Financial Planning for Children With Disabilities

Hoffer family pictureWe’re honored to have a guest post from Stephanie Hoffer. Stephanie is a professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. She is an educator, a scholar, and an advocate, and arguably the preeminent authority on the ABLE Act. We’re excited that she’s agreed to introduce us to this important new law.

My son George is a bright shining star. He is almost five, and he loves to read out loud, play the harmonica, and paint. He also happens to have Down Syndrome. He is smart, funny, and loving, and I can’t imagine life without him. I am grateful every day for the privilege of being his mom. And like any other mom of any other child, I worry every day about his future.

Our life with George hasn’t always been easy. On the day that he was born, a social worker came to our hospital room and told me that we should do two things right away: apply for Medicaid and write George out of our will. I was stunned. I choked back the inevitable tears and asked why. “Because,” she replied, “they are really expensive.” Stung by the label “they,” and hurt by the thought of not being able to save for my precious baby’s future, I asked her to please leave.  [Read more…]

Speaking of the well-being of children…

By now I’m sure many of you have read the heartrending account by a mother whose 3-month-old son died just hours after she had left him in a day-care center so that she could return to work. [Read more…]

To Be Perfectly Honest . . .

Honesty is cool.

In Gospel Doctrine this week, the class discussion revolved around how we can be more honest, and the subtle forms of dishonesty that creep into our lives.  According to one study [1], 10% of communication in marriage is dishonest.  Another study showed that 38% of interactions between college students were deceptive [2].  And as we all know, 83% of statistics are made up [3].  Why do people lie?  Does everyone do it?  How can we be more honest?

“It’s not a lie if you believe it!”  George Costanza [4]

[Read more…]

Uchtdorf at the Women’s Session: Something for Everyone #ldsconf

The silver fox is my animal spirit guide at General Conference.

Pres. Uchtdorf, aka the “Silver Fox” as he is known in my ward and probably everywhere else, hit yet another home run in the Women’s Session, batting clean up for the three female speakers.  He opens with:

Today, I too have a story to share. I invite you to listen with the Spirit. The Holy Ghost will help you to find the message for you in this parable.

He shares the story of an 11 year old girl named Eva who did not want to go to live with her Great-Aunt Rose.   [Read more…]

My family: a proclamation to the world

My Facebook feed tells me it’s the 20-year anniversary of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, so I thought it would be appropriate to write something about the family. I’ve been thinking a lot about the family lately. My family, I mean. (What family were you thinking of?) It’s been eighteen years and four months since Brother J and I started the family, and I guess this is as good a time as any to let you all know how it’s going.

The good:

Everyone is finally toilet trained. Which is pretty impressive, considering our youngest is only nine. (She was actually the prodigy of the family, fully trained both day and night at four and a half. We thought of having her tested for giftedness, but we were too busy enjoying our diaper-free lifestyle to get around to it.)

No one is pregnant. Especially not me.

Everyone is capable of sitting quietly in sacrament meeting. They don’t even need snacks. (Unless Tic Tacs count as snacks, in which case, screw you, at least it’s not an iPad.) In the event that one of them is incapable of sitting quietly in sacrament meeting, she is capable of removing herself to the foyer. Okay, sometimes I have to give her a little nudge. Or shove, if you will. But I don’t have to pick her up and carry her out anymore, which is awesome because although she’s short for her 17 years, she’s still way too big for me to lift. [Read more…]

Survey: Defending the Family and Parental Leave

[Note: there’s a link to a survey at the end. But if you don’t want to wade through the post first, you can access the survey here.]

I’d been practicing law for about a year when my first daughter was born; when she was born, my law firm offered one week of paid paternity leave. A couple years later, when my second was born, it had upped its paid paternity leave to four weeks.[fn1] (It offers 18 weeks of paid leave for primary caregivers, and up to another 18 weeks of unpaid leave.)  [Read more…]

Manufactured Prejudice

Last year, a commenter stated that in his stake at a recent meeting with a Q&A session with a general authority, two of the seven questions asked were how to get youth to accept the church’s stance on homosexuality. [1]  This is a question that I have wondered about myself as a mother of teens who likewise don’t agree that homosexuality is the dire threat the church portrays. They have been consistently taught in school that being gay is innate and acceptable, that gay kids should be treated with respect, and that bullying will not be tolerated and is morally wrong. [2]  As a result of the world in which they live, they do not inherently feel homosexuality is shameful, and they have friends in school who openly self-identify as gay.  This is a pretty big change from the era in which I was raised and an even bigger change from when older generations were raised. [Read more…]

