Thursday, September 10, 2015

Response to Why I Left The Church Is Also Why I'm Going Back

A friend on Facebook posted this. Spoiler: The woman who had to go through a "grueling" repentance process, who felt unbearably uncomfortable and unworthy in church and therefore left ended up being diagnosed with a severe panic disorder, anxiety, and a hormone imbalance. But instead of focusing on that--how the problem wasn't her spirituality and how she wasn't doing anything wrong--instead she makes the moral that she needed to rely on god and not think that she could do it all herself. She flippantly glosses over the psychiatric help she got.

I know I shouldn't expect more from a site called LDS Living, and I probably should have just scrolled past the post and not read it, but this aggravated me. Mainly this was because my own psychiatric issues are what made church unbearable and miserable for me and to hear someone who had similar issues not make the connection that they, not her "sin," were what was making church hard and that it was completely understandable to stop going to church because of it is so ridiculous to me. I feel for her so much, and I wish that church teachings didn't have the habit of influencing members to always blame themselves when they are not happy at church. She had health issues. They take the sacrament to people who can't come to church because of health issues--there is some understanding that sometimes it's not possible to get to church. But apparently if the problems are not obvious/invisible/mental, they don't count?

Also, I found the initial dramatic buildup to the confession that she had been inactive for the past year so sad. Why does it have to have so much stigma? Why does it have to be so scary to confess that? Why aren't members less judgmental and more sympathetic?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I don't want to believe in a god

I don't want to believe in a god who would give us brains and then ask us to disregard logical conclusions because he wants to test our faith with illogical commandments.

I don't want to believe in a god who would allow us the capability to think but then tell us that his thoughts are higher than ours and that there are some things that we just can't understand--because he made us that way.

I don't want to believe in a god who infantilizes me and wants me to behave with child-like unquestioning of authority.

I don't want to believe in a god who ignores his wife and tells us nothing about her in favor of patriarchal "protection."

I don't want to believe in a god who is a self-proclaimed "jealous god."

I don't want to believe in a god who would only give men governing authority.

I don't want to believe in a god who is male, chose a savior who is male, appoints only males to the priesthood, and then expects me to feel represented and content as a woman.

I don't want to believe in a god who sends cryptic messages through his spirit that defy logic and precedent (e.g. telling Nephi to kill Laban even though murder is obviously a sin).

I don't want to believe in a god who wants me to depend completely on him instead of depending on myself.

I don't want to believe in a god who lets his servants say horrible, damaging things under the guise of authority without apologizing or allowing themselves to be corrected.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Men & Modesty

Adapted from a comment I made on Facebook.

Modesty is always aimed toward women, and I do see why that is: it's fashionable for women to show more skin than men.  If you look at fashion throughout history, men stay covered up and women alter how much skin they show and in what areas.

However, another reason is that men are assumed to just have these voracious sex drives and be incredibly visual—more so than women.  I think no one objects to this because it sounds scientific and because, mainly, no woman wants to be frank about her own sex drive to a Sunday School class.

Women have sex drives too and we can be just as visual as men. True, men's fashions do not reveal as much skin.  But to a certain extent, that's irrelevant.  I'm going to be frank because people tip toe around specifics and it just confuses things: It honestly makes no difference what a man is wearing—I can have sexual thoughts about him regardless. You could say that showing more skin makes these thoughts easier, but still—you can be doing everything you possibly can to not make people think sexual thoughts about you, and you will fail because you do not have control over the minds of others. You just don't. You could be wearing a burqa and men (or women if, for some reason, a man is wearing the burqa) could fantasize about taking it off because it's like a challenge.

I am a visual person; I remember things more when I see them.  But still, like I said, a man can be completely covered up and I can fantasize about him.  Saying this might make readers uncomfortable, but I think it needs to be said because no one else says it.  I don't want to be treated like I'm this innocent creature who just doesn't comprehend or think about sex.  I don't think that such a person should even be placed on a pedestal, because that implies that sexual thoughts are inherently bad.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The conversations in my head

Some friends of mine recently visited Temple Square and struck up a conversation with a sister missionary.  She asked my male friend where he served, and he responded that he hadn't.  She was shocked and kept insistently asking him why he didn't serve a mission.  He kept politely evading her questions, and she wasn't picking up that he didn't feel comfortable answering.  The reason he didn't want to answer was that the answer was that he was gay and wasn't allowed to.  

I imagine that his guess was that if he answered her truthfully, then she would be dismissive and not give proper respect to his situation.  She might tell him that with enough faith/study/prayer/fasting he could someday go on a mission, or that even his "same-sex attraction" was a temptation that the Lord would help him with.

If he had answered her, and she had responded like that, I think it would have been absolutely acceptable to call her out.  

Most often I stay silent when I could be assertive, and I usually let other people dominate conversations.  Many times I just assume that if I and someone else have different opinions, then the other person's must be the right ones.  But I'm realizing more and more how many times it would be completely appropriate to be more assertive.  The freedom of saying what I really think, politely yet firmly, makes me almost giddy.  This is the way the conversation would go in my head:

-But why didn't you go on a mission?!

-I'm gay and I wasn't allowed to.

-[Noticeable pause] Well, I know that Heavenly Father will help you with this trial.  Just stay close to Him, study his words, and pray sincerely.

-Actually, it's not a trial.  It's part of my identity, and it's not going away—no amount of prayer and scripture reading is going to make it go away.  That's a false idea that's perpetuated by well-meaning members, but it's not true.

