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

A God of the Future

I’m pretty gloomy when it comes to questions of human nature.  I very much believe in original sin.  I don’t buy the optimistic notion that humans aren’t really all that bad, and just need a bit of education to be persuaded to do the right thing.  No, I resonate much more with Alma on this one: we’re carnal, sensual, and devilish.  It’s not just that without grace, we can’t quite make it to the finish line on our own; we’re wandering off in the wrong direction altogether.  It’s why I like Augustine, who would have no patience with the positive self-talk of 20th and 21st century pop psychology.  We’re pretty messed up, we human beings.  We hurt each other, both inadvertently and intentionally.  We hurt ourselves.  We set out to do good, but our motives are mixed, and our efforts prone to self-sabotage.  We plan to repent–but not yet. Read More

Riding the California Zephyr

6:30 am

My alarm goes off. I’m in a deep sleep, dreaming about my sister Melyngoch coming back from her mission and wanting to go on a crazy hike involving a lot of waterfall crossings. I get up, and pack my last few things. I have a large suitcase, a small one, a backpack and a small bag. Also, two other train necessities: a pillow and blanket. Since I’ll be flying later, I’ve been careful not to bring too much—one of the advantages of train travel is that the luggage limits are rather more generous (not to mention that they don’t come with extra fees), and it’s tempting to over-pack.

Read More

How Do I Change Who I Am for Myself?

When your life is tightly entwined with the lives of others, you adjust who you are to meet their needs and expectations.  For example, spouses make small, daily adjustments so that they don’t push their partners’ buttons.  Parents postpone their desires in order to tend to those of their children.  When not taken to an extreme, this is a good thing.

The past couple years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about to what extent we should bend who we are to make our relationships with others work.  While I still have a lot of unanswered questions about the outer limits of sacrifice, I’ve learned to embrace the ways that relationships can refine us and transform us into better versions of ourselves.  But now my life circumstances have changed, and because I want to continue a process of transformation, now I’m wondering: how do I change who I am for myself? Read More

Self-Motivation

Like all of my family, and most people I know, I get easily addicted to computer games (currently it’s various word games on facebook, but it changes). I can also get very into TV shows, a few video games, and all sorts of books. All of this combines, at times, to make me incredibly unproductive. And then I have to think of creative ways to get myself to do something other than play stupid computer games. I’m kind of like a little kid that way. Here are some of the things I do (or have done): 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

The Joy of Being “Not Pregnant”*

Last August I started a post entitled “Enjoyment and Productivity, or, The Adventures of Supermom.” I was celebrating the fact that I was writing quite a bit, and loving it. But not only was a writing a lot, I was doing better about keeping up with all of the other things I was supposed to be doing as well. My house was cleaner than ever, I cooked more dinners, I was more pleasant with my kids and I played with them more. Life was great. I posited that perhaps I was so productive overall because I was doing something I loved and was enjoying myself, and that made me happier and better able to deal with all of the other things as well.

The reason I never finished that post is that a few days after I started it I found out I was pregnant. Read More

My Trouble with Spectator Sports

On April 29th, the San Antonio Spurs beat the Phoenix Suns and dismissed them from the NBA playoffs. I’ve been a passionate fan of the Suns for several years, and I was hugely disappointed that they hardly put up a fight, losing this first round series, 4-1. I watched parts of the series, but not all of it. It wasn’t for lack of interest that I didn’t watch it all, though. It was that I couldn’t bear to watch my team play badly or see the Spurs or their fans rejoicing. In the deciding game of the series, for example, I turned the TV off when, with under a minute to play and the Suns down one point, Boris Diaw got the ball in the low post and then turned and threw a cross-court pass to . . . nobody, and the ball went out of bounds. The fans in San Antonio went crazy and I felt sick. So I turned the game off. I was happy to miss the agonizing final seconds.

But what if the Suns had won? Would I have kicked myself for giving up too early? Read More

To Some It Is Given: Knowledge, Doubt, Mercy

Today’s thread over at BCC arguing that the loss of faith is ultimately a choice included a comment that wrenched my heart.

Subsequent discussion made reference to a passage in D&C 46 that has haunted me for most of my life, particularly these strange words:

To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
To others it is given to believe on their words, that they might also have eternal life if they continue faithful. Read More

Some New Year’s Thoughts

Usually sometime in January, I write down a list of the things I’d like to try and accomplish during the upcoming year. It’s usually not a long list, and I’m not very intense about it, and I usually only accomplish one or two things on the list (and this is often based on the fact that one to two things on my list are things that I think I will likely accomplish). However, I enjoy doing some thinking about how my life has gone for the past year and what I’m trying to envision for the upcoming year.

Except this year I’m not sure if I want to write up a list. Read More

Changing Course in Life

I haven’t been around as much the past little while because I’ve been on the job market, moving, and preparing for a new job. No, I haven’t finished my dissertation. I’m currently rethinking my life plans, and I have found a job as a secondary school English teacher, which I will start in a couple weeks (which means I probably continue to be scarce for the next month or two as I adjust to the new job).

It’s all kind of strange because I’ve wanted to be an English professor since high school. But the past year or so, that dream has been slowly fading, though I didn’t recognize it until I had a sudden moment of realization a couple months ago. Read More

How Studying Theology Has Impacted My Faith

A question I get a lot at church is that of how studying theology has impacted my testimony. Sometimes people make comments along the lines of how studying the beliefs of others must be quite faith-promoting, with an apparent assumption that the musings of non-LDS religious thinkers are likely so self-evidently ridiculous or confusing that they could only result in my having a greater appreciation for the simple clarity of the restored gospel. Others wonder, by contrast, whether engaging religion academically might be dangerous, might undermine my belief in the LDS church. I am not comfortable, however, with either of these paradigms. What I study has in fact profoundly influenced my faith, but in complex ways. Read More

Karen

I can’t remember when I first met Karen, but I’m sure that she took me seriously aback. Karen was a large, heavyset, mentally handicapped woman in our branch who had little sense of personal boundaries or respect for personal space. Karen favored enormous T-shirts featuring her favorite band, Cinderella, and pants for church, and she sported the type and amount of bling stereotypically associated with inner-city drug dealers. Karen loved painting her nails and dying her hair, and her nail polish was generally badly applied, and her hair badly dyed. Various Relief Society presidents tried to convince Karen of the virtues of dresses and skirts and looking a little more like the rest of us. No go. Karen was insistent on Cinderella. Read More

Reflections on Good Friday

I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about the stories surrounding Easter. I remember as a child listening to adults talking in solemn and hushed tones about the death of Jesus, and wondering how I was supposed to react. Should I be feeling guilty, since as a sinner I shared part of the blame for his suffering? Should I be feeling horrified? (Some of those who went into excruciating and grisly detail seemed to be hoping to provoke a bit of that reaction.) All too often, hearing the story of Good Friday left me with an image of a Jesus who quite possibly resented me for having messed up so badly that he had to pay for it, and who was now scrutinizing my every action to see if I was good enough to be worthy of his help. Read More

Blessed Are They That Mourn

Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall have comfort. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Who goeth forth and weepeth, and beareth precious seed, shall doubtless return with rejoicing, and bring his sheaves with him. –Brahms Requiem, 1st movement

As I lay curled in a ball on my bed late Friday night, trying to quiet the sobs that shook my body and had the mascara pooling in dark circles under my eyes, it was difficult to remember the words from a few hours earlier: “blessed are they that mourn…” When the emotional pain envelops you and leaves little room for rational thought, the blessedness of mourning is merely an attractive idea. And comfort is very far away. Read More