiths:

Top Ten American Mormon Baby Names of 2014:

1. Shaylayleigh
2. Chassisty
3. Sarahemla
4. Zaxtaidentavindyllen
5. Seelestyal Keengduhm
6. Nephisam
7. Lynnlynn
8. Einrand
9. Romneigh
10. Obeedyentt

Honorable Mentions: Wellbeehayved, Moremann, P’rleigh, Traceigh, Leighleigh, RULDS2

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Dec 07

To the Person Defending the New Policies

Hi. You don’t know me, but I got into an argument with you this morning on Facebook. I don’t usually do that—one of my resolutions is in fact not to argue with strangers on social media, because I think it’s easier to demonize and dismiss people when you don’t know them, when they’re only friends of friends (if even that). And Facebook arguments in general seem to just go back and forth and leave everyone even more deeply entrenched in their positions.

But I jumped in anyway, because I was so troubled by what you said. Troubled by the content of it, for sure, but also by the reality that your views are shared by many, many members of the church. Troubled enough that I wanted to respond. I left the Facebook argument because I quickly realized that nothing I said would make any difference. But I find myself still want to say something, to see how well I can do at explaining where I’m coming from. I don’t expect that I’m going to convince you to agree with me, but I’m wondering if we can do better than reciting talking points at each other. Continue reading

Dec 06

A Month Later

It’s been a month now, since the church’s November 5th policy changes. It’s been a pretty awful month—in the church and in the broader world. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so discouraged about my country, and its enthusiasm for guns and xenophobia. And I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so discouraged about my church. Continue reading

Dec 04

Types of Smoothies Quiz

 

Match each smoothie type with its definition.

Smoothie Type Definition
TK Smoothie What you call it when someone gives you a coupon for a free blended fruit drink, but the coupon has already expired
OK Smoothie A blended fruit drink given to attendees of a particular comedy show
JK Smoothie A blended fruit drink passed out by NRA lobbyists to the congresspeople they own rent lobby, both as a reminder of the usefulness of their products, and as a threat
JFK Smoothie The blended fruit drink Lehi might make using only the fruit of the tree of life, rejecting any nonwhite fruit
KKK Smoothie A blended fruit drink business that has ceased striving for excellence and has embraced its mediocrity
AK(-47) Smoothie A blended fruit drink business run by two families with long Mormon histories: the Tanners and the Kimballs
CK Smoothie What you get when you pay for your blended fruit drink with pounds rather than dollars,  euros, or yen
UK Smoothie A blended fruit drink you get at the airport in New York when your flight was diverted from LaGuardia