Sep 02

Defending the White Family

In last month’s (August) Ensign, Elder Bruce C. Hafen purports to put the Proclamation on the Family into its historical and cultural context.1 Hafen’s view is that marriage as an institution is collapsing, and the family with it, because society has come to value the individual’s interest at the expense of social interests, one of which is the support and privileging of stable heterosexual nuclear families. He views this as a cultural shift driven by legal changes in the last half decade, before which “laws maintained a workable balance between social interests and individual interests.” In the 60s and 70s, however, the courts “began to interpret family laws in ways that gave individual interests a much higher priority than social interests, which knocked the legal and social system off balance.” (52) Hafen picks out no-fault divorce laws, the availability of child custody and adoption to single people, abortion, and (as always) same-sex marriage as elements of this threat to the family, and mourns how far the family has fallen since the year 1960, to which he makes repeated and regretful reference, as his reference point for a happier time when families were stronger and we better enforced pro-social values.

But here are some other fun things going on in 1960: Continue reading

  1. “The Proclamation on the Family: Transcending the Cultural Confusion,” Ensign August 2015, 50-55 []
Jun 18

“Apostasy,” Part I: What Kate Kelly’s Apostasy Means to People Like Me

I loved my mission. It was by far the time in my life when I felt the happiest and most confident in the Church, most certain of its truth, most integrated into its community. Swedish Mormonism seemed an idyllic and open-hearted version of its American cousin, where the utter weirdness of the Church relative to the dominant, very secular Swedish culture meant that the Mormons trying to keep their church alive needed everyone–they couldn’t nudge each other out over small things, they couldn’t afford to reject the weirdos or the disaffected. The boundaries were bright and the margins were thin–if you were willing to be in at all, you were in all the way. Continue reading

Jun 08

Take This Survey: Mormons, Garments, and Body Image


Jessica Finnigan and Nancy Ross are writing an article on Mormons’ views of their bodies and garments, and are using the survey below to gather information. They want to know how you feel about your body and how you feel about your garments and how your feelings about those two things interact and/or intersect. They will also collect some demographic information and some info about your beliefs. Please help them out by following the link below. To participate, you do need to be Mormon (of any variety, including former/ex) but you don’t need to currently wear garments or have received your endowments to participate. We need all the Mormons! Please share far and wide.



Jun 01

PR, Niceness, and Exclusion

The final paragraph of Michael Otterson’s recently-released blog-posty letter-to-no-one makes a closing plea for its readers to be gentle:

Inevitably, some will respond to a lengthy post like this with animosity or will attempt to parse words or misinterpret what I have said, “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.” Nevertheless, I hope that we will see less cynicism and criticism, more respectful dialogue, more kindness and civility and more generosity of spirit as those members who are prone to use the Internet engage with each other. As Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said recently: “May we realize just how much we need each other, and may we all love one another better,” no matter which chair we’re sitting in.

I would love to be able to just echo the Oscarson line; by all means, let’s love each other better. Let’s be more generous and kinder and more civil and elevate our discourse. However, I find a whiff of disingenuity about Otterson’s use of this quotation to round out a text that rests on some pretty rigid assumptions about who “we” and “each other” are (and aren’t). Otterson’s aim in his last few paragraphs is to convince the audience of his text be nice to him: we are not to respond with cynicism, criticism, animosity, or basically, close-reading (the sins of “parsing words” and “straining at a gnat” have in common an excess of focus). I frankly don’t think these are entirely reasonable demands to make in a public document, especially one that addresses controversial topics. If I find the language or ideas coming out of the church odious, I retain the ethical right to respond with animosity. If something (like this document) strikes me as doing rhetorical work that exceeds its own admission of meaning, I think thoughtful criticism of it is merited. Without being rude, personal, or snarky, one ought to be able nonetheless to disagree rigorously. Civility does not preclude criticism. But beyond these concerns of principle, nothing in this document suggests  to me that I will be on the receiving end of the respect and understanding that Otterson requests for himself and his staff.

