On Laughter

More than ten years ago, now, I went through the most brutal emotional experience of my life—one that still haunts me on an almost daily basis. Under the circumstances, I was temporarily numb to almost any emotion.

The next Sunday, before Sacrament Meeting, a friend of mine in the ward came over to say hi and cheer me up a bit (although he knew nothing about my situation). In the course of our conversation, he made a joke and, for the first time in days, I laughed.


My roommate immediately shushed me and rebuked me for not being reverent.


If whispers and soft music and seriousness float your boat, I don’t mind and I really will do my best not to disturb you. But I come from a family that’s been through all kinds of hell, and we’ve learned to laugh, because it sure beats crying.

Farewell, Adrienne Rich

When I was a teenager, I didn’t really like poetry. It seemed like a language I didn’t speak, a secret code that I couldn’t figure out. I dutifully read it for my English classes the way the way that one duly eats your vegetables, because they are Good For You–and, of course, because I was required to do so. When people (like my older sister Eve) told me that they genuinely enjoyed poetry, that just didn’t make sense to me.

Read More

Faith and Creeds (More Thoughts on An Experiment on the Word: Reading Alma 32)

Now that I have made some general comments about the overall theological approach of An Experiment on the Word: Reading Alma 32, I would like to engage some of the specific content. As I said in my last post, there is a lot of great material. But two subjects in particular caught my interest: faith, and creeds.

Faith often gets talked about as a cognitive effort, a sort of forcing yourself to believe despite a lack of evidence. If something doesn’t make sense to you, or seems problematic, you might be told to “just have faith.” In such an understanding of faith, it is primarily intellectual in nature. It represents a lack—you only have to have it because you don’t have knowledge.  It requires you to ignore doubt, or see it as a threat. This kind of faith is fearful of new information which might challenge it. And notably, in such a model faith is a quality possessed by an individual, outside the context of any relationship.

Read More

Some Thoughts on An Experiment on the Word: Reading Alma 32

An Experiment on the Word (ed. Adam S. Miller, Salt Press 2011) is a product of the Mormon Theology Seminar, a short-term collaborative project in which a small group of people engage in a close read of specific texts. This particular book focuses on Alma 32. It includes a jointly-authored summary report of the conclusions reached by the participants in the seminar, as well as six individually-authored essays approaching the text in a variety of ways. Read More

Doctrine as Grammar

One of the endlessly entertaining topics in Mormonism is the conundrum of figuring out what exactly constitutes “official doctrine,” and how we make that determination. I found myself seriously grappling with this dilemma early on in my theological studies, when I first attempted to write an academic paper on Mormonism for a non-LDS audience. I wrote, “LDS doctrine is x”—and then I wondered how I knew that, and what reference I should cite.  Of course, we have a lot of official-ish sources.  The scriptures certainly have a strong claim to authority—but sometimes they contradict each other, there is widespread disagreement regarding how many of them should be interpreted, and there are plenty of things in the canon (especially the Bible) that we overlook altogether.  The same could be said for the teachings of church leaders. I often look at recent publications or conference talks to get a sense of what is being currently taught and emphasized. But the boundaries of “official teaching” remain somewhat murky.  I do not see this as necessarily a bad thing. But the situation nonetheless poses challenges for anyone trying to say something coherent about LDS beliefs. Read More

Why I don’t really love the Church (and why I think God’s okay with it)

Before commenting, I’d like to request that people please review the policies – please refrain from giving me advice (the questions I ask here are meant to stimulate discussion, they are not me actually asking for people to give to me personally solutions), questioning my testimony, or challenging my faith.  Any such attempts to do so will be moderated.

I was a junior in college when I first saw the movie The Incredibles.  It was a Saturday afternoon, I’d had a really bad day when plans for a project feel through in the last minute, and I was in a foul mood.  Wanting only to spend money on indulgence, I took a bus to the mall to see a movie.  I picked The Incredibles – it was new, it was popular, and it got great reviews.  What could I lose?

Read More

Repudiating Sexism?

So what happens when the Washington Post writes, “The LDS Stance on Women,” and contacts a BYU religion professor who explains that women are too spiritual to need the priesthood; women are highly valued in LDS theology because men can’t be exalted without them; women are actually blessed by not having to deal with the responsibility of holding the priesthood; he personally loves and honors his wife, so everything is clearly fine; even though women can’t hold the priesthood, look! they get their very own organization! (under the direction of the priesthood); a woman’s important role is to be a righteous influence on men; LDS theology is liberating for women because of the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother, even though we can’t talk about her because Heavenly Father is protecting her delicate sensibilities; and so forth? Will we get widespread cries of outrage, complaints about the condescension of such comments, a call for the professor in question to be disciplined, a statement from the dean clarifying that these comments do not reflect the teachings at BYU, and hurried responses from the LDS Newsroom?


My husband and I are working on adopting, which is a large part of why I’ve been mostly absent here for the last year. I wrote this post last night on our adoption blog, but I thought it might generate some good discussion here, and go along nicely with some of the recent posts, so I’m cross-posting it.

Anyone who knows me know that I’m a pretty honest person, and I don’t sugarcoat things. Especially when it comes to my kids and mothering. In fact, this blog is probably about the least honest I’ve been, and even here I don’t feel like I’ve been at all dishonest, I just don’t have nearly enough whiny posts up for you to realize how whiny I can be in real life. That’s probably okay. A little less whining is good for me, and you probably appreciate not hearing so much of it. I know it grates on my nerves when my kids do it, so I really ought to be setting a better example.

But that’s not really why I’ve avoided my tendencies toward whininess here. (What do they mean, whininess isn’t a word? It totally is.) I’ve avoided it here because for the first time in a very long time people are judging me and I care what they think. Read More