There’s a lot of buzz about our missionary work lately. The most obvious change, of course, is the age-requirement, and more specifically in allowing women to serve at 19. More has been written on the possible benefits of this change than I can touch on here, and it’s not my gist anyway. I want to talk about something else: I want to talk about the subtle shift in emphasizing not our unique Mormon-ness, but rather our basic similarities with broader Christendom. [Read more...]
Early Friday morning, Frances Beverly Monson passed away. Sister Monson was the beloved wife of President Monson, and the mother of their three children, Thomas, Ann and Clark. She met her husband in 1944 after he saw her perform in a production of “Hello Dolly”*, and one cannot help but fondly wonder how much this influenced his well-known love of musicals.
Sister Monson, the youngest of five children and only daughter, grew up in Salt Lake City. Like so many of her generation, growing up in the Depression influenced her and accorded her thrift and resourcefulness. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoyed math and science, which served her well in her accounting job, which she used to pay for college.
I look forward to General Conference. Since I joined the church almost eleven (!) years ago, I haven’t missed one. Like so many of us, I turn Conference weekend into a fun family thing. We cook all our favorite foods, have a picnic on the living room floor, the kids get to bring their blocks and toys downstairs and we all basically live in our pajamas and loll around listening to church. For eight hours. Yeah, I’d say my conversion is pretty complete. [Read more...]
Earlier this month, I wrote a post about women getting an education, and about how while our leaders encourage getting as much education as possible, we are culturally and ecclesiastically reinforced, as women, to often delay finishing our degrees and begin our child-bearing quite young. I pointed out how Utah has the largest gap in the nation between male and female college graduates, and this data is supported by the US Census, footnoted in the original post.
The comments were lively and interesting, and per normal on a blog discussion there was ample disagreement on some issues. One point, brought up more than a few times, was the idea women were not actually struggling with this anymore- that women were now fully encouraged to get their degrees, and that the church wasn’t pushing them into sacrificing their educations for the sake of marriage and of starting their families young.
I submit to you, from the 2013 March Ensign, The Right Time to Marry.
“It is so important that you young men and you young women get all of the education that you can. The Lord has said very plainly that His people are to gain knowledge of countries and kingdoms and of things of the world through the process of education, even by study and by faith.” 
Encouraging women to get an education is something our leaders do with frequency. It’s easy to find quotes from Presidents Hinckley, Monson and Benson, and from a myriad of apostles, and frankly, I believe them in their sincerity with this counsel. When you hit up the church websites, women are well represented in the text and in the photographs. [Read more...]
The other night, over dinner with friends, we got to talking about dating in the LDS world. The demographics at the table: two married (not to each other), and three never-married or divorced. Since my divorce over three years ago, I’ve written here and there on my adventures in the dating scene, or what I like to think of as the Pool of Perpetual Enforced Adolescence, which some LDS websites non-ironically and with a straight face, call “Celestial Dating”. [Read more...]
It’s no secret Mormons are great when it comes to rolling up our sleeves and helping. Our yellow vests and humanitarian aid trucks are known worldwide. In our wards many of us know the tender care of being loved through hard times. There are things we might miss the boat on, things that are hard reconcile sometimes, but there is little doubt when it comes to lifting where you stand, we rock.
The thing is, as the world gets smaller, the notion of where we actually ‘stand’ to do our lifting is also broadening. The community of Saints ready to lift with us was once our own neighborhood, our ward— and while a great deal of the love still comes via that conduit, I think the idea of a community of Saints is shifting, opening, walls are thinning and vistas are opening up. [Read more...]
Notes, commentary, and questions for LDS Sunday School teachers using the ‘Doctrine & Covenants and Church History’ manual.
Unlike the first installment for the 2013 Gospel Doctrine lessons (WVS’s Lesson 1), week two finds us already going slightly off the rails (that didn’t happen in anyone’s ward last week, did it?!) and skipping about chronologically. Instead of discussing a specific verse, we find Lesson Two instead lightly and somewhat gracefully flying over the text in a search for how the entirety of Doctrine & Covenants* testifies of Christ.
“Finally, the testimony that is given of Jesus Christ— his divinity, his majesty, his perfection, his love, and his redeeming power— makes this book of great value to the human family and of more worth than the riches of the whole earth.”