Continue reading

Apr 01

Church to Implement Stop-and-Frisk, Outst Feminist Agitators

To: Public Affairs Department

From: Temple Square Security

Subject: Ideological Stop-and-Frisk

Date: April 1, 2014


We have received your request that members of the so-called “Ordain Women” movement be quietly removed from the grounds of Temple Square and the Conference Center during this weekend’s General Conference.

Unfortunately it has become difficult to determine just by looking at a sister whether she is a feminist bent on destroying the family. Although in the past, helpful cues like the visibility of shoulders (or of the crease behind the knee),  or shrill demands for an so-called “equal rights” amendment, have supplied an  indication of a feminist’s unrighteousness, “Ordain Women” has publicly stated their intent to dress just like regular Mormons, behave calmly and politely, and refrain from disruptive chanting or sign-waving. It therefore seems likely that these disobedient women will be able to mix unnoticed among the large crowds of believing church-goers on Temple Square for Conference.

One option is to simply bar women from coming onto the grounds of Temple Square between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m. on Saturday. This is an efficient option likely to achieve 100% success in keeping “Ordain Women” off of Temple Square; security officers could be stationed at every entrance to the grounds to politely deny any women’s requests to enter, and utility vehicles used to block those entrances once the meeting has started. We are concerned, however, that if images of hundreds of women being shut out from church grounds by a garbage truck reach the media, it may give the mistaken impression that we are discriminatorily excluding half of our church’s members from participating in core elements of church practice.

We are therefore developing a program which is guaranteed to root out subversive elements and maintain order on Temple Square. Continue reading

Mar 19

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.

Jan 13

Seven Modest Outfits from the Golden Globes

Sometimes it feels like “modest Hollywood” is an oxymoron. But this year, the stars at the Golden Globes proved that you can be modest even while putting on your swankiest get-up to get hammered and congratulate your filthy rich, extravagant selves on just being your filthy rich, extravagant selves. We at ZD tip our hats to these modest stars!


Beau Bridges

Continue reading

May 12

Variations on a Creepy Theme by Anne Campbell

(with no apologies.)

You are the life I threw away,
The happiness I never had;
You’re everything I’ll never do—
But whatever you do, don’t feel bad!

You are the naps I never take,
the toilet where I flushed my dreams away
You’re all the hobbies I don’t have.
No need for guilt! It’s all okay!

You are my halted education,
Projects smothered before they began;
You are my withered sense of self;
You are my snuffed out hopes and plans.

You are the mortgage I can’t afford,
You are the car that actually drives.
You are the only thing I have left.
No problem. You are my whole life.

Apr 01

Hi! I’m super righteous, and I’m against women’s ordination.

Women’s ordination is in the air. A handful of contentious probably-anti-Mormon trouble-makers who should just pray about the Proclamation on the Family and all their concerns will be resolved :) have “started” a “movement” to try to make the Church ordain women.

I’m not at all closed-minded, so I’ve tried to really work out what I think about this issue—I mean, I think women are just as important as men, and I feel really sorry for all the women who don’t really think God loves them and so they turn into feminists, LOL! Seriously, though, is women’s ordination possible? Is it a good idea? Would it drive men out of the church, or just make them lazy? Would the differences between the sexes just evaporate if women were ordained?

Would I even want the Priesthood? Would I be strong enough to be a bishop, or a stake president? Do I crave power and authority and attention that much? Can I be humble enough to fulfill the role God has given me without demanding more?

I’ve thought through the issue from every single side, and this is my conclusion: Continue reading

