Nov 19

Just for Fun, Some Questions

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?

Nov 18

A Career of Pain

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.

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  1. Adrienne Rich, “Twenty-One Love Poems VIII,” The Dream of a Common Language (W.W. Norton 1978), 29. []
Nov 17

Church Leaders Can Choose Their Actions, Not the Consequences

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.

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Nov 13

Disappointment

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

Nov 13

Mercy

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

Nov 12

Weathering the Storm

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

Nov 12

From the Backlist: New Policies

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.

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Nov 11

3-Dimensional Moral Reasoning

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

Nov 11

Top 12 Handbook Policies You Must Have a Testimony Of!

  1. Church members should not seek the autographs of General Authorities or Area Seventies, including signing in their scriptures, hymnals, or programs. (link)
  2. The Church’s official logotype . . . . may not be used as a decorative element or a computer screen saver. (link)
  3. Using the piano and organ at the same time is not standard for Church meetings. (link)
  4. Church parking lots should not be used for commuter parking without permission from the director for temporal affairs. (link)
  5. Members should not participate in hypnosis for purposes of demonstration or entertainment. (link)
  6. The priesthood music director recommends and conducts the hymns for the opening exercises of priesthood meetings. (link)
  7. Artwork in meetinghouses should be properly framed. (link)
  8. Members may not direct the antenna [of a church satellite dish] from one satellite or transponder to another without authorization from Church headquarters. (link)
  9. The Church strongly discourages the donation of sperm. (link)
  10. 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)
  11. If needed, the stake presidency may call a brother to serve as stake Sunday School secretary. (link)
  12. In extreme situations, local leaders may cancel Sunday meetings. (link)
Nov 10

How to Be an Ally to the LGBTQ+ Mormon Community

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

Nov 10

Sustaining Our Leaders

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

Nov 09

Seeds (some personal thoughts on the recent policy changes)

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

Nov 08

Processing

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

Nov 06

To the Mormon LGBT+ Youth

I was going to write a different post tonight. One offering solace, which is what I felt I needed. But I felt perhaps you needed a different message tonight.

The cognitive dissonance you’re living with is painful, and it’s hard, and I’m sure it’s even worse today than it is most days. But never forget that you are enough, just as you are. You are strong. And you are loved so, so much, by so many people. If you need help, support, or a listening ear, please reach out. Continue reading

Nov 06

“Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled”

On the Mormons and Gays website, Elder Cook is quoted as saying this:

“As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.”

That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, talk is cheap. Especially when you make policies like excommunicating gay members for getting married, and barring their children from being blessed or baptized. Then that kind of stamps baloney on all the nice and conciliatory things you might have said.

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Nov 06

A Peacemaker

I want to start with this great quote (from this post), one I go back to over and over and over again:

Because listen – here’s the thing. After my wrestling match with God, I wasn’t really exhausted enough. I still came up swinging. For a little while, I felt angry. Angry at anyone who had a different understanding of scripture than I did. Angry at people who taught that God disapproved of homosexuality. Prideful about my position, really. And then one day God sat my butt down with the Bible again.

And he said something to me like, “Wait a minute, Lovie. Yes, I love those gays, but I love the ones picketing against them every bit as much. That’s the point.”

And There’s the rub. There’s Christianity. It’s not deciding that one group shouldn’t be judged and then turning around and judging the other group. That is not being a peacemaker. Peacemakers resist categorizing people. They find the light, the good, in each and every person. They don’t try to change people, except by example. They know everyone has something important to teach. They are humble about their ideas and their opinions. They try to find common ground, always.

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Nov 05

Follow the Members

Where do ordinary Church members’ beliefs diverge from General Authorities’ beliefs? I think this is an interesting question that the latest Pew report on American religious belief and behavior can at least hint at some answers to. Of course the report only tells us about American Mormons, and it’s not a terribly big Mormon sample, but still, it’s fun to speculate using its results. I looked through the report and pulled out questions where I thought the responses for Mormons would be most out of line with the results you would get if you put the same questions to GAs. In this table, I also offer my guess as to whether the percentage for GAs would be higher or lower.

Item American Mormons GA
Absolutely certain about belief in God 87% Higher
Scriptures should be taken literally. 32% Higher
There are clear and absolute standards for what is right and wrong. 58% Higher
Abortion should be legal in all or most cases. 26% Lower
Homosexuality should be accepted by society. 36% Lower
Favor or strongly favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry 25% Lower
Having more women in the workforce has been a change for the better. 49% Lower
Humans evolved over time. 42% Lower
Republican/lean Republican 71% Higher
Describe political views as conservative 61% Higher

Note: Percentages are taken from the “Latter-day Saints” lines in the tables in Appendix C, except for the question about women in the workforce, which is taken from the “Mormon” line in a table in Chapter 4 (where there is no separate “Latter-day Saints” line).

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Nov 02

“Latter-day Saints . . . do not pray to Heavenly Mother.”

The Church’s new gospel topics essay on Mother in Heaven says the following:

Latter-day Saints direct their worship to Heavenly Father, in the name of Christ, and do not pray to Heavenly Mother.

I think it’s interesting that this is a descriptive statement and not a prescriptive one. It doesn’t say that we should not pray or must not pray to Heavenly Mother. It doesn’t say that if we pray to Heavenly Mother, we’ll face Church discipline. It just says that we do not pray to her.

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