Compton Reviews Mormon Convert, Mormon Defector

Todd Compton is an independent historian, having published many articles and books. He is perhaps best known for writing In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith. He has two forthcoming volumes; the first, co-authored with Leland Gentry is due out soon: Fire and the Sword: A History of the Latter-Day Saints in Northern Missouri from 1836 to 1839 (Kofford Books). The second volume is a biography of Jacob Hamblin. This review was originally given by him at Sunstone West, March 27, 2010.

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Why placing the computer in the living room doesn’t work

When Mormon women are asked how they can protect their families from pornography, a common reply is that the computer should be placed in the center of the room.  The strategy is essentially that of Foucault’s panopticon.  The assumption seems to be that the best way to protect families from pornography is to live in a bubble.  But while placing a computer in the center of a room might have prevented children from going to certain websites ten years ago, we now live in the age of handheld devices. [Read more...]

Female Leadership in LDS Missions

Recently a friend expressed some anxiety over the possibility that his daughters might serve missions for the LDS Church.  He was concerned that such an experience might lead them to internalize too much of the intensely sexist rhetoric and behaviour that is observable among some LDS missionaries.  The following day, while meandering on Temple Square, two sister missionaries intercepted me and began trying to obtain a referral.  In that conversation I learned something so obvious that I am ashamed it had never occurred to me before, but which I think could influence the ‘missionary culture’ if it was universally adopted: Sister missionaries, in that mission, hold leadership positions. [Read more...]

Talking About Talking About Stuff

Sometime married people get themselves into a situation that is hard to get out of.  An issue between them — how to raise the kids, how to spend the money, what to do about the future — becomes so contentious and difficult for them to talk about that they both get tired of arguing, throw up their hands,  and give up.  It’s easier in the short run — no more fighting! — but in the meantime the checkbook doesn’t get balanced, the kids don’t get any clear direction, and the future approaches anyway, whether they are prepared or not.

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On second thought, never mind

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

Harvey Unga

July has been a busy, but good, time for former BYU footbal standout Harvey Unga. On July 4th his first child was born. He is getting married today (the 16th) to Keilani Moeak. And yesterday he was selected by the Chicago Bears in the seventh round of the NFL supplemental draft. [Read more...]

Mormon theories of freedom

Over the past few weeks, I have been discussing with friends the merits of a case where the DOJ is prosecuting a pornographer for distributing obscene material—regular old pornography without children, violence, or anything else to make it especially objectionable.  In the minds of most people I’ve spoken with, this case is easy: It should not even have been brought to court. [Read more...]

Sleeplessness

Thoughts of fasting last month have turned me to other forms of physical deprivation that have been used in religious communities to great effect. During the Kirtland holy season (1835-36), the Saints occasionally held portentous meetings, familiar from broader evangelical culture, in which they stayed up all night praying and singing and worshiping, waiting for the endowment of power that would attend their earnest pleas for the divine presence.[1] [Read more...]

A Chieko Okazaki Sharing Time Lesson


Continuing with the theme of how awesome I am at my callings, I thought I would share one of the more successful Sharing Time lessons I’ve done in my current calling in the Primary presidency.

The theme for Sharing Time was “Family members have important responsibilities” (last year’s program). I was to do a week on mommies’ responsibilities, a week on daddies’ responsibilities, and a week on kids’ responsibilities to the family. Sis. Okazaki gave a great talk about the Japanese word kigatsuku, which means being aware of one’s surroundings and doing good without being asked, which fits perfectly with kids’ responsibilities in the family.
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My ward is going to be translated for this…

This week our Relief Society lesson was combined with the Young Women in the ward. On the table stood three large, framed photographs of our three recently graduated Laurels. Next to those were three identical stacks of books, each tied with a ribbon. On the side table were many platters of sliced sweet breads ready to be served. Ladies, welcome to the awesomeness that is Relief Society. [Read more...]

All they knew about them was that they were women

There seems to be a wide-spread belief, and one that my personal experience would tend to confirm, that the Relief Society runs more smoothly than its equivalent priesthood quorums.

In the current issue of Atlantic Magazine is an article called, ‘The End of Men.’ Its premise is that men are not navigating the new realities of modern life and modern economies well. It discusses how women are becoming more and more the primary earners in households, are graduating with 60% of university degrees (both masters and bachelors degrees) and 50% of all professional degrees, with men’s percentages falling and women’s rising. It then explores the question, “What would a society in which women are on top look like?” [Read more...]

Making Lemonade from Assigned GC Talks

Yesterday my wife mentioned that she had to give a talk today. That was the first I had heard of it. When I came home from watching the UFC fights, at about midnight, she was still up working on it. I felt bad for her, because I know how much she hates speaking, and she has vowed never to give another talk. But as agonizing as it is for her, she always does a wonderful job. [Read more...]

