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…]


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…]

My own ugly slash beautiful truth about Girls Camp

So I took my oldest child to Girls Camp yesterday for Valiants Day.  She was not that keen on going because she didn’t think she would like it.  I was not that keen on taking her because I knew that I wouldn’t like it (but I did suspect that she might, at least a little bit, once she got into it).  [Read more…]

When I die

Recently I got an e-mail from a friend informing me that the bishop of our old singles ward had passed away.  Being a thousand miles away, I was unable to attend his funeral, but I wish that I could have.  This man was very dear to me.

It just happens that I was thinking of him a few days before receiving this news.  I don’t remember why.  I hadn’t seen him in a long time. [Read more…]

Draw your own spiritual analogy

You know that classic Primary song “Popcorn Popping”?  It goes like this:

I looked out the window and what did I see?
Popcorn popping on the apricot tree!

Spring has brought me such a nice surprise,
Blossoms popping right before my eyes.

Only if you live in a place where they don’t grow apricot trees, you might say the popcorn grows on some other kind of tree–a dogwood tree, for example.  I believe that when I was living and serving in a Primary in Virginia, the kids might have sung about popcorn on the dogwood tree.  I don’t remember for sure, but that’s neither here nor there. [Read more…]

Dude, where’s my pew?

Recently I had the opportunity to volunteer for an outreach program for homeless youth, or more accurately, youth with housing insecurity.  Most of them are not homeless per se, but their family circumstances are such that they can’t live at home and have to move from friend’s couch to friend’s couch, or something like that.  The program is sponsored by a local United Church of Christ.  [Read more…]

Virtue, Part Two

Part Two has had to undergo a major overhaul because since posting Part One I have had the opportunity for reflection and come to regret its censoriousness. Upon reading this special issue of the Church News (dated December 27, 2008—about a month after the First Presidency letter announcing the change in the Young Women theme), I feel like I can accept the purity of intentions behind the Young Women value known as “Virtue.” The article cites a 2003 address by James E. Faust, given at the General Young Women Conference, “The Virtues of Righteous Daughters of God.” In the talk, President Faust discussed ten virtues all young women should aspire to: faith, honesty, chastity, humility, self-discipline, fairness, moderation, cleanliness, courage, and grace. These ten virtues are now ten aspects of the Young Women super-value Virtue.

I concede that “Virtue” is a much better name for a value than “Everything but the Kitchen Sink,” though not quite as catchy as “All-Around Awesomeness.” I would like to see a group of young ladies getting up in church each week and reciting the list of “Young Women values, which are Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice & Accountability, Good Works, Integrity, and Awesomeness.” That would be thrilling for at least a few weeks. [Read more…]

Virtue, Part One-Point-Seven-Five: Salad still unmade

Okay, thanks to super-commenter Matt W., whose link I have finally followed, I now have a more detailed explanation for what Virtue is in the YW context. And I can take back most of what I said before. Clearly it means more than just chastity. It also means “Miscellaneous.”

I don’t even need to write Part 2 now! Thanks, Matt!

Virtue, Part One & a Half: I’m busy today and don’t have a lot of time

However… [Read more…]

Virtue, Part One: More modesty, please

Depending on your personal circumstances and inclination to pay attention to stuff that goes on at church, you may or may not be aware that for the last twenty years the Young Women’s program has revolved around seven “Young Women values”: Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice & Accountability, Good Works, and Integrity. Each value has a corresponding color. Faith is white, Divine Nature is…blue…I think. I’m pretty sure Choice & Accountability is orange. I don’t know, I was on my way out of Young Women when they came up with this stuff, so I never really got around to mastering it. [Read more…]

Are Mormons Christians? Are Post Toasties corn flakes?

Years ago the following quiz used to run in Writer’s Digest:

Which of these is wrong?

1. Eating raw chicken.
2. Dating your sister.
3. “Rollerblading.”
4. All of the above.
[Read more…]

James Dobson is my homeboy

Between the Republican primary and Proposition 8, 2008 afforded us a lot of opportunities to ponder the wisdom of us Mormon folk joining forces with conservative evangelical Christians. “Broad faith coalitions” are all well and good, but do we really want to be getting in bed (so to speak) with people who think we’re going to hell? Shouldn’t that give us just a teensy bit of pause? [Read more…]

Review: Matters of the Mind: Latter-day Saint Helps for Mental Health

Got SAD?

