Mormon Feminist Lunch at Sunstone

If you’re going to Sunstone in Salt Lake next week, don’t miss the chance to eat lunch with a bunch of fun Mormon feminists from the Bloggernacle! Meet Saturday, August 3rd at 12:30, right after the 11:00 – 12:30 session ends. Just look for EmilyCC of the Exponent, who will be holding a larger version of this:

For more information, see Emily’s post at the Exponent, or Lisa’s post at fMh. To register for Sunstone, or to order a lunch for Saturday, visit the Sunstone website.

Ziff will definitely be attending, and perhaps other ZD bloggers as well. You can reach Ziff at ziff (at)

Making Space for Myself as an Uncorrelated Mormon–Part 1: Going with Nixon to China

(My introductory post on making space can be found here.)

In 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon went to China, thereby reopening official diplomatic ties that had been ruptured by the Communist revolution of 1949. During the ensuing quarter century, the Cold War had created between the two countries a suspicious and unsurpassable barrier that American politicians would not approach. Doing so would paint them as pink, soft on Communism, too weak to protect American interests, and therefore vulnerable to domestic political attacks. Nixon’s rabid anti-Communist rhetoric, anti-Communist policies, and tacit approval of McCarthy’s communist witch hunts proved his bona fides. He was, in Mormon-speak, anti-Communist with every fiber of his being, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Thus it was said that only Nixon could have gone to China–he had, according to Wikipedia, “an unassailable reputation among his supporters for representing and defending their values to take actions that would draw their criticism and even opposition if taken by someone without those credentials.” In other words, he was able to step outside the orthodoxy because everyone knew whose team he was on.

Nixon’s bare-knuckled domestic politics were, in many instances, despicable, as Watergate subsequently highlighted. But the important lesson to be learned from his China diplomacy is that, to depart from a team’s orthodoxy in some areas, requires that we demonstrate our commitment to the team in other areas.

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Usage of “I know” and “I believe” in General Conference

Geoff Nelson at Rational Faiths wrote an interesting post a few weeks ago where he looked at how often General Conference speakers say “I know” versus “I believe.” Hooray for more data analysis in the Bloggernacle! Anyway, he found that usage of “I know” has been increasing relative to “I believe” since the early 20th century. I found this kind of surprising, because I would have guessed that the rise of Correlation would be associated with any change over time, but the pattern he found is different than what you would expect to see if that were the case. So I thought I’d look at the data a little bit myself.

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What I wish I could tell the Young Women about careers

First of all: that it’s fine to have them, that they don’t just have to be a backup plan, that work and motherhood can be compatible, and that there’s nothing wrong for a teenager to dream of having it all.

(That’s a lot of things for a “first of all,” I know, but those have all been covered a million times in a million other places. Bear with me.)

Second of all: you don’t have to become a teacher or nurse just to get flexibility. My YW program growing up did an excellent job telling me I could work outside the home, which I appreciate–and which I know is unusual for a YW program–but the examples they always showed me, whether through their own jobs or career nights, were teaching, nursing, and other traditionally female jobs. Recently, wondering if that was unique to my YW program, I read through the old manuals looking for specific examples of women with jobs. The results? Teacher, nurse, babysitter, and seamstress. (I haven’t read all of the new manuals yet, but from what I’ve seen I doubt they repeat this trend, if only because they’re so much less specific.)

Let me be very clear: there is nothing wrong with those jobs. Read More

Free to Be…You and Me

The big toe on my left foot is purple and the nail, like the hair on my head, is starting to fall out. I wish I could say this was an unusual state of affairs, but ever since I took up soccer again, I find my body perpetually suffering from minor traumas.

While limping around the house last week I thought about why I do this to myself. It seemed easier years ago. As Paul Simon sheepishly laments, “And all my friends stand up and cheer and say, ‘Man, you’re old.’ Getting old.” But stubbornly in my middle age (can 42 really be middle age?!), I still do it to myself, cursing as I play, that the 22 year-old I know I am inside has mistakenly woken up, through a tragic, Freaky Fridayesque accident, in an over-the-hill body. Now, the easy solution to this discouraging reality would be to stop playing. A less drastic measure might be to not play so hard—less recklessness, lower risk of injury. More brain, less pain.

