Real People sin

I was reminded recently that there is a folk belief amongst us Saints that I find particularly pernicious. It isn’t something that comes up all that frequently in Sunday School, but I’ve encountered it in more than one Mormon forum, usually whispered to emphasize the sacred and deep-doctrine status of said belief. I’m also hesitant to bring it up here, because it relies on temple language for its authority. But it occurred to me that people might want to use it to comfort or counsel people who are upset with the gender imbalance in the church. I’m convinced that it will only make things worse if used for this purpose.

The belief is this: Women are automatically saved to the celestial kingdom by divine decree. [Read more…]

Drowning in Modesty Guidelines at Girls Camp

Trying out for a role in The Boyfriend? No, just packing for Girls Camp.

Marcel Proust said: “People wish to learn to swim and at the same time to keep one foot on the ground.” That seems an apt description of the Girls Camp and Youth Conference modesty guidelines for Young Women that have emerged in some wards and stakes.

I have heard a few stories on the internet over the last few years about wards and stakes who have created increasingly onerous dress requirements for the YW, including at girls-only events like Girls Camp as well as Youth Conferences.  I naturally assumed this was a handful of crackpots in isolated areas trying to out-righteous each other for scraps of praise until last week when my sister-in-law shared with me that her stake is now requiring all girls to wear both a tee shirt and knee length shorts over their one-piece swimsuit to swim–at Girls Camp!* [Read more…]

For the Strength of YOUth

In a recent post, frequent commenter Ardis noted her experience with the standards of the church that have been pushing similar themes since the mid-1960s.  This reminded me of a post I did elsewhere noting some of the “timeless standards” from the 1965 pamphlet.

There is a new trend in the church to elevate the For the Strength of Youth standards to something that should be applied to all members, not just the youth.  I’ve experienced first hand and heard online from others that local wards have reviewed the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and standards with the adults, explaining that it applies to them as well.  In our Singapore stake, this was presented in a talk called “For the Strength of YOU.”  What’s behind this trend?  Here are some possible theories: [Read more…]

BYU’s Honor Code and Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment

No cap sleeves, slit one inch above knee. Come to daddy!

Does the BYU honor code create or discourage sexual harassment?  Does the increasingly stringent focus on female modesty create or discourage objectification of women?  In both cases, women are often singled out and approached by total strangers who feel it’s acceptable to make comments on their appearance.  In the work place, this behavior may constitute creating a hostile work environment.  At BYU, we call it standing valiantly for right.

In employment law, hostile environment sexual harassment refers to a situation where employees in a workplace are subject to a pattern of exposure to unwanted sexual behavior . . . It is distinguished from quid pro quo sexual harassment, where a direct supervisor seeks sexual favors in return for something . . . courts have . . . recognized hostile environment as an actionable behavior since the late 1980s. [Read more…]

Laying on of hands and other new church history website content

imagesI don’t know if you are following all the new releases on the JSP and Church History websites, but much of it is completely fascinating. For instance, did you see this story about “A Bit of Old String: Mary Whitmer’s Unheralded Contributions” by my favorite historian ever? Add it to your files about women in church history.

And then there’s this new entry  within the topic section of the Joseph Smith Papers site: [Read more…]

Female Garments: The Underwear Business

knee length shorts – good today, bad tomorrow

The history of garments is complex.  At one time they were made by members from patterns.  The marks used to be cut rather than embroidered.  And modifications to the styles have been made on several occasions, particularly changing the styles for women to feminize them and make them more practical (elbow and knee length vs. wrist and ankle, also the change to two-piece).  The church has made changes so that they fit better, so that women have more options, to allow those serving in the military to wear them, and to use new fabrics as they’ve become available.

And yet, despite all these changes, many women find garments problematic at one time or another for a variety of reasons.  On the positive side, women report finding garments spiritually comforting, a reminder of their covenants.  Many also appreciate the lack of visible panty lines (at least not where you expect to see them!).  I appreciate both of these things myself.  Some women consider them to be very comfortable, particular for lounging around the house.  But I have also experienced many of the drawbacks women discuss when only other women are present. [Read more…]

Dichotomy of My Faith

Trigger Warning: the following post contains frank discussion of childhood trauma induced by another and the aftermath. This is a trigger warning as well as general warning to those who may feel uncomfortable with the subject matter.

