A World of Spice

The scent of butternut squash roasting in curry, coriander, and cumin is filling my kitchen, a layer of comforting protection from the bitter cold outside.  Some people express their love through song or poetry, I express my love by making soup.  My parents are coming to visit me for Thanksgiving, and I want to greet them with some hot, homey butternut squash soup and cornbread.  Unexpectedly, though, the scent of these spices is bringing back a strong memory from my childhood, also infused with curry and cold weather.  [Read more...]

RIP Glen A. Larson

TV writer and producer Glen A. Larson passed away from esophageal cancer on Friday in Los Angeles.  He is survived by his wife and nine children.

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Judicial Fairness

The parallels between the church disciplinary process we have seen unfolding in the media and justice reform efforts ongoing worldwide have been striking to me.  I believe that a comparison between international standards of judicial fairness and the church disciplinary hearing system is fair and warranted in adding nuance to this discussion.  While I recognize that the church is a different organization than a sovereign nation with police power, in both cases fundamental considerations of fairness color the perceived legitimacy of outcomes.  Membership in the church is voluntary, but we do not treat it with a relaxed and voluntary attitude that would accompany membership in a country club.  Children raised in the church are trained with every family scripture study, prayer, family home evening, and trip to primary that the reality of church membership is the reality of eternities with eternal consequences.  Gaining a testimony of gospel truth is a lifelong exercise in loyalty and commitment.  Most importantly, scriptures teach that the worth of souls is great in the eyes of God.  People matter, and the institution matters to its people—perhaps more so than any other institution or affiliation in their lives.  This is not a casual, blasé hobby.  The process may technically be voluntary, but that voluntariness is hugely mitigated by the personal testimony and loyalty of the participant.  Further, the church treats disciplinary hearings with a “court-like” approach.  Participants are summoned based on confession or evidence gathering.  The Church Handbook of Instructions contains both substantive charges and procedural guidelines.  Participants act as either advocates for the summoned, or advocates against them, and ultimately the decision of the bishop or stake president is subject to appeal.  There is an intention to create some elements of court procedure.  Because of this, I think it is at least informative to consider international standards of judicial fairness when thinking about the process of church courts. [Read more...]

Our Sisters are Leaving

There is a painful conversation swirling in our culture; whispered sorrow, frustration, anger, fatigue, and a tentative raising of voices asking for more representation in the governance and care of this institution that we call our spiritual home.  Millions of women are members of this institution charged with doing God’s work on earth, an institution that theoretically demands the very best that each member has to offer.  What can be said to those women who feel that their best is not wanted, valued, or needed?    [Read more...]

Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace

One of life’s great challenges is learning to lift up our eyes and actually see those around us.  To see them in all their frailties and faults and weaknesses and learn to love them for their whole selves.  I am not particularly good at this.  I don’t think many of us are really pros, frankly.  But every once in a while life arranges for you to look up. [Read more...]

Valuing Families

Every time I hear someone climb on the “family values” soap box and advocate for “pro-family” actions or attitudes, I get very nervous because I start wondering “if you are pro-family, who are you against”? [Read more...]

The Rather Uncomfortable Constraints of Life on a Pedestal

You walk into Relief Society and someone hands you the pinterest-approved announcement for the next weeknight activity:  “Pretty Pretty Princess Girls Night Out!  Featuring a ‘Modest is Hottest’ Fashion Show!”  Or maybe you show up to your freshman year at BYU, interested in wildlife biology, only to learn very quickly that it is not a major or a career that is compatible with motherhood.  You go to girls camp, excited about the hiking, but spend most of your time preparing for a very special fireside in which the leaders will tell you what boys really expect of you and how you can conform your life to those expectations of being sweet and modest and spiritual (and pretty).  You attend a nationwide institute broadcast by a seventy and his wife where they give advice on marriage to men and women, including the admonition for girls to invest in a full length mirror.  As a teenager, you look around your ward for role models, and identify those women with multiple children, and sweet voices, and color coordinated houses, and husbands who were successful enough to support a PTA volunteer wife.  You try to stand out in your singles ward, because you want to find a husband, so you skip relief society to stay home and do your hair–but it’s not enough, you need an interesting hobby.  Music and crafts and traveling to the country where you served your mission are okay.  Herpetology is not.  You are taught at a Deseret Book sponsored “Especially for Women” event that lobbying is not ladylike, unless you’re lobbying for families.  In Relief Society, you ask why women don’t have the priesthood, and you hear the hushed chuckles as the teacher smiles at you sweetly and knowingly and tells you that women are more spiritual than men, and that men need the Priesthood to catch up to you.  You join a book club where you and the other sisters only read young adult novels, just to make sure that you are not exposed to ideas of “the world.” You are praised–unyieldingly praised for your innate sweetness and your spirituality and your defense of your family.  When the boys are in scouts working on career day merit badges, you are learning how to support them, how to encourage them to honor their priesthood, how to keep their thoughts pure by covering your body, and then you make them cookies.  It is relentless messaging, year after year after year, starting in the year you were born, and never letting up.  Your whole life has taught you to do exactly one thing.  This:

