Notes on Special Education

We have a terrific coterie of LDS lawyers in Chicago, and some of us occasionally get together under the auspices of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society for lunch and a speaker or presentation or something. Yesterday about ten of us went to the offices of Equip for Equality (the Illinois protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities) for a continuing legal education presentation on special education law. This was not something any of us needed for our actual practices, although a couple of those in attendance have children with special needs and thus had a personal interest in the subject. But as lawyers we often get asked questions about all sorts of things at church, and it’s nice to know a bit about the big picture of issues like this. I personally was interested mainly because I have a younger brother who is autistic (although he’s long out of high school), and also from my friend and coblogger Tracy M. talking about these things with respect to her own experiences. There is no way I can replicate the full presentation here, so I’ll just hit a few of the high points. [Read more…]

It’s Different This Time

D Fletcher is a musician, actor, and friend. Cross-posted from his personal blog.

I needed to jot down some of my feelings, like many of you on- and offline. I’m not a writer, so this may be awkward and reader-unfriendly.

Several events of my life have colored my expectations for gay people in the Church. I have known I was gay since I knew about sex, and when I was a teenager I was sent to behavioral therapists to try and change my orientation, without success. Even then, I understood that it was simply a preference, liking “green” curtains instead of “blue” ones. My last therapist at BYU told me I needed to repent, and then it would change. Repent, of what? I had exactly zero experiences, sexually. I stopped the therapy, and never went back.

My mission was aborted when I matter-of-factly mentioned that I was gay. BYU would not let me return without a period of adjustment, because I was gay. [Read more…]

Remembrance Day, 2015

Flanders Fields

The third battle of Ypres takes place in July, 1917. The Americans are beginning to join the war. In October of that year, Wilfred Owen writes a poem and dedicates it to a war propogandist. May we never forget. [Read more…]

Behold Our Little Ones

The church has had a longstanding policy that children may not be baptized without parental consent. Therefore, most of the people that this new policy directly affects are worthy, believing children whose righteous desire for baptism has the full support of their gay parent(s). Of that group of individuals, the few that this policy doesn’t manage to drive away will continue to attend church and hear messages contradictory to their home life. Yes, they will often feel dissonance. Their hearts will ache at times. In that regard, they will be in the company of many others who, for a whole host of reasons, do not experience The Ideal at home. Except that these children, these precious, worthy souls, will have to navigate those waters without the Gift of the Holy Ghost to comfort and guide them.

What is our strategy to not lose these children forever?

Staying, Again.

Every so often, in this life, we are privy to miracles that are as ordinary as the little sparrows that build a nest every spring in a wide pipe that connects my kitchen wall to the outside. For a few blessed weeks every year, I hear them chirping, as I cook the pasta and chop the vegetables right along side them. Every so often my children put their ear to the wall and I see, not surprise, but re-affirmation that the world really is full of magic. It’s strange that we never see the nest because the pipe is covered in such a way, and we can never pinpoint the exact day the birds become strong enough to wriggle through the little hole and fly away, but we know it happens because by June the bird voices are gone.   We know then that the miracle is the flight, the willingness to venture beyond the pipe and into a different space.

In my own life, in the midst of sorrow and chaos surrounding the haven I’ve so long called my spiritual home, I was not only privy to quiet, almost imperceptible miracles that rippled across the landscape of my own heart, but I am, like those tiny birds, testing my wings cautiously, and then, with growing confidence, jumping into a new paradigm which is playing out differently than I had planned on Thursday.

[Read more…]

Patience and Hope

Heather O. is a lifelong Mormon. She is a licensed speech and language pathologist who specializes in hippotherapy. She lives in Virginia with her husband, two children, and a big yellow dog.

Today, a friend texted me and told me she is leaving the Mormon church. She is the second friend in the last few days who has told me this, but not the first story of leaving I’ve heard. I doubt she will be the last. When I read her text I started crying. Again. It’s all I seem to be doing these days. [Read more…]

Smaller on the Inside

boulder2There is a stone sitting on my heart. I want to disgorge it, to reject it in a peptic tide of embodied catharsis, but it stays, stuck, somewhere under my breastbone, and each time I shift, in vain attempts to find a more comfortable position, it only hurts more.