Edgar-Degas-Blue-Dancers-15496.jpg_thumbI was raped and sexually abused by a next door neighbor as a very young child. He threatened to kill me and my family if I told. I say this only to put this post into the context of my lived experience.

The problem with chewed gum, worn shoes, licked cupcakes, crushed roses and sticky candy (none of these lessons I’ve ever actually been taught) have been discussed enough here,  here,  here,   here, herehere,  here, here,  lots of times here,  here and a million other places. These lessons are terrible in their own right and hurt women and girls in real ways. However I reject the notion that without these lessons rape victims would feel a sense of self and worth and cry out, fight back, and be whole.

Little girls in Bangladesh feel worthless and unwanted after rape without lessons of chewed gum, licked cupcakes and Jesus. In a matter of moments rape sucks every drop of self-will out of you. In that moment of compulsion, God granted self-determination no longer exists. Your body is beholden to the violence and lust of another. There is nothing you can do and it changes you forever. You wonder if you have any choices at all. You wonder if you will ever be able to act—or will only be acted upon, dependant on the mercy of merciless.

You replay it over and over and try to stop it, to fix it. You can’t, but you keep trying. You wonder why God let it happen, and you are told it’s because of agency-and you pretend you still have yours. The truth is religion can be very harmful. My own religion can be very harmful. [Read more…]

Worst Mormon Date Ever

Maybe if I had brought a cooler that would have been even more awkward.

I just finished reading Brian Donovan’s book Not a Match: My True Tales of Online Dating Disasters. My oldest son starts college in the fall, so I have been feeling nostalgic about my own dating days as a Cougar.[1] What makes a bad Mormon date bad? The same thing that makes any date bad: awkwardness. This is my story.

[Read more…]

Unequal equalities

It strikes me that a lot of our disagreement over feminist issues in the church comes from one variation or another of straw-man argumentation. It is much easier to disagree with a caricature of our intellectual opponent’s argument than with the real thing.  I’m going to talk about a particular type of caricature here today; Alison Moore Smith provided several last week. It is useful to note these things, because, hopefully, they will help us move past superfluous and irrelevant grandstanding and focus on the important arguments in any debate. Also, world peace might spring up. [Read more…]

Are You a Helicopter Parent?

I recently took an online test to determine if I am a helicopter parent.  Ironically, it was a helicopter quiz!  After every question, it gave me immediate, condescending feedback about whether my opinion was right or wrong.  And with several of the questions, I didn’t like ANY of the options; they were all too helicopter-y for me.  Let me give an example from the quiz I took:

When my child brings home a poor grade, I:

  1. Run directly to the phone to call the teacher. When she doesn’t answer, I call the principal.
  2. Talk with my child about the grade and contact the teacher to discuss ways we can help my child improve her academic performance.
  3. Yell and scream at my child and tell her that if she doesn’t bring up her grade, she’ll be grounded.

[Read more…]

The last place you should look for advice

I don’t know about you, but I was an idiot as a teen. [Read more…]

Mouths of Babes — Does Can Mean Should?

O be wise, what can I say more?

- Jacob 6:12

A Mormon boy from an affluent neighborhood in Utah, barely 18 years old, will leave a few days after graduating from high school for the crushing poverty, suffering, and misery of Sierra Leone. This isn’t the plot of an off-color Broadway musical. It’s going to happen in a couple of months to a real person.[1] He’s not going to experience mere culture shock; it will be an entirely different world, a different universe. Nothing in the boy’s lived experience up until this point is going to have prepared him for even the smallest percentage of what he is going to observe landing there. I hope and pray he survives!

There isn’t much difference between an 18 year old boy and a 19 year old boy — both are teenagers still, both usually as green as can be. On paper it’s a wash. [Read more…]

A darn shame

I cannot, in good conscience, recommend that my gay friends investigate the church. [Read more…]

The Implications of Encouraging Early Marriage in a Global Church

This is the first of a two part response to Elaine Dalton’s recent BYU Devotional speech.

