10 Things to Like about the General Women’s Meeting

This guest post comes to us from a ZD reader and commenter who goes by Thokozile. Thokozile studies cell biology, which mainly involves looking at tiny things and describing them in complicated ways. She has also been known to play the organ, wear purple pants, and lick banana slugs.

I was expecting the General Women’s Meeting to alternate between sappy, offensive, and boring. I can’t say I was wrong, nor can I say that it was historic, but my low expectations made it easy to notice the good things that happened. Read More

Why Faith Transitions Need to Be Less Frequentist and More Bayesian

I know. You are probably despairing to think that such a disputed area of statistical dogma could have anything to contribute to such a disputed area of religious experience. (If you are despairing about this post for other reasons, I apologize). I mean, not even Martin Luther would have had the nerve to nail 95 non-informative priors on R.A. Fisher’s door.

But English statistician Thomas Bayes was also a Presbyterian minister, so it is only natural that his statistical insight would have religious implications as well. And his insight is, in my view, the key to healthier faith transitions. Read More

The Camelot Convention

Setting: Camelot Commons

Elayne: I can’t wait for the Camelot Convention next month! I’m going to get in line for the Round Table session.

Percival: If you do that, there won’t be room for the hordes of men who want to attend.

Elayne: But I never have understood why women can’t be Round Table Squires.

Agravayne: Come, now. Everyone knows that women have a very special role. They sew favors for the men, and rejoice in their femininity, the divine adornment of Round Table Squires.

Percival: And don’t forget that women have their own meeting. The fact that a man sits at the head of their table should in no way detract from the flowered tablecloth.

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American Two-Party Politics Finds a New Battleground in the Ordain Women Movement

This guest post comes to us from Esther, a globetrotting sociologist and West Coast native. She loves Jesus, her family and friends, Jimmy Fallon, Michelle Obama, fresh salsa, and Tillamook cheese. In that order.

The obvious drawback of belonging to the Only True And Living Church On The Earth is associating with a lot of people who like to be right all the time. There may be One True Church, but there is not one true political party. Unfortunately, sometimes we confuse our gift to know the truth with an ability to know all truth and to assume that whatever truth God has given to us applies to everyone else. Is it possible that God could inspire two different people to vote for two different political candidates? Read More

Where is the Female Sacred Space?

Two months ago I had a once in a lifetime experience: I was invited to an Emirati wedding. In a vast, glittering ballroom, chandeliers festooned and arches bedecked with streaming garlands of real flowers, I sat with nearly six hundred Emirati women eating an eight-course gourmet meal, waited on by servants robed in white with gold sashes. As is common in the UAE, the wedding guests were dressed to the nines – full professional makeup, elaborate waist-length hair extensions, and high-end sequined designer gowns with plunging necklines paired with improbably spindly six-inch heels. Arab pop blasted from the speakers, and the female members of the bride’s and groom’s families stood in turn. They danced traditional dances together in front of the seated crowd, ululating and graceful in their glamorous gowns, wending their way up and down the center of the room in a processional toward the bridal bower. No photography was allowed – no cameras whatsoever were permitted in that room. I sat, my brain rapidly stultified by the rich food and blaring music, trying to create a mental video of the glamour and the dancing, trying to make sure I did not miss too many details of this extraordinary night.

And then, at the stroke of midnight, the groom came (looking pale and nervous), escorted by the broadly grinning male members of the bride’s family. And all of the sequins, all of the elaborately coiffed hair of the numerous guests, disappeared in moments under long frothy black abayas and headscarves, leaving only portions of the women’s faces, their henna tattooed hands, and their designer heels showing.** Only the bride, in that room filled with hundreds and hundreds of women, could be seen in her gorgeous gown by her husband-to-be. Only the bride’s immediate male relatives could even enter into the ballroom where the bride was seated, uncovered, surrounded by her vast network of family and friends. (Even the groom’s male relatives were forbidden entrance, and this despite the fact that all of the women other than the bride had covered themselves before any of the select few male relatives had entered.) They had entered into a sacred, private female space. Read More

Insider/Outsider Talk in the Church PR Response to Ordain Women

The Church PR department’s response to Ordain Women’s request for tickets to the priesthood session of Conference makes the point that OW is a minority movement:

Women in the Church, by a very large majority, do not share your advocacy for priesthood ordination for women and consider that position to be extreme.

One question this argument raises is how they know this. Are they relying on the Pew data (rah of fMh has an interesting response) or the American Grace data, or some internal survey of members’ attitudes, or perhaps just assuming that it’s true?

But I don’t want to get into that question here. Instead, I wanted to talk about another question I’ve seen raised a number of times on the Bloggernacle, namely, why would Church PR make this argument at all? After all, shouldn’t this be a question of right and wrong rather than how many people support the idea? We have all kinds of discussion in the Church of how we should do right even if it’s unpopular, so why should it matter how many women do or don’t want the priesthood? Either it’s right or it’s not; that’s what matters.