I think it's alright to be direct.  It's one thing if you're being unnecessarily harsh, but if you are being passively/backhandedly criticized, then you deserve to defend yourself.

By the way, I don't disagree with my friend's choice to not answer—I support him in his decision.  I'm just saying that had he decided to answer a different way, he would have been justified.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Concatenation of diabolical rascality

An argument for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon that I often hear is that Joseph Smith couldn't possibly have written it because he was an "uneducated farm boy."  Maybe, but I think that anyone who has read very much of his writings can tell that he was eloquent and intelligent.  I'm not saying that I think he wrote the Book of Mormon—just that his being uneducated is not a good argument against such a claim.

One of the best examples I can think of is in D&C 123:

 "And again, we would suggest for your consideration the propriety of all the saints gathering up a knowledge of all the facts...and present the whole concatenation of diabolical rascality and nefarious and murderous impositions that have been practised upon this people..." (D&C 123:1, 5 emphasis added).

Those do not sound like the words of a mere ignorant farm boy to me.

Another example of his talent with words is this lovely poetic statement: "But nevertheless, deep water is what I am wont to swim in" (D&C 127:2).  Yet another one: "O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?  How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?"  He used figurative language well.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that I think he was a good writer and speaker.  If you're going to argue for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, don't use the argument that Smith couldn't have written it because he was some hick without a good command of English.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The role we were born to play

Another installment of a Universe article to which I add commentary:

The role we were born to play

Listening to President Barack Obama talk about the new policy allowing women to be in combat roles in the military, I was a bit concerned. Now before my feminist friends get upset, Danger!  Danger!  Danger!  let me explain. Why are you not a feminist?  While I am all for women in leadership roles, this new announcement concerns me because of what it means for our definition of gender roles in society.

Growing up with a working mom, I have always respected women in the workforce. At least her experience has given her this perspective.  Throughout my life my mom has balanced a full-time job as a high school teacher, and heavy involvement in community organizations, with taking care of four children and a husband.

Due to this environment I have always believed that the role of a woman is important and that we have much to contribute to this world, including being involved in leadership roles. However, with that said, I also believe strongly in the importance of gender roles.

Although my mom was heavily involved in leadership during my growing-up years, at home I knew that ultimately my father was the head of the home Whaaaaat?  Why?  Why can't they both be the head of the household as the parents?  and there were certain divine roles that my parents were each to play. Just labeling something as "divine" doesn't excuse an irrational belief.  While things were not always perfect, my mother respected my father’s role as father and provider, while he respected her divine role of mother and nurturer.  I know I've said this before, but why can't the father be a nurturer too?  He should be!  And since she mentioned that her mother worked, wasn't her mother a provider as well as her father?  I don't understand her division of nurturer vs. provider.

The thing that concerns me in society today, with announcements like women now allowed in combat roles in the military, is that we are disregarding the divine roles we were born to play as men and women.  I'm hoping the explanation for how these ideas connect is forthcoming.

I believe what is taught in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” when it says, “All human beings — male and female — are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal and eternal identity and purpose.”

As men and women, we were created with specific genders in order to “fulfill our purpose.” To me that means we are different, and that difference between men and women should not be disregarded but celebrated.

Every individual is different; some women love video games and sports, and some men like chick flicks. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this. Good.  We should be able to express our individuality. However, there are some distinct differences between men and women that cannot be ignored.  I get genitalia, but then again, what about intersex people?  Or people who aren't cisgendered?

One of those differences is physical size and strength of men versus women. In general, this is why the previous rule has been in place to only have men in combat positions in the military. While I know there are the rare few women who are larger and stronger then men, in general women are physically weaker and smaller in comparison. Since when is this a bad thing? So we are different; in my mind that is a good thing.  So, is the argument that women aren't strong enough for the military?  I think that's what she's saying, but I'm not sure.  A lot of her arguments sound quite vague.

In the last general conference Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, ”In their zeal to promote opportunity for women, something we applaud, there are those who denigrate men and their contributions. Thank you for at least not saying that all people who promote opportunity for women put down men.  In my opinion, women who do that are hypocritical.  They seem to think of life as a competition between male and female — that one must dominate the other, and now it’s the women’s turn. Some argue that a career is everything and marriage and children should be entirely optional — therefore, why do we need men? In too many Hollywood films, TV and cable shows, and even commercials, men are portrayed as incompetent, immature or self-absorbed. This cultural emasculation of males is having a damaging effect.”  OK, OK, so here's why this is problematic: what is masculine and feminine can be considered a social construct.  So "emasculation" just means that what is considered to be a man's natural temperament or role is changing, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  A common theme I see in General Authority comments is that if cultural practices have changed since the time when they were young, that is automatically a bad thing.  If people today aren't, for example, dating the way that they did and getting married as young, then people today are doing it wrong.  A man bemoaning the emasculation of males needs to read this article (in my humble opinion).  Most times being "emasculated" means losing the monopoly of a certain role/privilege/opportunity.  Also, as a fellow group member on Facebook mentioned, it's women who are also frequently portrayed as "incompetent, immature, or self-absorbed."  He probably hasn't noticed that, though—until it happens to him.