I’m not an historian, and I don’t even play one on this blog (though I’m surrounded)- so it’s seemly and certainly not coincidental that I nabbed the lesson in which not much (natch, any) history is addressed. There are others far, far better schooled than I, from whom we shall later drink deeply. What I can do is agree with the strongly voiced sentiment that the Doctrine & Covenants pretty much testifies everywhere of Jesus Christ. What we find in these pages at the back of our Standard Works is more than just a testimony. Throughout the 138 sections, we frequently find the voice of the Savior himself, and while we don’t ink his words in red, it’s very plain to listen and hear. [Read more...]
Melville was a bright boy. In his room he would devour calculus textbooks and dismantle the family electronics. Alone, his preferred state of being, he would sort through the neighbor’s junkyard of a car lot and take apart internal combustion motors and then build a forge for smelting shards of metal in his backyard. His mother was confused but unsure of what to do, and he would shrug her touch and affection, returning his nose to the texts that provided keys to his insatiable mind. Decades ago, there were not ready diagnostics for a child who with an aversion to social and physical contact, a dislike of strong smells and textures, a perceived unwillingness to communicate. He was so obviously smart, so willfully disobedient, he understood but refused to listen, he frustrated everyone. It was much easier to label him a bad kid, hopeless. The vocabulary of autism spectrum disorders being a fluent part of the public vernacular was still decades away— school in the 1970’s was a string of wretched situations and expulsions. [Read more...]
What a giant mess. As I approach the ten-year mark of my baptism, I realize more and more clearly that conversion is not a succinct pinpoint in time. It’s a grand, messy, ongoing, trying process. Becoming something aside from our easy, default self requires the constant renting of the shell we build around our hearts and selves, and the process is uncomfortable.
There is a lot I’m uncomfortable with in my Church. There is a lot I’m uncomfortable with in myself- but only one of those do I have any real power to change. That fact, in and of itself, is something I am uncomfortable with— the invisibility and institutional impotence of women in my church is something that causes me ongoing and continuous discomfort. The discourse of “modesty”, ad infinitum, makes me feel ill, particularly when I look at my own children. The constant and firmly entrenched conflation of the culture of my church with the Gospel of Christ creates an environment alienating to converts and infuriating at times. [Read more...]
The other day, an acquaintance said to me “I didn’t know Mormons could get divorced.” It stopped me short, but I recovered quickly. Yes, Mormons can and do get divorced. The general impression is that we do it with less frequency than the broader population, but if you look at the numbers, we are nearly equal. There is some discussion to be had on those numbers and how the Church counts them- a civil divorce is still a temple sealing, and a second temple marriage after a civil divorce counts as two marriages but if the first sealing was not broken, as zero divorces. Parse that out however you like, but it seems when the cold hard numbers are looked at, we are divorcing only slightly less than the non-Mormon population. [Read more...]
Sitting amid the mess of maple unit blocks and Lego pieces littering the living room floor Saturday afternoon, my ears perked up as they heard the opening words “My message is for the single parents in the Church, the majority of whom are single mothers.”
I admit, I had been murmuring that morning about craving a story about a single mom or woman who had been through hardships that didn’t end with the woman dying (nobly or not). Yes, all of our individual stories end with dying, but I sure would like to have some happy years interjected between the hardship of refinement and meeting my maker.
While Elder Baxter goes on to open his talk with familiar acknowledgement of how hard it is to be a single parent and the various paths that might have gotten us here, he also strikes a subtle but important difference right out of the box:
“Perhaps you have been widowed or divorced. You may be coping with the challenges of single-parenthood as the result of taking the wrong turn outside of marriage; but now live within the framework of the Gospel, having turned your life around.” [Read more...]
O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.
My youngest child was four months old when life started to unravel. The prescription from the dentist that made my stomach hurt- but made my husband float away- turned into the loss of jobs, homes, security, marriage, and a hot five and half year burn. There were times I thought I could not lift my head another day- and truthfully, there were days I didn’t. Looking at the ground made it easier to not acknowledge anything beyond my breathing. In and out. Keep going. If I don’t look up, I won’t falter. [Read more...]
