Zelophehad’s Daughters

Mr. Kafka Goes to Temple Square

Posted by Melyngoch

This is the clause I’m adding to my freshman composition syllabus next semester:

If, during the course of the semester, you find that you need something from me, please do not come to my office and ask for it. By doing so you will interfere with the dialogue I am always already having with my students about their needs. Any student who comes to my office asking for something will be redirected to the bar near campus where the college dropouts hang out, which is an ideal place to express opinions and ideas about the classroom that differ from mine. Please remember that students in this class, by a very large majority, do not share your advocacy for anything at all beyond a vague and mostly apathetic hope for grade inflation.

If any student comes to see me in spite of this, I’ll just put a trash can in front of the door to let them know I’m not available.

Tuesday’s Twice-Baked ZD: Reflections on Good Friday

Posted by ZD Past

In this week’s edition of Tuesday’s Twice-Baked ZD we revisit Lynnette’s beautiful reflections on the Atonement.

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.

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General Conference Talk Complexity by Speaker (and by Session)

Posted by Ziff

Last week I blogged about looking for differences in General Conference talk complexity by session type. I thought it would be fun to break down the same data in a couple of other ways.

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Is There a Way to Find Common Ground?

Posted by Mike C

Last year I was on a long car ride with my parents, who were visiting from out of state. My mom and I ended up having a discussion about gay marriage, and it was then that I started thinking about this problem of finding common ground–that is, the problem of Mormons like me and Mormons like my mom being able to rejoice and be edified together as we discuss difficult gospel topics–rather than starting a cage match that ends in tears (probably mine, since my mom is a tough cookie), recrimination, the silent treatment, and (God forbid!) unfriending on Facebook. (I’m happy to say that so far none of these things have happened, at least as far as I know.)

I realize that saying that my mom and I represent two types of Mormons is a vast oversimplification, one that does not fully capture our similarities, and one that does not fully acknowledge that there are lots of types of Mormons–probably as many types as there are Mormons. Even so, I think it is useful to place us in two broad categories that are familiar to Mormons who frequent the Bloggernacle. Read more…

Every Bloggernacle Argument About Feminism, As Told in GIFs

Posted by Petra

Trigger warning: feminism.

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Does General Conference Talk Complexity Vary by Session Type?

Posted by Ziff

Back in November, the Church announced a new General Women’s Meeting that will occur the weekend before each General Conference. This meeting will include girls who are eight to eleven years old in addition to women and teenage girls. I saw a number of people on the Bloggernacle suggest that the result would be that either the talks will be over the youngest girls’ heads and therefore boring to them, or the talks will be aimed at them and therefore boring to the women and teens. For example, on the first possibility, here’s Rebecca J at BCC:

Why would you include eight-year-old girls in a women’s conference? . . . Perhaps inviting 11-year-old girls would not be inappropriate—girls on the cusp of Young Woman-hood, as it were. . . . But what do our leaders have to say to grown women that could possibly be relevant and not mind-numbingly boring to eight-year-old girls?

This question got me to wondering whether I could measure to what degree Conference speakers were pitching their talks differently to differently-aged audiences. I’m sure there’s an in-depth way to answer this question that requires analyzing the actual content of Conference talks. But as you can probably guess, I didn’t go that route. Instead, I took a shortcut and looked at a related question that I could answer more easily. I looked at whether Conference talks differ in how difficult their language is, depending on which session they’re given in, and therefore the age of the audience they’re aimed at.

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Take Carol Lynn Pearson’s Survey on Sealing Inequality and Eternal Polygamy

Posted by ZD

ETERNAL POLYGAMY AND SEALING INEQUALITY OF LDS WOMEN AND MEN—A SURVEY. Carol Lynn Pearson (www.clpearson.com) is sponsoring a survey to gather information on beliefs and opinions of Mormons (and former Mormons), male and female, on this important subject. Please take the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/sealingsurvey and please pass this request on to your friends and contacts. The survey closes on March 31, 2014. Thanks!

Charity on the Rocks

Posted by Petra

This is a talk I gave in my ward at the end of January.