Globally, early marriage is inextricably linked to development and human rights concerns. I believe that the words of a general officer of our worldwide church should be considered from a worldwide perspective. In this light, some of her conclusions are troubling. [Read more…]

The Priesthood is not a superpower

I ordained my son a deacon a couple of weeks ago.  The first thing he did when we got home was to facetiously wave his hands toward a chair and attempt to move it with the power of his mind and/or Priesthood.  I immediately told him, “The Priesthood is not a superpower.”  It is something that, I suppose, bears repeating. [Read more…]

Science is so cool. You are part Neanderthal!

Q_and_PicardHow deeply I love studying the wonders of the universe. There was a report of a four billion light year across object! That’s 4,000,000,000 light years! Not miles. Lightyears! I watched a show on PBS last night that talked about the recent complete sequencing the the Neanderthal genome. A species near our own, but vastly different, and guess what? Unless you are from Africa, from one to four percent of your genome is Neanderthal! African populations missed this introgression. Now that’s genealogy! (If you don’t believe this, I would encourage you to become an activist demanding the release of all death row inmates convicted on DNA evidence. It’s of the same type.) [Read more…]

A few questions about the missionary surge

We’ve all heard the anecdotal tales about BYU bishops being flooded with interview requests from newly prospective missionaries. And now we have quantitative confirmation of the coming surge, as church spokesperson Michael Purdy released some startling numbers tonight:

“Typically approximately 700 new applications are started each week. The last two weeks that number has increased to approximately 4,000 per week. Slightly more than half of the applicants are women.”

That’s an increase of almost 6X! DesNews reminds us that these are “not submitted applications, rather online applications that have been opened and started.” Nevertheless, the ginormous spike will surely translate to a ginormous spike in submitted applications. Which raises lots of fun questions. For instance:

[Read more…]

(Re)Conceptualizing our Gendered Missionary Image

First and foremost, let me say that I am absolutely thrilled with today’s announcement lowering the age for prospective missionaries, for many of the reasons that have (and will be) written here and elsewhere: the transforming popular image of sister missionaries, the increase in scriptural knowledge and service opportunities amongst female members, the growing possibilities for female leadership, the adjusted goals of the young women’s program, the larger amount of young adults being tethered to the gospel (and humanity), and many other examples of the slow, uneven steps toward gender equality. All of these are important results that I fervently celebrate; I suppose that such things, if proved true, will make today a significant milestone in our ever-growing progression as God’s Kingdom.

But I’m interested in another impact this policy change could have on our culture: the possibility of re-conceptualizing our highly gendered image of missionary work. [Read more…]

The radical notion that women are people: part three of a million parts

When I was in Young Women, we had an annual activity which I absolutely despised, which was the box social. Each young woman would make a dinner for two and put it in a box and decorate the box, and then all the young men would bid on the different box and the highest bidder would get to eat the dinner in the box with the young woman who had prepared it. (This was all done with fake money so no one would be reminded of anything unsavory, like prostitution. Not that a box social is anything like prostitution, because it isn’t. I’m just saying, everything was on the up and up.) I refused to participate in this activity for the following reasons (in order of importance):

1. I was no fun.

2. I thought it was unfair that the young women always had to cook for the young men. Yes, the young men were in charge of bringing dessert, but big whoop-de-do. Which do you think is easier to prepare, a portable and palatable dinner or a portable and palatable dessert? I’ll give you a hint: Oreos come in a bag. [Read more…]

Review: Joanna Brooks, “The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories From an American Faith”

Title: The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories From an American Faith
Author: Joanna Brooks
Publisher: Self published (but not for long…)
Genre: Memoir
Year: 2012
Pages: 204
Binding: Paperback
ISBN13: 9780615593449
Price: $11.99

Rumor has it Joanna Brooks’s self-published memoir, The Book of Mormon Girl has been picked up by Free Press/Simon & Schuster for national publication this August with an expanded chapter-and-a-half. We’ve seen a lot of chatter about her book online recently, so I thought I’d venture a review. I hope you’ll excuse my decision to kick things off with an observation based on personal experience. (The Book of Mormon Girl is, after all, a personal memoir!) My own undergraduate years were spent writing and editing articles for a variety of small Utah newspapers. I remember how daunting it felt to be assigned an article on a subject I knew next-to-nothing about, like computer animation, mechanical engineering, or say, feminism. Oh, how comforting to a journalist is that friendly, articulate insider willing to endure the inane questions of—and likely later misrepresentation by—the stammering cub reporter! [Read more…]