Query: sexuality in 19th-century polygamy

My wife and I recently agreed to write an essay on “embodiment and sexuality” in Mormonism and as I have often confessed to many of you I know very little about the Utah period of Mormonism. I suspect that, other than being a little tired of the constant fights about the status of Joseph Smith’s dual wives in Nauvoo, many others are curious about how participants in polygamy might have talked about or understood sexuality, how the Mormon family system might have resisted or intersected with trends in the broader American society. Any of you out there have any primary or secondary sources that you strongly recommend for someone interested in understanding more about sexuality in 19th-century Mormon polygamy? I think it’s fair to say that the Victorian polygamy romance novels are not at the top of my interest list, though if there was one you thought was absolutely exemplary it might be interesting.

A Sort of Homecoming: Segullah Turns Five

Summer, 2003: I was a wreck. My sixth child was six months old, and I wasn’t even close to recovering from his birth and the trauma that followed: For him, lung failure and three weeks in the NICU. For me, a profound emotional and spiritual crisis. The combination of outward and inward events shook me hard. My testimony was intact, but I felt disconnected from it. Unmoored. All my usual connection points failed me: church meetings, scripture reading, even prayer. [Read more...]

Angela Hallstrom’s Dispensation: the Fulness of Mormon Fiction

Angela Hallstrom


A confession: before 2008, I didn’t care much about LDS fiction. To me, that genre meant overtly inspirational stories of mediocre literary quality that barely skim the surface of what it means to be Mormon, not to mention what it means to be human. Friends recommended a few better-than-average titles, but saying a book is “very good for Mormon lit” is a half-baked compliment at best (like the time someone told me I was “in great shape for someone with seven kids”). Angela Hallstrom’s novel-in-stories, Bound on Earth, was my first encounter with unconditionally excellent fiction written by and for Latter-day Saints. So when I picked up
Dispensation, the short story anthology she edited for Zarahemla Books, my hopes were high. And I’m pleased to report that when I finished the volume, I was thoroughly satisfied. The quality of writing in this collection exceeded my already-high expectations. Its stories engaged me so completely that I felt fully gratified as a reader—even blessed. And taken as a whole, its artistic and spiritual potency leaves me deeply impressed by the talent of our very own fiction writers, not to mention excited for the future of this genre. Today, BCC welcomes Angela Hallstrom for a conversation about Dispensation and its significance in the realm of LDS fiction. (I was gonna post a photo of the cool book cover, but Steve already did. Besides, Angela is even better looking.)

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Tuesday evening poll: modesty and being tall

As a tall woman whose garments fall about 4″ above the knee (regular, not petite size), am I obligated to wear skirts or shorts that cover the garment well, or that go all the way to the knee?

My thoughts: the church can’t be bothered to manufacture garments to fit too-tall freaks like me (update: see comments #36 and #38), I get that, totally. But, guess what, neither can any commercial clothing company. [Read more...]

The End of an ERA

Sunny Smart returns for a second guest post.

I grew up in the shadow of Phyllis Schlafly and the Eagle Forum. Phyllis was the founder of the STOP ERA movement of the ’70s and early ’80s and is largely credited for the ultimate failure of the ERA. Once the ERA had passed congress and had been sent to the states for ratification, Phyllis, the LDS church–and my mom–went into action. While we lived in California, my mom was heavily involved in STOP ERA efforts. Then, not long after moving to Utah, my mom became the Utah Director for STOP ERA. And how. [Read more...]

BCC Zeitcast 50: MikeInWeHo, Part 2

Part 2 of a conversation between Scott B. and MikeInWeHo. Part 1 is found here. In this episode, we discuss personal politics, the role of the Bloggernacle, MoDar, and the Gay and Mormon subcultures.


Download this episode here or subscribe to the BCC Zeitcast in iTunes.

Links for your convenience:
1. Mike’s first post at BCC: The Odd Fellowship of the Bloggernacle
2. El Coyote restaurant

This episode, as well as the first part posted earlier, addresses a broad range of topics related to the LDS Church, its policies regarding homosexuality, same sex marriage, and politics. Please keep in mind that this podcast is not a position paper on the LDS Church or any of its teachings, doctrines, or public policy decisions. The commentary represents exactly what it sounds like: two guys shooting the from the hip about their personal experiences with the events of the past few years surrounding the LDS Church and political movements regarding homosexuality. [Read more...]

BCC Zeitcast 49: MikeInWeHo, Part 1


This is first of a two-part episode of the BCC Zeitcast. In this episode, long-time friend and guest of BCC, MikeInWeHo tells his story of how he found the Mormon Church, lost it, found it again, and has become one of the most recognized and beloved members of the Bloggernacle.


