Redefining Inner Beauty

Brother J: So, how was your special Mother’s Day Relief Society?

Sister J: It was good.

Brother J: What did you talk about?

Sister J: Loving ourselves.

Brother J: Is that allowed now?

Sister J: Yes. But only for the sisters. [Read more...]

“It’s up to you”

My son Scott was baptized on Saturday. A year ago I did not expect this to happen. Scott has autism, and although he has many good skills–mowing the lawn, making French toast, playing Joe Danger–his ability to understand abstract concepts and motivations is limited. At eight years old he still does not ask “Why?” questions, and he can’t answer them, either. He communicates mostly in rote phrases, which don’t necessarily indicate anything substantive about what he is trying to express. They are just the phrases he knows. You can usually tell by his tone of voice whether or not he means them literally or whether he is frustrated (about what is not always clear) or just feels like making conversation, and these are the words that are easiest for him to access. When he was seven, I thought that unless he made a huge developmental leap, there was no way we were going to have him baptized the next year. What would be the point? Even if he understood what he was doing, how would we know that? He wouldn’t be able to tell us. [Read more...]

Genealogy, I am not doing it

Because it’s St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to look up my ancestors on the new Family Search and see if I had any Irish in me. Apparently, my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was Irish. I mean, it appears to be reasonably well-documented that he was born there. So there it is, proof that I am, what, one one-hundred-twenty-eighth Irish? I still don’t feel very connected to Ireland. But at least now I know. [Read more...]

Much obliged

I would like to say a few words on behalf of obligation. And guilt. Two great tastes that taste great together.

Last month a member of our ward passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly. She was a pillar of the community; her husband had been bishop when the ward was first formed, she had later served as the Relief Society president, and they were currently working as Primary teachers. Everyone knew her. Everyone loved her. The loss is still fresh, and the ward is still mourning.

On that first Sunday, when they asked for volunteers to bring the family meals, help with the funeral service and offer other support, the list of those who signed up filled two pages. It was a testament to how beloved this woman was and how much service she had given over the years to so many people. It was heart-warming, but at the same time, it made me think about other people in the ward–people I probably haven’t even met yet, and may never–who go largely unnoticed most of the time but whose needs are just as genuine. People don’t line up to bring those folks casseroles. They’re the type for whom the Compassionate Service Leader has to scour the ward list to find someone willing and able to lend a hand. [Read more...]

Modestly played

So this past weekend I was visiting my sister, who is a Young Women leader in her ward, and she showed me this skit that they did for their New Beginnings. (I found it via a Google search. Apparently it is from Sugardoodle, but I couldn’t find a writing credit, unfortunately. Heck, I couldn’t find a title.) It is about the Value Heroes–Lady Faith, Diva Divine Nature, Individual Worth Woman (“My worth goes to INFINITY AND BEYOND!”), Queen Knowledge, Captain Choice and Accountability, Good Works the Great, Princess Integrity, and Virtue Girl–who safeguard the young women of Mutualopolis. Sadly, some dastardly villains capture the Value Heroes, leaving the poor young women of Mutualopolis at the mercy of the evil opposites of those values which have always protected them. But happily, the young women turn to the scriptures and realize that the Lord is their strength and if they live the Young Women values, they can be their own superheroes. And so the city of Mutualopolis is saved! (At least the young women are in pretty good shape. It’s an all-female play, you see. Like The Women, only without the adultery.) [Read more...]

Mormons and the Kindergarchy

A couple years ago I read this Weekly Standard piece by Joe Epstein. The subject is “kindergarchy”: rule by children. Mr. Epstein’s beef is that parents these days (“these days” starting about 30 or 40 years ago) pay too much attention to their kids, which is bad for both kids and parents, and worse for society in general. This isn’t a new idea, of course. Parents have supposedly been spoiling their kids rotten for, well, at least the last 30 or 40 years; the world keeps getting worse, and still we persist in making child-rearing the center of our adult universe. Go figure. [Read more...]

If you’re a woman, are there only six deadly sins?

