A painful church experience to which I think many people can relate is that of listening to people share stories of divine intervention that didn’t happen in your life. People might talk, for example, about God giving them healthy children. If you don’t have children, or if your children aren’t healthy, this can really sting. Or perhaps God is reported to have intervened to cure a disease—one from which you or someone you love still suffers. Maybe God spared people from accidents, or blessed them financially. Those who weren’t blessed in those ways are inevitably going to wonder why. As a single person,my favorites are the “how God led me to my spouse” stories. (You might think that this would be a different sort of concern for me, given that I’m gay, but actually there are plenty of gay people who will testify that God brought their partners into their lives.) And hardest of all, I suspect, are stories about God saving people’s lives, when he didn’t save the life of the person you loved. Continue reading
It’s gray outside. That’s not unusual here; it’s been gray for days, and I know this is only the beginning of some long months. I remember that from living in the Midwest before, years ago. But twelve years of living in California got me used to seeing the sun on a regular basis. I knew this part of the move would be challenging.
This past summer I was starting to crash yet again. Life was increasingly appearing both bleak and terrifying, and I was barely treading water. I hadn’t been hospitalized for an entire year—an accomplishment, that—and I saw myself headed to the ER once again. Except that I wasn’t sure I could stand yet another trip to the regulation and boredom of a psych ward, and I wondered whether this time around I could keep myself safe.
Alma is unarguably the figure in the Book of Mormon who exhibits the most concern for the concepts of justice and mercy—which he notably conceptualizes as different things, even things that are in competition. He thoroughly explicates this in Alma 42, as part of his sermon to his wayward son Corianton. I wish to go briefly over his argument, and then raise some questions about this conception.
One of the many, many things I find troubling about D&C 132 is that it’s a revelation in which the recipient is put in a privileged position vis-à-vis significant others his life; in this case, his wife. In it, Joseph is promised all kinds of blessings. To be fair, Emma is as well—but only if she’ll swallow the bitter pill of Joseph taking other wives. Otherwise, she’s warned, she’ll be destroyed. Continue reading
I’m a good complainer. If you’ve read my blogging for any length of time, you know I like griping about the Church almost as much as I like graphs and charts. But it’s almost Thanksgiving (in the US, anyway), so I thought I’d break with my usual and list some things about the Church that I’m thankful for.
Over at the Exponent, they’re running the Exponent Book Review Series and Cyber-Monday Giveaway. Go read some reviews of interesting books that you might want for Christmas. Leave a comment on one of the reviews and you’ll be entered to win a free book! The event runs through November 30th. You can also enter for a free book by subscribing to or donating to the Exponent magazine.
It’s been a difficult, heavy couple of weeks, both in the church and in the world. I think it’s important to be talking about the issues that are getting talked about. But just for a break, I’m posting a survey of completely random questions.
1) What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
2) Do you use a mouse or touchpad?
3) What time do you think you should ideally go to bed? What time do you actually go to bed?
4) Are you on Facebook? How often do you post?
5) Which of the meetings of the three-hour block is generally the best one—sacrament meeting, Sunday School, or Relief Society/Priesthood?
6) What was the last TV show you watched?
7) What is your favorite month?
8) What blogs do you read the most?
9) If you have a pet, what is it, and what is it named? If you don’t have a pet, what kind of pet do you think you’d be most likely to get?
10) Would you rather travel by car, by train, by plane, by bus, by boat, or by something else?
11) What is your favorite breakfast cereal?
Adrienne Rich’s “Twenty-One Love Poems VIII” concludes with the lines:
Well, that’s finished. The woman who cherished
her suffering is dead. I am her descendant.
I love the scar-tissue she handed on to me,
but I want to go on from here with you
fighting the temptation to make a career of pain.1
I find that powerful. I’ve thought a lot about that temptation of cherishing your suffering, of making a career of pain. In my life, it’s been a seductive one—to define myself in terms of what I’ve suffered, to make that the center of my identity.
- Adrienne Rich, “Twenty-One Love Poems VIII,” The Dream of a Common Language (W.W. Norton 1978), 29. [↩]
The For the Strength of Youth booklet makes a good point about agency:
While you are free to choose your course of action, you are not free to choose the consequences. Whether for good or bad, consequences follow as a natural result of the choices you make.
There have been a couple of notable instances recently of Church leaders appearing to not believe in this connection between their own choices and consequences of those choices.
I think I hadn’t realized how much hope I had that the rumored clarification/revision would substantially address the problems caused by recent policy changes until the clarification actually arrived. My heart sank when I read it. I will say that I’m happy to hear that many children who had temporarily fallen into a state of limbo will now be allowed to be baptized. I actually guessed that would happen; it seemed like denying baptism to children in joint custody situations was going to be a step too far for even conservative church leaders. But the fact that other children are still left out in the cold is deeply troubling. Even if the policy only applied to a single child, we’ve crossed a certain bridge now, in terms of what we’re willing to do in the name of rejection of gay marriage. It’s not pretty. And I worry that it will be very difficult to go back. Continue reading
We’ve all known the feeling of living simultaneously through events of community and personal significance, times when the public and the private terribly converge. September 1993 was a time like that for me. Again in recent days I’ve reflected on what that time meant to me as a Mormon coming of age, and what it means to me now, more than twenty-two years later. Continue reading
I would indeed be ungrateful today if I didn’t acknowledge the blessings in my life. I say that tongue-in-cheek, but it’s nonetheless true; I have been reminded again and again in this past, difficult week that I have a lot of good friends. People have reached out to me, checked up on me, reminded me that they loved me. I’ve been asked over and over, are you okay?
