Mom, To the Rescue

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post discussing the negative responses that have come from a few Church members in response to Ordain Women. My mom read my post and wrote this sweet email which I am posting with her permission. Thanks, Mom!

My dear son,

I have been thinking a lot about the thoughtful commentary you wrote in which you reference the image of a boat searching the tempestuous waves for the lost soul, but that you do not feel lost, just wounded and hurting on the shore. Read More

Subtexts of General Conference Stories, October 2013 Edition

I think it’s fascinating to look at the stories that General Conference speakers choose to tell. The subtexts, or the messages they convey without stating them explicitly, are particularly interesting. A couple of years ago, I blogged about a couple of stories Conference speakers told where the subtexts provoked particularly strong reactions in me. In this most recent Conference, two more stories stood out to me again in the strong reactions I had to their subtexts.

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Pride (In the Name of Love)

One man caught on a barbed wire fence
One man he resist
One man washed on an empty beach
One man betrayed with a kiss

In the name of love!
What more in the name of love?
In the name of love!
What more? In the name of love!

For seven years I home taught a gay man. Despite numerous invitations during that time, he only came to church twice–once to wish me a happy birthday and once when I gave a talk in sacrament meeting. He regularly prayed for my family, spoiled my kids with Key lime pie and toy frogs, and treated me to his favorite Mexican restaurant–El Toro. I helped him repair his leaky roof and foolishly pushed his 1991 Toyota pickup to the mechanic at 2am (with my car!) because neither of us could afford a tow. Two days before he died of a heart attack at the age of 59, he confessed to me that he had finally met the love of his life, a kind, affirming man from Germany. At that last visit together my friend theatrically lifted up his shirt while sticking out his chest and sucking in his gut to show my daughter and I how much weight he had lost with his latest diet. We laughed, not knowing he would soon be gone.

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Elder Christofferson’s Edit Suggests Some GA Doesn’t Dislike All Feminists

As you’ve probably heard, Elder Christofferson’s Conference talk a couple of weeks ago originally included a swipe at “some feminist thinkers,” who he claimed “view homemaking with outright contempt.” This statement was edited in the printed version to be aimed at a more nebulous “some” who view homemaking with outright contempt. This change seems like a clear win for feminists, as the written record, which will likely be referred to far more often than the audio and video recordings of the spoken talk, now no longer has an explicit mention of feminists in a negative light.

But I think an even more positive outcome of the edit is what came out of the explanation for it. Here’s Peggy Fletcher Stack quoting Ruth Todd, Church spokesperson:

Church editors had suggested to the apostle that “referencing ‘some feminist thinkers’ would inevitably be read by many as ‘all feminist thinkers,’ ” Todd explained in a statement. “Elder Christofferson agreed and has simply clarified his intent.”

Okay, so call me a cynic, but I thought that Elder Christofferson’s original intent was to do precisely what Todd’s statement says he wanted to avoid: put down all feminists while using the word “some” to maintain plausible deniability. I really doubt, then, that the edit originated with Elder Christofferson. But whether or not I’m right, the important point in Todd’s statement is that whoever originated the edit did not want it to be thought that Elder Christofferson was putting down all feminist thinkers. This suggests that there are some other feminist thinkers who the editor of the talk thought should not be put down. I think this is huge! Since when has any word from the general level of the Church had anything positive to say about any feminists or feminism? I thought President Packer’s view of feminists as one of the big three enemies of the Church reigned supreme, with others like Elder Nelson clearly subscribing to the view that feminists oppose all that is true and right in the world. Ruth Todd’s statement gives me a glimmer of hope that some GA somewhere does not want all feminists to be painted with a broad negative brush.

Most “Liked” Conference Talks

What was your favorite General Conference talk? Was it President Uchtdorf’s, where he said this?

Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history—along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.

Or perhaps Elder Holland’s where he said this?

If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders.

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Answering the Temple Recommend Interview Questions, Part 1

My friend ajbc is writing a series of posts on how she would answer the temple recommend interview questions given unlimited nuance, honesty, reflection, and time. I thought these would be interesting to cross-post on ZD to start the conversation: how would you answer the questions if you were being fully transparent beyond your yes/no answer?


The LDS temple interview is an interesting process to me.  We’re expected to give relatively short answers to fifteen questions, but I feel like some of them require more elaborate answers.  For the sake of the interviewers, I spare them the ten-hour monologue that would be required to give them the full picture of my faith.  While I’ve thought through each of the fifteen questions, I’ve wanted to record a written answer to each of them.  This is the first post in a series in which I will answer each with varying degrees of verbosity.

Question 1: Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost?