My husband grew up backpacking, and it was one of the conditions of our marriage that I would learn to backpack too. I do it now, and occasionally even enjoy it, but it’s definitely a stretch to say that I’m good at it or love it as wholeheartedly as Mike.

I say this by way of prefacing a personal story, so that you understand the context when I tell you that once, last summer in Yosemite, I was nearly defeated by a large boulder field at the end of a long day climbing mountains with a heavy backpack.

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Posted by Lynnette

When it comes to navigating the gay Mormon thing, I’ve been in many ways incredibly fortunate. When I first came out to my siblings and a couple of close friends several years ago, the response I got was largely a matter-of-fact acceptance, one that left me plenty of breathing room and no pressure—and I got similar reactions as I told more people over the years. When I publicly came out last November, the experience was mostly positive: people responded with kindness and love and support. After years of involvement in the world of Mormon blogging, I am fortunate to have a network of LDS friends who aren’t freaked out by this. And I live in what I imagine is one of the most gay-friendly stakes in the church. As Effie might say, the odds truly have been in my favor. Read more…

An Ethnographic Examination of the Representation of Women’s Bodies in a Religious Publication (Running Title: Boobs in the Ensign)

Posted by Beatrice

In a conversation among some of the permabloggers, we started talking about modesty within LDS culture. Although I felt that everything that could be said about modesty has been said already, Ziff raised an interesting question of whether women with certain body types were more likely to be shown in the Ensign than women with other body types. Specifically, he posed the question of whether women with smaller breasts were more likely to be shown than women with larger breasts. Given that I like to code and analyze data almost as much as Ziff does (I mean, really, I doubt that anyone in the universe could love this as much as Ziff does), I decided to conduct an assessment of this very question.  Read more…

Answering the Temple Recommend Interview Questions, Part 2

Posted by Petra

This the second part of a series in which my friend ajbc gives her personal, long-winded, and rambling answers to each LDS temple question, since the actual interviews do not allow for elaborate discussion. The first post is here.


It’s taken me a while to get to this second post, in part because I didn’t like part of my answer to the last one.  I wrote that I was most comfortable praying to a male or joint-gender god due to my upbringing, and I’m happy to report that I am now equally comfortable praying to Heavenly Mother as I am to Heavenly Father.  I’ve even had one of my Teyve-style (out loud, casual) prayers to/with her in the celestial room, which, by the way, is my all-time favorite part of serving in the temple–getting the room completely to yourself.

The other reason I’ve been putting this off is because I wrote an answer to the second question a while ago, and was thoroughly unsatisfied with it.  It wasn’t that I was inarticulate (nothing can help me there, save an editor), but that I didn’t like what I had to say.  I’ve been so focused on God in general and also with particular issues with the LDS Church that I had neglected the more middle-ground of Christianity.  Thus, I did some soul-searching, found some peace, and am now ready to answer #2.

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The Value of the Creation Stories

Posted by Lynnette

One of my friends has been asking me questions about the Creation stories lately. What’s the value, she wants to know, in reading them? In their neat, tidy rendering of the world, what connection do they have to actual life here, in its complications and messiness? They don’t give us a scientific rendering of the origin of the world, obviously. But what do they give us? So I’ve been mulling over this question for a while, and this is what I’ve come up with. Read more…

Let’s Make the Hymnbook More of a His and Hers Book

Posted by Mike C

This Sunday in sacrament meeting we sang the hymn O God, the Eternal Father. I noticed this time, more than previous times, the gender-exclusive language:

That sacred, holy off’ring,
By man least understood…

With no apparent beauty,
That man should him desire…

To walk upon his footstool
And be like man, almost…

I understand that when W.W. Phelps wrote these lyrics back in the 1830′s, gender-exclusive language was the norm, it was the way people talked, wrote, and thought. I also understand that in many instances such gender-exclusive language was typically understood to mean both men and women. I suspect that Brother Phelps had no overt desire to leave anyone out; by using “man” he may have been simply using the default term for the word “humans”. Read more…

The Confessions of Saint Andrew

Posted by Mike C

This guest post is brought to us by my brother, Andrew C.

I tell a story about my grandparents that may be completely made up.

