Running from God

I’m rather fond of the story of Jonah. Partly this is just because it’s so funny, what with the cattle of Ninevah repenting in sackcloth and ashes, and Jonah melodramatically announcing that he would be better off dead after God kills his shade plant. But I also like Jonah because there are ways in which I see myself in him. In particular, I’m quite sympathetic to his decision to flee in the opposite direction when God calls him. That’s frequently my reaction to God, too. Read More

A Random Survey

Seeing as how our blog has been a bit quiet lately, I thought it would be fun to take a break from our usual discussion of topics like angel mothers and soteriology, and do a completely random survey. All are invited to participate and share their answers to the following deeply profound questions: Read More

Toward an LDS Theology of Religions

“Theology of religions” has been a particularly pressing concern in Christian thought since at least the middle of the twentieth century. The term refers to the effort to make theological sense of other religions. It involves questions like, from the perspective of a Christian, is God involved in other religions, or are they merely human constructions? Is Christianity the only true faith–and if so, why hasn’t God revealed it to everyone? As I’ve posted about before, theologians often speak of three general approaches to the problem: exclusivism (Christianity is the one true faith and there is no way to salvation outside of membership in it), inclusivism (only Christ can save, but explicit belief in or knowledge of Christ is not necessarily required for this to happen), and pluralism (there are multiple true paths and ways to salvation, and Christianity is only one of them.)

I’ve often thought about what an LDS theology of religions might look like. Read More


When I look at the religious conversations I’ve had again and again, the papers I’ve written, the books I’m fascinated by, I can’t help noticing how frequently I find myself coming back again and again to some of the same themes. There are certain questions which have haunted me for years; I feel almost compelled to keep returning to them, to explore them further, to try approaching them from yet another angle. When it comes to these particular problems, you might fairly accuse me of being somewhat obsessed (my siblings and friends could certainly attest to this). Some examples: Read More

Lost Things

I don’t know quite what I think about petitionary prayer; once you raise those sticky questions about God intervening in the world sometimes but not others, it all gets so complicated. But I’m more than a little skeptical of any theory of prayer that treats God like a vending machine who dispenses blessings if only you can come up with the correct combination of change. Rather, I’m drawn to the idea that the point of prayer is relational, that it’s not so much about coaxing stuff out of God as about developing a relationship with him.

That’s how I like to think about prayer in the abstract, at least. But to be honest, I don’t necessarily live that way. Read More

The Positives of Religion

Before I got sucked into the world of Mormon blogging, I spent a lot of my online time participating in a community which dealt with mental health issues. I met a lot of great people there, and I learned a lot. While I appreciated the thought-provoking and informative discussion on topics like surviving depression, I was also particularly interested in the lively conversations which took place about issues related to faith and spirituality. Many expressed extremely negative views of organized religion; I heard repeatedly that it was to blame for all the problems of the world, that it was something for the immature who didn’t want to think for themselves, etc. At one point I attempted to explain why, despite some of my reservations, I’d stuck with it. This is what I came up with. Read More

Called of God

An acquaintance of mine was ordained in the Episcopal church last month. She’s a warm, lively person, probably around the age of my mother, who despite not knowing me well stopped to give me a hug the night before my comps defense. The path to ordination is a long one, with a lot of requirements along the way, and even for me as an outside observer it was kind of exciting to see someone finally make it to the end of it. Read More

The Value of Theology

“It is very strange. But we Christians often seem to be completely unconvinced of the power of thought with regard to our Christian faith.” (Karl Rahner)

I’m currently in my sixth year of studying academic theology. (I’ve posted before about how I ended up in this area.) Despite those inevitable moments of feeling tired of it all, on the whole I honestly can’t imagine doing anything more engaging. However, I’m all too aware that from the point of view of many Latter-day Saints, what I’m studying is worthless at best, and possibly even downright harmful. It’s nothing but the philosophies of the world, I repeatedly hear. It denies the value of revelation. And so on. Read More

Augustine, Pelagius, and Questions of Grace

One of the theological conundrums in Christianity concerns the relationship between God’s grace and human freedom. What role does God play in the process of salvation, and what do humans contribute? Views ranges from one extreme in which everything is done by God, with humans only playing a passive role, and another extreme in which salvation is entirely merit-based, a reward for our works. Read More

A Year of Blogging

Well, Christmas break is (sadly) over, and I believe all the ZD bloggers have made it back to their scattered homes. Perhaps this will mean that we’re going to be blogging a little more again– though I suppose the more ambitious among us might have other plans, such as (gasp!) studying.

