Aug 29

For the Ones Who Never Wanted a Fight

I’m a rare presence around these here parts.  But I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about something particular for a few months now–enough that I thought perhaps I could write something little (and by little I mean personal and rambling) about it.

The thing is that, well, I’m a person with some pretty solid beliefs and standards, but I’m not a fighter.  And I never have been a fighter.  Mostly, I just want to live a quiet, peaceful, content life away from fights of any kind if I can help it.

So, if someone comes at me wanting a fight, I’ll probably panic a bit, shake a little, attempt a response, most likely do some kind of cry session at some point, but ultimately, I will simply walk away and do everything in my power to never encounter that person or thing or place again.

I’ve rarely witnessed a fight where one or both parties actually changed their minds or apologized so, sometimes I just think, “Why?”  Why do that and feel like crap when I could be talking with nice people or making a pie or kayaking or giving a hug or…practically anything else?

I know, I know.  You want to tell me things like, “Some things are worth fighting for!”  and “If you don’t fight for x, then who will?” or “We need people like you in the church!” or “Stay.  Stay and make change happen.”

But…you see…I can’t make change happen.  I thought, once upon a time, that I might, that I could.  But, no.  Maybe someone else can….  But not me.  And the only thing that my tiny, microscopic attempts have gotten me…are fights.  Fights and judgement and anger and vitriol and self-righteousness and denials and a more intense, deep, visceral pain than I have ever known in my life.

And what is the point of wasting so much precious time in my short, small life… on that?

This is the voice of the silent ones who leave.  The ones who don’t want to tell anyone else that they know better (we don’t claim to, really)…  But, from their side, see a disintegrating community with no options.  With no one listening.  With no one even caring.  And still…we don’t want to make anyone feel too bad about it.  We can’t assume we know what other people need, after all.

We just don’t want a fight.  We just want to live a couple Sundays (or all the rest of our Sundays) without getting slapped across the face.

And we disappear.  So many of us are disappearing.  And do you even notice?  Do you?  I’m not really sure, but maybe it doesn’t matter to us anymore.   And sometimes that makes us sad.  Because we miss our old sense of belonging to a community that once existed in our hopes.  But we’ve discovered, miraculously, that when we walked away, we didn’t have to fight anymore.

And it was okay. And joyful.  And right.

Because there’s no time for meanness and fighting.  Not in our short, small, beautiful lives.  No time at all.

Jul 17

CFP for the Fifth Biennial Faith and Knowledge Conference

The Faith and Knowledge Conference has just issued its Call for Papers. If you’re in a relevant discipline, you should definitely consider participating; it’s an awesome conference.

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The Faith and Knowledge Conference was established in 2007 to bring together LDS graduate students in religious studies and related disciplines in order to explore the interactions between religious faith and scholarship. During the past four conferences, students have shared their experiences in the church and the academy and the new ideas that have emerged as a result. Papers and conversations provided thought-provoking historical, exegetical, and theoretical insights and compelling models of how to reconcile one’s discipleship with scholarly discipline. Continue reading

Jul 10

Taking Ally Isom at Her Word

On Sunday I decided to bear my testimony in sacrament meeting and talk about my involvement with Ordain Women. I’ve transcribed below approximately what I said. In case you were wondering, in my opinion it was only the third strangest testimony of the meeting. Yay for Mormon weirdness!

Next post I’ll share the response so far from my local leaders and fellow ward members. I think you’ll find it to be generally good news.

This past year I taught Book of Mormon in seminary and I absolutely loved it. I loved the kids, even when they were half-asleep or all-the-way asleep, or even when my son was making smart remarks. What I especially loved, though, was the opportunity to help the kids develop a personal relationship with God.

I love the Book of Mormon and am deeply moved by many of its teachings. One of my favorites is when Nephi teaches us that all are alike unto God. Over the years this scripture and other Church teachings have led me along a path of life that may be different from yours, and that is what I’d like to talk about even though it is hard for me. I feel very vulnerable baring my soul like this so I hope you’ll bear with me. Continue reading

Jul 04

Of Persecution, Polygamy, and Youth Treks

This guest post comes to us from Greg Nelson. Greg lives in Allen, Texas, with his wife and three kids, and has business degrees from both BYU and BYU-Idaho.