Matters of the Mind: Latter-day Saint Helps for Mental Health (Ed. Marleen S. Williams, W. Dean Belnap, John P. Livingstone) gives an overview of just about every mental health issue one could think of, including diagnoses, various treatments, and spiritual supports. [Read more…]

In which I speak plainly, that ye may not err

So I’ve been blogging at BCC for, what, three months? About? Seems longer, doesn’t it? Anyway, now that 2008 is drawing to a close, I find myself reflecting on all the things I’ve done–which is less depressing than reflecting on all the things I haven’t done–and I’ve been musing on my experience of being plucked from blogging obscurity and thrust into the limelight of the flashy, fast-paced Bloggernaccle. I’ve discovered that with a larger reading audience comes a larger number of readers who don’t get what I’m saying at least half of the time–which is no knock on them, to be sure. No, I blame myself. It’s only upsetting because while I have always come off as kind of an idiot in real-life conversation, I’ve long been under the impression that I communicate pretty effectively in the written medium. It kind of sucks to find out otherwise. But this is how we grow. [Read more…]

Heaven, hell, and carrot stick people

You’ve heard it spoken (or read it written) that there are Iron Rods and Liahonas. In the spirit of oversimplifying the differences among believers, I submit that there are two types of religious people: those who are motivated to righteousness by hope for a better world to come, and those who are motivated by fear of a worse one. In other words, those who are looking forward to a better life in heaven, and those who are just doing their best to stay out of hell. I call these folks “Carrot People” and “Stick People.” I am a Stick Person.

I’d like to think that I do good because good is its own reward–which it is–but the fact is, most often I do good because when I don’t, I feel guilty. I don’t like feeling guilty. It’s uncomfortable, and I hate being uncomfortable. Also, there’s always hell. Hell is a bad place. I don’t want to go there.

[Read more…]

Mormon books and games: Good, clean fun–or abomination? (Or both?)

So a few weeks ago I got Deseret Book’s 2008 Fall Catalog in the mail. I’m not sure how we got on this mailing list, but since they’re not calling me on the phone and demanding my money, I’m going to accept it and move on. I couldn’t resist taking a peek, though, so I opened the catalog, and the first thing I saw was Alonzo L. Gaskill’s Odds Are, You’re Going To Be Exalted: Evidence That the Plan of Salvation Works. Now, I’m sure Brother Gaskill’s book is just fine. Not having read it, I can’t properly judge the value of its message or the delivery thereof. I suppose that technically I’m opposed to people banking on getting exalted. But really, it’s just the title that gives me pause. I’m not sure if I dislike it, exactly; deliberate or not, it has a certain kitschy appeal. I can almost hear Phil Hartman saying, “Hi, I’m Troy McClure. You might recognize me from such Mormon motivational films as Egads, They’ve Called Me to the Nursery! and Odds Are, You’re Going To Be Exalted.” [Read more…]

In which my gender essentialism turns on me

As I reported elsewhere, my son got baptized on Saturday. A very strange thing (for me) happened during the confirmation, when my husband called upon his fellow Melchizedek priesthood holders to join him in laying hands on our son: I experienced my first real taste of priesthood envy. [Read more…]

Baptism, dead or alive

My son got baptized on Saturday. He’s the second of my kids to be baptized, and hopefully he won’t come to regret it like his 10-year-old sister has. Aside from the fact that the organizers of this event thought it necessary to have two talks on the Holy Ghost instead of just one (aren’t these things long enough as it is?), it was a pretty good ordinance performance. (Do you like that? I almost said “ceremony,” but it didn’t sound kosher.) My younger son wanted to jump in the water with his brother afterward. He got as far as taking off his shoes, but then we had to move things along so that the next kid could have his sins washed away in a timely manner. [Read more…]

Everything I needed to know in life I learned from the Children’s Songbook

Today I got to be the substitute pianist in Primary. From the time I was eighteen, I served as a Primary pianist for about fifteen years, in several different wards. I’ve always thought Primary pianist is the best calling in the church. You get to experience all the energy and sweetness of working with children without actually really having to work with them. Minimal responsibility, maximum joy. (Of course, this is only true if you are a confident piano player. Piano players who lack confidence will find the Primary pianist calling torturous, as it involves quite a lot of piano playing.) However, I have not served as a Primary pianist (even as a substitute) in the almost-five years that I have been in my current ward. It was a tad embarrassing today when these songs I used to be able to play in my sleep proved rather…elusive to the old fingertips. Well, it was sort of like riding a bicycle in the end, and at least I didn’t hurt myself. I did enjoy the reminder of why I love Primary (at least from behind a piano). [Read more…]

