Saturday, December 27, 2014

Objectivity, Subjectivity. Fear and a New Year.

Most of the time, I try to live as objectively as possible. Of course, actual objectivity is impossible, but I generally try. I want to be fair to others, and most of all I want to invite the Spirit, which testifies of truth.

But this isn't a post about what is objectively true, it's a post about feelings. Pure, unadulterated, vulnerable subjectivity. Sharing what I subjectively experience makes it very easy for me to be attacked, but I'm tired of holding myself back so that I won't be vulnerable.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Privilege and a Testimony of Polygamy

In watching various people address the new publication of information by the Church on Joseph Smith and his wives, I feel similar to the way I did when watching the reaction to 9/11*. Because I'm a relatively self-centered person**, I have spent a great deal of thought analyzing my reaction to understand it. Why, in a world where so many are so shocked and appalled by the Church's admission† to the extent and nature of Joseph's sealings, am I utterly unaffected?

Of course, the reason is complicated, based on a many-layered set of experiences and ways I've processed them. But I thought I'd tease out a few things that I've not seen anyone else hash over.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I'm Watching You

So this would have been more appropriate in October, with the creep factor and all, but I didn't think of it then. With my diminished interest in commenting online, I have found myself prioritizing what I read, too. I've noticed that when I see someone has commented, there are a few names which always interest me in the original post and make me click over to read.

There are, of course, other people whose comments I appreciate. I'm bound to think of more and come back to add them later. And certain topics grab my attention, no matter who addresses them. But if you ever wondered if I blog-stalk you, this is your time to find out. Think of it more as a "I'm thankful for these people's online participation," and it can be appropriate for November, too. And a bit less creepy.

In basically alphabetical order:

Monday, November 17, 2014

JustServe

A few years ago, I sat across from my midsingles' ward bishop. He was newly called, and (I would find out years later) exactly what the ward needed: someone to organize and utilize the immense opportunity to serve that the midsingles represent.

I've had impassioned discussions about how I hunger to find some service opportunity, something that can utilize my skills and actually matters to someone, but since I can't commit to at least 4 hours every week, the shelters and DV women's groups are closed to me.

But just today, I heard about this amazing new endeavor by the Church called JustServe.org. Although sponsored by the Church, it is not a church program, but is intended to be a community program. With this tool, people all over the world can sign in, submit projects, and participate in local service endeavors.

I have heard that missionaries, Eagle Scouts and Laurels, and individual members are being encouraged to use this site to find ways to improve the community and help those who really need it. It's barely starting, but I can see this becoming an amazing resource for people like me: with far more room in my heart than in my schedule.

What to you say? Time to get to work!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Glorious World

When I was no more than seven, I remember gently removing the shed skin of cicadas from the slat-wood fence in my parents' backyard. We would gather roly poly bugs and watch them curl and uncurl. One of my greatest ambitions was to find a queen fire ant, so I could have my own colony. I kept a careful eye on the date tree in our front yard, finding out that coconut trees and date trees were very different things.

I asked millions of questions, and stored the answers in the back of my mind. I climbed olive trees and dreamt of dinosaurs flying overhead. I read every book I could get my hands on, immersing myself in the stars, in the layers of the earth, in learning about peach trees and honey bees.

When we visited my grandparents, I followed one around and fed his calves and goats. The other taught me about herbs and roses. I learned that spiders love grape arbors, and that dog food doesn't taste good.

Later, I looked into the maw of a dormant volcano, smelled the sulfur pits, watched humpbacks dive on the horizon. I gathered and preserved sea urchin, learned about man o' war jellyfish, and how to pick blackberries with minimal scratches. Everywhere I lived, there were new explorations and always, always more to learn. What I could not learn by experience, I learned from books. Sometimes, I feel as though I have lived dozens of lives in my short years here.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Female Ordination: How to Stop Hurting

This is not my typical feel-good, soft post. I'm going to say something very harsh here. I am truly sorry to further wound those who are already in pain. But I have been wrapped up in a cycle of pain regarding the Church myself, and from that position I feel that I need to speak up, say what I need to say, even if I'm not loved for it.

You're looking for justification for women not having the priesthood. You think that, if the Church doesn't ordain women, there has to be a reason, even if that reason is just because God says so. You are frustrated and upset because you haven't gotten a "clear answer" that satisfied you. You don't feel valuable in the Church because you're not getting the answer you want.