“In many ways, I feel about the Church the same way I feel about my family…I and my siblings might go on for hours about what’s wrong with the family, but let an outsider say one negative thing and my claws will come out.  I fight it and complain about it, and it’s so deeply woven into my identity that I can’t imagine who I would be without it.” –Lynnette

This behavior is everywhere, but especially in our young missionaries. Just about every one of them returns home with a newfound loyalty and commitment to the church, developed at least in part by the refiner’s fire of outside criticism and persecution. With each slammed door, skins thicken and commitment swells. To be sure, some develop a loyalty because they’ve actually seen how the Gospel of Jesus Christ can transform and bless lives. But I submit that a significant number return home so certain of their testimonies simply by virtue of having that  testimony challenged and questioned day in and day out. We as a people relish these missionary experiences. They strengthen our resolve.  An example would be Elder Holland’s April 2014 General Conference talk, which describes in disturbing detail how two sister missionaries had food spit and thrown at them simply because they were Mormon. Continue reading

Jun 27

Returning

I’ve been inactive for a few years now. In some regards, it was a conscious decision. 3-4 years ago, my life got really complicated, and those complications included God and religion. I needed a break to find my center and figure out how to be okay with who I was, and I needed to do that work independently. My inactivity was never meant to be permanent. My husband (I think) used the term “sabbatical” at one point to describe my time away, and that idea stuck with me. I was still as Mormon as ever. I was just on a temporary sabbatical from church attendance. Continue reading

Jun 23

For Kate

“Excommunication in our church is akin to spiritual death. The life-saving ordinances you have participated in like baptism, confirmation, and temple sealing are moot.  In effect, you are being forcibly evicted from your forever family.

Given the gravity of the situation, I feel like being invited to a council of this sort is akin to being invited to my own funeral.  Reading stories like this one in the New York Times are like reading my own obituary.” – Kate Kelly

 

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise women at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night. Continue reading

Jun 19

Communities

I don’t remember where I was when I first heard about the September Six. However, I do know that I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I read about it obsessively, trying to make sense of what was happening with my church. But there was only so much to read. There was no internet, no friends posting on Facebook, no storm of blog posts. I was just starting my freshman year at BYU, and leaving the church didn’t feel like a viable option. I don’t think I even really wanted to leave. But I felt like I had nowhere to go to process the anger and disillusionment I was feeling.

When I read the first NYT article about Mormons facing church discipline, by contrast, I immediately starting texting and emailing friends, who shared the shock and outrage that I was feeling.  I’m finding it impossible to keep up with even a fraction of the online discussion. At church on Sunday, I skipped Sunday School with a couple of friends to discuss the situation.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about communities. Continue reading

Jun 18

“Apostasy,” Part I: What Kate Kelly’s Apostasy Means to People Like Me

I loved my mission. It was by far the time in my life when I felt the happiest and most confident in the Church, most certain of its truth, most integrated into its community. Swedish Mormonism seemed an idyllic and open-hearted version of its American cousin, where the utter weirdness of the Church relative to the dominant, very secular Swedish culture meant that the Mormons trying to keep their church alive needed everyone–they couldn’t nudge each other out over small things, they couldn’t afford to reject the weirdos or the disaffected. The boundaries were bright and the margins were thin–if you were willing to be in at all, you were in all the way. Continue reading

Jun 18

LDS Church Leadership Agrees to Meet with Kate Kelly

In a surprising turn of events, LDS Church leaders have finally agreed to meet with female ordination activist and human rights attorney, Kate Kelly. After ignoring or rebuffing her requests for over a year, Church leaders have invited her to a meeting in her former ward building in Virginia on June 22nd.

According to the Church Public Affairs department, this meeting is an attempt to continue the many “wonderful conversations with Mormon women” that the Church has reported having taken place, including past discussions with Margaret Toscano, Lavina Fielding Anderson, and Maxine Hanks, to name only a few.

However, having temporarily moved to Utah, Kate Kelly is refusing to attend the meeting, much to the confusion of Church leaders and members alike, who are wondering why she would avoid a conversation that she and her organization, Ordain Women, has long sought.