And the answer, somewhat surprisingly, is yes. I’m okay. I really am. Continue reading
Ever wondered what the ZD backlist is like? Wonder no longer! This is one of many, many discussion threads over the last couple of days.
Lynnette: Another person I know just sent in his resignation letter. I feel like I’m watching a disaster unfold in real-time.
I usually start out upset at things and then calm down some. But this is going in reverse. The more time goes by and I see the effects of this, the more awful stories I encounter, the more horrified I am.
Vada: I’m horrified, too. The posts Jerilyn has been sharing are just about killing me. Especially the ones of parents trying to explain this to their children. Or of parents knowing they’ll have to, but not knowing how. I can’t imagine having to explain to my 7yo that he can’t get baptized next year, even though his brothers did recently. Or explaining to my almost 11yo that he won’t be able to pass the sacrament next year like everyone in his age. It breaks my heart, and I don’t even have to do it.
Lynnette: I feel like there’s been a lot of discussion about hypothetical children who might have cognitive dissonance while real actual children are getting directly harmed.
What if we were to start from scratch? What if we were to examine right and wrong using our best moral intuitions, not privileging the traditions of our fathers? Would this be the sum of our moral arithmetic?
penis + vagina = good
penis + penis = bad
vagina + vagina = bad
penis + vagina + vagina + vagina + … = bad, except under certain circumstances when the prophet or temple say it is good
Is this the moral essence of who we are as Mormons? And if not, then why is so much rhetoric and policy fixated on defending the heterosexual, patriarchal family ideal? Continue reading
- Church members should not seek the autographs of General Authorities or Area Seventies, including signing in their scriptures, hymnals, or programs. (link)
- The Church’s official logotype . . . . may not be used as a decorative element or a computer screen saver. (link)
- Using the piano and organ at the same time is not standard for Church meetings. (link)
- Church parking lots should not be used for commuter parking without permission from the director for temporal affairs. (link)
- Members should not participate in hypnosis for purposes of demonstration or entertainment. (link)
- The priesthood music director recommends and conducts the hymns for the opening exercises of priesthood meetings. (link)
- Artwork in meetinghouses should be properly framed. (link)
- Members may not direct the antenna [of a church satellite dish] from one satellite or transponder to another without authorization from Church headquarters. (link)
- The Church strongly discourages the donation of sperm. (link)
- In the United States and some other countries, it is a violation of postal regulations to place any material without postage in or on mailboxes. This restriction applies to ward or stake newsletters, announcements, flyers, and other Church-related materials. Church leaders should instruct members and missionaries not to place such items in or on mailboxes. (link)
- If needed, the stake presidency may call a brother to serve as stake Sunday School secretary. (link)
- In extreme situations, local leaders may cancel Sunday meetings. (link)
It is possible that when I die, God will say to me: You were wrong.
(Actually, that’s a given.) Continue reading
If you’re at all familiar with social justice work, or if you’ve been following progressive Mormon discussions on the recent policy changes in the church, you’ve likely heard the word “ally.” In social justice work, an ally is someone who works on eliminating sexism, racism, homophobia, etc., from a place of privilege. For example, a cisgender male working to eliminate sexism can be an ally to his transgender and female friends. A straight person working on eliminating heterosexism can be an ally to their LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.
I’m full of gratitude for the multitude of ways that the Mormons in the communities I belong to have offered support and care for their LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters this past week. And because I know people want to continue to work on being supportive to the best of their ability, I’ve been brainstorming ideas for being a good ally to the LGBTQ+ Mormon community, especially since things are pretty difficult for us right now. Continue reading
I don’t know how many times in the past couple of days I’ve read something along the lines of, “I have a testimony that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet, so I know this can’t be wrong,” or, “This is what God wants, so we shouldn’t question it.” As I’ve argued in the past, I think we’ve ended up with practical infallibility — we might in theory say that the Brethren could be wrong, but in practice, we’re expected to act as if they couldn’t be. A rejection of the notion of infallibility as understood by many Latter-day Saints, then, doesn’t necessarily allow for disagreement on specific issues. Continue reading
The first month of school I was feeling like a failure as a teacher. I’ve changed positions at my school, and my new job is hard. After one particularly challenging week, I prayed for support and was inspired to read Alma 32. At the time, I interpreted the inspiration as an acknowledgement that I was planting good seeds that would grow (and that I needed to be patient to see the fruits of my labors in the classroom).
I still believe this is true, but the chapter has taken on new meaning for me in the last week. Continue reading
I haven’t been sure what to post about this. There have been so many excellent, thoughtful, articulate posts that have tackled the problems of the new church policies regarding gay members and particularly their children that I’m not sure I have much to add. But I find myself wanting to say something anyway. This is where I am and what I am thinking. Continue reading