Reading this statement, I felt a bit sad. When did we come to the conclusion in the world that one role of a man or a woman is better than the other?  This is a total straw man argument.  True, there are some "man haters" out there, but everyone who agitates for women's opportunity does not think that one role is better than the other; for the most part, we think that they are equal.  I saw a shirt the other day that said, "Anything boys can do, girls can do better."  I don't like this sentiment.  It is wrong to put someone else down in an effort to raise yourself up.  If the shirt had said, "Anything boys can do, girls can do," then that would be OK.

In high school, I was shocked one day while having a conversation with a friend in my AP English class when he said “Wait, don’t you feel bad that your religion is so degrading to women?” After he said this I was pretty confused. I have never felt degraded in the Church. In fact, it has been the opposite. I have always been taught that my divine nature as a woman was something to be praised rather than looked down upon.  Just because you have never felt degraded doesn't mean that it's a real or valid issue.  Just because you haven't experienced something doesn't mean no one has.

I grew up with two sisters and a brother. My sisters are my best friends. I have always loved the chick flick movie marathons we would have and the shopping trips and girly things we would do together with my mom. So you're saying that you're traditionally feminine.  This makes sense.  I think you would feel differently if you were a tomboy.  I was taught that my role as a wife and mother is one of the most important things I would ever do. My parents have encouraged me to get a college education, go on a mission and do things on my own time good, but always with the idea in mind that I had something to contribute to this world as a daughter of God.

I believe the same goes for men. There are certain roles that they were born to play. They have just as much to contribute to this world as women; their role is just different. I would hope that we would be able to celebrate and accept the difference among men and women. We all have something to contribute to this world. We just do it in different ways.  OK, so if these roles are so natural, why do we have to prescribe them?  If men are just a certain way and women are just a certain way, we wouldn't need to tell people what roles they need to fill—they would just fill these roles.  So much of what is "masculine" and "feminine" is based on cultural tradition, and many people confuse cultural tradition with innate nature.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


"God has revealed through his prophets that men are to receive the priesthood, become fathers, and with gentleness and pure, unfeigned love they are to lead and nurture their families in righteousness as the Savior leads the Church."  (OT gospel doctrine teacher's manual, lesson 4)

I don't love the husband: family :: Jesus : church, but please note that it says fathers are supposed to nurture their children.  I frequently see/hear that it's women who nurture and fathers who provide, as if both of these roles are mutually exclusive.  Mothers and fathers can both nurture and provide.  The roles don't have to be so separated.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

So, this is hanging in our kitchen now.

From: DI.  Hand lettering by: me.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Trees?

A Facebook friend posted a chain-letter-type status that was partly written by Ben Stein and partly written by some anonymous contributor who added his/her two cents to a forwarded email (though the post claims that Stein wrote it all).  I wanted so badly to hash out my problems with the post (there is faulty logic, generalizations and assumptions, troubling religious ideas, etc.) but I didn't want to start an argument with a friend on Facebook.  So, I'm posting my response here.

 Note: the original post is italicized, what I actually posted as a comment is bold, and the regular text is what I would have posted had I not cared about starting a fight.

Apparently the White House referred to Christmas Trees as “Holiday Trees” for the first time this year (not true) which prompted CBS presenter, Ben Stein, to present this piece which I would like to share with you. I think it applies just as much to m
any countries as it does to America . . .

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejewelled trees, Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are, Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, “Merry Christmas” to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a crib, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians.
Sometimes Christians are legitimately pushed around, put I think most of the time when people complain about being "pushed around," it really means that their religious philosophy isn't being treated as the exclusive truth (that everyone must accept) and the official religion of America.   I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. It's not an atheist country.  But it's not a Christian country either.  It is a religiously neutral country, or at least the Constitution says it should be ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...").I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God?
No one (whom I agree with) says you can't worship God.  Anyone is allowed to worship the god of his or her choice.  The problem is that you don't get to force everyone to worship the same god that you do.  I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her: “How could God let something like this happen?” (regarding Hurricane Katrina). Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said: “I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out.
This is absolutely horrendous and ridiculous.  That is not a gentlemanly move.  God in His infinite wisdom would know that it would not benefit anyone to do that.  How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?”  Who is this "we" she's referring to?  Did everyone who suffered from Katrina personally ask God to back off?  No.  It doesn't make sense.  Innocent people would be punished for others' mistakes.  Everyone I've seen post this is Mormon, and one of the Articles of Faith states that "men shall be punished for their own sins".

In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.   
  Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. As far as I can tell from what I've read, the problem isn't that people pray in schools—anyone can privately pray to whomever they want.  What people fight against is having school-sponsored, official Bible study and prayer.  It would be exclusionary to those who practiced a different or no religion.  Religious clubs and groups are allowed on campuses and they can pray and read the Bible.  The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbour as yourself. And we said OK.  1. That's not all the Bible says.  There's a lot about war, misogyny, and God-sanctioned murder too.  2. The Bible isn't the only text that says not to kill and to love your neighbor as yourself.  You don't need to believe in the Bible to believe in those two ideas.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem the author actually criticizing abstaining from using physical violence against children???  How does that even fit in with the rest of this?  And how is spanking explicitly related to religion???  (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide FALSE). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said okay.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.  
All children have no conscience?  And all children who have gone on shooting sprees were raised by people who said there should be no prayer in schools?  Because no Christian has ever been a murderer.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell.   Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.
This part makes it so obvious that this is supposed to be a chain letter passed by email: Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.  Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.