Nevertheless, the Church is pushing forward in its outreach to Mormon feminists, with many local bishops now seeking “wonderful conversations” with women in their congregations in order to discuss matters of importance to these women, such as church callings and temple recommends.

The outcome of these conversations remains to be seen and is difficult to predict since they are structured by rules in Church Handbook One, which is not available to women. Church leaders insist, however, that such conversations are being held “out of love” for these sisters, and that they will clarify the place for Mormon feminists in the LDS Church.

Jun 16

Room for All in this Church

A collective statement from a number of bloggers, podcasters, and other online publishers, in support of clemency and openness.

We face a difficult and pivotal moment in Mormonism as LDS leaders and church members wrestle more openly with complicated aspects of our faith, its doctrine, and its history—often in spaces afforded by the Internet. In light of possible disciplinary action against prominent voices among us, we the undersigned Mormon bloggers and podcasters affirm the value of the conversations that take place in the LDS “Bloggernacle” and express our hopes for greater understanding and compassion from all of us involved in current tensions.

May we all remember, as scripture teaches, the intricate intertwining of mercy and justice. May we all follow the admonition to seek understanding before judgment, even as we address matters that can be difficult to talk about. Continue reading

Jun 12

Don’t Ask. Don’t Seek. Don’t Knock.

Here are a few things I learned from the disciplinary action Kate Kelly and John Dehlin are threatened with:

  • The Ninth Article of Faith can pretty much be blotted out of the canon. As of 1842, there may have been “great and important” things still to be revealed. As of 2014, they have all been revealed, and we have no need of addressing new questions or receiving new revelation.
  • Jesus has been overruled. He said we should ask, seek, and knock. He was out of line. Asking is apostasy. The new rule is that your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him, so shut up!
  • Our God is a Correlated God. We don’t even need to limit ourselves to looking to scripture or prophets’ statements now to see the will of God. We simply need to look at the status quo in the Church to know God’s very mind. If there are organs and basketball hoops in our buildings, it is because God wills it. If lesson manuals are printed on 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper, it is because God wills that. And if, with no scriptural or prophetic basis, we have banned women from holding the priesthood, God must have willed that too.
  • Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s “Come, Join with Us” wing of the Quorum of 15 isn’t as strong as Dallin H. Oaks’s “Would You Just Please Leave?” wing.
  • kate kelly and john dehlin utah pride parade 2014

  •  The PR department really is running the show in the Church. Kate’s informal discipline letter chastises her for “acting in public opposition to the Church and its leaders after having been counseled not to do so.” Which leaders? Who counseled her not to have OW events? Her local leaders never wanted to meet with her. And of course general leaders made a point of ignoring her requests to meet. That leaves only the PR department. She went against the PR department’s counsel, and acted in opposition to the PR department, so she’s being disciplined.
  • The PR department clearly doesn’t even care to try to be subtle with lying anymore. The blatant misrepresentation of the OW event was bad enough, but at least it could only be refuted by people who were there. But the claim that the disciplinary actions are completely local is just absurd. That they would say this knowing that it’s not remotely believable is depressing.
  • The Church really isn’t Kate Kelly’s or John Dehlin’s or yours or mine. It’s President Monson’s and maybe the FP and Quorum of Twelve’s a little bit. If they and the PR department decide they want to excommunicate people for asking questions too persistently, they can do that. If they decide to excommunicate people for wearing pants, or for being left-handed, they can do that too. There’s not really any check on how ridiculous they can be.
  • The Church is not a safe place for people who have questions. Perhaps it never was, and I’m only now seeing its true nature revealed. It could have gone other ways, though. There are scriptures and words of prophets that could support a more inclusive version of the Church. But I’m afraid these disciplinary councils will cast a long shadow for a long time on any attempts to push for that. I am so sad. I had hoped for so much better.