So in October we had a fifth-Sunday combined RS/PH lesson, and the bishop talked to us about pornography. Or rather, about the problem of pornography. (I don’t want to make our fifth-Sunday lessons sound more exciting than they are.) It was depressing to me. Depressing mostly because my son just turned ten, and it really hit home to me that what’s left of his innocence is destined to be taken from him very quickly, and there’s nothing I can do to stop that. We live in a pornified culture. You know, sex is everywhere, everything’s about sex, blah blah, sex sex sex, blah blah. A local frozen yogurt shop used to have this billboard featuring a very attractive set of female breasts clad in a tight sweater, and the slogan was “We’ll fill any cup size.” And, you know, that’s not hardcore or anything, but it’s just…come on. Et tu, yogurt? This is the world we live in. So, yeah, I came home and told my husband (who works in Primary and doesn’t get to attend the combined fifth-Sunday lessons) that he had to have another birds-and-bees-ish talk with the ten-year-old. Then I shook the oogies off, and my work was done. [Read more...]

What would Jesus do (or not do)?

Back when I was in college, I overheard a classmate talking about how she wanted to buy her boyfriend a cross—as in the kind you wear around your neck—but her boyfriend was very particular about his crosses and would only wear one made of wood, and wooden crosses were hard to come by these days. When he looked at crosses made of gold or silver or other precious materials, he insisted, “God wouldn’t wear something like that.”

To which I responded, even though it was none of my business, “Why would God be wearing a cross necklace in the first place?” [Read more...]

The Lord hath taken away

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
Job 1:20-21

*

My life hasn’t been that hard. I have always had enough to eat and a roof over my head. I live in a free country. I have it better than most people in the world, and certainly better than most people who have lived in this world throughout history. I like to think that I am grateful for these things, and yet, like most people who have lived privileged lives, I’ve come to expect a certain level of ease and comfort. I take difficulty and discomfort like a slap in the face from the universe. What did you do that for, universe? [Read more...]

Real polygamist housewives

So last week when Judge Walker issued his decision overturning Prop. 8, one of my friends posted as her status update, “Is polygamy next?” I didn’t know if she was being silly or sincere, but if any of you all are wondering the same thing, let me reassure you: No. Polygamy is not next. That’s just something we conservatives make up to scare people. Ha ha, that was a joke (sort of). You know how I know polygamy isn’t next? Because unlike attitudes toward homosexuals, attitudes toward polygamists haven’t improved much in the last hundred years. Most people have at least one friend or someone in their family who is gay, but not many people know any polygamists. Also, when was the last time you saw a movie or TV show character with a sassy polygamist friend? Never, that’s when. And you’re not likely to start anytime soon. (Not until someone options my screenplay, that is.) [Read more...]

On second thought, never mind

Over the weekend I wrote a post responding to the court decision to overturn Prop. 8. It was very cathartic for me. I took everything that I’d ever thought or tried to write about same-sex marriage and distilled it to its essence, which was 1,841 words–long for a blog post, but most of my blog posts are (too) long, and when you consider the tens of thousands of words I had to work with, I’d call it a pretty awesome distillation. Of course, you will just have to take my word for it because once I had finished writing, I knew that I wouldn’t publish it. [Read more...]

Good, bad and so-bad-they’re-awesome gospel analogies

Several years ago I had the pleasure of listening to a sacrament meeting talk given by a woman who happened to work for an opthamologist. In her address she described various diseases of the eye and likened them unto various “spiritual diseases” that can afflict an individual. For example, glaucoma damages the optic nerve and gradually leads to an irreversible loss of vision; the loss is so gradual that it often isn’t perceived until the disease is in its advanced stages. Similarly, insidious influences can gradually damage our spiritual perceptions, and before we know it we have purchased a non-refundable, one-way ticket to hell. [Read more...]