Thunder in Paradise

Hot Hot Hot

Mr. Smith knows a thing or two about heat. (source)

It’s been really hot here in Vienna. Like hottest-month-ever-recorded hot. By the end of this week, Vienna will have seen more “desert days” (temperatures above 35°C/95°F) in 2015 (15) than in the previous ten years together (14). Despite all this record breaking, however, air conditioning is still rare (back in the good (and not so) old days you didn’t really need it, plus it’s widely believed to be unhealthy). So once the thick brick walls of your fin de siècle apartment heat up–even sooner for those inhabiting less substantial modern structures–the only escape from the heat is to one of many outdoor swimming pools or more rustic bathing areas along the Danube. [Read more…]

Defining the Family

MinifigFamily01If you were asked in a church setting to define the family, how would you respond?

Probably you’d go to the Proclamation on the Family. It implies that the family is a husband and wife with children.

But in the 2016 Elder’s Quorum/Relief Society President curriculum, President Howard W. Hunter defines it a bit more broadly:

“In seeking after the welfare of individuals and families, it is important to remember that the basic unit of the Church is the family. However, in focusing on the family, we should remember that in the world in which we live families are not restricted to the traditional grouping of father, mother, and children. Families in the Church today also consist of [husbands and wives] without children, single parents with children, and single individuals living alone. … Each of these families must receive priesthood watch care. Often those which may need the most careful watch care are those families of the non-traditional structure. Caring and committed home teachers are needed in each home. None should be neglected.” [Read more…]

The Best Defense is a…Middle-Market Newspaper Article from 2004

Prince Carl-Philip and Princess Sofia believe in binding ties.  (source)

Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Stockholm over a long weekend, and the city was positively abuzz with marriage. Sure, there was the royal wedding featuring Prince Carl Philip, Duke of Värmland, and Sofia Hellqvist that weekend, which drew much interest and caused parts of the city to be shut down for the festivities. But the ado about weddings wasn’t limited to the hustle and bustle of rubbernecking tourists and television crews in the inner city—that same day Stockholm’s famous Skansen outdoor museum hosted a drop-in wedding. A drop-in what, you say? Well, follow me like a leopard and find out: [Read more…]

Mormons in a Post-Obergefell World

A few thoughts I’ve had about living in a post-Obergefell world:

The first thing: the decision, on a practical level, doesn’t change anything for most of us. It certainly doesn’t for me. And I don’t say that because I’m straight. I live in Illinois, where same-sex marriage was instituted legislatively over a year ago. The only substantive difference Obergefell makes in Illinois is that couples who marry here don’t stop being married when they move to Indiana. And, as Cynthia pointed out, the vast majority of Mormons are in a similar boat: most of us (in the U.S., anyway) live in places where same-sex marriage was just as legal on June 25 as it was on June 26[Read more…]

Tax Exemption, Post-Obergefell

… will look a lot like tax exemption, pre-Obergefell.

There’s been a lot of Sturm und Drang recently over what will happen to the tax exemptions of churches and religiously-affiliated schools that oppose same-sex marriage. The specter of loss of exemption has been bandied about, not just by tax-illiterate bloggers, but by major media sources. (Heck, I looked at the question prior to the decision.)

So could the church or BYU lose its tax exemption as a result of their policies on homosexuality?  [Read more…]

The Women’s Pull

Some of our groups had only 4 girls, and the carts had metal on them and were very heavy.

Our stake just completed its first ever Pioneer Trek activity.  In our fast & testimony meeting this weekend, most of the speakers talked about their experiences as leaders or participants.  I would have thought these contrived experiences wouldn’t be as touching as they were, but some of their experiences were moving and instructive. [Read more…]

Recap of “Of One Body: The State of Mormon Singledom”

Audio recordings of talks from the symposium are available here, with video of Clayton Christensen’s plenary here. Symposium organizers Matt Bowman and Sharon Harris share their thoughts below in a mock interview. We are glad to welcome them once again as guests at BCC.