If not, then just discard it.... no one will know you did. But if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

Ben Stein only wrote part of this, just so's you know.  And some of the "facts" presented (like the White House calling them "holiday trees" and Dr. Spock's son committing suicide) are false (plus I think there is some reasoning that is faulty).

It seems to me that a lot of it (mainly the parts that Stein didn't write) contain unfair assumptions and generalizations (e.g. not reading the Bible in schools means not teaching about the immorality of murder and the importance of loving others and is the cause of increased violence).  Insisting that kids not participate in a certain religion in schools is not the same thing as turning your back on God—it simply means that you don't want one set of beliefs held as superior to others or to coerce children into believing in a certain religion. 

I find the part about God allowing Katrina to happen because he listened when people "told him to back off" troubling; it suggests that God would have prevented the hurricane if only more people praised him in public, which means that, by allowing the hurricane to happen (for the reason she suggests), he is punishing innocent people for the mistakes of others.  It also makes God sound arrogant and prideful because he will punish people for not praising and respecting him.  I don't think that backing away would be the "gentlemanly" move—it sounds more childish to me (it sounds like he's saying, "You don't want me?  Huh??  Huh??  Well, see how you like it when I just leave!  That'll show you!"

How to argue* with Mormons

*Discuss, debate, converse from opposing sides, not necessarily in an aggressive manner.

Note: These guidelines are not necessary for all Mormons—just the Mormons who give the rest a bad name by being narrow minded and illogical.

Don't swear.
Swearing sets you apart as the "other," the "them" in "us vs. them."  A totally faithful, active member would not "degrade" his- or herself by swearing, so you lose your credibility.  Your swears are also a distraction that the person can pounce on and chide you for (i.e. they can comment on your bad choice of swearing and then ignore any argument that contained the swears).

Don't make fun/light of subjects considered sacred.
This will get you labeled as anti-Mormon and you will be ignored.  Nothing you say will be listened to.

Be polite, not sarcastic.
If you are not respectful toward their beliefs, you will also be labeled as anti-Mormon and lacking understanding.  You will be considered ignorant and perhaps a tool of Satan.

Stay on topic.
Don't give them opportunity to get off topic themselves by mentioning something that is irrelevant that they can latch onto.  They, and all people who do not use logic to discuss, love an opportunity to ignore your actual valid points by paying attention to a distraction.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Do I dare disturb the universe?

My anguished state of mind and my opinions on religion I only reveal to a few close friends and to strangers on the internet.  I want to share my thoughts and ask my myriad questions in church, but I'm terrified of the reaction I could get.  I'm afraid that people will think I am disrespectful, prideful, and hard hearted.  I am afraid that they will easily dismiss my concerns and write me off.

From their point of view, I ought to have more faith and I ought to study out these questions I have and come to the same conclusions that they have—but, if that is what I'm supposed to do, how can I do that without opening up dialogue and asking others for help?  Since in their mind they are correct, what better way to discover the truth than by asking for their input?

I would not be asking questions to push people's buttons or start a controversy—I would be honestly asking.  If I can find some new answers that I hadn't considered, that would be great.  I'm just afraid that people will think I'm just being obnoxious and trying to stir up trouble.  I suppose that as long as I keep my tone of voice sounding like I'm earnestly questioning instead of betraying a chip on my shoulder it will be OK.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Reductio ad absurdum

If the Priesthood and motherhood are equal,

  • Girls should start having babies at age 12.
  • Anyone who is fertile should be allowed the Priesthood.
  • Having the Priesthood conferred upon you should be physically impossible without a female present.
  • Randomly losing Priesthood power/authority through no fault of one's own should be an expected risk.
  • The Priesthood should be able to be violently and painfully forced on males.
  • A man should be married to receive the Priesthood.  If he is not but still performs Priesthood duties, however well, he should be frowned upon.
  • The most divine and powerful being to ever live should have been a mother, blessed with the ability to allow others to be mothers too.
  • The human race should have ended fairly soon after the apostles died because no babies should have been able to be born.
  • A woman should be able to make another woman pregnant.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A gross self-deception

Quentin L. Cook:
"When it comes to morality, some adults believe that adherence to a single, overriding humanitarian project or principle nullifies the need to comply with the Savior’s teachings. They say to themselves that sexual misconduct is 'a small thing … [if I am] a kind and charitable person.'  Such thinking is a gross self-deception."

Who cares if you're kind!  You cares if you have charity!  The Book of Mormon says, "[I]f ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth."  Apparently, that really doesn't matter if you're having extra-marital sex.  It's fine if you're a nasty, misanthropic jerk as long as you're celibate.

I have hated hearing people categorize the "sexually immoral" only by their sexual conduct--as if that's all that matters about them.  Often it seems people lump all "sinners" together—people having sex in a loving, committed relationship that isn't a marriage are in the same category as pedophiles and murderers.  I have spoken up to say that someone could be having sex outside of marriage, but think about how they could also be a really kind, honest person with a love of others.  That must count for something.

I'm sure Elder Cook would argue that it does count for something, but not as much as I think it does.  I hate that this statement makes it seem like any positive qualities a person may have are overshadowed by the fact that s/he is having sex with someone Elder Cook thinks s/he shouldn't be having it with.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Will there be more women in heaven?

"God placed within women divine qualities of strength, virtue, love, and the willingness to sacrifice to raise future generations of His spirit children." --Quentin L. Cook, April 2011 General Conference
This is what I'm wondering: Is he implying that God did not place within men strength, virtue, love, and the willingness to sacrifice?  I don't think that he would say that this is what he means.  So why point out that women have those qualities if they're not unique?