I am an adult convert to the Mormon church. My conversion was baffling and truly painful to my family, and I understand why— but I believed in the expansive vision I had when I was looking for a home for my soul. The ideas that compelled me step into the warm waters of the baptismal font were expansive; an open canon, personal revelation, a new vision of Eve, recognition of the divine feminine, prophetic guidance, eternal progression, absence of hell, everlasting hope and the reality of continued individual worth beyond death. I fell in love with that expansive cosmology and theology. I still love that part. [Read more…]

Possible Legal Justifications for the Policy Changes


I’ve received some emails asking about something they heard on Facebook or in the halls at Church about how the Church had to enact this policy change in order to forestall one legal result or another. The goal of this post is to raise the legal concerns I’ve heard and discuss them at a high level. This post is intended to be neutral towards the policy.

Child custody gossip

Here’s an example of what I’ve received: “I’m starting to hear speculation that the real reason behind the recent policy changes was the fear of lawsuits resulting from child custody disputes, particularly if an LDS spouse demanded full custody from a gay spouse on the grounds that their children could not be baptized while living part-time with a parent in a same-sex relationship. A blanket policy forbidding any such baptisms before the child is 18 protects the Church… Is the Church being named as a party in a child custody suit a valid concern? What would be the possible legal outcomes? And is this a plausible origin for the new policy?” [Read more…]

Confronting Indifference with W.H. Auden: Let the More Loving One Be Me


Fair warning: this is going to be one of those posts where I introduce and unpack one of my favorite poems (like I do  here, here, and here). I do stuff like this because of my peculiar pathology: I think that poetry matters—especially when I am feeling particularly frustrated or angry or sad. This has been a poetry week. Big time. [Read more…]

Tend to the Child

In 1973 Ursula K. Le Guin penned one of the most thought-provoking science fiction stories I’ve read. I’ve come back to it again and again when trying to wrestle with deep ethical decisions. It’s called “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”. [Read more…]

Afflicted Saint, to Christ Draw Near

from the 1927 LDS Hymnal, by John Fawcett

Afflicted Saint, to Christ draw near,
Thy Saviour’s gracious promise hear;
His faithful word declares to thee
That “as thy day, thy strength shall be.”
[Read more…]

How Abrahamic tests work

First, Isaac has to be your son, so unless it’s your own child whose baptism you have to cancel, you ain’t Abraham. Stop egging on Abraham from a distance. You should be devastated by what he’s about to do.

Second, Abraham was willing to kill his son even though he knew it to be wrong. He didn’t come up with lame justifications. It was murder and he knew it. It certainly was not done to “protect Isaac.”

Third, the command came direct from God, a deity he knew face-to-face. He did not read it on a cuneiform tablet he had happened to notice that morning. Even if the tablet were to have come from a respected source, that source had been known to get things wrong from time to time.

Fourth, he didn’t end up doing it! If you’re a bishop about to refuse a naming and blessing even though you know it’s wrong, I suppose you’ve passed the test. Expect an angel to order you to change your mind. Happy ending.

An Open Letter To Latter-Day Saints: When A Gay Person Shows Up At Church

Originally posted at Laura Skaggs Dulin‘s personal blog, Stars in the Ocean.

Being gay/same sex attracted in the LDS church just got real…and that is saying a lot because it has been incredibly real for a long time…so what I’m really trying to say is that it just got real all over again because the same already extremely taut tensions around this complex experience just got wound a little tighter. [Read more…]

4 Poems For Mourning

“This Wounded Geometry”


What is this wounded geometry circumscribing the earth?

This scarred ecology?

This shattered geography?

This grieving anthropology?


This biology of barrenness, encircled by easy, shimmering life,

hollowed out and pitted by these hallowed, pious monuments to ghosts never-born,

who still whisper in their perfect natality, crying to be protected

from the always oncoming storm.

These ghosts remain with us for a long time. Maybe always.

