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

Turning the Other Cheek

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. –Matthew 5:39

A recent post reminded me of an experience I had my first couple years in graduate school. It was a difficult, painful experience that taught me a lot about anger, forgiveness, and what it means to be Christlike when another person is trying to manipulate you. 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 Names of My Wounds

But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

–3 Nephi 12:22

And the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

–1 Corinthians 3:13

I’ve been ambivalent about blogging for a long time, and I have to admit that on the balance, I have found it spiritually destructive. Not because I found any dirty little Mormon secrets that shattered my faith; for whatever reason–perhaps sheer intellectual laziness–Joseph Smith’s amorous adventures and nineteenth-century English in the Book of Mormon and the Mountain Meadows Massacre and institutionalized racism, while they do disturb me, don’t fatally damage my commitment or conversion. I suppose I figure that prophets are human, that God has to work with what he has–us–and that moral complexity is an inevitable part of life, even life in the true and living church. Blogging has breached years of loneliness and helped me come to terms with questions that at times I’ve barely had the courage to admit to myself. I blog, in some measure, to know I’m not alone–intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually. Online conversations have sharpened and complicated my thinking, advanced my understanding, and broadened my perspective.

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How the Grinch Found Christmas

I will be the first to admit it. In constrast to my five Christmas-maniac sisters, I’m a Scrooge. I find December by far the most stressful month of the year, thanks to papers, finals, grading, parties, overflowing malls, cards, baking, jammed airports, stressed-out travelers, delayed and cancelled flights, and the short, gray days that inevitably kick my chronic depression into overdrive. When the holidays begin at Thannksgiving, I’m always irritable and grumpy about them. I let my husband decorate the tree, hang the stockings, put the wreath on the door, and play the Christmas music and tell him not to bother me with any of it until the semester ends. I’m not much of a shopper or a socializer under the best of circumstances, and I always spend the first weeks of December feeling too exhausted even to think about Christmas as I pull all-nighters writing papers I no longer care about and memorize paradigms and fantasize about watching Infomercials and reading nothing more challenging than soup cans. Every year I threaten to buy myself a Bah, Humbug T-shirt. Read More

the last 5 Decembers

There hasn’t been much going on around here the past few days (I know, the end of the semester), so I decided to follow Bored in Vernal’s example and reflect on what I have been doing for the past [5] Decembers (yes, she did 10, but that would be a lot longer, and besides, my husband gets sad when I talk about old boyfriends in nostalgic ways). And unlike her, I’m going to go forward instead of backward. So here goes: 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

Gratitude

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

On-the-Spot Mental Meltdowns

One of my less pleasant memories is that of the oral exam I had to take at the end of my master’s program in theology. Mostly what I remember is sitting in a room and staring blankly at three professors who were valiantly attempting to coax me into saying something coherent. At one point I recall one of them saying, “I know you know this–you gave a class presentation on it just a few weeks ago.” Unfortunately, my brain seemed to have temporarily shut down, and I had difficulty coming up with even basic theological terms. Read More

The Grace of This Darkness: Surrendering to the Mystery of Suffering and Creation

The first and most severe episode of depression began the winter I turned thirteen and lasted eighteen months, at the end of which I was numb, seared, barely alive. During the summer that followed, as I began the slow process of putting my life back together–a process which would take many years, and continues still–every weekday morning I would get up, put on my old jeans or shorts and a T-shirt, go out into the desert heat, and cross the street and the blazing, empty parking lot where the seagulls congregated on the dumpsters to the junior high, where I had to attend summer school. This winter I will turn thirty-five. During most months of most of the intervening years, despair has been my quiet, constant companion, in Lauren Slater’s words, my country. After more than two decades of struggling against the illusion that comes with every intermission, the illusion I have conquered, and the fatal false hopes that it will not return, I struggle to face the prospect that despair may be the condition of the rest of my life. Read More

The Possibility of Integration

Growing up, I somehow picked up the idea that I wasn’t really supposed to feel certain things: anger, jealousy, fear, resentment, despair. Of course, I felt them anyway, but I interpreted that as evidence of some horrible character flaw. This was reinforced by the Gospel of Positive Thinking so often preached at church, as well as the cultural expectation that women in particular ought to be “nice.” I was so convinced that such feelings were unacceptable that I remember being too scared to confide even in close friends when I felt intense jealousy over a particular situation. I was sure people would think less of me for having such a reaction, that I’d be judged as selfish and not sufficiently loving. Often my response to a problematic emotion was to try to banish it as quickly as possible, sometimes to not admit even to myself that it was ever there. Read More

My Journey into Apostasy

It’s now been almost two years since I received my endowment, and these have been, without question, the least religious two years of my life.

I was not a closet feminist before my temple experience. I was quite upfront with my bishop about the fact that I think there’s no good reason for women not to hold the priesthood, and how I pray the Proclamation on the Family is uninspired. I took the temple prep class four times over the course of several years, and drove a series of teachers crazy with questions. (Why are ordinances necessary, anyway?) Read More

Glimmers of Grace

From the beginning of my studies in theology, I’ve been fascinated by the doctrine of grace. As with many questions in this field, I’m particularly interested in what it actually means for lived experience. If grace is something real, I keep asking, what concrete difference does that make in how I live? What does it mean to wake up in the morning to a world of grace? Read More

Words of the Heart

My favorite part of the Joseph Smith story has always been this passage:

While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. Read More

“You’re Studying What?” How I Ended Up in Theology

I’m currently in my third year of a PhD program in theology, in the area of systematic theology. When asked for a quick definition of what exactly that is, I usually find myself at a bit of a loss. Perhaps I should simply confess that we’re those awful “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” types. (And despite the name of the field, we’re not even all that systematic about it.) I work a lot with 20th century Protestant and Catholic thought, and my interests include the relationship between grace and human freedom, the challenges posed by religious pluralism, and narrative theology. Read More