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

On Asking to Be Released

I know we’ve talked about this subject before, but since I’m currently debating with myself over it, I decided to bring it up again and let the rest of you debate with me.

I’m currently the leader of the wolf den in cub scouts (with another woman) and the teacher of the 6-7yo primary class (with my husband). I hate it. I’ve been doing them both about 9 months, and I’ve hated them pretty much the whole time. I guess the primary class was okay for two or three weeks, but that’s about it. I knew I wouldn’t like the callings when I accepted them, but I’m a big believer in accepting any and all callings, so I did. Read More

Demoted to Mrs.

Marriage is at once the most public and the most private of institutions. On the private side, although we can both be incredibly stubborn, my husband has never treated me with the slightest hint of condescension or domineering. Even in the early days of our marriage when he was still a believer, it would never have so much as crossed his mind to pull priesthood rank, which is of course one of the reasons I married him. But as ECS’s excellent post about the cultural blind spots in which women reside recently reminded me, whatever private arrangements husband and wife make, for women, marriage can mean social invisibility. Read More

On Ignorance and Offense (includes FREE Bonus Discussion of Infertility!)

Patricia’s excellent series of posts about her experiences with her daughter Mattea over at T&S have got me thinking again about ignorance and offense. I don’t want to presume to compare Patricia’s experiences (which she rightly terms “unbelievable”) with my own, but I suspect all of us have experienced the hurt and frustration of blithely presumptuous, well-meaning drive-by comments on our lives, sometimes in church settings, sometimes from fallible church leaders. I imagine all of us have endured remarks that stick in our craws that we struggle to forgive and to eject from our souls. To start this post off I’ll reflect on a few such remarks in my own life. Then I’ll try to put those remarks in some sort of meaningful context. Read More

Why I Don’t Like Scouting

As a teenager, I didn’t like scouting because I didn’t like outdoor activities like camping, hiking, orienteering, and whatnot. So I did very little scouting related stuff, and that only after much arm-twisting by leaders and other boys (who, to their credit, were typically very nice about it). As I lived in Utah Valley, this made me borderline inactive. Read More

Enrichment Activities

I woke up today and for the first time in my life I actually wanted an Enrichment calling. Weird, I know.

I think one of the things that spawned this desire was the comment someone made recently on another blog (sorry, I can’t remember who or where) that they had activities where the pastor/priest/rabbi/whatever of another religion would speak to them about that religion, and then they would go and visit that leader’s church. I think this would be fascinating. Read More

My Calling to Welcome Others

It was the first Sunday I attended my new college branch. I wasn’t even officially a member of the branch yet — I had driven Seraphine down to school a week before I got to move into the dorms. But the branch president asked to speak with me after church, and I was happy to. I was excited to be moving forward in life, and my first ward/branch away from my family was a big step. I very much wanted to fit in, be comfortable, make friends, and everything else.

The branch president was a wonderful man (still is, actually — I just saw him again about a month ago), and we had a wonderful “welcome to the ward/getting to know you” type conversation. Then, at the end of it, he blew me away with a comment something like this, “There are going to be lots of new people moving into the branch, and I want you to make help them feel welcome.” I don’t remember his exact words, but I do remember the distinct impression that it was a calling, even if not an official, set-apart one. Read More

Testimony Bearing and Storytelling

The complaint I hear most often about testimony meeting is that people don’t actually bear testimony — that instead they do things like tell stories, engage in “thankamonies,” and so forth. While I am not entirely unsympathetic to such complaints, I find myself curious as to how those who are raising these concerns would imagine the ideal testimony meeting. In other words, what exactly does it mean to stick strictly to testimony-bearing?

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Why I Worry

Preface: A month or two ago, there were a few conversations on the bloggernacle that highlighted a couple of common responses to feminist concerns. Dan Ellsworth over at Mormon Mentality decided to give the ZD bloggers some advice: he argued that we spend too much time thinking about the church (and our feminist concerns), and that we would worry less if we diversified and spent more time doing things we enjoyed. He also argued that we were going about trying to find answers to our concerns the wrong way. GeoffJ at New Cool Thang expressed confusion, writing in one of the long debates, “I must be missing something here.. If you are certain you are not less than men in the universe and in God’s eyes what are your deep wounds over that subject?”