Download this episode here or subscribe to the BCC Zeitcast in iTunes.

MikeInWeHo, Bloggernacle Commenter of the Year

This episode, as well as the second part found here, addresses a broad range of topics related to the LDS Church, its policies regarding homosexuality, same sex marriage, and politics. Please keep in mind that this podcast is not a position paper on the LDS Church or any of its teachings, doctrines, or public policy decisions. The commentary represents exactly what it sounds like: two guys shooting the from the hip about their personal experiences with the events of the past few years surrounding the LDS Church and political movements regarding homosexuality. [Read more...]

Gay Rights Revelation added to the Community of Christ D&C (World Conference Part 2: April 12–15)


Delegates to the World Conference of the Community of Christ taking the historic vote.

This week I’ve been in Independence, Missouri, observing the history-making 2010 World Conference of the Community of Christ. As I mentioned in a previous post, World Conference is made up of delegates elected to represent the church’s Mission Centers (roughly equivalent to LDS Stakes or Regions), meeting together to discuss and vote on the business of the church. This year, two topics have been in the forefront of the agenda: (1) the role of gay members within the church, and (2) conditions of baptism. [Read more...]

More Strange Loopiness

Or, putting some fun into our dysfunctional discourse on gender.  If you haven’t already ready read Cynthia L.’s excellent post, please read it now before proceeding.

This post introduces a new feature called the BCC Puzzler. Consider the following situations and the questions which follow.  If you think you know the answer to any of the questions, please write the answer on the back of a twenty dollar bill and send it in. And if you just paid your tithing yesterday and can’t find a twenty, please write your answer in the comments. [Read more...]

Gender, Authority and Strange Loops

I want to expand on thoughts expressed by commenters in the Sunday PM General Conference Open Thread, specifically, “…Or maybe, if we’re going to talk about how wise mothers are, and what good teachers, and read sentimental poems about grown men longing to hear their mothers’ voices, we could just, y’know, hear their voices….”

The immediate context of this comment was Brother Foster’s talk, “Mother Told Me,” but the point applies to the entire conference, and more broadly to women’s influence in the church. I’d like to delve deeper into an analysis of some details in Brother Foster’s talk. I want to emphasize that this should not be read as a condemnation of the whole talk. It is both much narrower (a quibble with just one particular example he selected), and much bigger (the whole situation of women in the church), than his talk. Also, on some level, this is just a golden opportunity for me to geek out on some of my favorite geeky topics: logic, paradox and feminism.
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What Is Mormon Studies?

There is what looks to me like a terrific conference coming up at CGU April 23 and 24. Below I’ve attempted to paste in the information from the program. (One with eyes to see will note a lot of bloggers on this program!) Those of you able to should definitely check it out (notes will be appreciated). [Read more...]

Lust, Pornography, and the LDS approach to Sexuality

Sex is complicated. Why we engage in it is a matter of emotion, psychology, hormones, genetics, pop culture, high culture, low culture, spirituality, love, lust, and destiny (or not). I tend to be skeptical that there is one true approach to it, but I can think of several unhealthy approaches (heck, I embody at least a couple). In our church, where belief in something like celestial sex is common (even though it is of murky doctrinal origin), I tend to think it is even more complicated. The traditional Christian approach of general disapproval of sex is more consistent, as is the modern amoral outlook. It’s appropriate (even necessary) for us to argue for and to seek a position between those two, but church members tend to adopt aspects of those approaches instead of figuring out our own path. Generally speaking, we tend to approach sexuality as if it is the most important thing on earth and, therefore, we should know as little about it as possible.

Over conference, there were two talks that focused on issues of sexual immorality in particular. Elder Holland’s Saturday afternoon address and President Monson’s Saturday evening address both referenced pornography and both offered advice regarding controlling lust (along with subsidiary issues). What I write today is going to draw on both talks, but my purpose is to get one point across that neither addressed directly. As I’ve said before, I think our discourse on sexuality is drowning in useless euphemism and misdirected effort. So, I’m going to be blunt and explain what neither of these great men were explicitly stated (although it is implied in both talks): Orgasm is not the end of your creation. [Read more...]

Primary General Presidency News Conference

The New Primary General Presidency

We just got finished attending the press conference for the new Primary Presidency. A few photos are below, as well as a few bits of information from the Q&A session we attended.
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Gender Roles Are Eternal (unless …)

There I was, sitting in the Hauser Hall basement, typing a seminar paper, minding my own business, when “Josh” burst into the computer lab. Josh was a single, LDS 1st-year law student, and I was a married LDS third-year, so we didn’t really know each other that well. But we did have some friends in common, and would see each other periodically at LDSSA meetings, so he recognized me when he walked in the door. He seemed strangely agitated, like he was in possession of some juicy piece of gossip he needed to get off his chest. He saw me, and promptly approached my cubicle.