Visiting Teaching was something I found especially charming as a new convert. It was novel and sweet- having two women, friendly and attentive- drop by my house each month to share something thoughtful was a soothing balm. As a new mother, relocated a thousand miles from my old friends and support system, I really loved the kindness those women showed. In retrospect, I think they were even sincere. Mostly.
But then the shine wore off. The sisters I thought were genuinely interested, thought genuinely cared, were assigned to someone else. The visits stopped. It was the tiniest bit shocking to realize I had been an assignment. The warmth I felt at the charm of Visiting Teaching dulled just a bit. It was a surprise when I realized what life-long Mormons understand- Visiting Teachers change, and no matter how we spin it, it is, in fact, a duty. Is that bad? Perhaps not. [Read more...]
Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a Mormon. In important ways, I have experienced my chosen faith as Christ is recorded saying in Luke- “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, nay… The father shall be divided against the son; the mother against the daughter…” (Luke 12:51, 53) I wonder at what cost I’ve made the choices I’ve made. Then I remember- despite all of our talk about agency and choice, once you’ve had your eyes opened, you cannot doubt any longer. But don’t think for a minute I don’t entertain the idea now and then…
No, I haven’t seen an angel, and I claim nothing divine, other than my own soul. But this is what my family has never understood: joining this faith wasn’t a choice. Not really. I would have had to deny what I knew as the truth of life and walk away from all integrity and honestly in my heart. Were I to have chosen my family the day I was told to either “be a Mormon or be a daughter, but you cannot be both”, I would have denied Christ. And for me, that was, and continues to be, simply not a choice. [Read more...]
Nine years ago today, I waded down into warm blue tiled font while my wiggly baby watched from his dad’s arms, and my husband’s uncle recited the simple yet beautiful prayer and submersed me in the waters of baptism. I have little recollection of right before other than warmth, and I cannot for the life of me tell you what we did as a family afterwards- I assume food was involved. But what I do recall vividly is the feeling of rising up out of that water. It was fleeting, like a hummingbird on a flower, but it was a moment of singular perfection. The perfection lay not in me, but around me- bathing me, for the briefest moment, in what I can only call the light of heaven. I knew there would be no perfection for me in this moral veil of flesh- not ever- but I was given the barest glimpse of the potential.
In the nearly decade since then, the seasons have passed over my fields, sowing and harvesting, adding babies, death, loss and taking what I thought was going to be one life and instead giving me a whole new one. The husband is gone, children are growing, and I haven’t yet figured out what kind of blossoms that new life will bear, but it’s sprouting and finding out will be fun. My faith has matured, and I understand full-well how fragile and human our hands are as we endeavor to do good in the world, to show mercy and tenderness to our sisters and brothers. [Read more...]
It’s cold comfort when, as a faithful Saint in a situation outside the ideal, you get repeated platitudes about everything being better… after you die. If you’re a sister who is righteous, you will find a husband… after you die (Though Steve P’s scientific demographics cause one to wonder.) If your children are not sealed to you, it will be worked out… after you die. If you have questions that you simply cannot resolve in the hallway outside Releif Society where you sit crying yet again, never fear sister, you can ask the Lord… after you die.
I have to admit, it was with this ever-so-slight tinge of bitterness that I began listening to Elder Quentin L. Cook’s talk in the Sunday session of General Conference. Oh no, please…not again. Perhaps it was time to go start the breakfast dishes? Or build another block tower with the kids? Yet there I sat, in my sunbeam on the couch, perhaps from laziness, and I forgot about hiding in the kitchen. I was rewarded as I listened to an apostle of the Lord address me in a way I found surprisingly candid and valuable. [Read more...]
We have a lot of platitudes. We have things we say as Latter-day Saints that might be unique to our own speaking patterns and vernacular. It took me years of being a member before I had the gist of some of them- I wondered for several months who Bishop Rick was, and I’m still unsure what the Activity Girls are doing or where their ages fall.
Church has become a minefield of platitudes and unintentional hurt lately. Aside from furthering the wounds by insisting if I am offended, the fault lies with me, I thought it might be cathartic to jot down a few ideas on how to make a divorced or otherwise less-than-perfect member feel welcomed and loved. [Read more...]