Why I don’t like the priesthood-motherhood analogy: Part one of a million parts

Over the four years I’ve been blogging at BCC I have written dozens of unfinished (and therefore unpublished) posts about gender issues in Mormonism. I’ve found it very frustrating that I can’t finish them. Yeah, there’s a lot I don’t finish, but blog posts that I can’t finish are especially depressing. Because let’s face it, how “finished” does a blog post need to be, really? Well, at some point I figured out the problem: I can’t finish because there’s simply too much to say. And on a subject like gender or gender inequity, which so many people have such strong feelings about, leaving something out means providing a big elephant in the room for your readers to start a threadjack with in the comments section. (I find that last independent clause extremely problematic, but this is only a blog post, after all; I’ll fix that sentence when someone pays me to do it.)

The only thing more frustrating than not being able to finish a blog post is publishing a blog post and watching everyone else have a conversation about something you didn’t bother to address in the original post because you didn’t want to bite off more than you could chew. #firstworldproblems

But heck, I’ve got nothing better to do, and if you’re here reading this, you probably have nothing better to do either. So let’s do this thing. I’m going to start publishing these unfinished posts about gender issues in Mormonism, and I’ve decided the best place to start is my least favorite threadjack-meat of all time: the Men-Priesthood:: Women: Motherhood analogy. I kid myself that by getting it out of the way first thing, I’ll never have to discuss it again. [Read more…]

A Tale of Two Infographics

Here is an infographic the church’s Newsroom put out to explain the structure of our local lay leadership. (sorry for lack of embedding, I don’t want to hotlink their image, and mine is a PDF)

Newsroom Infographic: Lay Leadership in the LDS Church (Update: this has been changed from the original version)

While understanding they were working within very tight space and reader attention constraints, I thought it could be made a little more complete. Now, dear reader, please understand that I am an engineer and thus have aesthetic sense only for things others don’t think even have aesthetics, such as java code and mathematical proofs. I am not a graphic designer, and this isn’t about whose is prettier–I concede that contest from the outset.

Alternate version: Lay Leadership in the LDS Church (updated)

But, beauty flaws aside, I think you will find that there are some striking differences between the two graphics. Not only in terms of quantity of additional detail, but the qualitative general sense one gets from the image overall. In particular, the ratios of blue and pink in each.
[Read more…]

Unclean! Unclean! Unclean!

Note and/or WARNING: The following post is a response–or not really a response, but a sister post, if you will, to this piece at Feminist Mormon Housewives. If you are uncomfortable reading about anything having to do with menstruation, I suggest you cast your eyes round about for a more genteel blog today.

Last year my oldest child had her first opportunity to do proxy baptisms for the dead at the temple. A bit of background: my daughter has Asperger’s Syndrome. Church is difficult for her for a variety of reasons, but she is particularly concerned with (and fixated on) gender issues. She was anxious about going to the temple for the first time, not really knowing what to expect (and not being totally down with this church thing in the first place). Her Young Women leaders asked me to come along for this trip to help her feel more comfortable and show her the ropes. (Not that I would have any clue about “the ropes,” as I hadn’t done proxy baptisms myself in about 14 years and never at this temple–but it’s the thought that counts.)

So at the temple they herded all the youth into that little room where they tell you all about what you’re going to be doing. I still had to change into my white clothes, but I realized I had to tell my daughter something first, so I went into the little room and the older gentleman addressing the youth then turned to me and asked, “Sister, are you here to ask The Question?” [Read more…]

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich lecture: “Stirring up LDS History” Live Blog

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Updated to now include video of the lecture.

Sponsored by Sunstone and Friends of the Marriott Library at the University of Utah

Relief Society sisters now have a new resource—a compact history of the Relief Society called Daughters of My Kingdom. The new manual, which is to be used from time to time for lessons given the first Sunday of each month, is not only unusual for its focus on women but for its chronological organization. Most Church manuals are organized thematically, offering little scope for discussing change over time. Despite its uplifting narrative, this manual may require a new set of skills. As teachers of women’s history know, you can’t just “add women and stir.”