Fasting and the accidental revelation

I am not a fan of fasting. I like my food. Still, I fast once a month on Fast Sunday. I didn’t when I was pregnant or nursing, which means that for about ten years I fasted maybe a grand total of six times. One of the reasons I was apprehensive about weaning my youngest was that I knew I would have to start fasting again, and boy-howdy, I do not like to fast. I was looking forward, however, to my husband not being the big fasting martyr of the house. That routine gets old–but I digress. [Read more…]

A blog post that drives a wagon close to the edge and possibly falls into the gorge below

I don’t like to complain—no, scratch that. I do like to complain, but I’m self-aware enough to realize that I shouldn’t be enjoying it. So believe me when I say that I’m sorry to be enjoying what I’m about to tell you, and I can only hope that once it’s off my chest, I will have it out of my system and the temptation won’t be as strong in the future. That’s how repentance works, right? Oh, wait.

Well, anyway… [Read more…]

Negotiating modesty (a series of random events)

A while back–maybe a year or two ago–my daughter came home with a new complaint about Primary: they were forcing her to sing songs about “touching private parts.” I asked her what on earth she was talking about, and it turned out that the offending song was “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” Get it? Because your shoulders are supposed to be covered–that makes them private. Okay, so we had a little talk about the difference between shoulder-type parts and actually-private parts. And here my troubles began. [Read more…]

You can’t say that in church!

It’s remarkable to me that I ever wrote a daily blog because this week has been a real challenge, so far as writing is concerned. Every time I sit down to type something, somebody starts tugging on my arm and demanding that I pour them some juice. I swear, if I had a nickel for every cup of juice I’ve poured in my caregiving career, I could afford to hire a full-time servant just to pour juice. And today, when it wasn’t the juice, it was my husband calling to say he’d forgotten his car keys and could I please bring them to him because he had an appointment. And then when I got there, he said he’d gotten a call from a friend of ours who was stranded in a parking lot with a dead battery and needed a ride home, so after I left the husband to his appointment-getting-to, I went and picked up the friend and dropped him home, and I’ve just now returned. It’s just one thing after another.

You know what this means, of course, all these obstacles standing between me and my blogging. It must be the work of the Adversary. Satan obviously does not want me to write this blog. Either that, or it’s the Spirit suggesting that I should spend less time on trivial pursuits and more on selfless service. Tough call, really. Golly, discernment is hard.

Which brings me to today’s topic. [Read more…]

My daughter and priestesscraft

My oldest daughter, who’s 10, doesn’t like church. It’s not a phase. She’s never liked church. Oh, she was more or less fine with it as a baby, but once she got to be about two, she just didn’t want much to do with it anymore. You know how cute it is when little kids will spontaneously bear testimony about how much they love Jesus and get all excited whenever they see the temple? Yeah, that’s not a shared experience. Those who read my personal blog will probably remember the story of my two-year-old princess throwing herself down before the chapel doors and screaming, “NO CHURCH! NO JESUS CHRIST!” I know I’ve told it more than once, but it’s just so perfectly representative of her history with religion. [Read more…]

The loneliness of the reluctantly orthodox Republican Mormon feminist

Here is our newest guest: Rebecca J. When prodded coerced to write a bio, she replies: “I’m a writer, a housewife and a lifelong Mormon. I have a personal blog, which I write under “madhousewife,” which is an homage to the Sue Kaufmann novel and not a commentary on my emotions. I used to be a journalist, but now I mostly write fiction, which has gleaned me mostly rejection (though I did recently move up to the hand-written rejections, which was nice). I have four kids, two of whom are toilet-trained (mostly). I also tap-dance–poorly, but with joy.” Welcome Rebecca!

As this is my first post for BCC, I feel obligated to break the ice somehow. I could make like I’m giving my first sacrament meeting talk in a new ward and say how I’m really nervous but so grateful for the opportunity and maybe tell the cute story of how I met Steve Evans, but that’s probably been done. I don’t know any jokes, either, so I guess I’ll just have to go straight into my prepared remarks.

Mormons love conversion stories. So do feminists. Mormon feminists must love conversion stories twice as much as anybody. A common Mormon feminist conversion story will tell how a naive, true-blue Mormon girl started out thinking feminism was for godless abortion-lovers and how over time she learned that feminism was merely the radical idea that women are people–oh, and also, that she could vote Democratic and still be a good Mormon. It’s less common to find a story about a Mormon woman who converts to feminism without converting to liberal politics in general, but certainly those stories are out there. It’s even less common to find a story of a Mormon feminist who started out as a liberal and converted to conservatism, while simultaneously diving headlong into the abyss of religious doubt. I am that lonely, prone-to-hyperbole Mormon feminist. [Read more…]


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