And that is why you are missing the entire point. Because you assume that the prophets and/or God have to answer to you, give you what you want how you want it, you are causing yourself nearly unbearable pain. The justification, the only answer that you're going to get is that the leadership hasn't implemented it. Full stop.

The reason you don't understand the prophets' actions, or the stance of those who follow them is because your underlying assumptions have already taken you to a mode of thinking that is incapable of comprehending them. Take a step back from your assumptions for a moment—I know it is very, very painful and difficult, but try.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Relationship Entitlement in a Mormon World

What are your thoughts on this?

How does it fit into an LDS view of eternal marriage?
What recourse does a Mormon woman (or man) have in an abusive marriage?
What can we do to change our understanding of marriage?
What should we do?

I'll post my thoughts in the future, but first I want to hear what you think. Email me if your comments are too personal to post publicly. I promise I won't reproduce or quote them without your permission.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Passing of a Great Man

Everyone is mourning the loss of Robin Williams. Through his gift of acting, he has inspired, blessed, and cheered us. In Dead Poet's Society he taught us to be more than what we are. In Mrs. Doubtfire and Hook, he taught us to love our families. His smile is iconic. His soft voice makes us feel love.

And yet, he was bipolar. His family life was chaotic, and he may have finally committed suicide.

We all love Robin Williams for what he gave us, but there was a cost. His life was turbulent, his internal emotions intense and swinging. I relate to that somewhat. Though I'm not bipolar, I am very passionate. But it is from that very place of pain that genius is born.

I think, when we tell people they can "choose to be happy" or "positive outcomes only," we invalidate their pain. We medicate sorrow as if it's a disease, and we tell ourselves to avoid people in pain as if it is communicable. We are increasingly unable to deal with sorrow, to mourn with others who mourn and to comfort them. We are unable to reach out to make the very connections that make our burdens light.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Departing Doctrine

I am in the awkward position of not knowing my position. Increasingly, I find myself disagreeing with almost all the ideology of both the liberal and conservative bloggers' side, and ideology of the mainstream members. It leaves me with the very real possibility that I am the one going wrong.

Increasingly, the things said over the pulpit do not resonate with me. But neither do any of the things from other perspectives. Maybe I'm just overstressed and finding myself incontrovertibly rooted in the right-now, physical world. Maybe having lived in survival mode, in fear for so long makes me utterly unlike the rest of the world, without the capacity to gnaw over the past, politics or religion. But maybe my constant tension means I'm losing touch with the Spirit.

I find myself hungry for doctrines that resonate with me, thirsty for the Waters of Life. And, as in prophecy, I do not know where to find them. My prayers consist mostly of "I don't know what to ask for, but please help." My list of Things I Need to Repent From grows longer daily, and I still haven't the least clue how to change any of them. Repentance is easier when you know what you are doing wrong, or know how to change it when you do.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

One Woman's Mormon Temple Experience

It breaks my heart to see so many people struggling in the wake of excommunication. It is like a sea of disquiet. I know I can help one soul at a time, but right now the pain is overwashing anything I could do, so I'm mostly just listening.

There is so much discourse about women's terrible temple experiences, how the endowment ceremony hurts them, how it keeps them unable to understand their place and who they are as women. Right now all the stories seem to be about how unequal and terrible it is. But I believe in the power of stories. Parts of my story can only be shared one-on-one, in person, when moved by the Spirit. But right now I feel constrained to share something publicly. Maybe seeing how I process my temple experience can help someone else who is trying to understand.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Sin of Pride Within the Church

"...Ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God."
3 Nephi 11:38

I think Satan rejoices just as much over smug self-satisfaction as he does about those who error in doctrine. Contention is not just about asking questions, it's also about condemning those with different paradigms than ours. Not all who subscribe to OW are in open rebellion, and I think those of us who don't believe in liberal principles or female ordination need to guard our borders against pride just as much.

It is so easy for us to look at those who perceive the world differently and think we are somehow better and more righteous. But I think that when we become comfortable in our service to God to the point that we believe we are right and others have nothing to teach us, we run the real risk of pride.