On May 16, we held a symposium in New York City. Called “Of One Body: The State of Mormon Singledom.” It was designed not as a typical Mormon singles conference (planned to encourage flirting and courtship), but as a serious discussion about the growing numbers of single Mormons and the falling rates of marriage within Mormonism. Both of these trends reflect broad patterns in American culture, but we wanted to discuss what they mean for Mormons in particular. We invited a number of speakers: In the introduction Matt Bowman outlined these demographic trends and talked about the meaning of the title (drawn from the apostle Paul). Sharon Harris discussed the history of singles wards. Clayton Christensen offered thoughts on how we think about the place of single people in the Church. A panel of those in leadership callings gave their perspectives on working with single people in their flock. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife talked about the law of chastity and how singles of a wide variety of ages grapple with it, and Kristine Haglund delivered a closing homily on the place of single people in the body of Christ. We are grateful to the Manhattan stake for its sponsorship.
[Read more…]

Vestigial Polygamy

The church officially—and in fact—ended its experiment with polygamy more than a century ago.

Yet polygamy and its effects remain with us today. And no, I’m not talking about D&C 132; we’ve officially read polygamy out of the the section, replacing it with our modern concept of eternal (monogomous) marriage.

What I’m talking about is the fact that a man (and, in certain limited circumstances, a woman) can be sealed to more than one person, and that those additional sealings can and do happen without the consent of the first sealed spouse.  [Read more…]

Pioneer Day Tips for Mormon Muggles & Mudbloods

Attention muggles:

We recognize that you don’t have amazing magical families like so many of us do, but we are still glad you are here at Hogwarts [1].  Some of you have demonstrated real promise on your Newts and Owls despite your lack of inherited magical blood! [Read more…]

MHA Preview: Notes toward Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s Presidential Address

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich has kindly shared with us a preview of her Presidential Address, “Runaway Wives 1840-60,” to be delivered next weekend at the Mormon History Association conference in Provo. In 1995, Ulrich joined the history department at Harvard University, where she is now 300th Anniversary University Professor. Register here for the conference if you haven’t already.

Abstract: In the nineteenth century, stories about wives fleeing the wrath of drunken or abusive husbands filled the pages of novels, divorce petitions, and temperance, health reform, and women’s rights literature. Similarly harrowing tales became a staple in anti-Mormon campaigns. One oft-repeated story claimed that in 1855 a hundred women, single and married, fled Utah with departing federal troops in order to escape the horrors of polygamy.   Situating Mormon and anti-Mormon stories within the large genre of runaway wife tales allows us to understand broader changes in nineteenth-century concepts of marriage, women’s rights, and the law.

[Read more…]

Defending the family by exploring changing gender roles

Recently, at the General Women’s Session of April Conference, several talks where given on the theme of “defending the family.” There have been a number of responses to this session already (including two very good ones here at BCC), so we can safely say that this is a topic that has been covered. So, why bother talking about it some more? Because I think that I have found, hiding inside President Bonnie Oscarson’s talk, a message regarding marriage and family that is practically progressive in its outlook. [Read more…]

Of One Body: The State of Mormon Singledom

We’re pleased to promote this event planned by friends of the blog Sharon Harris and Matt Bowman (bios below), and featuring our own Kristine Haglund.

smaller title

This is not your regular singles conference. While singles conferences have adopted more educational, service-oriented, and think-tank approaches in recent years—with Silicon Valley, Boston, and Northern Virginia singles conferences as notable examples—most of the time the idea of a singles conference conjures up either the spring break vibe of hundreds of singles scoping each other out at Duck Beach or the awkwardness of singles getting together in a gym to try to meet a special someone while dancing and drinking fruit punch. Basically, singles conferences revolve around creating situations in which singles are encouraged to meet, flirt, and date, and that underlying motive often seeps into all the other activities. [Read more…]

Sis. Burton’s Boy Crazy Talk #ldsconf

Finally!  A talk about something I love:  men.  As a person who has sometimes struggled with opposite sex attraction, I can relate.  In The Sound of Music, the Baroness von Whatsername wisely said there was nothing more attractive to a man than a woman who was in love with him, so right now, Sis. Burton is looking pretty good. [Read more…]

Elder Perry: World Religion vs. Religion of “The World”

Elder Perry’s talk reflects on his visit to the Colloquium on Marriage and Family held at the Vatican last November. This event gathered representatives of 14 different faiths—and as such, the participation of Church leaders raises once again the question of whether Mormonism is a world religion. Elder Perry does not address this question directly, but his use of the word “world” in ways that both harmonize with and run counter to usual LDS usage suggests that answer might be “yes,” albeit not for reasons we might usually suppose. [Read more…]

Can members support same-sex marriage and remain in good standing?

