Making Space for Myself as an Uncorrelated Mormon–Part 3: Try This One Weird Trick

(Previous posts about making space can be found here, here, and here.)

A while back I listened to a podcast where Fiona Givens discussed the lovely book she and her husband co-wrote called “The God Who Weeps”. I highly recommend it–the God they describe is compelling, one worth seeking after, connecting with, and emulating. Anyway, I was struck by her confidence in her Mormon-ness, her self-assurance that her way of being Mormon was completely valid, even though it sounded quite different from much of the Mormonism that I experience in my ward and during General Conference.

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An Ordinary Life

First I must confess that I do in fact like the line in Little Women when Jo’s mother says to her: “You have so many extraordinary gifts; how can you expect to lead an ordinary life?” But as much as I want to see Jo live an extraordinary life, I’m finding myself more and more wary of such comments. Because we live in a culture where everyone is expected to have an extraordinary life. To just be an ordinary person—well, that’s settling. As in Lake Wobegon, we are all above average. And we have people saying odd things like,

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”1 Read More

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Ritual Subordination: I Just Don’t Get It

I’m personally in favor of women’s ordination. But I can see why people have reservations about it. It’s a pretty radical change to make, and would involve all kinds of logistical complications. Most LDS women actually don’t want the priesthood, and are happy with what they can contribute in the current system. There’s also the question of whether women should be seeking priesthood from men in the first place, as opposed to having their own line of priestesshood. I still come down on the side of ordaining women, but I can see it as a complicated question.

I have a much more difficult time when it comes to temple liturgy that subordinates women. Honestly, I just don’t get it. Read More

Being Nice

About a dozen years ago, I participated heavily on a message board for people with mental health issues. I made a lot of good friends there, and I felt comfortable, like I had a place. And then another Mormon appeared. Since we shared a religious background, of course we ended up talking a lot to each other. But something went wrong. To this day, I’m not entirely sure what happened, except that I know that she inadvertently pushed a lot of my buttons with the way she approached things; unsurprisingly, she was much more orthodox than I was, and tended to talk in terms of how sad it was that others on the board didn’t have the crystal clear truth that we did. Read More

Feminism and Redemption

One of the most intriguing critiques of certain aspects of feminism—specifically, Christian feminism—that I’ve encountered comes from the feminist theologian Angela West, in her book, Deadly Innocence: Feminist Theology and the Mythology of Sin. She makes several provocative points. One has to do with original sin. She notes that feminists have rightly questioned this doctrine because of the way it has been historically used against women (Eve is the guilty one and bears the greater burden, women are more prone to temptation, etc.)

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Frogs in the Throat

One of my more unsettling memories of Primary comes from an afternoon when I was perhaps four, and we were having Singing Time.  The chorister couldn’t talk very loudly; she explained that she had a “frog in her throat.”  I was horrified.  I hadn’t realized that frogs might jump into people’s throats.  I wondered how it would get back out, and I watched her anxiously. Read More

Writing My Own Story

I wrote a post earlier in the week about coming out, but I was feeling too self-conscious about the whole thing to leave it up. This is a kind of re-mix of that post, with a bunch of new stuff thrown in for good measure.

One of my interests is narrative. Specifically, narratives of the self, and the ways in which we continually construct them. Postmodernists have rejected the notion of a unified and stable self, a self that is a static sort of “thing” that can be studied like an object. How, then, do we talk about the self? One way to approach this problem is to shift from the question “what am I?” to the question “who am I?” Significantly, the latter produces not a self-as-object, but a narrative. It is in telling stories about ourselves, in other words, that we establish identity. Read More

Five Percenters and Mormons? Dissonance, Embodiment, and Faith

Towards the end of my mission, I was assigned a companion who was of mixed-race heritage (her father was African American, her mother white). (I am of stereotypical Mormon pioneer stock, a mix of the UK, Scandinavia, and a couple of Cherokees from over a century back. I looked remarkably white, and remarkably American, in the Latin American country where I served.) This companion, on the other hand, looked very like many of the people who lived where we served, and her physical appearance opened doors. For the first time on my mission, I was not asked with suspicion about race and the church. Also for the first time, both investigators and members talked openly in front of me about the complexities of being a racial minority in a church led primarily by white American men.

I think I’m probably similar to many people who are too young to remember the priesthood ban. Not only had I literally never heard any of the folk stories (à la the infamous Prof. Bott scandal of last year) about the reasons for the ban, but I was 18 by the time I learned that prominent LDS leaders had once spoken out against miscegenation, and that some people had described black people as “fence-sitters” in the pre-existence – both of which sounded so crazy to me that I paid no attention. I grew up going to church with family friends of various races and ethnicities. My very first babysitting job was for a family in the ward, good friends of my parents, whose family included a white mom and a black dad. No one ever said anything about it – no one ever talked about race at all. My father had served a Spanish-speaking mission and would often talk to and translate for local immigrants from different countries in Latin America. When I heard about the priesthood ban, it was always a story with a happy, faith-promoting ending: people described the feeling of joy they experienced when it was finally lifted. I say all of this to illustrate my profound ignorance of the ban and its implications. In my mind, before my mission, it was a historical blip; a deviation; an embarrassing product of its time that was corrected in due course. My mission challenged this view. Read More

Church Clothes

With the anniversary of Pants coming up next month, I’ve been thinking, not so much about the hoopla surrounding it and the death threats and all that excitement, but about people pontificating about the importance of wearing your Sunday best for Jesus.

I should perhaps first note that for all its flaws, I supported the Pants event, that I found it surprisingly touching, even. And yet something about the discourse coming from both sides was painful, for reasons I couldn’t quite articulate at the time. Read More