Does he think that women possess these qualities more than men?  

Yes, I could be reading far into this, but the suggestion that the willingness to sacrifice is a feminine virtue just seems to suggest that women are the ones who are supposed to sacrifice more—which of course is not equal.  From the same talk:

A recent United States study asserts that women of all faiths “believe more fervently in God” and attend more religious services than men do. “By virtually every measure they are more religious."
So this is a pat on the back for women because they are more faithful?  That's still benevolent sexism to say that women are somehow better than men (and so don't need the leadership positions that men get).  Honestly, the habit of saying, "Of course you're not equal to men, ladies—you're better than them!" sickens me.  I of course would not prefer that they said, "Ladies, you're worth less than men"—just to make that clear.

If women really did have an equitable position in the church, there would be no need of this talk.  When we exchange the feminine words for the masculine, we get this: 

"I believe the men of the Church today meet that challenge and are every bit as strong and faithful. The Relief Society leadership of this Church at all levels gratefully acknowledges the service, sacrifice, commitment, and contribution of the brethren.
Much of what we accomplish in the Church is due to the selfless service of men. Whether in the Church or in the home, it is a beautiful thing to see the priesthood and the Relief Society work in perfect harmony. Such a relationship is like a well-tuned orchestra, and the resulting symphony inspires all of us."

To me, that either sounds ridiculous or sexist.  When I say sexist, I say that in this context it sounds like we're raising men up above women.  It's clearly sexism when it's done with men—but it's still sexism to imply that women are better.  Neither is better—we are equal.  We have equal potential for qualities such as sacrifice, virtue, love, and—yes—nurturing and child rearing!  It's a disservice to men to say that they somehow lack the capabilities to care for children as well.  

Really, I think most of any ineptitude on the part of men to know how to care for children comes from the cultural expectations—little boys aren't taught to dream of being fathers the way girls dream of being mommies.  If we didn't separate the genders so much when dealing with children, I don't think they would grow up thinking that they are as different from one another as we currently think we are.

A friend recently had a conversation with her roommates about the possibility of polygamy in heaven.  They seemed to think that it would be necessary because there would naturally be more women in heaven—since women are somehow more righteous.  I know that this isn't official church doctrine, but I've heard this idea elsewhere as well.  I've even heard someone claim that none of the souls who followed Satan were women.  Once again, women are the ones called on to sacrifice because of their better nature!  Honey, I know you have to share a husband with other women, thereby implying that one man is equal to several women—but it's because you're so much better than he is!

It seems we are so desperate to prove women are as good as men, even resorting to hyperbole about how there will be more righteous women than men (of course, theoretically, there would probably not be an exactly equal number of men versus women, but the suggestion seems to be that the disparity will be so great that most women will need to practice polygamy).  I honestly think that if men and women truly had equal positions and opportunities we wouldn't have to work so hard to convince ourselves that women are treated as equals.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Why I signed up to teach senior missionary couples

"Do you speak a foreign language?"
"Sir, do you speak a foreign language?"
"Sir, do you speak a foreign language?"

The MTC people were at a booth in the Wilk, asking people who passed if they could speak a foreign language.  Wait, no, that's wrong.  They were asking the men if they spoke a foreign language.

Look, I understand: statistically at BYU, it's probably going to be the young men who speak a foreign language— after all, the majority of them go on missions, many of them foreign.  But sisters go on missions too!  And some sisters (ahem) learn languages without going on missions as well. 

I felt ignored, especially since languages are one of my main interests.  They were looking for volunteers to teach senior couples, and they were neglecting a percentage of people who could help them!  

"I speak a foreign language!" I exclaimed, annoyed, as I ran up to the booth.  I wrote down my name and contact info with purpose and vigor, proving to them that I as a woman could be proficient in a foreign language!  Without even going on a mission!  Take that!

Yes, it's mostly men who go on missions.  But they are not the only ones who can speak foreign languages.  So there.  I chose my major because of an interest in the language, not because I had a foreign location in which to spend two years chosen for me by strangers and then eventually learned to appreciate the language spoken there.  Whenever someone finds out I'm majoring in a language, they always ask if I served in a country that speaks it.  It's a unique BYU phenomenon. 


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Passing the test

Lately I've been learning tons about what life was like for previous generations hundreds of years back.  For example, today I learned about Christopher Wren, the architect who designed St. Paul's Cathedral in London.  He lived to the age of 91 in a time (18th century) where most people lived to be 30 or 40.  He was fortunate enough to come from a family that wasn't working class.

I mention this because of how unfair it is to expect people who live wretched, short lives to "pass" this "test" of life.  It's easy for people in church in a first-world country in the twenty-first century to talk about life being a test where we must stand up to temptation and endure to the end.  What if you're a child in a developing nation who can fall ill ridiculously easy?  What if you're a child who worked in the mines, standing in the pitch darkness all day to every so often open a door for the miners (where you also couldn't have food because it would attract rats).  I suppose  some people throughout history would at least be able to attend church on Sundays (especially as a reprieve to their hard labor).  But the church they would attend isn't even the 'true' church, apparently, and the 'true' church wasn't apparently on the earth.  How is that fair?

