We’ve all known the feeling of living simultaneously through events of community and personal significance, times when the public and the private terribly converge. September 1993 was a time like that for me. Again in recent days I’ve reflected on what that time meant to me as a Mormon coming of age, and what it means to me now, more than twenty-two years later. Read More

Don’t Be My Ally*

Several lifetimes ago I went through voluntary training to become a white ally to people of color. Although much of the information was instructive and eye-opening, I never shook the feeling that something about the entire proceeding was off. For one thing, the only admissible structure of oppression was race. All of the other familiar sea creatures that inevitably crawled out of the personal-encounter dragnet–class, gender, sexual orientation, and religion, among others–were declared, prima facie, irrelevant to the overwhelming problem of racism, a declaration that made race itself abstract, strangely disembodied, and reductively binary. But there were bigger problems. The biggest was that any dissent from the politically correct perspective, no matter how tentatively offered, was immediately, reflexively interpreted as evidence of the dissenter’s privilege. The ally induction, like the classical psychoanalysis and communism of old, was a realm in which there could be no legitimate critique. This is a tale we moderns know well.  Read More

When Bad Missions Get Worse: A Request for Advice

As I said in response to Galdralag’s post, my mission was a very positive experience overall, a sea change in my spiritual life. (It was also hard and unremitting, as missions are wont to be, and I’d never want to go through the daily proselyting slog again.) But in spite of my own positive experience I feel a little terror when I think about my children serving missions. I know people whose missions inflicted lasting damage on them–spiritually, emotionally, socially, even physically. I’m acquainted with a couple of men whose missions destroyed their testimonies, and more than a couple of men and women who endured emotionally abusive companions. Read More


Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. –Doctrine and Covenants 58:27-28

Last March, on the Sunday morning Daylight Saving Time began, I went to church as usual, took my son to nursery, and immediately noticed that the clock in the room was still on Standard Time. I found that my first, entirely natural impulse–to change the clock to the correct time–was so swiftly and automatically stifled that I almost didn’t notice I’d had it. I’ve learned very well to do little at church on my own initiative, lest my actions inadvertently violate an unknown directive or intrude on someone else’s stewardship. Read More

Parenting Theories, Love, and the Inevitability of Grief

[Recent reflections at FMH hereby prompt me to broadcast my own half-baked reflections on parenting theories. That said, this isn’t a critique of either Stephanie’s or Not Ophelia’s approaches to parenting, both of which strike me as eminently reasonable; in any case, the content substantially predates their posts. Rather, this is my current take on parenting, such as it is, which is very clearly a result of my particular temperament and circumstances. Like all of my views, it’s worth every red cent you paid for it, and I fully expect it to be substantially revised in three years, downright unrecognizable in five.] Read More

Truth Claims, Pluralism, and People of Concern

A while ago I had a conversation with an utterly sincere and extremely orthodox Mormon–one who’s devoted his life to CES, one who believes that evolution is evil and Rough Stone Rolling a vicious slander on Joseph Smith’s good name, to name just a couple of his views –I revealed some of my own unorthodoxies. It’s been years since I’ve revealed such views to someone I knew would disagree with me, and although I’ve sometimes been frustrated by my own silences, the conversational fallout recalled me to my reasons for those silences.  This good, kind man called me a few days after our conversation in a fairly transparent attempt to resolve my concerns, and it was evident he’d been thinking about them ever since we’d talked and was struggling to produce answers for me. He proposed a few justifications for practices I disagree with, people I should talk to to help me “work things out,” various actions I should take to increase my spirituality. I ended up feeling poised between gratitude at his sincerity and kindness and exasperation at the very premises of the conversation–I’m wrong, and I just don’t understand; he’s right, and he does. Suddenly I’ve become dubious, spiritually suspect. I need fixing. I’m a person of concern. Read More

Missing Mother Education

In one of many recent conversations we’ve had about raising children, my mother recalled attending mother education classes once a month as part of the old weekday Relief Society curriculum (which existed before the block schedule was implemented in 1980). She said there were always two choices: a mother education class and an alternative, for those who weren’t currently raising children–and, I suppose, for anyone who simply didn’t want to be educated in motherhood that week, for whatever reason. Of course a mother education curriculum can be beyond awkward in many contexts. One of my first church callings was as the mother education instructor in my singles’ ward. Broad adaptation was required. Read More

Nursery Etiquette, or, What I Wish Others Knew About My Calling

As Mormons we are theologically committed to experiential, bodily knowledge. And we all know there are some things you never really understand until you’re actually in the trenches, dealing with a situation as it unfolds on the ground. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned in the several times I’ve served as a nursery worker. Read More

My Brief, Hideous Encounter with Mormon Single Life

A couple of months ago I was in the throes of a personal bread-making craze which has since spent itself, partly because the bread I made wasn’t very good. (I really need to get some pointers from those domestic goddesses over at FMH.) One bread-baking afternoon I took my wedding ring off to knead the dough, and I neglected to put it on again before attending a church meeting that evening. Read More