Pride is not only the enemy of humility, it is the opposite of charity. Charity is more important even than faith, for faith fails. If we are earnest disciples to Christ, we will inevitably reach some moment in our lives when our faith is not enough to pull us through. But when those times come, we can cleave to the Savior by emulating His charity. Charity is more important than knowledge. Though we are to gain as much knowledge as we can in this life, we will not likely gain it all. There will come a time when our own understanding and knowledge will fail us. But we can fill the gaps of our understanding with a love for God and His children.

No one is entirely lost, no one is entirely saved. None of us are safe, even if we accomplish our Church service, support our leaders with silence and compliance, and do all that we are asked in this volunteer church. We can still fall prey to pride, to vain ambition, to the idols of the world. The Church of Christ is not made up only of members, nor is it only those who have been baptized. The Church is all those who repent: those who repent of misunderstanding doctrine, and those who repent of a lack of charity and compassion. Both errors I see just as much in "faithful members" of the Church as in those who are considered less faithful.

"Satan doth stir up the hearts of the people to contention concerning the points of my doctrine; and in these things they do err, for they do wrest the scriptures and do not understand them.

"Therefore, I will unfold unto them this great mystery; For, behold, I will gather them as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if they will not harden their hearts; Yea, if they will come, they may, and partake of the waters of life freely. Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church."


D&C 10:63-68

All the repentant will have a chance to be baptized. All will be able to make those covenants. But not all who are baptized are repentant. I challenge any of you who disagree with people like the OW movement to humble yourself in prayer and pray for that charity which is the end of all pride, all fear, and all death. That charity is the most powerful gift God can bestow.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Name Blotted Out

Like everyone, I just heard of Kate Kelly's excommunication. I expected to feel somber at the news. I didn't expect the tears.

I do not agree with Sister Kelly's actions in any way. Yet, I had still hoped there would be a way for her to repent before excommunication happened. I imagine to myself what it would feel like to be cut off from the Church. That it would be devastating is without doubt. I imagine her family, her children, her husband and herself. This has to be a sobering experience.

While I would probably have chosen no differently, had I had to make that terrible decision, still it cuts me. I may not entirely understand it, but I mourn. I mourn any time I hear of someone leaving the Church for any reason. I wish that she had not felt that she had to give up her covenants in order to "be authentic."

I hope and pray that she finds a place in her heart to make those covenants again.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What it Means to Repent in the Face of Excommunication

I have never been called before a disciplinary council. But on my mission, I experienced something similar. Near the end of my mission, my mission president was released and a new one was called. My first mission president had incredible perception by the Spirit. He allowed me to be the kind of missionary I was drawn to be, even though it caused considerable upheaval and confusion among the ranks of the elders called to lead me in my work.

I remember going to interviews with him, which happened once every six weeks, nervous that I was going to be called on the carpet for the disagreements about how to conduct missionary work I had been having with my leaders. Every new set of leaders in every place I was moved (and it was frequent, at the beginning of my mission) was a new battle. They were called to report numbers of baptisms and lessons taught. I was inclined more to concentrating on the people I came in contact with, feeling strongly that counting numbers was not going to be effective in the area I served.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

"It's Personal"

Like everyone who wants to do better, be better, I sometimes struggle with my relationship with divinity. I have been amply blessed in a myriad little ways. Nothing major, until recently, but repeated small nudges to say something or check on something that ended up saving me just enough to keep me sane. Some days, it has felt like I'm barely holding on with torn and bloody fingernails, but have been touched with just enough extra energy to keep holding on. It is like I'm part of a vast chorus where, hoarse and broken, my voice does far more to create dissonance than beauty.

Recently, the hand of the Lord has been much more obvious. For the last month or so, I have been attending a ward temporarily while I am in transition from one house to another. This ward has several women who are going through divorce. As I've learned of them, and heard some of them speak, I felt prompted to bear my testimony in Fast and Testimony meeting.

This was a difficult proposition because my testimony, as I have said before, is not smooth and pretty, cut to show light and sparkle. It is cracked, crazed, with deep inclusions. It's a bit off-color. The deliverance I've prayed for over the last several years has been slow in coming. Most days are beautiful, but I still sometimes crack under certain types of pressure which I feel ought to be long gone. I'm still triggered, sometimes, over silly things.