“Oh my gosh, something so funny just happened!” he exclaimed. “I have to share it with someone!”

“What?” I replied.
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Our Voices, Our Visions: A Mormon Women’s Literary Tour

I first encountered Joanna Brooks during freshman orientation week at BYU in 1989–she was sitting on a table in the checkerboard quad recruiting for the Student Review, swinging her feet and looking like a pixie with her freckles and short, dark hair.  She quickly gained a reputation on campus for being articulately outspoken on various social issues, and I admired her from afar.  But I didn’t get to know her until my junior year, when both of us took a certain contemporary literary criticism course from a certain feminist professor. On the first day, I spotted her a few seats down (her hair was longer then–super thick and shiny),  and knew this would be a class to remember. And I was right.

I’ll spare you the details of the wild, semester-long romp through Kristeva and Cixous and Jaggar (drop me an email if you want to hear about the bra burning). Instead, let me tell you about the groundbreaking multi-state event that Joanna is spearheading this month: Our Voices, Our Visions: A Mormon Women’s Literary Tour. Better yet, let Joanna tell you about it in this mini-interview we had recently: [Read more...]

Living with Depression, Part IV: Everything Else, For Now


Welcome to the fourth installment of our conversation about clinical depression amongst nine BCC permas. Parts I, II, and III can be found
here, here and here. If you haven’t already read the series overview, please do so before proceeding. If you’re experiencing symptoms of clinical depression, contact a health care professional without delay.

The introduction to this series estimated a half-dozen posts over the space of a few weeks. But after consulting amongst ourselves, in high Shakespearian style, we’re opting to make this post the last one for the time being. There’s still so much to say on this topic–we’ve only just begun, really. But we’re finding the conversation to be as exhausting as it is exhilarating, and it seems best to take a breather.

So. Rather than spreading our remaining share-able dialogue across a few more posts, I’ve combined it into one. The conversation begins on the subtopic of treating depression, and segues into a discussion of gender issues relating to depression.

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Provo, 1991

WARNING: This is a story that admits that some men, even Mormon men, are interested in having sex with women, and that some BYU students don’t keep the Honor Code. If these facts bother you, then don’t read this story; you will not enjoy it.

I wrote this for a writing class  in 1995. At that time I was inactive but recognized that my Mormon background would be interesting to my classmates.

I saw Ellen at a party in November of 1991, and she glowed with a dark and dignified sexuality. Jameson , a former roommate of mine, was throwing a 1960s-themed costume party at his house. Most of the guests wore thrift-store Woodstock cliché to match the Grateful Dead oozing out of the speakers in another room. Ellen stood tall over the kafkans and macramé in an A-lined gogo-styled minidress with a geometric black and white pattern. A matching scarf neatly pulled her strait brown hair back, except her bangs, which hung low over dark, small eyes made darker with makeup. She wore the white knee-high boots like she had born in them.  She looked, well, cool. In a room full of undergraduates hyper with the illusion of social release and the faint but palpable hope that the faded bell-bottoms and the pretense of being stoned might reveal something interesting in them that J. Crew and earnest discussions abut the Gulf War did not, Ellen radiated honesty. Her costume seemed to reveal something true about her rather than masking her identity. There was no trace of self-consciousness about her at all.

Of course, it is now impossible to look at that moment with real objectivity; the filter of the years between now and then and our common experience undoubtedly warp and color my memory. The truth is that I cannot remember Ellen ever being self-conscious about anything. We were once caught sunbathing nude by a National Park ranger, and she showed no sign of shame, defensiveness, indignation, or even titillation. The ranger’s over-polite request that we put clothes on seemed to strike her with the same moral force as a reminder to not feed the bears. Standing across the room at the party in her Nancy Sinatra boots, she may have exuded more complex and highly manipulated emotions, but if so, they are lost as I place that event in the context of our lives together. [Read more...]

Living with Depression, Part I: Recognizing Clinical Depression

Welcome to Part I of BCC’s mini-series about depression. If you haven’t already read the series overview, please do so before proceeding.

In this post, our group members introduce themselves by describing how they came to recognize depression as a problem in their life. Depression is an untidy concept, and our semantics reflect that. We use the term to describe a vast spectrum of emotional and mental states, from mild and temporary situational distress to severe and abiding pathology, and even with the help of diagnostic parameters it can be tricky to distinguish between the “normal” depression of human experience and the mood disorder called clinical depression.

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