Petitionary prayer: the monkey’s paw of my faith

This morning was trash day in our neighborhood. Trash day is an important day in our household because my seven-year-old son is obsessed with garbage trucks. Actually, “obsessed” is putting it mildly, but suffice it to say that he gets up early every Wednesday so he can see the garbage truck come down our street and watch it empty the trash cans into its hopper. Sometimes he gets up at 3 a.m. just to be sure he doesn’t miss it, but that’s really beside the point. Today was trash day, and although my son woke up on time, the garbage truck was late.

Unfortunately, school is still in session here, and my son has to go to school regardless of whether or not he has seen the garbage truck yet. This is easier said than done, of course. If my son hasn’t had his Wednesday morning garbage truck fix, he does not want to get on the school bus, and he will invoke the nuclear option. I had a lot of work to do this morning, including getting two of my other kids to their respective schools, so I was pretty stressed out and really didn’t want to manage an autistic seven-year-old who’d been deprived of his garbage truck, so as the clock ticked ever nearer the scheduled bus-arrival time and the garbage truck still hadn’t shown, I became ever more nervous. I really, really needed that garbage truck to get here fast. I didn’t know what I’d do if it didn’t. [Read more...]

Magnifying your calling, and other acts of hubris

Last week I was visiting teaching (mostly because it was the end of the month and I had to), and over the course of the visit with this sister I’ve known for six years, I learned that she is unhappy with her life right now. On previous visits she has always been cheerful, positive and easy-going, but on this particular day she wound up confessing, with some tears, that she did not feel at home in this ward, didn’t feel that she fit in with the other women, didn’t feel that she had any place in our community. I was surprised at her revelation, but I can’t say it shocked me, because while I like my ward and think it is filled with good people, I can easily see how one could feel excluded (and in some cases, even be so). I have felt out of place myself at times–I don’t relate well to the other women in my ward, lovely as they are, and I don’t have any close friends at church–but I’ve always considered that a personal problem. I still do think it’s a personal problem; I just didn’t realize anyone else shared it. [Read more...]

Brainwashing for Jesus

I’ve been catching up on General Conference, since I was unable to experience the April broadcast. The other day I was listening to President Eyring’s talk, “Help Them on Their Way Home,” and a particular line caught my attention: “[T]he family has the opportunity at the start of a child’s life to put feet firmly on the path home.” [Read more...]

Keep your talk show off my church

Once upon a time the name “Glenn Beck” didn’t mean anything to me. Despite the fact that I am both a Mormon and a political conservative, I have historically had a hard time remembering who exactly Glenn Beck was. Sometimes I would remember that he was a political commentator but not that he was a Mormon, and sometimes I would remember that he was a Mormon but not what he was famous for. This is probably because Glenn Beck is a television personality, and I don’t watch television. I don’t say that in some snobby way like, “Oh, I decided it wasn’t worth the cost of cable just so I could watch Antiques Roadshow and the occasional History channel program.” No, it’s because I find enough on the internets to amuse and debase myself with, so watching television would be a little gratuitous, wouldn’t it? So I have never watched Glenn Beck’s program. But since joining By Common Consent and thereby becoming a fully engaged member of the Mormon blogging community, I have been reminded on a regular basis that a) Glenn Beck is a right-wing nutjob and b) he’s a Mormon, and that’s just embarrassing. And now I can no longer forget who he is. Thanks a lot, Mormon blogosphere! [Read more...]

It’s good (except for one part)

Because I have grounded my ill-mannered eleven-year-old from her Primary class for the time being, she spends the second hour of church hanging out with me in the library, often reading old issues of the Friend and the New Era. I haven’t decided if she’s doing it primarily for entertainment or to look for further evidence that the Church is stupid, but in any case, it keeps her off the streets.

So last Sunday she found something in an old issue of the New Era that disturbed her. (And by “disturbed her,” I mean “caused her to yell out something controversial in front of the chalk-and-eraser-borrowing multitude.”) It was an article by a general authority about marriage and dating, and tucked into a section on not having pre-marital sex was a paragraph about two controversial topics that I won’t name here because they are contentious issues and irrelevant to my larger point. Suffice it to say that my daughter disagreed vehemently with one particular sentence that the author had written, and when I read the sentence and its surrounding context myself, I discovered that I also disagreed with it–I daresay even vehemently, if you want to get technical about it–and I told her so. [Read more...]