As of this past Thursday, January 4, Zelophehad’s Daughters has been in existence for a year. I was going to post something to mark the occasion (because what’s the fun of blogging if you can’t indulge in occasional navel-gazing?), but I ended up spending the day driving multiple times through the snow to the Salt Lake airport to get various sisters to their planes, and then squeezing in a few last games of Settlers of Catan with the sisters who were still around before I left the next day. Read More


I’m sitting in my bedroom, and thinking about the fact that all five of my sisters live hundreds (and in the case of Kiskilili, thousands) of miles away. Looking around, though, I can see traces of them everywhere. On my wall hangs a giant poster of Aragorn–a recent surprise gift from Amalthea (who personally prefers Frodo). Over my desk is a calendar of “Nuns Having Fun,” courtesy of Melyngoch. Read More

“You must do what you feel is right, of course.”

The Gospel of Star Wars tells us repeatedly of the importance of trusting your feelings. (If you don’t recognize my title quote, it’s what Obi-Wan says to Luke in A New Hope, when Luke is deciding whether to come to Alderaan). Qui-Gon instructs Anakin at one point, “Feel. Don’t think.” Even those on the Dark Side of the Force recognize feelings as a way of discerning truth; Vader tells Luke that if he will “search his feelings,” he will recognize the truth of what Vader is telling him about his parentage. Read More

Using Happiness to Evaluate Belief

A question which came up in Kiskilili’s latest thread on feminism (and has also arisen in a number of other conversations) is that of the relationship between happiness and belief. Should we believe the things which make us the happiest? Does it make any sense for a person to believe something which leaves her feeling unhappy and frustrated? I think these are interesting questions, and I’d like explore them a little more. Read More


What I remember about Thanksgiving from when I was growing up is the annual argument I (and several sisters) had with my brother Ziff about whether we should watch the annual TV showing of Charlotte’s Web or a football game on Thanksgiving afternoon. Charlotte’s Web is the same every time, he said, and every football game is different. Not so, I said–every football game is basically the same, so we should go for the option that’s actually entertaining. (I still think I’m right in my assessment of football games, but I’m sure Ziff would point out that I just haven’t learned to appreciate them.) Read More

Coffee and Doubt

I enjoy the smell of coffee. When I’m studying or hanging out with friends at coffee shops, I sometimes look with curiosity at all the varieties you can order. Though my friends have patiently attempted to explain, I have to confess that I still don’t understand what all the different words mean (espresso, cappuccino, etc.) But some of the flavors and combinations sound rather enticing.

However, not only have I never so much as sampled the stuff, I’ve never really been all that tempted to do so. It’s one of the ways in which my behavior is surprisingly orthopractic. (Surprising to me, I mean, when I think much about it. And sometimes surprising to others as well.) Read More

Personal Revelation

When it comes to personal revelation, I’m a believer; I really do think that there have been moments in my life when I’ve been on the receiving end of divine communication. I like that the doctrine plays such a central role in LDS thought; I love the idea that you can go directly to God for answers and help, that we believe in a God who is interested in us as individuals and who will interact with us personally.

Yet at the same time, I have to admit to a certain degree of skepticism when it comes to the use of revelation as a means of discerning truth. Read More

Depression and Dualism

Lately I’ve been thinking (yet again) about depression, and particularly about the ways in which it gets discussed. I periodically run into disputes between those who are convinced that depression is at its core a biological illness, and those who are convinced that it’s a spiritual one. I find myself uncomfortable with both positions, because they both arise from a dualist understanding of the human, one in which spirit and body are qualitatively different things and not really connected to each other. If you take this perspective, you’re likely to conceptualize depression as either a spiritual problem or a physical one–and I’m not crazy about either version. Read More

Religious Differences

I have two friends in particular, one Catholic and one Protestant, with whom I find it remarkably easy to have religious conversations. In terms of explicit doctrinal teachings, we’re often coming from quite different places. Yet somehow we seem to be on the same wavelength religiously. I’ve also met numerous Mormons whom I don’t seem to connect with at all, and in talking to such people I’m not always sure what exactly it means that we’re in the same religion, because we seem to be worlds apart in our religious views. Read More

(The) Bishop

When I was a teenager, one of my good friends omitted the use of an article when talking about the bishop: for example, “I’m going to talk to bishop” as opposed to “I’m going to talk to the bishop.” I figured it was simply a language quirk of her family (and since I come from a family where people use “clo” for the singular of “clothes,” and have invented verbs like “loonify,” I’m hardly in a position to judge anyone else’s use of language as strange.) Read More