Jul 14

Approaching Zion

In my latest post I shared my words from my ward’s latest fast and testimony meeting. It was intensely personal to me; I sniffled through some of it, something I almost never do despite my good Mormon upbringing. Even so, I posted my testimony because I wanted to give encouragement to those members who, for various reasons, love the Church in spite of the sometimes painfully large, angry-red, pus-filled warts that they see. I wanted to provide support to Mormons who desire to be themselves at church, in a church where being yourself can make you undesirable if your beliefs are not mainstream.

In the past I have avoided sharing some of my concerns about the Church with my TBM friends. If the Church is working well for them I do not want to give them difficulty. If they are deriving strength and hope from our community and its teachings, if they are comforted by the certainty of belonging to the One True Church and are learning to know God and love their neighbors by participating in it, I do not want to rain on their parade. Continue reading

Oct 17

Pride (In the Name of Love)

One man caught on a barbed wire fence
One man he resist
One man washed on an empty beach
One man betrayed with a kiss

In the name of love!
What more in the name of love?
In the name of love!
What more? In the name of love!

For seven years I home taught a gay man. Despite numerous invitations during that time, he only came to church twice–once to wish me a happy birthday and once when I gave a talk in sacrament meeting. He regularly prayed for my family, spoiled my kids with Key lime pie and toy frogs, and treated me to his favorite Mexican restaurant–El Toro. I helped him repair his leaky roof and foolishly pushed his 1991 Toyota pickup to the mechanic at 2am (with my car!) because neither of us could afford a tow. Two days before he died of a heart attack at the age of 59, he confessed to me that he had finally met the love of his life, a kind, affirming man from Germany. At that last visit together my friend theatrically lifted up his shirt while sticking out his chest and sucking in his gut to show my daughter and I how much weight he had lost with his latest diet. We laughed, not knowing he would soon be gone.

Continue reading

Sep 27

To the Rescue

I support Ordain Women and the call for Church leaders to ask God for new revelation on women receiving the Priesthood. I am impressed by the many women and men who eloquently express their pain and their faith through blog posts and Facebook comments, hoping and praying for change in the Church they love. I admire their courage as they make themselves vulnerable by putting their bodies in line, and politely asking to attend the Priesthood session of General Conference. I am saddened that such direct actions seem to be the only way to enter meaningful dialogue with General Authorities. And frequently I am discouraged by the reactions to Ordain Women from some of my brothers and sisters, fellow members of the body of Christ, fellow Mormons.

“You are prideful. Why don’t you just follow the Prophet? Why don’t you use proper channels? If you don’t like the Church the way it is, why do you stay? You should just leave and find another church.”
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Jul 23

Making Space for Myself as an Uncorrelated Mormon–Part 1: Going with Nixon to China

(My introductory post on making space can be found here.)

In 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon went to China, thereby reopening official diplomatic ties that had been ruptured by the Communist revolution of 1949. During the ensuing quarter century, the Cold War had created between the two countries a suspicious and unsurpassable barrier that American politicians would not approach. Doing so would paint them as pink, soft on Communism, too weak to protect American interests, and therefore vulnerable to domestic political attacks. Nixon’s rabid anti-Communist rhetoric, anti-Communist policies, and tacit approval of McCarthy’s communist witch hunts proved his bona fides. He was, in Mormon-speak, anti-Communist with every fiber of his being, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Thus it was said that only Nixon could have gone to China–he had, according to Wikipedia, “an unassailable reputation among his supporters for representing and defending their values to take actions that would draw their criticism and even opposition if taken by someone without those credentials.” In other words, he was able to step outside the orthodoxy because everyone knew whose team he was on.

Nixon’s bare-knuckled domestic politics were, in many instances, despicable, as Watergate subsequently highlighted. But the important lesson to be learned from his China diplomacy is that, to depart from a team’s orthodoxy in some areas, requires that we demonstrate our commitment to the team in other areas.

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Aug 06


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. Continue reading

Feb 12

Times, They Are A Changin’

A couple months ago, I wrote a quick post about Visiting Teaching and my relationship to it.  In it, I emphasized that I didn’t feel like a forced, monthly visit was spiritually or socially useful to me, though it might be for other people.  I also mentioned how my favorite VTs in the past didn’t visit me monthly, but would formally drop by every 3-6 months and otherwise just treat me as a friend around town.

I lamented how the VT/HT program, can get too caught up in stats and “just getting it in each month” rather than really thinking about what people individually need, want, or can adequately do.