Growing up in a family of California hippies, I saw a lot a barely-clad bodies. It was not at all unusual to see my parents fresh from the shower, or even their friends swimming naked in the lake where we would vacation in the summer. I recall many a bath in the galvanized apple tub at the family farm- the only order was the dirtiest kids went last- with our moms waiting to wrap our slippery naked bodies in terry towels and sit by the fire before being tucked off to bed.
We were taught about inappropriate touching and respecting others, but those lessons were never tied to our clothes or our nakedness. It was perfectly normal to see a friend’s mother breastfeeding out in the open- there were no blankets draped over babies heads or removing oneself to another room- or, unimaginable, a bathroom- the mothers simply fed their babies. [Read more...]
Once upon a time, I dabbled in a a lot of things. One of the things I dabbled in was the earth religions with a fascination in paganism and the occult. Don’t freak out- it’s not a big deal- and there is, like in any religion, good things to be mined. I learned a lot from my time drawing circles in the backyard and paying attention to the seasonal cycles. I have long since given away most of my tools, but still retain my cast iron cauldron and athame (a ceremonial knife), packed carefully in a box in the garage. This stuff doesn’t freak me out one bit- and people who equate paganism with the Christian devil are simply uninformed.
The solstice is one of four cardinal holidays in paganism. The two solstices, winter and summer, when daylight is at it’s greatest, and least, respectively. And the two equinoxes, when the daylight and the night are balance in perfect equilibrium. There are four minor holidays equally spread between the four cardinal: Imbolc, Beltaine, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. All holidays are calibrated to the grand cycles of the Earth orbiting the sun, and the procession of the season. All symbols used in these faiths are tied to the symbols of the season and the cycles of birth and death as seen in the procession of the seasons. It’s actually quite beautiful. [Read more...]
This being a single mama in the LDS church is turning out to be a lot harder than I thought it was gonna be. Don’t get me wrong- this is my church, and I know that I belong here– but boy, if I didn’t come into this thing with a rock-solid testimony, this whole new world might have broken me. It’s no secret we are a family-centered church- I suppose a lot of churches are- maybe all of them try to be. I don’t know. We may give lip-service in random talks or conference addresses to non-traditional families, but when it comes down to brass tacks? It’s just lip service. The actual facts of being a divorced woman with three kids in the LDS church are hard and sharp. And I’m tired. [Read more...]
Everyone swears their cinnamon rolls are the best, but they’re deluded. Mine are. (Well, with the possible exception of Brad’s mom.) These cinnamon rolls are the closest thing you’re ever going to make at home to the real deal. I say that with absolute certainty and calm. They. Are. It. I’ve held this recipe close to the bone for a long time, folks, but I will divulge the secret:
That’s right, you make the rolls with vanilla pudding as your primary liquid. (get out your food storage pudding!) That, and a lot of butter. I have no idea what the nutritional breakdown is, but to be on the safe side, and out of kindness to your heart, I suggest making them only 2 or 3 times a year. Without further ado, I give you… [Read more...]
Last night I had the chance to go to the temple, and I grabbed it. For the rare BCC reader not Mormon, the temple is not a place for our weekly services, but is instead a special “House of the Lord” where we go for additional teaching, learning and to perform services for our ancestors. It’s a place we hold sacred and its somewhere we can retreat to when we are needing guidance, answers to prayers, or just to feel closer to God. Not all Mormons go to the temple, but a great many of us do- myself included- and I love living close enough to one that I can pop in on a few moments notice. [Read more...]
Our ward talent show was tonight, and was yet another reminder of the imperfectness of my little bedraggled family. Yeah, yeah, I know the platitudes- we’re all imperfect, if we could see them not on Sunday, everyone has problems and we’d all pick our own back from the collective pile given the choice, etc etc etc… I’ve heard them all, and know there are grains of truth in every platitude. Yet there it is, right in my face, the litany of perfect smiling families on parade.
We are many things, my three children and I- but mostly we are battle-scarred and tender around the edges still, a year and half beyond divorce. While it may be unpopular to say, I do believe divorce doesn’t have to always be catastrophic- if both parents can rise above pettiness, children can still thrive with two parents who love them, even if those parents aren’t married to each other anymore. Unfortunately, this isn’t the straw we drew. [Read more...]