This is the time where someone could say that we all have our lots in life and that our life was designed to help us where we need it.  That's a little dismissive of people's hardships, in my opinion.  It's easy for you to sit in your air-conditioned home and say that living in a slum is just what that person needed.

The Plan of Salvation seems applicable to church members in developed nations from the Restoration onward, but I don't know how much sense it makes for the rest of humankind.  There was a time when the Bible was only in Latin and you could be burned at the stake for trying to publish it in English.  How in the world are the people who lived in that time supposed to know the truth and "pass" this "test"?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Will aspartame kill us? We want to know!

Two talks I heard last week in a branch I was visiting are today’s topic.  One was given by the branch president, and the other was given by his wife.

Sister Branch President (SBP) opened with a quote that at first sounded hopeful but which eventually filled my heart with despair.  By the way, SBP—poor dear—is headed for a nervous breakdown: I recognize so many qualities that I had that lead to my unraveling. 

I've searched in vain for the exact quote, but it started out by asking why we should be ashamed to be ignorant of the gospel of Christ?  Then it told us why we should be ashamed and asked why we would devote more time to reading the fantasies of men than the word of God.

At first I thought the quote was going to be about how it’s OK to ask questions, which would be reassuring to me, since I seem to ask them possibly annoyingly frequently.  But no: it was about how there is no excuse to not know the answer to a question because you should devote a massive amount of time to studying the scriptures.  This could be extrapolated to be saying that you shouldn’t read anything for pleasure other than the scriptures because it would just be a waste of time (I know that’s an extreme, but it’s also an implication).  The part about the fantasies of men particularly seems to imply this.

I have an answer: because the "fantasies of men" are entertaining to read.  Also, I believe you can get as much out of a novel as you can from out of the scriptures—really.  You can observe human nature and true principles.  You can learn about yourself by reading about others, even if those others aren’t prophets.  Books can take you on an emotional journey and touch your heart.  (Also, novels can include many more women as characters!) 

Anyway, the talk that followed was earnest and well meaning, but ultimately more of the you-should-be-doing-better stuff I hate.  It was about how we’re lacking and how we’re wrong.  She mentioned a missionary experience where she shared with a friend that the church has a living prophet through whom god speaks.  Luckily, she said, the friend didn’t ask her for any specific examples of what the prophet had said recently because she wouldn’t have known!  (This is the second time I’ve heard of this situation in a sacrament-meeting talk: not knowing the contents of the Ensign in the context of a missionary experience.)  She said that after this ‘chastisement’ from the lord (ugh) that she was sure to go home and read the church magazine.

Well, maybe if the prophet had something that was really interesting or groundbreaking to say then she would have remembered it.  If there had been a conference talk about how we have to evacuate Mississippi or how aspartame definitely causes cancer for example, then she could have shared that with her friend because it would have actually been memorable.  I’m pretty sure the basic gospel principles are the subject of most talks, so she could have shared  those with her friend had the question come up.  I say this not to chide her, but to point out that she was being too hard on herself for not remembering the sparkling wisdom that had recently been shared.

A bright spot in the talk was when she mentioned the counsel to slow down and not over-schedule.  She mentioned that when she hears the moms of her son’s class mates talk about what extracurricular activities their children are involved in, she feels that she needs to provide all of those opportunities to her one child.  At least she realized that this was unrealistic...I think.  (That kind of thinking though is an indication that a nervous breakdown might come sooner or later.)

Brother Branch President gave a talk summarizing Joseph Smith’s King Follet discourse, definitely a meaty subject.  I was actually pleased that the sermon was being talked about and that BBP quoted extensively from it.  It made me think about how I wish that certain beliefs were talked about more and not ignored. 

The King Follet discourse talks about how god was once a man and how man’s destiny is to become like god.  It asserts that god was a savior for another world before becoming our father.  As you can see, it’s pretty significant stuff (and the source of the ‘Mormons gets their own planets’ hearsay).  I thought it was great that BBP was sharing it—the church has for whatever reason dropped the discussion about these topics.  In fact, in an interview in 1997 with Time, Gordon B. Hinckley, when asked, "Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?" he responded, “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.”  (By the way, I got the quote from FAIR, which I mentioned in this post.)

BBP taught Sunday School too, and it was apparently customary to open the hour with a call for questions of any kind on any topic.  Inspired by his talk, I asked , “If god had a father god, and that god had a father, and so on, then where did it all begin?”  There wasn’t a satisfactory answer for that question (I didn’t really expect one).  I also asked for clarification about whether the discourse indeed said that god was a savior for another world, and when BBP said that it indeed suggested that, I asked if that meant that Jesus would next become a Father?  The answer was that probably yes.

What stuff!  What deep, significant ideas!  Why don’t we talk about this more?  Because it’s all hearsay, philosophizing, speculation.  But I feel that it’s important.  I feel that you could find an answer to these questions and that discussion would help.  A better question than ‘Why don’t we talk about this more?’ is: Why don’t general authorities clear up doctrines like this in General Conference?  Surely these are important things to know.  Maybe the beginning of time is a difficult concept to grasp, but surely the principle that Jesus will next become God for another world is worth knowing and talking about!   It regards the nature of God!   (And Jesus!)