“Not lucky, blessed”

Occasionally I will be talking to someone about some fortunate circumstance of my and/or my family’s life, and I will say something like, “We’ve been lucky,” and the person I’m talking to will gently correct me and say, “Not lucky–blessed.” Well, yes, fine, if you prefer: “blessed”–but lucky to have been blessed in this particular way. Surely there are others out there, no better or worse than we, who have not been “blessed” quite as we have. [Read more...]

7 Habits of Highly Effective Stealth-Mormons

So I was just about to swear off any resolutions for 2010 when I read this story about radio host Delilah pulling her kids out of Crosspoint Academy because the school adopted a book by Stephen Covey as part of its curriculum. [Read more...]

Virtue, revisited

At the beginning of 2009 I published my most inflammatory post ever–the one about the church announcing the addition of an eighth value to the Young Women Personal Progress program, Virtue. I took the press release, which invited parents and leaders “to teach the doctrine of chastity and moral purity to help each young woman to be virtuous,” as an indication that the church and the Young Women program particularly were aiming to put a special emphasis on chastity. [Read more...]

Let this desire work in you

I enjoy singing the hymns in church because it makes me feel like I’ve participated in the service, even though I end up ignoring most of it because I’m focused on keeping my children from disturbing everyone else’s worship experience, or else I’m so focused on ignoring the children’s disturbing behavior that I effectively ignore everything that is part of reality during those 70 minutes we are in the chapel. But I pay attention long enough to sing the hymns. I like church in December because we sing Christmas songs. Tonight I am remembering a sacrament meeting early in December 2008 when the opening hymn was “Away in a Manger.” [Read more...]

Christmas in the old and new world

I don’t do much business with Deseret Book, but I enjoy getting their catalogs so I can see all the crazy crap they’re selling and make fun of it. But I especially enjoy getting their Fall/Winter catalog so I can see all the nativities that they sell because they do sell some cool nativities. I don’t buy any of these nativities because they are too nice to live in my house. But I enjoy looking at the nativities nonetheless. [Read more...]

What do you do when your child misbehaves in church?

Some BCC chums and I had a disagreement over this recently sidebarred article, “To Spank or Not To Spank.” And by “disagreement” I mean that we had different interpretations of what the author said versus what she meant to say and blah blah blah–it’s really not that important, despite the number of words I personally devoted to the conversation (which eventually ended in fisticuffs, not that anyone asked), but on reflection I realized that I was reading the article through my own parenting-experience-colored glasses.

I presume that many people read this article’s anecdote about the church nursery worker who spanked a child in her class and thought, “Dude, if someone did that to my kid–HELL to the NO.” I read the anecdote and wondered how the issue was going to be resolved, and when it wasn’t, I felt cheated–because I am the parent of the child who, to old-skool disciplinarians’ minds, could certainly do with a swat on the behind (or two). In fact, considering my daughter’s behavior in church, I would be astonished if several people in my ward did not think this on a regular basis. [Read more...]

Each life that touches ours (or not)

Last week in Relief Society we were talking about callings, and one of the sisters said she didn’t think all callings were necessarily inspired, that sometimes you were just a worker in the kingdom, and that was okay. Another sister disagreed, insisting that all callings were inspired, and she knew this was so because each of her callings had allowed her to touch at least one person’s life, and if you’ve touched one person’s life, that’s all that matters.

I am more inclined to agree with Sister Workerbee than Sister Inspiration. I’m happy for Sister Inspiration, and I believe she’s touched someone’s life in each of her callings, but I don’t think one can make generalizations based on her own blessed but limited experience. I am open to the idea that every calling is inspired, for whatever reason, but I don’t really care one way or the other because if you aren’t touching someone’s life–or don’t know that you’re touching someone’s life–you need some motivation to keep going, and “this calling was inspired” is not always going to cut the mustard, especially if all evidence points to the contrary. [Read more...]