 

Jun 08

Take This Survey: Mormons, Garments, and Body Image

 

Jessica Finnigan and Nancy Ross are writing an article on Mormons’ views of their bodies and garments, and are using the survey below to gather information. They want to know how you feel about your body and how you feel about your garments and how your feelings about those two things interact and/or intersect. They will also collect some demographic information and some info about your beliefs. Please help them out by following the link below. To participate, you do need to be Mormon (of any variety, including former/ex) but you don’t need to currently wear garments or have received your endowments to participate. We need all the Mormons! Please share far and wide.

http://bit.ly/LDSgarments

 

 

Jun 02

Three Lessons

Number One: What I was supposed to learn on Pioneer Trek when I was 14

Pioneer trek is an admittedly weird tradition that has popped up in LDS stakes all over the Mountain West. And every pioneer trek I have ever heard of made sure to include the ritual known as the “Women’s Pull.”  What usually happens is all the boys get called off to the “Mormon Battalion” and while they are away doing whatever it was they were made to do, all of us girls are left to pull the handcarts all by ourselves.

And I remember on my first trek that they called away all those boys right before a big hill, just as it was beginning to rain. There I was with my “sisters” and my “Ma” in my “pioneer family” pushing or pulling our handcart, slipping and stumbling up a big, muddy hill. And my sisters and I—we felt awesome. We did it all by ourselves! And honestly it wasn’t that much harder without the boys than it was with them, and we learned that we were capable of doing hard things when we worked together with other women and supported each other!

Except, when I answered with those words when my “Pa” asked 14-year-old me what I learned from the Women’s Pull, he only looked at me blankly, chuckled a little and said, “No, no. What you were supposed to learn was how hard and difficult things are without men and the Priesthood to help you. I’m sure it wasn’t as easy as you think it was.”

“Oh.” I thought. Continue reading

Jun 01

PR, Niceness, and Exclusion

The final paragraph of Michael Otterson’s recently-released blog-posty letter-to-no-one makes a closing plea for its readers to be gentle:

Inevitably, some will respond to a lengthy post like this with animosity or will attempt to parse words or misinterpret what I have said, “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.” Nevertheless, I hope that we will see less cynicism and criticism, more respectful dialogue, more kindness and civility and more generosity of spirit as those members who are prone to use the Internet engage with each other. As Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said recently: “May we realize just how much we need each other, and may we all love one another better,” no matter which chair we’re sitting in.

I would love to be able to just echo the Oscarson line; by all means, let’s love each other better. Let’s be more generous and kinder and more civil and elevate our discourse. However, I find a whiff of disingenuity about Otterson’s use of this quotation to round out a text that rests on some pretty rigid assumptions about who “we” and “each other” are (and aren’t). Otterson’s aim in his last few paragraphs is to convince the audience of his text be nice to him: we are not to respond with cynicism, criticism, animosity, or basically, close-reading (the sins of “parsing words” and “straining at a gnat” have in common an excess of focus). I frankly don’t think these are entirely reasonable demands to make in a public document, especially one that addresses controversial topics. If I find the language or ideas coming out of the church odious, I retain the ethical right to respond with animosity. If something (like this document) strikes me as doing rhetorical work that exceeds its own admission of meaning, I think thoughtful criticism of it is merited. Without being rude, personal, or snarky, one ought to be able nonetheless to disagree rigorously. Civility does not preclude criticism. But beyond these concerns of principle, nothing in this document suggests  to me that I will be on the receiving end of the respect and understanding that Otterson requests for himself and his staff.

Continue reading

May 06

Tuesday’s Twice-Baked ZD: Why Words Matter

In this week’s edition of Tuesday’s Twice-Baked ZD we step into the way-back machine to read Seraphine’s explanation of why words matter.

One of the things that we sometimes discuss in my Women’s Studies classes is the issue of language. Many feminists critique the use of “man” or “mankind” to refer to men and women, the use of “he” as a generic pronoun, etc. Feminists argue that inequality in language occurs on a spectrum of related discriminations, and you can’t eliminate all discrimination if you don’t address all the contributing practices (including things that may seem inconsequential, such as using the term “mankind”). I see a lot of resistance in my classes to this argument. The students recognize that there’s an inequality in language use, but they just don’t see why it matters. According to them, this language doesn’t hurt anyone. Many of the female students in my classes admit that it’s not something that offends them, and so they don’t see why we need to change our language use. Continue reading

Apr 17

“To Be Like Man, Almost”

“How infinite that wisdom,
The plan of holiness,
That made salvation perfect
And veiled the Lord in flesh,
To walk upon his footstool
And be like man, almost,
In his exalted station,
And die, or all was lost.”