Taking a cue from Doctrine and Covenants 6:28, I thought I’d pull together and transcribe some of the recent discussions about whether or not members can support same-sex marriage and still remain in good standing.

And, if you need it, here is a temple-recommend, wallet-sized printable that you may want to laminate for easy reference:


Now for the longer versions of the answer to the post title. [Read more…]

Family History Road Trip

We caught up with the wagon train at the California Trial interpretive center.

We caught up with the wagon train at the California Trail interpretive center.

I live in Vienna while the rest of my side of the family remains scattered across the western United States. Thanks to a confluence of favorable factors, we are able to make an annual visit to the old homestead each year for several weeks, which has led to a tradition of a trip within a trip–we fly home, spend about a week moving from couch to couch paying our respects, then take a week to be tourists and travel somewhere I never got around to visiting while growing up , and wrap things up by cooling our heels at the parental roost for a few days.

[Read more…]

Temple Prep for Daughters: Brace Yourself

This post is an honest and personal admission of my raw feelings about attending the temple as a woman and my budding concerns as the mother of a daughter. [Read more…]

Some Thoughts on Apologies

Nor with a caveat.

There has been a lot of talk about apologies lately.  First E. Oaks, channeling Fox News or possibly Clint Eastwood, claimed that the church neither seeks nor gives apologies [1], prompting a lot of discussion about what constitutes an apology, and whether or not the church should apologize to gay people for their ostracism and mistreatment throughout the years. [Read more…]

“Wholesome” Recreational Activities

Good clean family fun. Until grandpa’s ruthlessness emerged.

Nearly from its inception, the Proclamation to the World has been a controversial document as people have different ideas about how to have a successful marriage and family when God only approves of one way [1].  At the heart of this controversy:  so-called wholesome recreational activities.  Just what is a wholesome recreational activity? [Read more…]

Transcending Mere Toleration in November’s Friend Magazine?

York Minster, the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe (source:

York Minster, the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe (source:

November’s Friend Magazine has a remarkable entry that cultivates an attitude transcending mere Toleration in favor of genuinely accepting the religious pluralism that is essential for true religious freedom to exist in democratic societies. That is, the article takes the step from Toleration, or merely tolerating the differences around us (in the case of the Friend essay, religious difference), as the lowest common denominator necessary for a free society to accepting and even appreciating people’s differences on their own terms. Such a perspective strengthens the robust and beneficial pluralism that the Church has argued before the European Court of Human Rights “has been dearly won over the centuries” and is “indissociable from a democratic society.”[1] [Read more…]

Revisiting the Idea of Stronger Marriages

We’re grumpy, but attractive.

In September, I blogged about The Myth of Traditional Marriage, reviewing studies from Stephenie Coontz’ book Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage.  As a follow up, I wanted to explore how we as Mormons can build stronger marriages.

The world is changing, and if we want to strengthen marriages, we need to deal with the reality that exists.  A few things have drastically changed in the last fifty years.   [Read more…]

Choices, Choices

I’ve been reflecting a lot on E. Quentin Cook’s talk called “Choose Wisely.”  This was the opening talk of the Priesthood session, so I suppose that makes me not the target audience, and yet it’s clearly a talk with universal application. [1]  I won’t let that stop me.

E. Cook begins by talking about the problems when we rationalize our failures to act heroically.  He uses the example of Lucy not catching the ball in the Peanuts comic strips.

While always humorous, Lucy’s excuses were rationalizations; they were untrue reasons for her failure to catch the ball.

He then goes on to talk about the eternal ramifications when we rationalize our failure to prepare for our eternal goals. [Read more…]

The Sacrament of Friendship

It seems to me that one of the major challenges of the 21st century involves figuring out how to be present to other people. Technology has given us so many ways of connecting with others, but with these opportunities come some obstacles as well. Part of the value of social media is the way that it can help us keep connected regularly with distant friends, but these connections can often be fairly shallow. For that person who sat across the room from you in middle school math class, this might be okay, but with closer friendships it can feel like a hollowed-out version of something once solid. And in rare cases, social media can foster real friendships with people we’ve never met in real life. Conversely, social media and other forms of technological connection can distance us from the people with whom we are (or ought to be) present all the time, especially our families. Given Joseph Smith’s teachings about friendship as “the grand fundamental principle of Mormonism” and about the eternal potential of family relationships, I believe that figuring out how to be present to other people is a pretty powerful theological imperative. In a recent post I thought about these questions in terms of heaven; for this post, I turn to the here and now. [Read more…]


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