Dec 29

“I am no man!”

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King, Éowyn, a human noblewoman, disguises herself as a man and goes to battle, eventually facing the dreaded Witch-King of Angmar. Upon seeing her, armored like a warrior, the Witch-King scoffs, citing an ancient elven prophecy that no living man can kill him. Éowyn removes her helmet, showing herself to be a woman, and cries “I am no man!”* as she slays him.

I must confess, every time the debate over the pros and cons of gender-inclusive language resurfaces in the bloggernacle, my mind returns to that scene, and to the question I had when I first read The Lord of the Rings as a child: How did Éowyn know that the prophecy was referring specifically to human males, and not to humans in general? It wasn’t at all obvious to me. Continue reading

Dec 24

Merry Christmas!

“Scrooge regarded everyone with a delighted smile. He looked so irresistibly pleasant, in a word, that three or four good-humored fellows said, ‘Good  morning, sir! A Merry Christmas to you!’ and Scrooge said often afterward, that of all the blithe sounds he had ever heard, those were the blithest in his ears.”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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Dec 23


It was a Catholic friend who first introduced me to the term “scrupulosity,” a condition in which one is overly obsessed with personal sin. The topic came up because of my friend’s observation that I had some tendencies in that direction. I didn’t disagree. But I must confess that on some level I actually took the observation as a compliment.  I secretly believed that it was an indication of a virtuous life. I must be a truly moral person, I thought, to be so acutely aware of my constant failings—and to be so unwilling to cut myself any slack for them. Continue reading

Dec 23

My life as a member of the church

The following is an excerpt from an interview between a member of the Strengthening the Members Committee and missionary rodent, shortly after she was taken into captivity

How long have you been following us?

My people first came to this planet in search of intelligent life in the hopes of opening trade negotiations, and seeking a new avenue for allies in our continuing war–

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Dec 19

A Few Days Before Christmas: Notes from an MTC talk by Cheiko Okazaki

Nearly a decade ago I was a missionary, serving for three weeks in the Provo MTC before moving on to a smaller MTC in Latin America for the remainder of my Spanish language training. While I was in Provo, Sister Cheiko Okazaki (1926-2011), the former first counselor of the Relief Society General Presidency, came and spoke to the Sister missionaries. (I was sad, after hearing her, that the Elders had not been invited as well.)

I have always loved Sister Okazaki’s thoughts. In her books and public speaking, she quotes often from the Bible. Her advice that day in the MTC was both practical and inspiring, a discussion of dealing with feelings of inadequacy and hypocrisy, of “putting on Christ,” and of navigating the need to forgive ourselves and others on our journey. It was filled with metaphors from scripture about clothing and Christian discipleship. Continue reading

Dec 15

“If You Don’t Like It, Leave,” and Religious Pluralism

One of the things that has stood out to me in wading through the comments on The Great Pants Uproar (not a great use of one’s time, I must say, though that didn’t stop me) is the number of people who have expressed the sentiment, “if you don’t like the church, you should leave.” I want to think about this idea from a theological angle, specifically what it means in the context of religious pluralism. Continue reading

Dec 13

Feeling Equal

An oft-made statement in discussions of gender equality in the church is something along the lines of, “I’ve never felt unequal.” (Or, if the speaker is male, “My wife/daughters/sisters have never felt unequal.”) Sometimes there’s a barb in it: “I’ve never felt unequal, so why do you? What’s wrong with your testimony?” But more often than not, I think it’s simply an honest account of a person’s experience, combined perhaps with a bafflement that other women have the concerns they do. Continue reading

Dec 10

Names and Identities

When we started ZD nearly seven years ago, I don’t recall that we had much discussion about whether or not to use pseudonyms—I think we simply took it for granted that we would. Some of my co-bloggers spent some time coming up with creative names. Seraphine originally went by “S”, and I recall an extended email conversation about name ideas for her. In contrast, I was pretty boring; I decided to just use my middle name, of which I’ve always been rather fond. Continue reading