I've been in a liminal state for some time, but it is a liminal state where I feel unseen things are happening, that I am being pruned and developed for some specific purpose. I am changing in ways I can't quite see, let alone quantify. I have started several drafts for blog posts but never finished them. I find myself with few comments to make on others' posts. Whatever changes I'm going through don't fit labels easily. I am becoming, but I'm not becoming anything.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Ram in the Thicket: a Personal Interpretation of Abraham's Test

Once upon a time, there was a man who had been promised by God that his children would outnumber the sands of the sea and the stars in the sky. But he and his wife despaired as time and time again, his wife was unable to bear a child. They prayed and waited patiently, but still there was no hope. Eventually, his wife even gave her husband her handmaid as a concubine and surrogate, to perform what her body would not do.

Imagine the depths of her joy and self-recrimination when that handmaid succeeded in bearing a son almost immediately.

Imagine her pain when, long after once-beautiful Sarah was too old to have any more children, a perfect stranger wandered up to their home and told her husband she would bear a son.

Imagine her joy and consternation when it turned out he was right.

Her son, Isaac, was a miracle child. Not only was he born to a mother who had long since given up all hope of having a child, he was the fulfillment of prophecy. Through him, all the promises of the Lord were finally possible. He proved that God's promises would never be forgotten.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

#BecauseofHim

For me, the Church's campaign Because of Him immediately evoked Kelly Clarkson's song "Because of You" which perfectly captures every ounce of my fear that my choices will affect how my children see themselves. I'm busy. I don't always give them the time I wish I could when so often I'm struggling just to keep a livably clean house and cry only when they can't hear me.

"Because Of You"

I will not make the same mistakes that you did.
I will not let myself
cause my heart so much misery.
I will not break the way you did.
You fell so hard.
I've learned the hard way
to never let it get that far.

One of the main reasons I decided to divorce was for them, because I saw that I could never be a good mother while I was scrambling to figure out how to be an acceptable wife. I saw that I couldn't serve two masters: my God and my husband. Not when one was trying his hardest to keep me from becoming anything but what he wanted me to be for himself. Trying to climb out of the emotional hole I found myself in has been hard. I have a hard time wanting to let myself love again because it makes me and my children vulnerable.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Arguments Against Female Ordination That Don't Work

I do not consider myself a feminist, though I have several opinions and feelings that some feminists share. Like many political topics (and make no mistake, the action taken to ordain women is inarguably political no matter how some might wish to convince otherwise,) I have a foot in both camps. I have felt (and am currently struggling with) the sting of unrighteous dominion, of the priesthood privilege being wielded to put me firmly in my place.

But there are many arguments against female ordination being lauded by people who, quite frankly, ought to know better. Mostly in the interest of working some of it out for myself, I'm going to gnaw on them a bit.

Friday, April 4, 2014

To Those Who Know Joseph

“We both belong to the race that knows Joseph, as Cornelia Bryant would say.”

“The race that knows Joseph?” puzzled Anne.

“Yes. Cornelia divides all the folks in the world into two kinds– the race that knows Joseph and the race that don’t. If a person sorter sees eye to eye with you, and has pretty much the same ideas about things, and the same taste in jokes–why, then he belongs to the race that knows Joseph.”

“Oh, I understand,” exclaimed Anne, light breaking in upon her.

“It’s what I used to call–and still call in quotation marks `kindred spirits.’”

“Jest so–jest so,” agreed Captain Jim. “We’re it, whatever it is. When you come in tonight, Mistress Blythe, I says to myself, says I, `Yes, she’s of the race that knows Joseph.’ And mighty glad I was, for if it wasn’t so we couldn’t have had any real satisfaction in each other’s company. The race that knows Joseph is the salt of the airth, I reckon.”


Anne's House of Dreams, Lucy Maude Montgomery


Do you ever meet people who just instantly click with you? It's like you've known them before, even though you have just met. Rarely, I have. It is a wonderful feeling, like you resonate at the same wavelength.

One of my companions was just that sort of friend. From the first hour we met, we were instant friends. We saw missionary work the same way, we were both a bit older, and we were able to pour our hearts into our work and have fun doing it. It really helped a particularly stressful time, and gave me the confidence to be the kind of missionary I felt called to be, even though it was almost the opposite of what I was being taught to be.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ordain Women and the Powers of Heaven

Last Sunday, for the first time in several months, I had to get up and leave Relief Society. It wasn't because I was upset, it was because I was angry. The well-meaning woman in the front of the room, addressing the concept of woman's ordination, chose to mock the entire idea. Met with laughter from other sisters in the room, she declared, "Who wants the priesthood? I have enough to do!" She went on to suggest that the OW movement was stupid, faithless, and foolish. I finally left when she started listing all the "access" that single women have to the priesthood.