W.W. Phelps, “O God the Eternal Father,” Hymns 175

Theologians often distinguish between a “high christology” and a “low christology.” The former emphasizes Jesus’ divinity. It is called “high” because it begins with Jesus as God, and looks at his descent to earth. A “low christology” on the other hand, is primarily interested in Jesus as a human being, in his mortal experience. The two approaches are not seen as being in conflict; they simply have differing emphases.

Latter-day Saints, I think, tend to talk about Jesus with a “high christology” orientation. We strongly emphasize his divinity. I do not think this is in and of itself a bad thing. However, the danger of focusing too much on this is that it can leave one with the impression that Jesus wasn’t really quite human, as can be seen in phrases like the one in the hymn I’ve quoted above: “to be like man, almost.” This leads to several problems. Continue reading

Apr 15

Thoughts of a Non-Convert

I worry about posting this. I know it can be a touchy topic, and I don’t want to be the elephant carelessly stomping around and offending people right and left. So if I’m doing that, then tell me. Really. Then I’ll know what to do better next time.

I’m not a convert.  I know, I know, “everyone’s a convert.”  But really, I’m not.  It’s not that I’ve just stayed in the Church because I was raised in it, and never engaged in any kind of thought for myself, as some are quick to assume.  But quite frankly, I have no idea what it would be like to be a member of a different religious tradition, or none at all, and then switch to Mormonism, and I don’t think I should pretend that I really understand the experience.  I have plenty of admiration for those who do it—one of my professors in grad school was an expert on conversion, and one of the things he always said is that we ought to have a lot of respect for converts to any faith, because it’s an immensely challenging life transition.  But it’s something foreign to me. Continue reading

Apr 11

Train Tripping (Part 3)

Notes from a train trip from Emeryville, CA to Indianapolis, IN

10 April 2014

3:36 AM

Central Time, now, as we’re in Nebraska. I fell asleep around 11:00, and while it hasn’t been continuous sleep, at least it’s been some. But I’m awake enough at the moment that I decided to get up for a while. I can tell we’re going pretty fast, because it’s harder than usual to type, as the train is jerkier than usual.

Given my tendencies toward depression, it’s generally not a good idea for me to have too much time alone to just think—I’m likely to think myself into a dark place. But there’s something magical about trains for me. It’s easier to resist that lure. It’s easier to stay in the present. I know what my therapist would say: it’s not actually magic. It’s that I’ve made a particular association; that I’ve invested the train with this meaning, with this power. But I still maintain that it’s a little bit magical. Continue reading

Apr 10

Train Tripping (Part 2)

Notes from a train trip from Emeryville, CA to Indianapolis, IN

9 April 2014

2:18 AM

I read for a while last night and then tried to fall asleep. It almost happened a couple of times, but not quite. Obviously this isn’t the ideal environment for sleeping, but usually I can manage nonetheless. I think I’m just kind of wound up tonight. Anyway, I decided to get back up for a while. Eventually I should be tired enough to crash.

I’m looking around the car, and I can see people wrapped up in blankets, sprawled out on the seats. Most of them, like me, have double seats to themselves, though a few are sharing. It’s not quiet, exactly, but it’s as quiet as a train gets at night. You can hear the movement of the cars on the tracks, and conductors and other people periodically walk by. Continue reading

Apr 08

Train Tripping (Part 1)

Notes from a train trip from Emeryville, CA to Indianapolis, IN

7 April 2014

10:04 PM

I’m already packing, and it’s not even midnight. Impressive, I must say. I’m done with my suitcase; what I’m figuring out now is what to bring with me in coach. I don’t generally pay for meals on the train (they’re pricey), so I have to rely on my own provisions. So I’m gathering enough snacks to last three days: grapes, carrots, crackers, granola bars, rolls, peanut butter, cheese, cookies, m&m’s.

I used to spend forever deliberating over what books to bring, but no longer. My Kindle is well-stocked, so I can jump between epic fantasy and psychological thrillers, or whatever else I might be in the mood for. Continue reading