Both of these comments highlight a common reaction to feminist concerns. I would summarize it as the “why do you worry?” reaction, and it exhibits a genuine confusion as to why feminists are worked up over what seem (to others) to be either inconsequential issues or issues that others firmly believe will be worked out in the eternities. Because “why do you worry?” is a common response to feminist conversations, I wanted to do a post on this subject. This post is specific to me and my experience–other feminists have their own stories, which I encourage them to share. Read More

Naming the YW

Kaimi recently posted on T&S about Brides Among the Beehives, with reference to Joseph Smith’s marriage to a 14-year-old. A few commenters have pointed out that 14-year-olds are not in fact Beehives, but rather Mia Maids. Though I have nothing to say at the moment about Joseph Smith’s polygamous marriages, this discussion has led me to ponder the fact that we refer to our Young Women as Beehives, Mia Maids, and Laurels. As a YW, I found the names rather silly (particularly “Mia Maid”), and I can’t say my opinion has changed much in the years since then. Of course, part of the fun of being a Mormon is having all these quirky terms. Nonetheless, I’m wondering whether anyone has any good suggestions for alternate names. What would you call the different groups of Young Women? Or do you like the labels we have?

Hymns by Request in Sacrament Meeting

Three times since I’ve lived in my current ward, we’ve had a sacrament meeting that might be called “hymns by request.” Like a testimony meeting, there are no scheduled speakers; people get up as moved by the Spirit or by boredom. But unlike testimony meeting, what they’re asked to do is to name a hymn they particularly like and say something about why. Then the congregation sings a verse of the hymn that the person designates. Read More

A Lectionary of Snarky Politesse

In this Our Lovely Deseret, we place a high premium on niceness, as well we should. There is much to be said in favor of civility, and it’s probably impossible to say too much in its favor in fora such as these, but of course the snarkier, more unfeminine emotions such as irritation and anger are not thereby eradicated, and after a time our stock phrases begin to experience significant and inevitable semantic leakage, following some sort of pattern the sociolinguists among us can, no doubt, identify with far more precision than I. My nominations for my least favorite, most tiresome phrases (both Bloggernacle and offline) follow. Read More

The Cranky Confessions of an Orthodox Mormon

It is high time I came clean. I am the wolf in sheep’s clothing among all you liberals (insert maniacal laughter). I just took a couple of orthodoxy tests on the Believe It or Not thread over at the friendly neighborhood Cultural Hall. As I’ve been every other time I took the test, I am 100% Mormon (and 98% Mainline to Liberal Protestant, if you really want to know). Read More

Authenticity in Relief Society

Sally raised this great question on Eve’s “Relief Society Goes Berserk” thread:

I am teaching RS tomorrow on unity and have been thinking alot about what creates unity. One post mentioned that we don’t have “authentic voices” in RS, we don’t share our struggles because we need to put on our happy faces at church to fit in with the rest of the happy faces.
How can we mourn with those that mourn, comfort those who stand in need of comfort if those needs are carefully kept hidden? I love the “good new minutes” in RS because I feel like I get to know the sisters better, hearning of their joys. But how can we share bad news? I wouldn’t want RS to turn into a session for complaining, especially about others in our lives. So how can we open up to each other so we can better see in each other’s hearts?

Finding Middle Ground

Jessawhy recently posed this excellent question:

I’m wondering if there is any middle ground between being 100% behind anything that any living prophet has ever spoken, and rationalizing myself out of the church.

How do you find the middle ground? How do you stay active without feeling like you’ve given your brain up to the Borg? Is there a middle ground? (In the scriptures it really seems black and white, maybe Satan tricks us into thinking there are shades of grey).

Relief Society Goes Berserk

OK, I lied. It is not December 14th, and my papers have not been written. But I am nearing the end of what I have to admit is a fairly short tether with my stake Relief Society calling. In the midst of writing final papers and translations, I’ve found myself in a losing battle to scale down the mammoth stake Relief Society enrichment day planned for next spring. In the past it’s been an all-day extravaganza, two meals, workshop after workshop, crafts and motivational speakers jumping out of cakes (well, I may be exaggerating a wee bit about the cakes 😉 ).

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(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