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The Sacrament Is Not a Solo

This is an ever-so-slightly revised and edited version of a church talk I gave in 2009; I recently stumbled across it in my cluttered email inbox and felt the urge to share. Hat tip to a post at BCC (I think by Kevin Barney) that started me on this train of thought.

Let’s start with something about me: I have been a church-attending Mormon all my life. let’s calculate, for a minute, what that means, besides a closet full of skirts and a knowledge of all the verses to “I Believe in Christ”: I have taken the sacrament to renew my baptismal covenants approximately 782 times–17 years since my baptism, at 46 Sundays a year. (52, minus two Sundays for General Conference and two for stake conferences and two more for vacation Sundays or simply arriving at church late. I didn’t say I’ve been a perfectly church-attending Mormon all my life!)  That, my friends, is a lot of times to do something and still not quite understand or enjoy it.

I mean, I know all the Sunday School answers about the sacrament–I have, after all, attended Primary, seminary, and Sunday School far more than just 782 times–and I’m sure I don’t have to rehearse them for you all here: the sacrament is about remembering Jesus, taking His name, and renewing our baptismal covenants.  I know the symbolism of the bread, the symbolism of the water, the symbolism of the white cloth; I know the prayers–heck, I know them in several languages–and most of all, I know what I’m supposed to do: sit quietly and think of Christ.  Yet this whole experience, more often than not, is a mystery for me, as great as the mystery of the Atonement itself. Read More

Most “Liked” General Authorities

Who is the most liked General Authority? That’s a difficult question to answer. Fortunately, there’s a related question that’s much easier to answer, so I’ll go with it instead: Who is the most “liked” General Authority? Now that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve all have official Facebook pages, it’s a simple matter to visit each and count the “likes.”

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The Word of Wisdom as a Cultural Marker

Anthropologists have long scratched their heads at the organizational logic underpinning kashrut, the rules and regulations surrounding the proscription, prescription, and preparation of foods in Judaism, also called “kosher laws.” Why are only animals that both chew cud and have cloven hooves permissible? Why only fish that have both scales and fins, thereby eliminating species like catfish, sharks, and all shellfish? Why are locusts okay to eat while nearly every other species of insect is forbidden?

Various arguments have been put forth, one of the most common being that of basic health. At the time when the Torah was being codified, so the reasoning goes, parasites like trichinosis were very common, vaccines didn’t exist, and, in the absence of thermometers, it was difficult to determine if meat had reached the requisite temperature to be safe for consumption when cooked over an open flame. Others argue that it was about differentiation. The Law of Moses generally contains a constant proscription on types of mixing: no linen and wool should be woven together (Deut 22:11); two different crops should not be sown in the same field (Lev 19:19); a kid should not be cooked in its mother’s milk (Deut 14:21); and the Israelites should not intermingle with the Canaanites and others. Even the word “holy,” repeated many times in the first five books of Moses, is based on the Semitic root q-d-sh, whose meanings include separation, differentiation, and designation for a specific purpose (see, e.g., Lev 19:2, “…Be ye holy, for I the Lord God am holy.”) Separation and categorization, this line of thought suggests, were the driving forces behind kashrut. Read More

From the archives: Tracting: Is It Worth Doing?

In light of last week’s “Hastening the Work of Salvation” broadcast and the reduced emphasis on tracting it suggests, this post from 2008 might be relevant again. You can read the original post and discussion here.

We tracted a lot in my mission. It was the activity we defaulted to if we had nothing else to do, and we frequently had nothing else to do. But nobody I ever met through tracting was ever baptized. I’m sure this is at least partly a reflection on my (lack of) skill as a missionary. But I’ve also wondered if tracting is worth doing at all, even if it’s highly skilled missionaries doing it.

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