Ritual

I was listening to a talk show and the host, who is Jewish, was telling about his experience sitting shiva for his recently departed mother. It was the first time he’d ever sat shiva, and he didn’t know if he would like it or not, but it turned out to be a positive experience for him–just sitting and waiting, waiting for people to come and bring his family food, sitting and talking about his mother, whom everyone loved. He expressed his gratitude for the Jewish law that required him to do this, for the wisdom of his ancient religion.

My mother died on a Sunday morning, almost thirteen years ago. On Monday morning my alarm clock went off. I could hear a fierce wind storm going on outside, and I really didn’t want to get out of bed. “My mother just died,” I thought. “I shouldn’t have to go to work, right?” So I called my editor and left a message on her voice mail: “My mother died. I won’t be in today.” Then I went back to sleep. [Read more...]

What I got out of the Relief Society broadcast

Unlike some people I know, I always attend the General Relief Society broadcast–willingly and gladly. But not for any righteous purpose. I just like getting out of the house all by myself. I get out of the house by myself on a fairly regular basis, but due to their tangential religious connection(s), Relief Society meetings are like Get Out of the House Free cards. Not using them just seems like such a waste. Especially with the annual broadcast, which is held in a darkened room, I figure that if nothing else, I could always get a good nap in (if I were so inclined). [Read more...]

P.S. What are you wearing?

So the other day I tossed off this post about teaching our girls (okay, “our children, especially daughters”) the importance of modest dress, and then I promptly went off to play with my three-year-old (who was respectably clad in an oversize t-shirt and long pants) and subsequently spent the rest of the day de-cluttering and reorganizing the toy room. I didn’t re-visit the post until late that afternoon, when I was not remotely surprised to learn that aforementioned post had generated more feedback than usual. More than usual for me, I mean. Most of what I post doesn’t provoke much of a response. When I post on a topic like modesty, however, it is guaranteed that the same arguments will get trotted out and re-hashed ad nauseum in the comments section. At first I felt a little guilty for writing something so predictably inflammatory and then abandoning the thread to pursue my own selfish interests, but as I read what everyone had to say, the guilt completely dissipated and I felt that, if anything, I had served the greater good by letting nature take its course and thus prove my satirical point more effectively than I ever could have, had I taken the time to formulate thoughtful responses to everyone’s arguments. [Read more...]

Teaching modesty to our youth: ur doin it rong

Silvia H. Allred, second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, had an article on modesty in the July 2009 issue of the Ensign. In the sidebar, “Teaching Modesty to Our Children,” Sister Allred wrote the following:

Girls might not recognize that the physical display they create when they dress immodestly affects boys more than it does them. Help children, especially daughters, understand that attracting someone of the opposite sex solely by physical means does not create a lasting relationship.

[Read more...]

Counting my blessings

My mother died of breast cancer twelve years ago, and I was due for my baseline mammogram about three years ago, but circumstances and laziness conspired against me, and it wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that I finally dusted off the old referral card and made the appointment. Based on the results of that mammogram, I had to go in for a follow-up ultrasound on Tuesday, which happened to be my mother’s birthday, which I would call ironic if I didn’t have such a firm grasp on the actual definition of irony, so instead I’ll just call it a coincidence ripe with literary possibility. [Read more...]

My non-descript and utterly predictable patriarchal blessing

I’ve heard a lot of people get up in sacrament meeting and say it was no accident that they were asked to give a talk on a particular topic because that topic was one that they had always struggled with or had been struggling with recently.  I haven’t been asked to speak in sacrament meeting since I moved into my current ward.  Incidentally, I moved into my current ward a little more than five years ago.  My husband has spoken in this ward a couple of times, but I haven’t, and since they no longer have husbands and wives do tag-team sacrament meeting talks, I think that as long as we stay here, I am safe from ever having to give a talk again.  We live in a very large ward, where people are always moving in and seldom moving out, so there are always plenty of people to talk in sacrament meeting without having to ask old Rebecca J to dust off her scriptures and wing it for ten minutes. [Read more...]

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