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The Agenda

I sat on the other side of a very interesting table Valentine’s night.  I got proselytized to at a dinner party by a member of a local protestant church.  I realized that it’s been a long time since someone tried to put the sell on me, because most of my non-Mormon friends are either not religious, or just openly and non-controversially a happy member of some other religion.  I know about it, but it’s not a thing.  Anyways, back to the somewhat surprising dinner party.  I think the episode was a bit jarring to me, because the motivations were so so transparent, and so clunkily executed.  I came away annoyed.  Mission not accomplished.  [Read more...]

Why I’d Also Like to Hear a Woman Pray in General Conference

It’s because when I was 18, I set a difficult goal as one of four big projects to earn my Young Women’s Medallion.  I learned how to play one piece of classical music on the piano for every musical era starting with Bach and ending with Gershwin.  It took me months to accomplish.  My young women leaders invited the whole ward to the recital and I expected a crowd because I had seen most of the ward show up over and over again for Eagle Scout Courts of Honor. On the night of the recital only two people came: my home teacher and my Sunday School teacher. I understand that what I did was non-traditional and so people didn’t know that they were supposed to show up like they did for the boys. I want a woman to pray in General Conference, so as a people we learn to start showing up for our daughters as well as our sons.

Confessions of a Swing State Voter

I live in Virginia.  If there was any chance of me forgetting that at any other time of the year, it becomes starkly apparent in election season.  I have stopped watching television and answering the phone at night.  Apparently, through sheer force of repetition, I am supposed to now believe that Mitt Romney is not the right choice for women and Barack Obama will cost thousand of my neighbors who work in the defense contractor industry their jobs.  These are apparently the two issues that my fellow north-Virginians care most about.  Setting aside the slight distaste I have at being boiled down to a one issue voter (which I’m not), and setting aside the fact that the politicians have stolen the joy of television from me (which I will never forgive), it is kind of interesting to live in a swing state.  Your vote matters.  You can’t assume that the person you are talking to agrees with you.  There is a kind of energy that is interesting and appeals to that patriotic American in me.  This really is democracy in action.

I have not always lived in swing states.  [Read more...]

What might save us, me and you, is if the gentiles love their children too.

I love political songs from the cold war era, they are so grounded in the moment they were created and capture a vivid bite of anger or paranoia or gallows humor.  Who doesn’t love Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”, or Metallica’s “Don’t Tread on Me”, or the giddily inappropriate atomic bomb ode “Thirteen Men and Me the Only Gal Around” by Ann Margret?  I think the one that sticks the most with me, though, is Sting’s “Russians” with its industrial scoring, the Prokoviev themes, and the jarring, plaintive, and retrospectively over-dramatic rhetorical wish “What might save us, me and you, is if the Russians love their children too.”   Of course, having served a mission in St. Petersburg, Russia, I can unhesitatingly confirm that indeed, the Russians love their children too.  Phew.

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On Comparative Law

Many of my recent posts have been a call for more ecumenicalism in our interactions with others.  The recent events in the Middle East have brought home to me that the point of that kind of cross-cultural empathy is not merely a feel-good response to our neighbors.  It can be critical, even vital, to understand fundamental philosophical differences when trying to chart a way forward.  I think that some basic understanding of comparative law could be helpful in framing the events in the Muslim world right now. [Read more...]

Religious Privilege and Religious Freedom and Roughage

Before I go any further, I need to tell you something about myself.  I’m a firm believer that every person should get enough fiber in their diet every day.  Current recommendations are that women under age 50 need about 25 grams per day, and men under age 50 need about 38 grams.  Most Americans get about half that much in the average day.  So, let’s reiterate, I’m a fiber fan.  Go fiber.  Great.

Now let’s talk about you.  Who are you?  Well, in this piece, you are a rhetorical you.  [Read more...]