The lesson was on chapters in Alma, but we did get into a discussion about the pre-existence because of a verse about being foreordained to a calling.  We talked about the meaning of foreordination and it was a great discussion.  We talked about what kind of decisions you could have made in the pre-existence and if you could have had the ability to sin.  I was worried that it might veer into the “some people were less righteous in the pre-existence and they are punished for it by their situation on earth,” but the fear was unwarranted.  I’m just wary of that explanation because it was used to justify blacks not having the priesthood and, more innocuously (?), why some people are killed en masse by god (think the flood). We could have gotten into determinism, fate, etc.  I think it was a good example of what Sunday School should be like.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A car miracle

Sometime my devil’s advocate thinking is going to get me in trouble with someone.  Someone will be offended that I contradicted them or that I diminished the importance of their story.  I hope this doesn’t happen, but it might.  I would never intentionally hurt someone's feelings, and I've been contradicted before and it was fine—it didn't hurt me at all: I mentioned how I in the past had thought that I had received a prompting, which was apparently nonsensical, but I ‘trusted’ that it was indeed a prompting because, after all, god’s thoughts are not my thoughts and his ways not my ways (i.e. his logic is incomprehensible to me).  But, after later reflection, I realized that it wasn’t a prompting but rather my brain being crazy; it used to be common that when I had to make a decision, I actually assumed that I would get a prompting that would either confirm the decision or, more often, tell me to do something else.  This extended to stupid little decisions, about which I nevertheless expected promptings , thinking that somehow a small and simple occurrence would have far-reaching (eternal) consequences.  
Anyway, my point with this comment was that if a prompting doesn’t make sense, it may not actually be a prompting—in other words, use your head and don’t just assume that you don’t understand the prompting yet.  Right after I said that, a guy raised his hand and shared a mission story that I’ve already described in this post.  Even today, I still think that the prompting that he received on his mission was not a prompting at all, but I of course can’t really know that, and I know it’s presumptive to think that I can.

When I criticize people, or at least contradict them, I do believe that I’m more criticizing the idea and not the person as a whole.  It really is the idea I’m attacking—not the person.  So when I share stories that include comments I don’t like, please keep in mind that I’m not just dismissing anything this person could say.  With that said, this Sunday during fast and testimony meeting, a lady shared a story about a recent miracle.  Her car had been shaking, and she was worried that it was going to break down.  She couldn’t afford at this time to buy a new one and being without a car would be a hardship for her.  She did admit that really, she could make do without it—but it would of course really complicate things.  Well, she got an email from the bishop telling her about a couple several hundred miles away who was going to move out of the country and needed to give their car to someone; this couple was going to visit family in this particular lady’s town as a last stop and so would have to drop it off in that town.  She got in touch and agreed to take their car.  She was extremely grateful and couldn’t believe how well it was going to turn out. 

The lady ended by saying that she was especially thankful because, really, the car was a want and not a need.  She said that when we try hard and obey god will provide us with what we need, but this case was special because she also got what she wanted.

I couldn’t help but wonder if this car situation was as perfect as the lady thought it was: what if there was someone else in the area/ward who actually needed the car more?  Who had a real need of it?  Hopefully, the bishop would know who in the ward was in need, but I can imagine it’d be very easy to not know that someone was in want of a car if that person didn’t mention it, perhaps out of embarrassment.  I just couldn’t help but think that maybe there was a family in that congregation wishing that it was they who had gotten the car; but in what context would that be appropriate to speak up and say something to the lady afterwards?  I guess if the other person was really in need, they could talk to the lady about possibly buying the car from her?  It just seems like such an imposition to make. 

Maybe that lady was the one who was most in need for the car—but what if she really wasn’t?  How does the person who deserved it more feel—like god doesn’t love them, or perhaps they weren’t obedient enough?  The lady just made it sound like god knew exactly who needed the car and it worked out perfectly in her favor.

This is all speculation on my part.  If there is some accuracy in it though, there is someone out there who is confused that they didn't receive the blessing they needed.  But, from what I've observed, if that's the case they'll find something positive from the experience and eventually find a solution, for which they will be grateful and praise god.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Destroying testimonies since 1979

John Dehlin, founder of Mormon Stories, recently posted on his Facebook page, "I just want to go on record as saying that 20th and 21st century LDS apologetics (FAIR, FARMS, Maxwell institute) will go down as destroying more testimonies than any other single Mormon influence. That's what happens when you blame the victim, or give very poor and evasive answers to credible issues.

In other words, I think that Daniel Peterson is talking actually writing about himself and his followers in this article."

I read the article, and the part that most stands out to me regarding this is, 
"Alma 'did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church" (27:10). It's very doubtful, though, that they would have openly admitted that their goal was 'to destroy the church.' Perhaps they wouldn't even have admitted it to themselves."
From some other sources around the interwebs, I have found out that there is apparently a larger dialogue/brouhaha going on here; apparently (apparently) Peterson's article is actually in reference to people like Dehlin, and the Maxwell Institute, from which Peterson was recently fired, has a disparaging article about Dehlin that was going to be published, so this statement by Dehlin wasn't made completely out of the all seems quite complicated. 

So do apologetics do more harm than good?  For me personally, what I have checked out on FAIR has not affected me much, but I am not impressed with the website.  Their defense of some potent criticism strikes me as weak, and I am not satisfied with their answers.  At least they do recognize the criticisms, and I appreciate their efforts in trying to refute them.  Mormon Stories podcasts have been much more helpful and validating to me.  This could be an unfair assessment of FARMS, etc., but MS seems to be more objective, as their intent is "exploring, celebrating and challenging Mormon culture through stories" as opposed to apologetics which definitely have an agenda (i.e. proving that the church is true).