It would probably take some who only know me online by surprise that it bothered me as much as it did. Others are probably convinced I'm a sympathizer and agree with Ordain Women, though previous posts of mine should make it clear that I'm not. But while I am no sympathizer to the Ordain Women movement, I am an empathizer. Many of the same things that have led these women to "supplication" at the doors of the Tabernacle are things that I have felt.

As a single woman, I've experienced cradling a sick child in the middle of the night with no one to ask to give her a blessing. As a married woman, I experienced asking someone to offer a blessing only to be refused. I've been summarily overridden, my perspective and revelation in my stewardship discounted because I was not one of the ultimate decision makers. As a sister missionary, I've been subjected to ever-increasingly creative verses of "Sisters are Stupid," a song set to the tune of "I Often Go Walking" because the prevailing opinion was that sisters shouldn't bother themselves with priesthood duties such as sharing the Gospel. I've been judged and rejected for not being enough of an appendage. While none of these things SHOULD have happened under a priesthood organized as it is, they all did at least partly BECAUSE of how it is organized, giving those so inclined to interpret women as less-than.

I know the sting of possessing no organized authority in the Church of my Savior.

Recently, I listened to Kate Kelly's podcast where people were invited to "ask her anything." Listening to it, I changed some of my opinions about Kate Kelly and the movement, and others were confirmed. I may have nothing more to add to the discussion that has been going on around her and the Ordain Women movement. But I have felt the Spirit prompting me to write. Even as I type these words, I'm not sure what exactly I'm going to say.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Female Ordination and the Church: Another Way

I am one who has struggled mightily with female roles in the Church and in eternity, yet I have a VERY hard time being sympathetic to Ordain Women as a movement. Most individuals who have aligned themselves with that group, I sympathize and even empathize with. I have gone to the mattresses on many of those same issues many times. I am not known for my reticence in speaking up.

There is nothing new about Ordain Women. They have organized together in direct, open, and unapologetic opposition to the Church. I'm not going to pick apart their claims to faithfulness and belief in priesthood authority while publicly opposing that authority. There is really no need, it's obvious enough. I also have no doubt that there are well-meaning people caught up in the smoke and mirrors. But I personally don't have a very long rope when it comes to that brand of deception, conscious or not. I'm all too well acquainted with it.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Detracting from Productive Conversations

This is exactly how I feel.

Public demonstrations and forceful activism are exactly contrary to the principles upon which the priesthood is built. How can they ever expect to wield the power of God when they so clearly don't understand even the most basic aspect of it?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Raising a Missionary

My daughter is preparing for baptism. One of the things I encouraged her to do was to go up in front of the ward and bear testimony. She is seven years old, and very concerned about what other people think of her. Though she used to bear testimony regularly as a small child, she hasn't for some time after developing excruciating shyness in front of an audience.

I told her that bearing her testimony in Church on Fast Sunday might be a good thing to do before making the covenant to stand as God's witness. She agreed to do it, but her fears soon overtook her.

"But I don't know what to say," she said.

"You say what you believe in. What the gospel of Jesus Christ means to you."

"I'm going to be nervous."

"Most people are nervous, sweetheart. If you want me to, I'll go up with you."

She nodded, but still looked doubtful. "That would be good, mommy."

"I will stand up with you and hold your hand, if you like."

"Will you whisper what to say?"

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Laugh With Me

Sometimes it is worthwhile to call out bullies, even relatively harmless internet bullies. So, since this particular bully finds himself unable to allow the entirety of this exchange to post on By Common Consent, I post it here, if for no other reason than to show that he doesn't intimidate me. In fact, I find the whole thing pretty funny.

