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, 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
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust:
His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night;
Nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness;
Nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
The last couple of years have been a hard time for my life in the Church; the last several months, particularly hard. A few weeks ago, to my own surprise, I came to the edge of my ability to go on. I broke with certain of my conceptions about the relationship between the norms of the human community and the will of God, telephoned my stake president, and asked to be released from my calling. Read More
My mother-in-law and I are very different people. Almost polar opposites, in fact. (The only reason I don’t say complete polar opposites is because that’s probably her and Seraphine, and I’m just most of the way to the Seraphine end of the spectrum). Nevertheless, we have come to understand, appreciate, or at least tolerate each other better over the past few years. She tries not to rearrange my stuff when she comes to visit (but she does anyway), and I try not to mind when she rearranges my stuff (though I still do sometimes). Read More
(1) In my CTR class is a quiet, serious, black-haired boy named Timmy who has advanced through Primary and junior Sunday school with me since we were both three or four. When my mother takes Ziff and me over to his house to play, Timmy lets me ride his bike with training wheels for as long as I want while our younger brothers entertain themselves doing something in the garage that involves a lot of shrieking laughter.
I am smitten. And none too happy when my on-again, off-again best friend claims that Timmy let her ride the bike as well when she went over to visit. I want Timmy’s kindnesses to be mine alone. Read More
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
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
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
I have very strong feelings about the temple, and it’s quite difficult for me to sort them out. On one hand, there are aspects of temple worship that I find immensely troubling, and even painful at times. On the other hand, I have had some of my most powerful spiritual experiences in the walls of the temple. Read More
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.
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
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  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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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