My son told me he hated me tonight. My oldest child– the child who split my soul wide open and cut a chasm into the wilderness of motherhood, the child who introduced me to God and allowed my bright tears to fall on his fiery copper hair while he was still wet and folded and trailing the scent of heaven– told me he hated me.
It doesn’t matter why– it was trivial and meaningless– and it was selfish the way only a child secure in the love of his mother can express. Even as part of me recoiled at his vehemence, I could recognize what was happening. I leaned on the doorjamb as he glowered over his scowled brow at me, using his stocking feet to shove the messy piles of Legos and dog-eared Calvin & Hobbes paperbacks littering the floor around his bed. [Read more...]
These are the best hours of the whole year. Not the chaos and hoopla and clatter of joyful children that come with dawn’s first light- while those are wonderful too- what I love most is the soft, pregnant richness of Christmas Eve.
The babies are settled into their beds, tucked in for the tenth time already, their eyes sparkling with anticipation and their teeth chattering with excitement. Sleep won’t come quick for them- but then, neither will it for parents tonight. The house settles down, the old timbers creek and familiar sounds come to rest for the night.
Tomorrow, we will have tired eyes as we follow the bounding bundles of childhood down our curving staircase to see what surprises await- and that is its own type of joy. But for now, I relish the quiet. I relish the solitude, when I can take a few moments and think of what a blessing my life is, how richly the Lord has shed his light in my life, and how profoundly grateful I am for this ultimate gift- finding faith and knowing Jesus Christ. [Read more...]
This last Saturday, I was invited to take part in a panel on Alternative Latter-day Saint Families. After struggling to figure out how exactly a single mother was alternative, I prepared the following remarks. Most of this was not used in the panel discussion, and we instead talked about my son and his preference for wearing tutus. Go figure.
It’s Saturday morning in November. It’s unclear if the sound of rain gurgling down the gutters wakes me, or if it’s the cold little feet of my daughter under my side as she flops sleepily, arms akimbo, in the pre-dawn light. When I fell asleep to the muted monologue of Letterman, I was alone in my bed, but as happens so often now, I wake with one or several little people pushing on my warmth and needing their mama. [Read more...]
At church that week, I had grabbed a faded pink copy of a book called Gospel Principles. At that point, when I picked up that book, all I was certain of was that God was real. Some indescribable experiences gave me the gift of certainty- and I absolutely considered that certainty a gift. I flipped through the book idly, and finally decided to actually read. [Read more...]
Several lifetimes ago in Southern California, I found myself listening to a lecture on abstract expressionism. My professor was a painter from west Africa. He wore colorful dashikis with large bone necklaces, spoke with a musical cadence that combined with the droning summer fans and aromatic paints made his class enchanting. He pushed us- he could tell if we were playing it safe. Most of us students were accustomed to praise, and the first time he threw one of my works in the trash and told me to leave if I wasn’t serious, I was stung, umbraged, offended- and deep down, under the pride, I knew he was right. He didn’t want art from privileged kids who had been petted for their talent all their lives- everyone at that school was talented- he wanted to teach us to be fearless. How to examine our motives, to tear away our safety nets, and build our own wings as we were falling.
Which brings me to Jackson Pollock. If a person knows nothing about modern art, they know Jackson Pollock. And almost everyone has heard someone exclaim, as they look at a Pollock: “My [small child of various bladder control ability] could paint that.” One day a student in Mr. West Africa’s class made the mistake of making just such a statement. Fury sparked, and he turned on the student. Paraphrasing, because this was nearly 20 years ago, he said: [Read more...]
First, when making pickles, you must have the perfect pickle recipe. Along with David Bednar, I too happen to have one- it’s my great-grandmother’s recipe, from many a hot Iowa summer, written in my grandfather’s own hand, which somehow makes it cooler than cool, and guaranteed to make magic pickles. It’s also helpful to have a wooden-yellow-handled vintage pickle cutter. Helpful, but not necessary. Cooler, but everyone will live if your poor pickles have straight sides. They’ll feel sorry for you, but they’ll still like your pickles. [Read more...]