My comment was made on a thread unfavorably comparing Mormon service to Pentecostal service. Normally, I skim over those kinds of posts but don't bother commenting because they are all too common and all too typical. But this one had a really good message, I thought, behind the dig at the Mormons and how we aren't good enough. It was contrasting service as a duty and ministry, which I feel is a powerful and poignant lesson. Unfortunately, because of the way it was framed, it almost immediately devolved to the plebeian and predictable critique of Mormons and how we're not charitable enough. Because of the good message, I thought I might say as much and counteract the trend by mentioning that Utah is known for generosity.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The "Frozen" Bandwagon; Whereon Sitting, Our Bums Get Cold

A flurry of criticisms, cross-criticisms, and reasoned posts about the movie Frozen have been spinning around like a swirling storm in the wake of the movie's acclaim. This movie deeply disappointed me, not because of any hidden agenda or scary subtext, but because it wasn't enough. The plot was 100% predictable, I knew exactly what was going to happen before it did, and with such a stunning playground of deep relationships to utilize, it lived far below its potential. (Note: my prediction for the next step is a sequel about Anna's marriage and a love interest for Elsa, which will only ruin it more.)

And yet, despite my disappointment in the outcome, there are a few places that the glorious potential of the storyline peeks out, just to show us what we're missing. I don't want to harp on the disappointing parts, I want to explore that great part, and maybe contradict some of the concerns.

Friday, February 14, 2014

For God Loved the World; Pain and Valentine's Day

This is my daughter's newest favorite song. It has long been one of mine as well. I think it has one of the tenderest aspects of doctrine in the Gospel. This year, that same daughter is making the decision to be baptized. It is something filled with mixed emotions for me, most of which I don't want to get into. But on this day, when we celebrate love, I want to celebrate both loves which changed my life: the love of God and the love of my children.

I am far from perfect, especially right now. It has seemed, especially lately, that the church is leaving me behind. I don't feel a part of it. I don't feel a part of the Lord's Kingdom. And that hurts. If I could put my finger on one thing I want more than anything else, it is to feel like I belong, like I'm part of accomplishing something good. And I don't.

But as I wrote some time ago, I feel as if the Lord wants me here. Nearly four years later, I still don't know why. Not much has changed. I have a burning testimony that the Gospel is true, I just don't know how I fit into it. And I'm watching my precious child, with many of the same self-critical personality traits that I have, prepare to make this huge covenant. I'm proud of her, and terrified for her.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Oatmeal Solution

When reading others' discussions on gospel topics, especially those that people struggle with, I find it fascinating to see just how much our internal biases affect how we can listen to the Spirit. Most of those common issues are not problems for me. I've prayed about it and received answers that satisfy me, ways of looking at mortality, the Church, and God's dealings with His people which give me patience and a bit of a sense of humor about the whole thing. But many people struggle perennially.

While those aren't problems, I've been struggling in the same way with personal answers. It's as if I feel that an answer is out there, I'm just incapable of hearing it, no matter how I wrack my mind and heart. As a silly example, it is as if I hate breakfast cereal and am praying over breakfast to know what is healthier to eat, a doughnut or Cheerios. The whole time, the Spirit is trying to tell me to eat oatmeal, but I just don't have a paradigm for it.

Watching others makes me wonder how often I do this, and how to get around it.

For what sorts of problems are you waiting for an "oatmeal answer"?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Whistling in the Dark

Imagine you are swimming in a deep and turbulent ocean. Nearby is a good-sized boat, and on the boat are people cheering you on. It will be over soon, they cry. The shore is only a few hundred feet away! This is such a rough sea, the captain of the boat hollers. Aren't we glad we're in this together? You'll get there, I know you will!

Meanwhile, your arms are somewhere past exhaustion. Your mind is shutting down, and all you can think is to keep moving. You've lost all sense of trying to move somewhere, all you know is you need to keep paddling your arms and legs because the alternative is stopping. And while part of you thinks stopping sounds pretty restful, and maybe not that bad, you know in your deepest heart that stopping is giving up. You're not going to give up.