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Stop Using Eve and the Fall as Evidence that the LDS View of Women is Progressive

“The incorrect idea in Christian history that wives should be dependent began with the false premise that the fall of Adam and Eve was a tragic mistake and that Eve was the primary culprit. Thus women’s traditional submission to men was considered a fair punishment for Eve’s sin. Thankfully, the Restoration clarifies Eve’s — and Adam’s — choice as essential to the eternal progression of God’s children. We honor rather than condemn what they did, and we see Adam and Eve as equal partners.” — Elder Bruce C. and Marie K. Hafen, “Crossing Thresholds and Becoming Equal Partners,” August 2007 Ensign

“So we stand, if you want to talk about things on which Mormons stand across the river, if you will, from other Christian faiths, this is one of the most important—that Eve was not an airhead, she was not a murderess. She was, in fact, wise and courageous, and what she did pleased God.” — Valerie Hudson Cassler, “The Two Trees”

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Mr. Kafka Goes to Temple Square

This is the clause I’m adding to my freshman composition syllabus next semester:

If, during the course of the semester, you find that you need something from me, please do not come to my office and ask for it. By doing so you will interfere with the dialogue I am always already having with my students about their needs. Any student who comes to my office asking for something will be redirected to the bar near campus where the college dropouts hang out, which is an ideal place to express opinions and ideas about the classroom that differ from mine. Please remember that students in this class, by a very large majority, do not share your advocacy for anything at all beyond a vague and mostly apathetic hope for grade inflation.

If any student comes to see me in spite of this, I’ll just put a trash can in front of the door to let them know I’m not available.

Tuesday’s Twice-Baked ZD: Reflections on Good Friday

In this week’s edition of Tuesday’s Twice-Baked ZD we revisit Lynnette’s beautiful reflections on the Atonement.

I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about the stories surrounding Easter. I remember as a child listening to adults talking in solemn and hushed tones about the death of Jesus, and wondering how I was supposed to react. Should I be feeling guilty, since as a sinner I shared part of the blame for his suffering? Should I be feeling horrified? (Some of those who went into excruciating and grisly detail seemed to be hoping to provoke a bit of that reaction.) All too often, hearing the story of Good Friday left me with an image of a Jesus who quite possibly resented me for having messed up so badly that he had to pay for it, and who was now scrutinizing my every action to see if I was good enough to be worthy of his help.

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Is There a Way to Find Common Ground?

Last year I was on a long car ride with my parents, who were visiting from out of state. My mom and I ended up having a discussion about gay marriage, and it was then that I started thinking about this problem of finding common ground–that is, the problem of Mormons like me and Mormons like my mom being able to rejoice and be edified together as we discuss difficult gospel topics–rather than starting a cage match that ends in tears (probably mine, since my mom is a tough cookie), recrimination, the silent treatment, and (God forbid!) unfriending on Facebook. (I’m happy to say that so far none of these things have happened, at least as far as I know.)

I realize that saying that my mom and I represent two types of Mormons is a vast oversimplification, one that does not fully capture our similarities, and one that does not fully acknowledge that there are lots of types of Mormons–probably as many types as there are Mormons. Even so, I think it is useful to place us in two broad categories that are familiar to Mormons who frequent the Bloggernacle. Read More

Does General Conference Talk Complexity Vary by Session Type?

Back in November, the Church announced a new General Women’s Meeting that will occur the weekend before each General Conference. This meeting will include girls who are eight to eleven years old in addition to women and teenage girls. I saw a number of people on the Bloggernacle suggest that the result would be that either the talks will be over the youngest girls’ heads and therefore boring to them, or the talks will be aimed at them and therefore boring to the women and teens. For example, on the first possibility, here’s Rebecca J at BCC:

Why would you include eight-year-old girls in a women’s conference? . . . Perhaps inviting 11-year-old girls would not be inappropriate—girls on the cusp of Young Woman-hood, as it were. . . . But what do our leaders have to say to grown women that could possibly be relevant and not mind-numbingly boring to eight-year-old girls?

This question got me to wondering whether I could measure to what degree Conference speakers were pitching their talks differently to differently-aged audiences. I’m sure there’s an in-depth way to answer this question that requires analyzing the actual content of Conference talks. But as you can probably guess, I didn’t go that route. Instead, I took a shortcut and looked at a related question that I could answer more easily. I looked at whether Conference talks differ in how difficult their language is, depending on which session they’re given in, and therefore the age of the audience they’re aimed at.

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Take Carol Lynn Pearson’s Survey on Sealing Inequality and Eternal Polygamy

ETERNAL POLYGAMY AND SEALING INEQUALITY OF LDS WOMEN AND MEN—A SURVEY. Carol Lynn Pearson (www.clpearson.com) is sponsoring a survey to gather information on beliefs and opinions of Mormons (and former Mormons), male and female, on this important subject. Please take the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/sealingsurvey and please pass this request on to your friends and contacts. The survey closes on March 31, 2014. Thanks!

Charity on the Rocks

This is a talk I gave in my ward at the end of January.


My husband grew up backpacking, and it was one of the conditions of our marriage that I would learn to backpack too. I do it now, and occasionally even enjoy it, but it’s definitely a stretch to say that I’m good at it or love it as wholeheartedly as Mike.

I say this by way of prefacing a personal story, so that you understand the context when I tell you that once, last summer in Yosemite, I was nearly defeated by a large boulder field at the end of a long day climbing mountains with a heavy backpack.

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