I attended a conference at UVU in March called Mormonism and the Internet with a friend, where John Dehlin (whom I really admire) was one of the speakers.  Author Joanna Brooks also spoke, and after her talk I asked a question during the Q&A session.  My question was about how to properly judge the veracity of texts on the internet, such as quotes that are reportedly by church leaders, and if the general consensus is that the person indeed said it, even if they didn't, is it treated as if they did say it?  In the latter part of the question, the emphasis is more on quotes becoming 'canon' than on being reflections of the leaders who said them—is it an accurate portrayal of what Mormons believe?  For example, even if Brigham Young didn't actually utter the quote about being offended, the way it's bandied about in the church makes it seem like it's a belief even if it wasn't literally spoken by Mr. Young.

Continuing, after I asked my question, a guy in the row in front of me turned around and recommended that I check out FAIR.  Later at the same conference, another man handed me a FAIR business card.  A few weeks later, my bishop also recommended the web site.  These three men seem to have been helped by the website, but I have not.

By the way, on the subject on the veracity of texts on the internet, I always try to find original sources of quotes, hopefully from LDS sources (even if I have to dig).  If I bring up something by Packer that I read on the internet, no one is going to even discuss it because there is no proof that he said it.  On that note, I recently found several LDS sources for a talk Packer gave called "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," and I am going to read it now. It's not even that I trust the church's sources more than others'—having it from an LDS source gives it a seal of approval that it's not just made-up 'anti,' and objectively speaking, I'm not going to just trust a transcript of a talk that I find randomly on the internet.  I wouldn't trust it if someone else brought a similar source to me.  

Like I said, it's not even that I trust the church more—they could edit (out) material too.  I mentioned when I responded to Kimball's Love vs. Lust that a quote I had seen that referenced the talk as its source was never mentioned, and I acknowledged that it could have been edited out.  Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I actually try to find church-approved materials not out of loyalty to the church but out of a desire to find The (objective) Truth and to also be able to use these sources in discussions. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

There is but one with whom she has heart to be gay

(Title is an excerpt from Tennyson's Come Into the Garden, Maud.)

Facebook debates usually drain me at least partially and exasperate me at least a little.  I used to not speak up, but I realized that I have an opinion and just as much right to express it as anyone else.  Mind you, I don't comment on everything that I could—I pick my battles.

This past week, I was involved with a rather one-sided debate that actually left me a little...gleeful.  Maybe it was because I was on the side that had the upper hand?  It was actually around five to ten people against one, which seems a little unfair.  But that one kept fighting (and he had every right to).  It was at once exasperating and actually humorous—the arguments the guy kept spitting out were, in my opinion, so absurd and textbook fundamentalist religious.

You might have guessed from the title that the debate was about gay marriage.  What started it off was one guy's incredulity that Mormons could actually be in support of gay marriage.  He seemed completely taken aback by the possibility because, he said, wasn't supporting gay marriage also supporting the actions that follow gay marriage (i.e. gay sex)?  To him, it seemed, what he thought was wrong and what should be illegal were the same: if you didn't approve of gay marriage, then it obviously should not be legal for anyone.

If you would like to read the conversation, I have saved it for posterity here (the commenter to be on the lookout for is in dark blue; I am in light pink).

After I took those screen shots, the conversation continued; but before I could record the following comments, the guy went through and deleted all of his comments.  I hope it was because he took back what he said, or at least because he realized what he said could be interpreted as offensive.  Before he deleted his words, he had apparently compared gay marriage to public nudity, which, predictably, caused a negative reaction.

The main reasons I found this debate so intriguing was that the guy couldn't have come up with better stereotypical, narrow-minded religious arguments.  Please take care to note that I am not saying that all religious people automatically have narrow-minded and stereotypical arguments—not in the least.  This particular guy was just like a stock character, and I kept thinking that you just couldn't make up better examples of silly points.  

When people provided him with evidence that contradicted his claims, he said that they were obviously misinterpreting their sources or taking things out of context (...).  He even bore his testimony of the blessings that couples could receive from a temple marriage (not really the most appropriate or effective thing to do on a thread about legalizing gay marriage).  He also had his facts about the church wrong: He insisted that a man could not be sealed to two women simultaneously unless he was doing so without church approval, and he held that the church's stance on homosexuality had never changed.  He posed the question, Who are we to change God's law?  Again, he seemed to think that the laws of the land and the laws of God were one in the same.  

I do feel a bit bad saying that I was gleeful about the affair.  I think a big reason is that he provided me with proof of someone who ignored logic and reason in favor of (false) long-standing beliefs.  See, I told the hypothetical doubters in my mind, these people actually exist!  These aren't just caricatures!

Please again take care to note that I am not putting all religious people/all gay marriage dissenters into one group, i.e. a group with this guy in it.  He is an example of an extreme that unfortunately exists.  He is not an accurate (or positive) example of the LDS church, though he definitely represents some views that a lot of members probably likewise hold.  If you oppose gay marriage, I don't hate you.  I just hope you don't use the same arguments that this guy does.

Extra credit: Read a friend's post about the same conversation (the thread was actually on her wall).

Edit: I forgot to mention that the guy left a nice, charitable parting comment: "For something nice to say: God bless all the Gays and Lesbians of the world. May the country's laws be changed in their favor."  Hooray for him!