Proselytizing and Liberal Contempt

For me political choice is generally negative; prolonged exposure to the proponents of one set of dogmas tends to drive me into the arms of that dogma’s opponents. By the logic of this unpleasant via negativa, my upbringing in Utah County made me liberal; recent years in the ivory tower, on the other hand, have driven me right, although I’d continue to describe myself as a liberal-leaning moderate of the most unfashionable possible variety. Just a couple of my quarrels with the left: I think much of the sexual revolution was a misstep that has resulted in the widespread masculinization of sexuality–not a liberatory move for women, nor even for men–and I find our culture’s adolescent, pornographic view of sex both boring and exhausting. I also have reservations about a certain wholesale uncritical veneration of nature, ongoing now at least since that old wide-eyed hippie rake Rousseau. Sad though some of its consequences have certainly been, we as a species left nature behind about 10,000 years ago with the neolithic revolution, and I for one have no desire to go back. When well-meaning people earnestly inform me  of the virtues of natural foods, natural fibers, and natural sources of energy, all I can think is that there’s nothing more natural than losing all of one’s teeth to chronic malnutrition, dying in agonizing childbirth approximately nine months after achieving puberty, or losing multiple family members to epidemics of cholera or the plague. Hooray for the thoroughly artificial health technologies of our culture. Not so interested in subsisting for long periods of time on berries and bark scrapings, myself. Read More

Going Nowhere, Fast: Two Decades of Religious Crisis, and Counting

It’s not true that life is one damn thing after another; it’s one damn thing over and over.
—Edna St. Vincent Millay

Late this afternoon I sat down to feed my seven-month-old daughter dinner. She quickly tires of solid food; she’ll accept a few spoonfuls, but then she wants to bang her fists on her tray and throw Cheerios on the floor, so I keep my laptop on the table to entertain myself in between offering bites of cereal or strained peas. In my browsing I came across a presentation on Mormonism and feminism I gave sixteen years ago, the summer I was twenty-one. I clicked on the file with trepidation, sure I’d be dismayed at how young and naïve and foolish I sounded. But what I found was far worse: I was dismayed at how familiar I sounded. Sixteen years ago I was dealing with almost exactly the same issues in Mormonism that I am now. Read More

Missions, Numbers, and Lying

On a thread last year at BCC entitled Coming Clean, Mark Brown daringly confessed to the entire Bloggernacle that he invented his mission numbers reports. His bold revelation transported me straight back to a dark, sweltering night in the dark, sweltering center of my mission. I had recently become senior companion, and while my first couple of ZLs had accepted our numbers as representative of our best efforts and delivered encouragement rather than condemnation, our new ZL, who had just ascended from junior companion with a death grip on his own personal scepter of self-righteousness, was subjecting us to the first real numbers pressure I’d ever experienced. The Sunday-night ritual of calling numbers in was becoming distinctly unpleasant; the ZL was constantly critical of the weekly results we had to report, unwittingly heaping discouragement on me during what was already, for me, a very difficult time, one of the lowest of my mission. Read More


At the moment I have several academic projects whose deadlines are looming–along with some demanding family responsibilities–so I’ve decided to go on a blogging sabbatical for the rest of 2008 in order to concentrate my limited time and energy on those other priorities.  I have no doubt I’ll eventually be drawn back to the endless fascinations of the Bloggernacle, but for the moment my self-discipline could use the reinforcement of this public commitment to a couple of months away (possibly more, depending on how things go).

In the meantime, best wishes to all of you until we meet again. I very much look forward to catching up on all of the exciting controversies, personal announcements of life passages, and thoughtful considerations of experience when I return.

The Tragedy of Aborted Geniuses

I can’t believe I’m wading into the abortion debate, but Steve’s and Jay‘s recent posts on the topic at BCC and Elder Nelson’s October Ensign article (not yet available online) have inspired me to tackle an anti-abortion argument that’s long bothered me. In this post I’ll confine my comments to a particular story I’ve seen in arguments against abortion. (And, let there be no mistake, the omnipotent if site-specific Bouncer will also confine your comments to that issue. If you want to discuss the narrative and implicit arguments I examine here, to favor or oppose or express your utter indifference to them, I will read with great interest. If you want to discuss various ways we value life based on assessments of intelligence, beauty, or other such factors, I will read with equally great interest. But please refrain from rehashing familiar pro-life and/or pro-choice arguments, knocking down straw or actual men and women, and making blanket generalizations about pro-lifers and/or pro-choicers, and engaging in the abortion or culture wars more generally. If this thread disintegrates into yet another debate over the legalities of abortion, I–ahem, that is to say, of course, the Bouncer–will shut it down.) Read More

Cruelty to Boys

For most of my life I’ve found Mormon-girl and Mormon-woman culture infuriating and alienating. I despise passive-aggressive triangulation and insincere niceness and gossipy backstabbing, in others and especially in myself. I’m all for greater assertiveness and directness and less apology for one’s existence and neurotic hand-wringing over one’s perceived sins, chief among them the sin for which no woman can be forgiven in this life or in the life to come, failure to be nice. Read More

The Inspired Call: Overstating the Case?

A couple of months ago, I received a new calling. I’d sufficiently recovered from certain previous callings to feel that I could yet again give church a chance and make my availability known. In many respects, I was extremely fortunate in the way that process played out. A woman I know and like had recently been called as RS president, and one Sunday I happened upon her in the foyer and explained both my willingness to serve and the limitations of my current situation. Because of circumstances involving my own health and my husband’s inactivity, I can’t fulfill a Primary or weekly teaching calling right now and probably won’t be able to for the next couple of years. So I suggested that a Relief Society committee might be appropriate. Read More