The people on the boat are rocked with the same waves that are swamping you. They are nice people. They are cheering you still, telling you what a great swimmer you are, how they don't think they could swim as well as you are. Every once in awhile, one will express the wish that they were able to throw you a lifesaver. Unfortunately, they are struggling to hold on to the railings so they won't be washed overboard. You get it, you're not upset by it. But you still kind of wish they'd stop cheering you on and let you concentrate.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Prodigal Daughter

"Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf."
—Luke 15:29-30

This parable of the prodigal son has long troubled me. Partly for the same reasons it troubled the elder son. The younger was lazy, wasteful. He didn't care about his father's example, teachings, or entreaties. While the older son labored diligently to honor his father, it was the younger son who received honor simply for coming home.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

When Church Leaders Are Wrong

With the recently released study topic on race and the priesthood in the LDS Church, there is predictably a flurry of praise for the Church's efforts and criticism that it wasn't enough. And, naturally, questions are being raised about the significance of the Church disavowing past explanations for the Priesthood ban and discussion of the racism that caused it, and what that means for following current leaders now. The racial ban could not have been any part of God's will, an argument often runs, because God would never cause so many people so much pain. Therefore, policies which currently cause pain cannot be of God's will, either, so there is no obligation to follow the prophets in matters which cause people pain.

While I am not black, I have been a victim of others' bad choices before. I know what it is to feel pain from the perspective and opinions of Church leadership, as well. It is from that experience and the things I have learned about the nature of God that I now address some of my feelings on this topic. It isn't meant to tell other people how to think or feel, but only to share my personal reaction to fallacy in my priesthood leaders which affects me. I, obviously, have no right to demand the Church leaders repent on the issue of blacks and the priesthood. I am not the injured party. But what I can do is liken the situation to myself, and what I have experienced, so that I can learn from it. With that in mind, although blacks and the priesthood is a parallel, it is not the whole point.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Noblesse Oblige

I hadn't thought about it for years...decades, even. I was pondering something completely unrelated, and this image flashed before my eyes of an old, wrinkled Portuguese man sitting in front of a basket of wicker reeds smiling at me. I know who he was. He was the man my mother purchased wicker from. This was back in the mid-eighties and we were living on a tiny island called Terceira in the A├žores, Portugal.

I was only a child, somewhere between eight and ten. My memories are not crystal clear, and of course I'm interpreting them now through an adult lens. I don't even know how accurate my memories are. But I remember his brown, wrinkled skin contorted into a smile. I remember his hands, callused from hours of working the tough reeds, softened by hours of soaking in water. All you had to do was take a picture of something made from wicker, give him dimensions, and he would make it for you. He was smiling because I had tried to speak to him in Portuguese, a language of which I remember practically nothing, now.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Some People Oppose Gay Marriage

There is a point at which argument is futile. When two sides of a disagreement are so firmly rooted in their own perceptions, and those perceptions are coming from intrinsically different structures, there is not enough common ground for discussion.

This is, perhaps, why I haven’t really addressed the gay marriage battles going on in the United States of America since they started. I have listened to both sides, found fault and good with both, and made my conclusions. And most of the time, when I try to share why I believe the way I do, I only invite attack.

I do wish to state, perhaps for my own benefit alone, that I do not support gay marriage. I used to, before I started blogging. Getting involved in blogs certainly catalyzed some of my change of mind. I’m sure there are many out there who discount my opinions because they assume they are solely religiously based, or because they come from a place of ignorance and fear. I can protest as much as I like, but I’m not likely to change the minds of people so unapologetically closed-minded. I’m not even going to bother.

There is much I could say about gaining respect for differing moral stances. The arguments for gay marriage are generally based on the moral structure of secularism, the arguments against gay marriage are generally based on a moral structure espoused by many religions of the world. I believe that “separation of Church and State” in our country was never meant to restrict moral opinions from the public sphere. In fact, I believe that creating a space where individuals can act according to their morality in a public sphere without fear of losing employment, housing, physical safety, the ability to reasonably conduct business according to their conscience, and relative peace in their private lives was a core point of our government.

And, like it or not, the bulk of efforts to remove that freedom from fear is coming from those who think secularly. Many believe that individuals should have no right to exercise religiously-based morality in a public sphere, but ought to be forced to behave according to secular morality.

I would fight—have fought—equally hard to defend a gay person’s right to behave according to their beliefs in a public sphere as I now defend my own. I would shop at a store owned by a gay person. I'm as likely to design a gay friend's wedding invitations as those for a straight friend, were one to ask me. But I believe that the right to behave a certain way is not the same as a right to be publicly supported for it.

Determination of the lines of law—deciding what the public should pay for, support, and condone by law—should only be legally determined by a slow and cautious approach to lawmaking, including ALL the branches of government. Rushing headlong, deliberately bypassing checks and balances in the legal system, will inevitably reap consequences in unexpected directions.