[Read more…]

Simple Gifts

Most of us have times when we feel like crying out, with Joseph Smith, “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” We can wonder why, if God is good, oppressors prevail; we plead for justice, our cries rooted in the firm belief that God our Creator stirs with compassion for his suffering saints. [Read more…]

Why I am not at church today, or, behold the broken camel

Partially it is because I am very tired, having worked without a weekend off for about a month now. Mostly, though, it is because I feel shattered by the latest policy announcement from Salt Lake and feel compelled by my conscience to register a small token of protest. (In this, I speak for myself, and not for this blog. For those bothered by the policy but still at church today I say go and be the best Mormon you can be.) [Read more…]

A Mirror Too Horrible

“There is no gender inequality in the doctrine of the church, there are just people who apply it unfairly.”  I heard this statement over and over while growing up in the church, attending BYU, attending relief society, and talking with smart people about tough issues.  It shored up my identity as a Mormon of fairness and conscience, and provided comforting walls to my Mormon reality.

[Read more…]

Loving “The World”

the_blue_marble_nasaFor Latter-day Saints, the new millennium has been pretty hard on “The World.” It has become the primary adversary in the war we imagine ourselves fighting—the sum total of everything that stands against us, and of everything that we must stand against.

We can all agree, of course, that the regular old world—meaning lakes and trees and mountains and stuff—is a wonderful thing. It is beautiful, pure, and divine. The world is just as God meant it to be, and we should all be grateful for its beauty and wonder.

But what is true of the world is not true of “the World,” by which we mean all of the people we interact with every day who hold different views about lots of things, nearly all of which have something to do with sex. “The World” is evil. It is full of lions and tigers and gay people. Even if we have to be in it, we should certainly ever be of it. It is what we must keep ourselves unspotted from. [Read more…]

The Turing Test

I’m indebted to my friends for these thoughts.

Are you familiar with the Turing test? The trouble with the Turing test is that it’s a very unsatisfying test. It doesn’t seem to be able to demonstrate definitively what we would want it demonstrate.

But the other trouble is that it’s the only possible test. To decide against the Turing test as a measure for the reality of Artificial Intelligence is to decide in advance of any test or evidence that Artificial Intelligence is impossible and, thus, can never be demonstrated by way of any test or evidence.

But this is what the new church policy does. [Read more…]

Are We Listening?

LaShawn Williams-Schultz is a certified social worker and an adjunct professor at Salt Lake Community College.

When missionaries come to the homes of black people then and now and defend the Priesthood & Temple ban or deny racism in the LDS Church, it causes confusion and contention in the home because that’s what the devil does. He causes confusion when the philosophies of men are mingled with scripture. [Read more…]

Another Faithful Perspective

Please let’s not make the faithful perspective be that this protects children. Please let’s stop saying that these policies will protect children from feeling the cognitive dissonance that occurs when one’s parents disagree or do not adhere to the ideal mortal journey taught in their faith.  [Read more…]

Protectionism and Policy Failure

In defense of the church’s alarming policy change toward the children of gay unions, an article has been circulating.  Unfortunately, it makes some fairly ridiculous assertions. [Read more…]

Suffer little children

This morning as we made breakfast, packed lunches, and got our little ones dressed, my wife and I talked about the policy change, the reactions of friends and family, and the national news coverage. My twelve year old overheard me say “this is really bad,” and asked what it was that was bad. I choked and walked around picking up socks and packing the lunches, even after he asked two more times. If I tried to speak I would have cried. My wife saved me and I walked into the bathroom and just wept.

I have been working on a chapter about baby blessings and the sources are fresh on my mind.

“In some minds there seems to be an idea that there should be a different form of blessing for children born of non-members and for those who are identified with the Church; and it is from such sources that in the case of children belonging to members of the Church ‘the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ and all the attendant favors are frequently conferred upon the child. This is all wrong. If we take the example of our Lord and Redeemer, who is our pattern and whose example we cannot too closely follow, we find that He blessed all who were brought to Him. We have no hint that He asked whose children they were, or the standing or faith of their parents. His remark was, ‘Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven;’ and He laid His hands upon them and blessed them. All little children, no matter what their parentage may be, are innocent in the sight of heaven, and they should be received as such and blessed as such.”