The Codification of Morality

A few months ago, I was attending a university level criminal law class in a Muslim country that recognizes sharia law in the constitution.  The class was lively, the students were prepared, and it was incredibly enjoyable listening to these students chew through topics like the presumption of innocence and burden of proof.  At one point, during a discussion of the country’s penal code, a student raised his hand and asked why drinking alcohol was against the law in that country, when it was not criminalized in America.  “How can one act be a crime in one country, and not in another?”  The teacher, probably not willing to be waylaid by a philosophical discussion of “what is crime” punted the question and briefly talked about sharia before moving on.  I think it’s too bad that the teacher didn’t delve into the question of “what is crime” because approached from a comparative law standpoint, it is pretty fascinating. [Read more...]

My Decision to Boycott Lowe’s

This week, Lowe’s pulled advertisements from TLC’s show “All-American Muslim” about several Muslim families in the Dearborn area. I don’t watch the show.  I don’t need to watch a television show that “normalizes” Muslims.  My Muslim friends and co-workers are normal enough to me without television.  Frankly, I don’t shop at Lowe’s all that much either, but I won’t be shopping there at all any longer. The people urging Lowe’s to pull the ads had a message to share.

I have a few messages to share here: [Read more...]

What to Make of Abish?

There are only four women mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon, and three of them are pretty straightforward female archetypes: the virgin, the whore, and the nagging wife. While they may serve the purpose of fleshing out the larger story that they appear in, they are not fleshed out themselves. I’m sorry about that. I wish more women’s stories were included. The fourth woman, however, is a bit of a surprise. [Read more...]

Mom Activism: Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the World

Whenever a child in Utah is born with PKU, an inherited (genetic) metabolic disorder where the body cannot process the amino acid phenylalanine, the health department (with the permission of the parents), notifies my friend Amy Oliver so she can step in to help.  Phenylalanine or “phe” is found in every type of food, and the higher the protein content, the higher the phe content.  If phe is allowed to build up in the body of a person with PKU, it causes irreversible brain damage and results in severe mental retardation.  People with untreated PKU are unable to function on their own and end up living in institutions.  PKU occurs in about 1 in every 15,000 births.    [Read more...]

Hi, My name is Karen NMN

I just found out that one of my best friends is a closet revolutionary.  I like her even more now. [Read more...]

Helpful Youth Activity

In the comments to the recent post on modesty, it was pointed at that many of the young women are receiving guidance on modesty, but that the young men aren’t.  To even things out, should the young men be included in the trend?  I have an idea:  [Read more...]

Feminism in the Age of Disney Princesses

A new crop of women is coming of age, matriculating into the universe of higher education, and entering the workforce.  They grew up in an age of intense marketing towards children, and an age of specialty marketing towards girls.  The Disney film franchise was entering a Renaissance period with the release of “The Little Mermaid” in 1988–with a wide-eyed plucky mermaid dreaming about growing up and becoming part of the world, and then “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991 with a wide-eyed plucky village girl dreaming that there must be more than her provincial life.   In fact, Disney made a fortune on remaking the image of girls in movies.  The old Disney films were filled with beautiful but vapid, lifeless girls who needed to be saved by even more vapid, lifeless princes.  This new crop of heroines were defined in a different way:  pretty, plucky, adventurous–they were corporate packaged junior feminists.  They got into scrapes, they got out of them, they learned to love, and everything came up roses.  Ever wondered how Ariel would fare in corporate America….

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Either Little Provo or the Red Light District

“So can I ask you a question?” This is a fairly awkward phrase, right?  If the question is truly innocuous, no one will precede it with an implicit warning.  When you hear the question “so can I ask you a question?” you brace yourself, you take a breath, you smile and say “of course.”  If you’re a Mormon and you hear this, you know you have about a 50% chance of someone asking about polygamy, your mission, or your underwear, so you try extra hard to stick on that super pleasant smile that says “you betcha.”

My boss walked into my office a couple of years back and said “so can I ask you a question?”

“You betcha.”

“My wife and I have been noticing something kind of strange at this house in our neighborhood.  There are a lot of young women living there, and they move in and out fairly often.  And pretty often some guys in suits will come over and visit.  And the girls are all really pretty.  And they dressed really skanky at Halloween.  We think it’s a brothel.  But this morning, when I was waiting at the bus stop I saw one of them, and she asked me about the bus schedule, so I started up a conversation and asked where she was from.  She just graduated from BYU.  So, apparently she’s a Mormon.  Do you know what’s going on?  Is this normal?”

“Ah.” I said, realization dawning.  “So, here’s the thing, you live smack dab in the middle of a single mormon mecca, and you don’t know it.  All of that is perfectly normal.  They’re looking for husbands.  Pay them no mind.”  (aka “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.  Move along.”) [Read more...]

A Rapturous Poll

Discuss your choice below, or tell us what you’ll be doing in the comments. 