I am afraid, watching the way law is happening now. And even if you support gay marriage, you should be afraid, too. The rate at which individual freedom to act according to personal moral conscience is being denied is frightening. When legal paths have been opened, they are very difficult to close. Almost overnight, changes are being made that alter the way people are allowed to live their lives. Though that may work in your favor today, there are no guarantees for tomorrow.

I do not know if my feelings on gay marriage will soon rob me of my ability to act according to my conscience in my employment. My line of work makes me one of those who could easily be forced to participate in things I find reprehensible. I wish, even if gay marriage wins wholesale, that those of religious moral conscience will be able to win a space for themselves. Not only to protect religious institutions, but to protect religious people.

Make no mistake. This war is not just about gay marriage. It is much more fundamental than that. It is a war between religion and secularism, a clash of whether or not people will be allowed to act according to a religious source of morality. Whether or not their votes will be taken away. Whether or not they can choose to conduct their business as they believe they should. Whether or not they are allowed to raise their children in the faith they hold dear. Whether or not they are allowed to speak their hearts, or must remain silent for fear of dire consequence.

There are many voices of empty reassurance, claiming that such things could never happen. But they are already happening. People claimed that welfare for single moms wouldn't result in more single moms, that loosening divorce laws wouldn't result in more divorces. They are blind to the lessons of history, and ignorant to human nature.

Some rights cannot be granted without robbing the rights of another. You can't give the right to drink and drive without potentially robbing a drunk driver's victim of the right to life. You can't give gay people the right to demand the services they want from whom they want them without robbing the service provider of the right to sell their services to whomever they wish to sell them. There is always a price. Some ideals cannot be legislated without sacrificing other ideals.

I mourn for our country. Not because gay marriage is becoming legal, but because of the way that victory is being won and the intentions in the hearts of those who are winning it. Such desire to silence opposition exists everywhere, male and female, gay and straight, religious and secular, but when it is popular and celebrated—when it is in power—there is no one who will escape the price.

Yet, despite my sorrow for the sins of this world, I know in whom I trust. The Book of Mormon is now more than ever before an obvious warning to the righteous, a chance to prepare. We may be called to lay down our lives as so many before us have. But if we keep the love of God in our hearts even as the mobs mock and ridicule, we will have a rock of faith through the trials to come.

“O, ye nations of the earth, how often would I have gathered you together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not!

“How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, and by the great sound of a trump, and by the voice of judgment, and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor and the riches of eternal life, and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not!”
D&C 43:24-25

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Facebook Page

Though it feels rather uncomfortable and egotistical, I've created a Facebook Page for myself. There, I will post thoughts that don't make it into a post, links, and comments I make in other blogs. Hopefully, it will be used wisely.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Choosing Happiness

This post on pain and choosing happiness is beautiful. Choosing to be happy rather than bitter often takes work. But it's worth it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

No Rules, No Promises, No Happy Ending

"A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead."
Luke 10:30

Have you ever noticed that not many of Jesus' parables have an ending? We don't know what ultimately happened to the good Samaritan. Was he rewarded for his deed? Did the wounded man heal? What about the five virgins who were turned away? And the man with the one talent? Did he learn from his mistake?

Contrasted with the stories we tend to tell each other today, where sacrifice is rewarded and sorrow is always temporary, we are left wanting to know what's next. There is some primal part of us, deep in our psyches, that yearns to know that the good guys "lived happily ever after." Walt Disney built an empire on it.

My life isn't an "okay in the end" kind of life right now. I'm being held in a liminal state, where I know where I want to be, I think I know where God wants me to be, but I have no idea how to get there. It is sheer agony for someone who has always worked for a goal, tried to become something.

That happy ending seems impossible from this end of the very long, dark tunnel. So I've been digging deeply into my heart, learning to let go of tomorrow's ending so that I can dive into today's opportunities to minister. I'm not very good at it yet, but the seeds of true charity are starting to sprout.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Year In A Glimpse—2013

It's kind of a tradition of mine to create Wordles of what I have written about over the year. I find it interesting, maybe you will too....

This year, I also created one made from the titles of the posts I did not publish. Not all of them were fully written, but it does give a glimpse into things that were on my mind, but didn't make it to a full post.

May this year be one of growth and joy, just as last year was.

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