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich taught her first Relief Society lesson more than fifty years ago, when she was an undergraduate attending a student ward at the University of Utah. She began teaching women’s history at the college level in 1975 when she was a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire. She is the author of many books and articles on early American history and women’s history and is now completing her first book-length work in Mormon history, “A House Full of Females: Family and Faith in Nineteenth-century Mormon Diaries.” She is 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University.

[Read more…]

Twas the Morning of Finals

Twas the morning of finals, when all through the dorms
Freshmen were dressing, disguising their forms.
Sarah’s head scarf was tied round her with care,
In hopes that the boys wouldn’t notice her there.

Students filled desks, not snuggled in  beds,
While visions of straight As danced in their heads.
And Sarah in head scarf, and I in my jeggings,
Had just cleansed our brains from the sight of men’s meggings. [Read more…]

Does hiring a housekeeper or gardener harm your soul?

American GothicThe Wall Street Journal reports today about the business of online micro-service clearinghouses, where customers put out requests for household and other takss (hat tip Rosalynde Welch‘s Facebook wall). The article mentions jobs like taming an out of control muck of a compost pile, purchasing and delivering various items, and fishing a dropped set of keys from a sewer. The conversation on Facebook turned to debating whether or not there is something distasteful, or even morally wrong, about hiring help to perform domestic work (for the purposes of this conversation, let’s consider gardening, housecleaning, housekeeping, personal shopping, meal preparation, and the like. We’ll leave nannies/childcare for another day). My first reaction was an emphatic “No!” there is nothing wrong with it, but in trying to articulate the reasons why, I realized I am much more ambivalent than that.
[Read more…]

Sexual Transgression and Dwelling Together in Love

This is a guest post from Jacob Baker. Jacob is a doctoral student in Philosophy of Religion and Theology at Claremont Graduate University and an instructor at BYU and UVU. And he still finds time to post funny things about Mormon life on Facebook.

I remember the first ward my wife and I moved into after we were married. One Sunday in Sacrament Meeting the bishop (a man who was as plain-spoken as any bishop I’ve ever seen) got up and pleaded for us to be less judgmental of one another, to have compassion on each other, for there were many dealing with heavy burdens in our ward. He said that within our ward boundaries alone there were people dealing with illegal drugs, adultery, pornography, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and many other problems. He was especially terribly saddened at having to counsel and try to provide help for women who were victims of rape, one within her own marriage. He then stated that statistically speaking, for other wards and branches about the same size as our ward anywhere in the country, the same sorts of problems were occurring at the same or greater rate, but the problems and violations of a sexual nature were both more widespread and more damaging. Studies, of course, have generally long borne this out. One recent study shows that nearly 1/5 of boys and nearly 1/3 of girls in the United States have had a sexual encounter of some kind with an adult by the time they reach high school. The rates are much higher in less developed countries. [Read more…]

Leggings, Modesty, and EFY

EFY book cover (1991) To the left is the cover of the official EFY inspirational talks book from 1991. It consists of the title, Feeling Great, Doing Right, Hanging Tough, in 80’s-tastic font design, and a photo of an exuberant young woman doing a sort of cheerleaderish jump for joy [1].

What I noticed immediately when I saw this image was the presence of leggings. It was remarkable to me because I have recently observed some controversy in the LDS community surrounding leggings and modesty.
[Read more…]

Monday Morning Theological Poll: “Reproductive Wrongs?” Edition

Two polls this time. Answer both please.

Please justify your comments below. I promise I won’t turn you in to the bishop for anything you say. [Read more…]

Out of respect for them


The Provo Daily Herald reports “Authorities break ground for new LDS temple in Payson”:

Following his remarks and the closing exercises, Oaks invited the four general authorities in attendance to shovel a scoop of dirt from the shallow trench, followed by the 26 stake presidents in the Payson Utah Temple District, then local government officials, and lastly, any 12-year-old ordained deacons.

Oaks noted that he purposefully excluded women from the ceremonial shoveling out of respect for them because of the muddy conditions in front of the podium. He didn’t want their shoes to get soiled.

No comment.

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