They were looking forward to a fireside about marriage, and the morning before the presentation, their bishop told everyone in the congregation that, if they didn’t have a perfect marriage, he wanted them to attend.

Grandma and Grandpa looked at each other, and they didn’t go.

I saw Grandma after Grandpa died. “Getting old is not for wimps,” she said, and she looked very sad, gray hair, gray skin, a droop to her like she couldn’t think of a reason to sit up straight. Half of her was missing, and because I saw my grandma in that state, I think the story I just told you might actually be true. It is possible that it could be.

I desperately want it to be. Read more…

The Problem of Gays in LDS Theology, Part II

Posted by Lynnette

Following up to my first post on why homosexuality is a theological problem for Mormons—and the stark question of whether gays can be seen as fully human in LDS teachings—I would like suggest a few avenues for theological thought which may yield more encouraging results.

1. One possibility is to conceptualize the image of God in a different way. In my first post, I noted that the standard LDS read is to see it as a statement that humans are literally the children of God and have the potential to become like him—an assertion which is generally tied to gender, as God is understood as literally (and not only metaphorically) male. This is also linked to the scriptural context in which this notion appears in the first place: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27)

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The Problem of Gays in LDS Theology, Part I

Posted by Lynnette

Note: Just in case my title isn’t clear, I would like to state at the outset that I am not asking the question  of whether I personally think that gays are fully human; rather, I am looking at elements of LDS teachings which I find particularly disturbing. Please read the post before getting out your pitchfork.

The issue of same-sex marriage currently dominates much of the discussion of homosexuality, both inside and outside the Church. This makes sense, of course, given that right now, the question of SSM has become the center of gravity of the political battles over gay rights. But despite the significance of the marriage question, I think that Latter-day Saints are still struggling with a much more basic issue: are gays even people to begin with? Read more…

On Being Needed vs. Being Necessary: Some Thoughts on Women, Priesthood, and Responsibility

Posted by Guest

[This post, from Jacob Baker, originally appeared at his blog All Eternity Shakes: Letters From the Vineyard. It has been slightly revised from the original. Jacob describes himself as "a student of religion and a stalwart fanboy of Zelophehad's female offspring. Ok, and the guys too." We're excited to have him guest-posting for us.]

Women cannot be regarded as fully human until the full measure of responsibility and accountability is theirs. This is where the charged rhetorics of modesty, pedestalization, and singularity and specialness of gender are all mutually embedded–in the wonderful-terrible blessing and burden of cultural, institutional, and religious responsibility and accountability. This is also why the rhetoric of “equality” should be replaced with one of responsibility and accountability. Responsibility is what is really at stake with this kind of empowerment, and it is really what we mean by “equality.” Responsibility is the decisive and irrevocable difference between becoming angels or becoming gods. Read more…

Tuesday’s Twice-Baked ZD: The Grace of This Darkness

Posted by ZD Past

In this week’s edition of Tuesday’s Twice-Baked ZD, we revisit Eve’s 2006 post where she confronts despair.

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…

Characteristics of a Mormon Feminism, Take Two

Posted by Lynnette

Follow-up to this.

1) Theological anthropology

Essential to this feminism is the belief that we are all the literal children of God, women and men alike, with infinite divine potential. This means that anything which gets in the way of the development of that potential, or undercuts the full humanity of any of God’s children, is something to be resisted.

We are also eternal intelligences in our own right, and agency is an eternal principle. It pre-existed the war in heaven, which was fought to preserve it. This gives agency a particular importance, even sacredness.

Additionally, because of our eternal nature, one could make the case that we have an inherent access to moral law (a knowledge of right and wrong); in any case, we clearly have this in mortality, as the light of Christ is given to everyone (see Moroni 7). This means that we can take our own moral judgments seriously.

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Making Space for Myself as an Uncorrelated Mormon–Part 4: Learning to Say No

Posted by Mike C

I’m going to share with you something important I’ve learned in therapy (said the blogger, both of his remaining readers scrambling for the exits). In order to have healthy relationships, we need to have healthy boundaries. And when constructing boundaries, we must be aware that they can be either too porous or too rigid.

First, the problem with too porous: Read more…