The response I got was good–some people liked the idea of making VT/HT more flexible and some people thought that the monthly meeting, though it may not be the most casual, was its own form of showing love through showing consistency. Thanks for all your comments.

I bring it all up again because I wanted to share something interesting with anyone who was intrigued by that post a while back: Continue reading

Aug 06

The Grace of Community and Friendship

Last week I began to ponder how the Atonement might apply currently to the struggles I’m facing. We’re taught that the Atonement is not only there for sinners, but for everyone who needs healing and reconciliation. I began to wonder how it might be possible to use the Atonement to reconcile myself to a God from whom I am distant and with whom I am very upset.

This was in the back of my mind as I went to church on Sunday.  Continue reading

Jul 20

Caring What Others Think

There is a conversation which I have seen repeated over and over. It goes something like this. Person A: “I’m upset because I did/said x and I got a negative reaction, people are annoyed with me, etc.” Person B: “Your problem is that you care too much what others think. You need to stop worrying about that.” Seeing variations on this basic exchange on a regular basis has led me to reflect on the question of whether it is necessarily negative to care what others think, a flaw to be overcome, as it is so regularly framed.
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Dec 11

A Movie Review and Some Thoughts on Communities

About a week ago I went to see the recently released documentary on The Dixie Chicks, Shut up and Sing! The movie was quite enjoyable, and much of the reason I enjoyed it was because it had a lot of good music. However, I think what I appreciated about the movie the most was that its messages emotionally resonated with me on a number of levels. Continue reading

Nov 18


I certainly hope that what M&M recently called “civil, honest sharing” is the ideal we strive for around here. And I wholeheartedly agree with her that we need to break down us-them dichotomies and strenuously avoid casting anyone as an enemy. But, in my view anyway, avoiding differences by removing uncomfortable labels actually grants them more, not less, power. If I’m attempting dialogue with a Jew, a Muslim, and a Catholic, we can’t indefinitely suspend our religious identities and subsume ourselves under some more general label of “religious persons.” At some point we have to confront what divides us as well as what unites us. If we avoid confronting differences of opinion and experience, whether in religion, politics, intellectual discussion, marriage, family life, or friendship, we fail each other; we stunt intimacy and understanding and fearfully concede that differences are so threatening they can’t even be spoken. This pattern of denial and insincere “niceness” too often characterizes church culture, and I suspect it contributes to Bloggernacle eruptions of nastiness because genuine difference has too long been suffocated and festered unspoken in people’s lives.

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Jul 24

Resolving Concerns

A couple of years ago, I asked a question in Sunday School about why we need the priesthood to do things like healings if such miracles can also be performed by faith. I brought it up because I think it’s an interesting issue, and I wanted to hear how other people thought about it. A few people shared their take on the subject, and then the discussion moved on. Nothing out of the ordinary. But the reason I remember this incident is because after class, the bishop came over to me and expressed his hope that my concern had been successfully resolved. I was a bit taken aback, as I hadn’t really expected to hear a definitive answer in the course of a five or ten minute discussion in Gospel Doctrine; I’d simply been curious about how other people saw the issue.

I’m not sure that “resolving concerns” is always the most helpful approach to take when people have questions and difficulties. Continue reading

Jun 19

Questioning the Spirituality of Others

It’s telling how often we Mormons respond to religious questions by impugning the questioner’s spiritual commitment, testimony, or faith instead of, or in addition to, addressing the question itself. Unfortunately, we tend to assume that people who don’t have questions, issues, or doubts are somehow more spiritually committed than those who do. There are at least two reasons I think this assumption is problematic. Continue reading

Jan 25

The Social Functions of Happiness

Because of all the other bloggernacle posts on happiness and maintaining appearances (see Dave’s Mormon Inquiry, Feminist Mormon Housewives, and Exponent II), I’ve been thinking about this subject for much of the day today. However, my thoughts have taken a slight detour through my academic interests.

I do a lot of work on thinking about the ways in which emotions are not only signals of internal states or biological processes, but have social functions. In Catherine Lutz’ Unnatural Emotions: Everyday Sentiments on a Micronesian Atoll and Their Challenge to Western Theory, she argues that emotional concepts cannot be thought of as independent of the culture and society from which they originate, and that the discourses and structures to which emotions belong determine their very nature. She explains that “the concepts of emotion can more profitably be viewed as serving complex communicative, moral, and cultural purposes rather than simply as labels for internal states whose nature or essence is presumed to be universal” (5). Continue reading