Mar 29

Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward

Let mans Soule be a Spheare, and then, in this,
The intelligence that moves, devotion is,
And as the other Spheares, by being growne
Subject to forraigne motion, lose their owne,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a yeare their naturall forme obey:
Pleasure or businesse, so, our Soules admit
For their first mover, and are whirld by it.
Hence is’t, that I am carryed towards the West
This day, when my Soules forme bends toward the East.
There I should see a Sunne, by rising set,
And by that setting endlesse day beget;
But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall,
Sinne had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I’almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for mee.
Who sees Gods face, that is selfe life, must dye;
What a death were it then to see God dye?
It made his owne Lieutenant Nature shrinke,
It made his footstoole crack, and the Sunne winke.
Could I behold those hands which span the Poles,
And tune all spheares at once peirc’d with those holes?
Could I behold that endlesse height which is
Zenith to us, and our Antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood which is
The seat of all our Soules, if not of his,
Made durt of dust, or that flesh which was worne
By God, for his apparell, rag’d, and torne?
If on these things I durst not looke, durst I
Upon his miserable mother cast mine eye,
Who was Gods partner here, and furnish’d thus
Halfe of that Sacrifice, which ransom’d us?
Though these things, as I ride, be from mine eye,
They’are present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them; and thou look’st towards mee,
O Saviour, as thou hang’st upon the tree;
I turne my backe to thee, but to receive
Corrections, till thy mercies bid thee leave.
O thinke mee worth thine anger, punish mee,
Burne off my rusts, and my deformity,
Restore thine Image, so much, by thy grace,
That thou may’st know mee, and I’ll turne my face.

John Donne

Feb 24

A quick observation on a topical topic

As Mormons (in fact, as Christians), we’re asked all the time to resist worldly beliefs, worldly ideologies, worldly practices, worldly what-have-you, in favor of the transcendent, absolute truth of the gospel. “Worldly” here, of course, stands for local culture with its array of conventional cultural practices that may be more or less dissonant with gospel principles. So, for example, American culture says (wherever you locate the “voice” of American culture, which is clearly not univocal) that sexual activity is fine in a number of different situations and relationships; the Church says, nope, only marriage. American culture (or some segments of it) says, get ahead and make lots of money and buy stuff and you’ll be happy; the gospel suggests we focus on family and relationships instead. American culture (in the voice of Dale Cooper) says coffee is a-okay; the Church says, we have revelation to the contrary, have some Ovaltine. Continue reading

Jul 10

Critical Thinking and the Modesty Meme; or, Why We Need More English Majors

Likely everyone has come across the following internet/facebook meme, but just in case you’ve been backpacking in the Andes for the last two weeks with no wifi, or don’t have well-meaning conservative facebook friends, or have blocked all the well-meaning conservative facebook friends, or just aren’t on facebook precisely so you can avoid things like this, here you go:

Continue reading

May 29

Preside-Plus-Plus or Double-Plus-Glack?: Chicken patriarchy and language change

Any good descriptive linguist will tell you that words aren’t defined by the dictionary; they’re defined by the communities who use them. Consequently, a word like “preside” doesn’t necessarily mean, in the context of Mormonism, what a general-use dictionary says it means. While its secular/worldly/dictionary definition might be “to exercise authority or control”1 or some such, in Mormonism, it actually means “to be the seat of the authority while also being equal to everyone in a  non-hierarchical authority structure, and maybe also have veto power,” or some such.2


Continue reading

  1. preside, v. OED, 3rd edition, March 2007; <> []
  2. This is really my best attempt at defining “preside” according to the most apologetic, non-in-charge definition I can come up with. If you have a better one, have at it, but you’ll also have to have-at whether it changes the way I’m analyzing the term’s deployment, below. []
May 13

A Marsupial Heart

Today is a day when I wish to honor the crowning glory of God’s creation, that being which is supernal among God’s children, whose qualities mirror as no others’ do the supreme love, grace, and dignity of its creator; whose elegance, gentleness of soul, and unique reproductive capacities bespeak its divine origins.  I speak of course of Wombat, the shnuffliest and burrowingest of all Australian mammals, the most pudgy-nosed and adorable. God indeed has a special love for his wombats.

Continue reading

May 06


On the Friday before Easter, I went to a Tenebrae service at a Luthern church on the other side of town. We sang hymns in minor keys and read through the passion story, up to the Crucifixion and ending there, as the candles in the church were slowly extinguished, and the sun outside the high windows sank below the horizon. When the service ended with Christ still in the tomb, it was nearly dark inside the church, and the last of the light outside was the deep, heavy blue just before nighttime has entirely settled; the congregants walked back to their cars in near silence. I had rarely felt so still, like the weight of the words and darkness had sunk over me, the hand of God had come to quiet all the seething inside that I couldn’t calm on my own. Continue reading