I have faith in God; my most honest prayers are Teyve-style. I do not know if God is male, female, both, or neither, but I’ve prayed to each one. Because of my upbringing, praying to a male or joint-gender god (Heavenly Mother and Father) is most comfortable for me. More fundamentally, I do not know that God exists, but I have had experiences that feel like they come from a divine source. I have prayed particularly about the existence and nature of deity, and received ambiguous (but comforting) experiences that allow my otherwise hyper-rational self to have faith in God, without firm knowledge of his/her/its existence or nature.  I don’t know if God is embodied, but I find that perfectly reasonable, given that I hope for an embodied afterlife. I am comfortable talking about my faith in God and its complexities (as made obvious by this post), and consider that to qualify as a testimony.

My faith in Jesus Christ is inherently tied to my understanding of the Atonement, so I’ll leave most of my discussion of that for the next post.  I believe that Jesus lived as a real person, and taught the principles, if not the same parables, that are recorded in the gospels.  I believe that it’s possible that he is the son of God as we are all children of God, but that he played the role of Savior, advocating on our behalves and acting in some sort of pre- and post-mortal leadership role.  While my faith in God is stronger than my faith in a divine Jesus Christ (the former is intrinsically more general), I would be comfortable explaining the gospel of Christ and testifying of the role it has played in my life.

While the Holy Ghost is arguable the member of the Godhead with whom we are in most direct contact, I feel that I know the least about him/her/it.  The Holy Ghost could have some connection to Heavenly Mother, but my hunch is that she is too important to play spiritual courier and instead conveys her love and messages to us through the Holy Ghost, as does Heavenly Father.  I’ve never prayed about the Holy Ghost–I think of it more as a medium for spiritual communication than something I need to ask God about.  It’s a little like calling your folks up and asking, “Can you tell me that this phone is working?” after you’ve asked “Are you there?”  Thus, my faith in and testimony of the Holy Ghost is very much wrapped up in my faith in God, as I think it’s supposed to be.

For doctrine relating to the Godhead or anything else, I strongly prefer to keep any of my now rare proclamations of spiritual witness or testimony (of this or any doctrine) to audiences eager to hear such affirmations.  On the other hand, I am much more comfortable talking about my pragmatic involvement in the LDS church.

In the end, my simple answer to this question is “Yes,” sparing the poor interviewers my long-windedness every two years–they probably would rather be home with their kids.

They (Don’t) Need Me Every Hour

Hi, my name is Petra and I’m not needed in the Church.

No, seriously: I don’t have any special skills that no one else in my ward could provide; I’m not building the kingdom by bearing children; and I don’t contribute to the basic functions of the ward by performing ordinances or conducting or organizing meetings, or even activities. I serve in a calling, and I try to be helpful, but since anyone else could do what I do, I’m not needed. If I stopped going to church it would pretty much be business as usual.

I’m not really needed in my family, either. My parents love me but they have other children, and my husband loves me but could have married someone else or been happy single. (He was pretty happy for 26 years before I came along, after all.)

Does this sound like a giant pity party I’m throwing in this post? I hope not. I don’t need to be needed, in my family or in the church. Even if they could function without me, my ward wants me (I hope!) because I’m willing to serve, because I positively contribute, and because they like me. And even if they could function without me, my family wants me (I hope!) because I’m willing to serve, because I positively contribute, and because they love me.

My contributions to my church and family aren’t unique or exclusive to me, but I still like to think they matter, and I matter because I do them. If I woke up one morning and suddenly announced that I was leaving the church because someone else could be a Sunday School teacher, or that I was leaving my husband because he could do the laundry himself without my help, I’d be decried as selfish and short-sighted. I’d be sacrificing good things that make me happy–my church and family relationships–simply for the sake of feeling uniquely needed, and I’d be overlooking the many places I’m wanted, and the many places I can contribute, in favor of the one special role only I can fill.

That isn’t my attitude to my ward or family, though, luckily. I know that just because I’m not needed doesn’t mean I’m not wanted.  I may not be needed, but that doesn’t mean I can’t serve. Anyone else can teach my Sunday School class, but that doesn’t diminish the service I offer. My husband can do the laundry himself, but it still shows my love when I do it. The fact that someone else could take over the vast majority of my service doesn’t mean that it’s not valuable when I do it, and doesn’t mean that I should quit showing up and offering it.

So tell me: why are we making that argument for male-only priesthood?

Doubt Your Doubts

I spent many hours today listening to General Conference. As is usual for me, I was especially touched by President Uchtdorf’s talks. A couple of his comments, combined with events in Salt Lake City tonight, coalesced to form the thoughts in this post.

As anyone who reads Mormon blogs, or Mormon-related news of any sort, is no doubt aware, many women (and some men) came together in Salt Lake City tonight and asked to be admitted into the Priesthood session of General Conference. The group that organized the action is called Ordain Women, and their whole purpose is to call upon the leadership of the LDS Church to ordain women to the Priesthood alongside men. Many of these women have great faith that this is something that will happen, even though it hasn’t yet.

I once shared that faith. Read More