The Editor [George Q. Cannon], “Topics of the Times,” Juvenile Instructor 34 (March 1, 1899): 137-138. Reprinted in Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 61 (March 30, 1899), 198-199; Latter-day Saints’ Southern Star 1 (April 29, 1899): 170.

Yet I have hope

This guest post is from Christian Harrison, who is an urban enthusiast, a professional storyteller, and a man of faith—a practicing member of the Church. He’s also gay. 

trekAs I lay here this morning, awash in a flood of emotion — shock, dismay, disappointment, fear — I am coming to the idea that last night’s policy announcement was a profound (and utterly disquieting) betrayal. Not the hot betrayal of animus… but the cold betrayal of studied indifference.

Yes, it feels like animus. It looks like animus… but it smells like the well-oiled machinery of an inhuman bureaucracy—grinding away. And this morning, I am mustering what strength I have to whisper to myself “the worm forgives the plough”. [Read more…]

Some Words For Today

It feels strangely familiar to come to this place yet again. A blank page. A hope that some words might write me back to a place where communion of mind and spirit is possible.

My first week as a missionary in the missionary training center, the teacher asked us to make a timeline from Adam as a prophet to our current prophet. I sat there in my long skirt, pencil poised and looked around the room at my missionary classmates scribbling away, only to realize that I had no idea what to write. I grew up in Provo, Utah, I went to seminary through high school, my parents had been baptized when I was young, but still, when it came to words like apostacy, I didn’t quite know the facts or timelines. I’d somehow missed the details. [Read more…]

All the More Jarring

On a friend’s Facebook this morning, and in light of yesterday’s policy change forbidding the minor children of gay couples from being blessed or baptized, a friend of a friend asked why anyone would stay in the church.

For me, the answer is complicated and messy, but it has a couple parts. The selfish reason is, it has been a force for good in my life. It has helped me become the person I am, it has helped me develop a relationship with the divine, it has helped me establish my moral compass.

The unselfish reason is, I’ve seen the church work wonders in others’ lives. The lives of people who aren’t as fortunate as me, who financial or familial situations would impede the best of us. I’ve seen members reach out to those in pain, to lift those who have struggled. I’ve personally been on both ends of that comfort and that lifting.

So I’m deeply loyal to the church. [Read more…]



And this is why.

Little Children (and Babies)

Although the scriptures are a spiritual feast for us as disciples of Jesus Christ, outside of the New Testament reports about Jesus’ teachings and parables from his mortal ministry, we rarely get direct statements from the Lord about specific matters. Often directives from the Lord are mitigated or filtered through paraphrases or indirect instruction from prophets or teachers in the scriptures. [Read more…]

Extreme make-over: sacrament meeting edition

EmJen’s post of yore about a suggested ban on electronic devices and food in sacrament meeting inspired a great many comments, most to the effect of “We’re only surfing our phones and eating crackers because church is so frigging boring!” Some commenters argued that if you find sacrament boring, you need an attitude adjustment because you get out what you put in, etc. It’s a common refrain in Mormonism: “If you have a problem, the problem is you.”

Well, sometimes the problem is you. Actually, I’m a big believer in first assuming that the problem is you. Whether this is healthy or not, I couldn’t tell you. Maybe I’ll ask my psychiatrist next time I see her. At any rate, looking at yourself first is usually a good idea, given that the only behavior you can control is your own. Even when something isn’t your fault, what can you do about it? Yes, exactly the right question–what can you do about it? It all comes back to you, in the end. There’s not much getting around that. [Read more…]

Interview: Joanna Brooks and Rachel Hunt Steenblik

Joanna Brooks and Rachel Hunt Steenblik, together with Hannah Wheelwright, are the editors of Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, a wonderful new anthology of some of the most important feminist Mormon voices over the last 40 years (review forthcoming). Joanna is the author of several books and is Associate Vice President of Faculty Affairs at San Diego State University. Rachel is a writer and Ph.D. student in philosophy of religion and theology at Claremont Graduate University, and frequent contributor to The Exponent. We’re grateful for their work and their thoughtful answers.

1. Your work brings together writings from over 40 years of Mormon feminism. Of course, Mormonism is far older than that, but in looking at that 40-year time span, are there recurring themes that strike you? [Read more…]


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