Come Ye Poets of the Bloggernacle!

[Note: Due to the unforeseen martyrdom of Jon McNaughton’s art sales in the BYU Bookstore at the hands of Teh Godless Libruls, we feel the need to eugooglize this fine art, and thus we have resurrected this thread. Haiku only, please.]

Originally posted on September 29, 2009

Art inspires art.  This art, found on the sidebar, inspired me.

I choose to respond in haiku.  You may respond as well, but we will only accept comments in haiku.  (5-7-5 for those of you who don’t remember high school English….)  Here are some thoughts to get you started: [Read more...]

Women of Courage

Happy International Women’s Day to BCC readers.  This is, unfortunately, a rarely celebrated holiday in the U.S., but is recognized around the world as a moment to celebrate the achievements of women, appreciate the women in our own lives, and most importantly think about women’s issues and what work remains to be done to achieve safety and equality for women.  Today, ten women from around the world were honored at the U.S. State Department as Women of Courage.  In the case of some of these women, “courage” is an understatement.  [Read more...]

I Wanna Shake Your Hand

Last year I was hanging out with Steve Evans and Aaron B.  Steve’s dog had recently died, but they were dogsitting another wee pup.  The new dog walked in and Aaron B. did a double-take.  “I thought your dog died!  Is that a ghost dog?”  I immediately shot back:  “You should ask to shake its paw.”  [Read more...]

Murder, Mayhem, Sin, and Voyeurism

Like many Americans, I consider murder to be a form of entertainment, and I’m a bit ashamed by that.  I can’t really survive international flights without a good gripping murder mystery in my hand.  The more creative and depraved, the more I can count on it to keep me occupied, make the flight seem short, and stave off air sickness.  I spent the new years holiday watching a marathon of “Castle” on cable.  More murder.  Somehow it doesn’t seem like such a horrible sin and terrible tragedy when it is presented as a “whodunit” or when it’s presented by characters who quip chirpily as their flirtation weaves its way through crime scenes, witness interrogation, and visits to the medical examiners and their corpses.  [Read more...]

The Choice to do Good and the Choice to Integrate

The article featured on BCC’s sideboard found here has inspired me to inner musings.  I like the idea that a community’s choice to exceed the mark, to communally do good simply for the sake of rightness has a lasting legacy, even if that legacy is only on a few individuals.  I also like the common theme of integration that weaves through such stories. [Read more...]

Spirituality through Sentimentality: Heresy or Praiseworthy?

I’m getting very sentimental this year.  Next week, I’m leaving on a jet plane for South Asia (India and Sri Lanka) where I’m spending Christmas with a couple friends instead of my family.  It made sense this year.  My parents are on a  mission, and my (0nly sibling) brother is spending Christmas with his in-laws.  I have a friend who lives in the middle east, and is not coming back to America for Christmas, so we’re meeting on the other side of the globe to do some touristy things and celebrate Christmas together.  It sounded like a great idea in September.  Now I’m getting a little weepy and sentimental.  I’m listening to Christmas music every chance I get, spending more time at public celebrations (hello Nutcracker and Santa Lucia at the Swedish Embassy!) and trying to find the perfect presents to put in the mail this week before I go.  Trying to deconstruct these feelings is a bit interesting.  What am I going to miss?  Is it sentimentality over missing my family and the trappings of Christmas, or is it a suspicion that celebrating Christmas in a hotel and on a beach will make the day less special, less focused on the spirituality of the event, and tantamount to skipping the holiday altogether?  [Read more...]

Sit in Holy Places

I sat outside St. Peter’s Basilica twice this week.  Too late to get in the building, I made do with sitting in the square and remembering.  I could not be in Rome and not pay some kind of homage to this holy place.   [Read more...]

Twinkling: What should I have said?

Here is a fairly accurate transcript of a recent conversation I had:

Friend A:  I think I’m going to visit Jerusalem this year.

Me:  That sounds fun.  I’ve always wanted to go.  I asked my Dad if he wanted to go with me and he said he thought the Second Coming was too near so it wouldn’t be safe.

Friend A:  Your dad doesn’t think he’s righteous enough to be taken up into heaven?

Me:  Mormons don’t believe in twinkling.

Friend A:  You mean you don’t believe in Revelations?

Me:  Uh….

Friend B (studying to be a Priest):  Maybe they just believe that it’s more metaphorical.

Me:  Uh….

Friend B:  Or maybe they think John the Revelator was crazy.

Everyone laughs and smiles–thinking to themselves: “yeah I’ve thought that before…”

End Scene [Read more...]

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